WE HAVE TO ACCEPT IT. THE GAY MOVEMENT IN KENYA IS FLOURISHING

This past week, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni was bumped out of two hotels in America because of his rigid stand on the issue of gays and lesbians. He had to find accommodation elsewhere as homosexuals and their supporters prepared to picket his hotel in protest reported acts of violence and death that have visited the gay community in his country.

Museveni and others, like Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, have not hidden their aversion to gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender ( GLBT) people. Museveni says they are “disgusting” while Mugabe says they are “worse than pigs, goats and birds.” Both have threatened to pass legislation that would send them to the gallows for going against “natural order’.

As I was marvelling at Museveni’s apparent dislodgment in Dallas, I remembered clips of a film I had seen a few days earlier called Stories of Our Lives. This is the first film to be produced by members of the gay community in Kenya and depicts scenes which – a few years ago – would have been considered abominable. It features real gay and lesbian characters – school-aged and working class – who express love for their partners in the same affectionate way as heterosexuals.

Initially the film, which its producers describe as “a story of love,” was named “Anonymous,” and both the producers and the actors had enshrouded themselves. But things had to change when the documentary was accepted for screening at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Three of its producers, Jim Chuchu, Njoki Ngumi and George Gachara, were compelled to come out of the closet and face the media ahead of the film preview.

Appearing uneasy at the questions, the three well-spoken artists expressed fears of a backlash back home and said they were “preparing for not so good an outcome.” Their fears are understandable. Kenyans, unlike people in many developed countries, are not ready to embrace an alternative culture, especially when it goes against their entrenched traditions.

But I have said it here before that homosexuals are our fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers. They do not hail from Mars. They grew with us in slums and towns, went to the same schools as we did, and every Friday or Sunday we go together to the Mosque and the Church to worship the same God. How come we feel they are undeserving of our love? How come we want to punish them by passing discriminatory laws specifically targeting them? How come…?

Kenyans must accept that this form of sexual orientation is flourishing and spreading rapidly especially among the younger generation. It is fueled by changing societal norms and foreign forces which are pouring millions of dollars to sustain the movement and culture. The fire it has lit is impossible to extinguish. In other words, homosexuality has become an immutable reality.

I have nothing in common with homosexuals, but my feeling is that Instead of ostracizing them, we should harvest their talents and skills and allow them to flourish in a free society like everyone else. I say this because even the so-called African culture is dynamic, not static.

And that is my say.

 

KENYA AND THE POLITICS OF INSULTS AND HYPOCRISY

Kenyans are an extremely strange lot. They are not just magnanimous in their praises but are also endowed abundantly with hate.

Though facetious and comical at times – as we saw in the Baba-While-You-Were-Away histrionics, and the ongoing Dead-Beat-Kenya euphoria, they are also extremely foul and downright hypocritical.

Only a week after Uhuru Kenyatta was humiliated by a gang of opposition thugs during a public meeting in Migori, a 600-strong delegation of weary-looking, shamefaced Migorians, were knocking at the doorstep of State House attempting to apologise to the Head of State. It is not that they did not have other ways – including the social media – of reaching out to Uhuru, but they travelled hundreds of miles by road and endured the cold temperatures of Nairobi only to become indigent in the big city.  

The occupant of the House on the Hill was hundreds of miles away at the Coast on official business. The group of shivering Migorians had to be rescued from their misery by some magnanimous Kenyans who were philanthropic enough to give them money as a bail-out gesture.

During President Moi’s time. the delegation would most likely have been accommodated in a hotel, met their leader the following morning, and left with their pockets bulging; but Uhuru is not known to be that magnanimous. To me, that unsolicited visit by the Migorians was insipid and hypocritical.

This past week Kenyans also witnessed the politics of foul mouth in action. Kenyans were more amused than flabbergasted by what happened at a meeting in the Rift Valley when an honourable legislator spewed some dishonourable insults against a fellow honourable Member of Parliament, despite the fact that both are members of the same party, the United Republican Party (URP) whose leader, the Deputy President, William Ruto, was present.

What I particularly noted while watching the video clip of that encounter was how magnanimous the crowd was to both Adan Duale, who uttered the nasty words, and Isaac Ruto, the target of those words. The crowd seemed to enjoy the odious episode and cheered and clapped for both. That left me confused as to who among the two, people were actually lauding.

Unfortunately, the politics of insults is becoming a regular item on our political menu. Only a few months ago, some leaders at the Coast threw some unsavoury remarks at the President in an unprovoked bravado of chest-thumping. Politicians of all levels are doing exactly the same to each other everyday throughout the country.

That is why I am not surprised that there are more defamation suits on paper today than at anytime in our history, as dogmatic semantics take over from sensible reasoning, and as leaders continue to make a fool of themselves with hate speech.

It is obvious that if political insults were food, every Kenyan would have enough to eat for eternity. Unfortunately, they are just that: insults.

And that is my say.

