Friday, July 31, 2009

On Truth & Justice

True Justice is not about punishment, but restoration and rehabilitation. Marietta Jaeger

And before that restoration of spirit begins, first perhaps, there has to be acceptance – at the very least of the act that occurred. If we continue to carry the emotional charge around the event that occurred, then perhaps we can never really create the space in which our own healing can begin.

Compassion and forgiveness are spoken of often enough – acting out compassion and forgiveness is another thing altogether. It means that first and foremost, I need to accept things as they have come about to be – and this means reconciling myself to the acceptance of loss – whether it is the loss of a loved one, or of my possessions, or of my dignity, or my health. This is a great challenge, because I would have to ask myself how I will now live without that which was important to me.

Once I can accept that life from this moment is going to be irrevocably different for me, and once I can start to come around to what that will mean for me, perhaps this is the point when I can now start to look at the occurrence from a different perspective.

And this is perhaps the first inclination towards forgiveness – Neale Donald Walsh writes that in forgiving someone, we are saying to them “thank you for-giving me this experience”. This may hard for some to swallow – after all, how could one possibly thank the murderer of a loved one for giving them the experience of heart-wrenching loss, and for taking that person away from them forever?!

But I would say that in doing this, we are not going as far as thanking the perpetrator in saying this – what we are doing, perhaps, is to shift our perspective and to accept that at this stage, what has happened has happened, and neither hell nor high water can change that. It’s tough to do that. Gratitude for an experience can take a long while to come about – it is only with hindsight that our vision is 20-20 – it is only after the fact, and maybe a long while after the fact, after we have learned various lessons associated with the experience, or after perhaps we have grown from the experience, that we can look back and perhaps start to introduce gratitude for what we have gone through.

Some are able to do this better than others – some will succumb to the pain of the experience in such a way, that it is only the imbibing of substances that will help them take their attention away from the pain – and sometimes, this is the only means that they will ever use to help them cope.

But there are some that will, in a moment of surrender, take a moment to pause, and to open their hearts a little wider.

It is in doing this, I believe, that we start to create the space for compassion – that all-healing, alchemising vibration that literally, in and of itself, starts to melt away the lower vibrations of anger, and pain, and indignation, and humiliation.
Perhaps in coming into acceptance, we are reconciling ourselves with a little of Truth – in facing our demons, we acknowledge them and we recognize them for what they are. We recognize that an ‘injustice’ has been brought about; a loss of dignity has come about. It is perhaps at this juncture, that we can also realize, that we have a choice with regards to what we can do next.

If I live for ‘an eye for an eye’, I may demand at this stage that the one who has harmed me be put through the same level of pain that s/he brought about to me. I may feel at this stage, that in doing so, I am ‘taking responsibility’ to ensure that the perpetrator is also ‘held responsible’ for his / her act. This is the premise that the death penalty is based on. It would be interesting to know just how many witnesses to executions feel genuinely redeemed or ‘better’ after having watched the killer ‘put to sleep’.

I could, on the other hand, realize that having this person killed will not ultimately take the sting of my loss away – my anger will abate, but chances are, I will not feel any less wretched. In this instance, I will embark on an entirely different process – an introspective one, where I will have to make peace with my pain in an entirely different way. And this is perhaps where forgiveness starts to seep in – in attempting to understand in a small way the who and the how and the why, and then perhaps, with ultimate grace, forgiveness of myself, and of my own sense of wretchedness.

On the notion of Justice, there is a very interesting story I came across. In the absence of anthropological details and fact, I will relay it as a story:

There is tribe that exists in some part of the world, which has a unique manner in which the members mete out Justice to one of their own that that has killed another. They tie up the person’s arms and legs, put him into a sack, dump him into a boat which as a small hole in it, and they push the boat out into the furthest and deepest part of the village pond.

The rules are this: All in the village must come to witness the punishment. All in the village must stay and watch the entire process unfold, no matter how traumatic it gets. As the boat starts to sink, and as the water fills up the boat, and as the perpetrator starts to struggle, and to drown, it is ONLY the family of the victim that is allowed to take any further steps – they can therefore let the person drown in front of them, or decide to swim out and rescue him/her.

