Tuesday, December 25, 2012

On Political Coalitions

Having an executive president makes the stakes in the race for presidency necessarily high. The stakes are made even higher by the impending cases against DPM Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP, William Ruto, at International Criminal Court, and what either of the two winning the presidential seat would mean for the cases.
Voting patterns in the country coalitions mean that coalitions may be necessary component for winning the elections. The election threshold for president as provided for in the Constitution states that, “a person shall be declared duly elected President if he or she is the only candidate nominated for election.” Of course this is unlikely given that several aspirants have already declared their intention to run for president (see their credentials here).
In the alternate the constitution also provides that a person can become president if they, attain more than half of the votes cast in the election plus of 25 per cent of votes cast in more than half of the 47 counties. However as a consequence of our motivations for voting and voting patterns it is unlikely that any presidential candidate running alone can attain this threshold.
Hence the rush we saw the week before last by political parties to form coalitions to meet the requirement that coalition agreements entered into before the election be deposited with the Registrar at least three months before the election.
Ideally coalitions are supposed to be an agreement for cooperation between different political parties on a common political agenda. However from the leadership squabbles emerging from the coalitions formed less than two weeks ago it is difficult to figure out whether the coalitions were formed with a coherent political agenda other than winning in mind.
Even if we give coalitions the benefit of the doubt and presume that they were formed on the basis of a common political ideology/agenda, it is at this juncture difficult to tell what that agenda is. As it stands neither of the two coalitions that have emerged as the forerunners, Jubilee Coalition and CORD (if not in fact, then certainly in terms of press coverage) have articulated a coherent policy agenda with regards to the issues that a majority of Kenyans care about i.e. security or the economy.
In fact from the disputes over presidential candidature, it becomes ever more evident that the main purpose of political coalitions is to clear the election threshold i.e. garner the minimum percentage required votes nationally to win.
However whether coalitions formed will hold until March 4, 2013, remains to be seen, particularly where ‘dark forces are at play’.
What are your thoughts on the coalitions?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Call for Volunteer Bloggers/Contributors!

Does Tribalism make your blood boil? Can You write about it? Can you tell your Kenyan thoughts? 

I AM NOT MY TRIBE is looking for YOU! If you have something to say about tribalism, (negative) ethnicity, peace concerns, political and current events where you are, get in touch, we'd love to share your thoughts with our Kenyan/ global audience! 
Email a resume, short writing sample and a cover letter (with your reasons why you would like to contribute your experiences, what you think you could bring to the blog, and your main areas of interest that you would like to write about) to: iamnotmytribe@gmail.com and cc 
eunicekkilonzo@gmail.com with the Subject line: I AM NOT MY TRIBE

Looking forward to hearing from YOU!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Peace Monitors – UWIANO Platform for Peace Activities in all Counties

The UWIANO Platform for Peace, a Conflict Prevention and Response Initiative constituted and implemented by the National Steering Committee on Peace building and Conflict Management (NSC), National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), Peace Net Kenya, UNDP Kenya and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) provides a platform for strengthening the coordination of efforts towards a peaceful and cohesive nation.

The Platform is currently implementing the National Conflict Early Warning and Early Response System (NCEWERS) in collaboration with a wide range of state and non-state actors.

Overall Objective:

The Platform requires the services of Peace Monitors (one in each County) to provide support to the implementation of this System.

Duty Stations:

The peace monitors will be based at the County Headquarters to operationalize the UWIANO Conflict Early Warning and Response Centres in the following Counties:

Kilifi, Lamu, Taita Taveta, Meru, Embu, Kitui, Machakos, Makueni, Nyandarua, Kirinyaga, Muranga, Kiambu, Turkana, West Pokot, Samburu, Nandi, Baringo, Kajiado, Kericho, Kakamega, Vihiga, Bungoma, Busia, Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori, and Kisii

Application Procedure:

Interested and qualified candidates should submit their applications which should include the following:

1. Detailed Curriculum Vitae

2. UNDP Personal History Form (P11) ( template provided)

3. Proposal for implementing the assignment (template provided)

Please quote“Peace Monitor – (County Name)”on the subject line. For example “Peace Monitor – (Turkana County”)

Applicants must be residents in the respective counties they apply for.

Applications should be emailed to consultants.ken@undp.org reach us not later than Friday, 7 December 2012 by 12.00 Noon, Kenya Time.

Please see the Terms of Reference, the P11 form, the Individual Contract Proposal form and the Terms and Conditions of Individual Contracts under by visiting the UNDP Kenya Website:


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Of Trading Partners, Integration and the East African Community

With various interconnectivity projects between Uganda and Tanzania; Ethiopia and Kenya and Kenya and Rwanda, the region has taken action to improve trade competitiveness through the improvement of regional hard and soft infrastructure, transparency and predictability of trade and the general quality of the business environment- Report by UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)

