THE RAINBOWS IN THE DARK NIGHT

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

I know that Jesus said that man shall not live on bread alone. I hold this truth to be true. There are great conversations and great experiences to be lived for as well. These are my daily loaves of bread.  See, there is a way we have been socialized and cultured that we do not see beyond this messianic curtain of socialization. And we think that our ways are better than other people’s ways. We think that life is black and white in all its shades. We fail to recognize the turquoise before our eyes, or the magnificent magenta, the lilac, the chartreuse, the fern, the emerald, the pistachio or the hickory or the tawny. Yet these colors rudely glare in the folds of our eyes and spice our very existence.

It is about 4.00pm. Nzoia conference room– Crown Plaza. Curtains are drawn apart letting rays of light flood the room but kind on her skin. A little banter in the background drowns the slithering jazz music from the ceiling.

‘Take three now’ Jaymo utters, nonchalantly sinking back to his chair. He holds the I-phone steadily as he instructs the interviewer, Debby to ask the questions. Debby fiddles with her cluster of questions screenshotted on her phone.

Poised. She adjusted herself on the chair. Her legs graced the slit in her denim skirt revealing dexterously drawn tattoos curved into the pulps of her thighs and another at the ankle. Her skin was promising and wrestled Joana Lumley’s. They spoke of having eaten just enough avocado and schooled in the group of schools rather than polling stations and when they whispered to beckon you, they would say with an accent: “Where are you going?” not ‘Now you are going where.’ She crossed her legs, like all great women do when taking interviews. It is style. You wear it like you wear Christian Dior eau du parfum.

The fire in her belly unequivocally spoke of her thirst for equality, rights of SOGI (You are not rightfully in any profession if you cannot speak in the profession’s acronyms lest you are a perpetual outlander) and the feminist movement.  For her, sexuality began in high school when she would send other girls love messages in a casual manner. Albeit, for her it was not just casual. There wasn’t casual for her. It was how she felt. And this did not change. This stuck—like your butt complexion. Some have very dark butts that if we were to describe sin, theirs would perfectly fit the description. Would you feel uncomfortable with the complexion of your butt? I doubt no. Such is sexual expression too. It is the birth mark on your thigh or the navel scar on your belly. It is there. Unbothered. Stark. Abjectly glaring.

Her eyes darted off to an unknown horizon away from the camera. She was fighting her passions evidently soggy in the tucks of her cheeks. She was perturbed. The expression of anger and gentleness mashed up together. She was not okay with the normal of society. Society had decided that her navel is too dark as compared to others; that her navel was not symmetrically positioned as compared to others; that her navel was too protruding that it’s a disrepute to the whole of humanity. Society considered her and many others as renegades. She decided to embrace who she was—with an asymmetrical, protruding navel; with candor, honesty and grit.

“How did you come out?” Debby asks. A smile slithers the white of her teeth through her graceful cheekbones followed by a gentle snicker. She adjusts her glasses on the bridge of her nose with her index finger.

“My mom found out through a text message in my phone,” she titters again.

“It was not pleasant. Just like a typical African parent, she was disturbed and she would ask herself what she did wrong to raise a child that she would be attracted to other girls”

She pauses. The gestures of her fingers speak of conviction. I observe the crafted tribal septum ring that slightly quaved with the heaving of her chest as she breathed. The ring evidenced her tribe. Her rebellion to conform. The renegade she was. The defiance of black and white and invitation of pomp in colors. The ring was the commitment to the struggle of the SOGI community. She takes a deep breath and says:

“People fail to understand the struggles of SOGI community. We are human beings born with rights and freedoms. We equally and rightfully belong in this space. We should belong here. We have a right to human dignity. Why are we having punitive laws in the penal code that have adverse effects to our right to health as well? We are being vilified and violence is meted on us because of our sexual orientation. Our struggles are far from over. Sections 162, 163 and 165 of the penal code should be repealed in order for us to have a milestone in our struggles.”

She tells me that she is a prayerful person. She is catholic. I ask her about religious fanaticism that is unwelcoming to SOGI community. She questions a God who hates differentiation and instigates hate rather than love. Her passion alone brings me to the conclusion that the greatest sin in this world is to live without passion. For this is just mere existence. Life is not kind to those who merely exist, life calls for people to live it. To fight for a cause. Samantha Ismail is a human rights defender and feminist committed to fight for gay rights.

*The names mentioned here are not the real names of the individuals I interacted with

STITCHES ON THE WOUNDS OF LOVE: COHABITATION AND THE LAW (PART 1)

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I have friends. Very good friends. Pious friends. Fornicating friends. But good friends nonetheless. The pious ones loathe the idea of cohabitation. They say it is the greatest sin. Good friends nonetheless. They will quote apostle Paul at a snap. They would live in the Christendom idea of Hyde vs. Hyde that marriage is the voluntary union of one man and one woman at the exclusion of all others. Good friends nonetheless. One wife is the yardstick of morals. You get two, you are going to hell. My fornicating friends are the best. Good friends they are. They would embrace cohabitation. Pulpy stories reside in here.

