- I have been following the blog of Bill Easterly the past few weeks. I am in much of the same camp as he when it comes to aid. He is of the mind that too much money has been sent overseas and has in turn stunted potential growth. I have enjoyed reading his debates and general thoughts and his most recent post is no exception. Often, semi-theories are put forth by good journalists such as Gladwell (Tipping Point) and Friedman (The World is Flat). While good that topics such as globalization are relevant, it is harmful when entertaining writing trumps sound reasoning. Easterly takes the Gladwell theory to task in his recent paper, and kindly gives a short summary on his blog.
- In the morning, gathered at the pre-work sitting perch with Neto and David, an object fell between the three of us. I was the only to notice and went to look at what it may have been as they continued to chat. To my horror, a rat lay dead upon the green and tan grass. Eyes still open and pointing mouth grinning as it lay motionless. I looked up. The sky was looking good. No clouds. A rat just fell from the sky. I called the happenstance to David’s attention by informing him that a new plague was upon us. Confused, we stood about the rat and its knowing grin. With a sharp crow, the butler crow announced his presence in a tree twenty feet off. It waited patiently for us to walk in for the day to start. We said prayer and I looked outside to confirm that a rat had in fact fallen from the sky and it was gone along with the crow.
- Before rodents fell from the sky, a group of men caught a pig. I assume that the swine flu arriving in Kenya has led to much confusion and the death of a few pigs. The three flanked the pig as it stood outside of the SJC fence. A man in a red down jacked flapped about as another with a branch attempted to force the pig towards the fence. The third sealed the front exit and prepared for the pig to charge. With feet under knees and thighs making a 120 degree angle, he waited with his arms out. The red coated man scared it forward. A lunge was fruitless as the pig dashed by the helpless man. With the pig free, the men were off to corral it again. With thirty yards between each, the triangle shrunk around the confused swine and it made a dash for the SJC property. Inside, the men had the upper hand. With corners the men worked quickly to trap the pig in the NW corner. It was now up to the coated mad man to take down the foe. A jump for the leg yielded two hands wrapped around left hind of a furious beast. With little effort, the pig shed his shackles of skin and ran. The last attempt came from the former branch bearer. He moved slowly, each step deliberate to give off amity. With gentle fingers, he tied the rope around the right hind leg to gain control of the animal. Proudly, he walked off with his rope and a three legged pig hobbling to its probable death.
- I learned Fr. Bob Dylan’s real name, Fr. Lubanga. In Kiluhya that means machete. I now know a nun and a priest named machete.
- I was even more useful today as I provided some assistance with David and Angela as they put casting on both of the legs of one of the babies. Man could he scream. He was not happy to have his feet corrected by them, but it was interesting to see what they do and have David explain it to me. With my time spent in the opposite side of the centre, it is always nice to have time to be in the therapy room and learn about how the therapists work.
30 June 2009
29 June 2009
As quickly as it came and left, rains are back. A string of rainy afternoons might signal their return. The ‘long’ rains were supposed to have started at the end of March and extend until August. So far, we have had a sharp period of rains for a few weeks from April to May. Rain has persisted on an occasional nightly basis since. I may be jumping the gun, but mid-day rain for the past few days seems to look like more consistency. The drought continues to affect the northern part of Kenya and there is a water shortage in Nairobi. When infrastructure is non-existence, nature must be relied upon. When nature fails, there is nothing. Helplessness does not capture the feeling when you are compelled to rely on something you cannot control. With all of our water based in our rain tank, we will be helpless if it stops raining and runs dry. That is not to say that it will or that I expect it to, but there are places where it is a reality and not a hypothetical. Running water is a luxury that I never thought to be until coming here.
A sharp bolt of lightning shot down upon our house, illuminating the room as I sat reading by candle light. We were without power at this moment and the light had me thinking that it was the power blinking on. The possibility of power was defeated by the explosion of a garbage truck crashing with an airplane above. The thunder continues to be otherworldly.
(Title taken from The Standard article. Word is that it hit Kisumu, which is located about 75km from good old Malava. Michael had two students vomit in class today, could be Malaria, or it has made its way here.)
By James Ratemo
One case of the dreaded Swine Flu has now been reported in the country.Health Minister Beth Mugo yesterday confirmed the first case of the disease in the country.
She is expected to brief the press at 11.30 today on the details of the case.
Kenya now joins South Africa, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast and Cape Verde as countries affected in the Sub-Saharan Africa.
Fears have been rife since Saturday when a 20-year-old Kenyan woman, who studies in London, visited a private health clinic in the Nairobi on Friday displaying symptoms of H1N1 flu.
However, test results proved negative for the virus.
South Africa last week became the first sub-Saharan African country to confirm a case of swine flu. Since then, Ethiopia, the Ivory Coast and Cape Verde have reported cases.
The World Health Organization says many African nations are particularly vulnerable due to poor health care systems, poverty and the presence of other respiratory illnesses, such as tuberculosis and Asthma.
According to the WHO's latest figures, released Friday, there have been 59,814 cases of swine flu and 263 deaths worldwide.
Kenyan security forces accused of torture
The Associated Press
Monday, June 29, 2009; 9:10 AM
NAIROBI, Kenya -- Kenyan security forces tortured hundreds of civilians and raped at least a dozen women during a three-day operation to disarm militias in the country's remote northeast last year, a right group claimed Monday.
New York-based Human Rights Watch urged an inquiry into the operation in the Mandera region, a desolate and violent area near the borders of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.
"Instead of protecting Mandera's residents, the military and police systematically beat and tortured them," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.
Kenya's government spokesman, Alfred Mutua, dismissed the allegations.
"They never come to us for our side of the story," Mutua said. "We don't know where they get this information from."
In its 51-page report, called "Bring the Gun or You'll Die," Human Rights Watch said it interviewed victims who "fainted, vomited blood, and endured continued beating after suffering broken limbs."
"Some men had their genitals pulled with pliers, tied with wire, or beaten with sticks as a method of torture designed to make them confess and turn over guns," the report added.
Inter-clan fighting and cross-border raids kill dozens of people every year in Mandera, which suffers from poverty, unemployment, drought and competition over grazing land. The region's proximity to Somalia means there has been a proliferation of weapons flowing into villages.
Human Rights Watch called on the government to prosecute those responsible for the Mandera operation, "including the commanding officers who supervised the operation and did nothing to stem abuses by subordinates."
28 June 2009
It is a bit funny that this is a major issue. I understand the drive to separate tribal identities and create a more cohesive nation, but for the sake of a census I find it a bit silly for people to call for the question about tribe to be removed. Also, how great is the picture that goes with the article?
Controversy over inclusion of tribal identity in census
By SAMUEL SIRINGIPosted Saturday, June 27 2009 at 21:03
- The question of tribe in the forthcoming national population census has put government officials and donors on a collision course after the officials defied the donors who have demanded that the question be struck out of the questionnaire
- Government ignores donor concerns that ethnic question in August population census will derail efforts towards national healing
A spirited attempt to block a census question that would make it possible for Kenyans to know the number of people in each of the country’s 42 tribes has been rejected even as it emerged that the government was planning to deploy monitors to help prevent rigging of the August national census.
Donors wanted the question dropped from the official census questionnaire on grounds that it will frustrate efforts towards national healing after last year’s bloody post-election violence.
The donors argued that the question will evoke memories of the killings, many of which were attributed to tensions between tribes following the disputed presidential election. Some 1,300 people were killed while 350,000 were displaced in the violence.
Ministry of Planning officials have decided to press on with the questionnaire bearing the tribe question, arguing that fears that it was too emotive were overblown.
Kenya National Bureau of Statistics director general Anthony Kilele confirmed the donor concerns.
“They thought it might not be good for us to ask people about their tribes when they have not healed (from the deadly post-election violence),” he said.
But Mr Kilele said the donors’ fears had been proved wrong since the question had been answered well during a pilot census survey ahead of the Sh7.3 billion national count.
“We have established that all Kenyans are comfortable with answering the tribe question,” he said.
“The data (on tribe) is of good statistical value,” he said. “It will allow us to know better who we are, rather than relying on generalities.”
The donors had argued that it would be difficult for the results to be trusted if some of the results on the tribe numbers were disputed.
