Race, Ethnicity, and Political Activism in Kenya

I have always found it interesting to watch, and sometimes to engage with, woke or we can say anti-government Kikuyu activist friends, complaining how all the plumb government appointments are going to Kikuyus. I have always thought this ranks incredibly high on the privilege meter. Complaining that a government is appointing a disproportionately high number of people from your community is a privilege other Kenyan communities can only dream of. So I ask:

If you were the dominant tribe in power and a tribalism-influenced government appointment came your way, would you take it? Or if you knew your tribe was statistically over-represented in government jobs, would you turn down an opportunity to work in government? Or you just make that argument because the political appointments at the top are more visible, and that the persistence of discrimination of other communities makes you, rather uncomfortable?

The big question: Is this activism based on altruism or solidarity with oppressed groups?

(You can replace the Kikuyu in this post, with Kalenjin, Luo, Kamba or any other community that may in the future, due to Kenya’s tribe-based political mobilization, ascend to power)

I hope this question is not very annoying: Does being a Kikuyu anti-government activist feel like being a white anti-racism activist?

Sociologist Cystal Fleming, in response to many whites admonishing Donald Trump’s racist remarks about Africa and Haiti, once remarked that “the main lesson most whites absorbed from the Civil Rights Movement wasn’t that they have a personal responsibility to fight systemic racism but rather, that they have a responsibility to maintain a public appearance of being ‘non-racist’ even as racism pervades their lives.”

Jesse A. Myerson wrote that “in this formulation, racism is not a system but an inherent quality within an individual, proof of which comes when they publicly espouse racist views or use racist language. By formally classifying Trump “a racist” (“calling him out”), well-to-do liberals are able to implicitly deem themselves “non-racists” while keeping the pervasiveness of the attitude that Africa and Haiti are shitholes where it belongs: swept well under the rug. In Trump’s case, “the problem, for many whites, isn’t white racism or dominance —the problem is a failed public performance of being ‘non-racist.’”

The problem with the public performance is that racism is not an individual quality; it is a hierarchical system of distributed power that gets mediated through people’s acts. The dominant liberal conception of white anti-racism emphasizes altruism. In this mode, white people must set aside their own self-interest in order to extend kindness to those less fortunate. Humanitarian assistance is rewarded, and those who practice it are hailed for their self-sacrifice and generosity.

“White people are encouraged to defer, shrink, and assist. It is not our fight, the white-altruism mode says, so we must strive to decenter ourselves and support black people’s “advancement” as peripheral allies, doing what kindnesses we can to compensate them for the privileges we enjoy. We must reliably articulate non-racist positions using suitably non-racist terminology, correct white people who fail to do these, and under no circumstances use racist language out in the open.”

Just like racism, tribalism is also not an individual quality, but a hierarchical system of distributed power that is mediated through people’s acts. This is the same way ethnicity works in Kenya. Kindness is extended to those ethnically oppressed. Altruism NOT solidarity. Solidarity demands collective action toward redistributing power. Altruism does not address unequal power relations, it entrenches dominance.

Is your anti-tribalism activism against the tribeX-dominated regime anchored in the goal of redistributing power or it is just to make you feel good -altruistic?

A Summary of the #PunguzaMzigo (Constitution Amendment) Bill – For Busy Kenyans

Oh, come on. Don’t be embarrassed about it. I understand. We are busy. It is difficult to get time away from our busy social media lives to read the new constitutional amendment hullabaloo. You are not alone. Perhaps you have stumbled on a Facebook post by a friend responding to the bill and maybe threw one or two comments in passing. Fair play. Or that tweet that clipped its wings even before it hatched. You know, the general stuff. How if Raila has not talked about it, or Uhuru, then it is going nowhere. You know. Deep state and stuff. How we comment on things we have not read. How we avoid specificity for the beauty of generalization. Or how Ekuro Aukot is I don’t know what. You know how we are. Don’t lie. Plus most of us are allergic to reading. Except for those who will read this. This service is brought to you free of charge.

It is all about kupunguza mzigo. Reducing the burden on Kenyan taxpayers.

THING ONE: Strengthen Senate and National Assembly and reduce cost of running National Parliament


  • Abolishing the 290 constituencies;
  • Adopting and using each of the 47 counties as a single constituency for purposes of parliamentary election to Senate and National Assembly;
  • Electing one man and one woman to the national assembly and to nominate only six members of parliament from special interest groups (SIGs). This will also consider gender equality so that of the sic (6) SIGs, there must be one man and one woman for each category. This, in fact, cures the elusive a third gender rule in Parliament.
  • Electing 47 Senators using the County as a single constituency.


