FOOTBALL HOOLIGANS OF THE 70s MUST BE ROCKING WITH NOSTALGIA AS THEY WATCH OFFSPRINGS FOLLOW THEIR FOOTSTEPS.

The last time I went to a stadium anywhere to watch football was in 1973. It was a battle between two soccer giants, Luo Union now Gor Mahia, and Abaluyia now AFC Leopards.

I remember that day well because I was accompanied to the City Stadium by my pregnant wife who was expecting our first child. Towards the tail-end of the game, Abaluyia was leading two goals to one, a situation that demoralised Luo players and angered their supporters

So, what did Luo Union do? Play rough.

What followed was a fist fight between players and a mad rush of fans into the pitch. Some, including two of us, dashed from the russian stands and sprinted to the narrow exit doors to escape the fracas. My wife had to shove her handbag into someone’s face to find space for both of us to squeeze through. We crossed Jogoo Road in a hurry and boarded the earliest KBS bus home to Buruburu.

From that day, I became an armchair football fan.

Today, those hooligans of thirty years ago must be rocking on their chairs with nostalgia as they watch their children and grandchildren burn cars, break windows, and behave rowdily – just like they did three decades ago. It is a sad situation.

The weekend violent events in Machakos triggered by Gor Mahia’s loss to Sofapaka represents a shaming indictment of our predilection for chaos. Common sense tells me that one goes to a sporting event to watch and enjoy a game not to perpetrate violence and display criminal behaviour. Is it possible that the present generation has inherited poisonous genes from the past that are chewing at their sense of judgement? I see that as a high possibility.

Luckily no one was seriously hurt but there is plenty of evidence left of widespread destruction of property.

I ask, where was the police? Only months ago, Governor Alfred Mutua was flaunting and boasting about his one hundred plus security cars, he said, will patrol the county and ensure safety of residents. Those cars and the officers manning them were nowhere to be seen..

It is the duty of authorities to guarantee safety for all. But what we are seeing in Machakos is a government that is incapable of dealing with marauding thugs. Previous events at the same stadium attest to that. Drunken young men and women were allowed to roam the town freely and engage in open sexual activities and bhang smoking while security people took a nap.

I want to tell the Governor that banning Goa Mahia from playing at Machakos stadium is not the solution. The solution is for Mutua to work collaboratively with sports authorities and the Central government to profile all the trouble-makers who took part in the mayhem and bring them to book. Such people belong to Kamiti prison. Perhaps if we jail a few, the message will reverberate across the country and bring an end to sports hooliganism.

And that is my say.

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WHO IS BEHIND PLOT TO RED-CARD KENYA OPPOSITION LEADER RAILA ODINGA?

Something rather fishy is going on within the ranks of the Kenya Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). It could be a small kerfuffle by a group of disgruntled lowly placed party officials, but it could also be the beginning of a full-scale power struggle at the top aiming at undermining Raila Odinga as the supreme leader of the opposition party. Or, it could be agents provocateurs in the ruling Jubilee trying to destabilize ODM.

Pundits say, where there is smoke, there is fire. What is happening behind the scenes at ODM tells me a lot of fire is crackling underneath the Orange party.

Until early this year, leaders elected through ODM were the most loyal, the most compliant, and the most sycophantic of political leaders in Kenya. They sang “mapambano” with zeal and danced to all Raila tunes with absolute reverence. They cheered at his “vitendawilis” and condemned anyone who showed signs of dissent or opposition.

Then the rain started beating.

All of a sudden, a stronghold like the Coast remembered that ODM had nothing to offer; Westerners began to talk of old political wounds; people in the Rift Valley recalled betrayals of their leaders; and Nyanza, where Raila commands his biggest support, people started peeling away from the man they have supported fanatically for years, to form their own political organisations.

And now from the wood-work, a group of insiders has emerged determined to edge Raila out of the presidential race. Their reason? He has lost three elections and cannot be expected to beat the Jubilee team of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto in 2017. They say Raila has made too many enemies among his peers and cannot mobilise enough support for a successful bid.

To me, this smells of an attempted coup d’état.

What these young, ambitious legislators are saying is that Raila has gone past his sale date and must therefore retire and leave the space for someone else; that he is unlikely to be attractive to younger voters who have no clue about the struggles for democracy and human rights he waged all his life.

Like in any coup situation, the true leaders of this putsch are enigmatic, at least for now. The one often quoted in the media, Member of Parliament Richard Onyonka, is not even a member of ODM, but a representative of a fringe affiliate party, the People’s Democratic Party. So who is the real architect behind this risky rebellion?

