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Category Archives: Kenya

7 Bravest Kenyan Whistleblowers


Since there are always as many scandals as there are potential scandals going in Kenya at any one time, it is hard to pick out a few whistleblowers from the many who go unnoticed.  It takes bravery to expose the system, especially when it involves the powers that be. The problem is that there is no reaction beyond a mere grunt from the populace, with the occasional twitching of the conscience that is quickly covered up with layers and layers of political sycophancy and apathy.

#7 The Grand Regency 11

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In 2003, 11 employees at the Grand Regency Hotel volunteered information to the KACC on alleged corruption within the five-star hotel. It was at the time owned by Kamlesh Pattni. The hotel subsequently fired the employees.

Their testimony is said to have contributed somewhat to the decision by Pattni to surrender to hotel to the government. It did not, however, stop the fraud that took place when it changed hands to another owner. When the hotel was handed over to the state, the Receiver Manager reinstated the eleven back to their jobs but they were physically ejected and locked up at the Central Police Station.

#6 Kipkemoi Arap Kirui

Anyone who followed the 2007 elections remembers the man who the opposition party brought to the platform and whose introduction was ‘My name is Kipkemoi arap Kirui and I am a Clerk Assistant at the National Assembly working at the Table Office. I am a lawyer.’Some of the issues he raised include the suppression and reduction of results in some constituencies, and other irregularities.

Kirui’s information exposed the sham that was the counting and tallying process that was the ECK. It provided fodder for the opposition party to claim that the electoral commission had skewed the numbers in favor of the incumbent. While nothing tangible was ever done to correct the mistakes of 2007-except the cosmetics of course-Kirui’s courage in the middle of corruption and fraud is admirable.

Like many of the individuals on this list, he was forced to go into hiding as the country slowly sunk into mayhem and violence. Some of his academic work points towards a brilliant thinker on parliamentary procedure and democracy. 

 #5 Catherine Gicheru

One of the lesser known whistleblowers, Catherine Gicheru is a practicing journalist who wrote a series of explosive reports before the 1992 elections. Her scathing articles touched on two things, the involvement of KANU’s power men in the assassination of Ouko, and the corruption schemes to siphon off millions of dollars into a private housing development. Basically just exposing what KANU did whenever any of its leaders was concious enough.

Gicheru was harassed and threatened by thugs but that was pretty much it.  The KANU government banned the Nation from covering the Electoral Commission at the time. She was later awarded Courage in Journalism Award by the International Women Media Foundation.

#4 David Munyakei

munyakei

A brilliant clerk who passed a chance to enter the military as a cadet for a job in the CBK, Munyakei blew the whistle on the Goldenberg Scandal. He noticed that Goldenberg International was receiving massive sums of money for alleged export of gold and diamonds. He leaked official CBK documents to opposition members of parliament and so initiated a series of clusterfucks that were the reactions to the multibillion scandal.

He was arrested, released, and then fired from his job at the CBK. He fled to Mombasa where he hid for four years. Within that time, he converted to Islam and married Mariam Ali Muhammad Hanii.He emerged from hiding in 1998.

After the NARC mistake took over in 2002, they used him for PR and he testified before the Goldenberg Commission. Munyakei died in 2006 a poor and dejected man. The scandal for which he sacrificed what would have been an illustrious career is still a blemish for which justice may never be achieved. Everyone received a slap on the wrist, a few went to prison for months, and everyone but the Kenyan taxpayer went home richer.

Munyakei’s heroic story is serialized in Billy Kahora’s book ‘The True Story of David Munyakei.’ 

Although the two were most likely unrelated, there is said to be some link between his troubles and the death of his mother.

# 3 John Githongo

gstatic dot com

Another famous whistleblower, Githongo made headline news when he quit his position as the Ethics and Governance Permanent Security and accused several power men of Grand corruption.

The scheme involved a $600m contract to Anglo-Leasing, a non-existent company. Some of the contracts in the scheme predated the NARC government but the new government had furthered and increased the money-stealing scheme. Githongo named Chris Murungaru, David Mwiraria, Kiraitu Murungi and Moody Awori, and Kibaki, ostensibly the most powerful men in the country at the time, as the people behind the scandal. He subsequently fled to London for a few years. His story is recorded in Michela Wrong‘s book It’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower.

A former journalist, Githongo first founded the Kenyan chapter of Transparency International in 1999. The London-based New African Magazine selected him as one of the world’s 100 most influential Africans in its June 2011 edition .

