How To Deal With A Recurring Case Of Electile Dysfunction

Electile Dysfunction. The inability of a country to conduct a successful election and satisfy the expectations of its citizens.

Every other day, I meet people suffering from a pre-election stress disorder and pre-August jitters. They constantly ask those who appear attuned to the pulse of the nation. “Will we survive August?” There is a genuine case for concern. The innocence was shattered in 2007. No one wants to be a sitting duck again so there is wisdom in considering the risks to person, family and property.

Keeping up with the political show, the parade of prospective candidates and the constant intrigues, theaters, cunning and scandal has become a social skill set that is just as involving as keeping up with the English Premier League. One has to watch a lot of TV. Not that it will save you from voting in an idiot.

The election season is a period of stress for both the political aware and apolitical citizens. There is greater anxiety when one is not emotionally invested in any of the competing parties. I encounter many undecided voters, mostly younger people, who are totally apathetic to the general elections. There are not even interested in a protest vote. Voting is overrated they tell me. What’s the point? Like a casino the game is rigged against you. The house always wins.

It is not easy persuading the apolitical to see the value of voting with a straight head. They complain. The rules are made to be walked over with impunity. The cynicism is valid. In a country such as Kenya with its rich history of election debacles one cannot help but develop a healthy suspicion in the face of political optimism. The seasoned do not place too much faith in the institutions tasked with conducting elections.

That might explain why several Kenyans talk of life-after-August. When we get back to business as usual. The month of August is akin to an imminent inconvenience that you might as well psychologically prepare for like the El Nino.

Meanwhile, the silly season is in full swing. Political aspirants are now peacocking in full splendour. Talking heads are busy analysing every move in our TV stations. Happy portraits hog every advertising space, competing to gain sway from billboards to plastered posters, on every bare wall or lamp post by the roadside. Politicians are the nicest people now, generous with their resources and time. Citizens know it is a small window of opportunity. Once they are elected they become inaccessible. It is the nature of the business,divide and rule, separation of the classes.

Election season is a good time to shake down politicians and aspirants. Dan, my cousin who lives in the village, my man on the ground, tells me that the traffic of benevolent aspirants has increased significantly. On a good day, he hardly walks to the shops before someone accosts him, demanding to know if he has an ID and slapping 100 shillings into his palm.

Candidates are weighed for likability. Sometimes you just like a man because he made a good first impression on you. He said some nice things about your old problems and you nodded in agreement. The new politician appears with an attention grabbing sheen, cheery and brimming with hope and the audacity of optimism. They can be the seductive hero you have been waiting for.

A good personality can win you an election. If one smiles a lot and dance well like Ali Mwakwere, people remember the good memories and how you made them feel. It is really a game of feelings. The candidate who seems to be aligned with what one is feeling gets the vote. You could be a cash strapped, non-achiever who had poor grades in school but as long as you have good graces, people respect that. That is how Abduba Dida, an insignificant man beat more seasoned politicians in the 2013 election. Dida, a former school teacher, represented the everyday man, daring to challenge the status quo. His stand on issues was not half as important as his familiarity.  People vote for the person that closely resembles their story and the person that they think they are.

Ideally, voting should be informed by political ideology. But those are absent or at best not emphasised. Values are something to put up on an office wall like the Lord’s Prayer, glanced at from time to time as a source of inspiration. They are not be taken literally.

The choice of voting, seems to be between a candidate one can tolerate and one that you cannot stand. Kenyans are more likely to be motivated to vote when you put someone on the ballot that they hate. A protest vote against something is more the style. Politicians know that anger channeled in the right direction is currency. Every time that a vote is branded as a rejection ala Brexit, the passions and enthusiasm for civic duty are high.

My advice, treat the aspiring candidate like a blind date. It is okay to expect to meet the one but treat them like pictures of food on a menu. The actual meal never ends up looking as good as the picture. But we still keep hope alive. That is how to cope with Electile dysfunction.

Guest Post: Nostalgia Diaries: Kenyan School Life In The 70s.

With all the drama that has dogged the Kenyan education sector, it is hard to imagine what schooling was like in the 70s. Our nostalgic correspondent Ochieng Kochidi, takes a trip down memory lane to a different era when students used fountain pens.

