Nairobi, walking down memory lane

Every Nairobian has a part of the city instrumental in crafting their identity. A place where they truly came to appreciate the essence of Nairobi and found belonging. For most Nairobians, it is the neighbourhood they grew up in but I found my inspiration elsewhere.

My favourite part of the city is ensconced in the area around the University of Nairobi’s Main campus. From Uhuru Highway onto the University Way, down Muindi Mbingu Street, connecting the grid to Kenyatta Avenue and all the way around to the Arboretum Forest and back. It is packed with endless memories and makes a fascinating treasure trove for history lovers. I was in the University for a four year pursuing a Bachelor degree in Anthropology and spent a good deal of time crisscrossing this part of the city. My daily commute cut across Nairobi University main grounds, past the fountain ‘of Knowledge’ on the same path that Senator Barack Obama walked on his way to address students about a hopeful future at Taifa Hall in 2006 when it seemed ludicrous that he would be elected as the first black President of the US.

The Announcement

Friday, August 11 2017

The axe forgets what the tree remembers. African proverb

The tension was palpable 3 days after voting. Media had prepped Kenyans for a big announcement. Serious discrepancies had emerged over the vote tallying and opinion was sharply divided and emotive. The kind that could trigger off a big reaction.

People who had shown up for work on that Friday reported the lack of transport and the light traffic in Nairobi. Employers and business owners with good sense had to ensure the premises were shut by 2pm. We received reports of heavy police presence in the hotspots, in our case the poor ghettos in the opposition chiefs stronghold that were primed to react in protest after the announcement.

The Githeri Man

August 10, 2017.

It felt like an eerie calm before a storm. We were in the midst of what was brewing up to be another disputed election. The NASA coalition leader, Raila Odinga had raised concerns over the credibility of the election process by tabling a hacking allegation. The response from Wafula Chebukati was cagey at first before IEBC out rightly denied Raila’s claims. On the public opinion forums the conversations were dominated by techies trading knowledge on databases and log files.

It had only been three days since Kenyans turned out to vote on August 8th but the suspense had already started to bite as ordinary folk got jittery. Hour after hour of news analysis and commentary had left viewers either more confused or anxious. Underlying it all was the sickening feeling of de ja vu. We had been here before.  

Of President Uhuru And The Meat Of The Matter

 

President Idi Amin Dada went to the Buckingham Palace for lunch with Queen Elizabeth of England. After the lavish affair, he stood up to show his gratitude on behalf of his delegation and the people of Uganda. “Her Majesty the Queen. Thank you for your hospitality. I am now thoroughly fed up! When you come to Uganda, I will revenge!”

President Uhuru’s recent witty comeback at Raila Odinga during former politician William Ole Ntimama’s funeral was in the same vein of joke, told at another’s expense.

Kumeza mate sio kula nyama … sisi ndiyo tumekikalia hiki kiti, kwa hivyo nyinyi mezeni mate na sisi tutakula nyama, hatuna haraka.”

(Lusting over meat is not the same as eating meat…we are occupying the seat, so keep lusting as we eat the meat, we are not in hurry).

Those simple words coated with a thick layer of privilege define the great rift between the disregard of the ruling class and the frustrations of the trodden masses.

Of Jail Birds And Freedom

While I was away from social media, 6 MPs accused of hate-mongering had emerged from a remand holding sparkling and reformed as the Pangani 6. The 3 days in holding appeared to have been such an enlightening experience, they had all turned into motivational speakers. 3 days was all it took to get hostilities straightened out. It was noted by keen observers that Pangani police station should be elevated to a rehab centre.

Jail therapy has shown remarkable results with the hate speech detainees. I was hearing such flowery statements about former bad boy Moses Kuria’s newfound maturity. Ferdinand Waititu smile had broadened and he seemed so at peace with himself. Junet Muhammad was thinking of leading prison reforms. Johnstone Muthama was making capital of 3 days of imprisonment drawing parallels to the Kapenguria 6.  Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri who had fainted in court had a Saul to Paul transformation and gave such a touching confession about his rogue past, I almost reached for the tissue box.