Like the Goldenberg Scandal, the Anglo Leasing (Fleecing) Scandal remains a crude joke in recent Kenyan history.

#2 Oscar King’ara and Paul Oulu

These two were human rights activists whose work investigating police brutality and extrajudicial killings led to their public execution. Oscar, a lawyer by profession, was the founder and director of Oscar Foundation Free Legal Aid Clinic. Oulu, a former University of Nairobi student leader, was his assistant.

The two had played an extensive role in investigating police extrajudicial killings. In 2008, Oscar released a report that accused the police of killing and torturing 8, 000 people during a crackdown of the Mungiki gang. He also contributed extensively to The Cry of Blood — Report on Extra-Judicial Killings and Disappearances. Oscar had also given testimony to, and assisted UN Special Rapporteur, Philip Alston.

Assassins, almost definitely government operatives, ambushed them on March 5, 2009 during rush-hour trafficThe aftermath was even weirder. University students moved Oulu’s body into a hostel. When the police tried to retrieve it, they fired live rounds, killing one student. The police answered to the call a whole two hours after the shooting despite the nearest police station being a walking distance away from the crime scene.

The image above of Oscar’s body slumped in the driver’s seat in his white Mercedes remains a constant reminder that the dragon of police brutality is alive and well.The man who had spent his adult life fighting police brutality, was killed by what was ostensibly an extrajudicial killing. 

Addition 24 January:

Oscar and Paul’s story is featured in the 2013 movie, The Fifth Estate, which features the Wikileaks quest to expose the corruptions of power.

#1 Elias Njagi Kavanda

Rusty Corruption. Image Credit www.bbc.co.uk

Rusty Corruption.
Image Credit http://www.bbc.co.uk

One of Kenya’s unsung whistleblowers, Kavanda investigated and exposed corruption at the Kenya Railways Corporation in 2003. Kavanda was dismissed and his family subsequently thrown out of the government house.

Kavanda was employed at Kenya Railways in 2002 as the Senior Security Officer in charge of Central Kenya. He was the number two in the security department. Kavanda stupidly believed that his bosses were interested in ending corruption and over the course of his yearlong employment, investigated and reported cases of corruption.

Their first solution was to demote him to a small station at the coast. Here, he discovered a racket to smuggle new spare parts that would be later sold as scrap metal. Unrelenting as ever, he also discovered that his corporation and the police were in cohorts to steal bags of sugar in transit. Between February and July 2002 alone, over 1, 500 bags of sugar were stolen.

Even after his request for funds was denied, Kavanda investigated another fraud, this time involving his bosses. This one involved the movement of empty containers from Malaba to Kilindini where certain individuals would pocket the money. Other scandals included the corrupt sale of Railway land plots and houses. 

He started filing his reports at the Office of the President from where it was later leaked to his bosses. His bosses fired him and threw his family out of the government house. Luckily for him, he had backup copies of all his reports to defend his actions. The gravy train continued unabated, however, despite his relentless bravery.

Owaahh, 2014 © 

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Crime, Despair, Discourse, Events, Kenya, Lists, Pages from the Past

 

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7 Most Famous Kenyan Wild Animals


It is probably not a surprise that most of the animals here are more famous outside Kenya than within. It is the same story with human Kenyan celebrities such as Lupita and Mutu, we never really give you time and space unless an outside validates you first. The cuter animal friendships are grouped together, while the one with psychopathic tendencies gets an entry on its own, as does the slithery one that might roll up under your bed tonight. Please check before you sleep.

#7 Nicky the Blind Rhino

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With rhino poaching having wiped out the larger part of the population in Kenya, it is something of a surprise that the most famous one is a blind baby rhino called Nicky. He is a gorgeous rhino inflicted with cataracts since birth that cannot be treated by surgery. 

Rhinos generally have poor eyesight, relying more on smell and sound than sight. Although there are two blind rhinos, Nicky from Lewa Conservancy and Alfie from Ol Jogi, Nicky is the more famous of the two. He was saved by Mike Watson, the Lewa Conservancy CEO after he was spotted bumping into trees and straying away from his mother. 

Nicky has two full time minders, Yusuf and Tonga. He is a diva who enjoys his mudbaths a little too much, and hangs out with a Yellow Labrador in one of those animal friendships that flip at the natural order of things. 