I attended Primary school in Nakuru during the 7-4-2 -3 era, which was characterized by seven years of primary school, four years of secondary school, two years of high school and at least three years of University for the undergraduate degree. Around 1985, the Government transitioned to an 8-4-4 system, which consisted of eight years of primary school, four years of secondary school and at least four years of University for the undergraduate degree.

One of the things that I remember quite clearly is the textbooks issued in school. Yes, you heard me right! Textbooks and even notebooks (we called them exercise books) were issued free to students in primary schools all over the country regardless of which school you attended.

In 1972, the Government had established the Kenya School Equipment Scheme, which was charged with the procurement and distribution of textbooks and exercise books to students all over the country.  I distinctly remember those exercise books with the words “Kenya School Equipment Scheme” (KSES) emblazoned on the covers. The KSES made a big difference because parents especially those of humble means were relieved of the tremendous burden of buying textbooks. It also meant that classes could be conducted smoothly since every student had the necessary books to learn. The textbooks were normally turned in at the end of the class and returned to the teacher for safekeeping. But as one progressed to the higher grades like standard five and above, it was not uncommon for the students to be allowed to keep the textbooks for the entire term. Unfortunately the KSES stopped providing textbooks and notebooks in 1988. It is rumored that KSES was a casualty of the IMF structural adjustment programs that were being implemented at the time.

School uniforms were compulsory and were often a source of pride for students. Most uniforms consisted of shorts and shirt for boys while girls wore tunics with blouses or dresses. Some of the more expensive private schools wore ties as part of the uniform. Long socks (stockings) were common. Some of the schools even had blazers which were often worn intermittently with uniform sweaters. If you were in the higher grades, you were sometimes allowed to wear long pants (trousers).

The uniforms fostered a great sense of camaraderie and unity among the students. The only way you could tell who came from a well off family was by looking at the footwear they had. Most students wore the “Bata” brand of shoes which were fairly utilitarian basic shoes. If your parents had money, however you bought the “Tiger” brand which was more fashionable. Shoes had to be polished every day and every student had a tin of “Kiwi” or “Nugget” brand shoe polish at home. Polishing your shoes and ironing your uniform were some of the first skills that every school boy or girl learned to do independently.

Those same uniforms were washed by hand for the most part.  The detergent of choice was “Omo” which lathered well in either cold or hot water. You could buy Omo by the sachet or by the box, and it was the undisputed number one laundry detergent in the country. There was a competitor named “Surf” that did not do as well. You see “Surf” was white in color and in the eyes of many; a good detergent did not start out white, because King Omo was blue. If your uniforms were white in color, many mothers believed in using a product called “azure blue” or simply “blue” to whiten the clothing. I never really understood the science behind the mysterious “blue”. It was a small dark blue tablet that was dissolved in water along with the laundry and supposedly possessed mythical whitening ability. Many mothers swore by the product and would use it religiously every month or so to keep those uniforms looking crisp and white.

For those who could not afford “Omo”, there was always the traditional bar soap which did the job just as well. Bar soap (sabuni ya mti) was cheap, economical and multi purposed. Bar soap could also be used as a personal soap as well as laundry soap.  You could even do your dishes with it! It was sold in long bars and had convenient indentations on it which allowed you to break it off into even smaller pieces. Bar soap lasted quite a while and came in different colors with the most common being a dark shade of brown. Bar soap could last a long time and would often be used until only a small piece was left.

Most classrooms were equipped with desks. These were the traditional desks which had a compartment that you could open up and store items in. Some of the better ones were ergonomically designed with a slanted surface to make writing easier. Some models even had an ink well, although I never saw anybody actually pour ink into it. It was more often used to store pens. The desks were made of wood and were extremely durable. Chairs were also wooden although later on wooden chairs with metal legs became more prevalent. Average class size was between 35 to 40 children per class, although it could be higher in the rural areas. In some of the rural areas, classes were sometimes conducted in the open air under a tree if there was not enough space in the classroom.

