A Systems Theory Approach to Tackling Insecurity in Kenya

These are initial thoughts on how systems theory can be applied to tackling the rampant insecurity situation in Kenya, particularly petty crimes in urban centres.

1. REGISTRATION OF PERSONS: Introduce a single electronic ID, linked to a single registration of persons database, for all Kenyans over 18 years of age (and an electronic birth certificate for those under 18 years). This ID will be used for registration anywhere in the country, whether it is universities and colleges, opening bank accounts, accessing government services, registering businesses, seeking employment, leasing rental, virtually everything.

2. HOUSING: Introduce a buildings/ premises/ residential registration law requiring all buildings, classified under different categories to register with a single institution/database. Everybody in Kenya, when they rent a house or an office building, will be required to register with this body. This means that a government agency can check in real time the current residence of anybody so long as they are in possession of their electronic ID. All landlords will be required to update the details of their tenants once every month and not more than 3 days after a tenant moves houses. The new landlord must register a new tenant using the same ID. In the database, it will show that person X moved from house A to house B. All persons, over 18, without the ability to rent a house, will be required to register with the same government agency as homeless people, state their current place of staying. These are the people who will be automatically eligible for public housing schemes. Once a person is able to rent their own house, the Landlords entry of their ID as a tenant automatically removes them from the homeless list. Every three months, the government will review the database to determine whether landlords, particularly those in cities and towns, have updated their details and those of their tenants, and a big fine will be imposed on noncompliance.

3. TRANSPORT: Develop “closed” public transportation systems, such as transit hubs or intermodal transit hubs, where everybody buys tickets at the electronic counters, with the only requirements being the electronic ID and money (cash, card, mobile). Like in developed countries, this ticket is what is used to gain entry to the gates to the boarding platforms (for trains, buses, tram, airports etc). All stations across the country, will be required to install these electronic counters. In places without electricity, battery operated hand-held receipting technologies should be used, even as the governments invests to ensure all regions in Kenya are connected to the electric grid. All these information will again be held in a single government database for the transport ministry. Instead of expanding the existing roads, I’ll suggest connecting all major towns in Kenya through rail, and standardize transportation scheduling, both for passenger and freight, across the country. Even personal cars, when getting to main roads, must be identified.

4. TRADE: In addition to upgrading regulations in trade (and finance & banking – this needs a bigger space as it relates to corruption and transacting criminal proceeds). Create a new law governing the sale of second-hand goods. The dealers of second hand-goods must be specifically registered with a specific agency under the ministry of trade. All persons selling to the second-hand stores must be issued with a receipt that has electronically captured their ID and what they sold. When we make it extremely difficult to sell to second-hand stores while also requiring that the person disposing off the good must be registered, we will be targeting the supply chain for stolen goods. You can steal but have nowhere to sell, even as new technologies come up that make it difficult to erase identifiers in gargets, especially with the rise of the Internet of Things (IoTs). To buy a second hand good, one would need to go to a second-hand store, not buy from another person directly.

5. LAW ENFORCEMENT: Create a professional law enforcement agency. There are too many parts to this, but the core of it is creating a professional police service in every sense of the word. And a functional criminal justice system.

6. EDUCATION: To tackle the root of all forms of insecurity, introduce knowledge on all types of crimes in the school curriculum from primary, secondary, and tertiary, so that children grow knowing what criminal acts entail and their associated punishments. This is, of course, in addition to a curriculum that do not render people too poor to survive in the future.

7. I have only tackled registration of persons, housing, transportation, trade, police training,criminal justice system, education, etc and there are many more, but as you can see, eliminating insecurity is not about just employing more policemen or giving them bigger guns, but rather creating a system where the risks of crime far outweigh the rewards of it. You steal in place A, CCTV cameras pick your face, feeds it to all the systems, you buy a ticket to get into a public transportation system, the system sends signals. You are arrested either in the train/bus/car or when you alight at the next station, or when you get home, or you’ll be forced to be a fugitive. As it happens now, person A steals in Street A, runs to street B 10 metres away and just like that he has escaped punishment. And even if he/she escapes, there is the other question of where to dispose it off. All these increase the risks. All these developments will create thousands, if not millions of jobs, and deal with the reason why people steal in the first place, while simultaneously enhancing public safety.