Their case was based on the reasoning that politicians and their communities would want to show that their tribes were more populous than the rest, in a bid to benefit more from devolved funds such as Constituency Development Fund, which are calculated on the basis of the number of people in each constituency.
A Blues Traveler album, the number of sleeping dogs that lie and the number of Americans in Malava. Brunch was held today with Katie and Sue as our hosts. It is nice to have a new set of ideas to be throw into the conversational mix. Our laundry girl was kind enough to cook us chapati as a thank you. Being her employer, she feels that she should cook for us every so often in thanks. With good food, Michael and I were treated to 1970’s Italian cannibal exploitation films. I had read of them before and to give Michael his due credit, “They are one step above snuff films.” So with visions of cannibalism in my head, I had one of my best sleeps in weeks. Strange, huh?
July is upon us and I have been here for half a year. If time moves as quickly as the past six months, I should be home in no time.
26 June 2009
Busy would characterize the past two days. Coupled with the fact that we lost power for a bit today, I have spent little time on the computer and much in Malava. Yesterday was the arrival of our fourth, Katie, and today was the parents meeting. In terms of specifics, there is not much worth reporting. We were treated to dinner with the nuns to welcome Katie to Malava yesterday. Today, I scrambled about and killed time by reading and chatting at the parents meeting.
I may have mentioned this last time we had a meeting, but today our speaker was late. With time need to be filled, a CBRW stood up and called for the attention of the parents. Attention on her, hands move upward and song rises with the meeting of palms. The group responds in song and sing their way through the time wasted. It is not necessarily the song that was striking, although I can never get enough of the fact that music is a part of every facet of Kenya life, it is the fact that nobody was upset or bothered by the hitch in the program. The only thing I saw was smiles as everyone enjoyed song. There were no blackberrys clicking or ipods out or general grumblings because everything was not perfectly on time. I read recently a commentary in the newspaper concerning the trouble with this in Kenyan culture. The writer exclaimed that it would turn off tourists and make it so they would never want to return to Kenya. I think that he misses the point. With the call for Westernization, the cry will come from individuals who are enamored with the life of the West. They see television and movies of a false America. Service, they are told, is what matters most. What he misses is the fact that rushing around from meeting to meeting with emails sent on the go-between, a state of being is lost.
When time remains of little importance, a person can be within the moment as it moves forward. Without dwelling on what has passed and being anxious about the future. There are certainly ways in which Kenya needs to modernize, but why does wisdom’s beacon have to be in a Westernly direction? Can’t it be internal or even, God forbid, in a different direction?
An interesting story from the BBC that is both late and again only depicts negative aspects of Kenyan life. There have been stories about lynchings throughout Kenya ever since I have arrived. Six months later, the BBC has a news article. It is terrible that this exists and continues. Elder people are targeted as witches for having gray hair. But, is it not the role of media to be the voice when these atrocities take place? Not after they have grown and continued for months if not years. More importantly, can news ever be positive. How about pieces that show advances that are made within the continent rather than the barbaric side in need of aid.
Horror of Kenya's 'witch' Lynchings
Joseph Ondieki, at the grave of his mother, who was burned as a witch
By Odhiambo Joseph
BBC News, Kenya
Villagers, many straight from their farms, and armed with machetes, sticks and axes, are shouting and crowding round in a big group in Kenya's fertile Kisii district.
I can't see clearly what is going on, but heavy smoke is rising from the ground and a horrible stench fills the air.
More people are streaming up the hill, some of them with firewood and maize stalks.
Suddenly an old woman breaks from the crowd, screaming for mercy. Three or four people go after her, beat her and drag her back, pushing her onto - what I can now see - is a raging fire.
I was witnessing a horrific practice which appears to be on the increase in Kenya - the lynching of people accused of being witches.
I personally saw the burning alive of five elderly men and women in Itii village.
They point at me saying - that is a son of the witch
I had been visiting relatives in a nearby town, when I heard what was happening. I dashed to the scene, accompanied by a village elder.
He reacted as if what we were watching was quite normal, which was shocking for me.
As a stranger I felt I had no choice but to stand by and watch. My fear was that if I showed any sign of disapproval, or made any false move, the angry mob could turn on me.
Not one person was protesting or trying to stop the killing.
Hours later, the police came and removed the charred bodies.
Village youths who took part in the killings told me that the five victims had to die because they had bewitched a young boy.
"Of course some people have been burned. But there is proof of witchcraft," said one youth.
He said that a child had spent the night walking around and then was unable to talk the following morning - except to one of the so-called witches.
Mary Nyaboke came home to find her mother-in-law burned alive
I asked the youths whether or not people involved in this supposed witchcraft should be punished.
"Yes, they must be punished, every one," said the first youth.
"We are very angry and that's why we end up punishing these people and even killing them."
His friend agreed: "In other communities, there are witches all round but in Kisii we have come up with a new method, we want to kill these people using our own hands."
I later discovered that the young boy who had supposedly been bewitched, was suffering from epilepsy.
His mother had panicked when he had had an attack.
All too common
The village elder was dismissive of my horror, saying that this kind of thing happens all the time in the western district of Kisii.
He told me about Joseph Ondieki, whose mother had been burned to death less than two months earlier.
I found Joseph and his wife Mary Nyaboke tending vegetables in their small shamba, or homestead.
Mary told me that on the day her mother-in-law had been killed she had been visiting her own parents.
She had heard a noise and discovered the truth when she came home.
She said that in the 20 years she had been married, she had never had any reason to believe her husband's mother was a witch.
Joseph told me he has suffered a lot since his mother died.
"I was born here, but at this stage I feel as if this is not my home any more," he said.
"I cannot visit neighbours or relatives.
"Even when they see me standing by the road side, they point at me, saying: 'That is a son of the witch'.
The couple fear they may be the next victims
"And when I go to town they also start wondering what has taken me there. Is it that I am going to give evidence against them?
"When I come back, they say I've been seen at the police station, but I've never been there. I've never reported the matter.
"If I visit the neighbours, I always fear that they might put poison in the food.
"So when I'm forced to visit, I make sure I don't eat anything.
"If I can't get my own food I just have a glass of water and sleep."
I set off with Joseph up the hill towards his house, which was far from the centre of the village.
On the way we passed his mother's house.
A neighbour was reluctant to talk to me and denied even knowing Joseph's mother.
"Here in Kisii, people are being burned on mere allegation and most of them are old," Joseph said.
"We now don't have any old people in the village to consult.
"Even me I'm now approaching 50 years old - I'm afraid that they'll come for me also."
I spent three days in Kisii trying to speak to the authorities, but nobody, neither the police nor the local government officials would talk to me.
As night drew in, and it was time for me to leave, Joseph walked with me from his village to where my car was parked.
When we arrived, he begged me to take him with me to Mombasa, where I am based.
It was very difficult for me to leave him behind.
As I drove away I passed signs pinned to trees, warning witches that they would be tracked down.
"We know you by your names", someone had typed in bold.
To listen to the full broadcast of Kenya's Witch Lynchings, tune in to African Perspectiveon the BBC World Service.The program is first broadcast on Saturday 27 June at 1106 GMT. It will be available online from 2106 GMT, for one week.
25 June 2009
Agency targets Kenya with food aid
A boy sells tomatoes in a Nairobi open-air market: The Red Cross and Red Crescent Society is appealing for more food aid after rains failed. /Reuters
By Walter Menya
Posted Thursday, June 25 2009 at 00:00
Unpredictable rainfall patterns, low harvests and the displacement of people during last year’s post-election violence have worsened food crisis in Kenya.
The development has led to a new food appeal by an international human agency, in an endeavour targeting the Horn of Africa region.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is asking donors for an additional Sh5.2 billion ($67 million) to benefit 2.5 million people hit by famine in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somali over a period of five years.
Most of the funds will, however, be used in Kenya where the agency said almost 3.5 million people had their food supplies interrupted, leading to food insecurity.
“Conditions in the Horn of Africa have deteriorated significantly in many areas, most notably in Kenya, in recent months.
“The short rains expected in Kenya in the end of 2008 failed, and the long rains, expected in April, were inadequate.
Harvests have been extremely low, in part due to the displacement of people during the poll violence,” IFRC said in its revised appeal document to the donor community.
Besides, Kenya has seen an influx of refugees fleeing the insurgency in neighbouring Somalia.
