BLOODY 2014, HOPEFUL 2015 AND OF MISSING AIRPLANES

2015I hope you are done with the Christmas hangover.  I don’t know how the year treated you. Did your expectations come to pass? Or do you blame that pastor who proclaimed 2014 was your year of prosperity. Please don’t make the same mistake this time round. Did you honour your former New Year resolutions?  Perhaps not.  Don’t worry, a clean blank cheque awaits you in some few hours.  2014 had mixed fortunes for me. I made terrible mistakes but also broke the glass ceiling in many fronts. And that’s all about life, frustrating for the impatient but rewarding to the hopeful. One thing I embraced in 2014; literally every bad situation that happens to you, has a silver lining. They say nothing is permanent in this life, and so do ordeals.

2014 was bloody and tough. So many Kenyans died in the hands of terrorists, bandits,criminals, through road accidents and alcohol related courses. More shameful acts were witnessed in Nairobi. Perverts undressed ‘indecently dressed’ women. MPs tarnished further, their worse reputation, when they went physical. Radical cleric Sheikh Abubakar Shariff Ahmed, alias “Makaburi”, was shot dead.  In May, several countries issued travel warnings following several attacks over the past few months blamed on Somali al-Shabab militants. In June, 48 people died after Islamist militants attacked hotels and a police station in Mpeketoni, near the island resort of Lamu. Close to two months ago, Al Shabab carried out mass murders in Mandera County, including on a bus and a camp of quarry workers.

Globally, we first heard of ISIS in 2014. In as much as it has an Islam word among the abbreviations, it slaughters Muslims than any other terror group, reigning havoc in Iraq and Syria. In Pakistan, Taliban gunmen attacked a military school and killed 132 out 141 people, most of them students. According to the Geneva-based Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives, this year has witnessed 111 aircrafts that went missing. Air Asia whose debris was found today in Java Sea, in Indonesia, was the last count.

Let’s forget the horrific events. Are you prepared for 2015? Well, you have every reason to be. In as much as a section of us don’t believe in New Year resolutions, humans naturally relate to fresh beginnings. The former, are far from the truth, actually they are afraid of it.  Nobody should lie to you that, a time will come when people will stop making New Year resolutions. In any case, they are living in denial. I was once in that situation, of intuitively saying, I make resolutions every day and hence no need of new ones. It makes some sense though, but experience has taught me something different. That it comes a time when you break from the past. That time when you take a deep sigh, hold your head high and vow not to turn back. Many of us will relate to this, when we trash our bad habits and ‘bad friends’, promise our creator many things through prayers. What better time to do this than New Year.

Did you know that 4000 years ago people still made New Year resolutions? The origin of making New Year’s resolutions rests with the Babylonians, who reportedly made promises to the gods in hopes they’d earn good favour in the coming year. But making resolutions is the easier part. Most of us fail miserably in seeing to it that we fulfill our resolutions. What separates us from achieving them? Pundits suggest that it is paramount to write down your goals, share them with people close to you and most importantly monitor the progress.

Enough of 2014. Welcome  2015. I hope you will be fair to me and everybody reading this post. Happy New Year dear readers. May the good Lord establish you in all sectors of your life! Amen.

CHRISTMAS EXPERIENCE, KAGESHI AND THE SUMMONS

ddIt was seven months since I last visited home. I was so anxious to get to Kwa Nguku village in earnest. On this day, I rose early to board the first bus to Kwa nguku, but to my surprise, when I arrived at Machakos Country Bus, things were a bit chaotic. You would think it was a political rally. It was a bee-hive of activities. Travelers were squeezing to the few available buses. I ignored the fact that I was dressed to ‘kill’ with my white, new north-star shoes, a yellow bell-bottom pair of trousers and a ‘safaricom – live’, labelled t-shirt.

I maneuvered through the stampede and luckily enough, got some ‘space.’ Of course I was very angry since bus fare had been hiked. Normally, we pay sh.350 – sh.400, on this day, I had to part with sh.800. That meant I had to adjust my budget for the next two weeks. On arriving home, the first person I stumbled on, was Kinuthia-Igego. You will recall Igego, as I fondly call him, is my official barber when am on this side of Sahara. From the look, he was envious of my new hair style. By the way, I had a ‘v.sexy’ mo-hawk, he had not come across it. I clarified to him it was the new trend setter. “Hii ni swag,” that confused him even further. A few minutes of our indulgence, we met Mwangi Fangi. This is one guy I rely on for all the village 411(updates.)  Even before we shoke hands, he let the cat out the bag. Kageshi (village girlfriend) was pregnant. I felt betrayed, cheated, humiliated, miserable and all those bad words put together!