#6 Odd Wild Animal Friendships

— Owen the Hippo and Mzee the Tortoise

When the tsunami waves hit the Kenyan coast in late 2004, they dragged back with them a young hippo out to sea. He was stranded on a reef from here he had to be captured using nets, ropes, boats and cars. As if this wasn’t enough, it took a rugby tackle by a volunteer who does not watch Animal Planet enough to bring the hippo down. In recognition of this act of who-cares-if-this-wild-animal-goes-apeshit-nuts, the hippo was named after him, Owen.

Most likely due to space issues, Owen the hippo had to share a habitat with a 130-year old Aldabra giant tortoise called Mzee. The two struck an odd mother-son relationship, bathing together and sleeping together. Owen would lick Mzee’s face and become protective if anyone approached the tortoise. Apparently, he had called dibs on licking the old tortoise’s face just quick enough to be faster than its reaction. Mzee learnt to live with the crazy young hippo, or maybe took too long to plan his revenge.

"One day I will definitely kill this fat guy. Yup! I love him and all, he is fun and all, but he pisses me off so so much." Image Credit www.blekingenaturfoto.se

“One day I will definitely kill this fat guy. Yup! I love him and all, he is fun and all, but he pisses me off so so much.”
Image Credit http://www.blekingenaturfoto.se

They had to be separated in 2007 as Owen grew bigger and Mzee’s safety as he ran the risk of being smothered with just enough smooches and love by his bigger but younger sidekick to kill him. He was introduced to a female hippo called Cleo while Mzee was introduced to another tortoise called Toto.

Sidenote: Who names these animals? They deserve a presidential commendation.

— Gakii the Bushbaby

All levels of awesome and mushy. Image credit Veronica Marchina www.pinterest.com

All levels of awesome and mushy.
Image credit Veronica Marchina http://www.pinterest.com

When Gakii, a three-month-old bushbaby was rescued in Nyeri and placed in the Nairobi Animal Orphanage, no one thought she would find a mother figure outside her species, a yellow baboon nonetheless. The odd friendship between the primates dumbfounded animal experts as they are not considered socially compatible. Yellow baboons live on Savannahs while Galagos are native to continental Africa. It has been implied that the baboon in question has better maternal skills than Casey Anthony.

—Omni and Digby

In another charming animal friendship story, an abandoned rhino calf christened Omni struck an odd friendship with Digby, a warthog. Omni and Digby started a talk show and became comedy hosts, they got wasted together and then exchanged the last letters of their names just for fun. Okay they didn’t. Wait, are there talk shows in the animal world? Or is it a King Julien kind of tyranny all the way?

Their friendship was apparently not founded on looks as they were Perhaps not the cutest couple, but heart-warming nonetheless.” Every night, Digby the warthog would sleep on the back of the Omni the baby rhino, both covered by a large blanket. Tell me that did not get you all mushy mushy.

#5 Mountain Bull, MT Bull

Among farmers whose crops have been ravaged by MT Bull, the elephant is a nuisance that should have died years ago. The bull is a hero among his peers, having forced everyone to reconsider the true origin of human-animal conflict. I don’t know how they fete heroes in the elephant world, but this guy deserves whatever is the equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize for calling BS on human settlement.

The 46-year bull is a celebrity for his utter dedication to using traditional elephant migration routes. MT Bull, like the rest of his kind, is motivated by the three “s”s: Sex, safety, and sustenance. His instincts drove him to snap fence wires and crash gates in a bid to follow those migration routes, bringing him in direct conflict with the human beings who settled on that course. MT Bull became that guy, yanking fences, opening gates, tearing down things, throwing a proper ratchet party. Alone. Sometimes with company. Like a Boss. An Elephant Boss.

Lewa Conservancy spearheaded efforts to protect the famous elephant from his instincts, trimming its tusks in 2012 and tracking him using Google Earth Interface. His Mafia days gone, MT Bull’s efforts almost single-handedly led to the construction of the famous elephant underpass which took a decade to build and is the first of its kind in Africa.

You can tell that elephant at the back is all about the ladies!

You can tell that elephant at the back is all about the ladies! He is checking out the ratio.

He did not use the underpass for two years, only using it first in January 2013; he was evidently waiting to see whether it was worth his time.

"Hhhhmm, this is not so bad. It would be better with a transit stop over, a bar maybe, anyone?" Image Credit www.Lewa.org

“Hhhhmm, this is not so bad. It would be better with a transit stop over, a bar maybe, anyone?”
Image Credit http://www.Lewa.org

MT Bull was featured in the BBC’s  “The secret life of elephants.”

