An Indian minister said this week “rape is a social crime; sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong”. This mentality that seems to be especially prominent in the developing world is at the detriment of many women who have been raped and have not or will not see justice done because some law enforcers and authoritative figures, like the minister (above), refuse to see women as human beings; equally deserving of security and justice. But rape is just one issue among many where women have not been able to rely on the promise of justice and security. At what point do we say- enough?
Category Archives: Politics
My views on the Anti-Homosexuality Act that was recently passed in Uganda. If you like the video please share it 🙂 If you haven’t heard about this Act, please look it up- it’s worth your time and opinions.
“The law helps the vigilant before those who sleep on their rights.”
As we mark the 50th year of Kenya’s independence, let us take stock of how we celebrated our “supposed” freedom this year. 50 years hence, have we justified our forefathers fight for liberty? Have we made them proud?
With regard to Children
In June it was reported that a teacher in Thika punished a student by making him drink a cocktail of his classmates saliva. Traditionally in Africa, cultural norms have been the underlying reason for the unquestioned respect of adults and authoritative figures alike, but how can we not see this incident as anything but an asinine, abuse of power. Is it not reason enough to revise these norms, which in the case of the above mentioned student, could serve to be detrimental to his health? Is it not contradictory that a learning institution responsible for the nurturing of young minds, is instead breaching the rights of the vulnerable? If this teacher goes unpunished, is it safe to assume that children are totally void of constitutional rights because they must remain obedient?
With regard to Women
On the 26th of June, it was reported that a 16 year-old girl was brutally gang-raped by six men, on her way home from her grandfather’s funeral. Following the attack the men discarded her in a deep pit-latrine which she managed to climb out of and call for help. After reporting the incident to the local authorities and even identifying her attackers, the officers proceeded to arrest the men, who suffered a once-off punishment of manual labour; this involved cutting grass in the police compound after which they were released. As a young woman, I find it incomprehensible that there could be a worse insult than to know an issue as serious as rape could be addressed with such mockery, as to equate the weight of court ordered justice to that of a callous officer/s poor judgement. If we discount the fact that the young lady already had a reason to grieve, and if we ignore the traumatic experience she miraculously survived; can we really pretend not to see the tragic weakness on the part of our legal system where a woman’s worth is ostensibly equal to that of a gardeners basic chores? Months later, justice has not been done but over a million signatures from people all over the world have called for the law to intervene. However, we must ask ourselves, why does it take international media coverage for something to be done about a problem in our backyard? Are we not our sister’s keeper?
With regard to Leadership
On the 6th of September it is alleged that Nairobi Governor, Dr Evans Kidero, slapped Nairobi Women Representative, Rachael Shebesh. Several videos showing the incident regarding this claim appear on YouTube, in which dialogue can be heard in accordance with what Shebesh has stated took place- though the Governor has denied the allegations. Having watched the encounter on YouTube, I do support the claim that Shebesh was assaulted and for whatever reason this event took place, it is my belief that we cannot afford to condone violence in any capacity. When the people who are supposed to represent our views fail to do so adequately, it is questionable whether we can count on them to uphold what we as a nation should be unwilling to compromise. If we do not protect our societal values and ethics, how can we prove their existence? I am not dismissing the fact the Kidero may have been provoked, I simply ask what qualifies as leadership in a country where a government official would respond in such a primitive and unprofessional manner? What is the role of leadership in Kenya if not the example we should live by?
With regard to Security
On the 21st of September, a group of unidentified gunmen attacked Westgate Shopping Mall, killing approximately 72 people and injuring many more. The attack lasted four days and is allegedly the doing of Al Shabaab terrorists, displeased with Kenya’s military presence in Somalia. While the heartbreak and trauma that these terrorists have caused is unspeakable, perhaps what is most disheartening is watching a video of our own police officers looting where civilian blood has been spilled, and bodies lay sprawled out on the ground. As they looked and witnessed the loss of life, what possessed them to think it was okay to pick and chose their moments of heroism, disassociating themselves from their vows to protect and serve, ignoring the temptations of greed and undue advantage? If the ones we trust to protect us only do so when they think they are being watched, can we trust them to come to our aid in a time of helplessness? Can we preach security when we have reason to doubt our own?
With regard to the Election
Perhaps the most important of reflections must be that of our presidential election which took place in March. This year the international community, as well as Kenya, waited with bated breath for the results of the presidential election. The constant reminders of the devastating 2007 post election violence promoted a welcomed effort at tolerance among neighbors and members of different ethnic groups. Now, months after the nation has chosen a head of state, the imminent ICC trial is looming over our heads, stalking our movements, crippling our ability to address the growing challenges we face in this country. The law stipulates that one is innocent until proven guilty and given the importance of the law, allow me to quote a well known officer of the court. Nelson Mandela stated the following at the Rivonia Trial: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” I have introduced this quote in order to pose a question. Is not the foundation of a great leader the selflessness in which he acts? While I respect the choice that Kenyans made in electing our current leaders, I cannot help but wonder whether true admiration would come from one who waits to clear his name before throwing his hat in the ring; knowing full well the plausible implications that one’s absence could have on their beloved country if said person is found guilty of a crime?
