We have seen this week the gangland ways of those that don’t like it when someone appears to speak their mind, the reaction of the Chief Justice to the assertion by some that judges appear to have a policy against reform and the headline-grabbers from Nyeri that have helped stereotypes grow. Here are this week’s five things five lessons.
Lari’s unlikely anti-democrat
There is a shopping centre on the single-lane road between Limuru and Naivasha, otherwise known as the Nairobi-Nakuru highway, known as Kimende. Fate and circumstance have made it one of those small places the traveller on a bus to the Western side of Kenya can miss as the sleep begins to set in on the initial leg of the long journey. It is also too close to Nairobi to grow into the sort of place where one stops for a quick bite, smoke or call of nature. In fact, as the bus makes its return journey, the dim lights- it has those solar-powered dim lights seen on Harambee Avenue and Parliament Road- mark the end of the infamous Kinale Forest and the beginning of the descent through the mists and slippery roads of Limuru into the City in the Sun.
Kimende is among the bigger shopping centres in Lari, and because it is perpetually cold, all the men there sport dirty jackets while the women are likely to be found blowing steam from under smelly thick woollen sweaters. Kimende is not the sort of place that produces memorable, and Lari, the constituency in which it falls, is rarely in the news. That was until one David Njuguna Kiburi Mwaura, elected MP in 2007, and notably beating the noisy showman Viscount Kimathi in the process, elected to attend the opening of the Kisumu International Airport on February 3.
Politicians and journalists know only too well the value of a grand statement in their trade. The journalist will prune the politician’s statements until only the pithiest and most appropriate for the story is left, and then it shall be put in its proper context and headlines will be made.
That’s what happened with Njuguna, as explained in various stories thereafter, but the damage had been done, and the lesson we relate here has begun to be learnt.
A brief summary should suffice. At Kisumu, Njuguna was given the rare privilege of speaking at a presidential function. In the true manner of a teacher, Njuguna offered a history lesson, reminding the crowd that when Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was offered the opportunity to set up an African government in the early 60s, he did the proper thing and told the British he would not take up the offer unless Jomo Kenyatta was set free and given the chance to lead his nation. It came to pass that three decades later, Jaramogi’s son Raila Odinga declared that if Kenya was to do without Moi and his Project Uhuru, then Kibaki was kosher.
Jakoyo Midiwo and James Orengo later alluded to Njuguna’s history lesson when they asked President Kibaki to have the electorate endorse Raila as the next Head of State.
This got some blood boiling in Kimende that evening, and some fellows went to Njuguna’s home and set fire to his 504 Peugeot, not to warm their hands, but to ostensibly send him a message.
In our conversation on Tuesday, Njuguna laughed as he narrated the events.
It’s not anything to laugh at.
The lesson here is not for Njuguna but for the rest of us; there are some who still can’t stand it when another expresses an opinion and we should be wary of that variety of anti-democrat.
Mutula cannot stop
Journalists generally prefer people who talk a lot more than they do those that stay quiet. Also, if those that talk know what they speak about, and the subject is rather complicated, or scientific, and the person has the ability to break it down in simple language, you’ll always have recorders and microphones in that person’s face. If the subject is again constantly available to share their thoughts and is not always getting back to clarify or correct what has been reported, we will generally lend you an ear. Well, you might wonder, does that mean that journalists will lend you their microphones just because you do all that? Nope. If you are in a position to offer that opinion, and are not too rude when brushing aside intrusive questions, we shall be more obliged to listen.
That’s why you’ll notice that there is a set of commentators whose opinion is considered sound enough to be put on national media weekly, even daily, depending on the subject, and that’s why you’ll have Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo getting lots of time on air.
The thing with Mutula is that he will often be making his arguments eloquently. Think here of his stand on shuttle diplomacy, having Kenyans tried at the International Criminal Court, whether those indicted ought to contest the presidency, whether they ought to leave public office, when we should hold the next General Election and whether we can afford it. He is also a Senior Counsel.