“A prosperous, competitive, secure, stable and politically united East Africa” is the running call for the East Africa Community. Sure enough, cooperation and integration in the East African region has deepened and widened but if you ask me, more can be achieved. Effort and good will from the partner countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda) are required to achieve Mzee Julius Nyerere’s dream of gradual, regional integration leading up to a United States of Africa. The community is the only bloc to have taken concrete steps to integrate the three pillars of development; economic development, social inclusion and environmental protection. Realists however, will argue that this is a pipe dream as national interests are the driving force in all relations among states. Liberalists on the other hand, state that man is inherently good and common good is the guiding principle. By extension therefore, integration and cooperation is an achievable reality. The ultimate goal of the East African Community is to develop an East African Federation.
Article 5 (2) of the Treaty on the Establishment of the East African Community envisaged integration among the countries of the East Africa to progress from a Customs Union, a Common Market, Monetary Union and ultimately a Political Federation. The Common Market is my area of discussion in this essay. The pillars of the Common Market include free movement of labour, goods, services, capital and the right of establishment. EAC integration is people-centred, thus in the long run should nurture a bond of eastafricaness with a distinct East African identity.
The first advantage of the common market is that East African citizens are able to move freely from one partner country to another with minimal identification documentation. These harmonized services are a major step in deepening integration as well as facilitating cooperation on matters of defence, information sharing and immigration policies. This will make the region attractive for service providers, businesses, students and other East Africans who wish to tap into this potential. David Mitrany, a scholar on integration, states that this free movement of people enhances elite complimentary. In a way therefore, this EAC debate will achieve this objective as students from the partner states will congregate to debate about their region on behalf of their respective states.
This year, I visited the Namanga border and I must say I was impressed with the fastidiousness in processing documents. I also noticed the computerized systems in place, which further quickened the process of document verification and the automatic two-week allowance to stay in any of the partner states. Airports also have East African immigration tills and friendly officers who assist travellers in the region. The Common Market Protocol provides for East African citizens to work and own land and property in any partner states. This therefore provided an environment for both formal and informal businesses in the partner states.
Considering that harmonization of trade policies is a prerequisite of the Common Market, national interests have been the major impediment to these efforts. Kenya can be said to be more capitalist than the other partners. Therefore, national interests camouflaged as profits and benefits for the Kenyan citizen have sidelined the spirit of equality of member states. Kenya can to some extent be said to be using thy neighbour for selfish ends: benefiting at the expense of the other EA partners. Due to taxes and other product charges that are not harmonized, there is a huge difference in the cost of similar commodities in the region. This splits the market as people are most likely to buy the cheaper products. Nonetheless, some traders have found a way around this predicament by use of alternative illegal routes in order to carry out business at cheaper costs. This means that the region loses vital revenue which can be used in infrastructure development. For instance, truck drivers noted the poor state of some roads linking the partner states in the region.
The expansive EA Market is not proportional to the human resources manning it. Understaffing in the customs office is a nightmare and few personnel are in charge of processing the large population who transverse the region, particularly in Uganda. Furthermore, the lack of banking/ currency bureau facilities is yet another hindrance. This is coupled by the fact that different currencies mean that tax paid by Tanzanians when importing goods to Kenya is not the same in value as that paid when importing goods to Tanzania. Hopefully, the introduction of a single currency will avert this issue. Other disadvantages include implementation constraints, lack of critical technical capabilities as well as logistical and technical resources.
In conclusion, the EAC – being people centred – ought to have mechanisms in place to create a sense of eastafricaness as well as dialogue from the EAC Secretariat to the common mwananchi  and more involvement with young people. Additionally, more needs to be achieved to empower women’s involvement in the integration process. One promising effort is the East African Women in Business Platform (EAWiBP) and Strategic Plan which is committed to equity and mainstreaming gender in social and economic development. As I hinted in the beginning, more can be achieved for regional integration in the East African Region, as the Common Market is one of the corner-stones for the steady growth of the EA region and ultimately a Political Federation. It may be shaky now, but the foundation can be firmer and stronger; it is just a matter of time, political will and support from partner states.

A Life Phases Approach to Gender Based Violence

There lacks a unanimous definition of what Gender Based Violence (GBV) is as it differs in countries, communities and the legal context. Murray Straus, of the University of New Hampshire however echoes it as aggression, as opposed to anger, with an intent to hurt or harm and can be expressed physically, verbally or by withdrawing. In terms of GBV more so directed to women; men exhibit higher levels of physical aggression than women, but that does not mean that men too are not victims of GBV. It cuts across class, race, age, religion and national boundaries. Sadly, children and the handicapped are minority groups who are often more at risk.
In 2010 Kate Nustedt, Executive Director of Women for Women notes that in times of war/conflicts a woman’s burdens only get heavier, her vulnerabilities more pronounced. She remains locked in poverty, often losing the protection of home and husband, coping with fear and suffering devastating rights violations and violence, including torture, rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution and mutilation.
The 2008/2009 Kenya Health and Demographic Survey (DHS) indicates that domestic violence is rife in Kenya. The survey revealed that 39% of women have been physically or sexually assaulted by their husband or partner. In addition, the Federation of Women Lawyers Kenya (FIDA) highlighted that gender based violence and intimate partner violence is on an upward spiral. However, sexual and gender-based violence is exacerbated by conflict and is a key risk factor for HIV/AIDS as illustrated in the Women for Women International report. It further advances that women, children, the mentally/physically incapacitated in conflict-affected settings lack the basic level of security, protection of rights and access to justice. This is evident following the Kenya’s post-election violence after the 2007 elections, where cases of sexual and gender based violence were witnessed. Aminata Diaw-Cissé recently insisted that “we cannot end gender-related violence without understanding the social construction which is the backdrop.”