The situation at the Daadab refugee camp has been deteriorating with almost 271,000 refugees, which is above its capacity of 90,000.
The original Emergency Appeal was launched on December 11, 2008 for Sh7.4 billion ($95.4m) to assist 2.2 million.
The IFRC hopes to implement a significant increase in activities across all sectors, but particularly with respect to food in Kenya.
Kenya Red Cross Society now plans to reach nearly one million people through food distributions, with an additional 500,000 children being reached through a school-feeding programme.
The emergency efforts will concentrate on providing food assistance, healthcare, water, sanitation and hygiene promotion, IFRC stated.
Unlike other countries set to benefit from the fund, Kenya’s would be carried out at a higher level and greater urgency because of the widespread famine and conditions that are fast deteriorating, according to the humanitarian group.
In some areas, including parts of Ethiopia and Somalia, there has been some rain, but this has not relieved the situation of pastoralists who were worst affected by the food crisis and widespread animal deaths of 2008, said the agency.
In Djibouti, rural pastoralists run the risk of running into huge losses since the communities have been ravaged in the face of severe food shortages, massive deaths in their herds, and potential epidemics resulting from a lack of safe water supplies.
“To take account of these changes in the targeted countries, it has been necessary to substantially revise the Emergency Appeal.
“More funds are urgently needed to allow the Horn of Africa team to produce detailed plans of action for interventions that tackle not just the immediate needs but the food insecurity in itself. The needs are enormous and so are the options for the choice of type and location of interventions” the organisation said.
IFRC says is the activities were important to the affected groups, pointing out that postponing them would make the crisis worse and increase vulnerability of the target beneficiaries.
“They are vital to ensure that the impact of the operation extends beyond the time it takes to digest the food that is being distributed during the emergency phase.”
IFRC reckons that this appeal will undergo another revision in September 2009 after harvests in the Horn.
BUSINESS DAILY AFRICA
24 June 2009
I went with Sr. Catharine to the Sabatia Eye Clinic with seven of our children this morning. Those in need of any sort of eye help attend the clinic. Angela and David will make the referral and Catherine will drive a group over whenever there is a need. Sue has gone to the past few, but being that she is in Nairobi, I went along.
We left by eight and were there by nine. After a check-in the group was split in two. I went with the young kids to the low vision area and Catherine with the older ones to the doctors. I knew I was meant to accompany them into their consultations with the nurse, but I hesitated. I felt as if I was invading. My role was to hear about what was taking place so that the information can then be relayed to the therapists and Catherine for the sake of finance and care. However, I did not like sitting and eavesdropping, let alone asking questions about what was going on. It seems wrong that I should be there during an examination. Nothing personal was revealed, but I do not think that I should have been there.
Often, I feel as if I have inserted myself into the lives of the people living here. I choose to come here and have placed myself amongst the community. I was never invited. An out-of-place feeling is pervasive for this reason. Race and culture matter little. It is the fact that I am here because I can. I am here because of my relative wealth (more like thanks to my generous supporters). I have lamented my feeling of being an outsider, but today highlighted this feeling more than ever. I continue to be a guest who is allowed unfettered access to Malava. Being in the minority means that I get preferential treatment. I am now troubled by the guilt that I can always leave. I can decide today to go home and will be home by the end of the week. I have choice and am starting to resent the fact that I do.
I was told that I would return home with a great appreciation for all that I have. I have found that I appreciate many things but am repulsed by an equal amount. When limited in terms of availability of goods and finance, consumption becomes sickening. All the things that I cannot have are unnecessary. I fear the return to an existence as such.
Reconciling my anxieties with duty, we pressed on until about noon. We should have been done an hour earlier, but an inept nurse caused two of our kids to go back to the doctor due to her inability to perform a correct eye test with glasses. On the bright side, I did get to photograph some new flowers. The lighting was terrible and I apologize for sub-standard camera work, but it will have to do.
In the afternoon, I was semi-stranded at the compound when I had to print pictures for Joy and rain came. Thankfully, Sister Jane was kind enough to bring me some tea and groundnuts while I waited. When Joy arrived, she generously offered me a ride home.
23 June 2009
but Somalia is in a terrible place. Maybe the picture by Times UK will bring to light the state of a country in war for decades.
The Kabras originally Banyala, which is a Luhya sub-group, resides principally in Malava, in what is called Kabras Division of Kakamega district of western Province. The Kabras are sandwiched by the Isukha, Banyala and the Tachoni.
The name "Kabras" comes from "Avalasi" which refers to warriors or Mighty Hunters as that's what the Kabras were. They were fierce warriors who fought with the neighbouring Nandi for cattle and were known to be fearless. This explains why generally they are few as compared to other sub-groups such as the Maragoli and Bukusu .
They claim to be descendants of Nangwiro associated with the Biblical Nimrod. The Kabras dialect sounds close to Tachoni though to the experienced ear, someone can detect some differences. Plus in all Luhya, there are different names for different things depending on the sub-dialect, so to speak.
Originally, the Kabras were few families which ended up as the head of the clans. The names of the fathers of the families also ended up as the names of the clans. The clans are Abamutama, Basonje, Abakhusia, Bamachina, Abashu, Abamutsembi, Baluu, Batobo, Bachetsi, Bamakangala and several others.
The Kabras were under Chief Nabongo Mumia of the Wanga and produced an elder in his council of elders. This was Soita Libukana Samaramarami of Lwichi village in Central Kabras, near Chegulo market.
The first church to spread to Kabras was the Friends Church (Quakers). This was through Arthur Chilson a Quaker missionary, who had started the church in Kaimosi, Tiriki. He earned local name, Shikanga, and his children learned the language as they lived and interacted with the local children. Therefore Friends church still has a strong following among the Kabras though other churches have spread to the area.
22 June 2009
Aid has not, does not, and will never, help Africa
By RASNA WARAH Posted Sunday, June 21 2009 at 19:04
Recently, aid to Africa has come under attack from the most unlikely quarters — the Africans themselves. The most recent of these has come from Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian economist, whose recently-published book, Dead Aid, makes a convincing argument against foreign aid to Africa.
Moyo argues that Africans have for too long lived in “a culture of aid” that has failed to reduce poverty or promote economic growth on the continent. She calls for the eventual phasing out of aid altogether and for making African markets more efficient.
Despite billions of aid money being poured into government coffers every year, Africa continues to remain largely poor because aid fosters corruption and hinders the development of home-grown industries and solutions.
Moreover, aid doesn’t come for free. Most of it has to be paid back, which means future generations of Africans are burdened with debt before they are even born. Even when things, such as mosquito nets, are given for free, they end up stunting or killing local industries that produce those things, which leads to more poverty.
Moyo proposes a mixture of trade, foreign direct investment, capital markets, the bond market, remittances and microfinance to lift Africans out of perennial poverty and to create the jobs needed for Africa’s largely youthful population. For her insights, she was named among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people this year.
But not everyone is happy with what she has to say. Jeffrey Sachs, a leading proponent of more aid to Africa, who also happens to be director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute and founder of the Millennium Villages Project (one of which is being implemented in Sauri, Kenya), calls Moyo’s arguments “farcical”, claiming that if her ideas are implemented, millions on the continent will suffer.
Moyo dismisses people like Sachs saying they suffer from “Western, liberal, guilt-ridden morality”, which has made the continent “the focus of orchestrated world-wide pity” epitomised by the likes of Bono and Bob Geldof. People like these two have not just become the de facto faces of Africa in the West, they are actually defining the policy agenda for the continent in forums such as the G8 and G20.
In an interview, Moyo called this state of affairs “ridiculous” as it allows Western celebrities — rather than African governments themselves — to formulate policies for their own countries, a point that has also been made by the Tanzanian academic, Issa Shivji.
MOYO ARGUES FURTHER THAT, IF Africa needs a partner in its development, then that partner should be China, which invested $900 million in Africa in 2004, and is more interested in trading with the continent and building infrastructure that could propel the continent out of a never-ending cycle of poverty.
However, I must confess that even though I believe that Dead Aid is a path-breaking book that must be read by African policymakers, it is clear that the author has not spent enough time on the continent (though born and raised in Zambia, she spent much of her adult working life in the United Kingdom, where she is based).