Our problem today is that there is a system breakdown/ dysfunction. If those systems work, we’ll have less people feeling that the rewards of petty crime far outweigh the risks, leading to less people on the streets losing their property.

The biggest advantage, however, will be on the wealth of information in those databases which can be analyzed using big data tools to aid in policy making and developing a culture of constant improvement of the lives of Kenyans.


Distraction is the Function of Racism and How Black/African Intellectuals Nourish It

One of the things I have realized with other cultures, and forgive me because I’m going to make a generalization, particularly those cultures homogenizing to challenge the global hegemony of what we call the Judeo-Christian culture, typically Europe and America, which were (are) the recent/dominant players in colonialism and imperialism, is that they do not care about what Europe and America thinks about their culture. The generalization in terms of cultures that I’m talking about are the Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and many ‘national cultures, in the Asia Pacific, do not situate themselves as the periphery.

So this is my point:

To the West, which has situated itself as the centre, as the global, Africa and its peoples are conceived as a peripheral entity, and as peripheries are always conceived and perceived, Africa is presented as small and uncomplicated, 54+ countries become one country, a billion plus people are fit into easy to memorise stereotypes, and symbols of denigration are used to keep them in their place, angry and responding to nonsenses forever.

Just try to estimate the amount of African intellectual resources spent on responding to the recent H&M ad.

As the centre, the West sees no need to differentiate Africa because that would mess with centuries of history that have enabled the excavation of African lands, peoples, and minds, and justified the dispossession. To cement the narrative, there are tomes of books that have been written to explain racism and colonialism, and almost all of them, including the ones written by black people maintain the power relationship (the oppressor (read white man) and the oppressed (read black man)). These books simply explain, they have no desire to destroy the structure. This has led to an internalization of an inferiority complex among the oppressed, one that is maintained by their intellectuals.

Every day you’ll wake up to a new book explaining racist structures and how they affect your entire life, and your children, and your grandchildren for ages and ages. And these things are taught in school. So even in African countries, what is taught is history according to the colonizer, the intruder. What should instead be taught is the history of how our people fought colonization, the history of resistance, who were the fighters, where was the fighting, what did we win. The use of propaganda, everywhere in the world is to exaggerate the wins and diminish/erase the loss. History is not truth, it is a (re)interpretation of events or non-events in a way that allows it to serve or challenge power, in a way that dignifies the lives of the future generations.

My reasoning, therefore, is that to move the centre, to move the narrative of the African life away from the periphery, African children should not be taught colonization as if it was the beginning of African history, rather they should be taught the thousands of years of African history, and colonization only taught as an interruption to that history. Focus should be on the African side of the story.

In the same vein, I think racism and racist structures and their nature of oppression should not be taught to children, not even Black Americans. The elaborate education of the African child on the structure of their own oppression, I think, kills their fighting spirit at a young age. They begin their lives as lesser human beings. They give up, because, it presents racism and racist superstructures like white supremacy as this huge concrete sky that the African must spend their whole lives fighting and still have no chance of winning. If you are following, then you’ll realize this is the point where I agree with Cornel West’s charge against Ta Nehisi Coates. I don’t want to read another book on white supremacy that renders black fight back invisible. But even beyond Cornel West, I want visions of us that do not present black lives as being in a perpetual struggle against whites, one that recognizes the wholesomeness of the black man and presents him or her as an intelligent participant in the imagination and creation of this civilization.

In today’s world, I want young Africans to throw away narratives of inadequacy and subjugation and exploit the knowledge of the world, irrespective of who produced it, to dignify their tomorrow, as a participant in knowledge creation. Let us flatten the world and destroy the seeming permanence of oppressed-oppressor relationship. Doing this needs a completely different perspective.

The best African brains must spend their entire lives responding to some shitty symbols and descriptions about them written or said by the racist system, instead of describing Africans in the wholesome ways, and situating our own dignity. Jennifer Nansubuga’s ‘Kintu’ can teach us how colonialism can be erased, or its centrality diminished, when historicizing the life of the African. The other books that African children should be exposed to are Afrofuturism and African sci-fi from authors like Nnedi Okorafor – as a way of preparing young African minds to battle with the ideas of the future that all young peoples of the world are battling with, not stories of colonialism and racism.

