I WANT TO THANK READERS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD FOR MAKING MY BLOG ONE OF THE MOST READ IN WORDPRESS IN 2014.

I WANT TO THANK READERS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD FOR MAKING MY BLOG ONE OF THE MOST READ IN WORDPRESS IN 2014.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,900 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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WHY KENYANS WOULD LIKE TO FORGET 2014

WHY KENYANS WOULD LIKE TO FORGET 2014

In a few days time we’ll bid 2014 goodbye, and for many Kenyans, it will be good riddance.

Not since the terrorist bombing at the Nairobi American Embassy in 1998 when more than 200 Kenyans perished in a single bomb attack have Kenyans lived in a mortal fear of terrorist attacks as they have done in 2014.

A morbid feeling of an imminent attack drenched the country all year-long. I felt it many times as I waded through the busy Kencom bus stage to reach the National Archives on a research project. It was invariably a frightening experience for me everytime I walked through there because terrorists thrive on congested areas where people often let their guard down.

I felt the same way while in shopping malls, in churches  and in public gatherings. 2014 has certainly been a horribly insecure year. No wonder the Interior Minister, Joseph Ole Lenku and Inspector General of Police, David Kimaiyo, had to go.

But 2014 has also been a year of mega corruption scandals and wastage of resources. The country spent a chunky twelve percent of its budget on recurrent expenditure against a globally accepted threshold of seven percent; and lost 30 percent of its budget allocation to corruption.

The much hyped wage bill intervention that required fiscal sacrifices by civil servants and public corporations collapsed as soon as it was launched because officials continued to steal, squander and pay themselves insane perks while many Kenyans slept hungry. In the devolved governments, county assembly members went on frenzied international junkets, paid themselves huge allowances and bought expensive vehicles from public funds.

The most ambitious Jubilee Government projects, the LAPSET (Lamu Port Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport) corridor, and the Standard Gauge Railway line from Mombasa to Nairobi, were bogged down for months in bureaucratic hurdles and greed while the government fought off land grabbers and reassured land-owners of their rights.The other much touted project which collapsed during the year involved the provision of laptops to tens of thousands of primary school children.

In August President Uhuru Kenyatta went to South East Asia on a major diplomatic thrust, with China as the focus of attention. He returned home with five billion US dollars worth of loans for infrastructural projects. The ties with China angered the West and led to a temporary disquiet by Kenya’s long time Western allies.

On the political front, 2014 was a bad year for the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) and a turbulent albeit successful year for the ruling Jubilee Coalition. CORD’s popularity at the Coast, Western and Nairobi, sank as Jubilee leaders crisscrossed the country to dismantle opposition strongholds. Even Nyanza where Raila Odinga commanded near fanatical support wavered as the year is ending.

The most frustrated political leader in Kenya in 2014 was undoubtedly Raila Odinga. The opposition leader failed to convince Kenyatta to hold a joint meeting to discuss matters of national interest including insecurity, and his push for a referendum to have the constitution changed to strengthen devolution crashed. He faced rebellion from within his inner circle and lost to the government side some of his key allies.

The abrupt death of CORD’s most dependable legislator, Otieno Kajwang, and the party nomination fiasco that followed to fill the vacant position in Homa Bay hurt Raila personally and portrayed the party as undemocratic.

The Judiciary under Chief Justice Willy Mutunga hit headlines for reasons of corruption and mismanagement as senior officials were sacked and decisions of the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board under Sharad Rao to dismiss or retire discredited judges were challenged.

The ICC cases at the Hague brought relief to Uhuru but saw witnesses in the case against Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua Sang contradict themselves, advantaging the defence.

The biggest institutional losers in 2014 were the media. Despite their immense influence inside and outside government, the media failed to stop the enactment of laws that appeared to have eroded, though minimally, the independence usually enjoyed by media houses in developed countries. The government ignored their strong editorials and noisy street protests, and by the year-end the media are still whining about so-called “draconian” laws.

And finally, Parliament. Kenyans would want to forget 2014 because of the conduct of their leaders who not only pushed through inflated salary increases for themselves, but engaged in shameful physical fights on the floor of the House. The shoving and pushing during the debate on the Security Bill sent two legislators to hospital, left one with injuries and torn trousers, and a temporary speaker with wet clothes after water was poured on her. Another woman lawmaker accused a colleague of pulling down her under-garment.

The luckiest Kenyans were the youth. Special funds were established to involve them in development. For the first time in half a century, residents of Kibera, the famous slum colony on the outskirts of Nairobi, were able to walk on tarmac roads in their estate; enjoy electricity, increased security, better toilet and health facilities and even a free Wi-Fi. Many youths there are now employed and earning a decent living.