Kenya, 50 years later we have a lot to atone for. What is written above has not begun to touch on the vast amount of problems that currently plague us. I have not addressed the torturous scenes of mob justice that make it okay for a desperate pick-pocket to be beaten mercilessly without the luxury of legal representation in a fair trial. I have failed to detail the greed that has potential to rob the people of Turkana of an opportunity to benefit from the newly discovered oil, in what has been a region previously and unfairly ignored. Where does one search for the reasoning behind the stealing of babies for sale on the black market, or the armed robbery of hard working citizens on unsafe, unreliable forms of transportation? How do we begin to outline the blatant disregard for the law that leads to fatal accidents and a growing culture of bribery?
My point is, Kenya is broken. We seem to have lost our sense of humanity. We seem to be oblivious to the need for accountability. Have we become so complacent or so desperate to fit into this corrupt system, that to a foreigner, we might appear mere savages masked as men? If you disagree with what I have said, I respect that it is your prerogative to do so. But this Kenya is not one I am interested in inheriting and it is one, which as it stands, I am embarrassed to call home. I refuse to find comfortability in its brokeness, and if destiny has it that our sole claim to fame be our great runners, then I should only wish my Nike’s could carry me far enough to a time in the future when Kenya is as it should be. I don’t believe the reality we are living is the dream our heroes died to fulfill. Our Kenya is our responsibility and if we do not progress the work that was done 50 years ago to set us free, we will regress into something regrettable.
We will become the monster we saw in the colonialist.
“To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or colour is like living in Alaska and being against snow.” -William Faulkner
My name is Kagendo. It means Traveller. My name has meaning; my language affords it this opportunity to have meaning, to be more than just a sound leaving one’s mouth. The Whites have described it in many ways- strange, beautiful, exotic, unknown, difficult to pronounce. I am a black woman. I am educated, but I am not free. As a result I have often wondered how different my journey would be if my skin were the colour of the Whites. Whether I would be ashamed of my history, or whether I would disregard it as several breaches of human rights I had no control over back then and am not interested in addressing presently. But I am not White.
At my age, no one wants to talk about race. We are all walking on eggshells trying to avoid any topic that may result in our individual classifications as extremists or even racists. We live in an age where race, colour and creed are topics for the anti-social, the politically motivated, and the unpopular. But if you strip away my education, my status, my character, all I am is black. All I have is the skin that defines years of struggle. All I have is the history they will associate with my legacy; the odds I will have faced, the barriers I will have crossed, the fight I would have put up to ensure mine is a burial equal to that of my white counterpart. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela- these Blacks struggled. These people put their lives on the line so that those with skin, various shades of brown, would have reason to believe that someday equality would be more than just a spoken promise. But make no mistake- the fight cannot stop with them.
I remember sitting at my desk at a previous job and overhearing a conversation between two co-workers, one who openly admitted to being racist towards Indigenous Australians. She found them to be dirty, inferior beings- notorious for stealing in her case. Yet she is just one of the many misguided Australian’s who due to a faulty education system may be unaware of the atrocities the Stolen Generation had been subject to as a result of their skin colour. So this is the question I must ask, what will it take for white Australian’s to acknowledge the damage they have done to this unsuspecting race? I’m not talking about an apology made before man, as has already been done by a previous administration, I’m talking about calling a spade a spade. Why isn’t the truth in the history textbooks taught to the descendants of the colonialists responsible for the murder and bloodshed of numerous Indigenous Australians?
If I were to answer my own question I would say it is out of shame that the history textbooks are lies agreed upon by the white colonialists with blood on their hands. For decades now they have neglected to shed light on their transgressions, choosing instead to dismiss important facts in history that have led to the demise of Indigenous Australians. Surely this is unacceptable and something no man or woman who believes in basic human rights can ignore. Yet this is exactly what we do. It doesn’t matter that I sat there disgusted by the words that left my co-worker’s mouth, what matters is that I said nothing to change her view. Despite her seniority, I did nothing to defend those who share my colour and all this in the name of courtesy in the workplace.
Who does it serve to be courteous?
