28 February 2011

Smackdown 101 for ICC Boycotters

Kalonzo Musyoka, the ‘servant leader’ – and yes, these are quotation marks of derision - has wasted plenty of public funds and his servant-leader time that is also paid for with public funds by running around the continent to badger other countries presidents to support Kenya’s bid for an ICC deferral.

For this little pet project that he so diligently executes on behalf of the president, Kalonzo Musyoka came up with a couple of astonishing statements. Reportedly. I use the word ‘reportedly’ here on purpose because Mr Musyoka often calls up media houses and complains that a) he never said such a thing ever, and also that b) he was quoted out of context.

According to a Star reporter, he argued that under the law, the government was obliged to pay the legal fees of those who were acting in the course of their employment during the 2007/2008 post poll chaos, i.e., Hussein Ali and Francis Muthaura. More interestingly, he added that ‘it would be very expensive for the six named as bearing the heaviest responsibility for the violence and further called on Kenyans to help each other in catering for the fees as it would serve to also bring us closer together as a nation.’

More recently, he also said that local prosecutions would enable the courts to ‘dig dipper’ (although I credit Nation’s copy-editing with the ‘dipper’ bit).

Let’s look at this for a second:

Kenyans – yes, those people who elected the servant-leader, I presume (he *did* get a couple of votes) and the whole other sorry lot – overwhelmingly want the prosecutions to take place in Den Hague. End of. Be a servant leader, Mr Musyoka. Or, to use an expression that has become incredibly popular with politicians recently, ‘read the mood of the country’.

And remember that it was the MPs who coined the fun term 'Don't be vague, it's The Hague' while they voted against a local tribunal repeatedly.

No, Kenya most certainly doesn’t have the capacity to prosecute those cases. The judiciary is notoriously corrupt, and even if – and that’s a huge if – Kenya actually made any credible moves towards cleaning up the judiciary, it will take years for this to take root. These cases don’t have years. And if we ever needed a reminder (we don’t), the infuriating bitchfest around the appointment of the AG and CJ are evidence that Kenya doesn’t have its act together.

The new constitution won’t make a blind bit of difference here either – spend ten minutes in traffic and you know how nobody, from the minister with flag to the ordinary citizens, has any respect for rules. None.

Local prosecutions ask a government to investigate itself. A classic case of conflict of interest. It will not happen.

Kenya cannot ensure witness protection. Period.

Nothing in the old or new constitution made chopping someone up with a panga legal. Nor was it legal to chase someone away from his/her property, loot his/her property, or burn people. I am not aware of a single prosecution. Why not? What’s stopping this? It doesn’t need Den Hague, and if anyone were serious, there’d have been plenty of court cases already.

Kalonzo Musyoka also said that alongside a local tribunal, the government would resettle IDPs. I, for one, don’t understand why a resettlement is necessary in the first place. If there is no fight and no acrimony, Mr Ruto, why can’t those people go back to their own property? What’s the problem? Is there any reason why they can’t go back? And if there is a reason, then what has stopped the Kenyan government from resolving this problem? This has nothing to do with ICC or not ICC. At. All.

Remember this?

Club-footed Social Media Poverty Poster Child

So this is a little intriguing: News.com.au has an article about Darren Rowse, described as ‘one of Australia’s biggest bloggers’, and his trip to Tanzania to ‘to test the idea that social media can be used for good.’

I think that one of the cool things about the internet is that you don’t actually need to go anywhere to check things out. Darren surely must have access to google and online news as well, so he might have heard the odd story or five about an entire Twitter and Facebook-supported revolution in Tunisia and Egypt. Maybe he could have sat down and googled around Africa/East Africa a bit and checked out what people here are up to in social media and the internet in general?

Because then we might not have ended up with the usual little poverty poster child for his initiative. This time, it’s not flies in the eyes and a distended belly:

‘Rowse said one of his main goals was to let people from Tanzania tell their own stories. "A little boy with a club foot or a cleft pallet (will) be able to tell his story in a way he may not have been able to do," he said.’

I think he meant cleft palate, but aside from that, I hope he also asks a business woman in her shiny big four-wheel drive to ‘tell her own story’.

‘We'll be blogging on the road, really, wherever we can find internet access, tweeting and creating videos.’ Just bring a smart phone and you’re good to go wherever there’s network coverage. That's how we do it here. The whole mobile thing, you know. Look it up. It's on google.

Yeah yeah, good intentions. I know.

11 February 2011

Toes and Doglet

Doglet looking at the garden and fresh pedicure from Aromatics Spa, with OPI nail polish 'Lincoln Park After Dark', and mother-of-pearl button flip flops from Annabel Thom's shop Zebu shop at the Junction.