As for the majority of Kenyans, especially in the rural areas and remote pastoral regions, life didn’t change much in 2014. Many slept hungry and died needlessly due to lack of health facilities. Will their life change in 2015? That we will see.

A Happy New Year and many thanks to you all for making this column as popular as it is.

And that is my say.

DO YOU WANT TO BE FAMOUS IN KENYA? JUST BREAK THE LAW.

DO YOU WANT TO BE FAMOUS IN KENYA? JUST BREAK THE LAW.

When Paul Ngei emerged from detention as a free man in 1961 along with Jomo Kenyatta, Kungu Karumba, Fred Kubai, Achieng Oneko, and Bildad Kaggia, he proudly spotted a hat with a makeshift sign that carried the initial P.G.

Those initials, Ngei explained, stood for “Prison Graduate.”

The Kapenguria Six had been in detention for nine years, and were incarcerated for purely legitimate reasons. They had not stolen anyone’s goat.

The only reason they were rounded up one October night in 1952 and taken to detention was because they wanted Kenya to be liberated. In their own thinking, they were graduates because they had taken the test, finished the course and accomplished the mission. They were perfectly in order to feel “graduated” and elated –  so were millions of Kenyans.

Today, many Kenyans do everything in their power to avoid going to prison. They pay taxes on time; respect liberties of others; avoid corruption and fraudulent activities, and generally follow lawful orders.

But there is a minority in Kenya too who would do everything to attract an invitation to a police cell. They would steal, abuse freedoms and rights, court social disorders, incite people, and generally break laws to suit their personal and/or political interests. In the process, they would expect sympathy from law-abiding citizens because in their thinking they are fighting for the “second liberation.”

During the past year, a lot of vitriol has been thrown at the ruling élite by opposition politicians and their sympathisers who feel the 2013 elections that brought to power Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto was a sham; that they were robbed of the presidency; that they are more qualified and capable of providing a better leadership; and that they have better ideas to take Kenyans to the promised land. This lot is restless, intolerant and often disobedient of the laws of the country.

By engaging in activities that are clearly against the law they are courting an invitation to a police cell. They make wild, unsubstantiated allegations bordering on defamation, encourage rowdy illegal street demonstrations, and post insulting material in the social media that is against established social mores.

I don’t know how such diatribe can bring “liberation” of the country.

When the opposition leader Raila Odinga told a chanting crowd this week that “if you want to kill a snake, take a stick and hit it on the head” I was utterly disappointed and astonished. He was talking about the proposed Security Bill, but anyone listening to him on a live broadcast, was convinced he was calling on his supporters to resort to violence to meet their goals.

That is precisely the kind of dangerous language that led to the post-election violence in 2007/2008 and eventually got us to the International Criminal Court at the Hague.

Such talk is inimical to the well-being of Kenyans.

Raila is celebrated for his contribution to the achievement of democracy in Kenya. But democracy does not mean just replacing bad governance with a good system. It also means tolerating and respecting authority. It means abiding by the rule of law and avoiding actions that are detrimental to good order.

We are all very happy with the social media. It provides a remarkable platform for discourse and expression of views; but expression of views must be tempered with responsibility and good judgement. Using outlets such as these to taunt and libel opponents is irresponsible and adventurous. If that is how to attain fame then it certainly is the wrong way.

Public relations people say any bad publicity is good publicity.

If this is the way Kenyans seek fame and popularity then there is something inherently wrong with the way we live. It makes no sense for anyone to seek fame and popularity by constantly poking and provoking authorities.

And that is my say.

KIBRA SLUM CONSTITUENCY IN NAIROBI NOW A POLITICAL GAME-CHANGER

Kibra, the sprawling slum town on the outskirts of Nairobi, has had the notorious reputation as a crime-ridden neighbourhood with one of the highest youth unemployment rates and one of the most decrepit environments in the country.

It has also been known for its nauseating “flying toilets”  – perhaps the only invention of its kind in the world – where residents afraid of venturing out at night for fear of attacks, use plastic bags as toilets, which they then fling into the murky Nairobi River.

In my 2011 book, The Politics of Betrayal, in a Chapter headed “Kibera Pricks,” I described the slum, situated only ten minutes away from the Central Business District, thus:-

“The sprawling town, which from the air resembles a haphazardly arranged motley of march boxes; and on the ground, a closely knit stockpile of litter, narrow, dark alleys, raw waste and dispirited people, stick out like a sore thumb in a metropolis reputed to be one of the most developed by African standards.”

That was then. Today, the face of Kibera is changing – and changing fast.

The flying toilets are being replaced by new, modern ablution blocks; crime is on the decline thanks to the establishment of police posts; tarmacked roads are replacing dusty/muddy pathways; street lights are being installed; the area is soon to enjoy free Wi-Fi; and thousands of hitherto idle youths are being put to work.

