Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pandora's Gay Box is Now Open

Kenya is an interesting country. We have failed to protect ordinary Kenyans from Mungiki, robbers, rogue police, rapists and other miscreants yet a select few wananchi living in hotels and attending lavish seminars are demanding recognition of their deviant sexual behaviour. What cheek!

The context is equally interesting. The Anglican church has split over the issue. African Anglican churches, specifically Kenyan, Nigerian and Ugandan congregations, are now adopting US churches orphaned by the consecration of openly gay bishop Gene Robinson. A Ugandan bishop said things have been turned on their head, since Africans were now adopting western churches that once sent missionaries to the continent several decades back.

It is politically incorrect to say one hates gays, but it sounds better to say, like me, that one does not like them. That is why I admire the courage of Mr Habel J. Nyamu, who in this article minces no words about gays fighting for recognition in Kenya.

It's not my business what two men or two women do behind closed doors, but when they bare bare it all and go ahead to claim recognition, I feel offended. I consider it sacrilegious for such a person to openly tell society what he does in his bedroom, after all, even in the larger society, no 'straight' person proclaims escapades with their partners.

To gather the audacity to stand behind a pulpit, in the name of God, after such a revelation, is to be contemptuous, disrespectful and totally out of order.

God's word is clear on such matters.

Leviticus 20:13 says:
"If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."

Do I hate gays? No. I respect them as people, deviant and detestable as their acts are to me. Should they be recognized? I do not think so. The government should keep off people's bedrooms, and in the same manner, gays should not open their bedrooms to us.

Evolution From a Monkey's Perch in the Tree

Just for laughs, I will post this poem that I like very much. I do not know the composer and whether it is copyrighted, but the owner signs off as a monkey. If that is so, I can only say the 'monk' is terribly creative!

Please view some of the pictures in the link below.

Evolution - The Monkey's Viewpoint

Three monkeys sat in a cocoanut tree
Discussing things as they're said to be.
Said one to the others, "Now listen, you two,
There's a certain rumor that can't be true.
That man descended from our noble race-
The very idea! It's a dire disgrace.

No monkey ever deserted his wife,
Starved her babies and ruined her life,
And you've never known a mother monk
To leave her babies with others to bunk,
Or pass them on from one to another
'Til they hardly know who is their mother.

And another thing! You will never see. . .
A monk build a fence 'round a cocoanut tree
And let the cocoanuts go to waste,
Forbidding all other monks to taste.
Why, if I put a fence around the tree,
Starvation would force you to steal from me.

Here's another thing a monk won't do. . .
Go out at night and get on a stew,
Or use a gun or club or knife
To take some other monkey's life,
Yes, Man descended, the ornery cuss. . .
But brother he didn't descend from us!

Click here for the poem in full.

Why hairy men deride women

For its technical boring stuff, evolution can be a challenging read. Yet it is fun too, as in good for entertainment. How respected scientists would go out of their way to spin tall tales about things they have no way of proving is quite entertaining. But today's story is a true rib tickler.


My grandmother, a great storyteller who taught me the art, would tell me how humans are closely related to monkeys and baboons. But in her order of things, the relationship was the complete reverse of the Darwinian, namely that they degenerated from humans not the other way round. Here’s how the story goes:

A long, long time ago, longer than any living person could fathom, there were no monkeys or baboons in the world. Then some human beings refused to work their farms and went off into the bush to seek freebies. As years passed, they gradually became hairy as they degenerated into wild animals. They lost all human traits, among them walking upright, speech, wearing clothes, using tools and fire, and living in houses.

What was most fascinating about my grandmother’s reverse evolution theory was that she was able to “demonstrate” that beyond looks, or mere physical similarities, there was a discernible lingering memory, some consciousness, among the primates about their days as humans.

ME: This story has tickled my funnybone quite a bit. Obviously unaware of it, Okoiti claims his grandma told him this story,and he acknowledges she is dead. At the end, he leaves it to her "to debate Darwin and come up with something more convincing". It means he does not believe what Darwin said. He also doesn't believe his grandma's story.