Though the Marriage Act in section 6 seems not to recognize cohabitation of marriage, our courts through decisions have recognized cohabitation through the principle of presumption of marriage. The locus classicus for presumption of marriage in Kenya is Hotensiah Wanjiku Yahweh vs. Public Trustee[1] where it was stated that all marriages in whatever forms they take whether customary, civil or religious are similar with the usual attributes and incidents attached to them. Justice Mustafa went ahead and stated that he does not see why the concept of presumption of marriage should not be ruled in favor of the appellant simply because he was married under kikuyu customary law. He further stated that the presumption of marriage is a concept that is beneficial to the institution of marriage to the status of the parties involved and to the issue of their union and is thereby applicable to all marriages however celebrated.

Additionally, in Mary Wanjiku Githatu vs. Esther Wanjiru Kiarie[2] buttressed the presumption of marriage by stating that the existence or otherwise of marriage is a question of fact. Likewise, whether a marriage can be presumed is a question of fact. It is not dependent on any system of law except where by reason of written law it is excluded. Justice Bosire went ahead and gave an example that for instance, marriage cannot be presumed in favor of a party where for one of the parties is married under a statute. However, where in circumstances in which the parties do not lack capacity to marry; marriage can be presumed if the facts and circumstances show that the parties by a long cohabitation or other circumstances evinced the intention of living together as husband and wife.

For presumption of marriage to be invoked, the parties need to show as was stated in Phyllis Njoki Karanja & 2 others vs. Rosemary Mueni Karanja & Another[3] that the party invoking the presumption must establish long cohabitation and acts of general repute. The long cohabitation should not be mere friendship and that the woman is a mere concubine but the long cohabitation has crystallized into marriage and it is safer to conclude so. It is therefore not imperative for some customary rites to be completed for the presumption of marriage to be concluded.

CIRCUMSTANCES LOOKED AT TO INVOKE THE PRESUMPTION

In Eva Naima Kaaka & another vs. Tabitha Waithera Mararo[4] Justice Nambuye defined acts of general repute to be synonymous with the impression, or assessment of the couple as perceived by the general public, including relatives and friends.[5] The court will look among many other things;

  1. Familial interrelationships for instance regular meetings with family, family visits and outings, or even funeral gatherings as was the case in BCC vs. JMG[6] where High court held that attending of a funeral together of a relative does not in itself say that one is married but is evidence that they were cohabiting at the time and that they were in some form of relationship.[7]
  2. Shared family activities typical of married couples for instance family photographs, gifts, other memorabilia,
  3. Place of stay of the parties. Is it under one roof for long? Is it a tenancy- landlord relationship? In the Eva Naima Kaka case (supra), the court found that where the defendant pleaded that she had lived with the deceased husband in a rental house where the rental house belonged to the deceased ‘husband’, such an arrangement would effectively defeat the very basic tenets of presumption of marriage. As it will negate the existence of marital relationship and instead suggest that their relationship was one of merely landlord and tenant.
  4. Where children are born, the court will look at the naming of the children like in the case of BCC vs. JMG (supra) where the alleged couples named their children after their respective fathers and this went into establishing a presumption of marriage.
  5. The cohabitants’ financial arrangements like in the case of Christopher Nderi Githambo vs. Samuel Muthui Munene[8]. Also, in the case of MWK vs. AWK[9] it was stated that if the two acquired property together and consequently had jointly to repay the loan over a long period of time, that would be typically what a husband and wife do.
  6. Performance of some ceremony of marriage would be strong evidence of the general repute that the parties are married.[10]

Observations from the court of appeal in the Eva Naima Kaka case (supra) are that oral testimony alone from people that the persons are in a marriage is not sufficient to establish the presumption of marriage. The court observed that absence of manifestations that are illustrative of extant marital relationship but mere oral evidence might not be found to be supportive of a presumption of marriage but could merely point to a casual affair despite there being a child born out of it.

The presumption of marriage is proven on a balance of probabilities.[11] Only cogent evidence to the contrary can rebut this presumption.[12]

In conclusion, our case law is consistent with the English common law in requiring that a presumption of marriage arises when a person proves two factual predicates: first, the quantitative element that is, the length of time the two people have cohabited and secondly, the qualitative element, that is acts showing general repute that the persons held themselves out as husband and wife.[13] Factors that could gravitate towards the qualitative element include whether the parties had children, whether they ran a business together, whether they took a loan jointly, whether they held a joint account, whether the community perceived them as husband and wife among others.[14]

References.

[1] CA No. 13 of 1976.

[2] (2010) eklr.

[3] Nairobi Civil Appeal No. 313 of 2001 (2009) eklr.

[4] (2018) eklr

[5] Ibid, p 7.

[6] (2018) eklr.

[7] Ibid, para 20.

[8] Nairobi HCCC No 1372 of 2001.

[9] (2017)eklr.

[10] MWK vs. AWK (2017) eklr.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Toplin Watson vs. Tate (1937) 3 ALL ER 105.

