Monday, September 9, 2013

Shebesh, Sonko and Kidero Behaving Badly

1st to 7th September 2013 has been one hell of a week in Nairobi, hasn't it?

We thought it was going to be all about the ICC and why signing on to Rome Statute was up there with wearing Tokyo trousers as the worst decision Kenyans have ever made, but that was before the three people we elected to the Apex of Nairobi County’s inaugural government decided to spice it all up a little bit.

First, it was Sonko Mbuvi, the money-dishing, gold-wearing, wall-punching, foul-mouthed mound of unpredictable immaturity who sometimes remembers he is the Senator from Nairobi.

The saga began innocuously enough. Reportedly incensed that a certain misguided comedian from a leading radio station had made some apparently inappropriate remarks about his daughter, the senator decided he was going to call the radio station and make his displeasure known.

Which, in my opinion, was totally fine.

If voicing his displeasure was all he was interested in.

But Senator Mbuvi’s call to the radio station and his conversation with a leading female presenter from the station, rather than end at displeasure-voicing and apology-demanding or, if absolutely necessary, display the kind of reasoned debate one would expect from a graduate of Punjab University voicing his displeasure, instead produced something straight from the theater of the farcical.

Which, in my opinion, was totally not fine.

Both the senator and the radio presenter are well known in their respective capacities, attract varying degrees of adoration and derision from the general public, and have been known to spar on occasion over a number of issues. But when the presenter asked the senator a perfectly innocent question about sustainable plans for the people of the city that didn't involve handouts, (something Senator Mbuvi has perfected into an art form,) the senator was, quite inexplicably, livid.

In furious, unconcealed rage, he launched into a lengthy, jaw-dropping rant that focused on the presenter’s presumed salary, alleged partying habits, apparent  narcotics use and assumed fondness for activities of the carnal type.

In a bizarre exchange where all pretext of cordiality was flung to the four winds, the senator mentioned everything except sustainable plans for the people of Nairobi, and instead themed his tirade around advising the presenter on exactly where to take her apparently considerable state of arousal before capping it all off with what amounted to actual threats against her safety.

Did I mentioned that the Senator had called in during the presenter’s live morning show, and all this was live on air?

For the next twenty-four hours, Nairobi and the rest of Kenya erupted.


Even in this day and age where the average scandal has an average lifespan of a couple of days, such drama as that of the senator and the radio presenter would have been guaranteed a solid fortnight on water dispenser, drinking joints and social media conversations.

But as it was, twenty-four hours was all it took until the other two thirds of Nairobi’s inaugural elected government decided to get into the action in one fell swoop.

This one too started innocuously enough. Prices are up. Salaries are not. City Council workers want a salary raise that is commensurate with the rate of inflation. They petitioned the governor, who said that was untenable at this particular moment but promised to explore the matter further in due course.

End of story? Well, not exactly. 

Next in a nutshell, the workers congregated at Jevanjee Gardens in the Nairobi CBD to force the issue. There, they were joined by Hon. Rachel Shebesh, Nairobi County’s Women Representative to the Senate and drama queen extraordinaire all rolled into one massive lump of kick-ass attitude and a WTF! hairstyle.

The workers needed a figure to lead their petition to the governor, and as an elected representative of a constituency in Nairobi that forms almost half of the county’s workforce, Representative Shebesh agreed to present the workers’ petition.

Which, in my opinion, was totally fine.

If presenting the workers’ petition was all she was interested in.

But Representative Shebesh’s presentation to the governor, rather than take the form of a calm, dignified march to the office of the county’s elected chief executive followed by an equally dignified presentation of the petition and an equally dignified wait for a formal response, instead took the form of a pandemonium-packed  invasion of a public office by a disorganized swarm of goons led by the screaming representative.

Which, in my opinion, was totally not fine.

An opinion which His Excellency Gov. Evans Kidero, the elected Chief Executive Officer of Nairobi County, totally shared.

So totally shared that when it became apparent Representative Shebesh did not understand how not fine he was with her antics, he lifted his right hand, revved it back a couple of feet, changed its trajectory and connected it, hard, square and solid, with the pile of flesh on Representative Shebesh’s left cheek.

Did I mention that all leading media houses had sent reporters to cover the event, and all of them caught the incident live on camera?

Nairobi, and the rest of Kenya, erupted.

Before we continue, let’s get one thing out of the way.

It has always been my opinion that the use of violence, both physical and non-physical is an inescapable social reality, and every incident of physical or verbal assault on anyone by anyone else, regardless of sex,  should be considered within its particular context.