Her book fails to reflect the nuances and particularities of place that make a “one-fits-all” prescription difficult to apply. There is also almost no reference to Africa’s colonial history and the role it continues to play in perpetuating poverty in the region, nor does she address issues of social injustice in the region or how the very free markets she is advocating increased poverty and inequality.
Moyo’s ideas are hardly new. Africans (economists such as George B.N. Ayittey and David Ndii, leaders such as Paul Kagame, and even writers such as myself) have written or spoken about the negative impact of aid on Africa. But none have achieved the kind of notoriety that she has.
Am I jealous? Sure I am. My recently-published anthology, Missionaries, Mercenaries and Misfits, which looks at the failures of the aid business in Africa, and which was published eight months before Dead Aidcame out, barely got a mention in the local and international press and has sold less than 500 copies, while Moyo’s book has already made it to the New York Times bestseller list.
But I am grateful that Moyo has managed to show all the Bonos, Bob Geldofs, Madonnas and Angelina Jolies of this world that aid doesn’t work, hasn’t worked and will not work in Africa.
Those who label her as a heartless cynic who doesn’t care for the barefoot, malnourished African child, should ask themselves why there are more poor African children today than there were before aid became the mantra upon which Africa’s development was hinged.
Ms Warah is an editor with the UN. The views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Our good friend, Katie O’Dea, who has been in Nigeria for the past five months has arrived in Kenya today. She will be joining us out here in Malava for the remainder of the year and will be working at an orphanage in Kakamega. Sue is in Nairobi to greet here and they will be making their way back to Malava on Thursday after a short orientation.
In the middle of the day, the St Julie Centre was met with a loud blast. Angela emerged from the therapy room and announced, “It’s Osama!” I was playing with Johnstone at the time, having a pass with the soccer ball and was alarmingly unmoved by the explosion. Angela went out to examine what happened and I looked out the window to see people going about their business. Five minutes later, she returned saying, “one of those birds with big mouths crashed into the centre.” The offender was a hornbill. Alas, he was gone by the time I went to look. For some reason, the sound did not even give me cause to flinch. God forbid, if something catastrophic had occurred, I would have endured it while playing soccer.
Sylvia is six. She has downs syndrome. She speaks, but I am unable to understand a single word she utters. I am unable to understand English child-speak, Swahili I have no chance. She was playing with a plastic volley ball and I was teasing her by poking the ball. Un-amused by my antics, she cried out an unintelligible Swahili phrase. Neto was kind enough to translate saying, “she said she is going to beat you.” My first threat from a child came via Sylvia this morning. She warmed up to me by the end of the day, but that was not without a great scream when I picked up the ball as it rolled away from her in an attempt to provide help.
***I will denote this section with stars because it may be worth skipping if you do not want to hear my semi-rant based on Republican Senators statements concerning Iran***
"If America stands for democracy and all of these demonstrations are going on in Tehran and other cities over there, and people don't think that we really care, then obviously they're going to question, 'do we really believe in our principles?'" Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa
"I'd like to see the president be stronger than he has been, although I appreciate the comments that he made yesterday. I think we ought to have America lead." Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz
"The president of the United States is supposed to lead the free world, not follow it. He's been timid and passive more than I would like." Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C
From the AP article HERE
For some reason, a few of our senators are stuck in a dangerous and outdated mentality concerning foreign policy. Democracy is the battle cry for some who always seem to view IR with horse blinders. Why has there been a call for invasion/action in Iran but nothing was said concerning Kenya? This nation erupted into complete violence due to stolen elections and the US was nowhere to be found. The list continues as violence escalates in Somalia, a coup took place in Madagascar just a few months ago and an election was stolen in Zimbabwe. ‘Democracy’ has been absent from all occasions and various outcomes have resulted. Kenya saw violence before a weak power sharing agreement. Zimbabwe took a year for an agreement to be met, in the mean time its currency saw Post WWI Germany hyperinflation and a cholera outbreak. Madagascar has remained much the same, with minor sanctions.
Living in Kenya has given me the perspective of how US actions can severely affect the way that we are viewed as a nation and as people. I have spoken with Kenyans who have praised and condemned our actions in Iraq. Many are still excited to see a Kenyan as our president, but harbor prejudices about Americans. The affect upon myself has been minimal, I have not been cast out because I am American. However, the actions of our government are seen as a direct reflection on the American public. We celebrate democracy so much that the international community believes each American takes part in every decision by the government.
Then statements are cast in vague manners about “leading” and not “following.” Who are we following Senator McCain? Is not diplomacy a form of action and leadership. Does ‘leading’ mean leading the country into war? If that is the case I believe the past two elections have been a referendum on the ‘Bush Doctrine.’ I have digressed from my reason for commenting. It is dangerous to have vocal commentaries for selective instances while using generalizations. What is it about Iran that makes it more dire than Darfur? Kenya has alarmist MP’s who call for war over a small island that is filled with whore houses and bars. The newspapers are filled with these comments and the people scoff at such declarations. Kenya is the prime example of the boy-who-cried-wolf-syndrome. They have no faith in their government because it deals backhandedly and speaks in fear.
We lived through identical governance post 9/11 until this year. However, there are still some in congress who are clinging on to the idea that it is best to remain alarmist. Speak in generalities, is the mantra. Use any of the following: democracy, national security, terrorists, Osama Bin Laden, nuclear weapons, 9/11, enhanced interrogation (torture for all who do not speak Cheney), bomb, freedom, democracy a bit more and finish with something like “God bless America.” Fear-mongering has jaded the Kenyan public and it indifference will infect Americans.
***End of general thoughts. My thoughts are not entirely collected at the moment, but I could not pass on saying something.
20 June 2009
We traveled to the Middle East via Michael’s culinary aptitude this afternoon. The most notable part was our first foray into cow lung. He bought it basically because it was there, and we decided to fry it up for a little Fear Factor:Kenya. It is strange to cut. The tissue is clearly layered and has a spongy feel when held, and squashes as the blade slices. In the fry pay, it blows up to triple the size and immediately shrinks upon removal. We add nothing to it and consumed it while it was still hot. Though a little bit chewy, it was quite good. I would go as far as to say that I will be on the lookout for lung the next time I go to the butcher. The taste I can aliken to very tender fat. The taste was rich, but not completely unique. With that eaten, I believe we will continue to try out different parts of the cow. Neto will soon be giving us lessons on how to prepare a chicken and we will be able to try everything. Do not be concerned, pictures of the entire ordeal will surely be taken.
Kenya will not sit by as Somalia worsens -minister
Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:56am EDT
By Wangui Kanina
NAIROBI, June 19 (Reuters) - Kenya will not sit by and allow the situation in neighbouring Somalia to deteriorate further because it is a threat to regional stability, the country's foreign minister said on Friday.
Hardline Islamist insurgents stepped up an offensive against Somalia's government last month and on Thursday killed the Horn of Africa country's security minister and at least 30 other people in a suicide car bomb attack. [ID:nLI450352]
Kenya and other countries in the region, as well as Western nations, fear that if the chaos continues, groups with links to al Qaeda will become entrenched and threaten the stability of neighbouring countries.
"We will not sit by and watch the situation in Somalia deteriorate beyond where it is. We have a duty ... as a government to protect our strategic interests including our security," said Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula.
"Kenya will do exactly that to ensure the unfolding developments in Somalia do not in any way undermine or affect our peace and security as a country," he told a news conference.
Asked about any specific action, Wetangula said an international partnership was dealing with the issue of the insurgency and instability in Somalia and it would be inappropriate to discuss details.
Al Shabaab insurgents, said to have hundreds of foreign fighters in their ranks, claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack. The rebels control much of southern Somalia and some of the capital. They want to oust the government and impose a strict version of Islamic law throughout the country.
John Holmes, the top U.N. humanitarian aid official, said on Friday that instability was making it very tough to deliver food and other supplies to the vulnerable Somalis who are also struggling to cope with drought. "Access to the area is extremely difficult," he told a news conference in Geneva.
Wetangula's comments echoed a joint statement issued on Thursday by the European Union, the African Union, the Inter Governmental Agency on Development, the League of Arab States and the United Nations.
"These extremists, both Somali and foreigners, are continuing their indiscriminate violence. They are a threat not only to the country, but to the IGAD region and the international community," the bodies said.
