Category Archives: Elections

Who Really Failed Us?

One thing that has become abundantly clear is that the caliber of leadership we have in Kenya is wanting to the extreme. Looking at the ilk of Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, and indeed almost all the leaders in this country, one is unsure if they could lead people who fell out of a boat into the water.

I mean, some things don’t need you to be a rocket scientist to figure out. If you are insisting that you are the duly elected president, and giving speeches to that effect, then it beggars belief that you would leave your burning country to attend some nebulous summit (as most AU summits are wont to be). It makes even less sense to commit to dialogue here and while in Addis undermine the same dialogue by throwing sand into the engine you have committed yourself and your “government”.

Look a the members of parliament. Almost all of them are here in Nairobi, and what’s more they have refused to go back to their constituencies until the fighting ends. Which beggars the question of how this fighting is supposed to end if the people tasked with the responsibility of leadership are unwilling to step up and lend a hand to stop it!

Look at the religious institutions. When they are not deafeningly silent they participate in the chocolate teapot of press conference appeals for peace. The main religious bodies, Catholic, Anglican, Muslim and the Independent Churches have just not impressed at all. They didn’t mind advising their flocks during the constitution. Why are they so quiet now? This touches on something I mentioned in my last post about the hypocrisy of Kenyans filling churches and immediately afterwards collecting weapons and setting upon their fellows. I find it difficult to believe that this is a 0.005% or whatever percentage that is being bandied about. I refuse to believe that the other 99.995% just disappear into thin air!

How many leaders have visited the clash hit areas? In fact how many leaders have gone to Jamhuri Park? Has Mwai Kibaki? Has Raila Odinga? Who purporting to be in authority went there on their own violation? Last time I checked it is only well wishers who have taken the trouble and the expense to visit the internally displaced.

Look at the police. When the spokesman is not blowing hot air, explaining this with doctored rambo footage, his boss Commissioner Ali appears on TV to proudly inform us how he has facilitated security for people to leave their homes, without a doubt one of the most ludicrous statements I have head this year. Commissioner, that is nothing to be proud of. Believe me.

Look at the assorted councils of elders. The Njuri Ncheke. The Luo Council of Elders. the Kaya Elders. The Kalenjin Elders. The Kikuyu Elders. Where are they? They’re always waiting at the wings for earth shaking developments like the sacking of “their” sons so they can rush into the limelight. Where are they now? Why have they lost their voices as this insanity continues? Why do they not use their influence to prevail upon their people to end this madness?

Who will tell the foolish machete wielding youths that it is extremely moronic and self defeating to evict “foreigners” from amongst their midst? That this will only trigger resentment towards them and retaliation across the board?

Who will preach that no matter how self sufficient you think you are, you will still need groundnuts from the coast, beef from North Eastern, fish from Nyanza, sugar from Western, milk from Rift Valley and vegetables from central?

Who will remind people that Kenya is Kenya because of the contribution of everyone and if we pull apart we will all be the worse? Who will remind the population that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts?

Who will point out to people that if this nonsense continues you cannot simply go to Masai Mara or climb Mount Kenya or go to Lake Victoria or go to Mombasa! What will it benefit you to live in a country where you cannot go wherever you please!

Who will address the youths and tell them as reasonably as possible that if you burn buses in the morning do not be surprised to lack transport in the evening. Or if you uproot the railway tracks do not complain about lacking cooking oil. Or if you loot your workplace do not complain about lacking a job. Because they need to be addressed and have these things pointed out by someone in a leadership position.

But then again on retrospect leaders are quite the effective mirror of society … as we did last year, in 20 years from now some of those panga wielding, stone throwing, shop looting fools will offer themselves for leadership and we will elect them.

The question is – who is really to blame there?

Shining Examples

Mercifully there are people stepping up. In their own little way to do something practical rather than endlessly mundane appeals for peace from Narobi. Parallels between Mohammed appealing to the mountain ought to be drawn here.

People like Rachel Wambugu and Wesley Chebii. People with the guts and gumption to step up and lead.

These are the kind of leaders we need. Enough self obsessed pontification from the likes of our current leadership, demanding for extra security. Why should you be given any extra security? Is your blood somehow redder than ours? What about the rest of us? Do we not deserve to be alive too? That if anything should speak volumes about the integrity and selflessness of these windbags. Face it my friends. Looking to this lot for leadership is like sheep looking to wolves.

We need more Rachels and Wesleys. These are the sort of leaders we should admire. The sort of leaders we should stand behind. Ready to go into the lion’s den for their people. True shepherds indeed.

Spare me the Kibakis and the Railas! What do they care about us? A man who a month ago promised to be the president of all Kenyans had the audacity to LEAVE for some nebulous summit as the country literally burnt and its people were dying?

Spare me the absurdity!

AOB – Goodbye Barack. It’s Been Real

I’m following the hype around the newest Kid on The Block, Barack Obama with much a somewhat cynical eye. Is he popular? Yes. Does he drive crowds into frenzies? Yes. Could be make one hell of a president? Yes. Would I personally vote for him? Hell yes! If I was an American that is.

But elections in America follow the very same unwritten rules as those all over the world. Which means what? That the people at the conventions and speeches are the typical iPod listening, notebook carrying educated city dwellers. These are not the people with the votes. The people with the votes are the maws and paws: apple pie baking break-your back work ethic church going rural folk. These are the people with the votes.

And an unwritten law somewhere says that the people who attend rallies are not the ones with the votes.

Keeping in mind the  painfil fate that befell John Kerry and Al Gore to George Bush Jr, what it will boil down to is as follows.

Given a choice between a black man (Mr Obama) and a white woman (Hillary Clinton) I would not be surprised the people with the vote will make the inevitable choice of voting for John Sidney McCain.

NOTE: That last statement is put exactly the way I intended it it. I am perfectly aware of their party affiliations, nomination processes, stands on issues like health, Iraq, and all that jazz.

Kenya Burns!

Events over the past 5 weeks have afforded me much opportunity for introspection. From what I have seen, to what I have heard, to what I have read. I cannot tell a lie. I am deeply affected by the events that took place for the past 5 weeks. I asked what have they done? Almost 4 weeks ago. And it is clear that people just don’t realize what has been done to this country — every time they think they do it gets worse.

