A Kenyan Revolution? We Must Wait Longer. Unfortunately

What is common in all revolutions is the existence of threats to citizen’s dignity and humanity and the willingness of citizens, in their numbers, to do something about it. Not blueprints, nor clarity on steps and milestones; nor any definitive leadership; nor hard consensus about how the revolution’s results could look like.

It’s fury first, and then urgency to act followed by a series of actions aimed at neutralizing the the threat and its source. Revolutions don’t even begin as revolutions.

Revolution is not the realm of managerialism, gentrification and Project Cycle Management. It’s not a neat affair, fuelled by energy or isotonic drinks. Neither is revolution defined by auras of deodorant and exquisite parades of a nation’s notables.

Revolution is never announced. When its moment comes, it sweeps the land and its leaders emerge organically to consolidate its energy into a force that creates new realities to correct the overthrown system.

A Kenyan revolution? We must wait. Unfortunately.

Because the endemic socialisation of seeking private remedies to public threats and indignities caused by the state is still strong and intact. It’s beloved and occupying.

That’s why your uncles and aunties are angrier with you for not sending them money in time for their next hospital visit than they are with the kleptocracy overseeing the death of the public health system. That’s why you’re probably struggling to please them more than you’re trying to find a way to strangle a lonesome looter at the Intercon, Stanley, Norfolk, Serena or Panafric urinals where they safely frequent – same places where some of your ‘community patronage and salvation’ breakfast meetings take place.

We, the self-declared change-makers of Kenya must live, for a long time to come, with our strategic plan or annual report or capacity building or position paper or concept paper or op-ed or or social media or workshop or seminar or conference or retreat or NGO or CBO or donor or network or Whatsapp group or occasional half-hearted and fearfully planned public protest revolution for a long time to come. And sadly, the bandits in power know that these are our only ‘revolutionary’ spaces and they know how to indulge us.

Our public fury, rage, urgency and agency are all anaesthetised, some euthanised by permanent mental and intravenous injections of a self help, mchango ethos for public problems and threats designed, executed and maintained by the ruling bandits.

So we like remembering Mau Mau and other heroes of our liberation struggles but continue to hide from drawing meaningful inspiration from their courage and rage. We refuse to adapt their tactics and enrich them with present opportunities to topple a small bunch of thieves ruining our country. We detain their memory again, as artefacts and add slabs to their graves by paralysing ourselves to preservation, postponement and voluntary foolishness that somehow Bunge or DCI or Mahakama or EACC or ODPP or Uhuru or Raila or, or, or will be our liberators.

Why are we still asking Uhuru Kenyatta and the intergenerational organised criminal system he manages for solutions to the many national problems and crises they’ve built since so-called independence?

Look at us…

Rain Therapy

Today it rained heavily my end of the city.

Looking outside I marveled at the nourished raindrops. A sense of nostalgia about the rainy days of my childhood set in and quickly overwhelmed me.

I wanted that downpour on me. And it was urgent.

So I decided to get out, embrace the rain, kiss it, hug it and get wet and totally drenched.

I dressed down to my shirt and track pants, then stepped out excitedly and strolled into the rain. No inhibition. No turning back.

The nourished rain drops, interspersed with feebler companions greeted me in a decisive frenzy of direct hits and passing smooshes.

The larger drops hit me like forgiven stones recently turned into water in their new sin-free life. The feebler ones touched my clothes, face and hands like tiny angels guarding the water stones for triumph on occasion of sin.

Initially the hits on me were loud, rowdy and bouncy. Within seconds, I was all wet, shirt and pants clinging onto my body in an indecisive copulation of shock and excitement. The hits changed tone and manner and they now fingered my body like a distracted lover.

I stood in the middle of the small field outside and let the raindrops have me and soak me all they wanted, how they liked.

Oh the strokes. The nourished ones hit me with oomph. The feebler ones caressed me with gentle sprays of wetness that appeared to merge and disappear to irrigate and resurrect any dying cells and nerves deep inside me.

Or may be the feeble raindrops were just tricking me into forgetting their hopelessness and failure in delivering the kind of strokes that would leave me gasping in awe and pleasure. But their gentle manner actually worked.

My body quickly noticed and danced in tipsy swings from its warmth a moment past to the cold hugs, kisses and strokes from my beloved raindrops.