Eunice Kilonzo
Table 1: Types of Violence commonly experienced at various phases of the life cycle 
Prenatal  Prenatal sex selection, battering during pregnancy, coerced pregnancy (rape during war)
Infancy   Female infanticide, emotional and physical abuse, differential access to food and medical care.
Childhood Genital cutting; incest and sexual abuse; differential access to food, medical care, and education; child prostitution.
Adolescence Dating and courtship violence, economically coerced sex, sexual abuse in the workplace, rape, sexual harassment, forced prostitution.
Reproductive Reproductive  Abuse of women by intimate partners, marital rape, dowry abuse and murders, partner homicide, psychological abuse, sexual abuse in the workplace, sexual harassment, rape, abuse of women with disabilities
Old Age   Abuse of widows, elder abuse (which affects mostly women)
Source: Heise, L. 1994. Violence Against Women: The Hidden Health Burden. World Bank Discussion Paper. Washington. D.C. The World Bank.
Clearly, Gender Based Violence is present in every phase of life, worse still if you are a woman. Gross breaches of human rights, which sometimes involve security institutions that are responsible for protecting women, contribute to the perpetuation of Gender Based Violence. There is thus an urgent need for legislation to be enacted to provide for avenues seeking redress all persons affected by GBV.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Insecurity Concerns: Are we safe?

As of the today the 14th of November, about 44 police officers are confirmed dead however this toll could be higher as more bodies are being recovered form the scene. The 42 died while on duty in Baragoi, in Suguta Valley in the northern Samburu County as they attempted to recover stolen cattle.This comes at a time when barely a fortnight ago, 12 civilians were killed in similar circumstances. Local leaders said the clashes occurred when heavily armed raiders from the Samburu community invaded a village and stole 205 camels and two donkeys during the early Saturday morning raid in Samburu County in northwest Kenya. This prompted the police to pursue them, unfortunately for some- to their deaths. 

Considering the fatalities from the ambush it is said that the cattle rustlers may have had prior information of the police plans and were thus strategically placed in the ambush.After being ambushed, the police were shot arbitrarily by heavily armed militiamen believed to have come from Turkana. BBC reports that the attackers used sophisticated weapons such as anti-personnel bombs and rocket-propelled grenades further highlighting their preparedness. Internal Security Minister Katoo ole Metito vowed to bring those responsible to justice, the Standard newspaper reports.

Currently, the situation is tense, with heavily armed security personnel patrolling villages. In addition, the Tana Delta deaths are still fresh and the family of the bodyguard of Minister Amason Kingi is still mourning.These insecurity concerns highlight that something is not being done well. Because,if the police are not safe, then citizens are not any better. These killings have come at a very crucial time when the interviews for the Inspector General of the Police is going on while there is disquiet in the police force over their terms of service. 

My Kenyan Thoughts.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

International Student Festival 2013

I have been invited to attend the International Student Festival (ISFiT 2013) and Student peace prize from the 7th to 17th of February in Norway. I am humbled to have this opportunity to represent my country at this event.

ISFiT is a meeting place where future leaders are given a chance to be heard, build networks and trade ideas. It is a place where ideas are generated, discussions and debates held, experiences shared and knowledge gained. The theme of this year’s festival will be Global Trade with 16 workshops arranged in an interdisciplinary manner to allow students to explore issues directly connected to their own area of study while also providing the opportunity to engage with other students from a wide range of disciplines. It aims to foster international co-operation among students globally and inspire selected students through renowned speakers during plenary sessions. Previous speakers have included Professor Wangari Maathai, Dr. Desmond Tutu, His Holiness Dalai Lama and the former director general of WHO Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland.

The festival strives to empower youth socially, economically and politically to promote self reliance and productive youth globally thus the festival will be beneficial to both me and my country. In order to attend this event I have to raise 1200USD to cover transportation to Norway; any amount granted will be greatly appreciated and will go directly towards funding my transportation.

Feel free to comment with ideas of how I can raise money for the airfare to eunicekkilonzo@gmail.com