Could there be a power struggle at the top? Remember, issues that surrounded the botched national party polls are still unresolved; and the proposed referendum has further divided the party between those who support it and those who oppose it.

Some party officials are pointing a finger at “enemies” of the party. Could they be referring to elements in the ruling Jubilee?

There are more questions. Does this group of about a dozen MPs and Senators that want to red-card Raila have the support of leaders around the country? And, does it have the wherewithal and guts to withstand the tsunami of resistance from a die-hard Raila brigade that is already out with blazing swords?

These questions are crucial because fighting Raila is not like fighting an individual. One of his closest allies has already told us Raila is an “ideology.”

If this is so, my advice to those trying to dislodge Raila from the presidential race is that, they must have strategies that work, otherwise, they may end up destroying their own political future.

And that is my say.

KENYA LABOUR BOSS FRANCIS ATWOLI MUST GIVE ROOM FOR NEW BLOOD

Less than two years from now, the Governing Council of the Kenya Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU), will vote to choose new leaders of the country’s premier labour movement.

By then, the fast-talking, pompous, Francis Atwoli, would have clocked a total of 14 years as Secretary General of the organisation – four years more than Uhuru Kenyatta or any other future leader will ever hope to stay in leadership unless there is a change of the Constitution..

The Secretary General’s job in COTU is a powerful and influential one. It is also cushy with a fat salary and myriad perks dribbling from all directions. For example, Atwoli has sat or is sitting on the Boards of the National Social Security Fund, the National Hospital Insurance Fund and the National Bank of Kenya; is Vice President of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions; President of the African Trade Union Unity; and the Secretary General of his parent union, the Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union, among others not in the public domain. He earned these positions courtesy of COTU.

But while Atwoli lives like a king, millions of his members live in a circle of hands-to-mouth existence. They cannot access decent housing, do not enjoy health insurance and live in slums. They are forced to work under deplorable and humiliating conditions in factories and farms because they have no alternative. Many work in dangerous situations without protective gear including face masks, gloves and boots. As a result many are injured on the job and find, to their surprise, that they cannot be compensated because of bureaucratic failures and general ineptitude of leaders. Where is COTU, you may want to ask.

Labour organisations throughout the world are formed to meet specific goals, among them representing the interests of their members; collective bargaining and defending workers’ rights. That is what people like Fred Kubai, Aggrey Minya, Tom Mboya and others set out to do when they defied colonial odds to form labour unions in Kenya in the 1940s and 1950s.

However there are many times when I feel COTU is failing its members. The so-called minimum wage that COTU shouts about every Labour Day is, to say the least, dehumanizing. No one in Kenya today can survive on a salary of 5,000 Kenya shillings per month.

Thus, COTU’s defence of workers’ rights is lacklustre. Many times when workers cry out for help the labour movement is often fast asleep. The leadership is more interested in wearing designer uniforms, singing off-tune dirges, flaunting gold chains and expensive watches, blustering endlessly about non-issues, and all the time pretending to be representing workers. I would not be surprised if some of them in fact sleep with the enemy to undermine the same workers they are paid to defend.

So, my question is: Are labour unions in Kenya of any benefit to workers?

Not if you look at the misery of salt workers in Magarini; observe the exploitation of tea pickers in Kericho; and see the inhuman working conditions of cane labourers in Kakamega. Fifty years have passed since independence, yet workers are still subjected to degrading colonial-like treatment by employers more interested in huge profits than in the welfare of their staff. And the labour movement is saying nothing.

With a whole decade at the helm of COTU and very little to show for it, Atwoli must now give way to fresh blood who can give new impetus to the movement.

Whoever it is, he or she must be a person who is adequately educated on labour matters, is not tainted by baggage of corruption, cannot be manipulated by big business, and is fully committed to the welfare of workers..

Even with a microscope, I am sorry to say, I can not see that person in the current labour leadership.

And that is my say.

THE SENATOR INSULTED THE ICC AND EMBARRASSED KENYANS AT THE HAGUE

Irish-born English novelist and humorist Lawrence Sterne once said respect for ourselves guides our morals and respect for others guides our manners.

In other words, morals and manners determine who we are, how we treat others and how we like to be treated.

Mike Mbuvi Sonko is a remarkable person and leader; and, though eccentric in demeanor and action, he commands a near-fanatical following, not only in his Nairobi senatorial district, but in the country. He is youthful, filthy rich (don’t ask me where he gets his money for we all know how much our MPs earn), extremely philanthropic, urbane and a role model to many, not because of his casual deportment but because of the journey he has travelled from an ordinary youngster in a village in Kwale to an influential public figure.