The Chinese, Japanese, Arabs, Indian, cultures do not spend time in examining how the white has oppressed them, not to the extent that Africans do, yet the colonizers and imperialists ravaged their lands too, and even continue today. They steal the best ideas from white men, add to their even more brilliant ideas, and as we have seen now, all the brilliant technologies, being applied at mass scale, are coming from our Asian and Asia Pacific neighbors. In short, they are situating themselves as the centre and they are not apologetic about it. The Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Indian etc. They have their own philosophies, their own bibles, and treasure their own languages. They use their languages in conceptualizing the world. In Africa we say our languages are not complex enough to present complex ideas. In Africa, we don’t have our own bibles. A billion people are surviving on borrowed religion, borrowed philosophies. The African man is a strong man. Perhaps the strongest in the universe. It is time for the African man and woman to begin thinking of themselves as the (possible) colonizer, as the centre of power, not as the subject that can only respond/react to hegemonic power.


Is Majimboism the Answer to Kenya’s Political Problems

In the 1960s, US writer, Paul Theroux, described Kenya as a “querulous republic”, as simply an assortment of ethnic communities fiercely competing for control of the centre. Did he see something in us, something that we have been unable to see ourselves, or maybe we have just refused to accept?

I have argued in the past against secession, as pushed by David Ndii, and argued instead for autonomous regions like the Majimbo Constitution one that was supported by Masinde Muliro and Ronald Ngala.

We need to go back to something like the Majimbo Constitution of 1963, the short-lived quasi federal experiment that divided legislative and executive powers between the central government and seven regions. Not only did it seek to create a framework for a just distribution of political power, but it aimed to safeguard the interests of the smaller ethnic groups from marginalization and domination by larger ethnic groups.

At independence, the Kikuyu-Luo alliance was the threat to smaller ethnic groups, and Masinde Muliro argued that federalism would protect the interests of the Kalenjin, Baluhya, and the coastal tribes. The African Kenya Democratic Union (KADU) was founded to defend the interests of the smaller tribes, the so called KAMATUSA (Kalenjin, Maasai, Turkana, and Samburu) against the dominance of Kikuyus and Luos in KANU.

Masinde Muliro argued that majimboism was ideal because it provided for “free association” and prevented “imposed unity”.

The Kikuyu-Luo alliance didn’t last long, and has often reappeared with more promises in our short history, but today, the fear is Kikuyu-Kalenjin alliance and the problems foresaw in 1963 are everywhere for everybody to see.

One would think Masinde Muliro foresaw the “tyranny of numbers” ideology.

That is history for you. What you support vehemently today will whip your ass tomorrow. The super brilliant KANU Secretary General, and then Minister for Constitutional Affairs, Tom Mboya, taunted Masinde Muliro’s ideas as “an experiment that [was full of] unworkable and unfair provisions”.

In his book, Not Yet Uhuru, Jaramogi Odinga wrote “the [majimbo] constitution was based on artificially engendered fears, for it is obvious that the European settlers and the British Government helped KADU and accorded it an importance out of proportion to its popular support.”

If Jaramogi was alive today, would he call them “artificially engendered fears”? He added that the a majimbo system was too expensive, in terms of money and personnel, and that it prevented the growth of nationhood and retarded economic development. That it was too legalistic and cumbersome, literally requiring a battery of legal experts and clerks at the Centre and Regions to interpret the dos and the don’ts hidden in the myriad legally worded clauses if it was ever to work.

Ha. Ha. Yet it is the failure of majimbo that opened the door to and strengthened Kenyatta’s Kikuyu-dominated oligarchy, and and Mboya and Odinga were the first victims.

There is a paper, “Is Majimbo Federalism? Constitutional Debate in a Tribal Shark Tank” published by Willy Mutunga and Peter Kagwanja on May 20, 2001. By then, Willy Mutunga was the Executive Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission. Mr. Kagwanja, a doctoral candidate, is a Programme Associate at the Commission. It has a good number of arguments against Majimboism.