Monday, September 24, 2012

Let not Ethnicity derail March to true Democracy

By LANCE KIPNG’ETICH In the current heated political campaigns, tribalism has assumed a worrying proportion. Some politicians have no qualms about stoking negative ethnicity if doing so will get them votes. Apparently in the hunt for power, which is a ticket to quick wealth in Kenya, the rules of the jungle apply. Take for instance this line of argument that the next president must not be a Kikuyu or Kalenjin. The reason given is that the first president was a Kikuyu, the second a Kalenjin and the third yet another Kikuyu. Those pushing this argument say the presidency is not the birthright of these communities. This sounds convincing only if you turn a blind eye to glaring facts. This theory is based on a distortion of the history of politics in this country. The proponents of this view want us to see the presidency of Jomo Kenyatta, the founding father of the nation, through the blinkers of negative ethnicity. Kenyatta assumed office after a long arduous struggle against imperialism. President Kenyatta was never seen by any community as a Kikuyu but a national hero who had played a pivotal role in rooting out colonialism. To, therefore, refer his tenure a as a Kikuyu presidency is to insult the legacy of this icon who is in the league of Kwame Nkrumah. Ahmed Sékou Touré, Julius Nyerere, Gamal Abd El Nasser and W.E.B Du Bois. It is also laughable to term Moi’s tenure at State House as a Kalenjin stint. When Kenyatta died, Moi became the head of state because he was the Vice President. The old Constitution stipulated that the VP would take over in acting capacity for 90 days when the President died or was unable to perform his duties for whatever reason. When the 90 days elapsed, Moi was confirmed as Head of State without going through the rigours of an election. There was uncertainty in every corner of the fledgling nation following Kenyatta’s death and hence the overriding need to swiftly bring the fluid situation to normalcy by confirming Moi as the substantive president. In the 1979 General Election, Moi was selected, not elected, because he was seen as a moderate who would reconcile competing forces in the country. Besides, the nation was still young and hence a steady hand was needed to consolidate the powers of the State by nurturing the then nascent institutions. The Constitution and political expediency, therefore conspired to install Moi at the pinnacle of power. Kalenjin had no role in putting him in State House. Further, during the single party rule, Kenyans were not in a position to decide who became president. Moi was always elected “unopposed with an overwhelming majority”. Yes, we went to the polls every five years. When Mwai Kibaki took over in 2002, tribalists were at it again with their retrogressive calculations. Now the Kikuyu have had it twice, they said. Never mind that Kibaki was the seniormost politician with vast leadership experience among the galaxy of aspirants for the top job. Should Kenyans have elected someone else with less credentials just to balance the ethnic arithmetic? Raila Odinga did not say “Kibaki tosha” for no apparent reason. He did so because Kibaki was the best candidate. To say Kibaki was elected because he is a Kikuyu is to insult his impressive leadership CV. And during Kenyatta’s 15-year rule, there were no candidates who opposed him, largely because it was felt the country was still fragile and it was not appropriate to engage in competitive politicsfor the top job. The sentiment that Kenyans are ‘fatigued’ about Kikuyu presidency also flies in the face of democracy. Those who love this country have been campaigning so hard against the toxic politics of tribalism. We have always longed to see Kenyans vote for leaders without taking into consideration their ethnicity. To tell Uhuru Kenyatta, Martha Karua and Peter Kenneth to abandon their presidential ambitions is not only to unfairly defer their constitutional dream but, more significantly, to water down the same democracy we have been agitating for. In essence, we want to eliminate these aspirants from the race just because of their tribe. This is a travesty of fair play. It defeats the purpose of the new Constitution if tribe remains a central factor in choosing leaders. Others say Uhuru should not run for State House because his father was the president. Are we saying Uhuru should not enjoy his constitutional right just because he happens to be the son of Jomo? The US, which is by far a more developed democracy than ours, voted for George Bush Jnr only eight years after his father exited the presidency. It is now a good 34 years since Jomo died! Let us focus on the records of the aspirants and what they plan to do for us and shut the door firmly on parochial tribal sideshows. This is the only way we will give meaning to the sacrifices we made to realise reform. If a Kikuyu has the best credentials among the State House hopefuls, the ideals of democracy state that that is the right person to lead us. Perhaps what is slipping our mind is that we are in a new dispensation where the President has been stripped of the powers to freely dole out national resources to allies, relatives and friends. Those that still think they will ‘eat’ when someone from their community becomes president are, as US President Barack Obama would say, on the wrong side of history. kilance@yahoo.com http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/index.php?articleID=2000066821&story_title=-Let-not-ethnicity-derail-march-to-true-democracy

Monday, August 27, 2012

Be still, Mombasa

Mombasa has been the only home I know. Having been raised and studied there, going to any other town is more of a temporary visit than any thing else. I have been in the University of Nairobi since 2009 and to-date, I still find it hard to refer to it as my 'second' home.

So, today the 27th of August, the news of riots and havoc in Mombasa had my heart racing. It all started with the shooting down of a Muslim cleric, Aboud Rogo who was in the company of his wife and their children along Mombasa-Malindi highway. Now for those who know this road know it is a busy lane lined with beach hotels, the public beach and a police station nearby.Therefore, there would have been more casualties than Aboud. How the shooting or who is responsible for the shooting is not yet clear but the man died on the spot, his wife and their daughter were rushed to Mewa Hospital.

News of this shooting, thanks to social media, spread as fast as your internet connection is and in no time, photo's of Aboud were up on Facebook. Again, those who know Mombasa, know how small the community is there and almost everyone was aware of the shooting, Aboud death and in a few hours, riots rocked the town. I heard this and the first thing I did was to call home, call friends and ask on Facebook if this is actually true.

What saddened me was that a person lost his life, property was looted and destroyed in the Central Business District and in Majengo area, a van was set a blaze, matatu fares went up and with the tension, everything was going south. Of course, at this point the Government will not sit and hope that people would be rational and 'protect' life and property. The Police was sent out and tear gas as expected was used to disperse crowds. However this is just what probably the media knows/aired about the state of affairs; I am more concerned about areas such as Bombolulu, Kisimani as well as Bamburi where they are known to be volatile- security wise.

As time went by, a church was vandalized while another set on fire (although it was contained). Now surely, what does this say; what does this scream out? That because a Muslim cleric had been killed, torching a church would make it better? I get the feeling that 'religious' differences are being cited as the reasons for Aboud's killing.That because a Muslim has been killed, the Christians have something to do with it or vice versa.I think, whoever planned and executed Aboud's shooting did it as an individual not as a community or as a religious group.I hope I am not wrong. This in my opinion should not have turned onto the religious stage.Thus by extension, the church that has always served your christian neighbour or that Mosque that has always reminded you that it is time for morning/ midday/night prayers has nothing to do with the selfish actions of an individual or a group behind a sinister action.

Let us respect property, lives and most of all PEACE. At a time when the country is sorting insecurity issues in Tana River and Mandera, Mombasa needs to be still, to respect the rule of law, to be objective and most of all to be slow to anger.In my view this is not a religious battle but a criminal activity. I know these news of the shooting mean different things to different people but at least for Peace sake, let us be rational about this. I challenge you Mombasa, Kenya and YOU: the individual to be STILL.

My Kenyan Thoughts.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

ETHNICLESS: Does it make a difference?

By Patrick Gachau

Have you read the pianist? It is a bitter-sweet story of the great urge to live by a Polish-Jew in Warsaw when it was invaded by the Nazis. It is a twist and turn of events that leave your heart pounding, your eyes with tears and you in utter shock of how much evil man is capable of doing to a fellow man. But the most touching part is when a German soldier unexpectedly catches the protagonist. First he asks him to play the pianofor him. What a request especially if he is still
going to kill you? Then in what you would only hope for in a good movie, he lets him go! He leads him back into the attics of the house where he is hiding and even brings him food for a couple of days.
The story of the lion and a calf feeding together. An enemy decides that a fellow human being's life is worth more than the
pride of a nation. He commits an act of high treason to his president and his nation. But moreso he goes against what he had previously thought was right. He was here to eliminate the jews
then all of a sudden he realises that life is good and whatever good there is in this world is worth fighting for. A killing machine letting in the light of reason for just a second hesitates to kill and embraces the full meaning of life; in an instance.