THING TWO: Strengthen Devolution & Taking Services To Peoples Doorsteps

  • Increasing Counties revenue share allocation to, at least, 35% from the current 15%. The people of Kenya are in the counties, wards and villages.
  • Use each of the 1450 Wards of Kenya as the primary unit of accelerated development replacing CDF hence taking development to the people’s doorsteps.

THING THREE: End Gender Imbalance, Inequality and Address The Elusive 1/3 Gender Rule In Elective Positions



  • End historical gender inequality and ensure that Kenyans elect one man and one woman from each of the 47 Counties to the National Assembly. This abolishes the women representative position.

THING FOUR: Demystify The Presidency & End A Culture Of Electoral Violence Associated With Power Of Incumbency



  • Introduce a one 7-year term presidency


  • To end the “do or die” culture of re-election that is responsible for the history of violence, ethnic and political tensions
  • With two terms, the focus has always been on re-election rather than service delivery
  • One-term presidency will be ending theft of public money
  • stop the cyclical economic meltdown caused by incumbents clinging to power
  • Reduce wage bill.


THING FIVE: Reduce Public Wage Bill And Recurrent Expediture.

  • Reduce cost of running parliament from current KES 36.8 billion to less than
    KES 5 billion per year. This saves tax payers KES 31.8 billion.
  • Abolish nominations in the National Assembly (except for 6 SIGs), County
    Assemblies and Senate.
  • Stop wastage of public funds and cap salaries of elected leaders to a maximum and consolidated pay of KES 500,000 for the President and KES 300,000 for the MP per month. All elected leaders will not be paid any other allowances (sitting allowance, car grant and Mortgage allowance). SRC to determine salaries of other elected leaders.
  • Abolish the position of Deputy Governor. The Governor to nominate from among the duly vetted and appointed County Executive Officers, one of them to be his principal Assistant for purposes of administration. In the unlikely event of the position of Governor falling vacant, the Governor to be elected in a fresh by election.
  • Constitutional commissions to comprise of not more than 5-part time members who will be sitting on a necessity basis and shall be paid a sitting allowance per sitting as will be set by the SRC


THING SIX: Enforce Integrity, End Corruption & Theft of Public Money


  • Amend Chapter 6 of the Constitution to automatically adopt recommendations of public inquiry and audit reports and bar all adversely mentioned individuals from holding any public or state office. This will end both impunity and corruption and instill a culture of accountability for those serving in the public service.
  • Corruption and theft of public resources cases to be tried within 30 days and all appeals to be exhaustively concluded within 15 days.
  • Impose a life sentence for suspects convicted of corruption and theft of public funds. No presidential pardon and amnesty will be applicable in those cases.

THING SEVEN: Reduce Cost of Running Elections & Registration of Voters


  • Every Kenyan at the age of 18 and who acquires a national identity card shall be deemed to be a fully registered voter for purposes of elections and referenda.


  • To save Kenyans and IEBC billions of shillings for the continuous registration of voters.


That is it. Not too long, right? Now have quality discussions about the bill that actually talk about the contents of the bill itself and what it hopes to achieve and not those general statements we all make just because we are too lazy to critique the specific aspects.

Click here to read the entire Punguza Mzigo (Constitution of Kenya Amendment) Bill, 2019

The Story of South African Boers and a Kenyan Town - Eldoret

This is the story. The Second Anglo-Boer War broke on October 11 1899, a war between the British Empire and two Boer States: the Orange Free State and the Republic of Transvaal. It was a war between two European tribes fighting to control South Africa.

In the end, the British beat the Boers thoroughly, but it was not isi. The war ended on May 31 1902, with the British Empire annexing the two states. Naturally, the Boers were not happy. A couple of rogue Afrikaan-speaking Boers decided they had had enough of British rule in South Africa.

They entered a German ship, Windhoek, with everything that they could carry and sailed north by sea. With their leader, Meneer Van Rensberg, they arrived in Mombasa in 1908 and set forth for the hinterland to hunt for land. They arrived in Nakuru in July 1908 by rail from Mombasa.

