18 October 2013

Do-Gooder Fuckery Update, Sub-Category: US Evangelical Christian

A bountiful two days indeed:

First, US American T.D. Jakes, in a ranty response to ‘Preachers of LA’, a reality TV show about filthy rich mega pastors, goes on a rant in which he claims that ‘The natives all over Kenya drink water because of this ministry. And the hospital in Nairobi survives because of this ministry.’ (Transcript here).

Cue collective side-eye from Kenyans on Twitter (KOT). The natives got a little restless, not just because of his distinctly colonial language, but also because nobody was really aware of T.D. Jakes’ water supplies or ‘the hospital’.

After an afternoon of online shitstorming, the natives received this: ‘The attempt was to highlight one well and one hospital wing in Kenya as one example of this ministry's worldwide efforts. It was by no means meant to take responsibility for an entire nation or to minimize the contributions of its people.’

No mention of the ‘natives’, and if Jakes’ ministry supported one well and one hospital wing, then his earlier statement is nothing but a deliberate misrepresentation – no doubt targeted at his US audience who would surely not doubt its veracity. Ridiculously self-serving and tone deaf. I may or may not have called it ‘bollocks’ on Twitter.

My only explanation for this? T.D. Jakes probably didn’t think the natives would be on social media. Or would be able to read, for that matter.

I guess we need to be grateful that Jakes didn’t describe Kenya as ‘war torn’. Joyce Meyer recently bragged on Twitter about the support her ministry gave to an orphanage in ‘war torn Uganda’.

(And Christina Aguilera went to ‘war torn Rwanda’ to feed the natives, but that was for the World Food Programme, so equally ridiculous, but not eligible for classification in the sub-category US Evangelical Christian).


Then Denis Nzioka brought this article in the Texas ‘Graham Leader’ to my attention: 'Baptist Men send buckets to dying East Africans'. In it, the author claims: ‘Baptist Men, a mission organization at First Baptist Church, has recently completed a mission outreach effort called “Bucket Project: Hospice Kit.” Sponsored by Baptist Global Response (BGR), the project is directed toward hospice patients in East African suffering the final stages of HIV/AIDS. According to statistics provided by BGR, the HIV/AIDS epidemic killed 1.2 million people in 2012 in East Africa alone. Since the since the epidemic began, 14.8 million children have lost one or both parents to the disease.’

Yeah no. I don’t know whether the Graham Leader was given the wrong figures by the men’s group (still: how about fact checking?) or got them wrong, but that’s most likely the figure for all of sub Saharan Africa. According to UNAIDS (thanks to our friends at Google, mere seconds away), an estimated 57,000 died of HIV/AIDS in Kenya in 2012, 63,000 in Uganda, 5,600 in Rwanda, and 4,800 in Burundi (no data for TZ, but probably in the Kenya/UG range). That’s of course way too many, but it’s not a million plus.

(the article also claims that ‘the disease kills both men and women’. No shit, Sherlock!).

In all fairness, when I looked up the Baptist Global Response project, they did state the figure for all of sub Saharan Africa. But to my great surprise, the ‘buckets’ to be sent are not a metaphor – these guys actually send buckets full of things to Kenya. Surely they must be aware that Kenya has well stocked supermarkets in which one can purchase nail clippers etc? And Kenya even has wholesalers. Ya know, save on transport costs, put some money into the local economy.

12 September 2013

Move on - or suck it up?

I find the concept of forgiveness difficult. Not, perhaps, over small things, but when it comes to massive wrongdoings. If, say, you watched your family being butchered. If you have been violated, raped, cut. I guess the bottom line for me is that nobody can tell a person who had been so severely wronged, so horrendously hurt, to forgive – if that person finds it in herself or himself, fine, that’s their decision, and hopefully their ability to do so. But no-one else can ask them, or even order them, to forgive. Or to move on.

So on Kenya moving on - I’d believe this if:

We could stop this endless (agonizingly slow, riddled with corruption) talk about compensation and resettlement. What for? Mr Kenyatta was recently at the coast handing out land titles. I’d like to know from him and Mr Ruto why the people who had been chased away from the Rift Valley can’t go back to the land and to their houses they owned. Rule of law, right?

And if there were prosecutions. It’s almost as is the post election violence never happened – even under Kenya’s old constitution, rape, murder, grievous bodily harm, all those were illegal. 1,500 people dead? Many many more raped, beaten, butchered, burnt? Where, in this sleek new Kenya, are the court cases to prosecute the perpetrators? Rule of law, right?