One may argue that in contemporary society, we can’t possibly all start using ponds and sacks to bring about justice – but consider this – even the families of the victims who are allowed to witness executions, are shrouded from the ultimate horror of watching someone die a long and painful death in front of them – we’ve developed the lethal injection and the more horrible but efficient electric chair to ensure a ‘quick exit’.

I believe that if we truly honest without selves, and if we were to engage with more compassion in our systems of jurisprudence, then perhaps we would be willing to let go of our own sense of vindication, which often takes precedence over anything else, and substitute punishment for a more reconciliatory and rehabilitative approach.

In Kenya, we are currently grappling between sending our post-election violence perpetrators to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, and subjecting them to the enquiries of a local Truth and Justice & Reconciliation Commission.

Well, if they are willing to look into the eyes of the people whose lives they have destroyed, and in the interest of Truth, completely come clean and describe in detail how they set about planning the violent and horrific death of the loved one of the person they are sitting in front of, then perhaps we can allow the person they have harmed to decide whether s/he is going to going to let them sink, or swim. But Reconciliation can only come about if we are prepared to face our demons with the greatest of courage, find the magnanimity of Spirit to initiate the process of Forgiveness, and engage with each in the most authentic manner possible.

Anything less, will Just not do (pun intended).

Monday, June 22, 2009

On Power

With Great Power, comes Great Responsibility.

What Power is NOT……

Power is not Force – it is not about imposing one’s Will – rather it is about having the strength and Presence of Mind to bring about Enrollment into a Higher Ideal.

Power, in and of itself is not harmful – it depends on the quality of Intent behind the channeling of Power.

Power is not Gender specific – it is not Masculine. It is not qualitatively anything. It can, however, be infused with masculine or feminine qualities through intent, to influence a situation.

Power is not Exploitation – It is not ‘at the expense of’ – exploitation can only come about as a result of Free Will deeming it so – Power unto itself is not exploitative. It can be directed by Free Will or Choice to exploit, but in and of itself is not exploitative.

Power is not rigid. It is Free Will that holds power to a position. Power in and of itself is not stagnant or still – it is ‘pulsating’ in nature – power is channeled and directed and is radiating. Power is harnessed by Free Will and Choice to retain and maintain the structure of a system. This is why Free Will is so powerful – it can harness the movement of power into rigidity. Power in and of itself is not rigid – it is Free Will and Fear that uses Power to bring about rigidity.

Power is not Exclusive – Power does not discern, Power just IS. It is available for and to everyone. It is the intellect that is able to identify and discern the presence of Power and the benefits of holding Power, and then to use Free Will to hold on to Power for exclusivity purposes.

Power is not Greedy, or Discriminatory. Power is used by greediness. It is Free Will and greed that causes an individual to want to harness more Power. It has nothing to so with Power in and of itself. It is the human instinct that manipulates Power and succumbs to greed that causes the desire to harness more Power.

Power is available to anyone and EVERYONE. It is YOUR Free Will that will determine how YOU will use Power to your advantage and for the benefit of ALL.

How do YOU choose to use Power???

Monday, March 23, 2009

This magazine is 'Loaded'

The latest issue of Wajibu Magazine, a journal of Social and Ethical Concern is out now.

Click Here for a look at the contents in this issue.


Click Here to access the Wajibu Webite

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Leadership my Ar** - Nothing's Changed

I posted the following post in February last year. Absolutely NOTHING has changed - in fact it's worse. Out of sheer frustration, I am posting this again.


I just cannot help feeling angry at the way our future is currently being horse-traded. Keeping my optimism levels high is becoming more and more of a chore and extremely difficult to do.

To you, Mr. Politician, I wish we could tell you to your face how we really feel about you.

I wish you could see the disdain and the lack of respect with which we regard you. I wish we could somehow find a way to let you go, and not waste any more of our precious energy resting our hopes with you - always hoping and praying that you’ll do the right thing.

What exactly is it that we owe you? Why do we even look up to you? Why did I even bother allowing myself to be momentarily uplifted by your fake and deceitful promises? Why did I invest any faith in you?

You, all of you who claim to lead us today, have, as a GENERATION have failed us. You have allowed our communal values to disintegrate. You have allowed us to become a people divided by greed, self-interest and exclusiveness.