From Nakuru, they trekked to Uasin Gishu, a place that looked like the South African kopjes, a place where “their women could breed in peace”.

The trek to Uasin Gishu was not happenstance. It is said that the first Afrikaner to settle in Farm 64 were the Van Breda brothers who arrived in 1903. In 1905, they were joined by the Franz Arnoldi family. But in August 1908, 58 rogue Afrikaners, arrived led by Jan van Rensburg, and settled at the foot of Sergoit Hill on October 22 1908. Each family built a shack, put up fences, hooked up oxen to simple ploughs and turned the first furrows. They sowed wheat, maize and vegetables transforming the plateau. The farms were later registered and given reference numbers. This is how heavily-armed group of Boers ‘colonized’ Uasin Gishu.

This was a time when the African continent was a white people playground. The Royal Engineers had carved out the extremely fertile Rift Valley into big farms, what was known as “the white highlands” – regions not less than 5000 ft above sea level, which is best suited for Europeans to settle in. But Africans had settled in these highlands, so the colonial government passed The Crown Lands Ordinance of 1902 which permitted land grants to Europeans – meaning that only Europeans could own and manage the highland areas.

The Kenya Gazette Notices of 1912 gives an idea of how these farms were named. This was around present day Uasin Gishu. Farms were named Farm 1, Farm 2, Farm 3 that way that way. There was Farm 64. Farm 64 is what became Eldoret – an area with elevation varying from 7000 to 9000 ft, very ideal for European settlement. This is how heavily-armed group of Boers arrived in Uasin Gishu. You can go to the Kenya Gazette Notice of December 29 1934 to see the names of these Afrikaner families, including the the van Rensburg family, listed as farmers with addresses in Uasin Gishu.

One day, as the Boers were selecting the best place within Farm 64 to settle, a safe fell from the wagons. It was a heavy safe and carried all the cash the Boers brought from South Africa. The few Boers present could not lift the heavy safe back to the wagon. So they build a bank around it.

Okay, this is the real story. After the Boers had settled in Eldoret, the Standard Chartered Bank of South Africa Limited decided to set up a branch in the area. The bank had a safe that was to be delivered using an ox-cart. However, the safe fell en route to the bank which was built of mud and a tin roof. Despite best efforts, the safe couldn’t be boarded back onto the Ox-cart due to its weight. JM Shaw, the Bank Manager, decided to rebuild the bank around the safe. This mud house built around the heavy safe with a healthy stash of cash is what became the present day Standard Chartered Bank in Eldoret.

1920’s Standard Bank of South African, at the entrance. Pictured JW Shaw (Manager) and Secretary.

The Boers did not even bother to adopt the currency in colonial Kenya at the time. They continued using Kruger coins from their little bank, and this continued for a long time, even after South Africa had stopped using these coins. The Boers were a violent lot and got away with murder while protesting every single bit of British control.

So what happened to the Africans already settling in these islands? Well, as is the colonial custom, the Nandis were thrown out of their lands.

The name “Eldoret” comes from the Maa word “e-ntore” which means “stony river” in reference to the stony bed of the Sosiani River, which traverses over the Uasin Gishu (il-wuasin-kishu) Plateau. But this is not the name that was used for many years. It is the pronunciation of “e-ntore” that was corrupted to “eldore” and since the white settlers could not pronounce it well well, they added a ‘t’ and that is how eldore or Farm 64 became Eldoret.

Eldoret town, as it is known today, was born in 1910 as a staging post on the long ox-wagon road from Mombasa to Uganda, a staging post on Farm 64. The site was chosen as a post office because it was a stony piece of ground that no farmer wanted. The white settlers would converge at the post office to collect and dispatch mail. Ever wondered where 64 Stadium got its “64” from? Now you know.

With the rise of African rebellion, independence growing closer, the fear of African onslaught made most of these Boers, who had run away from the Boer wars in South Africa, began leaving their farms and going back south, just as other white settlers also started leaving for Britain.


Some Sources

Funny how Eldoret acquired its name

Eldoret town history

How Eldoret etched an educational mark

Eldoret town: The town that South African Boers started

Kenya Gazette 29 Dec 1934

My Life and Times: Story of a Kenyan American By James Butt

Eldoret Town: The Fascinating History You Probably Didn’t Know

“Nyasaye” – God for the Luo People

There is a question that has been going around social media, whether the name for God in Luo, “Nyasaye/Nyasae” denoted that God is conceptualized as a woman, given the “Nya” part of the “Nya-saye” name. Let us break it down.