As long as these are rhetorical questions, there is no moving on. There is only sucking it up.

As long as these are rhetorical questions, none of the screeching over the ICC is valid.

09 September 2013

Are you a man or a mouse?

My housemate and I always have a good laugh about those people who, according to the ‘A day in the life of (insert name)’, inevitably get up at 4.30, do their devotions, and then get on with all sorts of other incredibly commendable things (I mean, who does that??)

But more worrying to me is that standard bit that comes after the devotions where the woman portrayed ‘gets her husband ready for work’. Her husband? Who, obviously, on account of being married and all that, surely is an adult, no? What exactly does this involve? But how do you get a grown man ‘ready for work’?

So I was really pleased that the editorial in the Saturday Nation magazine picked up exactly that issue: What kind of man are you if you need to be gotten ready for work? And what if a woman who refuses to do that won’t be eligible for marriage? Cool beans, I say – that’s really not my idea of marriage. Not that I mind making coffee or breakfast for someone I care about, but getting a grown man ready for work?

More along those lines from today’s newspapers:

Chauvinist in the Standard’s Crazy Monday argues that a man who has a dirty, untidy house is just that – a man. Natural state of affairs. In contrast, a woman who has a dirty, untidy house is a slut and certainly not marriage material. I don’t know about you, heterosexual ladies, but I’d run a mile plus some if a guy roughly around my age (or, in fact, even 20 years younger) isn’t able to look after himself and his bachelor household. Those are basic life skills, whether you’re male or female. I’m looking for a partner, not a small child. My friend Nthenya’s two boys at age 14 and eight can cook three course dinners and know how to clean the bathroom. That’s because she’s a sensible person raising two sensible human beings.

Seriously. Every day, we get endless blablabla in the Kenyan media men being natural leaders and heads of this and that – and they can’t keep themselves clean and dressed and fed? I wouldn’t even accept such a person as my equal.

Man up. Grow a pair.

29 May 2013

NMG Sexism Fail

Here’s a bit of good news amidst a lot of infuriating sadness: The Kenyan High Court has ordered the police to re-investigate rape complaints by 11 girls. The infuriating sadness:

‘The police rarely investigated their complaints, even locking one girl in a cell after she reported one of their colleagues had raped her, Chidi said. Police demanded bribes to investigate rape, refused to investigate unless the victims produced witnesses, and said victims had consented to intercourse, the victims said. he court order released late on Tuesday in Meru, 240 km (150 miles) northeast of Nairobi, said police contributed to a culture of tolerance for sexual violence against girls.’ (in the Standard)

This petition was filed by an NGO ‘on behalf of the girls, who came to the charity for help after being raped by fathers, grandfathers, uncles, police officers and neighbours.’

Just to set the scene.

Now look at this piece of ‘advice’ by ‘Dr’ Frank Njenga (quotation marks of derision in both cases) published by the Nation Media Group (NMG): Here’s a woman who was abused by a relative, a ‘respected elder’, as a teenager. She seeks advice on whether to speak out on this. Frank Njenga, in a response littered with biblical quotes and references, speculates that she might feel guilty for not having spoken out sooner, and essentially likens her to the adulterous woman in the bible: ‘“He who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her”. Not a single person had the courage or track record to throw a stone at her; they all walked away one by one and when they had all gone away (in shame) Jesus asked the adulterous woman to go away and sin no more.’ The woman seeking advice hasn’t sinned, so the relevance of this Bible reference escapes me.

After this, he continues with a new line of argument:

‘Is it possible that you have the urge to tell the truth, not to hurt the elder, but to bring shame and scandal to your husband, yourself and the children? Is it, for example, possible that you feel so sad, empty, hopeless and helpless that you feel you deserve punishment for not just your sins but for the sins of all humankind? (…) Is it possible that in the context of some other pressures in your life you have developed some abnormality in your thinking process and that what you are referring to as abuse by a relative as a teenager is false recollection?’ He then recounts a lengthy, utterly irrelevant tale about a woman who made up a number of offences that she had committed.

Is it possible that Mr Njenga has taken leave of his senses?

Mr Njenga basically calls a woman who has been abused either a) a slut or b) a liar.

More importantly, this was published by the NMG. Way to go – insult and denigrate the victim, and make sure the abuser’s reputation isn’t dented the tiniest little bit. Is there *any* quality control at the NMG all? Who’s the public editor?

12 April 2013

We need to talk

Hon, do you have a moment? Yes? Is this a good time?