Pupils were often not allowed to use ink at least until standard four (in my experience). Once you entered standard four, you were required to purchase a fountain pen. The most popular brand was the Tatung brand which had a small glass window on the body of the pen that allowed you to see how much ink you had left. The most popular brand of ink was the “Quink” brand and you could get it in either black or blue. The use of ballpoint pens (we called them “biro”) was often discouraged because it supposedly led to poor penmanship. However due to the cost and complexity of fountain pens, ballpoint pens became increasingly commonplace even though many teachers frowned upon their use. The ‘Bic” brand was the most popular type of ballpoint pen. If you had a Parker or Schaeffer pen you were the man!

Fountain pens were somewhat complicated to use and maintain. The “nib” which was the writing tip of the pen often broke and could be purchased separately for replacement. Refilling the ink was messy and ink stains on school uniforms were a common sight. Ink was often shared among students because it was sold in bottles. If you were really in a jam and ran out of ink, another student could donate some of his ink to you. He would take his pen and squeeze some ink out and you would then take your own pen and suck that ink into yours. A process somewhat akin to a blood transfusion.

You could always tell if a student was writing with a broken nib because it always left a distinct tell-tale pattern on the page.  You also learned very quickly to always replace the cap on your fountain pen because if you placed it into your pocket without the cap, the ink would leach out onto your clothing and would quickly become a huge ink spot which could be difficult to remove. As a result most fountain pens were stored in the “compass sets” which were a staple for most students.

The compass set was a small metal box that was equipped with a variety of items primarily useful in mathematics. Helix Oxford was the most popular brand. The set included a Pencil, Ruler, a Stencil (alphabet in capitals and lower case and numbers 0-9), a Compass, a 180degree Protractor, a 45degree and 60 degree Set Square, a Timetable and Fact Sheet explaining what each item was, a Sharpener and an Eraser. Although the set was ostensibly designed for students studying mathematics, geometry, trigonometry and design, most students did not really end up using all of the items in the box. However it was just one of those things “you had to have”. The compass tin remained useful for general storage long after most of the original components had been lost or misplaced.

Students were expected to rise and greet the teacher as soon as he or she entered the classroom. “Good morning Sir or Ma’am” was a common refrain in most elementary (Primary as we called them) schools across the nation. Teachers were respected members of society and Teaching was considered an honorable profession. The Headmaster was in charge and his office was a no –go zone for the average student. There was a teacher’s lounge known as the “Staff room” where the teachers had office space. Most schools also had a “bursar” who was essentially the school accountant. Some schools had a nurse who was either called the matron or the sister.

Each school had “Prefects” who were usually students who had distinguished themselves in some fashion. Some schools had “monitors” whose essential role was to write down the names of “noisemakers” and turn the list into the teacher. In secondary schools there was usually a head boy or head girl who was the senior most Prefect. Prefects and monitors were normally distinguished by special ties or insignia on their blazers or sweaters.

I had the distinction of serving as the “bell ringer” at my school. There was a clock in the classroom and it was my duty to ring the bell between periods and to mark the beginning and end of recess. I liked the job because it gave me free rein of the building. If accosted by a teacher during class time, I could always say that I was either en route to ring the bell or going back to the classroom.

In my school the bell was an old piece of railroad track which was suspended from the roof. There was a metal bar that was hung next to it that served as my ringer. To ring the bell I would carefully remove the metal bar and strike the railroad track with it producing a loud metallic sound that reverberated throughout the school. Later on (after I left) I learned that the school had invested in an electric bell and the bell ringer position was rendered obsolete.

We had some military families in my school and it was always quite the sight watching them arrive in the big military trucks. The trucks had a single large rope that was suspended from the roof over the tailgate. Usually a soldier would assist the smaller children in alighting from the truck, but the more daring ones would be allowed to swing or rappel down the rope. Most of the students walked to school and it was not unusual for a schoolchild to walk four miles or more to school. I covered that distance easily twice a day and thought nothing of it. And this was before the Walkman era!

