Monthly Archives: August 2008

I HEAR GITHONGO IS BACK IN TOWN


I hear Githongo is in town.

I do not celebrate; I wonder what he is here for. After ducking away into European warmth, there is only so much to do back home, the zoo is still the same, the monkeys, the very size and colour. Nothing has changed.

1500 hrs, at the Hilton hotel, I walk in and notice the amount of dreadlocks and tattoos that mark the presence of the civil society, and we joke about the irony of having this press conference at the grand Regency Hotel, I found it funny, some did not. For some strange reason I revisited JM Kariuki’s threadbare story and this being the last place he was seen alive, after a cup of coffee or so.

Upstairs in the Tsavo room, the event was just about to begin, and Muthoni Wanyeki was calling the crowd to attention, a huge crowd here today, lots of TV and Radio crew, I hear some stations are going live, interesting, for a man whose last days here were pegged with death threats, back on the invitation of the Prime Minister.

I must say that the civil society has the most eloquent speakers in this country, one after the other they came to congratulate Mr. J or the ‘Anti-corruption Czar’ as the dailies like to call him, for being a brave man, the whistle blower who became a celebrity for uncovering the dark secret that Anglo leasing was, even though we may never really know what happened.

We already know more than we should anyway. We’re Kenyans.

I mean, we say,
“Hi how are you doing?”
When we really don’t care how that other person is doing.
“I’m very fine”
I lady replies with tears in her eyes at the funeral service of her husband, who died of a long illness bravely borne.

But hey, thank the heavens for a P.S who was brighter than Munyakei.

Munyakei was The Goldenberg blower who did not realize that only big fish can deal with the big fish, and when they get afraid, they release the little but lethal Piranhas while you can take off to wine and dine in British bliss,Munyakei could only afford to relocate to Mombasa where he embraced a new religion in his search for inner peace.

Munyakei should have known better ( ask Kwani’s Billy Kahora)

But we, Kenyans love to forget.

It’s easy to think you can get away with whistle blowing; here,but it is a crime in itself. Both Mr J and Munyakei know this as a fact.

So when Mr.J stood to speak, you could almost hear a pin drop in the hall, an eager audience waiting to listen to magic, and I hoped he would deliver.

He didn’t.

He can’t.

He is not the policy maker.

He gave Suggestions

Unfortunately,  I do not care about suggestions, I want solutions.

But he spoke well; Mr J.

He asked for Amnesty for economic crimes.

But our sophisticated elitist criminals know the right professionals who can immediately start doing the paper work on how much they will return to “the Kenyan people’

How about public accountability for crimes, your noble suggestions sir?

J, have you been away too long?

This is Kenya my boy, we follow the deny rule.

Deny. Deny. Deny.

Have you noticed that The Laico Regency stands tall next to that parking lot that just got a new layer of gravel on Loita Street?

Just asking, you might be interested.

Welcome home J.

I still wonder though if you are here on a visit, or to have a cup of tea with PM and the civil society, like John Kufuor did when he came here in January. Do tell….

Gladwell Otieno, step daughter to Mbugua the great then stood up to speak, the little dynamite had some tough words for the Kenyan government.

“A government that is not legit does not have the moral authority to tell the high school students not to go on strike” She said.
She even reminded Mr. J on his use of the word ‘dilemma’ “ because we use the word ‘crisis’ to describe the killings of one thousand Kenyans after the disputed elections.

Miss Otieno asked Mr. J to get over the euphoria of returning home, I second her.

Welcome home Mr. J.

I thought to introduce myself to you sir:

I am a mother, a Kenyan, waiting for lower inflation levels, so that with a thousand shillings, my monthly grocery will be taken care of, just like it was before 2007.

I am dreaming of a reduction to double digit on the Kenyan pumps, am a Gemini you see, I am allowed to dream, and you are very welcome to join me in my hopeless fantasies.

Mr. J, after 3 years in the UK, getting gifts of Kenyan tea, which you don’t even take, what are you bringing home?

You see, In 2002, I held on tight to my ID and Voters cards, I can still remember the precise emotions I went through, hoping and dreaming for a better home.