But that said, my opinion has always been that, if you are a man, then;

  • Unless you are in reasonable danger of actual bodily harm from a woman, or,
  • Unless a woman has harmed/insulted your mother, your child or your basic honor,

You are under no circumstances whatsoever to lift your hand or mouth against any woman.

I am sure this is an opinion shared by a very great percentage of the world’s civilized adult male population, and I am fairly certain Governor Kidero, clothed in his irritating aura of haughty, dismissive over-achievement, belongs to this population.

I am not too sure about Senator Mbuvi, though.

Senator Mbuvi is a maverick, as non-conformist as they come and as obnoxious about his non-conformism as a septic tank in a slum abattoir. But much as some of his antics can be remarkably original and attention, grabbing, he needs to understand that there are certain lines leaders do not cross, certain depths true leaders never descend to.

 Such understanding, though, can only come with a certain level of maturity, which Senator Mbuvi’s attack on Ms. Caroline Mutoko did not display. Even with the benefit of context, the attack was unprovoked, unwarranted crass, juvenile and in such unbelievably bad taste, anybody who listened to it will need a lifetime’s supply of sweet liquid chocolate to wash it off. 

As for governor Kidero, his actions were, indeed, way out of line. But like I said earlier, context is very important in the consideration of any incident, and goon invasion of the office of the capital’s Chief Executive sounds to me like a very reasonable context for more than just a little violence.

Throw in a crazed woman screaming to the said Chief Executive’s face and I may not agree with it, but I can totally understand a hard, square, solid one right to the pile of flesh on said crazed woman’s cheek.

In conclusion, Nairobi has in the past couple of days witnessed attacks, both verbal and physical, by and on prominent personalities. That in itself is a man-bites-dog occurrence indicative of the kind of Nairobi decorum and social manners we do not want, and therefore  worthy of certain actions by the personalities in order to see that it never happens again.

Senator Mbuvi needs to grow the fuck up.

Governor Kidero needs to take anger management classes.

Representative Shebesh needs psychiatric help.

And all of them need to call a joint press conference, apologize to Kenyans, promise never to bring such shame to us again.

And, further in Senator Mbuvi’s case, an announcement of a lifetime’s supply of sweet, liquid chocolate to every Nairobian.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Something Like a Phenomenon

First of all, I’d like to make one thing absolutely clear. I’m straighter than the shortest distance between any two given points, and I’m not talking geometry. So should you ask me if I’m gay after reading this, you’d better either be mistaking me for a little girl’s emotional disposition, or be sure that you have sufficient hospital insurance. Lengthy in-patient hospital insurance
That said, let’s begin.

Sometimes, you happen upon signs and indications that seem to demand you get off your behind and do something you wouldn’t otherwise consider as warranting expeditious execution. Should you choose to ignore them, these signs then suddenly start getting more and more frequent and insistent until you eventually comply.

A while ago, I was a victim of this phenomenon, which apparently wanted me to write about homosexuality.

There are things that when confronted with under normal circumstances, I would consider not doing, think about it three times and then NOT do them. Obviously, this was one such thing, but I wasn’t really worried because writing is not my main hobby, (my main hobby is spending copious amount of time doing absolutely nothing,) and I figured I would simply ignore the phenomenon and it would go away.
But trust the resourcefulness of this phenomenon to find its way around such little hurdles.

At the time, I was young, impressionable and had become convinced of the immeasurable worth to be found in propagating the myth that I am a really happening dude, especially while dealing with impressionable damsels for whom I must confess an incurable weakness. Under the grip of these urges, I sought advice on how to become a happening dude, and was informed on authority that the possession of sophisticated mobile gadgetry is nowadays the main indicator for happening dudes worldwide.

My authority on happening also told me that my Nokia C2-03 doesn’t ooze the kind of sophistication that indicate basic happening quotient, so armed with this information, I wheedled HR for an advance and quickly upgraded from a Nokia C2-03 to a Blackberry Pearl.
To increase my happening quotient even more, I decided to pimp up its screen with an off-the-hook wallpaper, because my authority on happening had also told me that cool wallpapers on sophisticated phones are a riot with happening dudes in all continents of the world, including Africa. He also told me that the cream of happening would be to sport a rock music-themed wallpaper, so naturally, I sought a Rock-themed wallpaper for my phone.