[13] Ibid, n 10.

[14] Ibid, n 10.

Fare thee well Prof. Mutungi

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Family of the deceased, friends and relatives, may Allah uplift your souls. My name is Andole Matekwa—a mentee of Professor and a third year student from the University of Nairobi school of law.

Anyone whose path might have crossed with Professor’s would tell you without an iota of doubt that he was an industrious man even in his seventies, that he oozed brilliance and knowledge peppered with a gamut of wisdom from his spheres of life. We would also agree that he had an ear for everyone, a voice for someone and a word for anyone. And with great honour, I would love to remember one of those moments when he had a word for anyone, a voice for someone and an ear for everyone sometime mid last year.

Professor came to his Sale of Goods class in good moods probably because of the excitement of him turning 75 on that day. We all knew him to be a stricture of time but on this day, he allowed even for those who were five minutes late to his class to attend.

We reminisce like it was yesterday him telling us of his encounter with His Excellency the late Jomo Kenyatta, when he was dean at the school of law. The niece to the president had applied to study law at the prestigious University of Nairobi. However, she had missed one or two points and therefore she could not secure admission. The late former president summoned him to state house before himself, together with the Minister for Education and some of his kitchen cabinet members and demanded that his niece be given an admission. Professor Mutungi candidly, with honour and respect courteously looked at the president together with the Minister for Education and some of the members of his kitchen cabinet and told them that unfortunately, his niece had not attained the requisite mark for admission. On that day, recommendations were made to lower the entry mark of the girl child.

And so every single day when Professor would stall to explain a concept of agency, or nemo dat or section 3 (1) of the Sale of Goods Act, to call all of us cowards, we knew he did it out of love not to make us believe that we were indeed cowards, no, but to emancipate us to embrace courage in this noble profession.

For us, we lost a mentor and a godfather over and above his brilliance. Much could be said about his works, but for his spirit within us, it’s immensely immeasurable. Prof. we celebrate your life and may Allah grant peace and serenity to your wife, your children and your grandchildren. Fare thee well Professor!

RELEVANCE OF TRADE UNIONS IN A DEMOCRATIC KENYA- HERE IS WHY YOU SHOULD JOIN ONE!

Are trade unions relevant in Kenya?

A trade union has been defined as “an association of employees whose principal purpose is to regulate relations between employees and employers including any employer’s organisation”(Labour Relations Act CAP 233). Simply put, it is a conglomeration of workers with a common belief and interest in protecting and promoting their working conditions. This essay posits to authoritatively answer the above question with a look at the history of the of trade unions not only in Kenya but also in the world. The essay shall also explore the bearing of trade unions in the constitution of Kenya 2010 and the various legislations and treaties that Kenya has ratified pursuant to article 2 (6) of the Constitution of Kenya stating that all treaties or conventions ratified by the state shall form part of the laws of Kenya. It shall also underscore the pros of trade unions to workers, government and employers in Kenya and comparatively seek the cons simultaneously. In conclusion, the essay will affirmatively give its position on the research question above.

HISTORY OF TRADE UNIONS

Adam Smith contested that masters are always in a tacit and constantly objecting to the raise of wages above actual rates. Trade unions can be traced to 18th century during the industrial revolution in Britain. Men, women and children working in factories exuded discontent in their poor working conditions and thought of a need to fight for their rights collectively and agitating for better wages. In Kenya, the employment design was a four tiered structure comprising the Europeans at the helm followed by Asians, Arabs and at the very bottom Africans. The introduction of the kipande system discriminated against Africans and controlled labor movements by suppression. Africans worked to pay discriminatory poll and hut taxes to the suppressive enclave of the whites. As early as 1920, political associations pitched to fight for better working conditions of Kenyans through Kikuyu Central Association and many more. In 1937, the Trade Unions’ Ordinance set up conditions that Africans could organise themselves into trade unions. That notwithstanding, the labour movement has always been fought for a long time by the oppressive white settlor government. As late as in 1950s, the Kenya Federation of Labour was in place and was chaired by Tom Mboya until 1957—same year Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) was formed. Prior to independence, in 1962, the Industrial Relations Charter was signed which was termed as a social agreement between government, trade unions and employers. The charter also spelt who could be unionised and who could not. Furthermore, it also set up a joint dispute commission. The sessional paper No. 10 of 1965 later formed an umbrella body known as the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU).

BEARING OF TRADE UNIONS IN LAWS OF KENYA

It is from law that legitimacy is not only bottomed but also birthed. Trade unions’ relevance is incidental to the Constitution of Kenya 2010 in article 41 on labour relations– every worker has the right to establish, join or paticipate in the activities and programmes of a trade union. Moreover, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in article 23 recognizes ability to join trade unions as a human right as well as item 2 (a) of International Labour Organisation. Several legislations have also been put in place to protect the interests of workers. Some of these pieces of legislations include:

  1. Employment Act Cap 226
  2. Labour relations Act No. 14 of 2007
  3. Regulation of Wages and Conditions of Employment Act Cap 229
  4. The Trade Disputes Act Cap 234

The Constitution of Kenya, pursuant to article 162 (2) (a), has established industrial courts with the status of the high court to listen to employment and labour relations. The institution of the courts bespeaks of the recognition and relevance of labour relations being utmostly protected at all fronts.