The original Bomas drafts had this 1963 vision but the Kibaki government mutilated it and if you are not a child, you can probably remember the anti-Raila propaganda about his talks on Majimboism. You can remember the talks that Raila wanted people to obtain visas while traveling to Mombasa and Kisumu bla bla. The kila mtu atarudi kwao.

In the end, the consensus was a watered down document, that preserved some core parts of the status quo – devolution and the county governments. Still, I have always viewed the 47 counties as an attempt to go back to that lost vision, especially if you look at how the counties are regrouping into economic blocks.

This is what Kenya needs. I believe this is what we lost when Jomo Kenyatta began centralizing the state and killing those who disagreed with his idea of turning the nation-state into his Kingdom.

Maybe we need to reread Masinde Muliro and Ronald Ngala, put KANU aside and relook at KADU’s ideas.

Maybe all we need to accept is that we are “a querulous republic”, now that we have evidence in our 50+ post-independence period, something that the Mboyas and Odingas did not have (they believed too much in Kenyatta’s ‘honesty’), and maybe go back to where we began and start again, on the right path.

Notes On the Secession Debates in Kenya

There is no need for secession, at least in Kenya now. Even if different regions were to secede, say, Kenya ends up divided into two, it would just be the start of a long disintegration process, where every region, loosely based on the semi-autonomous regions (provinces) at independence, will want to be a state. Even if Kikuyuland is joined with Kalenjinland in these debates, there is really no long term justification for the two groups to remain tied in the hip forever, even though they are dominating Kenya’s state infrastructure now. The same applies to the Luos and the other smaller or marginalized ethnic groups. Wandia Njoya also recently wrote a very important analysis of how our ‘tribe’ classifications have been fluid and have changed so much if you look at the classifications in the censuses in pre and post-colonial Kenya.

A recent example is the disintegration of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. From the 80s to the 90s, SFR Yugoslavia was engulfed in political crisis and inter-ethnic wars due to unresolved issues. In the end, a country that was made up of six republics drawn along ethnic and historical lines: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. Add World War II to the mix, add Tito and Slobodan Milošević, add the revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe, and in 1990 you have the dissolution of the SFR Yugoslavia. From 1990, each of those regions went their separate ways. So from the SFR Yugoslavia which was created in 1943, the breakup which started in the 1990s, led to the independence of Croatia in 1991, Slovenia in 1991, Republic of Serbian Krajina tried between q991 to 1995 and ended up being part of Croatia, Republic of Macedona in 1991, Bosnia and Herzegovina 1995, etc etc. It is contestable whether they have become better states. Also look at the continuing disintegration of the USSR.

The constitution presents secession as a clean deal, signature on a paper, backed by an ideological understanding of self-determination, but in reality, it is a long and painful process, and the benefits are not always guaranteed, especially in Africa. Secession is not always a solution. In most cases, it is a consequence of the weak glues holding the constituent parts of a nation-state melting away. But even if its pursuit is fairly peaceful, say like the referendum for Scottish independence, we also have to look at the history of neighbouring states. In the process of disintegration, what will prevent Somalia from coming for the Northern Frontier District that Kenya stole from them? What will prevent Uganda from laying a stake on the western region of Kenya and the Rift Valley? How about Ethiopia grabbing Turkanaland? Afterall they have been eyeing it since forever. And in that process, Tanzania would simply carter away Kenya’s Coast region. You will find yourself seceding from Kenya only to end up in Uganda or Somalia. LOL.

It is for this reason that for a region to secede, in a volatile region such as ours, it must have a semblance of a standing army to protect itself, not only from the old cruel state it is breaking away from, but also the new neighbours who see it as small potatoes that can be whipped into the bellies with groundnut soup. The police and the army are the state’s tools for enacting the monopoly of violence, at home and abroad. I’m only seeing, say for example Luos throwing stones. I’m not seeing them having machine guns under their beds.