Before that, I was wearing 'I'm Indi-a Mood for Love', also from OPI, with my new, supergorgeous shoes from Mocca at Westgate:

There are shoes, and good shoes, and shoes that you just know will change your life, and make everything perfect:

08 February 2011

Local Content: Smart Kenyan Porn Venture

I wrote this for my column in the Star in early December 2010.

Sometimes you really have to wonder, and I wondered twice: First, like everyone else, about the pope’s comment that condoms might be permissible in male gay prostitution. And just as we all thought it was weird, but at least a small step, I wondered again when Cardinal Njue issued a lengthy statement that the pope was quoted out of context (how Kalonzo Musyoka of him), and that ‘the position of the Catholic Church as regards the use of condoms, both as a means of contraception and as a means of addressing the grave issue of HIV/AIDS infection, has not changed and remains as always unacceptable’. Right on, sir – this has the benefit of clarity. No gray areas, no subtleties, no scope for decisions. Just step away from the rubbers and you’ll be right as rain.

However, Njue then also boldly claimed that ‘thankfully prostitution and homosexuality are alien to Kenyan society’. Now make-believe is great – I have an alternative world in my head in which I own a sizeable collection of Prada shoes and am having coffees with Zaha Hadid to discuss the house she’ll design for me. But apart from that, I strive to be a little more empirical.

I do understand that the good cardinal must be very busy with church matters, and probably doesn’t get to hang out much in pubs and bars where you’d encounter prostitutes. Perhaps he doesn’t drive along Kenyatta Avenue past the working ladies in the evening much. Most likely he doesn’t spend much time in the bars where Nairobi’s gay community drinks. Maybe he has no gaydar and just wouldn’t spot them anywhere around him. But both prostitution and homosexuality are very much part of the fabric of society in Kenya as anywhere else in the world. And since the previous US administration has so powerfully demonstrated what an enduring mess you can create with the Bush II approach to reality ("I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe — I believe what I believe is right."), I’m respectfully dedicating today’s column to Mr Njue and the pursuit of facts.

I write about ICT issues quite regularly. Apart from the infrastructure and technical issues, there’s the big area of digital content that interests me: Internet access is growing rapidly, more and more people use their mobile phones to go online, and then there’s the transition from analogue to digital TV. All of this has created vastly more space for digital content, and consequently more demand. The digital space also forces us to rethink categories like local and international: I remember Alex Okosi from MTV explaining that they would promote African content, but not exclusively so since MTV also wanted to be a window the world. I love that I don’t need to be in the UK to read the Sunday Times and have access to the NY Times every day. By the same measure, very local content becomes accessible to the world.

One of the more interesting digital ventures I have come across is a Kenyan adult content website. At first glance, it’s not very sleek at all: The graphic design is a bit basic and haphazard, as is the spelling. The videos they sell are clearly a low-cost production, no exactly super-attractive actors, very basic settings. But here is why I was impressed: Kenyans are a peculiar lot - just remember the stylish Celtel ads and how everyone turned up their noses because the models didn’t ‘look Kenyan’? Not a mistake these guys make. It’s deliberately local content and as with TV series such as Makutano Junction, the audience will identify with it. And then they take the local angle a step further by having tribal smut. Yes, really: they advertise ‘vernacular dirty talk’. They make full use of mobile payment mechanisms: send your payments by M-PESA or Zap (and no sambaza, they warn). They work with whatever technology their clients have: If you have a good internet connection, you can download the videos after payment. If not, you can order DVDs for delivery. The website also has a page with hook ups and one for pre-approved sex workers (and the latter don’t look very alien to me). While they clarify that selling videos is their main focus, this will generate extra revenues and extra traffic.

And, I just noticed, they have a little ‘Be wise – use a condom’ alert on the top left of the website. Sensible people.

It’s a great story – and at the same time common as ugali. Enterprising Kenyans are part of the global smut industry, and like everywhere else, porn uses and drives technological developments. Porn might be illegal in Kenya, but this restriction becomes meaningless in the digital space where there is a deluge of adult content already. It’s a hugely competitive space and the internet has, in fact, been a revenue killer for a large part of the established porn industry. But how many providers of digital vernacular smut do you know? Well played, I think.

I, for one, am not Catholic, so I don’t take reproductive health advice from a celibate man in a dress. But the pope’s word and that of his clerics carries weight with a great many people. So some sort of engagement with reality would be good. I recently laughed when I found the term ‘evidence-based policies’ because it seemed silly – what else would it be based on? I don’t laugh anymore.