In the rain, the child in me took over. The rain drenching me triggered ticklish sensations from head to toe. I soaked it in gracefully and relished in the delirium spreading all over my inner cosmos.

These sensations got me laughing freely as I started strolling across and around the little field to interact with more diverse raindrops and experience a more pluralistic drenching and stroking.

I laughed at my foolishness of thinking that I could collect all the rain in the palms of my hands and create a lake to water the seed of revolution.

I was lost in the bliss of being rained on. I did not notice neighbors wondering if their fellow earthling had an issue of an undisclosed type.

My present joy hypnotized me. My childhood soul with all its memories of being rained on from school filled me. I am a child of the nourished rains of Kericho and the kinkier ones of Koru Farm in Kunyak.

Spending ten minutes under the spell of the kisses of a heavy downpour was the best way to end my day.

The wetness, the internal warmth of my body and heart and the cold caresses of nature outside. The spread of these sweet sensations all over my soul and body, the which I have no words for.

My teary laughter in the rain remembering my childhood, and the blending of the tears and the raindrops, streaming down my cheeks to find the edges of my lips and tempting my tongue to a tasting festival.

I walked back to the house feeling refreshed, cleansed and happier.

Rain therapy. That was my evening.

A dream and a fight

In my dream I felt a sharp itch on the side of my rib cage. When I reached to scratch I noticed the source was a wormlike lifeless creature that was leisurely nibbling away on my skin. A painless uncomfortable sensation is what I felt, spreading from the surface of my skin, inwards and sideways in all directions.

Then I tried, urgently, to pull out the lifeless wormlike thing. I believed this would end the itchiness and discomfort. But the wormlike figure reacted fast, it’s mouthlike end spreading like a gush of jet fuel on nylon all over my body. I kept pulling it off my skin but its reach already effortlessly clung all over my body like a cocktail of a wet tee shirt, lubricated latex and a kitchen cling foil.

I escalated my urgency to peel off the cocktail that had now engulfed every inch of my skin. Nothing was spared, even the difficult contours and folds and intrusions and extrusions that capitalism discovered clothing for.

At once I arrested the wormlike figure in a good grip in an effort to peel off the clinging film off my skin. Then the film suddenly broke at my elbow where for the first time I realized it had been a constituent of my skin. I was left with a mass of film in my hand as I reacted to the shock of my now bleeding skin, painless at the point, on my elbow where the transparent film had broken.

Then right before my eyes, scales, like those of fish or snakes or lizards started forming as if to instantly repair the bruised, bleeding skin. But the scales formed fast and moved in a frenzy to cover all the parts of my body that I had liberated and firm up those I had not reached yet.

Hurriedly, I pinched a yet to be scaled up portion of the cling film on my loins to launch a new liberation attempt and zone. It snapped quickly and bled, this time more viciously but still painlessly. My loins were attentive. But fearful.

Then I woke up in a feat. I quickly explored every touchable inch of my body to ascertain its state. Was there cling film anywhere? Scales? Bruises? Bleeding? A wormlike creature? A cocktail of anything?

Nothing. There was nothing. Except a generous spread of perspiration. May be out of fear or I had overestimated the state of the weather outside before I surrendered to sleep. Also a full bladder from my devoted hydrating habits even when there’s no apparent reason.

I jumped out of bed and off to the cloakroom with the sole objective and urgency to empty my bladder. But not so soon.

A spider and a cockroach were in a vicious fight, roiling and tumbling over each other in murderous rage right there before my pressed self. I had never seen this before and probably will never see such ever again. The creatures fought, each taking turns to disentangle for a fresh maneuver or for flight. But the determination was of equal measure.

Did these two creatures have a mutual desire to make a dinner meal out of each other depending on who succumbed first? Or was it a mere flexing of muscles by two idlers? What would they be fighting about? Territory? Water points? Access to poop? What?

I watched in creepy amazement as the duelers schemed, angled, attacked and tried disentangle for a fresh round or surrender.

Then suddenly the two dashed off in different directions as if ashamed of being caught in a stupid fight, in a loo. Was it my shadow? Was it my sweaty odor? Or was it the smell of my own adrenaline being as it is that I had just come from a weird, clingy, scaly, bruising and bloody dream, nay daymare?