When I heard that you were coming back, I did not think you were a great man, or that your return meant something in the war against corruption, I just thought you missed home, and when R.O invited you over, you said yes, after all, nothing beats the Nyama Choma on Waiyaki way on a lazy Sunday Afternoon.

Welcome back J.

The Civil society knows that it has been vilified by the policy makers. That’s what you get when you decide to help the silent opposition to carry a metal chain along parliament road.

So does the civil society know that nothing is going to change, as long as the political caste is still the same? This class which seems to be designed in ‘that’ way?

Why does the civil still talk, big angry words that raise the dust and get me all encouraged and dreaming again?

I cannot answer that question.

Mr. J, welcome home.

But I will not listen to you. I will be a Kenyan.

I will sit back and wait for you to fight corruption, so that you can get exiled in Britain or whichever G8 country you choose to go to.

I will sit and wait for the prices of maize meal to come back to 65 shillings. I will watch the news and hope that you make some impact.

But I will not get lied to again.

I will be a Kenyan, mind my own business, pay my bills and sing the national Anthem.

Just don’t ask me to join you in the public fight against corruption.

I don’t have the strength to.

But Mr. J, welcome home.

BECAUSE OF YESTERDAY I AM TODAY

First was the box of Godiva chocolate
That turned my already tuned on self
Into a sweet creamy dream
You took me there,
Yesterday.

Then there were the flowers
Lilies, orchids and those of the wild
No roses,
For you knew my tastes and colors
Their soft petals caressed my senses
Those that fired every time I saw you
And I fell in love over and over again,
Yesterday.

I remember as if it just happened
The way you tried to impress me with your cooking
Fried ¼ liver and spaghetti sprinkled with cheap cheese
And after dinner, laying on your raffia couch
Catching up on season 4 of lost
Cuddling, laughing and playing like little children
Yesterday

When you found me
I loved, I knew love, I wanted love, and I gave love
Wholesome,
When you went to work very early,
I woke up to kiss you goodbye,
probably a little some some,
Walked you to the door with a packed sandwich
And remembered to dip the salami in Ketchup
Even when I insisted on mayonnaise
Yesterday

Your phone was yours
And I never bothered
Your life was yours
And you wanted me as part of it
And I was but a sauce
That sweetened the life you led with fire
Yesterday.

Then the phone calls began
2200hrs and you reduce the speaker volumes on you phone
I am home, you say
And I don’t ask who.
Then the beeps began
With you calling back immediately
And then Friday you did not come home.
Yesterday

Love is not dynamic;
I do not know how to trust
When you did not sleep in our 6 by six wrought iron bed
Cold and questioning
Yesterday

You dare ask me?
What happened to the girl you knew yesterday?
She grew up,
She learnt the new meaning of trust,
only to a certain level
Learnt that love can go wrong
that her heart can get broken
That he who was her blessing
was also her curse

Because of Yesterday, I am today.

TRUST ME I AM A JOURNALIST

Trust me I’m a Journalist
At 9 o’clock every morning
When the opening bell rings on the NSE
I am there, to see the trading begin
Bull Run, what’s the demand for the green back,
Safaricom, is the share price up?
Why? So I can tell you where to put your money
I translate the indices, points up or down, when to buy, when to sell
Then serve you with the simple arithmetic that tomorrow you can add peanut butter
To your daily dry bread and black tea
Trust me I am a journalist

I may be the last one to leave the club every evening
The one whose name everybody knows
But I still take the matatu home after clubbing
While you sashay into your Range Rover sport
After Listening to my witty stories of dining with Raila, holding the chain for Ababu,
Coaxing Kimunya, laughing with Kajwang and ducking from Martha
After those wonderful nights, you leave, and I wait for daybreak
Because taxi…not my style.
My number 11 to south B will be here at around 4 am, till then
I get the vibe from the waiters, and the sad mistresses who are always left behind
And that makes the juicy vibe you like to catch in the gossip columns
“Reliable sources”, quote un quote…
Trust me, I am a journalist

You see I know everything
It is my job to know who, what, where, when and how
And to help you understand that, lets pick a doing word
And use it with every pronoun I said above …say screw.
So, who …what, where, when and …sometimes how
That was Lesson number one in my news writing class, the 5w’s and an H
With that in mind,
I need you to trust me, I am a journalist

