Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sh*t! This is serious business

WARNING: Do not proceed with this post if you have a weak or fickle appetite.

Nyathi mioro emapielo chieth maduong — Luo proverb.

I don't usually curse, and I'm not in this post too. The translation of the Luo proverb is that 'the child who is sent is the one who piles up big ones. It means the child gets rewarded, usually with food.

Many of us like to talk about food. Nyama choma, chapati na dengu (my favourite), irio na muthokoi, ugali na ka-ugali kadogo, ngwache na sukuma wiki, rabuon gi magira etc, are some of the things that appear on our tables. What happens afterwards is a conspiracy of silence. Let's face it, to munch down a plateful naturally presupposes that at some point it will be got rid of.
That is why I view with deserving seriousness a news item that a toilet conference has opened in New Delhi, India, where participants are discussing the very serious issue of a very basic need. Surely, if food is a basic necessity, toilets must accompany them. Any other way is like trying to stop the Nile from flowing into the Mediterranean.
Today, take your time when you go to say haloo, do so with gratitude. If you are a child from my village, it means you have fed well. If you are a village-urbanite like me, it means you have survived another day with food in your belly. It is not something to take for granted.
In case you are interested, please click here to find out how long you have spent looking at your feet while undertaking the noble business of losing weight without breaking a sweat.

You may want to see the world's most expensive toilet here.
Or the one that beats the new Cold War here.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Archbishop Njue and elusive neutrality

Archbishop Njue yesterday led a group of Catholic bishops and the Episcopal Conference in condemning majimbo. See:

They said it was a recipe for disaster. Although the usual talk of neutrality accompanied his rhetoric, it was clear he was partisan.

Let me explain.

There is a curious remark Njue made in his statement.
"The Catholic Church has members in almost all political parties of Kenya, which is a fruit of democracy. We, as Catholic bishops, therefore, have no preferred candidates but rather our duty is to emphasise the moral aspects of political and social life," said Cardinal-elect, John Njue, who is also the conference chairman.

I do not know when the majimbo debate became a 'moral' issue for the Catholic church. By speaking the way he did, our good Archbishop was insinuating that by supporting majimbo, Catholics who listen to him (estimated at 9 million in Kenya) will be going against the church.

Indeed, if he really wanted neutrality, he would have simply kept quiet.

The majimbo debate is the single most important issue in the election today. It will determine who returns to Parliament and who doesn't, especially between the two main contenders, Kibaki and Raila. Thus by opposing majimbo, Archbishop Njue, now cardinal-elect, loses all claims of neutrality. At the same time, he is patently contradictory.

Njue also recently led Catholics in rejecting minimum reforms. See:

Now I will do the unusual thing by admitting that The Standard also took a rather skewed view of majimbo by saying:

"While political leaders equate Majimbo to federalism and/or devolution, the word Majimbo is a uniquely Kenyan term that was coined by European settlers just before independence to mean ethnic regionalism.
Threatened with the loss of Kenya, the settlers wanted to create for themselves a homeland or jimbo in the White Highlands and scatter the Kenyan dream of independence.
The Bomas draft of the new constitution, however, does not talk about Majimbo, but rather outlines the objectives of devolution in Chapter 14."

That sounds like a cut-and-paste from an article penned by Koigi wa Wamwere about a week ago. How could European settlers coin a Kiswahili word so perfectly? Wo instructed them? I'm glad though that the hard copy of the Standard has a more realistic version, simply saying that 'majimbo' is from a Kiswahili word 'jimbo' for region.

I would be glad to hear more about the moral aspects of supporting majimbo. I would also be glad to learn the moral aspects of opposing it. From where I stand, I can't see any, not even in the horizon when I squint.

I'm not sure if he committed a cardinal sin, but it looks like Archbishop (cardinal-elect) Njue misled the flock.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Kibaki supported majimbo!

I have in my hands a copy of the Draft Constitution also known as the Wako Draft or mongrel, whatever. It has on it the seal of the government and it is written 'Kenya Gazette Supplement, 2005. Nairobi, 22nd August, 2005'.


Part I-Structure and Principles of Devolution

Objects and principles of devolution
198.(1)The objects and principles of devolution are to —
(a) ensure the democratic and accountable exercise of sovereign power;
(b) foster national unity by recognising diversity;
(c) give powers of self-governance to the people and enhance the participation of people in the exercise of the powers of the state;
(d) recognize the right of local communities to manage their own local affairs, and to form networks and associations to assist in that management and further their development;
(e) promte social and economic development and the provision of proximate, easily accessed services throughout Kenya, with special provision for less developed areas; and
(f)facilitate the decentralisation of state organs and functions.

(I will not bore you with the details, among which the district is identified as "the unit of devolution").

The rest of the chapter explains how if a conflict arose between the district government and the national one's legislation, the national one prevails. it talks about the management of urban areas within the districts and the procedure for suspending a district government.

Of course, banana did not want to cede much power so there was an amount of central government strangling the district ones.

What is amazing is that Kenyans are listening to Kibaki opposing devolution (majimbo) , conveniently forgeting how he campaigned for this draft with the majimbo section so clearly outlined.

Kibaki is a terrible hypocrite or a very good politician. If he wins this vote, especially on the strength of his opposition to majimbo, I will declare myself the official pumbavu man of Kenya.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rudge, security and breaches

I promised that this blog would now take a peek at the other side of our strange new world. I had almost succeeded in pushing the thought of streakers to the darkest cobwebbed parts of my mind when it happened.

I was watching a review of the game between England and South African (famously known as Springboks) when it happened. At one point in the game, some guy in a green luminous jacket appeared in the scrum.

I was confused. Do rudge officials wear luminous green? Then I realised it was an overzealous fan who could not hold his anxiety any more. He probably wanted to get the ball and make a try himself since his team was not as serious about it.

But the moment of English glory came in the form of a fan who saw a gap in the security ranks and made for the Webb Ellis trophy. Before the mean guys could get him, he had lifted the cup to hundreds of camera clicks. His stunt left the French security smarting, especially since SA President Thabo Mbeki, his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown were not far away.

I do not know what motivates streakers and other security breachers, if there is such a word, but they provide a useful break to a charged game like rugby.

I can't find the picture in Reuters (journalists play down such things in the notion that highlighting them only nudges them on to try again), but I like the caption dedicated to the English fan in a newspaper in my country.

"IMPATIENT: A (sic) England fan who breeched (sic) security reaches for the Webb Ellis trophy before being whisked away. It's the closest England came to lifting the World Cup."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I'll be a bit superstitious today

I knew how desperate the times are when the two leading contenders for the presidency in Kenya, Raila Amolo Odinga and Emilio Mwai Kibaki donned kanzu this weekend and attended Idd celebrations. I use their first names deliberately, for Kibaki subscribes to the Catholic faith, while Raila's denomination is not very clear.

But let's compare and contrast these two images:

This weekend, you'd have mistaken Kibaki and Raila for sheikhs. I can't claim to know whether it's okay for Christians to attend Muslim functions of this kind even if only to woo votes. At least Raila has attended Muslim functions before, including visiting various mosques.

Curiously though, thanks to a hawk-eyed Mohamed Maarufu, a photographer with The Standard, Kibaki, perhaps unwittingly, flashed a masonic symbol that never stops to attract controversy in mostly Christian circles.

I do not know Kibaki or clinton's religions beliefs more than what is in the public domain, but those symbols they flashed might court a bit of controversy. If you are superstitious, be very scared!