Notice that in the online edition, Nation gave the headline as 'Grandma's RESERVE evolution theory'

If you want to read more about the myth of evolution, please see:

Monday, September 24, 2007

Kibaki teaches on how to lose an election

I've been following with kicks and starts how President Kibaki is campaigning around the country. I've been curious since the man had ensconced himself at State House, surrounded by bumbling handlers falling over themselves in trying to keep him immobile. Now the man Is all over the place trying to sell himself for a second term.

There are three main reasons why I think his strategy is aimed at losing the election. I will not argue from the perspective that his main challenger, Raila Odinga, is indefatigable, has a track record and knows how to work up the crowds. That is undeniable. I will argue from inside Kibaki's campaign strategy.

My first argument is related to Kibaki's hands-off style that has characterised his first term. Kibaki has never campaigned as such, and since he has nothing to lose in the second term, why should voters trust him? In 2002, he had the presidency to gain. Now he has the presidency to lose, so why should you trust him to keep his word on anything? What means do you have to put him in check?

At the beginning of his term, he was applauded for keeping to himself at State House. He was commended for giving his ministers a free hand, unlike Moi, to run the show. I do not remember seeing the presidential standard, changed from green to white, flying at harambee House at any time in the past five years. During Moi's time, it was there almost daily, and as early as 6.30am.

What has that got to do with campaigns? A lot, it you ask me. Voters know that Kibaki has been laid back all this time, so for him to get out campaigning, things must be very desperate. He should have done the same in 2002 but was cut short by his accident at Machakos, prompting his being taken to London for treatment as election day approached. So despite succeeding, Kibaki never really went out to campaign. Neither did he subject himself to media scrutiny like his colleagues in the race.

The second argument on why Kibaki is losing has to do with development. We are being told Kibaki has "brought development" through things like CDF, LATF, bursaries and the like. What hogwash!
Kenya's colonial masters brought a lot of development too, but to whose benefit? As it is, almost all the CDF committees have cases in court as MPs manipulate them.

Simple, development alone cannot sell, for even Moi had some development initiatives countrywide. Indeed, some of the projects Kibaki is claiming to have revived, roads for example, were started by Moi. As a matter of fact, Moi used to drive to Nakuru from Nairobi regularly. I do not seem to remember when Kibaki ever drove on that non-existent road.

The third and not last reason why Kibaki is losing has to do with the party he is running on, Panu or PNU. This is a conglomeration of 14 parties, just like Narc before it. That figure does not include Kalembe Ndile's Independent Party launched yesterday. Two ministers sounded the alarm bells last weekend, saying it would be suicidal for Kibaki to be the only PNU MP next year. Sound reasoning, but full with danger.

Some of the main Kibaki backers, Narc-Kenya, DP and Kanu, have said bluntly that they will not dissolve. In fact, DP yesterday unveiled a candidate in Kajiado North, much to Saitoti's chagrin. Kanu is in a most interesting position. Remember that Uhuru Kenyatta left ODM after realising that it wanted to swallow Kanu. He decamped to Kibaki, only to be confronted by the same fate!

Now worst of all, Kibaki is promising the party leaders the kind of things he promised LDP in 2002 in the memorandum of understanding he famously dishonoured. Why should any party take him seriously?

Kibaki is losing emphatically. Unfortunately, there's not a thing in this world he can do to turn things around. Just where would he begin?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

'Bloggers don't read'

I recently started this blog after months of postponing, thanks to encouragement by Dr Peter Verwey, a digital journalism lecturer from Ultrecht University in the Netherlands.

Once it was up, I thought of congratulating myself until I read a review of Andrew Keen's The Cult of the Amateur. You can read The Guardian's review here.

Keen argues that citizen journalism is a "dictatorship of idiots" and garbage. In the long run, "bloviators" will be responsible for the collapse of newspapers and could drive book authors and investigators out of work.

Strange as it may seem, I agree with Keen's argument on citizen journalism. I pretty much advanced the same argument during a radio interview with SABC Africa about two weeks ago. A colleague who was supposed to be on the program volunteered me to be interviewed on the impact of new media on journalism. Specifically, the presenter asked me whether media convergence compromised quality and professionalism.

I said I thought it did, with news editors and news managers overwhelmed with news from a million sources but also under much more pressure to deliver. Other panelists, Steve Lang and Joel K, a Ugandan journalist, felt citizen journalism improved rather than impinged on the quality of journalism. A number of callers agreed with my opinion.