They condemned the latest suicide attack as "deplorable."
Al Shabaab has so far resisted government attempts to drive its fighters from the capital.
The death of the security minister and Mogadishu's police chief this week were seen as significant setbacks given the two men were closely involved in directing the government's forces.
Analysts say the fighting in Mogadishu since May 7, in which about 300 people have been killed, is the worst for years and the chances of a negotiated peace are waning.
Wetangula, who met several ambassadors in Nairobi on Friday, urged countries who had pledged at least $213 million in April to build up security forces to deliver on those pledges as soon as possible. [ID:nLN971776]
"The government in Mogadishu needs to operate, they need the funds to pay their civil services, their outgoings in many ways and they need survival kits, they are under immense pressure from the rebels that are fighting them," he said.
He said the African Union was committed to beefing up its 4,300-strong peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and helping to build a police force.
Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke told the news conference the suicide attacks would not deter the government from pursuing peace in the country, mired in conflict since 1991.
"We call on the international community to stand with us and assist our security forces and AMISOM to really defeat these enemies before they pose a threat to the entire region," he said. (Additional reporting by Laura MacInnis in Geneva; Editing by David Clarke and Andrew Dobbie)
19 June 2009
$196 Billion Later, Still Little Proof U.N. Health Programs Work
Friday, June 19, 2009
In the last two decades, the world has spent more than $196 billion trying to save people from death and disease in poor countries.
But just what the world's gotten for its money isn't clear, according to two studies published Friday in the medical journal Lancet.
Millions of people are now protected against diseases like yellow fever, sleeping under anti-malaria bed nets and taking AIDS drugs. Much beyond that, it's tough to gauge the effectiveness of pricey programs led by the United Nations and its partners, and in some cases, big spending may even be counterproductive, the studies say.
Trying to show health campaigns actually saved lives is "a very difficult scientific dilemma," said Tim Evans, a senior World Health Organization official who worked on one of the papers.
In one paper, WHO researchers examined the impact of various global health initiatives during the last 20 years.
They found some benefits, like increased diagnosis of tuberculosis cases and higher vaccination rates. But they also concluded some U.N. programs hurt health care in Africa by disrupting basic services and leading some countries to slash their health spending.
In another paper, Chris Murray of the University of Washington and colleagues tracked how much has been spent in public health in the last two decades — the figure jumped from $5.6 billion in 1990 to $21.8 billion in 2007 — and where it's gone. Much of that money is from taxpayers in the West. The U.S. was the biggest donor, contributing more than $10 billion in 2007.
They found some countries don't get more donations even if they're in worse shape. Ethiopia and Uganda both receive more money than Nigeria, Pakistan or Bangladesh, all of whom have bigger health crises.
Some experts were surprised how long it took simply to consider if the world's health investment paid off.
Richard Horton, the Lancet's editor, labeled it "scandalous" and "reckless" health officials haven't carefully measured how they used the world's money.
Experts said that in some cases, the U.N. was propping up dysfunctional health systems. "If you've got rotten governments, no amount of development aid is going to fix that," said Elizabeth Pisani, an AIDS expert who once worked for the U.N., citing Zimbabwe as a prime example.
Murray and colleagues also found AIDS gets at least 23 cents of every health dollar going to poor countries. Globally, AIDS causes fewer than 4 percent of deaths.
"Funds in global health tend to go to whichever lobby group shouts the loudest, with AIDS being a case in point," said Philip Stevens of International Policy Network, a London think tank.
In WHO's study, researchers admitted whether health campaigns address countries' most pressing needs "is not known."
When Cambodia asked for help from 2003-2005, it said less than 10 percent of aid was needed for AIDS. But of the donations Cambodia got, more than 40 percent went to diseases including AIDS.
WHO acknowledged change was necessary, but insisted it needed even more money, warning fewer donations would jeopardize children's' lives.
U.N. agencies, universities and others working on public health routinely take from 2 to 50 percent of a donation for "administrative purposes" before it goes to needy countries.
Others said there is little incentive for health officials to commission an independent evaluation to find out what their programs have achieved.
"The public health community has convinced the public the only way to improve poor health in developing countries is by throwing a ton of money at it," Stevens said. "It is perhaps not coincidental that thousands of highly paid jobs and careers are also dependent on it.
18 June 2009
Michael and I took in the soccer match between the United States and Brazil. We were treated to a fine Nigerian film starring a child who clearly learned his acting from the Gary Coleman school, with humorous ramblings included.
The match started and it did not take long for me to miss the Nigerian movie. With two mistakes leading to well played goals, the US was buried by the end of the first half. The second started with promise, but another poor call from the ref led to a red card and then a beautiful passing display yielded the third goal. A well played match against Italy was for naught as three to nil sat on the scoreboard with a formality remaining against Egypt.
Disappointed, I returned home to have a burger and watch terrible horror movies to forget what brought my eyes great pain. World Cup 2010 is not looking so promising anymore.
From the compound, Sue and I walked further out of town to Sr. Beatrice’s school. Today was the district competition for performance arts. Categories included traditional performances (separated by tribe), choral performance, English and Swahili recitations, and Gospel/Church revivals. The schools from the district competed in the categories for a chance to move on to the provincial competition in Bungoma and then on to the finals in Mombasa. Only first place moves on and the schools were well prepared and practiced.
Sue and I arrived early and waited outside the fence to watch some of the groups practice. Practice quickly ended and became “gather round and watch the two mzungus standing at the fence.” Somehow, primary school children remain fascinated with white people, even the class 8 ones that range from fourteen to sixteen. The older ones stare and ask a few questions here and there, but the youngest are the most daring. They will want to shake our hands and hang around us. After being stared at for twenty minutes and no sign of Beatrice, we decided to wander into the school grounds. Not more than a minute into walking, we found the famous Michelle Obama. Not only did we find her, but we met up with Sr. Inziani, who is her teacher. With some familiar faces, we were treated to soda and bread and to share a meal with the victorious children. We missed their performance, but were treated to a reprise.
After hanging with the kids and taking a few pictures, I should mention that my camera ran out of batteries after the flower shots so I will rely on Sue for all pictures from this, we met up with Beatrice and went to see the tribal competition. Dressed in their best makeshift tribal costumes, the kids sang and danced in imitation of each tribe. Beatrice made Sue and I sit on either side of her so that she could explain what was taking place. She also threw in her opinions about each of the performing schools. Most often, she said that they were too slow for her taste. It was not until the Pokot performances began that things picked up. With drums and more lively dancing, it was the treat of the day.
I continue to be enthralled by the music of the various Kenyan tribes. The part that strikes me most is the fact that the kids take to the performances and make them their own. All effort is placed into the signing and dancing. There is no care for how silly someone may think the performance may be. They believe, with every atom of their being, in each movement of head and sound from throat. All of this draws me in, makes me appreciate the entirety of the performance. The dancing and songs are wonderful and enjoyable on their own, but there is a way that they are presented the resonates a more personal tone. Pride may be the best word, but it extends beyond that to include hope and joy. There is no comparison to this in the United States. No tribal or community gathering to sing and dance. It may be called a melting pot but maybe all that is left is a bland soup. The once vibrant ingredients have become part of the same basic taste. I have so little to call my own in terms of heritage and admit to feeling wildly jealous of the children and the audience today. So little is had in terms of material goods, but they have so much more than I can ever have when it comes to what I saw today.
On my walk home, I was escorted by Michelle Obama and company. The children jockeyed to walk beside me. With one child at each side, I walked amongst the group back home. Taking the competition further, my hands became the prized possession. I would have two fingers a child with some hanging on my arm. I ran away a few times and they gave chase at full speed. When I stopped, they hurried around and tried to regain their hold of my hand. It became a bit much after awhile, but it was another instance where my presence along has made children wildly happy. I take no credit other than the fact that I was willing to put up with it, but I am loved solely for my skin tone. It is overwhelming at times to think that I do not have to do anything to win over the affection of these children. I just remain humbled that I can simply walk and make a child smile. It is an amazing power and something that I refuse to take for granted.
17 June 2009
As far as I know there are no reported cases in Kenya, but I got the email just now and figured I would share.
Embassy of the United States of America
June 17, 2009
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently changed the pandemic alert level for H1N1 influenza to phase 6. This designation is based on geographic spread of the influenza virus, not on the severity of the illness.