While we wait out every day with bated breath, you continue to haggle with each other over who will retain the most power, trying to ensure that you maintain your upper hands and your control. You’re STILL not seeing the real picture – you are so blinded by your self importance, and your inflated egos, and you really don’t give a damn about what happens to millions of us.

Oh how I wish there was some way to get rid of the lot of you. How I wish we all felt more empowered, more able, more confident, more enthusiastic, more determined, because if we did, trust me – you wouldn’t stand a chance. But you know that already, don’t you? It’s why you use what you use to oppress us, to keep us down, to make us fearful, to make us insecure and uncertain. You try to destroy our strength every opportunity that you get.

What goes around, comes around. No power lasts forever. No family is always safe. The sins of the fathers will always be revisited on future generations. Maybe you’ll keep your children safe, but perhaps you’ll be around to see the legacy that you left your grand-children. You will only have yourselves to judge.

So go ahead – fill your bellies to bursting, steal as much as you want, fulfill every self-serving desire, because your grandchildren will be the ones to inherit a world that is so bursting with poverty, that they will not be able to step out of the safety of the palaces that you built for them because their security will be threatened with every step that they take. They will not be able to step out of their palaces because the environment that they live in is so filthy that a mere breath will make them ill. They will not be able to walk and live freely because there will be no concept of neighbourliness – you had them all killed.

Their lives will be filled with boredom, because you eliminated diversity when you brought about your divisive thinking.

So go ahead – negotiate, horse trade, make your deals, and stick with your myopic and petty thinking.

You will pay the price, and no amount of cash is going to help you settle the bill and you certainly won’t have built up any credit.

Enough said.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Earth Hour 2009 - A Billion Voices for Climate Change!

Earth Hour 2009 is a global initiative by the World Wide Fund for Nature which acts as a worldwide call to action to every individual, business and community to take a stand against Climate Change.

To show your support, sign up now and commit to switching off your lights for one hour on Saturday, March 28th at 8:30pm. Originating in Sydney, Australia in 2007, the Earth Hour initiative proved more than worthwhile when it witnessed 2 million people coming together to switch off their lights for one hour for this vital cause.

Following on from this success, 2008 saw an estimated 50 million people taking part. Global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Colosseum and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square, all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope for a cause that grows more urgent by the hour.

This year, 2009, Earth Hour will see the lights go out on some of the most recognised attractions on the planet, including Cape Town’s Table Mountain, Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Merlion in Singapore, Sydney Opera House, the iconic 6-star hotel, the Burj al Arab, in Dubai, Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and the world’s tallest constructed building, the Taipei 101.

Earth Hour 2009 has one major aim: to unite the citizens of the world in the fight against climate change in order to convince governments and world leaders that our planet cannot wait any longer. There simply isn’t enough time, and therefore 2009 is a colossally important, if not the most critical year, to take action on climate change. 2009 is the year we decide the future of our planet.

Monday, March 9, 2009

An Open letter to and eleven point demand for the President and Prime minister from Kenyan citizens and civil society organisations

Delivered through a meeting with the Prime minister on March 9, 2009

We, the undersigned Kenyan citizens and civil society organisations, have sought this meeting following the assassinations of Kingara Kamau and George Paul Oulu of the Oscar Foundation and a student last week.

We note that these assassinations come in the context of non-implementation of Agenda Items One and Two of the mediation process last year—that is, ending the violence and disarming and demobilising all armed groups and militias and restoring fundamental rights and freedoms;

On Agenda Item One, ending the violence and the disarmament and demobilisation of all armed groups and militias, we reiterate there the position of the human rights movement that the heavy-handed security approach is insufficient for the task and has also allowed for the security services to stigmatise young, un/deremployed males in low-income rural and urban areas leading to the disappearances and extrajudicial executions of the same. It has also allowed for the security services to extort money from the public on threat of the same;

On Agenda Item Two, the restoration of fundamental rights and freedoms, we reiterate the position of the human rights movement that the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of assembly, association and expression have been suspended since last year, allowing for the security services to harass, assault (including sexually assault) and illegally detain many human rights defenders seeking to legitimately and peacefully protest various government actions and inactions;

We further note that we raised these concerns at a meeting with the minister of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs last year, who promised us she would seek audience for us with the minister of Internal Security on the same—a promise that has not been honoured;