#4 Kamunyak, the Blessed One (Lioness)

If there ever was a sociopath among animals, it would have to be Kamunyak the Lioness. Her given name means The Blessed One in Samburu. In 2002, the lonely lioness was spotted cuddling up with five baby antelopes she had cradle snatched from their frightened mothers.

She adopted at least 6 oryx calves who should have been food as soon as she met them.  After securing a newborn, the lioness would lie down next to the baby and, like any protective mother, ward off strangers, antelopes and antelope-eaters alike.”

This was so strange that one animal behaviourist said of KamunyakThis lion has to have a mental disorder. To understand this, we’d have to study the history of this lioness. We’d have to put her on the couch.”Coincidentally, that’s what they say about people with psychopathic tendencies. She was all nutcase for the festivities as ”local newspapers have noted that all three adoptions occurred on significant days – Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Good Friday.” 

It turns out she might have been playing with food the way we poke around the sheep right before we kill it. Or let the chicken run so we can hunt it down like our cave ancestors. Kamunyak ate one of her adoptees shortly after the young oryx died of starvation. Another one was eaten by other lions who knew better than to play with food, while another was taken from her care before the Blessed One starved her to death by loving her and not feeding her.

Kamunyak was last sighted in February 2004 and has never been seen since. She either went the Raymond Reddington way or was killed by a professional Oryx hit squad known as…you know the answer to this question…the Oryxes! Bam! Her story was featured in the film Heart of a Lioness.

This phenomenon has happened elsewhere in Uganda but that is now thought to be a strategy by lions. All cats are psychopaths, FYI.

 

#3 Ahmed the Elephant, King of Marsabit

Image Credit madamepickwickartblog.com

Image Credit madamepickwickartblog.com

Arguably the most famous elephant in Kenya, Ahmed the Elephant died in 1974 at the retirement age of 55. The male elephant was born at the Marsabit National Reserve sometime in 1919. In 1970, as the threat of poaching to extinction became more grim, President Jomo Kenyatta placed Marsabit’s royalty under his protection by presidential decree. Ahmed was thus declared a living monument to be protected by at least 2 armed guards day and night. 

Rich and famous elephant, all he needed was a limo and love. Image Credit www.itungai.wordpress.com

Rich and famous elephant, all he needed was a limo and love.
Image Credit http://www.itungai.wordpress.com


When he died in 1974, a cast of his body was made, leading to rumors that he was actually preserved in ice to be resurrected later when elephants are either extinct or have evolved a third tusk that shoots back at poachers.

Ahmed’s full-size replica still stands at the Kenya National Museum today. 

#2  Elsa the Lioness (1956 to 1961)

Incredibly Photogenic Lioness? Image Credit www.fatheroflions.org

Incredibly Photogenic Lioness?
Image Credit http://www.fatheroflions.org

Elsa the Lioness was a film and book celebrity. She was also a lioness with a really really hot name, and a penchant for the camera and the red carpet. Brought up by Joy Adamson and her husband, game warden George Adamson, Elsa is the subject of the movie Born Free (1966). She and her sisters, Lustica and Big One, were adopted by the couple after George shot and killed their mother. The two sisters were sent to the Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands, while Elsa became a superstar. Lustica sounds like a stripper’s name, doesn’t it? But Big One is even worse, WWE, anyone? Anyway, little is publicly known about their life’s history in the Netherlands.

Elsa first became famous in 1960 when, following a visit by BBC Presenter David Attenborough, the book Born Free was released. The book sold 5 million copies and was translated into 24 languages.

It was turned into a movie Born Free, which  features Joy Adamson’s efforts to train Elsa to live in the wild. In Living free (1972), a sequel to the movie, Elsa becomes a mother to three cubs, Little Elsa, Gopa and Jespah. She is also featured in a 25 minute-long series of footage called Elma and her Cubs.

Such badassery has never been captured in Kenya before. Image Credit www.fatheroflions.org

Such badassery has never been captured in Kenya before.
Image Credit http://www.fatheroflions.org

Her humans were both murdered; Joy Adamson in the Shaba National Reserve on 3 January 1980 and George 9 years later in the Kora National Park.

