I have an admission to make. From the dawn of my consciousness well into the Year of our Lord 2018, I did not ideologically see eye to eye with many leaders from Central Kenya. For the most part, I viewed many of them as of questionable mien, blatantly dishonorable, chameleonistic, avaricious, morally-bereft, hypocritical, opportunistic vermin, pumped up on the flatulence of arrogance borne mostly out of ignorance, dishonest, grabbers, back-stabbers and mostly the weak link in our strife for national cohesion. For them the statement, “It is our time to eat” was the eternal flavour of the day. My sentiments of vehement opprobrium to these specimens of the species Homo Sapiens Sapiens didn’t ring as ignominiously true as it did for the archetype of this malfeasance, one Hon. Moses Kuria – MP for Gatundu South; indeed the home constituency of the current President of Kenya. And he didn’t cover himself in glory either, each time trying to aver the tribal superiority of his ethnic orientation going as far as dishing epithets of tribal contempt about the former Prime Minister and his kinsmen even calling for the forceful circumcision of members of that Ethnic grouping, knowing full well it was against their cultural norms and inexorably coaxed their chagrin. Excrement figuratively hit the fan one day in 2015 when he called for a willing taker to literally ‘whack’ the former Premier as had happened to another high ranking Cabinet Minister affiliated to the Luo nation this same month in 1969, confident in the fact that there would only be a little mourning, some minuscule stone-throwing, disorganized riots and road blocking for a few days culminating in the total amnesia of the memory of the grand old man. In his heart of hearts, he posited that the uncircumcised poltroons from the lakeside were ill-equipped to mount any long-term civil war to avenge their tribal Kingpin’s assassination. Of course, the asininity of these said pronouncements can neither be gainsaid nor overstated here but we have surely come a long way from then as the aforementioned ‘Njamba ya Ruriri’ – an affectionate moniker bequeathed upon Kuria his tribal henchmen, has long lost national political relevance consequent to the handshake between the President and his longtime adversary, the Premier (Emeritus). I was recently streaming an episode of the ‘Bonga Na Jalas’ show on the YouTube Channel called Jalang’o TV where the invited guest was the majorly sequestered but still effervescent Hon. Kuria. He gave an interesting anecdote of a day in January 1995 when he was in attendance during the day of remembrance of the 1st anniversary of Kenya’s Nationalist and seminal Vice-President Hon. Jaramogi Ajuma Oginga Odinga melancholic demise live from ‘Kang’o ka Jaramogi’. Then the nation was under the clutches of a despotic regime that used every excuse contrivable to curtail the civil liberties of the ordinary citizens. At the time, the hackneyed edict was not to have loud, celebratory music no matter the festivities or time of day. The reality is that Jaramogi isn’t just anybody and that directive was not only greeted with flagrant contempt but was flouted wholesale. D.O Misiani in concert with his Shirati Jazz band had been enlisted to perform and was indubitably in full voice, strumming the tools of their trade, doling out the beats of ‘Ohangla’ & ‘Benga’ liberally to all with a functional auditory canal within earshot of that jurisdiction! Much as the winds of autocracy and authoritarianism had minimal sway in Luo-Nyanza, the Provincial authority was in full force. In the twinkle of an eye, the gathering was disrupted by riot police firing teargas canisters dispersing the crowd, but who are our lakeside brothers? They duly obliged to this duel of wills as projectiles of all shapes and sizes, not less some of the still issuing teargas canisters were hurled back in the opposite direction to the bemused and massively overpowered custodians of law and order. The then nimble-footed Moses Kuria and slightly-built Oburu Odinga had to escape the ensuing melee by exercising serpentine agility to crawl under a prickly Kay Apple fence. At least they lived to tell the tale and eschewed the inconvenience of being guests of the state for subversion of lawful authority!