I am an ICT specialist
Do you know that the price of bandwidth in Kenya costs 100% more than it does in South Africa?
That’s the price of speed, or lack of it, should that under water cable ever become a reality
The 59 BPO licenses that have been issued will finally turn to offices
I just made up those numbers up, trust me on that, I am a journalist

I am agriculture expert by the way
A green revolution in Africa can, and will happen
If only we focus on farming again,
Make life worth living in the grain baskets of this country
Then Africa will feed itself
You see the price of fertilizer kept many farmers away from the farms
If African governments walk the talk, then we won’t be hungry for long
Tanzania will create a fertilizer factory,
And then we shall, typically of Kenyans
Bull doze into duty free trade within east African countries
If only they can safaricom shares
Trust me, I am a journalist

I am also a professional tourist
I have visited all the hot spots in this country, for free
I am paid to experience the luxury, the beauty and the sheer pleasure
Of best kept exclusive secrets on the shores of Lake Victoria where Bill Clinton and the likes
Drop by for a fishing weekend,
Or in the heart of Mombasa where Halima charges ‘whatever I can get” for whatever kind of job, fishing, blowing…you name it
You see that’s part of my job description
Spoiling the indulging senses of fresh breezes with musky sweaty scents and shots of heroine in the dark Malindi night
I know how to sniff a party, and I can tell that the whiff is good quality
Trust me I am a journalist

In my lifetime
I have also been a thug, a street girl, a parking attendant and a jobless corner one
Sitting outside mama Njeri’s seven up shop in Jericho
As we share the single cigarette till we almost smoke the filter
Chatting up the boys about a bottle that can blow up houses
And toys that kill, in pain…but also in pleasure
Ask Boni odinga or Mohamed Ali, he even knows where the toys are bought, and I am not talking about guns
(And ladies I don’t have his number)
But I Trust him he is a journalist

I interview the other experts all the time, and to ask relevant questions with depth
I have to be proficient; I am paid to be that, so you can believe me
I have ethics by the way, which I strictly adhere to, make an entrance
Attend all the cocktails, swoon over the beauties, men and women alike
Woo them with my charm, words and ‘I am a journalist”
And when it’s time to leave, let them go, number 11 to south B will start again at 4 am
So there’s time for inspiration for tomorrow’s news
Trust me, I am a journalist.

Five writers, One voice.

 1500 hrs: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

It was one of those days when time just stood still, my SAA flight to Jo Burg was either running late, or I got to the airport too early, traffic on Mombasa road isn’t the sexiest place to get stuck in on a Friday Afternoon.
So with extra hours to kill, I roamed the duty free shops inside the Jomo Kenyatta international Airport, wishing I had an Ipod, however much I hate the way those cords stick out of people ears. I had packed in a hurry, and forgot to pack a good book. So I look for a book store, passing by some Nigerians speaking rather loudly sitting on the floor, their plane must have been running late. Either that or they had been left, they were not happy, Nigerians are very loud people, that’s normal, but when they are angry, the voice meter hits red and stays there.

” Oga? how you think am gon go home now, me I had a godam meetin in abuja tonight, now am still here, how many dollar you think i lose , are you gon pay me now, this airways of yours should learn a lesson, ours is called Virgin, maybe you should make that your national airline!! You behave like silly uncivilized Africans…”

Being Kenyan, and black, I walked quickly past, peeking into the duty free perfume shop, glad I did not carry my credit card. I reached the book store, and I got excited again, I love the smell of new books, rows and rows of freshly unpacked hard and soft covers. I have always admired Nancy Friday for the crowds she manages to pull, and as I flip through ‘My Mother, My self”, another title catches my eye.” Africa, the Shackled Continent.” Africa’s past, present and Future.

Being a journalist has taught me three things,
• Look all you can
• Ask the right questions
• Doubt all the answers

I have high hopes for Africa, Zimbabwe may be a disaster, and Darfur may be an eye sore, but deep down I am a dreamer. Because there must be a reason why when world economies continue to tumble, our growth rates act as if we live in our own little world, and may be we really do, so when that yellow soft cover book titled the Shackled continent caught my eye, I knew I had to get it, even if I realized in anger that the writer was in fact a foreign journalist who had “studied the African continent”.