#1 Omieri the Serpent

Image Credit  news.bbc.co.uk

Image Credit
news.bbc.co.uk

Omieri the serpent strolled into Benta Atieno’s home in Wasare, a village on the banks of Lake Victoria in early 2003, causing a media flurry that brought the 16-foot python to international fame.  Thought to be a harbinger of good tidings in traditional Luo folklore, Omieri is not a specific snake but a manifestation. She has reappeared many times before 2003 and 2006, the most controversial being in 1987 during the controversial burial of criminal lawyer SM Otieno.

In the 1987 case, there was a furore when Omieri was airlifted to Nairobi for treatment after her bush nesting place was set ablaze. Residents demanded that she be moved back to Nyanza as the SM burial case pitting his wife Wambui Otieno and SM’s clan became headline news. Omieri was moved back to Kisumu where she died. She was given a proper burial, with a condolence book placed at the Kariokor Social Hall.

In the 2003 manifestation, government authorities were more sensitive to the community’s connection with the snake. Kenya Wildlife Service sent officers to assess the situation and recommend proper foods the nesting female snake was to be fed.

"If you could add Cola, some rum, and let my guy Nyakach and I meet from time to time, that'ld be nice." Image Credit www.blekingenaturfoto.se

“If you could add Cola, some rum, and let my guy Nyakach and I meet from time to time, that’ld be nice.”
Image Credit http://www.blekingenaturfoto.se

Other people wanted to make a meal of her. According to some reports, there was an offer of a very tempting KES 20, 000 by a crew of foreign engineers who wanted to turn Omieri into a cuisine. It was, of course, turned down. Her eggs began to hatch in May and she disappeared back to wherever she had come after surviving floods said to have been caused by rain she had brought. She resurfaced in Ombeyi village in Kano, Nyando District, in February 2006.

Among the Taita, another snake, christened Sadu the Serpent god, is the custodian of the Taita culture and wealth. 

 

Owaahh, 2014 ©


 
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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Adventures, Animals, Causes, Discourse, Kenya, Lists

 

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Slaying Smaug the Corrupt: Police Vetting is a Waste of Time


Every evening at my local, a police vehicle drives in and parks near the gate. No one comes out of the car. Instead, a waitress, always the same one, walks to them and has a conversation that never lasts, in my estimation, more than three minutes. Since it is a joint in the same line with several others, it’s easy to see the police vehicle move from one to the other. The ritual is always the same.

When this conversation came up during a discussion on the ongoing police vetting, it hit me that we have allowed the police force to turn into our very own Sicilian Mafia. It runs its own parallel taxation system that we have learnt to live with as long as we are left with a little to fend for ourselves or get home. It has, in turn, made police officers who earn a paltry salary millionaires many times over. We live near this cadre of the rich with their palatial homes, new cars, smart phones and disposable income made from the hard-earned sweat of those who prefer freedom to justice. It is passivity, not an omerta, that sustains this side economy.

Like the Sicilian Mafia, they collect what amounts to protection fees from any joint that has been unlucky to fall in Mututho’s scope. The good man, in trying to stop our sure destruction by the bottle, has created, enabled, and encouraged that mafia system. Each bar, wines and spirits shop and club away from Nairobi pays what might look like a paltry KShs 50 every day while those within Nairobi pay KShs 100. If there are 1000 such joints within a jurisdiction that amounts to KShs. 50, 000 per day outside Nairobi and KShs. 100, 000 per day within Nairobi. Every. Single. Fucking. Day.

This amount covers a ‘license’ to break all Mututho’s laws. Once you have paid your daily tithe you have leeway to close the place when the customers leave, not when the official closing hours end. You can sell pretty much anything, even allow drunkard parents to come to the club with their young children. No questions asked. Live and let live. Pay first though, then live.

In a week, the accounts go up to Kshs. 350, 000 and Kshs. 700, 000 outside and within Nairobi respectively. Every week. This does not include the money other groups such as boda boda riders, taxi drivers, matatus, shops that stock illegal or banned items, and such pay weekly or monthly. These amounts have to be paid religiously if one is to continue doing business within any area. The only businesses exempt from this parallel tax are those owned by members of the Mafia itself, and those owned by the powers that be.

The amount does not include the money collected from bribes by motorists and other offenders. There is a running joke among my friends that one should always include a small fee for bribes after budgeting for fuel and car service. It is impossible to be a motorist in Kenya, especially in Nairobi, without paying the powers that be, so the joke goes.