But he also has his dark parts; that long association with Daniel arap Moi, defending Kanu’s takeover of the Kenyatta International Conference Centre and that failure to pay a large amount of taxes (it ensures that he takes nothing home from his salary) and that other one about the Judiciary becoming anti-reform.
We can rest assured, in the meantime, that he won’t be holding back his opinion soon.
The Judiciary will not back down
One gets the feeling that soon, a disgruntled teenager will ask his lawyers to sue his parents for making him clean the dishes and the car after he is through with the monstrous amount of homework his teachers have assigned him. It sounds like something a kid in the United States would do. Yet given the expansive Bill of Rights in the new Constitution, there are chances this could happen. Did not a prisoner in Malindi sue to have the tribunal to investigate Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza stopped from working?
I have it on very good authority that that is not the last we shall hear from the Judiciary and the surfeit of lawyers and litigants willing to put in one more application at the High Court.
I also have it on very good authority that in less than five years, these bands of litigants will tire and move on, the judges will have been vetted and will have precedents preventing them from pandering to our every whim and we shall have any vexatious cases thrown out long before the judge has wasted five minutes on it.
Until then, it is good to hear that the Chief Justice is not interested in interfering with the judges’ decisional independence.
It’s not over between Mudavadi and Raila
Seeing as there are stories in the news every day, perhaps it is true what the hard core political reporters and editors say; that ODM Deputy Leader Musalia Mudavadi is presenting a credible challenge to the assumption that Prime Minister Raila Odinga should be the party’s automatic choice for president.
Not long ago, Mudavadi was fighting with one Akaranga and one Chahonyo for the Sabatia parliamentary seat as Raila led the push to have Mwai Kibaki succeed Moi and Project Uhuru at State House.
Mudavadi makes the very valid suggestion that rather than transport the delegates to Nairobi, give them some allowance, t-shirts, scarves and caps and have them shout their choice at the gymnasium at Kasarani, why not have them meet at their counties, vote and have the results transmitted to Nairobi. He argues that since the party has been steadfast on devolution as a better method of governance, it is also the very epitome of democracy.
Raila has said the party should decide, and so we wait for it to decide.
The stereotype is not dying soon
It has been rumoured for some time, in the part of Kiambu from which I come especially, that women from Nyeri are not the type that scampers when their husbands cough. It is also said that those from Murang’a will only require that you buy them an acre or more of land. That they will faithfully till every corner of that piece and will never once threaten to leave even if the man of the house decides to install another woman in the house. Politeness and decorum only demands that the second or third woman be installed at a separate house. Murang’a is after all the place where their feet are tied together and the valleys are so steep the women dread ever going back. On the other hand, women from Kiambu are said to be irresistibly drawn to money, to the point where they can willingly end their husbands’ lives. The entire province and community by extension shares the stereotype that the men have been drinking so hard so often and so lethal substances that they can no longer sire children, the nursery schools are being shut down and the general population is reducing drastically.
Recent events in and around Nyeri suggest a conspiracy (by nature perhaps) to lend credence and to reinforce these stereotypes and there was no better illustration of this than the photograph of a man with his face like a large jigswa puzzle, held together by a trainee doctor’s stitches and God’s grace. I wished the writer had asked how many stitches he took and written a more descriptive and dramatic story. There was another who works at Ruiru but had somehow been in Mukurweini, with his back, face and hands burnt and with conflicting stories about the circumstances but with the theory of his wife’s responsibility on top.
It used to be said that women from Nyeri hardened in the 70s and 80s when their husbands and sons migrated to Nairobi in search of jobs. They would thus leave economic power in the hands of the women, who would manage the coffee, tea and dairy farms and pay for the kids’ education. While their men gained a measure of respect by virtue of working in Nairobi, they did not make much, and even when they did, they would get back home to find their wives comfortable and used to taking care of their families. When they came home drunk and demanded to be recognised as the man of the house, and invariably demanded their conjugal rights, the women would do more than merely brush them away. Having realised that they could do without their men, they would beat them up. Today, they cut them up.
Without the benefit of empirical evidence and proper research (Nderitu Njoka of the Maendeleo ya Wanaume has a pile of unverifiable statistics) the stereotypes and associated myths live on.