25 years later, such draconian laws are in our rear-view mirror but still more has to be done for further expansion of our bounds of emancipation as a people. Yesterday, as Kenyans we commemorated the 30th Saba Saba day (7th of July), an unofficial holiday where the Kenyan Second Liberation struggle and eventual attainment of multiparty democracy is celebrated. Of course being unofficial, the day is mostly uneventful & moribund to the Generation Z, many of who were yet to be born when the foregoing that necessitated its existence took place. We may have made great strides as a democratic nation, even bequeathing upon ourselves a progressive constitution in 2010 to safeguard our rights and remind us of our obligations and so would have expected yesterday to be all hale & hearty. But lo and alas; mirroring living memory, the day turned out to be one of running battles with the police, protests, hubbub, a ‘kamukunji’ here, a peppering of teargas there in antipathy to the Constitutional enshrinement in Chapter 4, Articles 33 to 37 that guarantee the Freedom to assemble, Peacefully demonstrate, Present petitions and memoranda to public authorities, have an opinion, Conscience and expression for all Kenyan citizens. Maybe it was just our way of reintegrating back to society after 3 months of lockdown due to the scourge of the novel Coronavirus pandemic. But on the flipside, who is to begrudge the Police their nostalgia about the many a clobbering, foot chases and all-round malevolence their predecessors had laissez-faire to mete upon the citizenry on many other iterations of this day over the three-decade period?
The zeitgeist of the time in the United States of America, spreading like a bushfire the world over is the ‘Black Lives Matter’ Movement. Indeed with the resumption of the English Premier League season, for the past few matches the players have been duking it out with that rallying call emblazoned on the back of their match-day shirts after taking the convivial knee. And why has this movement taken root so deeply at this unprecedented epoch when we are dealing with the existential quagmire that is the Covid-19 pandemic? Despite the decree of emancipation from slavery ostensibly to end the practice signed and proclaimed by the incomparable 16th American President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, the practice seems alive and well even today in the form of systemic oppression against Black People. Prima facie, slavery is no longer in play in America; however, the spectre of inordinate police brutality against the mostly unarmed Negroid demographic has reared a very ugly head. Injustice has in the past been relegated to small items of teletext news running at the bottom of TV screens during the news broadcast mostly to the notice of very few. However, this nefarious practice was brought to the mainstream of international news headlines when a white police officer was captured by an amateur citizen journalist’s mobile phone camera kneeling on the neck of an unarmed black man George Perry Floyd Jr. for 9 minutes straight until the man gave up the ghost! In the intervening period, his professional colleagues nonchalantly stood by, as if such actions were all in a day’s work. The footage was uploaded on social media and sparked worldwide umbrage to all with functional grey matter within their crania. This piqued the collective consciousness of many and forced the hand of the traditionally standoffish American legal justice system on matters pertaining to Afro-American affairs to take action against the four police officers captured in the video playing the role of idle spectators albeit furniture in the face of the ongoing barbarism. For me the most disturbing aspect of the entire ordeal isn’t the unyielding bloodlust of the officer involved Derek Chauvin – aptly named by his parents as foreboding for his racial ‘chauvinism’ during the entire ordeal but the intransigence of his colleagues. This was an unarmed man who had peacefully yielded to his arrest ostensibly for attempting to use a fake 20 dollar bill to buy cigarettes in an endeavour to keep warm in the vagaries of winter that chattel slavery unfairly bestowed upon the genotypically discordant black man whose ancestors had invariably been plucked out of tropical bliss in West Africa. That a grown man had tapped out by Minute 3 and was audibly calling upon his dead mother for intercession by Minute 7:30 out of earshot of the zoned-out brutes in the Minneapolis Police Department on beat that day is savagery to the macabre. Incontrovertible preexisting bad-blood between Officer Chauvin and the late Floyd notwithstanding, a storm has been brewed of far greater virulence than any would have even remotely hypothesized. All symbols of White exceptionalism and the memory of the American Confederacy in the South are going up in flames. Statues as far as in the hallowed halls of the American House of Congress are being brought down as riots and looting are in full swing. The movement has now been picked up by a global audience as the human race opens its eyes to the innocuous but antiquated remnants of the narrative of white superiority that was ripe for debunking. This is in acceptance of empirical wisdom concocted by the black-rights activist of the American Civil Rights Movement Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. opining, “Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere as we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied to a single garment of destiny.” His recompense for these sentiments of egalitarianism was assassination by the ‘lead’ in 1968.
Much as we are all affected by this movement indirectly, it seems perverse and even hypocritical that within our climes, we have men and women vociferously equivocating the Black Lives Matter slogan even posting the picture of darkness in their social media handles. All this in mock solidarity with the winds of the time in antipathy to their own perpetration of injustice to their fellow men within this nation.
Why would the fare-gormandizing bevy purport to feign solicitude with this noble initiative when they show no mercy to the pecuniary welfare of their masculine compatriots?