I have written here, a lot about the economic viability of small states, with the exception of a few. If I was to make decisions, Africa itself should have been say 10 huge federal republics, instead of 54+ countries. Populations and market sizes are important factors when looking at the economic viability of a state. Huge nation-states with huge populations, if managed well, become the strongest players in international relations. There is a correlation between population growth and urbanization, and a close correlation with economic development, this is because urban centres are melting pots for innovation and provide environments for increasing economies of scale, if managed well. Look at all the rich countries in the world. They are urban countries. This is why I always find it contradictory when population control, in sparsely populated Africa, is promoted. Just like in every region in the world, the biggest and powerful countries in Africa, will be those with huge populations hence huge markets. Imagine the wealth a company can generate selling nipple rings to 200 million Nigerians compared to 4 million Luos in Kenya.

The nature of the nation-state is also changing. We should be careful not to be stuck on Westphalian sovereignty or the nationalistic impulses of the 19th and 20th centuries. We are now in the age of state captures and corporatocracies and I want to go and live in Mars. Like I always say, even in the midst of political persecution, we should also try to outthink some of these entrenched models of imagining nation-states, , in addition to championing for increased autonomy of counties while killing imperial presidency by changing the structure of government so that a president is not elected through popular vote but through elected representatives from each county.

It is also important not add that the fact that different regions, have at one point entertained the idea, from the North Eastern, to the Coast, to Central at one point, to the loud ethnonationalism in Rift Valley at one time, and the seething sentiment in the Nyanza and Western regions for sometime now, shows that, while some tribes have been bloodied more than others in post-independent Kenya, the cause of this oppression and injustice, has not been tribal groups, but rather the elite group capturing the state, which for a long time has been the group Jomo Kenyatta created to leech the nation. So many people, including Uhuru Kenyatta, are beneficiaries of this system that continues to hold Kenya captive.

Once a while, one one tribe is played against another through propaganda for political expediency, and then state infrastructure is used to profile and persecute certain tribes. The tribes enjoying the privilege of safety at that point are programmed to celebrate the oppression of the other and given crumbs to feel a sense of belonging at the banquet table. Sometimes resources actually flow their way, and development, to psychologically manipulate them that conform and we give you tge cake, rebel and we withdraw the cake, making them perptual slaves to elite manipulation. This cheerleading the oppression of others is what we rage against. But at the root of this is class, and if people could be made to understand this, we’ll be talking about the need of revolution, an act where one class violently overthrows the other, and not secession, because what we need is an equal share at the table. I’m distrustful of Dr. Ndii pigeonholing NASA strongholds, now, with secession calls. If such calls, as I have seen are purely based on tribes, aka the Luo et al, getting their country, one wonders what Dr. Ndii hopes to gain, or he is now the saviour of the Luos (and other unconsulted communities bundled in Country B)?

We have serious historical injustices and political issues, but secession is not the magic bullet. I need more countries in Africa building bigger and stronger political and economic unions. 

“Nu Africa” – @OCTOPIZZO

Octopizzo Da’Illest has a new track out, “Nu Africa” off his upcoming 5th Studio Album. It is an aspirational track, laid-back and mature. Excellent production. Absolutely. The video concept is just too good and is beautifully executed. OCTOPIZZO’s music videos rarely disappoint.

“This is Africa Enterprise and we mean business”, “This is Nu Africa” is the rallying cry.

The track reminded me of Cyhi The Prynce’s (ft. Ernestine Johnson) track with the same name “Nu Africa” – which is a Black-American’s imagination of what would happen if Black-Americans stormed the motherland.

A wonderful production which imagines how American hip hop artists would transform the face of the continent, if they decided to escape the lack of fulfilment in America. It toys with Khaled building a neighbourhood in Tanzania, Jay and Bey buying land in Egypt, Puffy opening a stripper club off the sands of Kenya, Akon lighting the cities, Oprah opening up more schools, Michael Jordan bringing more shoes, going to Utopian Ethiopia for the beautiful women… and Obama becoming the President. It mentions up to 24 countries, bellying with the nostalgia and angst of the black man, and emptiness caused by loss of identity, something that is brought forth forcefully by Ernestine Johnson’s spoken word infusion.

I was expecting a similarly expansive capturing of “Africa” in Octopizzo’s track, albeit from an African’s perspective, but there is little apart from the title and en passant mentions.