This election my M.O. was that I was going to see things for myself and not rely on the traditional media. And so I went out to capture the pulse of the country. Of course, I saw a lot more that I would never have imagined, more intimately than most; because unlike most people

  • I actually went to KICC towards the tail end of the announcement that set things off. I fashioned my own Media badge (scrutiny was quite cursory) and took myself there. I saw with my own eyes doctored tally sheets. I saw the infamous 16A and remember laughing outright when the figure the chairman read out was absurdly different from what was on some of the actual forms.
  • I actually visited some polling stations and saw clumsy attempts to modify tally sheets
  • I actually went out and into the Mukuru slums a couple of days after the residents stoned our houses  and forced us into an impromptu curfew. I have seen horrible things and heard horrible tales. I have inhaled quite a bit of teargas and my reflexes to sounds like gunfire have to be seen to be believed.
  • I still go out to Mukuru even now. I tell you its one thing to see these people on TV and it is quite another to talk to them and share their experiences.

In fact that is what I think every man and woman of goodwill who is serious about helping should be doing. Personally I think we’ve had enough of these bullshit conferences, press briefings and what nots. Enough of them. The same things are said over and over again. What new things are said? People just go there, make the same old same old bleating for peace, then get into their 4x4s and drive to their cushy estates. I no longer attend these things because I fail to see the value that they add. There comes a point when you must stop talking and start doing.

You can’t appeal for peace on TV. You must do it face to face. So please, spare us these media briefings and press conferences. We can only get peace by making people see sense one at a time. So the more of us that do it, the sooner it will be done.

Some time back I shared my concerns that perhaps the youth have had a hand in the morass this country is currently in. Watching the footage of events in Nakuru and Nyahururu leaves me in little doubt.

Granted, this was started by politicians. The elections were just the flint that set alight the situation. However I refuse to absolve the participants of the mayhem of their share of the blame. The fact of the matter is that at the end of the day you must take responsibility for your actions.

If you threw stones, hacked people, burnt houses or looted then you are also to blame.

If you didn’t throw stones or hack or burn or loot but you spread hate through your blogs, your text messages, your emails and your conversations, please believe you are just as bad as the panga wielding youths. You are equally to blame.

It was absolutely chilling yesterday to watch footage of rowdy youths pulling men out of matatus and proceeding to lynch them.

I have for a long time been opposed to capital punishment. But now I ask myself would I really shed a tear if these murderers and looters in Eldoret. Kisumu, Nakuru, Naivasha, Molo, Kuresoi etc were strung up? I doubt it.

Questions

What I want to know is

  1. Where is the President? Mr Kibaki cannot have it both ways. If he insists he is the duly elected president then it is incumbent upon him to act accordingly. He must not only do something, he must be seen to be doing something.
  2. Where are our MPs? Why are they all here in Nairobi, and it is on record that they have only done a single day’s work? All MPs should be on the ground in their own constituencies doing their bit to ensure that this madness ends. We’ve had enough press conferences from comfortable hotels saying the same thing. Mr Kibaki should be in Othaya. Mr Odinga should be in Kibera. All their lieutenants should be at their constituencies moving from door to door campaigning for this foolishness to end. I won’t buy any arguments about government having to continue. What is there to govern?
  3. Where is the Church? I’m not impressed at all by any of the churches in Kenya. The Catholic Church, The Anglican Church, the Islamic community and the Independent churches have been very lethargic indeed. What happened to the men of faith who did not hesitate to speak for the people in word and in deed like Bishops Muge? Okullu? Gitari? Why are their successors so quietly lethargic?
  4. Why wasn’t the Army deployed in Eldoret 3 weeks ago?

Shattered Myths

  1. Kenya is an oasis of peace. Is it now?
  2. Kenyans are a deeply religious people. I find it difficult to reconcile this alleged deep devotion to The Maker, the innumerable filled churches and mosques and the images of brother turning against brother with crude weapons. It is bandied about that Kenya is 70% or so Christian. If this is so I can see much in the phrase “Jesus wept”.
  3. Kenya believes in the right of law. The ODM refuses to challenge the elections in court. While I understand their reluctance, it is also scoring an own goal because it can be argued that they are not going to challenge because they know they lost. Impasse right there. Also the PNU allege the ODM also committed electoral malpractice. Why have they not gone to court either?

Fueling The Fire

[ED]It would appear ODM Embakasi MP [ED]Mugabe Were was shot outside his compound. This is the absolute worst time for such a thing to happen.

AOB

My attention has been drawn to an online equivalent of a pissing contest. My response is exactly what it was before. There is nothing magical about blogging that absolves you from the responsibility to check your facts before you post them. There is nothing magical about it that makes it okay for you to say as you please without repercussion. Everyone has their own opinions on what blogging ought to be. For some it is a means to diary their exploits. For others it is a cash cow. For others it is a means to build castles in the air. For others it is an opportunity to be big fish in small ponds. For others it is a way to purge their souls. For others it is a way to express their creativity. For others it is a ticket to yet another blogging conference. For others like me — it is a way to express what I happen to be thinking.

But make no mistake about it. Whatever your reasons it is still incumbent upon you to be responsible with whatever you blog. My idea of responsibility is that if you are purporting to be speaking as someone telling people authoritatively what is happening on the ground, you’d  best have your facts right as you write. Hoping that it turns out to be true later is not good enough. Hiding behind innuendo is not good enough.

Buzz words like ‘citizen media’ and ‘one man publishing press’ do not change a thing. Neither does pontification from behind podiums at conferences. At the end of the day bloggers are still human beings and must still be held responsible for their words and actions. Whether or not bloggers choose to get lost in their grandiose delusions of grandeur does not change a thing.

A WordPress installation does not exempt you from this any more than a calculator exempts you from knowing how to add.

A cursory glance at blogs today speaks for itself. Just read some of the blog posts that have been written over the past month. A good number make my skin positively crawl. What defence do all the authors of those ridiculous ‘letters’ have? Freedoms are not absolute. They have responsibilities as well.