THE KENYA OPPOSITION CANNOT RUN AWAY FROM THE MIGORI DEBACLE

If what took place in Migori last week had happened during the times of Jomo Kenyatta or Daniel Arap Moi, Kenyans would still be counting bodies days after the nearly catastrophic event in Nyanza, the perceived stronghold of opposition leader Raila Odinga.

But President Uhuru Kenyatta is a humble and tolerant leader just like his predecessor, Mwai Kibaki. He took it in stride when hoodlums-for-hire interrupted the public meeting he had convened to discuss development matters for the region. The thugs, perhaps high on drugs, pelted the VIP podium with shoes, shouted insults at the President, and overturned chairs as they fanatically chanted Raila’s name.

The security personnel who were present only moved in to protect the President as required by their mandate. No shots were fired. No one was roughed up. It was a rare demonstration of our level of maturity fifty years into independence. It showed we have moved away from the imperious, capricious era of political intolerance to a more bearable nation.

Although the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) was quick to distance itself from the unfortunate and embarrassing event, I am not convinced opposition elements did not have a hand in the planning and execution of the fracas.

For anyone to suggest that it was the county governor – and not the President – who was the target of the missiles is hoodwinking Kenyans. The governor had been to the area before but had not been assaulted. And even if it was a domestic county matter, why parade it in front of the Head of State?

I believe CORD was involved because CORD is, by broad definition, a left-of-centre-leaning organisation whose vocabulary includes explosive phrases such as “revolution,” “violence,” and “the Arab-spring.” On several occasions, its leaders have threatened to march to State House to evict the tenant who happens to be Uhuru Kenyatta, and have gone further to give ultimatums of all manner and kind.

Uhuru may not be Jomo or Moi, but the Fourth President of the Republic of Kenya is not a wimp. He has the guts, the power and the resources to make life difficult for the opposition if he chooses to do so, but in his actions and words, he has repeatedly hinted that that’s not the way he wants to go.

It must be known that the sitting President enjoys the support of the majority of Kenyans and the backing of the constitution, and has a job to ensure that peace and stability prevail in the country.

It is therefore the responsibility of opposition leaders to restrain their followers from engaging in unlawful activities especially against the person of the President. As one sober writer said in a social media post, even if one disrespected the President, he or she must respect the institution of the presidency.

We cannot, in a modern society, operate on jungle laws. Aggrieved persons have the right, under the constitution, to seek redress in the courts of law.

Finally, I am glad the government has arrested some suspects from that event and continues to look for others, but these should also include leaders who bankrolled the goons. They too must face prosecution since no one is above the law.

And that is my say.

DEMANDS FOR MORE PERKS BY KENYAN LEGISLATORS INSENSITIVE

Ask Kenyans to name their biggest enemy today and they will not mention illiteracy, poverty and disease – the three major challenges that have dogged the country since independence. No! they will not name HIV and malaria either; not even – I am sure – the terror group, Al Shabaab.

Most Kenyans will tell you their biggest enemy today is their Members of Parliament, Senators and Members of County Assemblies (MCAs). These are the people who purposefully and determinedly are working around the clock to snatch every penny of the taxpayers’ money through a local version of the Ponzi scheme where elected leaders pounce and pinch without care.

This is all true because the outrageous demands made this week by Senators to triple their income and give themselves flashy cars, posh offices and expensive furniture, is evidence of how sick our body politic has become.

Our country is facing serious budgetary and public debt deficits as a result of, among other things, the decline in tourism earnings brought about by unending travel advisories by tourist generating countries.It has borrowed heavily from foreign sources to finance infrastructure. It is paying huge corruption-related debts while, at the same time, scrambling to cut the public wage bill. We can blame all these problems on the present and past governments, but the fact is that the money must be paid back.

And as we await new revenue to trickle in from recently discovered oil and mineral resources, we have to finance an extremely bloated government system; and buy modern tools to deal with the menace of drug trafficking and escalating internal criminal gangs. Also, we have to continue investing in health, education and environment, and deal with the present high levels of poverty and unemployment.

Unfortunately, our elected leaders are oblivious of all these problems and daily are asking for more money from the Exchequer. For Senators to demand almost three times their current overrated monthly income of 850,000 Kenya shillings, plus a long list of perks, is to say the least, insensitive, and an insult to suffering Kenyans, most of whom go to bed hungry. And to even think of pampering the MCAs with goodies such as increased salaries, support staff and cars, in exchange for their support in the referendum, is to put political considerations ahead of bread and butter issues.

Regardless of what decision the Parliamentary Service Commission and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission make over the Senators’ demands, something needs to be done and done fast. At the moment, there is a lot of talk about the questions that ideally should be included in the referendum questionnaire. One I would like to see on the list is that remuneration for all our leaders, elected and nominated, be negotiated at the beginning of each term –  as is normally done in regular employment – and no adjustments be permitted in mid-term.

This way, the government will be in a better position to balance its accounts and plan, and Kenyans will not have to get angry so often.

And that is my say.