The only one time I met Sonko was in 2013 when he accompanied Uhuru Kenyatta, then a candidate for the presidency, on a whirlwind helicopter tour of the Coast. I hosted them at a public rally at Watamu and later flew with them – travelling in the same chopper with the bling-bling king –  to Kilifi for another rally. Although outwardly capricious, he came across to me as a warm, personable individual, somehow haughty, but fully committed to the Uhuru presidency.

I have watched him more closely since Uhuru became President and most of his actions have been an aberration of what I thought Sonko to be.

I am not referring so much to his bombastic swagger. I am specifically referring to the kind of behaviour we saw this week at the Hague. If news reports are correct, Sonko engaged in a street demonstration to demand the collapse of the case against humanity facing Uhuru; and he did so in a dramatic, comically theatrical way.

He led a public protest outside the court along with others. He wore a T-shirt that insulted the International Criminal Court, (takataka, rubbish) as if the court was responsible for the events that followed the disputed 2007 elections and the deaths and displacement of tens of thousands of people.

In doing so, he showed disrespect for the host country and to the institution that Kenya is a signatory to. He embarrassed the Kenyan people and portrayed it as a manner-less country. The demo was completely unnecessary.

This was not the first time the Nairobi Senator had engaged in bizarre conduct in Kenya and at the Hague.. Earlier this year, during one of the court sessions involving Deputy President William Ruto, he was allegedly singled out by authorities there for a number of small infractions. It seems to me that while we want foreigners to respect us in our country, we are unwilling to extend the same goodwill to them in their countries..

It is about time the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made a point of briefing our public figures travelling abroad on how to behave while in foreign countries. There have been too many cases of our elected representatives engaging in all manner of immoral and disconcerting behaviour abroad to the extent of hurting bilateral relations. The briefs do not necessarily have to be verbal. They can be passed around to all delegates before their departure.

In the meantime, our Ambassador in Switzerland has been left, once again, with the job of cleaning up the diplomatic mess left behind by the Kenyan visitors.

And that is my say.

THE MEDIA SHOULD NOT DRAG US INTO CHEAP LODGING ROOMS TO SHOW US NAKED BODIES

The New York Times, the world’s most respected newspaper, has on its masthead this phrase: All The News That’s Fit to Print.

Every day, the Times gives its readers a wide selection of material – news, features, commentaries, public opinion, entertainment, sports, business etc etc. Established in 1851, this broadsheet maintains strict editorial guidelines and boasts content of “the highest quality and integrity.”

Leading television stations such as the BBC, the ABC, the NBC and the CBS, and international radio broadcasters such as the VOA and Deutsch Welle, maintain equally high standards of journalism..

However, this cannot be said of some of our media houses in East Africa. Integrity and accountability are out. Sensationalism and hyperbole are in.

For years, Kenya FM stations have been chastised for on-air immorality – trash talk, engaging listeners in naughty banter, and playing offensive music, without caring about the damage such music could cause to young minds.

In recent years, however, these stations have been joined in this wickedness by some mainstream television stations and newspaper stables.

Stories of grown ups being “caught with their pants down” in cheap lodging houses or in maize plantations and people having sex with animals, seem to excite some editors more than the hunger and suffering taking place across the country. This is not news that is fit to print, but as they say, scandals and sensationalism sell.

People are more inclined to buy a publication that flaunts debauchery than one that highlights misery.They would be more attracted to watch television clips showing Vera’s enhanced boobs than to arguments over the constitution. That is why FM stations have grown in listenership over the years. They have taken sensationalism to the highest level possible.

The predilection for lurid news is normally the preserve of the gutter, sometimes called “yellow” or “tabloid” press, but some of our media houses seem to have fallen victims of irresponsible journalism.  While the Times says in its Charter that “it does not inquire pointlessly into someone’s personal life,” some of our media houses treat bedroom matters as “front page news.”

To me – and I am sure to many –  an incident of a pastor, a sheikh or a politician engaging in illicit love affair – especially if that love affair is consensual and involves mature adults – is not news. Its news only when there is rape, physical assault or such criminal activity.

I therefore feel offended when I have to be dragged into bedrooms of cheap motels to watch naked bodies of grown ups being humiliated and indignified.

Media houses need to step up so that as we tune on our television sets or open our favourite newspapers, we are not inundated with embarrassingly explicit coverage of sexual escapades. Such activity should be left behind doors.

And that is my say.