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?