Wakìraìko'(grandpa) spotting me from a distance, quickly rose up to confirm if it was indeed his grandson. I could tell things were not rosy. Normally, we have supper (not dinner) at the mud hut, enjoying the cracking braze from the hearth. Its during this time, that he broke the news to me, that Kageshi was heavily pregnant and that I was responsible for the act. From what he told me, I was supposedly summoned the following day to appear to ‘Athùrì A’ Njùng’wa for breaking Kageshi’s leg (impregnating her). This said council of elders is equivalent to Njuri Ncheke, only that it serves my vast village only. Its word is law, at least in Kwa Nguku village.

I knew I was as innocent as a cloistered nun; in any case, I was sequestered from the village for the better part of the year, in campus working on my veterinary degree. Wakìraìko would listen to none of my boring pleads. On Christmas eve, I woke up in the wee hours and hurriedly rushed to Mwangi Fangi’s gathùnù (a combination of a house and a hut). We went to Kwa Mang’a, a village pub to stimulate my ‘intelligence’ before embarking on the arduous journey, to face the so called wazees, custodian of Kwa Nguku’s by laws. Mwangi Fangi had to accompany me as my legal advisor. After all, he was the source of all these rumours since Kageshi ‘friendzoned’ him from when we cleared KCPE at Mung’etho Primary School. As I quaffed away the bitter drink commonly referred to as Kibao which by the way, has the same effects as Yokozuna if consumed in large quantities, I called myself a meeting (conversing with my inner self).

My conscious advised me to be rather arrogant, if I was to survive in this ‘date with wazees.’ At the  meeting, Fangi vouchsafed that Kageshi had stealthily been having an affair with a local primary school teacher, in my absentia. Inwardly, I breathed a sigh of relief, but at the same time got livid with Kageshi for betraying and humiliating me in public. I confidently bellowed that I was ready for a D.N.A test, much to the confusion of these men who had seen better days. Luckily, Dr.Kiogothe who apart from being an elder, had benefitted in learning some medical skills from the British colonialists, made them understand what I meant by a D.N. test.

At last I was exonerated from the accusations but since then, we’ve not been ‘seeing eye to eye’ with ma grandpa. On 25th, Fangi and Igego accompanied me to watch ‘action packed movies’ with a d.j taste at the shopping center. Since rural electrification has not seen light of the day in Kwa Nguku, power is such a scarce resource. The only problem with those dark cinema rooms, it goes without saying you must be a default smoker. Will it be a memorable Christmas experience? Perhaps.

This post was originally published in 2011 and posted in my Facebook account as a Note.

OF THE DOMESTICATED MEDIOCRITY AND CONFUSED SUBJECTS

ttthhParliament was yesterday thrown to pandemonium, when pro government and Opposition MPS went berserk, the hammer and tongs way, against each other. The house of laws, literally threw decorum over the window, all in the name of enacting the now controversial bill, Security Laws(Amendment) Bill 2014. For close to two weeks, government has been under pressure from the civil society and Opposition, to amend the bill that highly violates and infringes on the constitution we passed in August 2010.

As a country, we are badly hit be terrorism but instead of our leaders uniting at this critical time, they have chosen the myopic route, of baseless politics. Last evening, we witnessed the usual rivalry between Jubilee and CORD on the floor of the house. James Smart a TV anchor in one of the media houses twitted; “In our political division, we failed to isolate and deal with the enemy but are happy to exhibit our political rivalries. Let history record this.” The ugly scenes that took place in parliament yesterday have immensely tainted our international image. We will take years to redeem that image, on condition that this country does not go through an injurious moment akin to what happened. It’s that bad.

The Opposition missed an invaluable opportunity to sponsor amendment to the Security bill. Instead, they chose mediocrity, of antagonizing their counterparts, pro-government. It appeared CORD MPs were reading from the same script, to ensure the bill is not passed using all means possible. That did not happen though, as the controversial bill was passed in the most acrimonious way ever to be witnessed in Kenya Parliament’s history. It all started  with the newly “appointed through consensus”  ODM chairman, John Mbadi, MP for Suba, when he grabbed the order paper from Hon. Asman Kamama (who also chairs parliamentary committee on National Security and Administration) and tore it into pieces. I would say without any misgivings that the opposition has itself to blame for passing of the bill. Nonetheless, am neither sympathetic to the Jubilee side. They too, embarrassed the country by physically assaulting the CORD senators in the public gallery.