So what is the big deal with tribes and are they evil? Though I really
don't know how to explain them,I certainly know what they are not. We are from a particular ethnic group and not from a particular tribe. And your ethnic group is that a people that you are affliated. So you could be Gusii, Dholuo, Kamba and so forth. This
however is not your tribe. Nonetheless this is what has come to be known as a person's tribe! Unlike being a boy or a girl, tribe is something of affiliation. An
experiment carried out on nature versus nurture had boys put in an
environment and raised like girls while girls were raised like boys.
Amazingly, boys avoided pink dolls and preferred black, grey and navy-blue ones instead. They proceeded to tear then into bits and laugh about it. Girls on the hand tied pink ribbons on robots and sat them on small dinner tables and spoke to them.
Something inherently inside us determines our sex. But ethnicity is different. It is all a matter of nurture. Consequently, we were born tribeless and even 'ethnicless' but society gave us one. Is this wrong? This is debatable but the fact is that if I studied about the beauty of the Jewish people there is no way this should make me hate the Germans. Unless this is the aim of
the article in the first place, to defame the other people. Similary, the more you and I embrace our ethnic background, the better we will appreciate the other people, our similarities and the differences.

So the question begs, if I was brought up not knowing my ethnic background, would this make a difference incase an ethnic dispute erupted due to some election dispute? What do you think? There is a better-sweet story shared during the election violence in Kenya. Two young gentlemen confessed they had never known what their names Kamaa and Oti ever meant and from what ethnic group they were from. They had always refered to each other as Kamaa and Oti. But when the violence began, one suddenly realized he is Luo and the other Kikuyu and this made a hell of a difference. So they faught.
So does it really make a difference? On the other end a sweet story is told of person safely hiding her neigbours in Eldoret who she clearly knew were from the 'enemy' ethnic groups; because a neighbour is more important than a distant brother. And this is what this is all
about. Whether we inter-marry or not, whether we know our ethnicity or not, people will chase
their wives who are from another ethnic group and others will safely hide a neighbour from a different ethnic group. It boils down to being truely human.

In fact, our ethnic groups help us appreciate our roots. Malcom X once told a group of blacks fighting for equity, that this is not a fight to run away from our heritage. It is one to love it. A tree
cannot hate its roots. So we can affliate ourselves with a certain
ethnic group but that a people do
not mean hating another. If we do, its due to our deficiencies. And we should not relate this to our ethnic background.

So how come there is tension and fear whenever elections approach? How come people feel targeted? Have we been brainkwashed with ideologies? Is it because our 'leaders' come from the capital city like in many African countries and tells us we are being marginalized. The thing I fail to get is how all of a sudden this becomes our problem. We humans are peculiar,thats true! But this?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Unnecessary Noise

Unnecessary Noise

DISCLAIMER: This post should NOT be used to attack a community or vernacular music. NOT all vernacular music is bad. NOT all members of any given community are chauvinistic and archaic in their thinking.  Any comments that are even remotely inflammatory will be deleted. Kenya is bigger than all of us!

I listen to Kikuyu music, both secular and gospel. A lot of Kikuyu music is very informative and the beat is quite catchy.
Current song I am jamming to is Agiginyani by Shiru wa GP. An awesome keep-your-head-up gospel song.
My attention has been drawn to an emerging genre of Kikuyu music  that is inflammatory, provocative and in very bad taste. In a country that is yet to heal after the post-election violence, these songs are a harbinger of bad tidings.
I shall not sit back and watch my country burn. This post is blowing the whistle. I do not know the extent of the fire that these songs have caused. What I know is the Demathew, Kamande and Muigai are some of the most popular Kikuyu musicians with mega sales of their VCDs. Thus I shudder to imagine the number of households that are playing these songs.
For the many who cannot hear Kikuyu, I have translated snippets of the songs and in Demathew’s case explained the nuances as he sings in parables. You can ask your Kikuyu friends to translate further.
Uhuru ni Witu (Uhuru is Ours) – Kamande wa Kioi
Translated snippets:
Greetings people of the house of Gikuyu and Mumbi. I bring you a message from all Kikuyu musicians. This is a message from God. Uhuru is the Moses of the Kikuyu nation. He is meant to move Kikuyus from Egypt to Canaan. Do not agree to be divided. Let all votes go to him. He is ours. He is anointed by God, poured oil on.
Raila, there is a call. Go to Mama Ngina’s house, a king has been born there. Once there ask where Uhuru is seated and pour oil on him. Just like Samuel did for David in the Bible. Stop chasing the wind Agwambo, go to Icaweri and anoint Uhuru.
You thump your chest about Hague, is Hague your mother’s? There is a curse from God. Philistines who do not circumcise cannot lead Israel. When Abraham stressed God, he was told to go get cut, even you General of Migingo, your knife is being sharpened.
Listen to the entire song  here.
Hague Bound – Muigai Wa Njoroge and Muhiko
Translated snippets:
Question: If it was you who is being pushed to The Hague what would you do?
Answer: I would call my family and divide up my property and then ask my mother to pray for me.
Question: What if you knew that Hague you are being pushed there by an uncircumcised man who wants to push you there and take over your wife and all your wealth? A man who can do anything to ensure you are in problems.
Answer: There it is better to die. Things for a man are not governed by an uncircumcised man. I would kill him. Its better they increase my charges.
Question: What would you tell your crying supporters as you are being shipped to Hague?
Answer: I would tell them to pray for me and know I am being persecuted for my love of my community.
Question: When you get to Hague how you would ensure the white man does not cheat you?
Answer: I would ask for proceedings to be done in Kikuyu.
Question: When on the dock what would you be thinking of the uncircumcised man who is the source of your predicament?
Answer: I would ask God to forgive him. I would also ask that he gets circumcised so that he matures mentally. I would also ask Kenyans to be very wary of that man.
Listen to entire song here.
Mwaka wa hiti (The year of the hyena) – Demathew
Translated and explained snippets:
As Demathew I prophesize and let the stones hear me if men wont.
It is now the year of the hyena. Who will teach you and your ears are blocked?
When a man is seated he sees further than a boy on top of a tree.
You are like a greedy hyena seeing a man walk and following him hoping that his arm will drop off. You follow him till he boards the train and the arm does not drop and you never eat. (A reference to all that may benefit from ICC)
Before Jesus was crucified He stood in the court Judge Pilato and he answered all questions, Judge Pilato said Jesus is free but the crowd asked that a thief be freed instead. (ICC will show Uhuru’s innocence)
Where are you (Peter Kenneth) from? If you were one of us, you would be pained by the people burnt in Kiambaa church. My brother lost his property in Kisumu, how can you tell us he (Raila) is our community’s friend.
Father (Jomo Kenyatta) I feel sad when I see your son (Uhuru) being persecuted by men of ill-will and a woman (Martha Karua) is carrying their bags.
In-law (Kalonzo) things are not going well for you now. You are clueless and your matters are now being discussed by women in the market. But I still remember how you saved me (after 2007 elections) when leopards had attacked me.
Listen to the entire song here.
After listening to these three songs I shuddered. If the leading lights of Kikuyu music are doing this, then how much more prevalent is it? Are other communities also producing such inciteful vernacular songs? This is a ticking time bomb right under our noses!
Let us think of how to put out this fire before it is too late!



Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Kenyan Thoughts III

You cannot choose the days to be a nationalist and the days you will retreat to the comfort of ethnic cocoons. Being Kenyan is a full-time commitment. This country needs citizens who are Kenyans all the time; not those who are vernacular Kenyans most of the time.
By Chief Justice, DR Willy Mutunga

The Prime Minister, Ministers, Ambassadors, Permanent Secretaries, Commissioners, Mr. Chairman, Citizens, friends, ladies and gentlemen:
I feel singularly privileged to speak at the ‘People’s Conference on National Diversity, Ethnicity and Race’. The timing of this conference is fortuitous as its substance is significant in Kenya’s continuing search for clarity around its identity. Coming just after the fourth anniversary of the National Accord and Reconciliation Agreement and in anticipation of a General Election, conversations such as these have a special significance in negotiating citizenship and nationhood.
Although I was asked to speak on the question of who is a Kenyan, I have expanded the focus of my remarks for reasons that will become apparent presently. And in doing so, let me start with an anecdote: 
One of the biggest threats to nationhood has been the over-supply of the vernacular politician and vernacular Kenyan and a shortage of nationalists. Who is the vernacular politician or Kenyan? It is that person who views everything through the prism of the tribe. They equate national interest with ethnic interests. They are obsessed with ethnic hegemonic projects. They hold hollow but dangerous supremacist ideologies and, have invented false notions of ethnic entitlement, most of it anchored on exaggerated grievances, yet mostly fueled by excessive greed. They revel in insults and derogatory remarks about other tribes and groups, as they descend into mindless orgies of mirth and self-amusement. When they lose an argument, they rush to the defense of ethnic stereotype. 
They are incapable of mobilizing across communities, and consider being referred to as the undisputed leader of the tribe as the ultimate political prize. They indeed treat it as a badge of honor. They excel in what divides us, and use their evil genius to create more divisions. They will never invest in the politics of issues, unless they are anthropological. When they are appointed to public office, their official trips to the countryside are regionally selective. They readily hide behind the community, when caught in a corrupt deal. They excel in rallying around the tongue; not the flag. They are sometimes very educated, professional and rich, but find satisfaction in spewing ethnic verbiage. They sometimes flaunt modern gadgetry as a mark of sophistication, but use these platforms to purvey sectarian drivel. Yet, both the vernacular politician and Kenyan thrive because they find fertile ground in the minds of Kenyans, who pretend to be powerless victims when caught imbibing this drivel. You cannot choose the days to be a nationalist and the days you will retreat to the comfort of ethnic cocoons. Being Kenyan is a full-time commitment. This country needs citizens who are Kenyans all the time; not those who are vernacular Kenyans most of the time. Just in case you forgot, Chapter Six is partly intended to eliminate this breed.
In Chapter Three, the Constitution is clear on who is a Kenyan: Anyone who is born in Kenya, or born of a Kenyan, is a citizen. Anyone who marries a Kenyan or applies for citizenship after living in the country for a certain period can become a citizen. That citizenship is universal and indivisible. But citizenship is not just a juridical concept; it is a sociological and political reality. 
For the great majority, Kenya is the land of their birth. It is their home. This is where their lives are, and it is where they will be buried. They are Kenyans because they have no other nationality. Their idea of being Kenyan defines citizenship not just for themselves, but also for all others who seek to voluntarily join this nation.
For almost 50 years, Kenya has struggled to carve itself out as a distinct entity in the community of nations on the basis of its geography, attractions, potential and complex cultural heritage. It is the nation defined by peasants who died by the bullet clutching soil in their clenched fists as it is by those who were bewitched by its splendour and opportunities, and poured their energies into making it their home. It is a place of possibility for the human spirit to thrive in freedom, justice and dignity; a place to nurture hopes and dreams that could be bequeathed to future generations.
Yet, the idea of Kenya is also problematic. At independence, the responsibility of nurturing the nation’s hopes and aspirations passed to the new leadership. After all, history was already replete with examples of nations that had been forged on the basis of brute force and strong personalities alone. The results, in our case, are a mixed bag.
In spite of the many contradictions emanating from our competing hopes and dreams, a national character has emerged over time that is celebrated in the country’s remarkable successes across sport, innovation, academia, diplomacy, industry and creativity. No one has any problems recognizing and embracing this Kenya – the world beater on the athletics track, the home of creative artists, industrious people and probing intellectuals. Kenya has a soul. Perhaps it also has a skeleton. The flesh and other details require work.
Diversity has been a painful resource for most of African countries. It has been the source - or even more accurately - the excuse for political conflict and instability. And, more recently, diversity has formed the basis for an emergent culture war on gender, sexuality, and reproductive health among others. However, I refuse to believe that diversity, or ‘differentness’, in and itself, is the cause of these conflicts. To a very large extent, it is the instrumentalisation of difference by the political class that has plunged our country into chaos, thereby undermining the emergence of a professional state of the Weberian variety. In our diversity, the political class has found and minted a negative currency for politics.