Why would I read from a man who thinks he knows Africa? With great restraint, I did. It made a great read, new insights on how a non African looks at this continent, and an urge deep inside me curled up, hoping that next time I read such a book, the writer will be a name I identify with.

1900hrs: Kengeles, Lavington

It’s a cold evening, the Kwani literary festival had began and tonight was special, the line up of writers taking on the mic was impressive, and I was hosting the event, I was nervous, It was a first in many ways for me, I have continuously shied away from hosting public events, crowds make me jittery, but this time, my friend and mentor, Ndoro, told me once, ” if you know you should do something, and you are not sure you can, then you must do it.” That changed the way I look at life these days, so when Mike of Kwani asked me to host it, yours truly said, “Yes, Anytime.”

‘Grandmothers winning smile’ was the first book of the night, and the writer, Stanley Gazemba has this beautiful way of making me feel like am back in my grandmothers kitchen in Kapkatet, Kericho district. It’s after dinner, and the embers are dying away, and the stories of hares, and hyena’s and Luanda Magere, a hero from the neighboring tribe, who fell in love with a Kalenjin girl.

Gazemba hopes selling Grandmothers winning smile will enable him buy a Mercedes that will drive him to the readings instead of connecting several matatus to the Sunday Salon. Something Bantu Mwaura dismisses as a pipe dream, saying you can’t live on writing in Kenya today. The book is only 200 bob, but the true worth of history that African books tell cannot be measured, just like the stories gogo used to tell us in those young days.

The Luo from Uganda, David Kaiza, who had been teased about speaking backwards by our own proud folks of the lakeside boda boda country, was in the house tonight, his story was a journey, deep and questioning, on ethnicity and asinine sovereignty of tribes, something Kenyans have refused to look at in the eye.

He took me through all the emotions a human being is allowed to feel at a literary event, laughter, anger, sometimes contentment and lots of questions. I had been in the places he talked about as an African, felt the things he had felt, and when I heard his story has been picked up for Kwani 5, I knew it is a must buy. African stories, told by African Voices, that’s what gets me going these days, believable stories of Boda Boda Mayhem, and the role that history and perception play in shaping present day East Africa.

He has the X factor this next gentleman, has the calmest of voices, and the most penetrating eyes, Kalundi Serumaga, and his story, unsettled, appears in the little kwanini? I got in my gft bag after buying a ticket for the fashion for peace event. It is a very unsettling read, I find out he is the son of Robert Serumaga, the man who courted controversy in Idi Amin’s Kingdom in the early years, a chip of the old block this one, he reminded me of a crush I once had on a butcher back home in Kitale when I was 8 years old. But that’s a story for another day.

When he read out “unsettled,” the events of early this year flooded into my mind in the most disturbing way,(I wrote about my experience in an earlier blog here called My Brain, My Tribe) He may be from Uganda, but I felt like an idiotic Kenyan that day, me and other Kenyans present knew the truth in that story. Just because the Brits called it Kenya and some big shots wife thought Nigeria is a good name to give a blocked out huge tract of land does not mean we belong here, Serumaga says, we are either visitors or servants. Some of his writing also appears in a new anthology that Rasnah talks about below. I wanted to hear more, so when he gave me his card, I promised to look at his website, www.serumagacentre.org.ug and www.ashrineformyfather.com.

Trust me, when a man has that X factor, you click ‘browse internet’ on your phone just when you are out of his sight.

Missionaries, Merceneries and Misfits.
Voices of Rasna Warah and Bantu Mwaura speak from this anthology that pokes big holes into the aid system from the developing world, questioning their role in developing the very third world they in blindfold. Theater for Development got its fair thrashing, and anyone who has been in the theatre world must hear him out. An article about this book quotes that aid stunts growth, feeds corruption and oils the cogs in the wheels of a highly dysfunctional development industry, I couldn’t say it better.

Sunday salon really is a meeting of great minds, as the evening wore on, I asked for dry white wine, which the waitress had loudly told me, “Mia Mbili”, as if I was a little girl on daddy’s budget. I joined Betty Muragori ( Better known as Sitawa the 3rd Namwalie) and Kalundi for a drink, but left for home shortly after, wishing I could stay on, but I had to be at work at six am in the morning.

Life goes on.