We finally note that last week’s assassinations have occasioned, as we believe they were intended to do, an atmosphere of fear and threat among human rights defenders who have consistently tried to demand that these concerns be addressed. As we speak, several human rights defenders who have documented, with evidence, these disappearances and extrajudicial executions, have received verbal threats, have had to move to safe houses within the country and have even had to leave the country;

This atmosphere of fear and threat has been fostered by the repeated statements of heads of security services, their spokespersons and the supposed government spokesperson linking human rights organisations themselves to armed groups and militias—accusations for which evidence has never been tendered to the public to support or formal charges brought against them in court;

We therefore demand:

In the immediate and short term:

1. That the government, through the President and the Prime minister, publicly reiterate their commitment to full implementation of Agenda Items One and Two—and the rights of all Kenyans to life, safety and security of the person, the freedoms of assembly, association and expression as well as the freedoms to be assumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law;

2. That, concretely, the President and the Prime minister, demonstrate that commitment by offering financial support to the families of those assassinated with respect to funeral expenses and livelihood losses;

3. That, concretely, the President and the Prime minister, demonstrate that commitment by enabling the demonstration planned by University of Nairobi students for tomorrow, march 10, to protest the assassinations to proceed peacefully, with full support of the security services and with no negative consequences such as the closing of the University of Nairobi;

4. That the government, through the President and the Prime minister, publicly reiterate their commitment to human rights defenders by ensuring that all dis/misinformation being peddled to the public about them cease and by guaranteeing their protection from the increased levels of risk and threat resulting from last week’s assassinations;

5. That, concretely, the President and the Prime minister, demonstrate that commitment by proceeding with the independent investigation into the assassinations, for which the United States of America has already offered the services of its Federal Bureau of Investigations;

6. That, concretely, the President and the Prime minister, demonstrate that commitment by immediately dismissing from office, the Police Commissioner, the Police Spokesperson the head of the Criminal Investigations Unit, the Provincial Police Officer for Nairobi and the acting Officer in Charge of Police Division at Central Police station among others—who all bear direct political accountability (if not legal accountability) for the harassment, assault (including sexual assault) and illegal detentions of human rights defenders;

7. That, also concretely, the President and the Prime minister, release to the public any information it has regarding the supposed linkage of human rights organisations, such as the Oscar Foundation, with mungiki, by bringing charges to bear in a court of law against such human rights organisations;

In the medium to long term:

8. That the government, through the President and Prime minister ensure the release to the public of any proposed laws and policies to address matters of security sector reform—such as those announced recently by the minister of Internal Security—to allow for public debate and discussion of the same;

9. That, concretely, the President and the Prime minister, push forward not only the laws and policies required for security sector reform, but also the core, critical and fundamental demand of the reports of both the Commission of Inquiry into the Post Elections Violence and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions—that for impartial, independent internal and external accountability mechanisms for all security services and the utilisation of those mechanisms to achieve individual legal accountability for all disappearances and extrajudicial executions of all individual security service members involved in the same;

10. That, concretely, the President and the Prime minister ensure the delivery to the public of a benchmarked and timebound plan of action on implementing the security sector reform proposals of the reports of the CIPEV and the UN SR;

11. Recognising the manner in which Kenya’s security agreements with bi/multilateral bodies (notably the governments of the United Kingdom and the USA as well as the European Commission) on matters ranging from anti-terrorism to training to piracy and regional peacekeeping capacity contribute to the apparent sense of impunity and lawlessness of our security services, that the President and the Prime minister arrange tripartite discussions between the government, such bi/multilaterals and civil society on the same to ensure that legitimate security interests being so pursued are not at the expense of fundamental rights and freedoms.

In conclusion, understanding that some of these demands need consultation and discussion within the government, we request a further meeting with you on the same within a week’s time at which the President and the minister of Internal Security are also present.

We thank you for your public statements on the concerns raised to date. We stress our willingness for dialogue with the government on these concerns (including constructive criticism on both sides). And we look forward to full implementation of Agendas Items One and Two of the mediation process.