Tribalism & The Youth

Without a doubt one of the most uttered sentences in Kenya today is along the following lines …

Me? A tribalist? No! I am no such thing!

A more refined version goes as follows.

I am not a tribalist! In fact I have friends who are Kikuyu/Luo/Kamba etc.

Interesting. A feeling of déjà vu took over me and it’s just this morning I figured out what was causing that feeling.

About two years ago I wrote a post about tribalism, or to be precise an amazing creature that had been introduced to me called “positive tribalism“. I remember how astounded I was when I first heard it. I thought it was the most outrageously preposterous thing I have ever heard. And there were people who objected to my objection. The post, needless to say, triggered a healthy debate, replete with the usual fare of outraged indignation, threats, and insults, thinly veiled and outright, that I preserved in their entirety. The only comment I obfuscated was one attacking someone else (the only fair game I allow here is myself!)

My opinions have not changed. I think positive tribalism is about as absurd as positive racism. I think it a thinly veiled attempt to legitimize the illegitimate.

I think if you voted for Mwai Kibaki because he is Kikuyu, or Raila Odinga because he is  Luo, then you’re an ass.

I think if you didn’t vote Mwai Kibaki because he is Kikuyu, or you didn’t vote for Raila Odinga because he is Luo, then you’re an ass.

If tribe was one of the considerations in your voting decision, then you’re an ass.

What makes me especially sad is that many of the people I know born in the window between 1970 and 1990, who really ought to know better by virtue of being brought up in a cosmopolitan Nairobi have left me puzzled and saddened.

I find it difficult to believe that to a wo(man), most of my peers with roots (albeit several times removed) in Central Kenya resonate with Mwai Kibaki’s policies and agenda, and that his tribe was not a factor. I find it difficult to believe that to a wo(man), most of my peers with roots (albeit several times removed) in Nyanza resonate with Raila Odinga’s strategies for growth and empowerment, and that his tribe was not a factor.

Let me stress that again. These are not people in Central Kenya and Nyanza who have grown up in a homogenous community. I’m talking about people who grew up in cosmopolitan, multi-cultural estates.

Absolutely preposterous that we, the leaders of tomorrow, the iPod-carrying, blogging, Kwani-reading campus graduates have the temerity to purport to be the enlightened future of this nation and yet we still use tribe as a guide in our decision making!

If the tribes of our play pen mates when we were howling toddlers filling our pants did not affect us, and they did not affect us when we were racing our BMX and Choppers how then are we, the product of the cosmopolitan 80s and 90s, using these very things we ignored against our fellows? How, in 2008, can lawyers and doctors and engineers who will be standing for public office in 4-8 years subtly and openly promulgate the same innuendo, fear, paranoia and outright hate and in the same breath express outrage at people hacking each other to death?

My friends, using blogger.com and WordPress.com does not absolve you from your responsibilities. Neither does using gmail.com or yahoo.com. Neither does using Safaricom and Celtel text messaging facilities. Using technology to spread disunity does not absolve you of responsibility!

Do you get outraged when you hear “thieving nigger”? (Yes, nigger) You do? Then why don’t you get outraged when you hear:

  • Money hungry Kikuyu
  • Colour blind Kamba
  • Violent Kisii
  • Extravagant Luos
  • Chicken loving Luhya
  • Warlike Somali
  • etc

I’ll just bet you don’t! And I also bet you forwarded and re-forwarded all those inane jokes starting with “A Kikuyu, a Luo and a Luhya …”, that you fondly believed to be funny.

It’s just a joke, you say? Oh really? Is blackface funny? Disabuse yourselves of that notion!

We are the generation that ought to know better. Why then do our communication, our perceptions, our stereotypes and our voting have anything other than sound logic, merit and character at their foundation?

Have the two-faced youth done this country a disservice, preaching unity from one side of the doubt and undermining it with the other? Could we be the problem?

Given the events of the past 3 weeks I’m beginning to be so inclined …

AOB

I was very serious about hate speech in this blog. If I find your comments fail to live up to the basics of respect for your fellows, even those of opposing views then your comment, and then you, are gone. I am not interested in Oompa Loompas and River Trolls interested in sowing their hate here. I will black list your IP address. I will not remove your IP address from the black list until January 1, 2012. So do not bother emailing me.

USHAHIDI.COM

A brilliant initiative is ushahidi.com, an initiative to keep track of incidences of unrest in the country. Ushahidi.com is a tool for people who witness acts of violence in Kenya in these post-election times. You can report the incident that you have seen, and it will appear on a map-based view for others to see. This will be a big help not only in knowing what’s going on, but also some time in the future be a tool for introspection

 

Moving On

[EDIT 20:21]

“Moving on” is a phrase I’ve heard bandied about a lot of late.

It irritates me as much today as it did the first time I heard it, cleverly slipstreamed into conversation around the imbroglio we as Kenyans find ourselves in.

You hear it used like this:

We need to move on as a country and go about our business.

Or like this:

Yes, the process was flawed. But we need to move on.

Or like this:

So Kibaki appointed a cabinet before the coalition talks. The country needs to function. We need to move on.

Excuse me, but “moving on” is about the most absurd thing we can do now. Patently so.

500+ people have been killed. 300,000+ have been displaced. Businesses and homes have been destroyed. Friends have turned against friends. People have been chased from their homes in the middle of the night. People have lost everything. Some people have lost everyone.

In light of the above I am of the opinion that NO, we FUCKING CANNOT MOVE ON!

The wisdom in “Moving on” is  questionable indeed. Are we to forget the dead, the burnt, the destroyed, the shearing of Kenyan society as we know it? Are we naive enough to believe if we don’t address the causes that led to this situation they will pack up like good little boys and bid us adieu?

“Moving on” is precisely what got us into the situation we are in today. For 44 years we have been moving on, paying scant attention to the underlying problems that have befallen us, in the fond belief that “we are a peaceful people” and “Kenya is an island of peace and stability”. We moved on in the face of disparities of education, opportunities, wealth, camaraderie and class.

I would not be in the least bit surprised to hear some of the political elite, upon hearing that Kenyans are going hungry, wondering, like a woman not too long ago who lost her head, why they “didn’t eat cake”.