THE PROS OF TRADE UNIONS

Trade unions have been described as ‘a child of economic, social and political strives.’(COTU). Trade unions have been from ages of industrial revolution, associated with democratic politics to harness proper political will-power to protect human resource. Indeed, it has been averred before that workers join trade unions because of employers unfairness and the unions clout(lawteacher). Primarily, trade unions were formed to defend employers, protect themselves against exploitation and advancing their interests to their employers.

To employees, trade unions have managed to advance the following:

  • Better wages for their employees. Comparative studies from Britain by CSO on National Labour has indicted that unionisable employees earn more than non- unionisable by up to 103 dollars.
  • Better working conditions. Legislations like Occupational Safety and Health Act and Work, Injuries and Benefits Act have been enacted to protect employees working conditions. In 2015, Kenya National Union of Teachers has been fighting for hardship allowance, better house allowance among others.
  • Employees are able to get more holidays and sick leaves.
  • Employees are able to fight for social security. In Kenya, there has been a deliberate effort as a result of the demands of Central Organization of Trade Unions to increase the National Security Social Fund and National Health Insurance Fund.
  • Through trade unions, employees are able to fight for better retirement benefits allowance and pensions.
  • Trade unions ensure that there is fair treatment of workers and it fights for the workers in case of discrimination from the employers. Women’s demands for equal pay for equal work equally performed by men has been fought effectively in trade unions.
  • Trade unions provide legal representation for their employees in case of a lock out. However, before a litigation in court is yielded to, the unions promote alternative dispute resolution between employers and employees in the form of mediation, arbitration and conciliation. Individual employees may lack the resources to fight for their rights in case of an arbitrary decision to lay them off. However, they find strength in unions to represent them(Kenya Airways Limited v Allied Workers Union Kenya & 3 others, 2013)

To employers, trade unions have had the following impacts:

  • Improved workers participation in decision making as per article 10 of the Constitution of Kenya.
  • Has occasioned industrial peace since it easens the manner in which management can resolve disputes at the bargaining level instead of taking up individual cases(lawteacher).

Trade unions have rights insulated in laws of Kenya that warrant them to fight for the above without exposing workers to job insecurity. These rights are:

  1. Right to Collective Bargaining.

Anchored in article 41 (5) of the Constitution of Kenya, collective bargaining is a continuous process done in bona fide. It does not mean a party making a concession. It means parties meeting for the purposes of negotiating a contract, having realistic proposals submitted and reasonable counter proposals offered too and finally the process ends with parties signing the agreement. Trade unions must be recognised by employers(Fassap v Phillipine Airline, 2003). Employees may individually, find it difficult to negotiate for wage and benefit increment. Collective bargaining also ensures that there is fair distribution of wealth and national revenue.

  1. Right to Industrial Action, Strikes or Resistance to Lock Outs

Article 41 gives employees the right to participate in the activities of a trade union. Furthermore, every worker has a right to go on strike. Article 37 gives strength to workers also by bestowing them the right to assemble, demonstrate or picket peaceably. They can also go on go-slows. In the past, these instances could not be carried out for fear of losing their jobs.

THE CONS OF TRADE UNIONS

It has been argued that trade unions promote labour outsourcing from foreign countries. Some employers would prefer to import labour to work on contractual basis other than foreseeing employment wrangles with trade unions.

 

In conclusion, evidentially, trade unions are relevant in Kenya and they should not only be promoted and recognised but also protected. They form part of a democratic society and seeks to promote fairness. Trade unions promote the freedom of expression by giving voice to those who cannot speak for themselves. Governments have a responsibility of providing employment for its citizenry—therefore, the outsourcing of labour is one thing the country can work on by legislation and incidentally seek to raise the Gross Domestic Product of the nation.

Bibliography

(n.d.). Retrieved 06 09, 2016, from lawteacher: http://www.lawteacher.net

Fassap v Phillipine Airline, GR 178083 (Supreme Court 2003).

Kenya Airways Limited v Allied Workers Union Kenya & 3 others, 46 (court of appeal 2013).

COTU. (n.d.). Retrieved JUNE 09, 2016, from cotu-kenya.org/about/: http://www.cotu-kenya.org/about/

Labour Relations Act CAP 233. (n.d.). KENYA.

 

 

 

 

 

OF ALCOHOLISM AND WRECKED MARRIAGES!

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It is past midnight. The graveyard silence of the night is broken by a lowly tuned in television to CNN. My mind shifts from my phone, leaving Miss Darlington hanging and wanders to the news of a white police officer who shoots a 32 year old black taxi driver in USA at the parking. USA has got its challenges as well. I am reminded of our own Willy Kimani– a lawyer, his client and taxi driver who are murdered by police and their bodies dumped in Ol donyo Sabuk river. As I retreat to bed, I am still wide wake talking to my jabber and conscious enough to feel and hear my surroundings.