Well, this phenomenon, it seems, had somehow been made aware of my juvenile pursuit of social popularity; and this was exactly where it first came for me.
For my wallpaper, my authority suggested two Rock artistes, Serj Tankian of the group System of a Down and Billie Joe Armstrong of the group Green day. I sampled their music and liked Serj better, but I found him to be, for lack of a better description, an aesthetically-challenged guy and not exactly the face you want on your phone if your intention is to hoodwink the public into believing that you were somewhere near the front row when dudes were being taught to happen. Therefore, the more worldly-looking Billie Joe [who by the way has the most hypnotic eyes you will ever see on the human male species,] got the nod.

I raided the internet for free Billie Joe Armstrong wallpaper, but as I was browsing, I mistakenly googled up the wrong alley, and instead of going to the freebies page, I landed on Billie Joe’s Wikipedia bio. Obviously, my curiosity was sufficiently aroused for me not to go away without first browsing through it, and as I did exactly that, I happened across a curious bit of information I’d hitherto been unaware of.
Apparently, Billie Joe Armstrong is bisexual.

As you would expect, that shocked the living daylights out of me. But, I reasoned, I had not enjoyed Billie Joe’s music because I was under the misconception that he is a poster boy for conservative sexual values. Rather, I liked Billie Joe because he makes the kind of music that makes me want to have him as my wallpaper image. So with a shrug and a “well, you learn something new everyday!” I accessed the right page, got his wallpaper and forgot all about it.
But the phenomenon didn’t.

A few days later, I was checking through the music files on a friend’s computer when I came across an all-time favorite song of mine that I haven’t heard in quite a long while, “Everyday I love you.” By the Irish boy band Boyzone. Immediately, I recorded it on my phone’s voice recorder and temporarily replaced the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s ‘Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing’ with it as my morning wake-up alarm.

That little incident would have been nothing but a very innocuous event of my day, but three days later, I was woken up by that very alarm, and as I started my daily morning ritual by catching the early morning news on TV, I got stunned by reports that one of Boyzone’s members, Stephen Gately, had mysteriously died the previous night while holidaying in Spain.

Stephen Gately, for the ignorant, forgetful or otherwise uninformed among you, was the Boyzone band member who during the height of their popularity in 1999, famously came out of the closet to publicly admit he was of homosexual orientation.
So this was the second time in two days that I was being confronted by a reminder of homosexuality, and I found that a tad bit intriguing. But once again, I made nothing of it and only wished Allah’s compassion and grace upon the soul of Stephen Gately before relegating all thoughts on the subject to whatever section of the brain it is that things to be forgotten are kept.

But the phenomenon, of course, was having none of that.
The next day at work, a colleague requested for a couple of documents I had in my possession tucked away with some old files at home. I have certain designs on this colleague, so I promised I’d give it a check when I got home that evening. [And since that is about as much information as I am willing to volunteer on the matter, please spare yourself the trouble of asking what those designs are.]

That evening as I went through my old files to find the requested documents, I noticed two sheets of typed paper I vaguely remembered putting there some time back. On closer inspection, they turned out to be the draft copies of an article I had written after a clandestine interview a couple of years before with a guy I met under circumstances I am not at liberty to divulge. I remembered I’d later chickened out of submitting the article to my editor because I was afraid of the reactions it would likely have elicited had it been published.

The subject of the article? An anguished, candid lament of a man leveled against a society and a government that shuns him…because he is gay. Well, if I had earlier been skeptical about the phenomenon being up to something, finding that article emphatically and totally wiped out every little shred of it.
So, phenomenon, you win. Here goes nothing!


I pay my taxes. I see to it that Nairobi is kept clean by never littering. Like most Kenyans, I think Al Shabaab should have stopped at only hiding behind bushes and never gone ahead to start smoking the leaves from those bushes they hide behind. I have my own stereotypical perspectives on the different ethnic communities that make up my country, and I shed a tear when I got the news of Hon Mutula Kilonzo’s passing.
I have my beef with several Mpigs in our national assembly, especially Mithika Linturi, Aden Duale and Jakoyo Midiwo, and given the chance, I wouldn’t hesitate to introduce the longest electricity poles I can get hold of up their nether orifices of their anatomies. The level of corruption in our government sickens me, and I am generally appalled by the state of public service delivery. I hold His Excellency the President in the highest esteem, and although I did not vote for him in the March 4th elections, I love my country and honestly wish him well in its stewardship.