The Africa in the track is “Kenya”. Also considering the huge and serious subject matter the track promises, it has too many of Octo’s rhyme book fillers (1.45 – 2.22, 3.20-4.00) that would have given space to better content, however, the hook maintains the soulful Africa feel, and the little speech at the end saves it from superfluousness, and refocuses it to the original vision of Nu Africa.

There’s this track, “Last Shot” ft Danton & M Lay on the war and refugee crisis in Sudan that had almost none of such filler rhymes, though the video production was basic and it was definitely produced to be a club banger.

Great ambition Octopizzo. Keep repackaging yourself. It is becoming better. The album will definitely be a chart topper.

Stop the Violence – “Gaza” by @Khaligraph Jones

Khaligraph Jones, aka Brian Ouko Omollo, aka Ndugu Omollo is arguably the best hip hop artist in Kenya today, pulping every rival to mashed potatoes, but it is only recently that he is beginning to find his strength, and is slowly climbing the steps to his rightful place.

He used to be the best rapper, a battling firespitter, a thousand rhymes per minute, he still is, but that is technique and nothing else, it is only now that he is becoming the hip hop artist, an enviable storyteller, and you don’t have to look far to see.

It has been said before that the mark of a good rapper is the ability to string words together into captivating rhymes, but the mark of a great one is the ability to weave those rhymes into stunning narratives that grip and maintain the listener’s attention through the end of the song. The best hip hop artist is the best storyteller. All legendary hip hop artists are legendary storyteller.

Khaligraph’s versatility is allowing him to walk up those stairs. Chali ya Ghetto was dope, Gaza, targeting Nairobi’s notorious criminal gang – Gaza, released from his Blu Ink Corp, is more. Most rappers would just rage against the beat to pass over a message of “stop the gang violence”, but Khali uses juxtaposition.

The song is a dialogue between two people – a living gang member and a deceased one, with the threat of Hessy – Nairobi’s super cop, in the middle. The living gang member, as most are wont to be, is steeped in anger, crime and violence, spewing threats at Hessy for cutting down the gang friend, and vowing revenge.

But the dead know better. And in slow, introspective storytelling, the dead gang member feeds him with a sober, down-to-earth advice to get off that nonsense ama akule copper. Form ni kureform as Virusi Mbaya Kibera would say.

Great song and great production! This is international. Good job ndugu Omollo.

Stories of African Resistance: The Battle of Adwa

The year is 1896.

Europe has decided to slice up Africa into cakes. Italy says it will eat the Ethiopian Empire. It starts to, encroach, south of their colony in Eritrea on the Red Sea.

Seven years earlier, in 1889, the Kingdom of Italy has signed a friendship treaty, the Treaty of Wichale, with the Empire of Ethiopia. The basic idea was that Italy and Ethiopia would respect each other and none would try to scratch the other’s ass. But then differences began to emerge on the nature of “friendship”.

According to Italy, the Italian version of Article 17 of the treaty clearly stated that Ethiopia would be a protectorate of Italy, that the Emperor of Ethiopia was obliged to conduct all foreign affairs through Italian authorities. Emperor Menelik II tells Italy that what is in his Amharic copy of the treaty is that the Emperor could use the good offices of the Kingdom of Italy to conduct relations with foreign nations if he wishes. Italy accuses the Emperor of editing his Amharic version. That it is a “mistranslation” from the Italian original. Emperor says that his document is the original position. Italy decides to pursue a military solution to force the Ethiopian Empire to abide by the Italian reading of the Treaty of Wichale.

They begin by occupying the northern Ethiopian city of Adigrat. The year is 1895.

Emperor Menelik II is, naturally, pissed off. Bigtime. He doesn’t attack immediately. He waits for a whole year, towards the end of 1896. While Italy glories in the success of their initial occupation, he uses a 4 million lire loan he had borrowed from Italy earlier to import better weapons. He then calls the population of Ethiopia to arms and begins to lead a massive military force of 100,000 men northward towards Italian occupied territories. The Italian forces are mercilessly defeated at the battle of Amba Alage.