****

She tossed in bed, looked at the noisy ticking, old ratchet clock on the wall, took a deep breath and reached out for her phone on the brown wooden stool next to the bed. It was 1.00am and this man had not arrived yet. Where possibly could he be? Could it be in the bar or in another woman’s bosoms? She tried so hard to brush off the latter thought. It was not long ago when she had threatened to return to her parent’s home and he knelt down asking for forgiveness and promising to be a caring husband. He had been quick to forget after all.

 

From my room, I hear a distressed, depressed voice over the phone exuding a woman almost relinquishing on her man asking where he is. Long before their first born child was born, this man was considerate and would listen. He would be at home just in time to have supper with her. He would even be angry if he found that she had had supper all alone. But things suddenly changed at a time when she thought he would get even serious with family.

 

He spent time more with his drinking buddies. He says that it is only at his drinking dens that he can make business deals. However, on the contrary she has never seen any business idea of his congeal into anything leave alone something. He drinks more often nowadays. One would imagine that with such a drinking frequency, comes richness on the same wavelength. He knows that it is a filthy habit. He knows that he should stop, but he does not stop! Neglect! A formula for disaster! She remembers times when she reprimands his clout of friends and his drinking habit and gets a defensive side of him asking:

“Pombe yangu imekukosea nini!Kuna kitu umekosa kwa hii nyumba?”

(“What has my alcohol wronged you! Is there something you have lacked in this house?”)

 

Now as she sits alone, she is lost in deep thought. This is not the life she had dreamt of. And this is not the man she had fallen in love with. The future for her and her child is not as bright as she dreamt of. She foresees an abusive relationship. She is a house wife though with a degree in Human Resource management. Age is approaching faster. At 31 years old, her degree has never helped her and she has no job experience. I am left to give a word of advice: marriage is never a bed of roses. If you chose to marry him, you got to stick your head in there and make it work somehow. Running away or finding another man would never help. Do not give up on family. I let it be at that as I run away from the threatening water marks!

 

NO LONGER AT EASE

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AUTHOR: CHINUA ACHEBE

First published in 1969

PUBLISHER: HEINEMANN

PAGES 128

 

Simplicity at its best! Terrific Africanism! Tragic plot! Chinua Achebe captions an ailing Nigeria suffering from a gangrenous corruption through Obi Okonkwo. The story begins in the first chapter with a docked Obi in court on allegations of a 20 pound that was used to grease his palms. At the first blush, disappointments cannot be brushed aside. Massive numbers of people turn up in court to listen to the judge’s verdict. The entire hullabaloo is premised on one thing or the other. Others comment on a meagre 20 pound bribe in proverbs and say: if one chooses to eat a toad at least he must choose a fat one. Others think of how a young man, educated on heavily taxed loans by Umuofia Progressive Union would still disgrace there little village of Umuofia.

 

Obi Okonkwo has a friend named Christopher. Obi tells him of a story of a young girl, Miss Mark who offered herself to him so that he can give him a scholarship. Christopher on the other hand appearing complacent does not mind the idea of sleeping with the young lass who apparently already had good grades to warrant her scholarship. The title of the book No Longer at Ease depicts the difficulty Obi faces on his job with a series of bribes. He knows pretty well that what he is doing is bad. He can stop it though, but he does not stop it in good time. Soon, he gets referrals to him. This title is captioned in the following words on page 128: As the man left, Obi realised that he could stand it no more. People say that one gets used to these things, but he had not found it like that at all. Every incident had been a hundred times worse than the one before it… ”

 

A story of triumph is also narrated when Obi takes her girlfriend Clara to a certain doctor to have abortion carried on her. Obi prepared with some cash at hand to give the doctor is astounded once the doctor refuses to have his hands greased. He values his twenty years of experience and he is not prepared to soil his career for a nickel and dime. Neatly, here comes a difference between an old person showing a good example by not allowing money to spoil his career and a young man with little experience who knows that corruption is a filthy habit but nonetheless chooses to be blind and deaf to it. This is not to mean that many of the old folks in Nigeria were incorruptible. To the contrary, in fact it seemed a matter of judicial notice that any person who ascended to power to a ‘European post’ who is an African was corruptible. Sad story, Obi managed to find another doctor, whom he paid some 30 pounds and Clara managed to abort. This is a tragic story of loss of life coupled with a story of a man who wants to appear incorruptible would still engage in compromising situations in manners that corrupt his morals. What a manifest satire!

 

A theme of love and traditions is without doubt an overt narration. Clara and Obi feel a thing for each other. However, traditions keep them at bay. Clara is deemed an osu i.e. a member of a group of persons who were cursed and condemned. Ironically, Isaac Okonkwo the father to Obi, a die-hard Christian seems shaken by this and opposes Obi’s to be marriage on traditional premises. A total clash of culture and loss of identity!