The two desolate fighters scampered and vanished before either could win the duel they seem to have promised their all until one was minced and dispensed of with. Is this what they always do in the loo when I’m away? Was this one a chance encounter or was it a sign?

What if my loo is also an arthropoda gladiatorial arena although capitalism sells it to me as real estate square feet? What if that’s the ruling party and the opposition in their arachnid forms roiling for access to public resources? Don’t they always stampede away to hide and reposition whenever citizens stumble upon them in the act?

Who Knows?

who knows?

the secret of the mystery of your life could be a lonely sand particle in the desert’s expanse

why do you fear getting out to go try find it?

who knows?

the answers you seek may be tucked in the ocean’s wave?

rushing to the shores as if to be in time to find you and kiss your feet

angsty and restless every day for finding you long gone

rising to hug you but finding rocks instead

losing strength and collapsing to be drawn back again to try again another time

why do you fear joining the wave for a hug

a dance

a swim

and flow?

from where you’d open pages full of the answers you seek?

who knows the sand particle soaked in your mystery and secrets

and the wave laden with answers to your many questions

ain’t me?

who?

NOT DRESS! IT’S MISOGYNY, SEXISM AND LAWLESSNESS

From verbal and physical attacks on girls and women in my life, it is clear to me that the stripping of women by some male scoundrels as recently witnessed in Nairobi, Bungoma and Mombasa had nothing to do with the dressing of those women.

These attacks are outward projections of a society drenched in misogyny, sexism and lawlessness. The attacks confirm that there exist pig-headed natives clinging to Stone Age ideas of masculinity and conceptualisation of women that make nonsense of Kenya’s post-modernist posture and dreams.

An unsustainably large proportion of Kenyan men are marinated with the lie that they own women’s bodies. They disrespect women and the laws that protect them. It takes simple listening to conversations of male relatives or colleagues to realise this.

These men arrogate themselves fake licence to women’s bodies. They even believe they can prescribe what girls and women they know nothing about should wear. I am a witness to this psychosis:

Once, at an upmarket Nairobi restaurant for lunch with my then pre-teen daughters, three older men who spoke my first language started talking about my daughters in most disrespectful terms. When I turned to confront them, they stared blankly and left without ordering lunch.

Now my daughters are in their early and mid-teens. Grown men on their way to work have catcalled at them almost every time we have gone out for a jog or walk.

A few years back, my cousin was molested at a bus stop in the city as she waited to board a matatu back to college. She had just come from a job interview with a bank. Two men out of the crowd pinned her to a wall as a third one reached under her bra and fondled her breasts.

More recently, a man brazenly groped my friend’s buttocks as she walked towards Yaya Centre on her way home from work. Police officers who witnessed the abuse laughed about it before driving off.

Many more of my female friends have been insulted, force-kissed and forcefully hugged by strangers. Not that it would have been any acceptable had they known their attackers. In all instances, wananchi who witnessed didn’t intervene.

All these abuses against girls and women are connected and they have nothing to do with the manner of dressing. Nor had they anything to do with place and time. They are sustained by law enforcement failure in Kenya.

There appears to be an epidemic of chauvinists in Kenya. They drive or tout matatus. Some dash by on boda bodas as others idle their time away at bus stops, malls and kiosks. Others haunt entertainment places. Many of them mimic civility as they walk or drive by residential areas.

Sexists and misogynists are as likely to be highflying professionals as they could be unemployed youth, schoolboys and illiterates. They are a colossus that straddles all faiths, classes, races, ethnicities, generations and occupations.

An even greater heartbreak is that institutions of public service delivery, including government technocracy, the National Police Service, Legislature and the Judiciary are habitats to some of the most decorated misogynists.

All this explains why sex offenders in Kenya are more likely to go scot-free than face justice. Fortunately, those Kenyans that believe in the non-negotiable equality of men and women; girls and boys in rights, worth and dignity are refusing to be cowed.

The #MyDressMyChoice street and media protests are a welcome first step in the right direction to deactivate sexism and misogyny in Kenya. This serious national task cannot be left to the police and politicians.

Organisers and protestors of the #MyDressMyChoice campaign must view this week’s activism as a first in many actions needed to address a systemic problem rooted in patriarchy – the worst, most lethal and persistent of all the ancestors of chauvinists.