(end/Kenyan citizens and csos/lmw/09)


Akiba Uhaki
BidiiAfrika Network Group
Bunge la Mwananchi
Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD)
Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW)
Constitutional Reform and Education Consortium (CRECO)
Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK)
Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU)
International Centre for Policy and Conflict (ICPC)
Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)
Legal Resource Foundation (LRF)
Mazingira Institute
Muslim Consultative Council
National Council of Non-Governmental Organisations of Kenya
Pambazuka News
Partnership for Change
Release Political Prisoners (RPP)
Social Reform Centre (SOREC)
Youth Agenda
P Gitonga
Philo Ikonyo
Maina Kiai
Oikya Omtatah Okoiti, Concerned Citizen
Anders Sjogren, Political Scientist, Stockholm University
Rose Wanjiru

With the support of:
Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

On Philo Ikonya.....

For the background story on Philo's arrest, click here

To read Philo's latest work - "10 Million Cuttings for 10 Million - A Valentine Story", click here

Special Thanks to Dipesh Pabari, of SukumaKenya for allowing the sharing of information on his blog site.

The Kenya I Cannot stand - Notes from Philo Ikonya's night in a Kenyan prison

I am at 330 am because after the news of our arrest at 12 .30 pm was flashed last night, for some reason, I was released on a bond signed by Jaoko of the Kenya National Human Rights Commission after activist Ann Njogu, Wangui Mbatia and others told her to take action because I needed medical attention.

Thanks so much for all your actions. Shailja and Dipesh.and Bunge and CKW and all… and all…. even to the most powerful in the land. It is dark in Kenya… very dark… our freedoms are not ours anymore and all Kenyans are suffering. I do not want a seat in a bunge like that, never. But in the darkness the voice of a man in the cells.. “Madam, they are trying to break your voice.. but it is powerful and unbreakable.. is your spirit. I saw it here in the cells… you have made me.. we were wondering who will speak since we lost voices to politics…. I will never be the same again … just watching how you deal with things here…” Sorry it was about me.. but I have to be honest.

For some other reason, even when they told them about Fwamba and Kamotho; their case was not heard. I refused to leave them in the cells but once a bond is signed one cannot stay in as it is illegal.

Needless to say, I feel much compassion for Fwamba and Kamotho who were also beaten up especially Fwamba .Tears flood my eyes… when I remember how a merciless cop would hit him in the ribs every time he spoke up after I was boxed under the chin. He spoke gently but the cop yelled at us… he ( the cop) had said he knew me and that I should have kept quiet not to be arrested… I had told him I did not know him and could not abandon Fwamba,,.. he was alone… ( thank God Dipesh had mobilized Press) but now here we were in the car being told there was no camera there…. And so we would see… Here at home, I could not sleep and certainly not with the lights off as they had insisted on confining me in a dark cell alone…once we were hurriedly and as usual dangerously again transferred shoeless to Gigiri as they sneaked us out through the back since Central Police was too close for other activists to sustain pressure…

But in those hours at Central Police- we were transported at about 650pm and I managed to alert Mwalimu Mati whom I saw through the grills of the back of a van but police hit the car on all sides so that he could not hear- every few minutes they called us (over 50 men (5 women) out of their cells for a roll call. The Officer In-charge asks them what is their problem and they come forward fearfully and mutter something. “I need to see a doctor, my chest hurts.”
”Rudi ndani….. utamwona.” Another, I need to go home, I am now here in the cells for three days, my eight-month old baby is in hospital admitted and I have nobody to help me take care of him.” I need… I need and I need…..But really all the officer is doing is intimidating fear. Here comes a young man with a big swollen cheek and he later asks me. “Madam, I am sorry that they boxed you…you see this huge swelling on my cheek, I was not like this before…. They hit me.” For Mukono, who pleads a case of mistaken identity and for many others, including the woman with the sick baby, the 24 hours in which they are supposed to be held in police custody before they are produced in court, ( only those held for murderer can take 14 days) long, long expired. But they are still here. And there is crawling lice, the toilet for women is a little hole as the so called ‘proper toilet’ is inside the gate of the men’s cells. Yes, there are gates inside here and they have lock and key. Now since they learnt that the two of us who are human rights activists are in here, they tell me it had not been so strict for the women until I came. We are now thrown into an innermost cell and locked up more securely, it seems. The place stinks.