First, it is not clear where the word “Nyasaye” came from. The main hypothesis is that the Luo (in Kenya) borrowed it from the Luhya. Okot P’Bitek was of the position that the Luo did not have a conception of one high God, in pre-missionary history, and that the idea of a single God is missionary propaganda.

This position is true when you look at the nature of conceptualization among Luos in other countries. According to the Acholi, God is referred to as ‘Jok’, as something that breaks people’s back. God, for the Acholi, was a mystical force, or something with vital powers. The Japathola, another Luo group, refer to God as ‘Were’, and just like the Luo in Kenya, who use ‘Nyasaye’ – they share the name with their Bantu neighbors.

The Luo came from Sudan and the Bantus from West Africa, 500 years ago, hence they had distinct origins. Their sharing of the word for God only means that one borrowed from the other, and since other Luo groups have different names for God, it only means that the Luo in Kenya borrowed the word from their Bantu neighbors.

The name for God among the Luo in Kenya, which is not used in Christian circles is Obong’o Nyakalaga. Obong’o means “one”, “one son”, or an aspect that is unique and singular. Nyakalaga means a force that creeps. Creeping in Luo is “lak”, hence Obong’o Nyakalaga is a life force that creeps in the universe or in human bodies, or a singular thing that flows everywhere.

The Acholi and Lango (Luo groups in Uganda) word for God, ‘Jok’ is related to the Luo of Kenya’s word ‘juok’, which can be translated to mean witchcraft, but a more accurate translation should come from its plural form, ‘juogi’ which means spirits linked with ancestors. In fact, among the Dinka (Luo group in Southern Sudan), “Jok” refers to a group of ancestral spirits.

A witchcraft in Luo land is called “ajuoga” but “ajuoga” is also the word for a healer, a doctor, a medicine man. “Jajuok” can also refer to a nightrunner – which is essentially a witch who runs around at night naked, threatening people by rattling their windows or throwing stones at their walls and roofs. Among the Shilluk, juok is “spirit”. In general, among the Luo in Kenya, juok is a spirit force, relating to the Acholi’s (Luo in Uganda) jok which is a vital force.

The Nuer of South Sudan venerate Kwoth, which translates to “spirit”, and which is translated in most English texts as God. However, Kwoth is conceptualized as an invisible and omnipresent spirit that can manifest in multiple forms and entities, each of which can be described independently of the general term for spirits, aka kwoth.

To think of Nyasaye as originating from two words, “Nya” and “Saye”, as a portmanteau, or to think of the “Nya” in “Nyasaye” as representative of the gender of God needs a different kind of argument. The argument on Luhya origin of Nyasaye can be supported by the fact that the Luhya word for prayer is khusaya (verb). But if the word the word was a portmanteau, among the Luo, “saye” is related to “sayo”, which means to plead or beseech. I beseech you is “Asayi”, I beseech her/him is “asaye”, and we bessech him/her is “wasaye”. “Sayo” can also mean begging. In this sense, Nyasaye is an entity that is begged, beseeched, or pleaded to.

In Luo “Nyar” is used to refer to a daughter of somebody or some place. When terms such as “Nyar Dimo”, shortened as “NyaDimo”, is used, it means, daughter of Dimo, Nyar Ugenya or NyaUgenya, is daughter of Ugenya, Nyar Siaya or NyaSiaya is daughter of Siaya. Dimo is a person but Siaya is a place, so it’s a reference of origin or genealogy. Ja Siaya or JaSiaya would imply the same, son/man of/from Siaya. Using the same logic, NyaSaye would mean that Saye is a marker of origin or genealogy of a daughter/woman. Nyar Saye would be a daughter of Saye and that would not make much sense. What makes sense is simply accepting that Luos borrowed the word, “Nyasaye” from their bantu neighbours such as the Luhya and Kisii, in which case, it would mean entity that is prayed to.

If it was a case of “Nya” in Nyasaye means that God, as conceptualized among the Luo was a woman, then other words for God such as “Jachwech” meaning “creator” would have been “Nyachwech” especially since “chwech”/”chweyo” is the creating and “Ja” in that sense simply means the person who is creating. Another angle is to look at how the word “Nyasaye” is used in conversations. “Nyasacha” means “my god”, “Nyasache” means “his/her god”, “Nyasachi” means “your God”, and “Nyasachwa” means “our God”. “Nyasache ber” means “his/her” God is good. These usages imply that, away from the genderisation of the God in the Bible of God as Man, the word itself is not genderised if we look at its Luhya origins.