The Foreign Service Health Units at US Embassies around the world and The State Department’s Office of Medical Services (MED) in Washington, DC, have been preparing for a pandemic and have been implementing a pandemic response plan for the past few weeks. The U.S. health agencies have begun the work necessary to produce a vaccine and are working with CDC and other national and international agencies on community mitigation strategies and monitoring and tracking the virus.
The goal since the outbreak began has been to try and stay one step ahead of this unpredictable virus and do the planning and preparation necessary to keep our entire staff safe and secure.
Although the virus continues to spread to other countries, the disease continues to be a mild one for the most part. Health Officials are not seeing significant changes in the virus in samples from various countries.
The WHO announcement is an alert to all health agencies both here and in other countries in the southern hemisphere that the virus is likely present and health authorities should heighten their surveillance activities and review their pandemic plans. This is being done here in Kenya and throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
Agencies in the US are working hard across the government to be prepared for what happens in the northern hemisphere autumn with H1N1 when the traditional flu season starts. The goal is to have a vaccine tested and ready to go should the science determine we need to begin an immunization campaign.
As a reminder from the US Embassy, here is the list of actions that can be taken to decrease the chances of getting sick and what to do if you become ill.
Everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. Take these everyday steps to protect your health:
Ø Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If you do not have a tissue available, cough or sneeze into your elbow. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
Ø Try to avoid close contact with sick people. Keep a distance, when possible, of 1-2 meters from persons ill with a respiratory infection.
Ø If you get sick with influenza the CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them. Most influenza illness will make you feel pretty miserable though will not prove to be life-threatening. Fever can be treated with ibuprofen or acetaminophen; avoid the use of any aspirin containing products particularly in children.
Ø Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
Ø Contact your private physician or healthcare provider.
Other CDC Guidance for the current declared level:
· If someone in the household is sick, well adults and children do not need to stay home.
· School and child care dismissal is not generally recommended, but may be considered depending on the local impact of the disease.
· Workplace and Community adult social distancing efforts (e.g., encouraging teleconferences instead of meetings, reducing density, meaning the number of people crowded into a small space, in public, transit, or in the work place, postponing or cancelling selected public gatherings, encouraging people to telework, or take staggered shifts) are generally not recommended.
16 June 2009
“Brian likes enjoying” – reply to Sue asking him what toy to give to Brian.
“My stomach is having what you might call a blackout” – on being full after Sunday brunch.
“If you said his name, people would think he have already eaten. You could ask who has not had lunch and respond ‘alikula’” – upon our discovery that one of the client’s last name is Alikula which means ‘he ate’ in Swahili.
I was thinking about all the things that I see on my walk through town to and from the St. Julie Centre that do not even cause me to look twice, but will seem strange to no longer see. I will also include things said or called out. I have mentioned some of these things before, but now that I remember that there was a time that it was not normal.
- Farm animals walking in the middle of town. Such as cows, goats, pigs, chickens and/or goats, strolling through the market. They are seen with and without an accompanying owner.
- Street Vendors. Stalls are set up all over the place selling vegetables, fruit, roasted corn, and samosas. People walk about with tubs on their shoulders filled with ground nuts and juices. Men will carry racks of various goods ranging from a bow and arrow to sunglasses, from handkerchiefs to beaded five foot posters of Obama or John Cena or Rihanna.
- Freshly slaughtered cow being carried in a metal box from butcher to butcher and unloaded each morning. Also, the occasional dead and skinned goat will take the ride on the back of a bicycle.
- Chickens carried, most often by women, under one arm while the other will carry a child. Today, a woman rode on a bike taxi with her child and a chicken sandwiched between the two.
- Dirt roads. The majority of the road that my feet touch are dirt. There is one main road that runs through the middle of town leading to Kisumu in one direction and Eldoret in the other.
- Naked children. They are everywhere and being at the center does not help. The favorite for young kids is being dressed in a shirt with nothing on the bottom.
- Crowds of children walking to and from school in uniform. Kids walk everywhere, like all people here, but the sea of uniforms is distinct.
- Added to the above, children wearing sweaters in 90 degree heat. They will even play soccer. If they need to cool off, just take off one sleeve and leave the rest on. Instant cooling.
- Women breastfeeding. Seen at the centre nearly every day, but there are always the women sitting on the side of the road feeding their children.
- Shoeless people. I am not sure if people here are half Hobbit or not, but they can run around on rocks with no shoes as if it is a fine carpet.
- Children and adults yelling, “How are you?” It happens every day and there is no getting away.
- Not having a name. Some know me as Tom, but most refer to me as Mzungu.
- Town drunks. It is not like one or two people on the corner of NYC, they are everywhere. In the bars and out on the streets, the men of Malava love their spirits. The men gather around the matatu stand to make some money by loading the passengers. Breaks are to walk over to drink some illicit brew at a changa’a den just near the SJC. They will walk over a few times today. In fact, the man who Michael and I have named “Drunk Matatu Guy” was on his way to the den. When I asked him where he was going, he replied, “Migingo Island.”
- Men peeing outside. Even better is the fact that boys do it too, but have no inhabitations and will do it anywhere as long as it is outside.
- Beggars at my front door. Many days, we have guests looking for something. We have had a singer, a woman who is homeless, someone who did not have money to get home and the same old lady who continues to stop and ask for money every time she passes. We are a favorite place for people who are not from Malava. I am not sure if people are pointing them to father and they happen to see white and think money, or if they are sent straight to us.
- Similar to above, Children at our front door. There is always a group hanging out in and around our courtyard. Regulars will come, but friends are always brought along. Sometimes the friends are not as well behaved and give us cause for a little creative expulsion.
- No town lights. The sun goes down at 7pm and that means it is time to be inside. Luckily, Neto has been kind enough to escort me to some soccer matches, otherwise it is a big no go. It is when the ‘bandits’ come to play, thankfully we have a night watchmen.
- Masaai. Once a fascination, they are just other people in town.
- Swahili language. I have noticed that I have become less sensitive to the language. Meaning, hearing Swahili does not seem out of place. I think that can be attribuited to my lessons, but also to just hearing it all the time. I have come to accept that there are a lot of conversations that I will never understand.
- I cant think of anything else, but twenty is a much better number than nineteen. Actually, today I saw a cat on a hot tin roof. I am sorry that I cannot prove it with a picture, but you will have to trust me.
NAIROBI, June 15 (Reuters) - The World Bank said on Monday it had approved $90 million in loans for agricultural projects in three East African nations.
The $30 million each for Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania -- where agriculture plays a dominant role in the local economies -- was approved last week, the bank said in a statement.
"It will support the three countries to strengthen and scale up regional cooperation in generation of technology, training and dissemination programs for regional priority commodities. These include dairy, cassava, rice and wheat," it said.
The bank said agriculture accounts for two-fifths of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in East Africa and is the primary source of income for more than two-thirds of the population.
"It is key to poverty reduction and better livelihoods for the people of three countries-which have a combined population of nearly 160 million," it said.
The money will be channeled through national research programmes.
(Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Victoria Main)
15 June 2009
USA 1 Italy 3
Poor call on a red card plus unreal goals by an American playing for Italy spell doom.
For some reason, the almost under Globe sent a reporter to do a story about Kenya that could have been done at home. Part of me thinks he lied because all he mentions is a brief moment being asked about Obama in a Nairobi market. With that said, it does provide a rather succinct summary of the post-election violence and the fact that the perpetrators of the violence have gone without punishment a year and a half later. All in all it is worth the read.
Kenya's politics of impunity
June 15, 2009
JUST A year and a half ago, Kenya seemed on the verge of all-engulfing violence, after a contested December 2007 presidential election degenerated into widespread ethnic strife. So the first job for an unwieldy new coalition government here is to walk the country back from the precipice. One obvious test of a government's worthiness is whether or not those in power can incite violence and even murder people without being punished for it.
A new report by a special United Nations investigator concludes that officials who organized and instigated post-election violence "remain immune from prosecution almost 18 months later." The investigator, Philip Alston, also accused Kenya's police of harboring death squads that murder criminal suspects. He concluded that the police here "frequently execute individuals, and that a climate of impunity prevails."