But every time we meet in the little antechamber of the halls, I remind the police officer that I have no clothes on my back, since his boss, the Deputy OCPD tore them up on the street. I complain bitterly about having a bare back and being in the same room for the roll call with men arrested for different purposes… one of them told me he was definitely going to be hanged for robbery with violence and he said this after suddenly taking charge and yelling at Fwamba whom he told he was worse than the policemen whom we seemed according to him to cow. But the office in charge…every time he says, You will get them Madam,” and each time he finishes his roll call and throws us back in there as if we had not said anything. I can see from a little grille Kingwa Kamenchu showing them a paper bag with clothes in there for me.. I can see a disturbed Khainga… I can see Keli, Abel, I can see Kingwa being pushed out of the way with my clothes, I see many faces I know, I see Cyprian and Jane and Mwalimu Mati.. and the Tshirts they try to pass us.. the ones… are roughly confiscated… Fwamba being made to undress and I still left with my uncovered back.. ( the others are on their laurels but the cop has realized not even their blows keep me quiet… they were laughing as the cop who guarded us in the car was telling them “vile tumewekwa… how it was given to us… and by the way on arrival in Central I was made to sit on the floor and the brute of a policeman took Fwamba upstairs and confining him in a room tried to even pull his private parts.. beat him even more and told him not tell anyone…) But now we are with the juniour officer in charge of us…He is very rough if one continues talking but I have taken this opportunity of the men sitting on their laurels to keep standing up and telling them that we must change our country. That the law does not allow for police brutality. That the police are not judge and jury. They are shocked that I address the policeman by the number he wears on his lapel. The policeman who beat us up this afternoon, in town and in the car almost turning us into pulp and hitting us where no obvious bruise can come up like under the chin, I remember asking him if he was going to break my jaw had no number on him. But we know him. He is the Deputy OCPD at Nairobi Central Police and when Fwamba and I get to the police station and activists flock in, they tell me that is the same man who last year molested Ann Njogu on the streets as he arrested her. I am horrified for indeed each time he hit me I told him to look into my eyes and see God and his eyes looked opaque and distant… he hit me again saying he would take us where we could never talk again- I suppose he meant the grave. But I continued to tell him, ‘ My father had never hit me, nor any man on the streets nor any male in my life… no one… and that therefore, since he was oppressing me in the car – At the Inter Continental Roundabout I had yelled to motorists saying, “ they are killing us…” and he had only hit us more turning the front seat of his vehicle low and leaning back and shouting at the cop on our back seat for letting us talk…and hitting Fwamba in the ribs and menacingly staring at us and swearing…but no one heard us in this torture chamber. The journey between Parliament and Nairobi Police Station down City Hall Way, past Kimathi’s statue and through Moi Avenue was just blows.. and our voices since we are convinced that being threatened with being silenced is the last thing that will cow us. what I tell them happened to us in the police mobile torture chamber; a huge cop sitting in front, the one who had told me not to talk all the time, leans back and boxes me in the neck all the time. Well, what to do, with each blow we tell him to stop it. He beats us again and with each blow I tell him I was never beaten except by the state and sincerely ask God to bless him and since he has taken the law into his hands and is all ‘powerful’ as we are confined in the car, and is pretending to be a god, I tell him he is not one but God would bless him.

At the station, Fwamba is thrown out roughly and I escape the brutes side and walk with the cop guarding us… I think I noticed that he could not stand this at some stage but his boss was showing him the way, we first sit, as I said before Fwamba is taken up to be beaten and to be asked who I am. They have perfected every stroke of intimidation… he thinks Fwamba will start spinning yarns but he only lets him beat him more… at this stage once in their hands Kenya Police – Dhuluma Kwa Wote – can kill you as they smile and move their shoulders to show that the job is satisfactory and that the orders from above have been fulfilled… I ask myself many things… “ Just why is my country so dark….”