Moving on will only ensure that come 2012 we will be writing blog posts and newspaper articles precisely like the ones we have been doing the past fortnight. Moving on will just give another set of us the opportunity to be “shocked and saddened” that this happened on our land. Moving on will just ensure that our children (if we survive to sire them) will merrily and ignorantly make the same mistakes we did.

Have we learnt nothing from the past 2 weeks?

Indeed, stupidity is doing the same thing twice and expecting the same results.

We need to find out the reason our country exploded and take steps to correct them, so that our future generations will be spared what we have gone through. We need to find out what the problem is now, and address it decisively. Before we get peace, we must have justice.

So no, dammit, we FUCKING CANNOT MOVE ON! 44 years ought to have shown by now that moving on doesn’t bloody work!!!

Oh, and for those of limited imagination, let me remove all ambiguity. Justice does not mean throwing stones and destruction and violence!

By saying we can’t just move on I am not saying we should not go back to work and get on with our lives. I’m not saying you stay home and await developments! Au contraire! What I am saying is that we cannot go back to the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil business as usual that we have been at for the last 44 years.

It’s not Kibaki and Raila throwing stones and wielding pangas and burning houses. It’s me and you. I am not naive enough to believe that the sight of Raila and Kibaki shaking hands and hugging will magically stop the fighting and people can move back to their homes from which they were chased. Because that is not about to happen.

Working and going about our business as usual will not address the issue of why friends have butchered friends. And until we find out exactly what circumstances led to that and correct it TODAY we shall be reliving this experience perpetually.

Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. Life as usual is not an option.

AOB

Alfred Mutua, our resident Oompa Loompa, always manages to take my breath away with his effortless ability to introduce rocking chairs into a room full of blind cats. Every time the grinning Proudfoot Hobbit has his earnest face behind a camera, the osmotic pressure of the external environment causes his grey and white matter to seep from the areas of high concentration within his cranium, leaving behind doesn’t matter.

It takes an exceptional type of foolishness to say the following with a straight face while 400 of your fellows have been killed

“They [Kufuor and Kibaki] are age-mates and friends and Kufuor is coming to have a cup of tea with him,” Mutua said.

Bloody hell. Kufuor flew all those miles for a cup of tea. Villages looking for that special member of their community can contact me

Kenya Is Burning. Stop The Fighting!

Vote Of Thanks

Many thanks to everyone sending all those emails and text of concern. I am alive and well and taking good care of myself. I am a bit flooded with emails but am doing my best to respond to everyone.

Special thanks to all those sending in news and information. Special thanks to WathiiFM for updates from the Buru Buru area and first class pictures

Housekeeping

I fondly believe that most of my readership are adults of sound mind with a modicum of maturity. In case you are not, allow me to tell you this. This is not a site to propagate hate and rumours. I have spent more time than I should moderating obtuse comments. I am tired of that. I have many other things to worry about. Henceforth if you post something even remotely advocating hate or violence not only will I delete it, I shall blacklist you from ever visiting my blog again. I shit you not. If you think this is a convenient avenue for your hate, think again. I have no time for your nonsense. We want solutions, not more problems.

My connection is not the most stable so henceforth I shall be uploading a huge combined post whenever I can.

News Update

  • Official death toll is now 300. Unofficial death toll is much larger
  • Yesterday there were skirmishes in Bahati, Maringo, Kangemi, Arwings Kodhek, Industrial Area and Thika Road
  • A man was killed on Thika Road when police fired in the air, severing an electrical cable that fell on him
  • ODM rally was moved to Saturday
  • At long last Mwai Kibaki addressed the nation in a lackluster speech long on hot air, ambiguity, vagueness and lethargy and short of concrete solutions
  • Archbishop Desmond Tutu arrived and met with the ODM leadership. The grapevine has it that Kibaki initially refused to meet with him. Subsequently it turned out that a meeting was indeed scheduled for this day.
  • Again proving that no matter how low the bar is, stupidity will always find a way to slither under, Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua, rose eyed lens firmly on, castigates the international community for interfering.
  • Flies on the wall allege that Kibaki himself is pretty amenable to negotiation. But as is the hallmark of his regime other elements in his administration are taking hardline positions.
  • Same flies say that Kibaki is willing to form a coalition government with the opposition. This I have to see to believe. 
  • Nairobi water company allays fears that the city water supply is poisoned.

Kibaki’s Speech Highlights

  • He is deeply concerned
  • He condemns the violence
  • Kenya is a peaceful country (Is it now?)
  • Justice abounds in Kenya. No one has ever been denied justice
  • He too, just like other Kenyans, was made aware that he was won in that same press briefing of the ECK
  • He has followed the law all the while and will continue to
  • Anyone with problems with the outcome should take it up with the court
  • He would seek solutions once the situation calms down. (WTF?!! People are dying while you wait!)
  • He had no time for journalists’ questions. If they had any they should come tomorrow. (People will be dying while we await for you to be comfortable with questions)

State House

Earlier today I drove past State House. A continuous flag like the one that is put on public holidays is very much in evidence. I took some very illegal pictures juggling camera and car. It is no idle rumour that the security personnel there are overzealous. A friend of mine once stopped outside one of the far flung entrances and within minutes a truncheon was being bounced off his amazed skull.

Personally I would take down that flag. It can be construed as a celebration of Kibaki’s new term. I don’t think there is anything to celebrate.

Here are the pics (Quality is not the beast because I was driving and some were taken through windscreen)

State1 
Road heading towards State House, adjacent to the grounds

State2
The State House Junction

State3
Approaching the main gate

State4
The main gate

The Rally

I’ve been roving here and there to capture developments on the ground just after the skirmishes took place. The pictures are sobering indeed. My heart breaks when I photograph what some Kenyans have done to others. Scarred indeed are our weary souls.

The following set is from a looted Coca Cola distributor on Arwings Kodhek. I spoke to the proprietor and the owners of the adjacent stalls. The angry mob repulsed by the police in Hurlingham wreaked havoc. The vendors lost their fruits and vegetables. Hooligans would bite a mango and throw the rest at cars, buildings, etc.

At the depot they broke bottles from some 300 or so crates.

