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.

Of Independent Candidates And Rebels Without A Cause

Last week, Nyeri Jubilee party nominees made a damning attack on independent candidates who abandoned the party after losing the nominations. The smug nominees called a press conference and crowded behind their spokesman, wearing stern faces and announced in one voice that anyone who ditched the mother party was a rebel and would be considered a friend of the opposition. How things have changed?  In the old days, the rebel tag was a compliment.

The Seven Books That Changed My Life

Kush Asher is a Jamaican storyteller and perpetual student of the film inspired by the Most High. He is based in Kingston, Jamaica but he has traveled around Africa telling stories and spent six months in Kenya making movies. He has done music videos for Grammy winners Sean Paul, Damian Marley, and Reggae legends Big Youth and the Mystic Revealers. His television work includes a fashion reality show, Mission Catwalk, and a business reality show, NCB Capital Quest (Produced by the LAB International; based in Kingston). Kush has also made a series of films with Spielworks Media, an independent film, and production company based in Kenya. His most recent project is a feature film called 50 Days in Afrika. These are the books that influenced his life and work as a storyteller.

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.