FARE THEE WELL, FIDEL

ff1It’s never the wish of any parent to encounter and grapple with the death of his/her children in their lifetime. In fact, parents hope that it will always be the other way round. Of ageing as they watch their sons and daughters walk through the many stages of life, successfully. Parents being alive to meet their grandchildren is to them, unfathomable joy. Their hearts dance blissfully. In our African culture, it’s considered one of the greatest blessings.

It’s in this context, that I register my deepest and heartfelt condolences to the Odinga family and the entire nation at large. I sympathise with Hon. Raila Odinga and Mama Ida, I understand the excruciating shock, disbelief and grief, they are going through at this difficult time. Fidel’s death was hard, unapologetic and sudden. Akin to that of Hon Tom Mboya , Mutula Kilonzo and Otieno Kajwang.

I can attest Fidel’s passing away, is the single worst blow to the Odingas’ dynasty, after Oginga Odinga’s death on January 20th, 1994. Fidel would be instrumental during the detention of of his father, Raila Odinga  for six years after he was linked with orchestrating the infamous 1982 coup, during the Moi regime. He was the scion and pillar of the Odinga’s  when Raila was languishing in the dark and tall rooms of Nyayo House. Mama Ida was closely monitored by the Intelligence; hence Fidel would take the key role of taking care of his younger siblings.

That Fidel loved the fine things life had to offer is an open secret, from the big and sumptuous cars, tasty bourgeoisie wines, winsome women and elitist venues. With his six foot height, and hailing from an opulent and famous family, you would be forgiven to imagine, he was the most aloof personality on planet earth. I’ve stumbled on kids from rich families, and I know their deluxe personalities, and they’ll look you like you owe them an apology for being alive. But this was far from the truth for Fidel, he was none of those. In fact in sharp contrast, he was accommodative, empathetic and very protective of his close relatives. At least this is what I have gathered from reliable sources.

To the laymen, Fidel was a harmless fly, who had an endearment for parting just like any typical rich kid. Actually, when he was arrested late last year for drunk driving, many were not ‘surprised’ like the gossip tabloids. In their minds, they were like; “That’s Fidel for you.”  Fidel from the onset, when he was born on 4th January 1973 had big shoes to fit in. His grandfather was actively involved in fighting for Kenya’s independence. In fact, in the wisdom of Oginga, he vowed Kenya would not move on and gain independence if Jomo Kenyatta was not released. That was remarkable. Exit Oginga, enter Raila. He is the former Prime Minister of Kenya, described by many as an enigma in Kenya politics. He has made tremendous contribution in fighting for democratic space in this country for decades. With that, you can understand the pressure Fidel struggled with, from an early age. He represented the face of the entire Odingas’ posterity. He was being gloomed to be the captain of the ship.

ffWas Fidel ready for politics? To close friends, he had a split personality. On one side, he was aggressive, and the other seemingly laidback.  However in the recent times, he had come of age. With a now ‘stable’ immediate family and a son, 2017 was his for the taking. He had made friends from both his father’s antagonist camp and CORD family. He was playing it safe. He knew the art of not making unnecessary foes. He was popular in both the populous Kibera and native Kisumu. He was ready for the mantle.

But this was cut short, rather hard and mysterious. It was sudden and unapologetic. Am told he complained of stomach ache, late in the day. I tweeted on last Sunday morning, that whatever would be the cause of Fidel’s death, may the Lord rest his soul in eternal peace. Who are we to correct God? Fare thee well comrade. Till we meet again. Your mark in our generation was indelible. Peace.

MEET MY HEROINE – PAULA KAHUMBU

pDo you have a passion? What boundaries have you crossed? How far have you stretched it? What are your crazy stories? Do your close friends harbour thoughts of you going nuts? Well if not, you are not passionate enough. Passion should make you wake up in the wee hours to jolt down a line or two for your next song, two scribble down an idea for your next book. That’s passion for you. It should make you restless, sleepless and agitated if you have not satisfied it. It drags you out of your comfort zones, to a unique world which only exists in your mind, they call it utopia. Passion should remind you of one Boniface Mwangi who downed his cameras and projects from the likes of Safaricom, to advocate for good governance in this country. Passion should remind you of the the late, Wangari Maathai, who endevoured to preach conservation of our threatened environment even when she was mishandled by police. Passion should make you recall, Timothy Njoya who cheated death along Parliament Road while agitating for the second liberation.

Whenever I think of passion, my mind reminds me of a noble and phenomenal woman, a wildlife conservationist, to be precise, an elephant enthusiast, who will do anything to ensure elephants in this country are safe from poachers. She breathes, eats, drinks and tweets anything conservation. Inspired by another veteran in the field of conservation of fauna, Sir Richard Leakey, Paula has grown through her passion to sensitize communities across Africa on the need to protect the endangered wildlife. People never appreciate wild animals, they take them for granted, in fact they do not understand these animals have feelings. When infernos burn out a forest, wildlife is threatened. When poachers pounce and kill them in numbers, they are reduced to extinction. When human wildlife conflict arise, communities take the law in to their own hands and maim or kill them. All these sad but real stories, make the heart of one Paula bleed in pain and anguish though not helplessly.