Rally1
A destroyed adjacent vegetable stall. They ate the fruits and took or destroyed the vegetables

Rally2
Another looted vegetable stall

Rally13
A torched stall

Rally4
Broken glass on the road

Rally5
A closer view of the glass. They broke 300 crates

Rally6
Pile of shattered glass

Rally8
A closer view

Rally9
A still closer view

Rally11
The distributor

Rally12
Attempts to recover

 Rally7
Uprooted bus stop

The following set is from the Engen Petrol station further down the road

Rally14
The empty parking bay

Rally15
The looted quick shop

Rally16
The broken door through which they entered

Rally17 
Thrown stones litter the parking

Rally18
Entrance to the adjacent restaurant

Rally19 
Windows of the restaurant

Rally32
An ignored plea in the restaurant window

Kenya Burns

I weep.

Riots1
Rioters burn tyres behind a locked gate

I need not tell you that as I write this our country is on fire. Flames stoked by the ineptitude of the current regime and outright tribal polarization by politicians have finally exploded in a shocking turn of violence and destruction. Neighbours are turning against each other. People are suddenly afraid.

Riots2
The rowdy mob makes its presence felt

Myself included. As I was driving to visit the missus who lives in an area that happens predominantly of a single community I wondered what exactly I would do if I was stopped by a mob and asked to identify myself. One of the names given to me by my folks happens to be Luo, and it is proudly there on my ID. The fact that I am not actually Luo would not help be because assumptions would probably be made on the strength of my ID, as is happening in many places in Nairobi, let alone Kenya. I have two friends in hospital who has “the wrong names” on their IDs.

Riots3
An unfortunate is arrested

However I refused to succumb to this situation. I refuse to be a victim of the greed of the political elite.

Riots4
GSU personnel run after a mob

The fact of the matter is that the political elite is very comfortable in their homes. I drove by State House this morning and not only is the road clean and uncluttered, there are flags all over presumably to celebrate the Kibaki victory. Unlike my hood where there is debris and ashes and broken glass and stones all over.

Riots5
A GSU office reloads with tear gas

Our politicians are not suffering. They have running water. Milk, eggs, bread, meat and even cake are delivered to their doorsteps.

Riots6
Reloading

It is me and you, my friends, who risk being beaten up by mobs and shot by the police as we look for milk and bread for us and our own.

Riots7
A GSU officer ready for anything

The political elite are enjoying cartoons and soap operas and football on their DSTV and GTV. It is only me and you who are watching KTN and K24 and Al Jazeera and NTV to see the carnage being visited on our country. (KBC is not a serious news station. They’ve been showing cartoons and comedy clips as the country disintegrates)

Riots8 
Fully reloaded the GSU set off after rowdy mobs

The political elite sleep soundly in the peace and quiet Kitusuru and Thigiri and Riverside. It is us unfortunates who have our sleep interrupted by screams and shouts and gunshots.

Riots9
The press in the thick of things

The political elite have access to fist class air tickets to fly out of the country. It is me and you who have nowhere to run to. If Somalis and Rwandas and Ugandans and Sudanese flee here, where o where are we to flee to?

Riots10 
Still reloading

And while our brothers and sisters and cousins and nephews and nieces are dying, pseudo-leaders wallowing in crass stupidity appear on TV to grandstand, blaming the chaos on each other.

Listen, nitwits. We are not interested in your grandstanding and finger pointing. We want solutions. Alfred Mutua, we have no time for your foolishness Kenyans are dying. We need all the help we can get to contain this situation. Accusing the international community of interference is nothing short of obtusely crass stupidity. This is not an episode of your half baked pesudo-thriller Cobra Squad! This is real life!!!

Riots11
The GSU at work

We’ve had enough of nonsense press statements from comfortable hotels and the State House lawn. Come and make those inane gestures from Kibera or Mukuru or Thika Road or Kangemi. I dare you. Come down like me and other Kenyans who have no security detail and do your grandstanding!

What Should Be Done?

  • Every politician and their offspring should have their visas canceled and should be denied new ones. Let you and your children experience the Kenya that you created! Let your children come back from the US and Australia and Canada and England and live with the consequences of what Mama and Papa created like the rest of us!
  • The grandstanding between the government and ODM should stop. We are not interested in your foolish finger pointing games. It is we, not you, who are suffering. Shut your mouths and give us solutions, not problems. The media (local and international) should give the ilk of Alfred Mutua a total blackout.
  • Kibaki and Odinga should visit the affected areas and make their statements for there. If they are so sure they are right then there should be no problem in facing your people.
  • PNU and ODM must negotiate without pre-conditions. This is no longer about you.
  • This is not merely a matter of getting peace. We need to treat the disease, as well as the symptoms. The disease is justice, or lack thereof. If we don’t sort out this root cause then the violence will just flare up again later.
  • Recounting the votes and re-checking the tallies I fear is no longer an option. It would seem that some form 16As have been conveniently stolen from the safe in which they were stored. Presumably ballot boxes are being stuffed with votes as we speak.

The ideal solution I would think, would be along the following

  • Kibaki and Odinga agree to a government of National Unity, with the former as president and the latter as vice president. The cabinet would then be split between PNU and ODM
  • In 6 or so months, fresh elections to be held
  • Neither Odinga nor Kibaki should offer themselves for election. They are even more polarizing than they were before. We need a completely new shift in governance. Those political fossils still in power need to go before they sink us all
  • The election should be overseen by an imported Electoral Commission. I would not trust the ECK to hit the water if it fell out of a boat
  • Usage should be made of all the TV footage and camera pictures. Neigbourhoods and communities should be called upon to identify the murderous and destructive fools that have been the instruments of destruction. They should be dealt with ruthlessly once identified.

As with most ideal solutions this one has a fatal flow. Neither Kibaki nor Odinga have demonstrated putting the welfare of the nation above their own.

What can we do?

Stop the fighting.

Go into your hood and talk to people. If you’re waiting for someone else to do it you’re part of the problem. You have youth groups and fellowships and estate committees and outreach programs and tuition groups. Go and talk to them. Go into the community and preach peace.