I told you they can kill you and you perhaps thought this is a story… listen to Bilha and her mother who shortly join us women in the cells. Bilha is preganant… her mother arrested in tow with her looks horrified when they come back to the cells. Bilha is 30… and Bilha’s story kills me. No wonder she looked stupefied when she came down till I massaged her head in the smelly cells… her story is something about having been duped to hold a child in town as someone went into a cyber… and immediately being blacked out and having all her property stolen and being left with a child she did not know… ( Feel sorry for the child, and for the child in her womb but another friend in here – is saying that babies can just be dumped in bags because women have to move on… she wants her puff badly.. yes, she is the woman who has a baby in hospital.. but she says… she had tried to abandon hers because she has no food for herself…) But Bilha… ten women cops upstairs in the station beat her up even with a wooden stick. They beat her and told her they would insert hot pepper in her vagina for an hour.. they beat her mother too on her back.. and then brought them in the cell. You can imagine my fear of a miscarriage and when they whisk me out for fingerprinting and I find Ann Njogu I shout out the story.. since the cops will not allow me a minute of sanity.. here they are asking me my tribe again…And in comes another clean woman later in the cells where all agree this is where the clean ones are. She was arrested at 10 am for not having a coverall at her little eatery. She and four others. They were driven from Kasarani to Kiambu and all over town the same day while they tried to raise 4000 Ksh which the police wanted in order to release them… a bribe.

And I remember why we are here. Corruption = Death two of us chanted outside Parliament. My hands were in paper bag gloves; empty packets of maize flour. People are dying of famine, 10 million Kenyans and MPS sit in there not paying their taxes… a lot happened outside Parliament as women supporting the Minister who has mismanaged the maize harassed and tried to beat me first before the police…hurling all sorts of abuses.. and they were not arrested… I tell the women in the cells never to give bribes.. the mother of the 8 month old tells us she was accused of stealing a phone by a man who would not pay her after a night ( does anyone remember that poem…I once wrote.. and it won a prize..? the man came over to the police and apparently bribed all of them… he is rich, he is from the DRC. The girl… has been in for four days today.

And suddenly we women have a chorus – I had sang a few on my own to keep from reflecting too directly- and it goes like this:
”Did you say you have an eight month old alone at home, I was worried for my six year old!”
And I for my 8 year old son…
And I for my 13 year old who is a candidate this year… “
And Bilha does not talk. She carries a baby she might lose in her womb….
So, when am with the cops alone and on the journey to Gigiri- part of the reason we must be transferred before our 24 hours are over is the influence we are bearing inside… and also the many questions we ask…- I tell them, especially the woman not to touch me with hands that have hit Bilha… but the men look on and later they tell me after some verbal sexual harassment that I should not care so much for Bilha for the seed is by a man… she is pregnant from a man. At that point=there is a huge jam and not even the cops can manouevre- I start singing my Ave Marias in different languages if only to derail them from talk I cannot stand. They were warming up after threatening us with how they are going to deal with us on Forest Road where there is a cemetery. Later I tell them, the four with us- that the system they work in has eaten their souls and that they need to reflect. They tell us strange things…. They confess they need help, they soften and toughen and begin to call me other names that are not mine. We are at Gigiri and am raving at the dark cell. Then, when I think they are going to transport me again… and separate me from Fwamba because they put me in a place with light but the bulb has expired, I am called outside… the cops had told me they watched the news…I hear Pius Gachoka speak and he says they have come for me. I see Wangui, Florence Jaoko (KNHRC Chair) and Ann Njogu. I am shoeless but I am in a car going home at midnight to go to court at 8am……I must now get ready…

Kahlil Gibran: The Garden of the Prophet

"Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggler, and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking... Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation."

implement the Waki Report
Philo Ikonya

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Damned if you do, Damned if you don't.

Help me out a little here. I am trying to understand what exactly people want. On the one hand, the Americans now have a president who promises greater transparency, accountability and change from the bottom up, and he’s taken some pretty drastic steps to move in that direction. On the other, you have a hungry media, desperate for a story that will point out his fallibility – all through the campaign, the bane of their existence was that they simply could not find anything that he could do wrong.

So now, there are two nominees that have stepped down of their own volition, and have also taken responsibility for messing up on filing their tax returns. Obama has also stated openly today that ‘he screwed up’. The press have decided to put this out there as impending doom for Obama's administration. They owned up and apologised and took responsibility for God's sake!!!! What more do you want??? IF they've stepped down, it's because you morons would have harped on it till kingdom come, and distracted everyone from the real issues!!

For me, it doesn’t get much better – who the hell said it was going to be a perfect process – when you have a system that has been running on bullshit for so long, how the hell does one expect everything to fall into place all at once.

