In the last few weeks I have become a regular visitor to the Kenya National Services Library along Ngong Road and the Kenya National Archives along the busy Moi Avenue.

The reason I spend hours poring through files and books in the crowded rooms of the KNSL and in the once-dusty but now crispy corridors of the Archives has to do with my next book project.

As my publishers burn the midnight oil in a rush to finalise my biography, Dash Before Dusk, in readiness for its launch in June, I am already into my third book; a scholarly work on slavery along the East African coast meant for history and social sciences students.

Dash Before Dusk follows the successful release in 2011 of a political memoir, The Politics of Betrayal, which details political events in Kenya between 2001 and 2008.

The Kenya National Archives and Documentation Service (KNADS) was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament. Today, it is the custodian of well over 40,000 volumes of documents stretching back many centuries ago. It also houses a huge collection of books, some of them difficult to find anywhere else.

In a nutshell, the Archives holds a rich heritage of our history as well as information that researchers, scholars and students from all over the world find useful. Interestingly the number of foreigners – at least during the times I have been there –  using the research facility far surpasses the number of locals. The other way should be the case.

The only setback is the location of the facility. The area around Hotel Ambassadeur is one of the most crowded sections of our CBD. Thousands of people use the two major bus terminals in the area. As a result, preachers and promoters of goods and services find it a perfect place to set camp, with noise from loudspeakers permeating the corridors of the Archives throughout the day, disturbing the peace that should be the hallmark of a place such as the Archives.

In addition to having a section that highlights key figures in our independence struggle, the former Grindlays Bank premises also features the Murumbi Africana Collection of artifacts and ancient art collections from all over the continent, described by many as the largest Pan-African art gallery in the world. Joseph Murumbi was Kenya’s second vice president after Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.

Also featuring now is a historical representation of the life and times of Tom Mboya, the Kenyan politician and cabinet minister who was assassinated on 5 July 1969. The display is only a few yards away from where his statue stands.

The KNADS attracts many school parties which is good. However, I would like to see more Kenyans making use of the research rooms. We should not have foreigners partaking our heritage in larger doses than ourselves.

And that is my say.

 

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Anyone who has driven through the high-end neighbourhoods of Kilimani, Lavington and Kileleshwa in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, must have seen groups of women sitting at street corners either chatting away merrily or just idling away but with eyes trained on passing vehicles. Most of these over-thirtish women look generally healthy and well dressed. They may be coming from the sprawling slums of Kibera, Kawangware or any other, but they don’t look emancipated or deprived. They look motherly and sometimes even grand-motherly, are dignified and hopeful.

These women do not belong to any self-help group. They are individual job-seekers. Every morning they wake up from their homes and walk to the street corners in anticipation of getting casual work and earn a little money to sustain their families for that day. Motorists looking for cleaners, temporary baby-sitters and other domestic care givers do not need to advertise. They just go to the street corner, negotiate a price and take one or more women home to do a chore.

Like many job seekers, these women are not assured of work on any given day. While some get lucky, many return home empty-handed at dusk. Whether they sleep hungry that night or find something small to eat after a whole day in the sun, they cannot afford to give up. Early in the morning the following day, they must wake up and again take their place at the street corner.

Whenever I see these women I wonder whether our leaders who must pass through these intersections see what I see. I wonder too whether they have ever thought of engaging them in any form of dialogue to get them into viable groups so that they can benefit from all the women’s funds we are told exist in government.

If there is any one cadre of urban Kenyan women that I think should be helped, these street corner women fit the bill. This is a challenge members of the Nairobi County Assembly and the parliamentary Women Representative could find fulfilling.

These women are ready and eager to work. They are an important resource. By absorbing them into regular employment, we will not only be helping to stabilize homes and improve standards of living but also reduce poverty and increase productivity. They are genuine job-seekers. If they wanted hand-outs, they would be holding bowls at those street corners and begging for alms, but they chose to seek employment in an honest manner.