At the time of preparing this article, the President assented to the bill ; giving it life. This is what I was forced, naturally to delete; (The eyes are now directed to the President, to either bite the bullet by rejecting the bill, meaning it will have to be taken  back to Parliament for further deliberations or isolate himself from the people and in so doing,  polarizing the country.) I have always thought Justin Muturi, the National Assembly Speaker was never from the word go, the best candidate to head the highly influential legislature. He has failed miserably to show leadership and in many occasions cited not to be impartial. A case in point, yesterday, Justin Muturi overlook the standing orders, by overseeing passing of a law in an acrimonious house.

Articles 62 through 66 of the bill amending the National Intelligence Security Act broaden the powers of security officials to arrest and detain people and could violate due process rights. The bill expands the powers of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) to stop and detain suspects, search and seize private property, and monitor communications without a court warrant. This section has however been amended to read in part…”the NIS shall hand over suspects to the nearest police station immediately.” This section posed a threat of being abused, taking us back to the days of detention and torture of political activists. Article 62 authorizes NIS officers to “do anything necessary to preserve national security” and to detain people even on suspicion of “engaging in any act or thing or being in possession of anything which poses a threat to national security.”

Other amendments that propose alarming changes to current legislation include:

  • Article 18, to enable police to extend pre-charge detention for up to 90 days with court authorization, well beyond the 24-hour limit that Kenyan law currently allows. This contravenes the constitution; pursuant to the provisions of Article 49 (1) (h) of the Constitution of Kenya;
  •  “An arrested person has the right –
  • (1) (h) to be brought before a court as soon as reasonably possible, but not later than-
  • (i) Twenty-four hours after being arrested; or
  • (ii) If the twenty-four hours ends outside ordinary court hours, or on a day that is
  • not an ordinary court day, the end of the next court day.”.
  • Article 19, to allow prosecutors to not disclose evidence to the accused if “the evidence is sensitive and not in the public interest to disclose.”
  • Article 66, to enable NIS officers to carry out “covert operations,” broadly defined as “measures aimed at neutralizing threats against national security.”

Several other provisions introduce new, broadly defined offenses that could be used against people who associate, knowingly or not, with terrorist suspects, the organizations said.

For example, article 72, section 9(a), on “facilitation of terrorist acts” punishes “a person who advocates, glorifies, advises, incites, or facilitates” acts of terrorism. This language could be used against the lawyers of suspects, some Kenyan lawyers fear, or to limit speech. The offense is punishable with up to 20 years in prison.

Article 73, section 12(a)(2), creates a presumption that the “unlawful possession of improvised explosive devices, assault rifles, rockets propelled grenades or grenades shall be presumed to be for terrorist purposes” – placing the burden on the defendant to prove they were not using the weapon for terrorist purposes. The law provides punishment of up to 20 years in prison for anyone who uses a weapon for purposes of terrorism in committing an offense.

The bill also would amend Kenya’s refugee laws, including article 58, which would cap the number of refugees in Kenya at 150,000 and compel refugees and their families to stay only in designated camps while their applications for asylum are processed. The provisions contravene both Kenya’s Refugee Act of 2006 and international law, including the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Convention Governing the Specific Aspects Relating to Refugee Problems in Africa, which prohibit denying refugees and asylum seekers entry into the country.

The security bill includes provisions that would make it harder to expose and criticize violations by security forces, the groups said. Article 75, section 30(a) of the bill would punish with up to 14 years in prison anyone who “publishes or utters a statement that is likely to be understood as directly or indirectly encouraging or inducing another person to commit or prepare to commit an act of terrorism.” This overly broad provision could be interpreted to apply to social media or any other public forum. Social media has been very fast in exposing and humiliating corrupt public officers and other vices as well as ashaming the culprits in the popular twitter streets. This unfortunately, will be a thing of  the past. Woo unto you who share sensitive images on social media, soon you’ll be a guest of the state.

The bill expands the understanding of “radicalization” to possibly include activism, with article 73, section 12(d), describing “a person who adopts or promotes an extreme belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious and social change.” The unclear language could be interpreted to prosecute political and human rights activists, with sentences of up to 30 years.

Article 75, sections 30(f)(1) and (2), also broadly prohibit broadcasting any information likely to undermine investigations or security operations without police authorization and prohibits publishing or broadcasting photographs of victims of a terrorist attack without police consent. Investigative journalists have their hands tied with this article due to generalities. Kenyans will  have to rely on the police to detect, deter, unravel and do thorough investigations, which has been a tall order for them in the past. Investigative pieces and expose will be slowly chocked to extinction.