We need to talk. This is a bit difficult for me.

I know that we’re in this together. It’s a relationship. A give and take. And you’re always very prompt in holding me to account when I don’t keep my end of the bargain. Actually, you’re quite ruthless. You always just cut me off immediately and then it takes so much effort to get back into your good books.

But the other way round, it’s a lot more difficult. I know I’ve been nagging, and I also said rude things. In public, even. I’m sorry. But we really need to find a way of addressing this. It’s becoming an issue for me that you can’t keep it up. I give and give and give, month after month, and you – you just pull out all the time. You’re hardly ever there, fully and reliably, you know?

This isn’t really working for me. It’s you, not me, KPLC.

14 March 2013


One of the drivers in our compound is a tall guy. Not tall-skinny, but tall and broad-shouldered. Still: He’s afraid of Ollie. It’s happened several times that he hops sideways onto the grassy bit when we meet him out on walkies, or that he walks a careful curve around the doglet. He does realise that this is a little comical: whilst the doglet is technically a dog and therefore fearsome, he is also the size of a malnourished housecat.

He has taken to calling Ollie ‘simba’, lion – maybe because of his fluffy chest? ‘Siiimba siiimba!’ he almost singsongs when we walk past.

And Ollie is indeed fearsome when he has a go at the German shepherd guard dog who comes to our compound at night (always safely on a leash, and Charlie the guard dog mostly has a look of concern on his lovely face): bark-yelling furiously, shaking his head and spitting with rage, and all back fur up like a row of dragon spikes. Demon doglet. He also wags his tail, but nobody at the gate really understands dog behavior well enough to pick up on this confusion.

11 March 2013

Post-Election Thoughts (PET): Silence or Sensationalism?

I hope that everyone who is so busy bitching about 'foreign media' will apply the same scrutiny to local media - those are the outlets that Kenyans get the bulk of their news from. It wasn't the idiots at CNN organising the violence in the Rift Valley.

There was very little interrogation of the role of the local media in the violence in the last elections. Media houses did acknowledge that they may not have played things quite that well, but did they ever sit down to go through this in detail - and make the results public? Did any Kenyan non-media organisation analyse this? I’m sure the scrutiny is more intense for the large, English-language outlets, and less for the smaller, local language outlets.

So far, the only journalist I know of who has been taken to court was Mr Sang, but he was taken to the ICC, and the ICC is a meddling foreign instrument (never mind that the majority of Kenyan MPs, including Mr Ruto, I believe, voted not just once, but three times to take Kenya's PEV cases to the ICC).

Here is a very interesting and detailed investigative report on corruption in the Kenyan media sector, both affecting the coverage of corporate and business news and of political news. Not once has this document made any waves. Anyone who has issues with foreign media would do well to read this, too. If corruption has long been a problem in political coverage (and remember that many outlets are partly owned by politicians).

I think that stereotyping, sensationalist, simply wrong article about Kenya should be ridiculed, no doubt (and I've done plenty of that in my column and on my Facebook page). But just as much as Kenyans don't want to be referred to wholesale as tribal murderers for the 1,500 people who died in 2007/2008, it makes little sense to lump together all 'foreign media'. There are ignorant idiot pieces, and also a great many sober, insightful ones, and a lot of plain old reporting.

I find this vilification of all foreign media particularly worrying in the context of the self-censorship of the local media, the 'tyranny of peace', and the wider vilification of all things foreign. Yes, I understand: there was a huge (undoubted) need to call for sobriety and calm, and it was always going to be a delicate balance to get this right. But reporting, plain legitimate reporting, largely fell by the wayside. It’s perfectly fine not to broadcast politicians’ press conferences live – but it’s still necessary to pick up their claims.

Not publish them unquestioned, but to interrogate and attempt to verify them. When CORD claims that constituency tallies didn’t match, media must check this. If Jubilee claims that there is a British military invasion, a phone call to the Ministry of Defence about the longstanding UK/Kenya agreement on training facilities might have cleared things up.

In the past week, when international media did cover criticism of the tallying process, they were attacked as sensationalist and bloodthirsty. Effectively and ad hominem argument (what’s the word when you refer to organisations rather than people?), as it no longer addresses the substance of the argument, only the origin. So this has effectively become a narrative about outsiders, not about Kenya itself anymore.

CNN won’t make a difference to Kenyan lives. Nation and KTN coverage will.

Here's Muthoni Wanyeki on the (unnecessary) trade off between peace and truth.