Whether the Luhya had this word as the conceptualization of God, before the missionaries came, is another matter altogether. What is certain is that it was co-opted during Biblical translations to local languages to represent the God in the Abrahamic religions.

The Bible, in its use of Nyasaye, when the English Bible was being translated into Luo, carried with it the West’s implicit assumptions of the nature of God, hence as opposed to the Luo conception of God as a vital force, the Bible use the same term to present this vital force as the God of Abraham and Jacob, the God of Israelites. These implicit assumptions have helped to erase the actual conceptualization of God among African people. The Bible, as a propaganda tool against indigenous religions or as a scandal of translation, has achieved greatly the erasure it set out to do, thanks to the work of African Christians.

Perhaps the bigger question should be: what is/was the place of gender in indigenous religious systems? I tend to agree with the notion that the Luo did not have a conception of a single supreme being, and that conceptions of God, were in essence, an acknowledgment of the existence spirits with various capacities. These spirits could take different forms and could be used or could use humans to achieve ends which could be negative (causing harm to the greatest number of individuals) or positive (having benefits for the greatest number of individuals) in the community.

African religions and spirituality and associated beliefs and practices focused more on reality, were more organic, and informed various aspects of human life. There was an appreciable element of ancestral worship. Among the Luos, most of the rules in the bigger body of work like Luo Kitgi gi Timbegi (Customes, Beliefs and Practices of the Luo) are akin to the myriad of rules in various books in the Old Testament, and can, to a large extent, be said to have been not only a political governance system (constitution) but also an indigenous belief system. Gender relations in this system were, to a large extent, patriarchal.

#Suicide in African Cultures – The Igbo People of Nigeria

The Igbo people of modern day Nigeria conceptualized the idea and act of suicide much the same way as the Luo people of modern day Kenya. The Igbo have a concept known as Nso ani – a religious offence of a kind abhorred by everyone. Nso ani is a sin so grave that it is not only abhorrent to anyone, but it is a sin against the earth itself. Suicide is one of these sins. If we can borrow Chinua Achebe’s exploration of this concept through Things Fall Apart, we learn that a person who commits suicide has committed an evil act, has accepted a bad death, and bad deaths disrupt the normal cycles of life.

As a result, there were harsh consequences for those who committed suicide. First, the very land on which they did this was considered polluted. Such a land could only be cleansed through elaborate rituals. If one hanged themselves on a tree, the tree would be cut down. If one hanged themselves inside the house, say on a rafter, the house would be burned down to prevent another person from committing suicide in the same house. If it was carried in the yam barn, the yams would be burnt down together with the barn. The bodies of those who committed suicide, just like among the Luo, did not receive a decent burial. They were buried in the evil forest. If a person hanged themselves on a farmland, a grave would be dug directly under the hanging body so that when the rope is cut the corpse would fall directly into the grave and be buried. If a person drowned themselves in a well, such a well would be condemned, declared unusable, and it would be destroyed.

In a paper by Norbert Oparaji “A Theological Evaluation of Suicide in Igbo Traditional Culture”, the author notes that the ethno-theological phenomenon of suicide in the Igbo traditional culture pertained to principles such as the character of sin, the common good, the Imago Dei, sanctity of life and atonement. Imago Dei is the theological conception of the “Image of God” and within Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2281) suicide is forbidden by the fifth commandment (“thou shall not kill”) and is considered “gravely contrary to the love of self”. In a sense, traditional Igbo philosophical view of suicide was to a large extent similar to the Christian view, which would be forced onto the people later by the colonialists.

According to Igbo philosophy, the life of a person is circumscribed within Uwa (the world), which is composed of the physical and spiritual, the abode of humans and spirits. The human is composed of ahu(body), mkpuruobi(heart) and nmuo(spirit), and the basic unity of these is mmadu(person). This is different from Greek philosophy, in which Plato held that the spirit of a person is assumed as a separate living entity inhabiting a body, or Aristotle, in which spirit is a form of the body. In Igbo, ahu, nmuo, and mmadu are inseperable, and is expressed as one entity, nmuo, the person.