In her words she says “conservationists do crucial work on a shoestring, cut off from the rest of the world. They’re in remote, isolated places, some even risking their lives.” Currently working under Wildlife Direct, a charitable organisation founded by Richard Leakey, her job revolves around keeping in touch with conservationists in Africa on the ground who try their best to ensure endangered species are safe from the enemy. Bloggers and photographers in this field, can share articles and videos in real time, on the day to day challenges of wildlife in Africa. Thus it came as no surprise when Paula Kahumbu walked to Kimaiyo’s office and patiently waited for a record, 8 hours to have an audience with him and put an offer on the table of helping the police, in arresting a suspected ivory kingpin Feizal Ali Mohamed. Kimaiyo appeared briefly and casually dismissed her. You can count on me, this is not the last time you you will hear of her, raising her voice to the annoyance of  government busy bodies who can’t match her intelligence in this field.

What Paula is doing is to say the least, exceptional and deserves a standing ovation. She is a rare being, at least in Kenya  where we auction the country at the mere smell of money. And in our peculiar habits, we only celebrate people when they die. They die not knowing they inspired, brought solutions and made us happy. I choose to celebrate her today and encourage her and everybody else who is stepping out to make this world a better place to live in. What is your passion, and how is it helping this world, is it just tearing it apart? If you haven’t figured out one, you better crawl from the conformers and mediocres and may you be inspired by Paula. Be an inspirer.

FROM ANDREW TO AUDREY!

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For starters, transgender is basically a state where the mind is in conflict with the body, better put as body hormones not matching with the assigned sex, so to speak. It is more of a disorder than a disease.

Meet  Audrey Mbugua a transsexual  who has struggled with depression all her  lifetime trying to convince a very conservative society that she is a woman and not a man. Being  referred to as a gay or bewitched or mentally ill or worse still, possessed with evil spirits is not easy to stomach for 29 years. She grew up like any other typical village boy, a dad’s favourite, naturally intelligent with ostensibly a bright future. From the talking, laughing, walking style and general mannerism, depict attributes of a lady. Some fascinating facts about Audrey is that, she would drive at 13 years of age, she does not believe in existence of God, she is more attracted to women as opposed to men and at one time she used to repair computers to earn a living.

Attending over 18 interviews and having the same response, that of a stunned panel  who  seemingly confused, are unable to comprehend and reconcile the impressive c.v with  the said woman standing in front of them. Tired of being trapped in a world that no one else knew of, fighting stereotypes, humiliation, controversy and misconception  for 19 years, dared to break the silence and confront the ignorant, insensitive and intolerant society. She was simply tired of being called Andrew, it was a hard reality she refused to accept.

This consequently and over the years culminated to a case she has filed in court to sue the Attorney General and Kenya National Examination Council for failing to recognize her plight. KNEC is reluctant to change her name because she has not undergone full sex change, meaning she is still a ‘man’. She at one time, however came close to undergoing a surgery at Kenyatta National Hospital only for the minister of Medical Services by then Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o ordering the hospital not to carry out the operation. Not withstanding the very many challenges she has endured over the years, went ahead to score an A- in her KCSE  making her eligible to study Law in University of Nairobi. It’s a prestigious course by any Kenya standards, which she declined to undertake and settling for Biochemist in the not so popular Maseno University. She graduated with an upper second class honours degree, which is not a mean achievement factoring the stigmatisation she has gone through.

The thick skinned young lady oozes courage, is passionate about her instincts, articulate on issues affecting transgenders in Kenya and simply unbowed. It’s a delicate topic which needs as sober mind, we can only wish her luck.

MADIBA THE ICON

Whoever said a good name is worth more than silver or gold or better still billions lying in the bank accounts was very right.How humbling can it be when people across the world sing and celebrate your birthday.How about when the U.N sets aside a day solely to appreciate and commemorate you.These are laurels enjoyed by afew.In spite of all that attention Mandela still manages to live a simple life, encouraging peaceful co-existence and forgiveness.His autobiography and his letters to his family and friends while in detention heavily emphasize that he was not a perfectionist,he too had flaws but did not let them dictate his course in life.After his release from jail he forgave his persecutors and better still he served only one term when could have served more.Mandela ignites empathy courage and love all in one.One of his quotable quotes reads “I learned that courage is not the absence of fear,but the triumph over it.The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who conquers that fear.”He detested selfishness and barbaric rule and racialism whether from whites or blacks.How far can we go in life if we emulate his attributes and replace our chauvinism minds with a sense of empathy!

FALLEN HEROINE

How many times have you heard of this saying……..dat its its the the little things that we do in life that really matter.Wangari Maathai is now gone but not like any other ordinary person.Her legacy will pass on from generation to generation.She was a phenomenal lady more than a super woman…….a true mother of earth.During my early years i only heard of her in the media not really understanding what she was up to…not even caring much to listen.Some may argue i was innocent.But those are the days that she in hailed teargas together with a few others who were brave enough to face the police appreciating that it a was during the Moi era.She stood tall even when it proved so tough…….many are sending condolences but the best we can do for her is plant as many trees as we can, not for her commemoration but for generations to come since that was her dream.