What has this got to do with Andrew Keen? A lot, it seems. Whenever journalists are faced with tough or unfamiliar questions, say how earth tremors are classified, they often report to Google first. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it becomes so when it ends there. Few bother to call the Geological Institute or the local university professor, for example. All they place in the story is a rehash f Wikipedia content.

I would go Verwey's way, which is to "think first as a journalist." The professor of computer-assisted reporting at Ulrecht University in the Netherlands wants journalists to ask what they would do had there been no internet. Verwey also lectures part-time at Rhodes University, South Africa. They'd probably first call someone at the university or at the metereological department. As Verwey argues, the internet may help but it is not the whole story. Indeed, you may get conflicting or outrightly wrong answers from there.

Do I support citizen journalism? Well, to an extent, but I do not mistake it for professional, mainstream or 'traditional' journalism. Do I think it should continue? Yes, but we must know there is a lot of garbage on the net. I can't say with certainty that bloggers don't read, so I hope to get my hand on Andrew Keen's book soon and find out why he said it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Two kinds of journalism

I've been following developments in the South African media for two main reasons. I was in the country recently, and I think it is among the most vibrant media scenes in the continent.

In looking at the SA media, I find interesting parallels with my country.

There are two kinds of journalism brought out by SABC's grouse with the South African Editor's Forum (Sanef). Guy Berger, the Rhodes University journalism lecturer (pictured) discusses the two kinds of journalism - there are others, e.g development journalism - and explains why the SABC and Sanef should complement rather than fight each other. Click here for the full article).

Berger argues that SABC sees itself as playing a civil service role by acting as a "responsible" player in nation-building and promoting the "national interest". It seeks to do that, he says, not necessarily by becoming a pure government mouthpiece.

That is one kind of journalism. In Kenya, there are parallels in the role played by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. Although SABC is semi-public, KBC is government-owned. Like SABC, KBC also plays a civil service role, but I seem to forget what it has done in nation building and promoting national interest that did not have government propaganda in it.

The other kind of journalism that Berger describes is the watchdog role, the critical and more assertive one played by private media. He says: "The SABC's civil-service model stresses information and education; the watchdog approach challenges the establishment and promotes exposure. A society needs both functions -- they are complementary contributions to development and democracy."

Here too there is a parallel with Kenya. The country's private media, mainly the Nation and The Standard, have played a key watchdog role.. It hasn't always been so, for only in 2002 did The Standard assume a patently anti-establishment role. Previously, it associated itself with former President Daniel arap Moi, who ruled the country for 24 years.

In the regime of Moi's predecessor, President Jomo Kenyatta, it would be tenuous to claim The Standard was anti-establishment. That role was played more by the Nation, which identified itself with the masses, especially during the Moi years. The Standard, established in 1902, had pandered to the whims of the colonialists and increasingly alienated the majority indigenous Kenyan population until the entry of the Nation in the early 1960s.

But of late, the media in Kenya have taken a strange turn. While the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, previously known as the Voice of Kenya, attempted to wriggle free from the presidential stranglehold, the Nation and the Standard remained skeptical at first. In good time, KBC snuggled itself back into the presidency's bosom and promptly fell asleep in its old ways.

Not to be outdone, the Nation is increasingly perceived as more and more pro-establishment. From a Kenyan newsgroup comes the following quote:

While The Kenya Times and The Standard are expected to tilt their frames in accordance with their political owners predilictions, the factors that come into play at Nation Media Group are more complex. Though the Nation is not exempt from proprietary interference, its owners are not members of the political establishment as are those of the other three dailies. However, the ethnic identity of its top management which is preponderantly from central Kenya explains its editorial shift from a paper that generously provided the limelight to the opposition forces during Moi's tenure, to one that has taken a steady pro-establishment stance after Kibaki's ascent to the presidency
(From website as at September 21, 2007).

That quote tells a lot. While private media do not have a confron relationship with KBC, they do not agree on many things, e.g the portrayal of President Kibaki or his main challenger for the presidency, Raila Odinga.

The Standard is perceived mainly as anti-establishment, especially after the police raided it in March 2006. (You can watch it here)

The Nation too suffered its own woes in the hands of the First Lady, Lucy Kibaki, who "raided" it in the night with a copy of The Standard! Watch that here.