How many are in government employ and are paid a salary but still have to get their palms greased just to do the very job that they were employed to do? Corruption is a donkey that I have flogged on the pages of my publication so much that I don’t think I can add any more substance but still will. As a people we condone bribe-taking as long as we win that tender, escape culpability when caught on the wrong side of the law and even to get our children favours from scholarly institutions that will boost their egos majorly to the exclusion of their contemporaries. The culture of intellectualism is running on fumes in this nation as men and women bribe institutions of tertiary and quaternary education to get degree classifications and even postgraduate qualifications they have not earned. I have in the past decried the murkiness that has roped in even religious leaders who for a pittance, that is the ‘donation’ of a few million Kenya shillings have their heads turned and collective consciences roiled into zombie broth to trumpet a particular political agenda even one detrimental to the rank and file of the Republic. When you hear celebrants parroting similar refrains to some politicians about “kuna Mungu juu” and other abominable rhetoric in dissonance to well-founded Christian religious doctrine that the Almighty is Omnipresent and Omnipotent when their blackguardly benefactor has been accused of corruption, we know we are in big trouble as a country. When righteousness is a quality to be auctioned to the highest bidder at the court of mass ignorance on matters religious dogma, you can ill-afford to stand up with moral authority and feign solidarity for the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag elsewhere! Faith & Foolishness is a perilous cocktail.
There is a news headline that has been endemic on print and broadcast media in recent times about teenage lasses getting pregnant that definitely riles me to within a sliver of apoplexy. It pains to see minors, some not yet even fully schooled on the nuances of wiping their own noses having parental responsibilities laden onto their flimsy shoulders. Haven’t these little ones the right to protection against an affront on their own dignity inherent in every human being as per the strictures of Chapter 4, Article 28 of our Constitution? In some cases the pregnancies are as a result of biological experimentation gone awry between boys and girls trying to get an inkling on the functionality of the various structures of their anatomy particularly the nether regions! However, in a myriad other cases, it is the result of sexual abuse and coercion by older family members and even supposed familial acquaintances who are more often than not of the age of majority. Aren’t there statutes against Statutory Rape which is engagement of any form of sexual activity with a minor? Some try to atone for these egregious actions using traditional dispute resolution mechanisms like availing a goat to the father of the aggrieved, a handshake to boot and all is forgiven and forgotten. But what about the young lady whose life is ruined, who is now mentally tortured by a man who broke the bond of trust she had with them? If she gets pregnant, what becomes of her schooling and future at large after delivery and induction into motherhood? I feel now is the opportune time to take a stranglehold of affairs as we cannot afford to have so many young mothers whose future prospects of productivity are curtailed especially by sexual predators and paedophiles. Contrition for me is insufficient retribution for such far-reaching acts of aggression against another human being. Criminals need to cool their heels in the slammer! A call has been put out for the introduction of Sex Education, which for the most part is an argument that generates more heat than light. Also, I am forced to enquire about the operability of the Sexual offences bill antecedently tabled by Hon. Njoki Ndung’u and legislated into an Act of Law? In my considered opinion, this law has had the efficacy of a dead rodent on a squirrel cage with regards to deterring such depravity!
The bulge of my ire is reserved for those still engaged in human trafficking and dabbling in modern-day slavery. I read and hear otherworldly tales about men and women who were recruited to work in foreign missions, went through the prerequisites to travel abroad and were carted to foreign climes only for the entire landscape to undergo a tectonic shift. They then had their Passports confiscated at the airport as the nirvana promised turned into an insufferable hell as they were consigned to a life of drudgery and ceaseless suffering in unpaid servitude with neither channels for recourse nor the probability of escape. We hear horror tales from the Middle East and North Africa of our compatriots tortured, subjected to criminally inhumane conditions, some murdered with their memories fading into oblivion which is not something that should be condoned any longer.