People in the slums do not have TV to watch the televised campaigns. The most powerful voice is yours. The people know you and they probably trust you so they’ll listen to you.

If I do that and you do that and the people you talk to do the same pretty soon we’ll have covered this country.

Stop the fighting. Why are we losing our lives while the elite, who don’t care, are comfortable?

Show them they no longer have power over us. Show them that they work for us, not us for them.

Show then their days of lording over us and using us as cannon fodder are over.

Stop the fighting.

Stop the fighting.

Stop the fighting.

What Really Happened, Part 2: Exodus

News

  • In a show of crass stupidity, Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua and Lands Minister Kivutha Kibwana release statements accusing the ODM of organizing and funding genocide. I am stunned at the foolishness of this gesture that can only further fan the flames and erode the remaining goodwill (if any)
  • 7 killed and dozens of houses burnt in Huruma and Dandora. There was a standoff between two rival gangs and skirmishes that lasted for hours
  • Jamhuri Park has been set up as a refugee center. My heart is heavy to report that there are refugees in Nairobi that are from Nairobi

AOB

I’ve been round a bit to check out what’s happening on the ground. Things are slowly creeping back to normal, in some sections of Nairobi though given tomorrow’s rally, or lack thereof, one wonders.

Exodus

In What Really Happened #1: Genesis, I outlined what I thought was the kindling for the situation we are in today. Here is the conclusion.

Tour1
Capital Center

Between the knowledge that they were unpopular all over the country and had polarized other communities against their own, and the irresistible taste of the trappings of power and wealth that come with incumbency, a decision was probably taken that the State House was to be retained at all costs.

Tour2
Main Entrance, Capital Center

It is here that I postulate something that might raise an eyebrow.

I do not believe that Mwai Kibaki intended to run again.

Tour5 
Milk Shelves Before Stocking

Yes, I don’t. Why? Because of the following

  • Kibaki did not seem to take the elections seriously until 2 months to the event
  • The decision to cobble together a new political party at the last hour, instead of using the already established NARC Kenya is unlikely to be grounded in wisdom
  • Much, if not all, of the campaigning was done by lieutenants for most of the year
  • Extremely strange liaisons developed at the 11th hour, which included
  • Former President Moi
  • KANU
  • The campaign was largely disjointed to the very end. Having affiliate parties field multiple candidates is an extremely poor strategic move

Tour6
Restocking Milk

However powerful forces around him convinced him that it was incumbent upon him to run again. And the more he thought about it the better it sounded. Which led to ludicrously absurd scenarios like

  • A sitting president attending the delegates conference of the Official Opposition, singing the infamous KANU party slogan KANU yajenga nchi (KANU builds the nation)
  • Said sitting president proudly and happily waving the finger salute of KANU
  • Said sitting president appealing passionately to opposition delegates to give him their votes
  • Sitting president breaking bread and proceeding to meet regulraly with his predecessor, Moi, the very man he humiliated in more ways than one, least of which was thinly veiled insults in his inauguration speech, sending his lieutenants to court and threatening to prosecute Moi himself

Tour3
Milk, milk everywhere

However,as I have said, after all the rallies and politicking, the reality began to show itself and the bitter truth was that it was unlikely to win the elections.

Tour10
Meat Shelves, almost bare

Contingencies were laid to improve the odds

  • Campaign consultants were imported (Never mind that ado that was made of ODM’s Dick Morris. On that note even today I have always been suspicious of ODM’s move in parading Dick Morris. The quintessential red herring if ever there was one)
  • Formidable state machinery was brought to bear. A cursory look at the movements of the campaign teams over the latter half of the year ought to make some interesting reading
  • Significant amounts of funds were injected into the campaign. The strategic targeting was questionable, but the sheer quantity was there. Idle banter with individuals in the know have led to the floating of figures to the tune of a couple of million. Per constituency.

Tour8
Skumawiki (kale) shelf, clean as a whistle

And just to make sure another set of contingencies were put in place

  • A good chunk of the sitting Electoral Commission’s commissioners were replaced with new ones. With the knowledge that one of the new commissioners is the President’s personal lawyer, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to divine the fact that they probably were loyal to the President.
  • The knee jerk reaction to replace the chairman as well was overturned at the last minute to give the commission the perception of independence. Kivuitu was largely trusted by both sides. Then, at any rate. However I’m inclined to think some form of hold was gotten over Kivuitu.
  • Days to the election the president swore in a new set of beaming judges

Tour9
Well stocked shoppers at the till

That last point in particular is why I am deeply skeptical that election petitions will be of any value. Asking judges appointed not a fortnight ago to expel their benefactor is about as useful as a chocolate teapot. It was not lost on many that a beaming Chief Justice and the ever smiling Attorney General were delighted guests at the inauguration. The old adage of a rooster appealing to the justice of a hungry crocodile comes to mind.

Tour12
South B Shopping Center

The final contingency was the one that was to be a last resort. This happens to be the one that has put as where we are today. It was not executed as envisaged due to a number of factors

  • Kenyans turned out to vote en masse. En masse
  • Instead of going home like good little boys and girl, Kenyans remained at the polling stations and watched the ballot boxes like hawks
  • The convenient inability of the ECK to procure ICT systems to have a live tally of results was overridden by the enthusiastic coverage and tallying of the TV, radio and press who kept the public fully appraised of the results
  • An assumption was made the Kenyans were somewhat gullible and liable to agree with anythng that sounded official. Boy was that a null hypothesis!

Tour13 
Vendor selling vegetables

The strategy was simple.

  • Stuff ballot boxes where possible. This largely proved impossible thanks to hawk eyed Kenyans at most polling stations. However it was executed at some constituencies where observers were denied access.
  • Through willing proxies like Nyachae (Nyanza), Kombo (Western) and Mwakwere (Coast), secure at least 25% of the vote in the provinces Kibaki was not going to win on his own (besides the inevitable Central and Eastern)
  • Move with speed to publish results of the opposition’s candidate’s presidential votes, while at the same time holding back the tally of the incumbent. It will not do to inflate the incumbent’s tally and turn up short. Or overshoot by several million.
  • At ECK headquarters, have a series of “technical issues” that result in incorrect figures being published of the incumbent’s totals. Invariably, these would be larger, through means like judicious addition of zeroes to totals  or surreptitious injection of the odd 20,000 votes. Inadvertent reduction of the opposition candidate’s totals would also not hurt. This would be courtesy of those ECK commissioners that so recently gained employment.