Lunch was not provided at school, so you either went home for lunch or you brought something with you. More often than not, you would end up sharing somebody else’s lunch because it was considered very rude to eat while your friend went without. A common meal was fruit. A mango vendor would arrive with a handcart (mkokoteni) full of plump juicy mangos. We would buy a mango and make two incisions along either of the fleshy sides. If there were three of you, the ones who gave money would each get a fleshy part and the noncontributing friend would get the middle part which was essentially the seed.

Sometimes pepper was added for flavor. Another popular meal was fried cassava strips which were freshly prepared on the spot and sold hot wrapped in newspaper with a liberal dose of salt or pepper for added flavor.

I completed my primary school in 1978. 8-4-4 was implemented a few years later and the schooling experience was turned on its head. There is a certain nostalgia and romance in a time and place, you left.

#ThrowBackThursday #TBT

About That Government Delivery Portal

Does your life under the Jubilee government feel akin to being trapped in a marriage with a manipulative spouse? Do you feel you are under the oppressing control of a partner? You know its lies, damn lies but they convince you with alternative facts because they know like most Kenyans, you are bad in math and get easily overwhelmed with numbers.

If you feel you are being emotionally manipulated by the government’s PR machinery, then your suspicions are probably true.

The relationship between the citizen and the government is a classic manipulative marriage of convenience. The person you thought you married turns out to be an entirely different monster once you are legally bound.

I am talking about the kind of partner who paints a glorious picture of love a few days before your 4th year wedding anniversary, even when all you feel is exhaustion and abuse. You may know what you are feeling but they are so much better at articulating your own frustrations.

When you complain that you have not felt loved, they remind you to stop being a romantic dreamer.

Love, my friend, is great but until and unless you put it to action, it is of no use to anybody. Indeed there was a plan to take you on a romantic train trip across China. It was in the works from the moment I set eyes on you. Because it has not happened does not mean it won’t happen and you will be happy to note that the trip is likely to culminate ahead of our 5th anniversary.

The thing is baby, they are men who make promises and there men who get things done. That is the difference. I am a doer. Yes, I agree, the results may not be visible but it does not negate the fact that I am doing something about it.  

Babes, if you go through your whatsapp messages and gmail account, it is all there on the cloud. You can track my record of intentions. I understand that you may be a little impatient. This is why I am asking for more time.  You have understand where we have come from. What is important though, is that the infrastructure that will sustain a stable union is already in place. That is the kind of leadership I am trying to offer in this marriage. It is not easy being a leader, no! But I cannot afford to let you down and I have told you this severally. We need come together, like both our parents before us did, with the intention of having a free, socially inclusive union.

Okay, I sense some resentment about the things you insist should have been done. Fine, let us get that elephant out of the room, but let us not forget the areas that I outdone myself. Let me rejog your memory. Everyone knows I have been accountable. Do you remember Auntie, the thieving domestic manager? You named her as the chief suspect in the loss of your money and jewellery and what did I do, even when some people and I won’t mention names, accused me of having an affair, I suspended her. I hear she is doing rather well but that is neither here nor there. If the police and courts do not do their work, what am I supposed to do? Build my own prison. I am just asking.

But I digress. What are important are my intentions not conjecture?

It might seem like a small thing, but I introduced energy saving bulbs in the entire household. The coverage is impressive and the impact will be felt in the near term. You mustn’t forget that time consumed exterminating the threats from vermin which we inherited. When we moved into this house, we had rats and cockroaches that were extremely stressful, both to you and the kids. Those are now a thing of the past. Include the disbursement to the in laws. It was unprecedented and even your uncle said as much.

The issues that confront us in this marriage are not unique to us as a couple. They confront all married people around the world. That is why I insist that our rallying call has to be togetherness.  But just because we are together does not mean we should not celebrate our diversity.  No one in this relationship should feel guilt or lose sleep over who they are? You may be Bible masquerading teetotaler and I am a life-ist and I love my tipple and that is okay.

We have to change our marriage narrative and it is time we started believing in ourselves and not paying our critics too much mind. They are just envious of what we have achieved together in such a short time compared to their own long and miserable marriages.

Listen bae, I have a transformation plan for our marriage, but it has to be rolled out in stages. 

Yes, I admit that there has been fading sense of romance in our relationship but that is because you have not found time to appreciate the growth projection and the measures that I have put in place as the key drivers of our happiness and prosperity.  You think we are doing badly. Look at what is happening in Trump’s America.