I am calling on our county fathers and mothers to do the right thing by mobilizing these enterprising women and giving them  decent employment where they can earn a monthly, predictable income. The county government is expanding. We can use them as street cleaners or even as conductors in those highly anticipated metro buses the county is expecting soon.

And that is my say.

Anybody who thinks Campaign 2017 has not started needs to take a look at newspaper headlines, watch television and see what politicians are saying and doing.

Signs that politicians are preparing for the next round are already clear. Loaded populist pronouncements; unwarranted personal attacks on opponents; and aggressive forays into previously enemy territories disguised as goodwill visits all point to one thing: the wooing season has begun, albeit four years too early.

Lately, the largest opposition group, the Coalition for Democracy and Reforms (CORD) of Raila Odinga, has been pounding the Jubilee Government relentlessly and ferociously with determination and frequency never seen before.

CORD has particularly found fodder in the prevailing insecurity in the country and in the perceived inability of the Jubilee Government to fulfil several of its election promises one year down the line.

The Opposition is likening the Kasarani Sports  Ground where thousands of Somalis are being held for screening to Hitler’s “concentration camps;” and claiming the indiscriminate rounding-up of Somalis is no different from the colonial Operation Anvil of the Mau Mau era of the 50s and the Wagalla massacre of 1984.

It claims the Uhuru Administration has failed to produce the jobs it promised youths; failed to offer laptops for Standard One pupils; failed to rein in corruption; and failed to lower prices of basic consumer goods.

And if that is not enough, the Opposition has commissioned experts to detail all these alleged failures and plans to lay them bare for citizens to judge for themselves.

All this is part of a long-term Opposition strategy to make sure the ruling Coalition is thoroughly damaged by election time. The Jubilee is responding by raiding ODM strongholds, luring opposition members into defecting and talking directly to the people about its achievements.

There are more signs out there that point to an early campaign thrust. When you see an MP offering to distribute shoes to all pupils in a constituency and a politician threatening to quit his cushy position in government “for the sake of my people”, you know the election fever has passed its gestation period and is headed towards a full blast malady.

Moreover, some are threatening to ditch parties that took them to Parliament and are busy forming their own in readiness for 2017.

Another sign politicians are preparing for the polls is the mad rush for campaign money now evident. Some of our parliamentarians are reportedly using fraudulent and corrupt means to amass wealth before the end of their term. We are hearing of dirty tricks in the National Assembly – extortion, blackmail and what is now known as “rent seeking” where legislators demand money in exchange for parliamentary favours. Not to be left out are County officials who reportedly gobbled 1.1 billion shillings in sitting allowances alone during the first half of this financial year.

All these monies – and the millions being stolen through corrupt deals in Government – will most likely find their way into the 2017 campaigns.

Unfortunately, by putting Kenyans on an early campaign mode, our leaders are moving away from embarking on assignments necessary to deal with crucial challenges.

It would be sad if the Jubilee Government were to squander the opportunity of implementing its ambitious plans so lavishly presented during the campaign period because of unceasing politicking.

And that is my say.

FYI: FOR THE PAST ONE YEAR, I HAVE BEEN WRITING TWO COMMENTARIES PER WEEK DEDICATED TO THE POLITICAL SCENE IN KENYA. ONE HAS BEEN APPEARING ON THIS BLOG EVERY MONDAY AND THE OTHER ON BlogSpot.com EVERY THURSDAY. FROM THIS WEEK, I WILL NO LONGER RUN POLITICAL COMMENTARIES ON THIS BLOG BUT WILL CONTINUE TO RUN THEM ON Blogspot.com.

THIS BLOG WILL NOW CONCENTRATE ON NON-POLITICAL MATTERS  COVERING A WIDE RANGE OF SUBJECTS  INCLUDING  SOCIAL,  ECONOMIC, ARTISTIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES.

I WISH TO THANK YOU FOR YOUR FOLLOWING AND I HOPE YOU WILL CONTINUE TO ENJOY MY ARTICLES JUST AS MUCH AS I ENJOY WRITING THEM.