As Kenya approaches elections in December, more and more events will reveal where the media in Kenya stand, and what role they are willing to play in journalism.

Why do people sleep with their mouths open?

I notice it all the time; a dozing colleague at work, in the matatu to work, at home... almost everywhere that people fall asleep. Occasionally, I've caught myself at it!

You'd not believe what people think happens when they fall asleep with open mouths.

It can be quite comical - not to mention embarrassing. It begins with shaking your head vigorously in a desperate attempt to keep awake after a heavy lunch. You try the 'MBWA' style (management by walking around) only to get another wily devil singing the lullaby as soon as you return to the desk. Then you agree to be tempted... Let me doze off for just a minute, then I'll be fine. You look around to see if the boss is around, then you begin a thousand winks before closing it off to Alice's wonderland.

Then bang! There is laughter all around as you jolt yourself awake. The sweet aroma of chapati and dengu you were dreaming of had been quite literal and the juices more real than you thought!

Just what makes people sleep with their mouths open?

Journalism is a bit like that. Sometimes, what we dream of happens, as nightmare or a pleasant smiley dream. Sometimes we plan them, sometimes we don't. Sometimes we understand them, sometimes we don't.

One such journalism story is about Dr Manto Tshabalala Msimang, the South African Minister for Health. Reputed to be close to President Thabo Mbeki, she was recently reported as having gone on a drink binge while in hospital for treatment. Reportedly, she had jumped the queue for liver transplants, and had previously been convicted of theft in Botswana. Now Mbeki is protecting her.

It's the kind of story a journalist might dream of, and it goes far beyond the minister and her love of drink. The spinoffs have gone far beyond just the media reportage. See The Star newspaper, which incidentally, is located just a street across from the African National Congress offices in Johannesburg.

Or the Mail & Guardian.

The media in Kenya have rarely done such stories, but they are there.. I still wonder why journalists follow such stories, or why people sleep with their mouths open.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Bads of a Feather

No, I'm not 'pulling a shrub'. That's the Kenyan way of saying you're unable to pronounce certain English words correctly.

I've been away from the city for two weeks, so forgive me if I look a bit lost. My first shock came when I returned to the office today. There have been a few changes, and a colleague jokes that I'm so feared that they could only effect changes in my absence. I wish!

On a more serious note, my newspaper has come up with a hot new, neater and more readable cleaner online edition. I know the guys behind it so I'll walk up to them a few minutes from now and shake their hands on your behalf. if you allow me.

Now that I have a new boss, let me rant a bit on political changes in Kenya. Last week, opposition (well, not quite but officially so) leader Uhuru Kenyatta finally decided that he was Kikuyu damu (full-blooded) so he would throw his lot with President Kibaki.

It was alike a ballet dance without the wispy figures and the art behind it, but choreographed all the same. Yesterday, just days after the Uhuru announcement, Kibaki announced that he had now picked the Party of National Unity (PNU) as his vehicle for election loss. Looks like he did not want his Democratic Party or much touted Narc-Kenya (the flower party) to bear the loss.

Now I have a problem with that. When a chick professes her love for the hawk, you do not know whether to slap her small cheeks, burst out laughing or assist in the suicide. How does an opposition leader back an incumbent president he has opposed all along? In fact, he recently described Kibaki as hands-off, eyes-off, everything off president. I wonder what changed.

The de facto opposition leader, Raila Odinga, sighed with relief. Former Sports minister Najib Balala whipped out a stopwatch and started his Countdown to Election 2007. Meanwhile, former president Daniel arap Moi was out somewhere in Kapsisiywa, Nandi North District. I'm not sure he was aware that Kibaki had picked a new party.

Now the bads of a feather have frocked together under the PNU. Whether the new frock wins them the beauty contest is open to speculation, although I have a feeling I know already.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Pretoria and J'burg, amazing places

I've not posted a thing here for the past two days for a good reason, you might come to discover. On Friday, I took a bus to Johannesburg to visit a Kenyan friend and a family I had met previously in Nairobi.