The Kenyan political elite has achieved a remarkable feat in successfully conflating class and ethnicity thus eliminating traditional political ideology from guiding our political contests. In fact, they have succeeded in subordinating class to ethnic considerations in political discourse, which makes two Kenyans living in the slums or in the upmarket neighbourhoods, opt for different political choices. Our ethnic divisions have made us no respecter of our material conditions when making political choices. Instead we seem to derive a lot more useless value and satisfaction in ethnic esteem contests!
But this should not entirely surprise us. Our country, like most of African countries, was founded on divisions. The colonial state did not disguise its biases to serve a tiny elite and exclude the majority of the population. Kenya was founded on division; thanks to Lord Fredrick Lugard’s philosophy of Dual Mandate. Divide and rule has characterized the capture, use and abuse of state power. Ethnic groups, races, and other identity collectives have been brutalized or rewarded simply because of who they are. Ethnic profiling and stereotyping has become both a national full-time and pastime. The discriminatory tendencies of the state inherited from the colonial period and perfected after independence, engineered severe shortages of public goods that severely undermined the nationalism project and negated the very foundation of the Kenyan nation.
This has institutionalized grievance, which exploded in our faces in 2007/2008. As we approach another election, I feel that the space for re-embarking on the nation-building project is reducing, and I find it worrying that we seem not to have learnt from the past, at least going by the utterances I hear, and the conduct I observe.
On August 27, 2010, we decided that we want to be a nation when we promulgated a new constitution. Sometimes, discussions on the Constitution appear abstract, thus obscuring the underlying truth (or is it assumption?) which is that Kenyans have considered the idea and decided that they want to be together.
The Constitution, in its preamble, celebrates the pride of Kenya’s ‘ethnic, cultural and religious diversity’, and proclaims our ‘determination to live in peace and unity as one indivisible sovereign nation’. The founding values and principles articulated in Article 10 highlight inclusiveness, non-discrimination, equity, and protection of the marginalized. The Constitution recognises culture as the foundation of the nation and as the cumulative civilization of the Kenyan people and nation. Equality, diversity, is sprinkled in the entire document, including Chapter Thirteen on the public service. The constitutional commitment to equity and fairness is further reinforced in the devolved system of government that is in Chapter Eleven.
But being together is not the same as being united. There is nothing preordained and natural about Kenyans being together. It is a deliberate decision on the part of the citizenry, a choice we have freely made. We have signed a social contract among ourselves, and with our leadership now and in the future. That is why in the preamble we are exercising our sovereign and inalienable right to determine the form of governance in our country and adopt and enact the constitution to ourselves and to future generations. The boundaries of this nation, and the communities within it, will only remain if we respect the terms of that social contract.
Contracts are supposed to be performed. They contain rights and obligations. We have a duty as Kenyans to obey the law and to uphold the Constitution. In return, the state has a duty to protect life and property as well as to offer services.
Self-determination and breakaway tendencies are part of human history not so much because those who lead them have a reflexive appetite for war and fragmentation, but because there is a failure to honor the social contract, or a political practice characterized by marginalization, or lack of respect for the other, and frustration of the aspirations for some.
This country must not delude itself that it is inured from these afflictions. We must be careful. We must be sensitive. We must daily invest in the nation building project. In our conduct, our conversations, and decisions, we must demonstrate an interest in the survival and development of Kenya as a nation state. In this respect, every individual, every leader, every voter has a duty, a responsibility and an obligation.
Since national identity is inclusive, it has got to be negotiated as broadly as possible. It cannot be the exclusive province of a few. Citizenship is the great political equalizer that gives like voice to those at the center as at the periphery. Because of the temptations to disengage from the center, building a nation requires not just the consent, but also the active participation of those at the periphery. At the core of the nation must be rationale as well as guarantees of protection for those at the periphery to feel a part of the whole than if they were alone.
When we refer to certain regions as economically unviable, it is important to realize that this phraseology is loaded with stigma and discrimination. There is no region that is unviable. The world is replete with examples of deserts that have transformed into economic power houses – Israel, Dubai, Singapore and many more. Any leader who regards and refers to any region in this country as unviable is questioning the very viability of his or her own leadership. It merely demonstrates a remarkable poverty of ideas; a paucity of imagination; and a deficit of ambition. The language of high potential and low potential is a myth -- it is manifestly discriminatory, and has been used historically as a fig leaf behind which to hide to share state resources in an inequitable manner. These are the tendencies that undermine notions of citizenship. Besides, the constitution decrees devolution and equitable distribution of resources.
In numerous instances, the deliberate or unintended sabotage of certain hopes and dreams has alienated significant portions of the population from the idea of Kenya as a common good, a place of freedom, justice, dignity, self-actualization and opportunity.
We cannot build a nation on the foundation of rhetoric alone. We must express our intention, but also follow it with action. We must demonstrate that something has changed. We must crack the constitutional whip to ensure that political parties that intend to obtain registration and participate in elections do not organise around our divisions – ethnic, regional, ability, or gender. We must design our electoral processes so that they embrace minorities. 