Tied to the paragraph above are Economic freedoms that are subjugated in this country that result in the above situation. The nation lacks a proper policy direction on the remuneration of technical skilled labour. There is often a call to the youth for the uptake of marketable and usable skills ultimately with the goal of self-employment. Many heed to these calls but eventually come to the realization that not everybody can be self-employed or competently run a business. Moreover, capital in itself is more often than not a limiting factor. So the young men and women are forced to flock towards employment. Rubber hits the road when it becomes clear that for many jobs, the mismatch between competence and remuneration level is as wide as the Gulf of Aden! Without mentioning specific jobs, we have those that were traditionally associated with the top cadre of students and the cream of the crop. There are those like procurement and business management that were the preserve of the B students. The painful pill to take is that sometimes if you referred to the payment schedule of some many companies the auditors, business managers, HR professionals, procurement officials among a few others are rewarded for their competence at a level far above those actually engaged in the technical side of things inclusive of Engineers. I have seen a company schedule that pays Engineers as low as 20,000 Shillings, their training notwithstanding against a salary of nearly 150K for a position loosely referred to as the Business Development Personnel. I could harp on end about autochthonous skilled labour being the essential cog in the attainment of Vision 2030 and the part of human resource in the actualization of SDGs but apparently as per the observations of George Orwell in his masterpiece; ‘The Animal Farm’ – All Animals were created Equal but some are decidedly more equal than others with regards to remuneration. That may be the reason it is more economically rewarding in Africa to be a Pastor preaching demented doctrine or even a Traditional Healer than the much-vaunted careers of old.
Linked closely to the Black Lives Matter furore in the United States is our own homegrown struggle against Police Brutality. In my pragmatic retrospection, a causal link has emerged where apparently if you give a man power and authority, his default setting is usually to abuse that priviledge to oppress the others subject to him. Police brutality bears eerily similar hallmarks in Kenya as in the apparently more civilized occidental climes. When President Uhuru Kenyatta issued the edict on the curfew and regional lockdowns, the police took up the mantle with uncommon gusto. Within the first day of enforcing curfew rules, already scenes of police overzealousness were evident for all to see. A video is doing rounds on the local media of a truck driver who was simply trying to beat the curfew and get home to his family being stopped by the police and flogged like a ‘mburukenge’ as if he committed some heinous crime. Such actions stink of not just pent up aggression within our police force but also a vengeance albeit envy of some sections of the population who the police now take advantage to victimize in this season. Scenes of extrajudicial killings have also been rife with media reports of a homeless man who was felled by a police bullet for failing to get home on time! What home is available to a homeless man? As a sage once put it, “the measure of the civilization of a society is assayed by how she treats her most vulnerable citizens.”
The issue of body shaming is a mercurial glissando which I feel I have insufficient Emotional Quotient to deal with considerately but will soldier on nonetheless. My reason to say this is that it is the quintessence of a double-edged sword or as the overly theatrical aptly put it, “trifling whilst the sword of Damocles dangles over your head!” I would be remiss if I failed to enunciate that the critical mass of indignation over the body-shaming thing is mostly manufactured outrage interspersed with thin skins! Many are the episodes where a young lady has posted a photo of herself in a negligee or bikini on social media seeking approbation and ends up opening a Pandora’s Box of unsolicited opinions and rather acerbic invectives. Don’t get me wrong, I am neither a connoisseur of the dark-art nor do I in any way support body shaming. Indeed, I have been inadvertently forced to play the role of a knight in shining armour in a few social media fora, many a time protecting damsels who brought not just distress but oodles of dishonour upon their own being. The internet may appear interesting and colourful but in actuality its crevices are the preserve of the recluse, quite a few who were not hugged enough as babies, some too shy to approach an actual flesh & blood member of the opposite gender, some full of bitterness about a past rejection, the bulk were insufficiently suckled by their mothers, some just congenitally perverse, some suffering from all sorts of psychotic episodes, others retrenched, some more under the weather with hormonal imbalance among other predicaments.
Rarely is a fully-clothed lady under fire except for the few unsavoury comments disparaging strained hairlines by years of plaiting with foreheads equated to airstrips and the precursory comparison of a lass’s perky bust with the betting odds of ‘Liverpool Kichwa!’ Much as I call for an end to the practice entreating the practitioners of such debauchery to get a life I would also like to beseech young ladies to refrain from posting half-nude photos online merely to chase clout! There is nothing new under the sun my sisters as there are more cerebral ways to earn followership on Social Media!
In closing remarks, not to disparage the real struggles faced by my own Negroid race out there I would encourage a new rallying call, a hashtag #AllLivesMatter as a way to implore those in authority to put in place safeguards against all forms of discrimination and vile treatment of fellow men. Additionally, let’s be creatures of temperance, civility & tolerance with each other. In the meantime Strategize… Organize… Mobilize… Viva la revolución! Aluta Continua! Boom-aye the down-trodden! An end to the remaining purveyors of cruel oppression.