 

This book having been first published in 1960 gives a clear illustration of what was happening then, to countries like Nigeria that had gained independence. This fictitious narration still informs the status quo of the present. Recently, this year, David Cameron, United Kingdom’s Prime Minister was overheard telling Her Majesty the Queen of England that the most corrupt state in the world is Nigeria followed by Afghanistan. Truly, with such an informed statement, Nigeria and many states in Africa have not changed much. Chinua Achebe, speaks to a generation and seeks to inspire change through the life of a young Obi. No Longer at Ease is a fantastic, informative thrilling book I would encourage all persons enthusiastic about better governance to read.

 

***

MY BEST AFRICAN PROVERBS FROM THE BOOK

  1. A kinsman in trouble had to be saved, not blamed; anger against a brother was felt in the flesh, not in the bone.
  2. He that fights for a ne’er-do-well has nothing to show for it except a head covered in earth and grime.’
  3. The fox must be chased away first; after that the hen might be warned against wandering into the bush.
  4. If you want to eat a toad you should look for a fat and juicy one.
  5. He told the proverb of the house rat who went swimming with his friend the lizard and died from cold, for while the lizard’s scales kept him dry the rat’s hairy body remained wet.
  6. Do not be in a hurry to rush into the pleasures of the world like the young antelope who danced herself lame when the main dance was yet to come.’
  7. If you pay homage to the man on top, others will pay homage to you when it is your turn to be on top.
  8. Him that lives near River Niger does not wash his hands with spittle.

 

MY BEST FUNNY PRAYER FROM THE BOOK

‘Oh God of Abraham, God of Isaac and God of Jacob,’ she burst forth, ‘the Beginning and the End. Without you we can do nothing. The great river is not big enough for you to wash your hands in. You have the yam and you have the knife; we cannot eat unless you cut us a piece. We are like ants in your sight. We are like little children who only wash their stomach when they bath, leaving their back dry …’PAGE 9

AUDACITY OF HOPE IN REALIZING NATIONAL COHESION AND INTEGRATION.

 

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“We think of faith as a source of comfort and understanding but find our expressions of faith sowing divisions; we believe ourselves to be a tolerant people even as racial, religious and cultural tensions roil the landscape. And instead of resolving these tensions or mediating these conflicts, our politics fan them, exploits them and drives us further apart.”

— Audacity of Hope by Barrack Obama—

The good book in Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. History should not be just a subject of study whose narration can pompously be used to spice up political campaign speeches. History is a lesson of the present and a call for a solution of today. United States of America has taken years and years of civil rights agitation for freedom of the black people to be secured. History records of a muddled political past of the tribes, Hutu and Tutsi of Rwanda. This marked the Rwandan genocide of 1994 which led to the death of up to one million citizens in three months. Nigeria records the Biafran war and it being fanned on pretexts of tribes of Yoruba and Igbo. An ignoramus may say, but racism is different from tribalism. Well, he may be right on one sloppy front that tribalism is so primitive and more so in this age. But this notwithstanding, the common denominator is discrimination. There is nothing as dehumanizing and that rips off the full potential of human beings as any form of discrimination.

The constitution of Kenya 2010 was promulgated when the Republic of Kenya was labouring under an abyss of tribalism and recovering from the rubbles of the 2007 post-election violence where 1,133 people were recorded dead. The constitution was therefore a child of a really ailing nation to the extent that some indolent statesmen prided themselves in sleeping with mother Kenya and siring such a bouncy child. Of course, this was not something commendable. However, this notwithstanding, the lessons from the rubbles of 2007 have not yet been learnt yet some insatiable politicians driven with glutton for divisive power are quite ignorant in letting the country travel the same road. It is not worth the whole stuck of fish to be expunged by a single putrefying fish. It calls for the keen eye of the fish monger to pick out such a fish and annihilate it. The citizenry voter should be knowledgeable on this calibre of candidates.

The bill of rights accords individuals the right of expression in article 37. This freedom of expression does not extend to hate speech and incitement. Kenya is a country of 42 tribes and evidently, our political voting has not been based on issues or capability to deliver. Unfortunately, one is able to have a political clout based on the ethnic group he hails from. The whole notion of tribal kingship is leading to an erosion of democracy. The basic, legitimate reason why Kenya is against use of ‘fighting words’ is because we are keen to foster national cohesion and integration and at the same time realizing national values and principles as per article 10. National cohesion and integration will go a long way in fostering peace, unity and patriotism. This is not an easy task. It is a call on each citizen.

Apparently, education has not resolved issues of tribalism and hate speech. As a matter of fact, when you listen to our educated parents, they would give you advice to marry or get married specifically to tribes of their own. It does not stop at this; tribal venom spews in higher education institutions when youngsters gather to talk matters politics. Public institutions are rampant with bureaucrats who don’t recognise the need to use Swahili or English as official languages to transact the businesses of the day. Evidently, education alone cannot revamp the cancerous institution of tribalism.