A small lapse in judgment, like speaking on the phone when the traffic has stalled, will get you within the scope of a smiling uniformed man. The moment you are flagged down, your mind doesn’t run with thoughts of prison or unimaginable fines by a magistrate. Instead, one thinks of how much disposable money is in the wallet and the car, in the MPESA account, how near the nearest ATM is.

A small estimation of how much our Sicilian Mafia is making in a week thus runs into amounts greater than KShs. 2 million per police jurisdiction. Even if we make the assumption that given the ‘taxman’s’ share, and money lost as the kickbacks move up the system, and assume each County boss is left with that KShs. 2 million per week, it means the parallel taxman is earning KShs. 94 million bob. Every week.

There are no operational costs because you and I pay for the fuel used to run this syndicate. We all see it happening but we are fraught to do anything about it. We have poured billions into slaying the ‘dragon’ of corruption, as a hapless former anti-corruption boss famously described his work. We have, it seems, failed. But we still yearn for a Nirvana where we do not pay two taxmen with the little we make.

It is probably time we started asking the moral questions. For example, one of the police bosses was taken to task on why he had received KShs. 900, 000 from David Rudisha, 800m world record holder and in, in typical Kenyan style, a police officer himself. No one has taken the athlete, who is now a strong brand himself and on numerous advertisements and commercials, to task over why he sent the money to his boss.

We like our heroes flawed, like the rest of us. With success comes great kickbacks. We all know what it was and, being the patriots we are, justify it by thinking Rudisha probably made much more than that 0.9m he paid his boss. Our reaction to public vetting should be “Hahaha, we see what you did there, guys.”

I guess the question is who holds more moral responsibility, the bribe giver who ‘only wants peace and to move on’ or the bribe take who is ‘underpaid but willing, with a little chai, to do his public duty’? Does the extent of moral responsibility even matter? I portend it doesn’t, because morality has never been our best attribute. Consumerism seems to be our most recent catch though.

Consider the fact that the ‘chai’ Eric Wainaina sang about a decade or so ago is now a full-grown racketeering system that rivals the Yakuza and the Sicilian Mafia, headed by godfathers we still pay six figure salaries to avoid taking the very bribes that fuel their cars and pay their children’s school fees. That chai system that started with fifty bobs hastily folded and put in an empty matchbox, and thrown at traffic police officers who would try to take them as inconspicuously as possible is now Smaug himself. Tolkien describes Smaug as a ‘…most specially greedy, strong and wicked dragon.” And he is growing.

Smaug: [laughs] I kill where I wish and none dare resist! I laid low the warriors of old and their like is not in the world today - then I was but young and tender, now I am old and strong! My armor is shields, my teeth swords, my tail a thunderbolt!

Smaug: [laughs] I kill where I wish and none dare resist! I laid low the warriors of old and their like is not in the world today – then I was but young and tender, now I am old and strong! My armor is shields, my teeth swords, my tail a thunderbolt!

Today, the bribe taker will openly bargain for a bigger bribe. The euphemisms of chai and kitu kidogo are no longer necessary, neither are icebreakers, this is the way of the land. Any bribe lower than 1000 bob for a traffic offense in Nairobi is considered an insult by and to the bribe taker. The cost of living has driven everything up.

If you do not have loose money to pay the agreed amount to go back to your important business, change is available in the form of 50 bobs and 100 bobs taken from earlier bribe givers. It is possible that since Smaug has now grown so big and so greedy, there are account books run by jurisdictional bosses to make sure the minions are not thieving. Because, honor among thieves.

Baggins: I did not come to steal from you, O Smaug the Unassessably Wealthy. I merely wanted to gaze upon your magnificence, to see if you were as great as the old tales say. I did not believe them.  Smaug: [strikes a pose] And do you, NOW?  Baggins: Truly songs and tales fall utterly short of your enormity, O Smaug the Stupendous...  Smaug: Do you think flattery will keep you alive?  Baggins: No, no...  Smaug: No, indeed!  Image sourced from [www.jambonewspot.com]

Smaug: Let me tell you, I ate six ponies last night and I shall catch and eat the others before long.Image sourced from [www.jambonewspot.com] 

Public vetting without a thorough soaking and wringing of the little moral fabric we have left is a total waste of time. All it will do is make bribe takers more wary of leaving a paper trail and lo! and behold, a money laundering system will emerge. They will save money under the names of their spouses, children, parents, friends, hand househelps They will make purchases in cash and register them under dummy names. They will invest it in business where they know it will be long long before anyone ever catches them. They are actually already doing this.