Tour17
Fully loaded handcart sets off

The last plan hinged on the fact that there were no hawk eyed Kenyans watching the national tallying. Ergo if action were to be taken, it would be taken there. Much has been made of the fact that the various observers were at times denied access to the tally room.

Tour18
Nakumatt Karen

The looks in the eyes of the likes of William Ruto and Charity Ngilu when totals they know to be 35,000 in some constituency were announced as 100,000 were truly priceless.

Tour19
Nakumatt Karen Entrance

The problem with the master plan was that the average Kenyan is not as naive and as gullible as the political elite like to think. Kenyans put two and two together and got not the 22 that the elite was expecting, but a resounding 4.

I knew what was coming the instant the paramilitary General Service Unit cleared the KICC of journalists and additional armed men arrived and sealed it off.

Tour20
The supermarket

The rest, as they say, is history. Kibaki was declared winner. Needless to say, the reaction came thick and fast

Breaking It Down

I was not the least bit surprised that things degenerated into violence.

Tour21
Maize flour sells like hotcakes

Think about it.

Much ado has ben made over the right to vote, and the empowerment of the voter. Kenyans were told that they had the power to shape their destiny and choose their leadership. And so they turned out in colossal numbers and they voted. They were told that they had a voice and that it would be listened to.

And when it came down to it their voice, the ballot was ignored. And so they had only one voice left — protest.

Tour22
Lengthy lines at the till

Make no mistake. I have ZERO support for destruction of property and shedding of blood. As a matter of fact if you threw stones or raised arms against your brother you should be dealt with ruthlessly.

It is extremely naive for PNU supporters to gloat over such a tainted victory. Because it is indeed a tainted victory. And if you support a tainted victory it would be the height of hypocrisy to object if for instance, Moi won in a similar manner.

I am stunned that Kibaki conveniently forgets the election petitions revolving around the 1992 and 1997 elections. My how the memory is selective!

Tour23 
The end is nigh!

Supporting this travesty because it favours someone you like is a dangerous and foolish precedent.

What we have lost, my friends, is our voice. The power of the ballot. The right to determine our leadership and our destiny. The very thing our forefathers risked their lives fighting for.

So if you are celebrating because Kibaki ‘won’ or you are bitter becauase Raila ‘lost’ my friends you need to wake up and smell the coffee.

You need to be better because your voice has been stolen from you.

News Update 11:00 PM

Disturbing news from the Buru Buru area (thanks WathiiFM)

  • Paramilitary men are camping right outside gates
  • There is the modern equivalent of the Passover in operation. If your security lights are not on mobs will enter your house. Woe unto you if you and yours are there
  • Mobs have been forcefully circumcising people. Latest counts indicate about 20 people have suffered that fate. (NB circumcision is generally not practiced by the Luo community)
  • 5 people have bled to death after forceful circumcision

More news from the rest of Kenya

  • More about the burnt church in Eldoret. There are conflicting stories as to the number of people that were inside. Numbers are ranging from 50 to 250
  • Despite the government banning the rally on Thursday, the ODM insists it will go forward. I plan to be nowhere near Uhuru park. Mobs repulsed from rallies are generally not forgiving.
  • There is looming fuel shortage in most petrol stations in Nairobi
  • The unrest in Kenya is affecting Uganda as well. (Uganda, being landlocked, gets a lot of its supplies from Kenya). Fuel stations in Uganda are running out of fuel.
  • Goods are being held at the port at the request of buyers for fear that they will be looted/destroyed en route.
  • Kibaki still refuses to directly address the issue of insecurity. Sometimes silence speaks volumes
  • Samuel Kivuitu, ECK chairman has made some interesting comments on TV
    1. He was under intense pressure to make the announcement
    2. He contemplated resignation but felt that he would be perceived as a coward
    3. He claimed that the ECK had no legal standing to act on the objections of the political parties (Which I don’t buy, especially the discrepancy between results announced at constituency level and those at the KICC)
    4. He made an even more fascinating statement about presidency being very challenging, and then proceeding to say that the problem was some of the people around the presidency. He culminated by saying that some of the people around the presidency should never have been born
  • US Ambassador denies that the US had ever congratulated Kibaki for his victory. He clarified that what the US had congratulated were the Kenyan people.
  • So far the US, the EU and Australia have voiced concerns about the presidential poll results.

After21 
Neighbours gather to discuss the events

What Really Happened, Part I: Genesis

News On The Ground

  • A church with 200 sheltering people in Eldoret torched with the people still in it. Not many were able to flee
  • The monument Nicholas Biwott built for his mother has been torched. So has his mother’s house
  • The Central Business district apparently is a no go zone
  • Government Spokesman and Information Permanent Secretary falling over themselves to describe precisely what a ban of live transmissions means.
  • A armed mob of thousands was marching towards Burnt Forest a few hours ago
  • It is impossible to find Safaricom airtime.

Commentary

I have received hundreds of text messages, emails and comments, and have participated in several conversations about these elections. A good chunk of them are extremely bitter about the events of the past 48 hours. There are a few that are pleased with the results.

I would just like to make one thing very clear. If you are happy purely because Kibaki won, or your are angry purely because Raila lost, my friends your myopia will cost you a lot more than you think.

Why? This is going to be a long and controversial post so grab some coffee and settle down. I’ve posted some more pictures that I took yesterday of the aftermath of the unrest in my hood.

Disclaimer: These are just my thoughts, and not to be taken as gospel truth

Genesis Of A Problem

The problem (the nature of which I will get to last) began almost 5 years ago, in the hastily cobbled together amalgamation of political parties of NAK and LDP that was called the National Rainbow coalition. Analysis of the voting patterns showed a country that was solidly united behind what they believed to be the path to a change of destiny. Raila Odinga went to Central Kenya and was wildly cheered, more than most of the Central Province leaders. Kibaki went to Nyanza and was wildly cheered. People by and large ignored tribe and voted for change.