Let’s be serious. I should be measured by what I did in implementing my responsibilities as a hubby

With tremendous respect, I would say I have done very well and frankly, your lack of jubilation and enthusiasm, surprises me.


Your Jubilant  Husband.


Of Vulgar Women And Stella Nyanzi

There was an acquaintance I used to know. He was a friend of a friend who I tolerated because I try not to impose limitations on the friends of my friend, especially when he is the host. But I had issues with this chap because he seemed to get a kick out of the shock value from guests who wondered why a burly man with the demeanour of Santa Klaus had to be so lewd. He was basically vulgar. Every second line had some sexual innuendo and he was forgiven because it was seen as a bland attempt at humour. In those social circles he was dismissed as ‘naughty’ even though he was more of the creepy uncle who unconsciously scratches a persistent itch in his nether regions in a middle a family funeral committee gathering.

I have known a lot of guys like that, whose stock in trade was dirty jokes and we always called them funny. Then there was the older aunty, who shot from the hip, took no prisoners and said it like it is. She could be really funny but people labelled her as angry. Before I got to know her personally, I used to believe what I had been told, that she was an angry woman with issues for days. Then somewhere in my teenage years, I got a chance to stay with her and discovered a witty woman who did not mince her words. When she had something to say, she did not apply any filters.

I remember her reputation preceded her and you either liked or hated her. There was no halfway house with my aunt. She had been a pioneer on many fronts, suffered for her defiance as one of the first women to drive her own car in her day and was no longer interested in playing nice. I would watch men cringe especially the conservative types who airbrushed all their sentences with strokes of morality.

The rules of vulgarity are different for men and women. Bold women do not have the luxury of the funny label. Women can only about talk sex in public at a great personal risk to their reputations. In most societies in the world, we insist that our women must be ladies in the streets and freaks in-between the sheets.  In the game of sex, women are expected to fit neatly into their assigned boxes. The woman who speaks her mind, threats the status quo.

Yet vulgarity is never just about sex for women. But rather defiance and resistance. Sex can be turned into a power tool and mere words can have the gravitas to shake a system. In this case, there is a fine line between an insult and a protest. It stops just being dirty. It becomes political and radical because sex sells all things, including activism.

Ugandan activist Stella Nyanzi seems to have found a way to walk that fine line and she has been sticking it up to the Ugandan first family, particularly Museveni and Janet and the collective that she calls the Musevenists in manner that is both hilarious and audacious. That ability to be honest and unfiltered has been transformed into a powerful tool of activism that has turned Stella Nyanzi into a force to reckon with, even beyond her borders.

This is an ordinary woman scaring a dominant regime with the power of words. She has transformed sexual shaming that historically has been used to undermine women into a weapon of activism.

It is obvious if Stella was writing in straight speak, she would just have been another radical academic limited to peer circles and critically acclaimed for her activism. But she decided to be the ‘bad girl’ and took her activism to the social media streets and the naked  truth behind her words have become so compelling that she cannot be ignored any longer or simply dismissed as mad.

There is a long history of women in Africa, using sex and their bodies for protest. Our very own Wangari Maathai was the mad woman of the Moi era and we have her ‘craziness to thank for Nairobi’s most prominent green spaces, Uhuru Park and Karura Forest.

Stella Nyanzi reminds me of brave mothers of the Release Political Prisoners who petitioned the government to release their sons detained without trial in 1991.

After 11 months of protest at Uhuru Parks’ Freedom corner, the government decided to play a heavy hand and sent a contingent of police men to come down on them hard. In one moment of madness, the elderly mothers stripped naked in a counter protest that shook the country. That single act, created a butterfly effect that was the beginning of the end of the once unshakeable single party KANU dictatorship.

Stella Nyanzi is that kind of crazy and those who do not know will find out the hard way.

In the famous words of R. Kelly, “When a woman’s fed up, there is nothing you can do about it and soon, it will be too late to talk about it”.

PS: By the time of going to press, Stella Nyanzi had been arrested by unknown state agents in Kampala.