Impunity is only one feature of a political establishment that makes halting progress against Kenya's economic and health problems, but shows much greater efficiency in siphoning off public resources and exploiting ethnic division for political gain. I am in Kenya on a trip for US journalists organized by the International Reporting Project. The question at hand is whether Kenya's leaders have the capacity to mend its wounds, or only to exacerbate them.
An election gone wrong
This could have been a glorious time. Excitement over the half-Kenyan in America's White House is palpable, in the form of Obama-themed posters, paintings, jewelry, bumper stickers, even public health materials; upon meeting a visitor, a vendor in Nairobi's touristy Triangle Market demanded to know which candidate won Massachusetts last fall.
Until recently, Kenyans had concrete reasons for optimism: A transition from dictatorship to a free multiparty democracy seemed near complete in 2002, when presidential candidate Mwai Kibaki defeated the handpicked successor of longtime strongman Daniel arap Moi. The economy grew at a strong 7 percent rate into 2007.
But corruption scandals continued throughout Kibaki's first term. And the 2007 campaign heightened the conflicts simmering among Kenya's 40-odd ethnic groups. Kibaki, a member of the Kikuyu group, faced a challenge from former ally Raila Odinga, a Luo.
Playing on ethnic divisions can yield votes. As an official commission later documented, many poor Luos expected huge benefits - including free rent - if Odinga won, and poor Kikuyus feared personal setbacks if Kibaki lost.
The official count, which mysteriously took days to come in, declared Kibaki the winner. Violence broke out, at the instigation of ethnic gangs. More than 1,000 died. Peace came in March, after pressure from US, European, and African diplomats and passionate pleas from the Kenyan media persuaded the rivals to form a coalition government; Kibaki stayed on as president, and Odinga took office in the new, ill-defined post of prime minister.
The fragility of this approach was obvious last week in Geneva, when the UN Human Rights Council took up Alston's report. Odinga had praised the investigator's work; Kibaki's side had prepared a blistering response that denied the existence of police death squads and trashed the findings of the Kenyan government's own human rights agency. In the end, the two sides compromised by admitting to some police misconduct but dismissing Alston's suggestion that the attorney general and police commissioner be ousted. Now other African countries, presumably with Kenya's blessing, are pushing to get the investigator fired.
This defensive reaction undermines the coalition government's promises of meaningful reforms. There is little incentive to divide up the president's power now, when the office is up for grabs again in 2012.
In an interview, Odinga spoke forcefully on the need to reduce corruption and argued that the "institution of the presidency has emasculated all the other institutions of government." But don't send a campaign contribution just yet: Against all evidence, Odinga disputed the notion that Kenya's politics are ethnic in character. And yet he also rebuffed the suggestion that he should have attended a service commemorating a group of Kikuyus who were massacred during the election crisis. They weren't the only ones to be burned to death in church, he said.
Keeping hope alive
In the crowded Nairobi slum of Kibera, an epicenter of violence early last year, civic organizations are trying to tamp down tensions by, for instance, running soccer teams to keep young men occupied. And despite efforts by the Parliament to interfere, the country's news media remain vibrant. With a free press, it's difficult to imagine that impunity for politicians can go on forever.
Yet Kenyan leaders don't seem ready to call the perpetrators of election violence to account. If all else fails, the worst offenders can be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court. But involving an international organization would do less to promote reconciliation than an honest effort by Kenyan legal institutions to deal with the country's own problems.
The United States can help. Kenyans are watching President Obama closely, and Washington should use that visibility to push for justice for electoral violence victims, and for a constitution that balances the presidency with competing sources of power. When everything seems to ride on the result of a single presidential election, the urgency to win is bound to cost lives.
- DANTE RAMOS
© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.
14 June 2009
13 June 2009
This morning, Michael and I were joined by Neto at the Honey Drop for some breakfast and Kung Fu. We chomped away at mandazi’s, watched the programming and jabbered about Ronaldo to Spain. It is always nice to see Neto out of work and with him coming to eat some brunch with us tomorrow will continue a weekend full of Neto meals.
As we ate, a young boy waited at the counter with his sharply dressed father. He was in a royal blue sweat-suit, the kind that actually makes you sweat. With black dress shoes, the same pair that every school boy wears in this country. For a shirt, a white button down with a striped tie. I guess you can say he was wearing a suit and tie, but would not meet the requirements to make it into the New York Athletic Club.
The afternoon was spent confronting the reality of being home next year and contemplations in regards to what that means for my next step. Hence, much time was spent on the internet doing the grad-school-research-trot to iTunes genius playlists.
Yesterday, we ventured to Kakamega where Sue and I hung by the pool to await Michael’s arrival. The Gulf Hotel is located just outside of the center of town and features a pool that has been in the past Jell-O green. Today it was the normal blue haze of most pools. I did not wish to go for a swim, although I regretted the decision upon seeing the correctly colored pool. However, I was able to read my newspaper and learn about the new budget while sipping on freshly squeezed orange juice. I felt high class sitting amongst the Kenyans wealthy enough to spare the Sh100 for a swim. The hotel is stuck in the same Dirty Harry era of the buildings of Nairobi. I think there are so few options due to lack of construction materials, but I always feel as if I am transformed back into some sort of 70’s movie. The cars in the parking lot even fit the bill. Boxy Volvos and Mercedes sat with the odd Subaru away from the rest. All I needed was more white people with cheesy mustaches and semi-afros and the aesthetic would be complete. However, there were some of the most beautiful flowers planted in a garden behind my seating that I was unable to photograph due to my camera being at home.
Hanging from the post was chalk for the pool table. One of the girls went over to see what was hanging and upon inspection realized it was chalk. Perplexed, she showed her friend who viewed with greater intrigue. They called to their male friend to find out why chalk would be hanging in cube form. When he motioned towards the pool table, the two girls blushed and giggled at their reaction to such a mundane thing.
On the matatu over, I observed a man walking along the side of the street. Nothing seemed out of place save the umbrella he was carrying for shade. You know it is hot when the umbrellas make an appearance, but for a man to be carrying one indicated that Friday was a scorcher. It really was not all that strange. In fact, the reason I remember it is because I thought to myself, “that is one smart guy.”
Mutula scoffs at Annan’s tribunal deadline talk
By Martin Mutua
Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo says the Government will not work by the ultimatum issued by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to set up a special tribunal to try post-election violence suspects.
At the same time, Mutula denied writing to Annan requesting for an extension of the deadline. "I still believe Kenya is a sovereign State and I know the principals, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, have accepted to establish the special tribunal but we cannot accept ultimatums," he added.
Mutula, who was reacting to reports quoting Annan in a BBC interview that set a deadline of August for the establishment of the court, said the former UN chief had already organised a meeting for the Serena Team on June 30.
The minister said he was supposed to have met Annan in Geneva a fortnight ago but was informed he was in Japan. Mutula said he will be leading a Kenyan delegation to The Hague to meet the judges and the prosecutor to familiarise themselves with the system next week, adding that he hoped to meet Annan and inform him on the best way to return the Bill to the House. "The fact that Sh2 billion has been factored in the Budget should send signals that we are serious about implementing Agenda Four," he added.
He said what was rejected in Parliament was the entrenchment of the tribunal in the Constitution, but not the tribunal itself.
East African Standard
12 June 2009
Amnesty warns against eviction of Kenyan slum-dwellers
Fri Jun 12, 2009 12:56pm GMT
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Human rights group Amnesty International warned Kenya on Friday against evicting some 127,000 slum-dwellers in a planned city cleanup.
The recommendation came in a report drawing attention to appalling conditions for Nairobi's two million slum residents -- nearly half the city's total population.
"Exploited by landlords, threatened by police, extorted by gangs, the slums in Nairobi are a human rights black hole where residents are deprived of basic services, denied security and excluded from having a say on their future," Amnesty International Secretary-General Irene Khan told reporters.
It accused Kenya of planning mass evictions, without resettlement, of 127,000 people in a programme to develop and clean the Nairobi River basin.
The river's filthy waters, going through the centre of the city, are straddled by shacks and sewage.
Lack of security of tenure exposes slum-dwellers around the city to forced evictions, often carried out en masse with catastrophic consequences for individuals and families, said the report, titled 'The Unseen Majority'.
Slum-dwellers are crammed into only 5 per cent of the city's residential area and just 1 per cent of all land in the city, it added.
