Women in Politics: Not Just Pretty Faces

The Churchill Show that airs on NTV network is the biggest comedy stage in Kenya. The comedy format show has performed consistently as the highest viewed TV show on Sundays on GeoPoll ratings across the networks, with estimates of 2 million viewers. On the evening of 16th April 2017, the affable host Daniel Ndambuki, known by his moniker Churchill, had special guests. A series of high chairs were arranged on the front stage and strobe lights lit up the background. An excited crowd ushered in the four guests who were aspiring for the women’s representative position in Nairobi County.

I Find My Abusers’ Lack Of Kindness, Disturbing!

It was a fringe item in the news out of Eldoret that I caught on Citizen TV last week. The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) had decreed that proof of family was a requirement for purchase of maize. Singles would have to obtain proof of marriage from their local chief. This was some policy makers’ bright idea of dealing with scarcity that has hit the national distribution of subsidised maize flour- unga. A few women who self-identified as single complained on TV of the discrimination, stating the obvious, hunger does not discriminate against gender or marital status.

An educated guess tells me that the majority of those who would bear the brunt of this discrimination would be low income earning women. The single man is a rare sight at an unga line. It is the height of humiliation to go sourcing for food only to be confronted by marital officialdom and turned away because you had no documentation as proof that one has mouths to feed.

Who Is Next? The Criminalization of Poverty in Mathare

“Who is next” is the title of a report by Mathare Social Justice Centre ( MSJC) launched on 30th of May at the British Institute in Eastern Africa, in Nairobi. It documents over 50 cases of young men arbitrarily executed by alleged rogue police force members in Mathare. The majority were between 14 and 20 years old. It poses the loaded question, why have extrajudicial killings become accepted as normalized incidents for inner city urban youth in Kenya?

The story of Mathare’s extrajudicial executions of young men is a story repeated in Kibera, Kayole, Dandora, Eastleigh, Majengo in Mombasa and Obunga in Kisumu. It is the reality of been born into hardship and violence in a society that criminalizes youth and poverty.

Navigating the Politics of Fear

The campaign season enters its final leg and all Kenyans have become political analysts. Political power barons and their lackeys dominate the media space competing for eyeballs. We track their every move, tune in at the appointed hour to keep up with their engagements, like fans of a compelling reality TV show. We spend hours discussing their tactics, analysing the moves of our favourite political power barons flexing muscle at mammoth public rallies, exciting adoring masses with their mere presence.

These special ones, exalted by the offices they seek, hold audiences in a daze. On their large shoulders, our hopes and dreams hang. The young boys watching all this, in the innocence of youth, can only be enthralled with the amount of media consumed these days. It is expected. As a young boy growing up in the 80s, I believed that presidents were anointed by God.

When Will The Rains Stop Beating Us?

Chinua Achebe’s critically acclaimed memoir, “There was a country”,  is a personal reflection on the Nigeria-Biafra war. The father of African literature begins with the popular idiom drawn from an Igbo proverb, “a man who does not know where the rain began to beat him cannot say where he dried his body”.

Every seasoned Kenyan social commentator has at least used the phrase once, “When did the rains start beating us?” as a fitting African embodiment for lament over a broken country. Half a century after her independence, Kenya in many respects, resembles the shattered dream of a prosperous Nigeria that Achebe mourns in his powerful memoirs. “There was a country but it is a country no longer”. Kenya’s most basic staple food, ugali is now an overpriced commodity. The price of maize flour has risen to unprecedented levels. It is the talk everywhere I go these days even at funerals.