At 4pm, I joined a queue of giggly students of Rhodes University in front of the Grahamstown Conference Centre, waiting for Translux City to City bus. It came on time and we left for Johannesburg. We'd been warned the journey would be a tiring 13 hours, so I looked around the country as much as I could before dusk and sleep overcame me. The bus was quite comfortable and the roads smooth. Sleep came easily.

I woke up a few times at Queenstown, Aliwal, Bloemfontein and places with such strange names. I arrived at park City, Joburg, at 6am, and called my Kenyan friend to pick me. He was there within minutes.

South Africa is a really westernised place. The underpasses and overpasses in the roads are one story. My first stop was the Nelson Mandela Foundation, a beautiful building in a leafy neighbourhood. For context, it is a few blocks from 12th Avenue where Madiba himself lives.

Luckily for me, a photo exhibition had been held a few days previously, so I got to see some rare photos. Among them was one of the Rivonia accused, some of whom were acquitted and some of whom were sent to Robben Island, Mandela included.

The aura of Madiba's office (from a waiting room, of course), the corridor he takes to the office, and the conference room where he has met people like former US president Bill Clinton. Simply overwhelming.

I had previously read A Prisoner in the Garden, a book of never-before published photos, diaries and notes by the respected Madiba. Now I got the chance to see and touch some of the documents themselves. One of them was a book in which Madiba drafted letters to his family and friends. You see, he had been restricted to 500 words, so he first drafted the letters and crossed out the excess words to make the most of the opportunity.

I was joined by Felix, a Tanzanian, and Mutula, a fellow Kenyan. The tour was conducted by Verne Harris, the foundation's memory programme manager, and Shadrack Katuu, the IT manager. Hats off to these great gentlemen! And good job too!

Later, as Verne drove to Pretoria, he explained the history behind amazing places such as the dark, imposing Voortekker monument above (See, the unmistakable ocean liner-shaped UNISA campus, the Kruger statue, the police headquarters, and the Union Building housing president Thabo Mbeki's offices.

The one that touched me most was the Union Building and the well manicured lawns where we met happy newlyweds taking pictures with flower girls. In 1994, all the world focused on the lawns as Mandela was sworn in as democratic South Africa's first president. I watched the event on TV live from Nairobi, and here I was at the same place 13 years later.

Not far from the lawns is the church square, where several groups of school children (obvious from the girls' miniskirts and buses parked nearby) were taking pictures or listening to someone who looked like a preacher.

i will tell you more of what Verne told me about the monuments and how South Africans are dealing with their dark past later.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Lucy Kibaki video
This is a post with a link

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Working and eating hard

Journalism in pictures

This is one of the pictures a friend took

And another.

White Poverty in Grahamstown, South Africa

It's warm in Grahamstown today. I dared to leave my hotel without a cardigan and haven't sneezed even once - quite an achievement for cold-weather allergic me for once.
I joined the students on the bus to the Journalism and Media Studies Centre. As usual, Mpume and Ayanda, two South African students from Durban also attending the Highway Africa workshop, greeted me in jest, "Do we leave them?"
Hahaha! They were alluding to my usual call in the morning on whether we should ask the bus driver to zoom off without lazybones staying at the oak Lodge. Lazybones is a bad word, admittedly. They are simply late sorting their stuff out; laundry here, passpot in the bag, class notes in order etc, before we leave for the university campus.
My mind keeps flashing back to yesterday. I was shocked beyond belief when in the evening walk to the shopping centre to buy toiletries I found a white man and his wife in the street corner.
They seemed to be quarreling over something, and they had gunny bags. My first impression was that they were husband and wife, and they would sort it out and return home. Then it hit me; they were at home, right there in the street! Black beggars are common in almost all major African cities, but white ones? This is different.
I slowed down and heard them speak (rather, curse) in broken English. Shuffling around and trying to make themselves comfortable, they moved around a bit.
then they were joined by an old couple probably in their 60s. maybe they looked older as a result of the harsh weather in Grahamstown. The rain was approaching and I had to run back to the hotel. I promised myself to return and talk to them today. maybe they will make a good story for my newspaper back in Nairobi.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Familiar Comment in The Economist

I recently read an article in The Economist on the Pope. The magazine had indicated that they would tell me if my response was published, so I forgot about it until today when I Googled the letters to the editor. Here is what I found.