Sunday, October 25, 2009

Is the Rift Valley worth all the trouble?

The Rift Valley, once more, is being billed as the future turf of the electoral contest come 2012. Yesterday's creation of a Kalenjin Council of Elders and today's revelations of a Cabinet Minister directly involved in inciting violence against the non-Kalenjin point to a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of liberal multi-party politics. The Council ignores or attempts to ignore the fact that the Rift Valley is not the exclusive home of the Kalenjin and its members' claims that it is not a political outfit should be taken with the same quantity of salt one would take against the claims that certain Rift Valley MPs were not involved in the violence of 2007/08.

However, we shouldn't ignore the fact that the 10 sub-tribes of the Kalenjin are the largest ethnic group in the Valley. The Kikuyu, the Luhya and the Kambas are some of the other ethnic groups that can lay claim to parts of the Valley. But it is the Maasai who occupy second place in terms of size and political influence. The fact is, the Kalenjins call the Valley home but this does not mean that this is their traditional home, not in any way, shape or form. The Kenya constitution, flawed as it is, makes provisions for the protection of the rights of Kenyans to own property anywhere in the country.

The members of ethnic communities who took advantage of the semi-literacy of the 'true' owners of the Valley and acquired large tracts of land are not to blame for the failures of the so-called kalenjin leadership. If this new outfit wishes to address the leadership challenges of the Kalenjin, it must honestly tell its people that the reason why it is so backward in academic and economic terms and in other measures of socio-economic advancement. It is a fact that while the 24 years of president Moi's reign brought many opportunities to the people of the Rift Valley, one cannot deny that he ignore large swathes of the place. There is no excuse for the backwardness of the Ogiek or the Pokot and Turkana. President Moi, while showering largesse on a few of his fellow Kalenjin did not do much for the community as a whole, hence their feelings of persecution at the hands of economically and academically superior members of other communities.

It is now apparent that many of the Kalenjin politicians in Parliament, while denying that they are arming militias in the Rift Valley, will not do anything to reduce the level of tension. Many, even those in high government office, are convinced that their community is under siege. It is not our fault that the violence that took place after the 2007 General Elections took place largely in the Rift Valley; it is Rift Valley, specifically, Kalenjin MPs who perpetrated and perpetuated the violence and pretended to jpoin hands at the signing of the National Accord in 2008. What is required is an honest assessment of the MPs and other leaders of the Kalenjin community. Hon. Ruto, Hon. Bett, Hon. Sambili, Hon. Prof. Kamar, Hon. Kilimo, Hon. Isaac Ruto, Hon. Sirma, Hon. Cheptumo, Hon. Kutuny, and all the rest of them have singularly failed to articulate clearly a vision for their constituents and they will lead their people to the next general elections with percieved grievances against the rest of the country. I am not worried that militias are being armed in the Rift Valley; I am worried that if we balkanise this nation any further, there won't be a nation worth saving in the aftermath of the 2012 general elections.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Teen Sexuality is a Fact

I was shocked - shocked - to learn that teenagers and pre-teenagers are having massive amounts of sex. SEX! How could this come to pass? In Kenya of all places too. We are a Christian nation (so do all those churches tell us) and we do not have sex save for procreation. This report based on armchair research is just plain wrong. There's no way my standard eight neighbour in the micro-skirt and tumbo-cut is giving it to my other form one neighbour with the bad mohawk and sagging jeans and spotless white timbalands. No fucking way!

At least that is what I wish to stay but cannot because the truth is something else altogether. With every advancement in this country, be it economic, academic, telecommunication or social, the age of sexual maturity keeps getting lower and lower. Maturity as in recognition of themselves as sexual beings but not mental maturity to recognise the implications of sexuality and sexual activity. There is plenty of blame to lay around: parents who socialise their children using the DSTv and the internet; schools that are overcrowded and teachers who are overworked and underpaid; corrupt local authorities that have sold every bit of open land to the nearest Mr. Moneybags Developer; and churches that have proliferated at the same rate their proprietors are caught with their pants down that they are incapable of offering a coherent moral compass to their congregants. In the middle of all this is caught a givernment that has absolutely no idea what its priorities are and how to achieve tangible social and economic advancements without rending the fabric of society.

As a result, childhood sexuality is being ignored and the result is the rise in childhood pregnancy and abortion on an unprecedented scale. If we do not admit to ourselves that there is a problem and that we all must take responsibility, how will we find the courage or wisdom to offer more than platitudes to these children who are endangering their lives. HIV/AIDS is not the only risk facing them. Sexual exploitation can be far much worse. If you do not believe this, visit Phuket in Thailand and witness the dull stares of young boys and girls raped on a regular basis by clientys much older than them. Or take a walk along the beaches of Malindi and Mombasa!