"The burgeoning slums and the unacceptable living conditions for their residents are visible testament to the Kenyan government's failure to uphold the right to adequate housing for all," it said.
More than 500 protesters took to the streets demanding more government attention to slum development on Thursday, but Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta made no mention of that when reading his $11.1 billion budget on the same day.
Nairobi's Kibera, Mathare and other slums were battlegrounds last year during post-election violence that killed at least 1,300 people in east Africa's biggest economy.
Government officials insist there are plans to upgrade and build new housing in Nairobi's slums, but they were unavailable for immediate comment on the Amnesty report.
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved
11 June 2009
Father Bob Dylan told me today that the child who I described on Sunday came close to death due to the bee stings. He did not tell me anything about the circumstances but said “he almost died.” Thankfully, the boy is now fine, but the attack was even more serious than I had originally thought.
- Kenya released its budget today. The teachers got a raise and for some reason the ministry of health was nowhere to be found near the top. I wonder if this has to do with all the medical aid money which comes into Kenya. With so much aid pouring in, it is possible that a large expenditure is not necessary. On the upside, the majority of the money goes to education, not defense like that other country where I claim citizenship. That is not to hold Kenya up as a model, the public schooling is terrible flawed, but there are some things that they seem to get right here. Now, to put an end the petty issue of corruption.
- Kenya has until August, Kofi Annan says, or the Hague will become the final destination for the envelope with the top suspects from the post-election violence. Read Here: http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSLB776869
- I had the chance to go to the Eldoret clinic today but declined to finish my work on the May accounts. As it turns out, David was not prepared with petty cash and I could not do the work I intended. However, it appears as if Neto has come down with Malaria. He remained through the majority of the day, but I am glad I stayed to help out however I could. Malaria can do a number to someone and Neto was nowhere near at full speed today. Fortunately, a long weekend should be a good chance for him to rest up.
- Laundry Girl has become a bit of a living soap opera for Michael and I. With a mother suffering from leukemia who was in the hospital for a few weeks and has now left her homeless with her son. Laundry Girl was staying with a friend, but this morning was kicked out. So, she came over and literally got on her knees to beg for help from me. I provided a little financial help as more money that she will pay via doing our laundry. I feel badly for her situation, but we are in no position to completely support a girl and her son. Without us, I am sure she would be without a place to sleep tonight. With rent a mere $15 a month, it is terrible to think of how easily I can spend that money here and especially at home. Today is one of the many days where I have to stop and be thankful for the ease of nothing having to worry about putting food on the table or find a place to rest my head.
10 June 2009
An article that ran on 10 June discusses the growing graft and corruption within some of Africa’s most promising nations. Namely, Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria are just getting worse. Check out the article, it is worth the read:
An average day with little to write. However, I will mention that our new buddy Titi was over with his brothers Eriki and Brian. When I arrived home, the boys followed me in and I found Michael relaxing in the mid-day sun. With his glasses on the table and shoes kicked off, he was taking in the full Kenyan sun. Titi strolled in, yes it does stroll and it includes a little arm swing, and proceeded to put on Michael’s glasses. Needless to say, he looked like a little man. Michael took some photos that I will eventually have to steal, but for now it is the only part worth mentioning about today.
09 June 2009
The power went down again last night. By the time I was home it was back. It continues to go out with greater frequency. Always in the evening and remaining often through much of the following day. Father Alfred told Michael that the power company had switched off our power one the days two weeks ago and he had to go to make them turn it back on. I have a feeling that the struggle with the power company continues without our knowing. It is not at all a terrible thing. In fact, I have enjoyed the few powerless nights where I read by candlelight. It has provided the most relaxing evenings here. In turn, it has lead to my earliest bed times. Every time I have struggled to make it to 9PM. Usually I get tired by 8:30 and have to finish reading with my headlamp.
Whenever I think that I am freed of any sort of crutch from home, it takes a power outage to show how much I still use my computer and ipod. With the power down and the need to save computer batteries, I am forced to either sit and chat with Michael or read. It is not the same when there are distractions, when there is the ability to do something else is always present. There is something to be said for the potential of change. The chance to move in a new direction, change the channel or activity. Here, as much as I try, my options are few. When I have power, I have a computer and books. When I have no power, I have books and being.
I continue to use my computer as my connection to home, but I can still recognize it as a crutch. I read an article in the newspaper by Jack and Sue Welsh (the former CEO of GE and his wife and please forgive if I misspelled either of their names). They are featured in the Tuesday financial section each week and discuss various topics. This week was twitter. What struck me was what someone said was a reason to use twitter was to “feel more connected in a disconnected world.” Maybe, conscious of blogging, the internet is what drives the lack of connection. The need to be in contact, constantly, with everyone takes away time from the people that surround you. Rather than be, you facebook, myspace, twitter and so on. I write to be connected to the people at home, but as long as I am here it remains superficial.
This cannot make up for the thousands of miles that I remain away from the United States. So, I am making my goal to be more self-aware of my presence in Kenya. I think I mentioned working on it before, but I wish to continue to strive for greater self-awareness. Thus, I will be and blog about being or at least my attempt to be. If that makes sense?
A little David Byrne to close, because it is the song that jumped into my head after writing the above:
“Stop making sense, stop making sense...stop making sense, making sense”
08 June 2009
The new chairmen of COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and South Africa) will be none other than Zimbabwean ‘President’ Robert Mugabe. Yes, the man who stole the elections and drove the once prosperous nation into hyperinflation and a cholera outbreak will now chair a trade group which includes Kenya. Only here can a man who has become a economic failure in his own country become the chair of a significant trade group.
- Transparency International released its yearly report concerning global corruption. When it came to petty corruption, none other than good old Kenya sat as the champions. Seeing that bribes take place all the time and that the police have stops on the roads for the purpose of collecting bribes, I am not at all surprised. When I told Neto and David, they joked that since Kenya is unable to be the winner of sports championships, they should have at least one title to hold.
- Speaking of which, Kenya lost to Nigeria 3-0 yesterday in the World Cup Qualifier. With 0 points from two games, the team looks to be missing a trip to South Africa.
- I mentioned that AIG was the sponsor of Man U and how it was strange to see a government owned company all over the shirts of the worlds biggest soccer team. Now Aon Corporation is poised to take over sponsorship for the 2010-11 season for a contract of four years. The terms of the deal have yet to be released.
- Pastor Jairus was at the center to do some CBRW work and told Neto, David and I the story of a man who was cheated by his lawyer. The short summary is that the lawyer ran off with his clients awarded money and after years of evading finally surfaced to be acquitted by the Kenyan high courts. Despite documentation proving his scheme and the Kenyan Law Society’s recommendation of licensure revocation, he got away with it. Confused as to why the man would entrust the money with his lawyer, David questioned the man’s actions. Pastor Jairus said that the two had worked for over three years on the case and had become friends. To which David replied, “You cannot befriend a Kenyan lawyer. It’s like befriending a python.” A good conversation considering that TI listed the judiciary as the second most corrupt part of Kenya. Of course second to the police.
- I helped David with fixing a pair of crutches for client Jairus to use in walking. Sadly, he is far too weak to use them. His upper body and lower body are equally as weak. He can crawl like a champ, but I am worried that walking will not ever be an option for him. With a smile that can change the mood of the unhappiest person, I wish that there was something I could do for the little guy.
- I went to the Honey Drop for breakfast this morning. Upon arrival, Honey Drop Boy was waiting outside with his bottle of chai. I greeted him and he took my hand as he led me to my seat. I pulled up a chair and he did the same right next to me. As I ate and watched the morning news, he drank and gave sporadic glances. I think most of all he was proud to sit beside the mzungu. I noticed something wrong and when I looked closer I saw that he had terribly burned his arm. It must have happened over the weekend, but it looked as if he had an oil burn on his left forearm. He went on as if he had never been injured. The wound was exposed and was hard to sit next to as I ate, but it did not look as if it was open to infection. I worry for his health as he continues to run around in the kitchen. Children here are not the picture of cleanliness and I am sure that infections from cuts is a frequent occurrence. I am going to keep an eye out for him. Also, he is susceptible to contractures due to the trauma. If he needs therapy, I would like to get him over to the centre as soon as possible.
A View From The Cave by Tom Murphy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.