In response, Rome ferries more troops to Eritrea. 17,978 troops, with 56 artillery pieces, under Commander General Oreste Boratieri. And the artillery! Right Column: (3,800 rifles / 18 cannons), Central Column: (2,493 rifles / 12 cannons), Left Column: (4,076 rifles / 14 cannons), and Reserve Column: (4,150 rifles /12 cannons).

The Ethiopians are not leaving anything to chance! These are their forces: Shewa forces – 25,000 rifles / 3,000 horses / 32 guns; Semien forces – 3,000 rifles / 600 horses / 4 guns; Gojjam forces – 5,000 rifles; Harar forces – 15,000 rifles; Tigray and Hamasen forces – 12,000 rifles / 6 guns; Wollo-Galla forces – 6,000 rifles / 5,000 horses; Forces of the Fit’awrari Mangascià Atikim – 6,000 rifles; Forces of Ras Oliè and others – 8,000 rifles; and additional thousands of spearmen and swordsmen.

The Emperor’s strategy is to overextend the Italians to fight on his terms. He threatens to outflank them, maneuvers them into a position that leaves their supply lines exposed. General Oreste Boratieri knows that battling Menelik’s troops in the open field is suicidal. He has been outmaneuvered. He believes the best strategy is to retreat, but some of his officers resist retreat, arguing that they have reports that Menelik’s army is demoralized and depleted. The Italians advance an army of more than 15,000 under the cover of night to create strong defensive positions and possibly scare the Ethiopians into retreat. By dawn, the next day, most of the Italian army have secured their positions.

The day is February 29th 1896.

The Emperor is just beginning his morning prayers for divine guidance when the spies from Ras Alula, his chief military advisor, run in. The Italian forces are advancing! The Emperor, Empress Taytu by his side, summons all the separate armies and orders them to advance. There is Negus Tekle Haymond commanding the right column, Ras Alula the left column, Ras Makonnen and Ras Mengesha on the centre, and Rask Mikael at the head of the cavalry. Emperor Menelik remains with the reserve battalion. The Ethiopian forces position themselves on the hills overlooking Adwa valley, 52 mounted guns, trained on would-be-approaching Italians on the valley.

At 6.AM on the morning of March 1, the first Italian brigade – Albertone’s Askari Brigade – arrives at Adwa valley. Albertone’s brigade holds position for 2 hours in a heavy battle. In the end Albertone is captured. The second brigade, led by Arimondi, battle it out with Ethiopians for 3 hours, almost annihilating the Ethiopians, only for Emperor Menelik II to release 25,000 troops from the reserves. Italians are cut down and swamped. Menelik’s forces, pursue and destroy two brigades led by Boratieri on the slopes of Mount Belah. The last Italian brigade is quickly extinguished by Gojjam forces under the command of Tekle Haymonot, as Emperor Menelik watched.

That day, by noon, the Battle of Adwa was over.

7000 Italians were dead, 1500 wounded, and 3000 taken prisoner.
The scope and scale of this victory was so extensive that Menelik’s campaign covered more miles than Napoleon’s advance in Russia. It was so devastating that no other European power attempted to colonize Ethiopia.

Sources: The Battle of Adwa: African Victory in the Age of Empire; The Battle of Adwa ; The Battle of Adwa and many more


This short, basic, write-up is inspired by Too Early For Birds, which poses a rather simple question: What if we could turn our stories into living, breathing performances?

That is exactly what the team behind Too Early For Birds hopes to achieve.

The team behind #TooEarlyForBirds which is includes some of the finest performance artists in the country – led by Abu Sense and Ngartia, has gone back into the timeline of Kenya seeking out moments that built who we are as a people. The result is stories of sweat, blood and sheer courage. Raging from resistance against the British colonialists to standing against cold-blooded dictators. Most of which were never taught in school. They are stories that inspire awe, terror and admiration. They are inspired by and based on research done by Morris Kiruga. He is a researcher and writer dedicated to chronicling Kenyan history in a Kenyan perspective.

Are you ready for the experience on Wednesday, 17th May 2017, from 06:00 PM – 11:00 PM, at the Kenya National Theatre, Nairobi-Kenya?

Get a Ticket on TicketSasa