Our citizenship must be universal, where every individual enjoys the civic rights granted by the Constitution even as he or she retains his or her other identities, including the ethnic one. We must ensure that those who attempt to trample on the rights of citizens do not find comfort in public office.
We must also fully discharge our obligations to each other as individuals who are part of this polity. These obligations start from the basics of requirements: respect for each other as individuals, as well as respect for communities and other identity groups. It is socially obnoxious, politically reckless, and economically ignorant to cheapen the presence of any community in this country by making derogatory remarks as has been all too evident in our country’s history. It is only the weak minded, people incapable of comprehending the origins of the modern state, its philosophy, its instruments and its edicts that resort to such approaches in managing expressing disagreement. Thus when I hear leaders warning whole communities that Kenya has its owners, I wonder whether such leaders appreciate the unconstitutionality and illegality of such comments.
Just as a fish that grows in a pond may consider itself the king of the sea until it is introduced into the ocean, we too must also awaken to the reality that our ethnic and sectarian interests may only matter if we are disconnected from the rest of the world. Unless we all recognize that Kenya is a confederation of cultures, languages and interests, we shall never be able to cultivate the sensitivity and respect for one another necessary to hold us together. We might never live up to true greatness as a member of the community of nations because we overstayed our welcome in the pond when the ocean beckoned.
The things that are seen to divide us – ethnicity, religion, race, class, clan, region, occupation, sexual identity, generation, disability – are also the raw materials needed to create the mosaic of one nation. 
I also want to caution that pejorative commentaries, sometimes excessive even in comedy, should be purged from our national discourse. Negative ethnic profiling is sometimes aided by excessive parody. What was essentially parody sediments into ‘truth’ and the rest of us begin to make decisions in real life based on the emerging caricatures. I enjoy comedy, and I would be the last person to suggest that anybody should censor it, but let us give a thought to instances when well meaning activity may end up hurting the broader public interest. Comedy should complete the cycle by celebrating our idiosyncrasies, and deliberately banish any notions of ethnic hierarchy that may unwittingly be transmitted.
In our continuing search for identity, we need to settle the question of the philosophy that defines our nationhood not just as Kenyans, but also as Africans. We need to search and find that symbol of nationhood that will inspire us to create a just, peaceful society we all desire to live in.
The creation of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission in the aftermath of the sad events following the 2007 elections is an attempt to begin this conversation. It must seize the moment to align our daily endeavors towards nurturing a truly nationalistic culture. Beyond the commission, all Kenyans have a duty to construct the nation’s identity by embracing diversity, tolerance and respect for one another. Press coverage of the identity problem treats it as a problem only in the public sector. I think that this problem is probably more acute in the private sector. NCIC owes this country an audit on ethnic concentration in terms of employment, contracts, and promotion. We must cultivate a culture of tolerance draw from the spirit of the Constitution; the edicts across religions. NCIC needs to conduct attitudinal surveys so that we can improve on our tolerance levels and eliminate trust deficits.
In the Judiciary, we have acknowledged the challenges we have faced in the past in this regard. We shall partner with the NCIC within the context of the National Council for the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) to help NCIC deliver on its statutory mandate particularly in the context of the coming elections.
The Judiciary itself faces these challenges of diversity. Only recently in a station not too far from here, three of our judges stared the problem in the eye when the paralegal staff from one community boycotted a luncheon the judges had hosted because their colleagues had accused them of speaking in their local dialect while at work!
In conclusion, I know that while identity can be a puerile matter it can still be quite rewarding to some people. I am privileged to come from a profession, the law, that long recognized equality of human beings long before other disciplines. Physiologists now tell us that you cannot identify people’s identities through any other body’s organs such as the heart, brain etc. The Human Genome Project showed that we are 99.9 per cent the same. That, of the nearly 30,000 genes in the human body, the diversity within races and tribes is much higher than between them. It is still amazing that despite this evidence from science, a perversion of difference capture a large segment of our intelligent minds. Further, sameness is no guarantor of stability and harmony. Somalis and Koreans are some of the most homogenous people on every front: looks, culture, language, religion – yet we all know that these countries have been at war for many years. It is not enough to just look alike, or speak the same language. And a corollary to the right that we are all equal is the fact that none of us is better than the other on account of ethnicity or other identities. Nobody should be punished or rewarded on the basis of identity.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, I hope that this conference and the deliberations that emanate from it awaken all citizens to the great responsibility each one of us bears in fashioning, perfecting and sustaining the Kenyan nation. As Kenyans we should daily ponder what brand of Kenyans we are. Are you a vernacular Kenya or are you a nationalistic and patriotic Kenyan?
Dr Willy Mutunga
Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court
Republic of Kenya