This kind of urban transformation has never been seen before in Kenya. The shanty town of several hundred thousand people is finally coming alive with the help of the revamped Kenya Youth Service..

Last week when the Government released a documentary showing bulldozers and men and women at work, critics dismissed it as a public relations gimmick.

Gimmick or not, the Kibra initiative is receiving so much praise and awe that even the area opposition Member of Parliament, Kenneth Okoth, is now caught in a Catch 22 situation. He cannot decide whether to support the Government unconditionally or stick with the tired ODM line of rubbishing everything the Jubilee government does.

Two things are emerging from this creative initiative.

One, it embarrasses Raila Odinga, the former long-serving area MP who, even as Prime Minister for four years; and with all public resources and influence at his disposal, could not actualise a reconstruction project of this size.

Two, the political benefits of this achievement cannot be underrated. Many Kenyans already believe this could be a game-changer in the politics of the capital city come election time in 2017. At the moment, Uhuru’s TNA controls nine out of the seventeen parliamentary seats in Nairobi, but the situation could change dramatically in his favour three years from now if he replicates the Kibra model in the other ODM-held areas.

Nairobi is the richest and most important constituency in the country. Controlling Nairobi is like controlling Kenya. By doing what Raila failed to do, Uhuru Kenyatta, is proving to the residents of Kibra, who overwhelmingly voted for Raila in 2013, that he is a doer, ready and willing to give them a new lease of life.

It is therefore my view that Kibra cannot and should no longer be considered an opposition stronghold, and Raila should not and cannot expect to receive the fifty-thousand plus votes he got last year come 2017. The windfall will most likely fall at the feet of Uhuru who received only fifteen thousand-plus votes in Kibra during the last general elections.

Former British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, once said a week is a long time in politics. I say a year and half is a long time in Kenyan politics.

And that is my say.

COMEDY AND THE AMERICANISATION OF KENYAN ACCENT

Kenyans love comedy – whether it’s political satire of the mapambano type or the silly fake news on Hapa na Kule..

From the days of Kipanga, Tamnyolee and Mzee Tamaa in the 60s, to the era of Mama Kayai and Mzee Kajwang in the 90s, to the generation of cartoonists Bogi Benda, Gado and Maddo, Kenyans have always loved to get their ribs tickled.

Watching Kenyans going ha ha ha on Churchill Show, one would think ours is truly a country of hakuna matata; yet within the ecstatic crowd are people tormented by rent arrears, people who are hopelessly depressed, and people who have no clue where their next meal will come from. But they spend the hour or so chortling their hearts out and trying hard to forget their miseries.

But humour is not just about professional comedians and cartoonists. It is also about normal Kenyans; politicians, journalists, and even rural folk, who enjoy to receive and give a laugh.

That is why today I want to talk about the Americanisation of the Kenya accent.

The police officer who boastfully says “worrrah” instead of water; the masai mzee who thinks “crerrah” is crater; and the ranting Kenyan woman in the United States so upset about the stripping of women in her motherland that she asks: who the-rr herr dow you think yo-rrrr?” are also comedians hooked to americanese.

They too throw us into a fit of paroxysms of laughter from time to time.

These neo-devotees of americanese think somebody is “sam-bawdi, that ” first is “fourrst,” and that cattle are “car-rttle.” These are people who enjoy beating on tired words like “ouusaaam, “kkhuull,” and, “deim it’s sooo good,” as if they were new scientific discoveries.

This ridiculous habit does not tickle me as much as what my favourite journalist, Bernard Namunane wrote. On the Daily Nation of November 20, Bernard dared the reading public with the much used americanese phrase: “under the bus.”

This is what he wrote in reference to the “chicken” corruption scandal in Kenya: After the storm broke Mr.Oswago’s strategy has been to basically throw Mr. Oyombra under the bus.”

What? Which bus? (I could strangle the fellow with a shoe lace!)

For those who don’t know, “under the bus” is an American idiomatic phrase which, according to one Yankee definition, means, “to sacrifice a friend or ally for selfish reasons.”

Nothing wrong with that, but how many English-English Kenyan readers got that? And, was that phrase really necessary?

And then there are the blustering preachers who believe jeeeez-us is the Son of God; and who shout hal-eee-luuu-yaah as if they belonged to the Billy Graham crusade.

Americanese has intruded our society big time, thanks to Hollywood and the hip-hop culture. People who have never crossed the Atlantic are today able to drawl and twist their tongues in a way that would put a Texan cowboy to shame.

What they don’t know is how silly they sound, and how irritating to our ears their Americanised Kenyan accent is.

And that is my say.