Perhaps the republicans can be excused for taking up the mantle of bashing the new administration. Their defeat was a very bitter pill to swallow, and it takes a great human being to take humiliation sitting down – and we know there are no great republicans.

But the media – well now – if they don’t get that they would serve a far more noble purpose by focusing on the positive things that are coming out of this upheaval, then they have, once and for all missed the point. But of course, the story is always bigger than the larger welfare of the Whole.

Yes the global economy is in a meltdown, and yes millions are losing their jobs, and yes, everyone is being forced to re-think how they live. But who the hell said that real change was going to be easy?????

Selfishness and self-serving lifestyles have been the norm for the longest time, and somewhere along the line, it became acceptable to live off money you didn’t have and wanted things that you couldn’t afford. Banks, corporations and celebrities have all been central to propagating a system that has woven an illusionary consumerist fantasy of what it means to be wealthy. And the people have allowed it.

So now, the illusion has revealed itself to be exactly that – and people are realizing that their dreams are not even made of paper, and it’s been about an electronic house of cards. And everyone is going down whining.

Because it’s been about top-down domination, it is no wonder that the ones to suffer the most are the ones from the middle down. The ones at the top may worry about their failing system, but they’re not the ones who are worrying about how they are going to feed their families. And so they will ask for quick solutions to jump start the system again. After all, the electronic illusion can be easily manipulated to weave an even more fantastic story of ‘how to become rich’ – all you need to do is wave the wand a little differently.

We can either look at this as a disaster, or we can look at this as a tremendous opportunity. For the ones who have lost their jobs or homes, if they allow their new president to take them down a different path, a path that was perhaps traveled down in the past but forgotten about in the last two decades, then they will see that it may take a while, and it may be painful for a bit, but the rewards will be far greater, more solid, and certainly more tangible than anything they can expect from the current system.

So he was right when he said it was going to be about patience, and sacrifice and humility.

And this is not just for America – this is time for global re-assessment, to reexamine and to question what it is that we truly hold dear, of what is and always has been sacred for us.

This is not going to be a time of band-aid solutions, nor is it going to be one of fitting into the old status quo – we are going to have to go as far as to even re-define our definition of success and to identify those values that bring us together as a collective and not separate us through our differences.

There is no stopping of this snowball that has started its downward descent. We either prepare ourselves now, at the bottom of the hill, or around it as it makes it way past us, and perhaps try to prepare ourselves for what we think the picture is going to look like when it settles wherever it decides to.

If I were to list out the number of things going wrong for us here in Kenya, the list itself would be the size of an average blog post. But I have decided that I am going to dispense with focusing on what’s going wrong – I am instead going to lend my energy to those people who refuse to take things sitting down, and who are working tirelessly to expose the selfishness, corruption and in efficiency – Bunge la Mwananchi, Youth Agenda, Partnership for Change, to name a few.

It is going to be from within the system (yes, there are a few good people on the inside who perhaps need to be supported as they challenge the status quo of the existing system), and without, with the action of the groups that I mentioned above that we are going to bring about the changes for our collective future.

It is going to take time, a hell of a lot of hard work, diligence, persistence, sacrifice and determination to get us where we want to go. And it is not going to be easy. But the days of sitting back and whining and complaining, of complacency and despondency, of handing over our power to the elitist few who never has our best interests at heart in the first place, ARE OVER.

I looked back at all the blogs that I have posted over the past year, and I realised that I have pretty much repeated myself in quite a few of them.

If I could put it all down in a simple paragraph then it would be this:

Start to take responsibility for yourself and for those around you.
Practise generosity – of mind, of temperament, of your time and of your resources.
Be mindful of how your presence on this planet affects it – you are not here simply to take but also to give back and to contribute.
Define what success means for you – I’m willing to bet that money isn’t one of your top priorities.
Don’t compromise on your core values – when you do so, you only rob yourself of a little more dignity, integrity and self-respect.
Have the courage to define life and its rules for yourself, based on your core vales.
Don’t give your power way to your so-called leaders – they are after all, only human and just as if not more fallible than you.
Spread dignity – in uplifting someone else, in honouring them, in acknowledging their existence, you exalt yourself.
Look after yourself, and your family, and your community – sometimes, sharing yourself is infinitely better then sharing your resources.

Don’t give up – I’ll be damned if I do.