The Client List, a 2010 feature film starring Golden Globe nominated Jennifer Love-Hewitt for her role as Samantha Horton, is a compelling and sad film. It tells the story of a couple and their three children, struggling to pay their mortgage, faced with the prospect of losing their home. At the start of the movie Samantha Horton attempts to use her beauty and womanly assets to persuade the bank representative to give them more time as they have fallen behind on their payments – all to no avail. Eventually Samantha becomes a prostitute at a brothel disguised as a massage parlour, until it is discovered what the masseuses are really up to. While the movie is great entertainment, it is sadly based on true events; dating back to the 2004 Odessa Healing Touch sex scandal. It is a saddening thought that a woman would turn to prostitution in order to eradicate debt, and even more concerning that a foreclosure notice could inspire people to abandon their morals. This is not the only case of desperation clouding someone’s judgment. In 2009 a 69 year old man was arrested for robbing a Bank of America branch in San Diego. It is reported he handed over a note declaring his possession of a bomb. He took US$107,000 from the bank. The elderly man was approximately US$50,000 in debt as a result of the increasing interest on his mortgage. He stated therefore, that his actions were that of a desperate man, acknowledging that his status as a retiree meant his fixed income could never have allowed for him to keep up with the payments. This man only sought to be able to keep his home for himself and his 73 year old wife when banks threatened to take it away.
According to an article in the Times-Herald “The U.S. lost 1.2 million households from 2005 to 2008 even as the country’s population increased by 3.4 million, according to a study from the Mortgage Bankers Association.” With a statistic like this, although we cannot condone the acts of prostitution and stealing, we can certainly understand the need for microcredit banks worldwide. In 2006, Bangladesh born Muhammad Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in founding of the Grameen Bank; The Grameen bank was established to enable poor, lower income earners, with an emphasis on rural women, to obtain small loans without the need for collateral- all the while maintaining a loan recovery rate of 98.3%. These are banks that are truly for the people. They exist so that lower level income earners are at less risk of being homeless, contributing to the growth and development of nations. They do fit the label, “Bank for the Poor”.
Another interesting, more technology based form of microcredit banking introduced to the developing world is known in Kenya by the name of M-Pesa; a mobile phone based money transferring service. In April 2011 the economist reported on the digital revolution in Africa and I quote: “Since mobile-phone coverage is far better than fixed-line availability, the result has been that the cell phone is swiftly becoming Africa’s computer of choice.” So it only makes sense that M-Pesa has been so well received in Africa. Not only does it provide banking opportunities for lower income earners, it is an affordable medium everyone can use to pay bills or transfer money to family and friends.
These examples of successful banking services in both Bangladesh and Kenya are cases of people recognizing that persons of all economic backgrounds have a right to a home and some sense of security, without need for collateral.
Historically, it has been a common trait amongst bad leaders to try and keep any negative attitudes towards their governments from influencing the general public. Dictators have struggled to keep the peoples voices quiet, often using violence and implementing totalitarianism. It should be acknowledged that this goes against what should be the framework of a government; a leader is meant to be the representation of a nation’s voices; leaders are meant to convey the messages of the people and not the opinions of their own selfish desires.
Past presidents like Hitler of Germany, however, were excellent at gaining control of the media and manipulating the people into trusting his ideals and Nazi propaganda- all this in an attempt to hide his real work- persecution of the Jews. Extremists like Stalin of the USSR, went as far as dictating what was written in novels, demanding that all works of text described him in a positive manner as well as calling on artists to solely paint him in praise of his “greatness”. These rules that Stalin instilled in the creative industries caused some artists and authors to commit suicide; choosing death over losing their freedom of self-expression.
Sometimes people in power forget to learn lessons from past mistakes that could ensure history doesn’t repeat itself. Presidents in the 21st century have ripped pages out of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin’s books, for example, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak banned the use of social media networking sites after protests began in January 2011, but Egyptian civilians were more than ready to risk their lives; continuing to blog, tweet and Facebook about the situation in Egypt. So Mubarak went a step further and banned the use of the internet but according to news24 “Davos – The United Nations chief said Egypt’s decision to cut internet access ahead of planned protests goes against the democratic principles of freedom of speech and freedom of association”. Indeed this is the case of Mubarak exercising his power to prevent the people from speaking freely against the government. This is oppression.
In the case of the controversial topic that is WikiLeaks and the leak of classified USA documents, it is arguable that American politicians, such as Sarah Palin, have abused their power by insisting that founder Julian Assange is hunted down by the US government and treated as an anti-American terrorist. Furthermore Palin has added that “the activist website should have its financial assets frozen just as we do to individuals who provide material support for terrorist organizations…” “…cyber tools should be used to permanently dismantle WikiLeaks”. What Palin is neglecting to admit is that governments that fail to inform the nation of the whole truth remain vulnerable to whistleblower organizations such as WikiLeaks.
Where there is no corruption, there is little need for secrecy. Politicians like Palin should not have a right to oppress organizations and individuals by calling for their arrest or murder, simply because they are against secrecy in the government. It is imperative that oppressive governments renounce oppression as a way of silencing nations, and instead opt for actively listening to the needs of the people responsible for voting them into power.