We all have a role to play in realising national cohesion and integration. We can afford to maintain poker faces when politicians, parents and our friends make divisive statements or we can decide to subscribe to an ideology of togetherness and tolerance for a better nation. Kenya is a better nation and we can decide to hoist its flag high with pride and still celebrate our strengths in cultural diversity. Alone, I cannot but together we can make a milestone.

BUILDERS OF A NATION—HAPPY LABOUR DAY!

I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in his toil—this is the gift of God.

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

Tuskys Bebabeba. The sun was fiercely hot, waging on men and women’s fore heads as globules of sweat formed and dripped. The curse enunciated at Eden. But did these daughters of Eve and sons of Adam mind the sun’s rage? No. I stood at the entrance of the supermarket and saw the zeal of the beggar at the entrance. A single old crutch was by his side. A faded blue dirty plastic cup was right in in front of him. This son of Adam had his limbs cut at his knees. This zealot fervently stretched his hand, with a prayer in his mouth to the mercies of the street and its well-wishers. Now with the chilly, drizzling weather of Nairobi, with thousands of civil servants converged in Uhuru Park fighting for a better wage pay, his was to shift venue in hope of a better harvest. So, he pitched camp at the entrance of Uhuru Park—with a fervent stretch of hand and a sweet prayer in his mouth to the mercies of passers-by, he hoped to collect more. To this man, who beats his fears and valiantly stands to the defiant ridicule of the streets, happy Labour Day to you.

So, I lazily walked past Manhattan Chicken and saw young women and men ravenously feeding on French fries and chicken with a sip of lazy afternoon sweet nothings and gossip—probably on an afternoon date and walked past the cool Galitos and saw young men and women in cool rubber sneakers and denim shorts and trousers seated at the bay waiting for their ordered Italian pizzas and past Standard Chartered Bank and past Mr Price and sat on a slab of cement leaning against the rails surrounding the Tom Mboya statue facing the magnificent Archives building. I marvelled at the greatness of the Nairobi city’s largest public waiting bay. A man walked brusquely with a bible securely and tightly clamped in his armpit. In the chilly drizzling Nairobi, colourless globules of sweat formed on his bald as his shirt soaked with the same sweat in the armpits. Perhaps the defiance of the streets needed this man’s gospel. Undeterred, he moved on preaching prosperity and tried exorcising the spirit of insecurity and madness from the street. I thought, is this not madness too? Nonetheless I admired his determination. I would later say, as determined as a street corner pastor. When he was done, he stuffed his bible in his back pack, fished out a hat and collected sadaka from his street congregation. To this man, you have built the nation:  Happy Labour Day to you.

Evening came and I walked to Railway station to catch the train. And I met stone cutters, loaders, potters, hawkers, cemetery watchmen and Lang’ata grave diggers all thronged in the train cubicle. The air smelled of rust and sweat. All these men and women had built the nation oblivious of the day’s importance. All these men, driven by bills to pay and families to feed– Happy Labour Day!

 

 

 

 

 

STRUGGLE OF A KENYAN STUDENT IN DIASPORA

diasporas

United States of America, Baltimore: High taxes; illegal Mexican immigrants squeezing themselves in the porous borders of the south and everyone struggling to pay bills by picking up to four jobs. The streets were nothing compared to Nairobi. Amazed would you be by the fastidiousness of the cleaning authorities. The wide avenues and boulevards smelled of hard work, of men and women’s sweat for nickel and dimes trying to build an empire and consequently a better economy. Traffic was smooth, nothing compared to Nairobi’s ill-bred drivers who flagrantly defy the articles of the highway– notoriously picking passengers at undesignated places, overlapping and bugging the peace of the streets by indecent hooting.

Kameme walked down Otis Street lost in thoughts. He had not gotten laid for the past eighteen months since his arrival at The University of Sydney for his Masters programme in Public International Law. He kept humming something in his mind that he had read in Chinua Achebe’s A Man of the People. What cannot be avoided must be born. He smiled at the punch line used by Ogawi in 2007 when he was vying for campus governor in the University of Nairobi, School of Law—comrades! Riiiiiaaaah…. Comrades, an ejaculation that has arrived can never be stifled… comrades riiiiaaah…! As he was striding, he felt his blood rushing impetuously in his veins. He needed it. He needed it right there and then: With a white girl in fact. No. it did not matter the race. He remembered his last encounter with Vishmir Patel, the Asian fair looking girl who never applied her make up sparingly, in his small campus cubicle room 204. He laughed at himself for failing to stand on that particular night and when he finally did, he hated himself– no sooner had he started than had he ended.