And a great piece by a Kenyan blogger on the 'lobotomy of silence'.

Just two pieces showing that the 'tyranny of peace' did not go entirely unquestioned. Not all Kenyans agreed with this approach.

I was constantly on social media during the week after the elections, and Kenyans on Twitter are a notoriously lively bunch. So the local media can decide to silence themselves, but we've seen that the international media won't necessarily follow this approach. Similarly, social media are hard to silence. Kenyans love a good conspiracy theory, and for that reason, too, I think it's hugely important to have media who actually address and pick apart claims, factually so. What other way is there to offset the crazier rumours?

22 January 2013

No, it might not be fine

Found this scanning my Facebook newsfeed – a comment on a thread with condolences for a woman who had lost her father: ‘It shall all be fine.’

It might be. Sometimes you recover from loss and pain and incredible difficulty. Sometimes it makes you stronger and happier in the end. Sometimes you learn to live with it. And sometimes it’s not going to be fine. Ever.

Augusten Burroughs wrote in his beautiful – and, to me, so true – essay To Live Unhappily Ever After:

‘So we can be filled with holes and loss and wide expanses of unhealed geography—and we can also be excited by life and in love and content at the exact same moment. This is among the oldest, deepest, most primal truths: The facts of life may be, at times, unbearably painful. But the core, the bones of life are generous beyond all reason or belief. Those things which ought to kill us do not. This should be taken as encouragement to continue.

The truth about healing is that you don't need to heal to be whole.’

18 January 2013

High Fiction and Shenanigans: KPLC Power Bills

In November, there seems to have been a spate of ridiculously high power bills. Mine was higher than usual, so I contacted KPLC and was told that not all bills are based on meter readings, but, for practical reasons, on estimates.

I do wonder on what basis KPLC make those estimates since my bill was higher than anything I’d paid before.

A friend had a power bill that was three times the usual amount, and when she called KPLC, the customer service staff asked if she had perhaps ‘done some welding’.

But it got more intriguing in December when I received a power bill of around KES120,000 for my office. Office, mind you, so no lights at night, no water heater, etc. We have never had a bill of more than KES5,000 for that building. I called KPLC and even the customer service lady admitted that this was ‘a lot of money’ (no shit, sister). KPLC then said I should take the meter reading and send someone to Stima Plaze. This worked surprisingly well (all things considered) as I was given the correct amount and just paid. I still don’t understand how KPLC can even issue an invoice with a figure that is so obviously off the chart.

But that wasn’t the end of it. This month’s bill: KES117,000. I have been given a reference number ...

Also, faced with a similar invoice, my friend Patricia was given a bit more of a run around when she tried to do something about her power bill of KES157,000:

‘Kenya Power, Harambee Ave., Wednesday, 16th Jan

The first guy I was directed to looked at me once and proceeded to click his mouse annoyingly through the time it took me to state my case. He didn't flinch as I handed him a copy of the figures hubby and I had worked out and printed as proof of their blatant miscalculation. I fell silent....and a heady mix of accents being spoken at other desks began to fill our space.

His colleague sitting behind him noticed our silent/one-sided 'dialogue' and suggested I take my complaint to the team that keys in the bill data, situated on the 2nd floor. I picked my papers, without a single word being uttered by 'Mr. Lefthead' and went off off, fighting dark thoughts that were rapidly taking control in my own mind.

The lady I was sent to sat at her desk, in a dull airless room, deftly biting into a bright ripe mango, straight from the peel, without any trace of nectarous mess (surely an art in itself). I could feel myself beginning to foam at the mouth even as she admitted Kenya Power have a problem with their system (no kidding!!). She tried to explain where the problem had arisen but I wasn't having any of it at this point and said so.

She did actually look at the calculations I'd brought along, then handed my bill to another colleague with a request to rectify it. Needless to say, he took a while and I was forced to really take in my surroundings. Then came the drama with the printer- they had one, but the person who had the cable was nowhere to be found and even though I counted about five PCs in the office, none was attached to said printer.

Much shuffling and already exhausted voices explaining how said person must still be on possession of cable as he was seen holding it the previous day. Another long wait began and I spent that time musing over the fact that I now know a thing or two about consumption estimates and cost per unit (btw-you should too).

New printed rectified bill arrived after what seemed like an eternity and the December bill had been reduced by over 900% (beat that!). I'll leave you to work out all the morals of the tale.’

So, in conclusion, KPLC: What *are* you smoking when you write those bills?