The security bill would limit basic rights to freedom of assembly and association with vague provisions subject to abuse, the groups said. Article 4 would authorize the cabinet secretary for interior, a presidential appointee, to decide when and where public meetings can be held. This section has since been deleted.

Funny enough, social media has been divided right in the middle, taking sides and remaining ‘loyal’ to their tribal and regional lords. Even the educated have not been spared, in fact they are the most tribal. I have chosen the rare trajectory, of objective criticism and not necessarily rubber stamping every opinion our politicians make, regardless of whether I voted for them. When we owe our allegiance to nobody, we shall have begun the grueling task of saving this country from ourselves.

A BADLY WOUNDED NATION

ssYesterday Kenya marked her 51stJamhuri day commemorating the day we officially became a republic country. Figuratively it should be a time to reflect our journey of freedom, civilization and challenges that we have overtime surmounted and persistently daring to overcome through established institutions and rule of law. That’s the ideal situation; however my personal opinion is rather not positive, am a saddened Kenyan. The founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta eloquently spoke of his desire to see to it that Kenya conquered poverty, ignorance and laid a foundation of a sound health system.

Am saddened because apart from the three listed objectives which were our precarious threats five decades ago; we have moved from bad to worse. We are chocked by negative ethnicity, and a cancer called corruption. These two have borne local cells for terrorism, bad governance and unprecedented levels of impunity. We view fellow Kenyans first with tribal lenses. Corruption is our cup of tea, we can generally be defined as the country of haves and have nots. We are greedy and selfish lot, going to the length of endangering the national security and our very precious lives just to get wealthy.

David Ndii a popular columnist on Africa Economics previously pointed that the private security sector in Kenya is larger than the police service. He further noted that Kenya has over 500,000 small arms and light weapons most of them in the economically isolated Northern Kenya. That is to say more than two guns for every soldier and police officer. Is it that not scary statistics? I once interacted with a guy from Turkana region who confessed to me that Samburu County alone has over 6,000 guns. In fact he moreover leaked to me that an AK – 47 bullet goes for sh.50. Baringo, Samburu, Pokot and Turkana Counties’, single medium of exchange is the bullet. The more bullets a community boosts of, the more ‘economically viable’ it becomes. With bullets you can withstand occasional cattle raids, or even stage a successful raid on neighbouring communities.

Since we are country run by cartels, we better brace for harder times. Am not a sadist though, but the reality is powerful cartels run this country big time. Affluent people are arming their communities in troubled regions to stage manage cattle rustling for commercial purposes. Deploying Kenya Defense Forces is the cosmetic part of the ‘solution.’ It will only quell the storm for the time being’ since we are myopic and gullible people. It is akin to appointing ineptitude personalities like Ole Lenku who have no background in security to head the Interior ministry. We must address fundamental challenges which I have highlighted previously in this blog, bedeviling our men and women in the security service.

Canadian journalist Jay Bahadur, who researched for years and authored ‘The Pirates of Somalia’, laid bare the hard truth of the wounded state of this country. KDF did a profound job of rescuing Kismaiyo town from the hands of Al Shabaab, cutting off charcoal trade which ostensibly financed the militia. However, United Nations has cited KDF to having given in to the charcoal cartels in Somalia. Jay noted that the more charcoal exported from Kismaiyo, the more smuggled sugar comes in to Kenya, the more that border policy in Kenya is distorted, the more smuggling of other things take place, and the more dangerous Kenya becomes. It’s a fact that the four Westgate perpetrators had crossed to Kenya from Somalia four months prior to the heinous attack. According to Jay, two or three lorries arrive in Ifo, Dadaab every night carrying 250 bags of smuggled sugar. Kenya is run by cartels in milk, oil, pasta, rice, cigarettes and clothing industry.

Every news item nowadays has every chances of it being negative. From the ‘Magus tragedy’, strippers, rapists, alcoholism, murderers, poachers name it. We have domesticated evil and its siblings and moved on. We must as a country rise to the occasion, learn to be patriotic, fight for it and guard it jealously; from the landlords, to traffic police, to immigration officials to village elders. This country has shortage of noise makers who’ll expose and ashame perverts dragging us behind. My standing ovation goes to the likes of Mohammed Ali, Paula Kahumba, Boniface Mwangi , Gado the cartoonist, twitter bigwig @Gathara, Sunny Bindra and many other unsung heroes and heroines. Every 12th December, we will joyfully celebrate Jamhuri day, but the big question is, are we advancing closer to prosperity or treading downhill?