Do they still want a dictatorship?

There is a new smell in the air: religious hypocrisy. The venom pouring forth from a section of my Christian brethren regarding the Kadhis' Courts is not only frightening, it is also illuminating. It is now quite apparent that Bishop Dr. Margaret Wanjiru, the MP for Starehe, Assistant Minister for Housing and the propietor of the Jesus is Alive Ministry has a very large bone to pick with the Muslims in Kenya. It is not just the question of 'their' courts; she was also at the forefront of preventing the Jamia Mosque from exercising another of their constitutional rights with regards to a piece of property they had paid millions of shillings for in Nairobi.

Christianity preaches tolerance; Jesus exhorted us to turn the other cheek if we were persecuted. The good Bishop and her fellow-travelers have a different interpretation of Christian brotherhood. In their discourse, the world owes us a lot. Christianity is under siege - from pornographers, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, hip hop artistes, reggae musicians, Hollywood, etc. The Church is facing a declining congregation and declining collections. In Kenya, to 'grow' your church, you must give it a national profile. Dr. Wnajiru has found the perfect issue to help JIAM to gro: antipathy to the Islamic way of life.

Kenya has never had a distinct line between church and state. After all, this is not the United States of America. But there has always been the presumption that all views, religious and otherwise, would be considered when matters of national importance are discussed. Dr. Wanjiru and her supporters are of the opinion that contrarian opinions are dangerous and 'demonic' and must be challenged at every opportunity, even if they cost Kenya opportunities for advancement. As a nation, we have waited for a new constitution now going on 19 years. The Christian opposition to a draft that has yet to be published over a matter that the rest of the country saw as settled for over fifty years will cost us a new constitution, one that will ensure that we remain saddled with a constiitution that we have already decried as overbearing and prone to massive abuse. Perhaps this is the game plan after all. Ensure that we go into the next general elections to elect a national assembly and president who would enjoy the enormous corrupting power conferred by this constitution. If this is the goal of the sudden discovery of religious parity in our Christian brethren, they will saddle this country with one more of a rather short list of incompetent, corrupt and dictatorial presidents.

Haki Yetu is not just a rioting slogan

Reports in our normally very reliable newspapers indicate that a few of our high and mighty lords of politics have retained legal counsel fearing ICC indictments may be handed down against them. Further reports also indicate that some of our erstwhile human rights heroes and heroines object strongly to these men (and women) of influence retaining legal counsel. What I wish to know from the (conscientious?) objectors is whether they preach human rights for the alleged victims alone or not. In Kenya, theoretically, one is innocent until convicted by a court of law. I have no problem with the likes of Uhuru Kenyatta, George Saitoti, Franklin Bett and their fellow-travelers diverting significant amounts of their personal wealth to protecting their rather thin hides from the attentions of prosecutors, whether here in Kenya or thousands of kilometres away in The Hague. It is what the rule of law would demand of and for them. I would have no problem in them deploying their lawyers to preempt any attempt to extradite them to The Hague. I would take strong pains to champion their right to legal counsel at all costs.

However, if their intention is to defeat the course of justice using the power of their political office, then all bets would be off and I would advocate taking matters into wananchi's hands, violently or otherwise. What I would also take great exception to is the position adopted by our human rights champions: one simply cannot deny another Kenyan the right to take all legal steps to protect himself. The ones who have retained legal counsel must at the very least have faith in our judiciary. The ones who would like to organise kangaroo courts to obtain the judgments they believe these suspects richly deserve are doing our country a great disservice.

It is no longer moot to suggest that Kenya has the most dysfunctional judiciary in the world, second only to Afghanistan and Somalia. The Hague as a venue for determining the guilt or otherwise of the so-called perpetrators of the post-election violence seems like the most viable option, especially for those who bear the greatest responsibility. It would be remiss of us to deny them the right to counsel, the right to prevent their dirty laundry being aired in a court of law, even if it is thousands of kilometres away in a foreign land. Ms. Jaoko and her fellow campaigners are placing this country in jeopardy by denying their fellow Kenyans legal rights conferred upon them by our constitution, flawed as it is.

The rationale behind a judicial process is that it removes the right to retribution from individuals to a body that has credibility. Even judges are subject to it. Hasn't Justice GBM Kariuki undergone a judicial process that acquitted him of serious charges? The suspects in the violence that led to the deaths of thousands, the loss of private and public property worth billions and the displacement of hundreds of thousands must be given the opportunity to prove their innocence in a court of law. They cannot do this without the services of highly paid advocates. It is their right. Ni haki yao!

As by law established

The members of my profession, the ones with a pompous sense of importance, tend to use phrases whose value has diminished greatly since the ...