What I am trying to put across in so many words is simply that I am your average Kenyan, maybe not manifestly patriotic, but one who possesses a deep and enduring love for his country and wouldn’t shudder at shedding hemoglobin-rich blood for it.
But that said, I believe the relationship between the individual and the State should be reciprocal, which is to say it should be two-way. This reciprocity doesn’t have to be balanced, but it should be clear and present on both sides. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was right to implore us to seek to do more for our country than we expect our country to do for us, but that doesn’t mean that a State shouldn’t seek to do more for its citizens than its citizens do for it.

So I seek as much as possible to benefit my country in whatever way I can and I follow the law to the best of my ability, but I also expect the State and the law to guarantee me a conducive environment as I go about my lifetime purpose of seeking fulfillment. So long as my pursuit of fulfillment does not infringe upon the basic rights of another individual or occasion potential for harm, I should be left alone to do what I damn well please with my life, taking responsibility for any reward or jeopardy my activities might lead me to.
It is upon this premise that I level my charge against the Republic of Kenya.

You see, I am a little, shall we say…different from conventional preference when it comes to my choice of sexual partnership. People like me are the kind Leviticus 18:22 has a problem with, as does a very huge fraction of Kenyan society.

My life, as you would expect under the circumstances, has never been easy. People conversant with my orientation never tire of treating me like an outcast, a pariah, an abomination. I have been called more names than a Mexican child at baptism, only unlike the Mexican child, none of the names I’m called are flattering or meant to flatter. I have been attacked more times on the street than American interests in Afghanistan, and my existence is a constant struggle.

But that, believe it or not, is the least of my worries. Most of the people that do all they can to make life hell for me are no match for me physically or intellectually, and those I can’t beat the living crap out of I silence with a withering stare. What they think or how they go about expressing what they think has no bearing whatsoever on my life, and I find it absurd that I should even consider according them anything but the overwhelming contempt they deserve.
The State, however, is a different proposition altogether. Whether I like it or not the State will have a bearing on how I live my life or how I accomplish my pursuit for fulfillment, and it saddens me to observe that people of my kind, upon no rational bearing whatsoever, have been failed by the State.

Right from the grassroots, our right to be human in the only way we know how has been curtailed. Despite our orientation being natural, it is illegal in the eye of the law to be homosexual, and the government is actively involved in persecuting us on the slightest whim.

It is not that I do not understand why the larger section of Society is uncomfortable with us. All of us have a sense of what is right and likeable or what is wrong and not likeable, and most of us have learnt to not like homosexuality, I acknowledge their right to not be exposed to what they don’t like.
However in the olden days, and even in some contemporary societies, persecution of lepers, albinos, hermaphrodites and even twins in some was actually institutionalized in the belief that these people’s peculiar traits made them bad omens and therefore outcasts. It was only due to a paradigm shift borne of better understanding of such people that such archaic beliefs were eventually discarded.

This is exactly what I’m calling upon the State to facilitate in order to deal with our situation—initiate and spearhead a paradigm shift on how we view those among us that are different.

As for those in society who hate us for our orientation, until they come up up with rational argumentation as to they are opposed to people like me, then it is only right that I treat their concerns with the negligible amount of respect due to them.

And if any such rational argumentations are forthcoming, the argument that homosexuality is unchristian shall be treated with the kind of respect villagers normally reserve for the local market madman. Since when have we been so zealotic in promoting Christian values? Do not kill, the Bible says. Then what are all those guns Uganda spends billions of taxpayer money on for? Private collections and target practice? Do Not Commit Adultery. How much sex that goes on in this country is actually between people whose names appear on the same marriage certificate? Do Not Steal. Hands up anyone who believes government corruption is a myth.
Also ripe for contemptuous dismissal will be the argument that homosexuality is unAfrican. I mean, why don’t you go after those who designated the decidedly unAfrican English language as our‘National’ language while you’re at it? Why don’t you google the origins of the clothes everyone wears, the religion everyone subscribes to, or the kind of entertainment everyone prefers, and the discriminate on the basis of how African each is? Basically my point is, if we are going to be hypocrites, then at least we should be consistent in our hypocrisy

To cut to the chase, most of us did not choose to be how we are. Believe me, if I could, I would change my sexual orientation faster than Usain Bolt in the jungle with a hungry tiger on his behind. But that is just how we are, and living with the knowledge that we are different is hard enough as it is. I really wish society and the State would understand us and accept us for who we are.
But if that is too much to ask for, then all we ask for is to be left the hell alone.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Letter To My Hero

Dear Hon Odinga.

My name is Brian Edgar Omwango, and I am a Childcare Assistant at Faraja Children’s Home in Ngong town, Kajiado North District. I hail from Sirandalo Village in Budalang'i, Busia County, where I am a registered voter.