The voices of those Kenyan women and men that stand for human rights, gender justice and the rule of law must not go silent. Miscreants like those filmed stripping women are doomed cowards. When challenged, even with simple questioning, they scamper for their temporary cover in anonymity.

The solidarity shown between activists and the media in recent weeks in defence of personal freedoms and gender justice need to be fostered and sustained into a strong movement against all forms of gender-based prejudices and crimes in Kenya.

It takes an unwavering stance by ordinary Kenyans, women and men, individually and in their organisations like the brave Kilimani Mums to start rolling back impunity and transform our country.

Only when we deactivate all forms of misogyny, sexism and lawlessness can we as citizens begin to experience true safety, security and progress.

Nduko o’Matigere

Nairobi, Kenya

29.11.2014

WESTGATE: WHY NO ONE WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE

Failure by government and state agencies at Westgate last year is no longer a matter of debate. Kenya’s political leadership, security and defence organs all failed, square. There is consensus about this across the political divide.

Yet no one will be held accountable. This is the outstanding matter that festers one year on after September 21. Without full accountability for the failings at Westgate, there is no reason why it cannot happen again.

Right from the top: the Presidency, cabinet, the police and Kenya Defence Forces – all these organs acted like hapless novices throughout the siege and terror at Westgate. They all failed without exception.

By virtue of the authority conferred them and job descriptions, Kenyans expected and deserved leadership, truthfulness, intelligence and effectiveness from these officials in their response to the terrorist attack.

Instead, the men responsible for national security resorted to blunt deception and ego flapping.

The military and police commands competed to outdo each other before the cameras, often giving unverifiable, conflicting information. For both commands, response was late, confused and ineffective. It got even worse and dangerous for first responders and those still trapped in the mall the moment KDF units got in.

President Uhuru Kenyatta promised Kenyans an inquiry but that still remains a promise, even a mirage one year later. I think no one will be held accountable over Westgate any time soon. There are simple, entirely personal reasons for this.

The most obvious reason is that all those that failed at Westgate are tightly connected individuals. Their ties to one another are not about their political nor professional duties to serve the Kenyan public but personal loyalty as bosom friends.

Their mosaic is that of a team of happy go lucky flops who can only lie to the nation to survive another day on the public pay roll. No single section of these public officers has moral command to hold the other accountable. They failed as friends and not as public officers. So no friend will get fired.

Secondly, it is highly likely that the National Security Council (NSC) already knew something about September 21 before it happened. But they failed to act. This will be too damning if let out in a public inquiry like the one promised by the president. The presidency is a part of NSC. So there will be no public inquiry. This is exactly how impunity looks.

Without a serious independent public inquiry on Westgate, we will never get to know, for example what the Presidency knew about September 21, when, and what the Commander-in-Chief did about the information. Kenyans will never know what the Inspector General of Police knew, when he got to know it and what he did with the information. We might never get to know what exactly led to the kind of operational and command irresponsibility witnessed at Westgate.

The last, and perhaps more worrying reason why we should not expect anyone to be held accountable for the failings at Westgate has something to do with the sex of the people in charge of our national security and defence. Retrogressive masculinity is a dangerous thing.

As devotees of outmoded masculinity, the men of power that failed at Westgate will never take responsibility for their failings. They won’t even apologize for letting Kenya down. That would be a sign of weakness and a betrayal to their medieval notions about manliness. They would rather die than own up.

So for these bunch of official flops, a cocktail of shameless deception, self-congratulation and arrogance are a suitable substitute for accountability.

I honestly do not see anyone among the Presidency, Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku, Inspector General David Kimaiyo, Chief of Kenya Defence Forces Julius Karangi and even other back room operatives like Mutea Iringo or Francis Kimemia stepping forward and admitting failure at Westgate; make a public apology; outline lessons and new measures to ensure September 21 does not happen again.

Accountability for Westgate will remain buried in the codes of private loyalties and friendships; the dark rooms of unprofessional conduct by those entrusted with the security and defence of Kenya and in backward masculinity that appears to be the credo of government and state officials in charge of national security and defence.

Without full accountability over September 21, there is nothing indicative that more Westgates cannot happen to us again.

 By Nduko o’Matigere