 After23 
Estate gate broken by the mob

Cracks immerged shortly after the new cabinet was named. The LDP felt that they had been shortchanged, in contravention of a pre-election memorandum of understanding, the infamous MOU.

Now much hubbub was made over  the MOU. People loudly wondered what the contents were. People contended that such documents made behind closed doors and out of the public eye were not binding. Such sentiments, in my opinion, are the height of naiveté. The fact of the matter is that in politics lobbying and dealing are a part of the game. These things are done well in advance in privacy away from you and me. They are done EVERYWHERE and not just Kenya. It is naive to presume that you have a say in the distribution of cabinet positions. You have none. Get used to it.

But I digress.

After24 
Security tried to lock the gate but it was just broken

The LDP felt strongly that it had been shortchanged on two fronts: consultation in the naming of the cabinet and in the number of seats allocated to them. They actually held a press conference to protest the developments. The public was largely hostile to these attempts to besmirch their rosy eyed view of Canaan.

The LDP may have kept quiet subsequently but they did not forget what they perceived to be a betrayal.

The second problem was entirely of the incoming President’s making. Upon being sworn in he sacked large numbers of civil servants who happened to be principally from the Rift Valley. Many were dispossessed of benefits like cheap housing. Many were threatened with court, and a good number were charged in court. Ministers like Kiraitu Murungi very arrogantly demanded the President Moi go to herd goats and watch how government was run.

This very fact I believe is what cost Kibaki support in the Rift Valley. The people were not about to forget what they felt were injustices done to their sons and daughters. Things were not helped by the last minute marriage of convenience between Moi and Kibaki. The people of the Rift were even more resentful of what they perceived to be a turncoat. People vividly recall the indignities Moi was subjected to on his exit, and the only way that he and Kibaki could be reading from the same script was if Moi had been promised something that he was not about to share with them.

After25

The third problem begins with the fact that it was perceived that a disproportionate percentage of the Cabinet was from Central and Eastern Kenya, principally the Kikuyu and the Meru. A similar situation seemed to present itself in senior civil servant positions, where it was felt a disproportionately large number of the numbers were from a single region. If you recall there were email forwards enumerating senior positions staffed by members from a single part of Kenya. The Government hastily prepared another one listing positions staffed by people from other communities but it is always about perception. The fact of the matter that percentages based on regions favour one section of Kenya.

This led to the birth of the notorious term, “Mount Kenya Mafia”, who were perceived to be in control of the affairs of the country. Kibaki then, and still projects a hands off approach that verges on lethargy. This very perception of apathy actively cultivated the notion that there were a few friends and associates of Kibaki that were actually running the country, and not him.

After26
Burnt watchman’s booth

This is the source of the infamous sentiment “It is not Kibaki. Kibaki is a good man. Its those around him that are the problem”.

A sentiment,I’m afraid, that does not wash because you can delegate duties but not responsibilities.

Bitter complaints rose from cabinet ministers protesting being denied access to the president.

The fourth problem was the sheer arrogance with which some Cabinet ministers conducted themselves. Top of the list were ministers like Christopher Murungaru, Kiraitu Murungi, John Michuki whose pronouncements on and off the camera raised the ire of the public, especially during the ill fated referendum campaigns.

After27
This house was broken into and completely looted

The fifth problem revolved around the corruption scandals that plagued the Kibaki administration, and what, it was perceived, was its subsequent cover up. Ministers who were forced out of office by the allegations somehow ended up back in their posts.

Chickens Come Home To Roost

These taken together sowed the seeds of perception last seen in the Kenyatta area … that of one community taking very good care of itself and its interests.

Like I’ve said before, perceptions are everything. And perceptions at the top, whether valid or not, eventually trickle down to the bottom. And unfortunately what trickled down to the bottom was the perception that some communities were more equal than others, and were benefiting at the expense of others.

After28
This house had both its cars burnt

And perceptions trigger action. If you are from Central Kenya, especially if you are Kikuyu, you must have over the past couple of years experienced increasing discomfort at the sentiments coming from other people. What used to be tongue in cheek jokes about the “Mount Kenya Mafia” degenerated into snide comments about “You Kikuyus” and today, as we are unfortunately seeing, violence.

Being in such a situation leads to discomfort and ultimately to fear.

The nabobs, drunk with power and opulence were blissfully unaware of the ugly perceptions they had created and propagated. One thing this government has consistently been is totally out of touch with the situation at the grassroots. Every time they have failed to read the mood of the people, as referendum and parliamentary results have demonstrated.

After29
This house’s tenants threw out mobiles and money to plead with the mob not to enter

I believe that the situation of what they had created sunk home in the last 2 months of the year. Even with the formidable state resources the crowds that they were able to draw were dwarfed by those of the ODM, that seems to be the party for the “rest of the people”.

The numerous polls conducted by various bodies, whose results were at first rubbished, consistently begun to paint the grim picture that finally got the attention of the players in power — they were nowhere near being as popular as they fondly believed they were.

The numbers from several polls by several companies consistently showed that the ODM would trounce them nationally as well as in all areas but Central and perhaps Eastern (that could have gone to Kalonzo).

It is then that the grim reality sank in that they were unlikely to win these elections, and real fear began to emerge. Suddenly two and two clicked together. Suddenly the rationale behind the snide comments, unflattering forwards and hostile receptions became clear. They had created a situation where they had completely polarized the country against them, and their communities were guilty by association.

Having created an ugly perception that they were the ones in power, how would the others react if they got that power? How would the monster they had created react?

Or could they have been afraid of the embarassment, the shame of being so unanimously rejected by the electorate? Were they scared silly of the thought of an incumbent president being ejected after a single term?

I believe that one, or both of the above were the basis of a decision that was taken towards the close of the year whose effects we are feeling today. What a few at the pinnacles of power have succeeded at creating is a situation where the poor man on the ground is guilty by association.

What Really Happened #2: Exodus will be posted as soon as I write it. PNU & ODM guys you can get my thoughts about exactly what happened these elections and why it happened.

AOB: If you can’t access my contact form email me your news/feelings/thoughts on roomthinker – at – yahoo – dot – com