It was midnight. But what was he doing on the street at this time? It was a question he could not bring himself to answer. It was as though he was in some stupor. He needed a drink. He walked past hookers dressed skimpily, with overdone make up, unfashionable disgusting wigs on their heads with small clutch bags slinging on their shoulders and displaying their lean tall legs wooing night street revelers. A sudden feeling of sadness heaved upon him as he remembered his last encounter with a hooker on Latema Street in Nairobi. He was in a stupor and was stupid enough to slip into her without protection. He was petrified out of his skin when the following week he felt an itching pain in the urethra. Convinced that he had contracted a sexually transmitted infection, he silently googled signs and symptoms of his predicament with the relevant medication, went to the chemist and ordered the strongest antibiotics he had come across. What was the name of the antibiotic again? He could not fathom. What followed was a series of tests and sex starvation until he was sure he was as clean as a whistle. He laughed even going to church and vehemently prayed to God to spare him this time. He attended bible studies often, read the bible religiously, prayed and fasted more often than he had ever done. He asked God to send him the Holy Spirit to enable him speak in tongues for him not to contract the HIV and AIDS. He had never been so excited than when he later learnt that his system was clean. He now reminisced of his current dead relationship with God as he hurried past a hooker who was aggressively grabbing his arm.

He turned left, into Happy Ends Bar and Grill and decided to waste his few cents on gin. With each shot the bartender nursed him in a shot glass, he closed his eyes, clenched his fists and hit one two three times on the bar counter and gulped humming, to hell with my fee arrears, to hell with my rent bills, it’s time to be deported… He signaled the hazy eyed, smoking redheaded hooker seated on the balcony, leaning her back on the rails and they both headed upstairs shouting ‘to hell!’

BOOK: HALF OF A YELLOW SUN

AUTHOR: CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE

PUBLISHER: KNOPF CANADA

ISBN: 0307373541, 9780307373540

FIRST PUBLISHED IN 2006

NUMBER OF PAGES: 298

There is no better place I would rather be than in the thighs of a good book. I literary live in the creativeness and words of prolific and proficient writers. A grab of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book—Half of a Yellow Sun made me feel myself alive again. Her African literature genius is thrumming with life. I cannot bring myself any lesser or greater to describing her as NPR did.

“Adichie is far too young for us to declare that she’s the Tolstoy of West Africa…. But she’s as good as any of her contemporaries, who are a talented lot indeed, at keeping our interest alive in a part of the world that most of us have never visited— until now.”—All Things Considered, NPR

Here is why all lovers of books must make this one a compulsory read in the next one week or even less. She has written this book giving it a traditional setting by bringing a clash between tradition and modernity in a blatant manner. West African culture is kept alive with the character Ugwu who works for Master Odenigbo. From the onset, I loved Chimamanda’s description of Odenigbo—

 Master was a little crazy; he had spent too many years reading books overseas, talked to himself in his office, did not always return greetings, and had too much hair…”

I am jumping ahead of myself by describing Odenigbo. Ugwu is a peasant from the village and is fascinated by the sophistication of his master’s living in the city. Master is in an affair with Olanna– daughter of a wealthy and prominent Chief Okonji. Master’s mother visits with another small lady– Amala claiming to have brought her son a wife since ‘educated women’ are not good wives. Ugwu, brings superstitions into play after he sees Amala getting out of Master’s bedroom one morning and claims that her mother’s herbs that must have been gotten from the dibia, a traditional medicine man has worked in luring Master to sleep with Amala who conceives a baby girl and ends up being raised by Olanna. Chimamanda brings into perspective Nigerian traditional cuisine—the kola nuts, alligator soup, garri, jollof rice and coco yams but to mention a few. You will also love the colloquial way of speech used. For instance, in this conversation between Master’s mother and Olanna, the mother derogatorily asks Olanna, “I hear you did not suck your mother’s breasts” to mean that she was raised in a very sophisticated manner that should never warrant her pride.

The centrality of this epic novel is bottomed on a political theme of the Biafran war in Nigeria in the 1960s. The war saw two factions; the northerners and southerners pitch war against each other following a coup. What is petrifying is that tribalism has always been a fanning of flames of animosity in not only Nigeria but also many African countries. This is imminent in the clash between the Igbo and Yoruba. Ugwu, Olannaand Odenigboare all forced to flee Nsuka and adapt to a tough life in the rural area. There, they are neither spared yet. Ugwu finds himself in the middle of this chaos when conscripted by rebels wearing clothes with a mark of half of a yellow sun. He kills and is named The Destroyer by the rebels and forced to rape a bartender—an indelible incidence in his life. The narration of politics in Nigeria by Adichie is overwhelmingly interesting in this book.

In the writer’s exact words, ‘…grief was the celebration of love, those who could feel real grief were lucky to have loved…’The thematic flesh of love has been devoured to its bones. Kainene,Olanna’s sister is my favourite character. She is stoic but exudes unwavering courage. She is a termite as well who takes up her father’s business in Port Harcourt. She falls in love with a white guy named Richard who is a writer. Richard always finds it hard to ‘stand’ while screwing Kainene. He is, however, surprised when he screws Olanna and lasts longer than he does when he is with Kainene. Odenigbo as well as Kainene come to learn of this infidelity in different ways. The discourse of love in this synopsis cannot be exhaustive. This is just but a tip of the iceberg. The searing themes in the novel are educative as well as entertaining.