As I write this, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta has just been declared the duly elected President of the Republic of Kenya. Bar the intervention of the Supreme Court or, God forbid, a catastrophic event, he shall on 26th March 2013 become the fourth person to be sworn in as President in Kenya’s history.

Personally, I would not have wanted a Kenyatta presidency. Of the eight candidates who contested the presidency on March 4th 2013, you were by far my most preferred candidate, although I also had a soft spot KNC’s Hon. Peter Kenneth, whose campaign in my opinion was the only one driven by issues which matter and not personality. His candidature was followed in more or less equal approval by those of Hon. Martha Karua and Mr. James Ole Kiyapi, with President-elect Kenyatta’s candidature coming a distant fifth. I found Hon. Paul Muite’s run nothing more than a vanity project,  Mr. Abduba Dida ran as a joke in my opinion, and the very thought of Hon. Musalia Mudavadi in State House scares the shit out of me.

Anyway, it was apparent from a very early stage that Hon Kenneth’s chances were only slightly better than a pig breeder’s in Saudi Arabia, and that you were the only candidate who stood a realistic chance of competing against President-elect Kenyatta and even winning.  So I consolidated my support and my vote behind you, and fervently prayed and hoped, with millions of other Kenyans, that you would go through and clinch the presidency.

But sadly, it wasn’t to be. President-elect Kenyatta had the numbers, and he sailed through.

Right now, you have reportedly challenged President-elect Kenyatta’s election at the Supreme Court, seeking a comprehensive re-tallying of the votes as there apparently were irregularities with the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC)’s tallying process which handed him the win.

As I write this, we do not know how the Judges are going to rule, and it is impossible to speculate. To be honest, my preference would be that the judges at the Supreme Court rule in your favor and order a fresh tallying exercise, which returns a landslide win for you. But I also understand that President-elect Kenyatta himself represents the aspirations of millions of Kenyans, including some very close friends of mine, and not only will such an outcome be devastating for them, but the way they voted for him makes such an eventuality hugely unlikely.

It is thus only logical to assume that even were the Supreme Court to rule in your favor and a re-tallying process happened to shave off the roughly 5000 votes which pushed President-elect Kenyatta over the 50%+ 1 vote threshold he needed to win the presidency outright , chances of you winning in the second round would be very limited. Not impossible, but very difficult.

In this regard, therefore, I have made my peace with the prospect of a Uhuru Kenyatta presidency. Like I said, President-elect Kenyatta wasn’t my first, second or even fourth choice, but his presidency is, as far as can be ascertained at the present moment, the will of millions of people who have every right as I do to call themselves Kenyans. Having fulfilled the requirements spelled out in the Constitution I helped draft, voted for and promulgated, I acknowledge that he shall be my President and sincerely wish him well.

But where does this leave you, dear Hon. Odinga?

First of all, I would like you to understand that much as I have acknowledged President-elect Kenyatta’s victory in the elections, I do not and will never accept the manner in which it was won. As a patriot who believes in my nation’s unity in diversity, I find it apalling that our shared destiny has been taken hostage by the so-called ‘Tyranny of Numbers’ brand of ethnic-based politics President-elect Kenyatta so blatantly employed to win the elections; and from the moment Commissioner Hassan declared him the winner, I vowed to seek out as many people as possible who found the phenomenon as obnoxious as I did and form an army to fight it with every drop of sweat, blood, energy and intellect we’ve got.

Secondly, I want to emphasize that elections failure notwithstanding, I still consider you my leader, and my dream of seeing you one day govern this country from State House, although disappointed, remains as alive and aflame as ever. I have always admired your brand of politics and your evident desire for social justice, and your fight for the second and third liberations of Kenya is the stuff of legend. You are the only national politician credible enough to galvanize widespread affection of citizens across countrywide demographics, and your leadership has always transcended ethnic persuasion and considerations.

It is your nationalist credentials and your kind of leadership that the fight I have taken upon myself requires, and thus in a nutshell, the purpose of my letter to you is to humbly implore you to remain at the front page of the fabric of our national political discourse. President-elect Kenyatta may have beaten you to the apex of Kenya’s leadership, but he does not represent the aspirations of what my vision of nationhood is. I shall honor and respect him as my President, but it is you, Sir, that shall be the beacon for the direction I have chosen to seek for my Nation.

God Bless you and God Bless Kenya.

Yours Sincerely
Brian Edgar Omwango