This inseparability informs the ontological goodness of the human person which is held as immensely significant among the Igbo. Therefore, in pursuit of the ultimate good (summum bonun), the person is guided by the desire for ndu life and its preservation, and that despite the nsogu (difficulties and frustrations), this pursuit should not transgress the moral order. It is not uncommon, therefore, among the Igbo, for prominence given to concepts such as ndubisi (meaning, life is of prime value and should be preserved), ndukaku (life is greater than wealth, hence wealth must not be pursued at the expense of life), or nduamaka (life is good).

The prominence given to ontological goodness of the person in Igbo philosophy informs the harsh view of suicide. Suicide is onwu ojoo (a bad death) and dreaded or regarded as nso ani (taboo or grave sin against natural order). A “good death” will cause the deceased to reincarnate; but “bad deaths” disrupt this cycle – they are unable to join their ancestors or reincarnate.

#Suicide in African Cultures – The Luo Peoples (Kenya)

Among the Luo Peoples suicide was a taboo. People were not allowed to commit suicide. In the old days, in Luo Kitgi gi Timbegi, it was an absolute taboo to commit suicide. The Luo believed that if a person committed suicide, they had become a ghost and would punish people who spoke at their funeral. To prevent this, if a person committed suicide, say hanged themselves on a tree, they’d immediately be cut down from the noose and caned thoroughly. The Luo believed that the caning would stop the ghost of the person or evil spirits from roaming back home and prompting other people to kill themselves.

A person who committed suicide was not mourned, lest evil spirits haunt mourners. Such a person was not given the respect of being buried during the day. They were buried at night. They were not even given the dignity of being buried at home. They were buried outside the fence of the homestead, or e gunda. They were declared outcasts in the community and their stories told in hushed tones. People were warned not to name a child after such deviants. Victims of suicide were publicly shamed.

The Luo people understood suicide as self-murder. If murder is “the unlawful killing of one human by another, especially with premeditated malice”, then “self-murder” is a “crime”, which involves the unlawful killing of oneself with premeditated malice. There was absolutely no justification for suicide, hence the punishment, and the victims were treated the same way as people who committed murder in the community. Even today, it is not uncommon, for a murderer in the village to be murdered, and even if they are jailed, it is not uncommon for their homes will be destroyed and razed down, almost to erase them and their deeds from communal memory. The Luo did not take issues of self-murder kindly. You had to pay for your act, though dead, before being buried. Those who attempted suicide also received maximum flogging. This was to discourage other people from committing suicide. The punishment was to serve the purposes of deterrence.

In a sense, the Luo conceptualization of suicide in ancient times was similar to the Penal code that Kenya inherited from the British colonial system. In Kenya, today, the Penal Code Cap 63, on Offenses Connected with Murder and Suicide, particularly those sections that deal with aiding suicide (Section 225) and attempting suicide (Section 226), states that “Any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanor”.

#Suicide in African Cultures – The Kalenjin (Kenya)

20 kilometers West of Eldoret, along the Sosiani River, there is a waterfall, a 70-metre cliff separating a flat land from the rocky escarpment. They call it Koromosho or Chepkit Waterfalls. Old men and women would gather here, convinced that they had become a burden to the community, that they had become too dependent, they would gather here to sing their last songs. It was a ritual, known to many as Sheu.

On these banks, the old of the old, people who felt they had outlived their expectations gathered here voluntarily, sometimes in groups, to hold hands and hurtle down the cliff to their deaths. Their bodies would then be washed by the river downstream and be eaten by wild animals. This was their way of dying in peace without putting undue demand on the community to perform funeral rites, of having complete autonomy of their own lives. This was a common practice among the people we call today as the Kalenjin.

I hear that in Kapsimotwa, located on the Nandi Escarpment in the Great Rift Valley, there is another rocky cliff where old men performed the Sheu Morobi – meaning “there we go forever” in Nandi – jumping 450-metres to their ends.

They did this after ritualistic celebration, of delicacies, honey, and milk, and ceremonies with relatives, who’d feed them with a last delicious meal. They did this to relieve their loved ones from the pain of caring for their old dying bodies. It was an honourable act for an elder to jump off Sheu Morobi.

This ritual, Sheu/ Sheu Morobi, is what we call euthanasia in modern times, practiced here tens and hundreds of years ago.

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.