As consumerism infiltrates the central national ethos, devolved into a burgeoning middle class with a large disposable income, the opportunities for the parallel taxation system to make money grows. More cars equals more motorists that increase the statistical possibility of multiple traffic offenders willing to pay a quick KES 500 to avoid being lost in the maze that is the Kenyan judicial system.

So, all hail the parallel taxation system. Pay your bribes and be a good Kenyan. Avoid crime and silly mistakes but if you must, be ready to oil someone to look the other way. Do not worry if you do not have enough in your pocket at the time, someone will accompany you to the ATM to withdraw the money, or even loan you some credit to call your people and get the money. They will helpfully point you to the nearest MPESA if they are actually aware of the perils of a money trail. No rush here, bribe giver, says the bribe taker, it’s not as if we are paying rent or anything, or building roads and paying teachers.

All this happens in the span of a few minutes, or a few hours, and each side appeals to the other’s sense of greed and primal survival instincts. The transaction is a marvel as the driver’s license is given back as soon as the bribe is honored (this is now a thing, by the way). It is not happening under our noses, it is happening right before our eyes and to our wallets, and we are in it, deep deep in it.

Maybe someday we will feel the itch to reclaim Erebor; to finally do something more substantial than stage a public surgery to cure a cancer so far spread that it no longer feels like a terminal illness but a way of life.

 Owaahh©, 2013  

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2014 in Causes, Kenya, Nairobi Review, Politics

 

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7 Kenyans who made it In Hollywood Before Lupita Nyong’o (Part 2)


This list is partially built from the comments on Part 1. There are some stark omissions such as an exhaustive character list for Out of Africa and The Constant Gardener for obvious reasons (that you know them already). This list focuses on the largely unknown Kenyan actors, and tries to straddle Kenya’s 50 years of independence, with the earliest role on the film being in 1967 and the most recent in 2012.

#7 Edwin Mahinda, Kitchen Toto

Kitchen Toto (1987) is a British drama film set in Kenya in 1950. The movie’s lead character is a young Kenyan boy called Mwangi, played Edwin Mahinda. The story is told from Mwangi’s viewpoint, with an impressive portrayal of a British household in colonial Kenya. A British administrator, takes the son  of a murdered priest as his kitchen servant.

 The lead character’s story is actually tragic. The freedom fighters infiltrate the kitchen staff and then plan an elaborate attack when the man of the house is away. They drag his wife out and in the confusion, the son of the house accidentally shoots her as he is trying to save her. Suspicion falls on Kitchen Toto and he flees his adopted home. To track him, the DO enlists the services of Maasai trackers who catch up with him and kill him on a bridge.

The movie has several other Kenyans credited in the cast; Paul Onsongo, Ayub Ogada, Job Seda, Ann Wanjuga (Mwangi’s mother), Nathan Dambuza Mdledle (Mwangi’s father) and Nicholas Charles.

Mahinda’s other film roles include The Lion of Africa (1988) and White Mischief (1987). He seems to have disappeared from acting after that, and very little is known about his life after his three roles.

#6 Lenny Juma

Before he became synonymous with Shuga and Mali series where he was the casting director, Lenny Juma cut his teeth as an actor in Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life. Juma plays the Turkana elder who Lara, played by Angelina Jolie, approaches seeking information about the Cradle of Life where the orb that leads to the mythical Pandora’s Box is said to be hidden. Juma doesn’t stare at Angelina’s chest the whole time, at least not on camera.

Lenny Juma has an impressive filmography that includes The Air Up There and the Constant Gardener. In Indiana Jones Chronicles, he plays the witchdoctor, anad Colonel Bao in Banged Up Abroad. He currently plays a gym coach on the AfricaMagic Entertainment series KONA. 

Bromance with Papa Shirandula. One of this men has been in physical proximity with Angelina Jolie. You can turn green now.

Bromance with Papa Shirandula. One of this men has been in physical proximity with Angelina Jolie. You can turn green now.

#5 Raymond Ofula

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It was the TV Series Better Days that thrust Raymond Ofula to fame locally but he was already a big name internationally. Ofula plays a Village Leader in Tomb Raider, the same one that Lenny Juma appeared in. He had one previous role in To Walk with Lions (1999) as Chief Haji Abu Jibril.

His filmography includes roles in White Maasai, the Constant Gardener. He has acted in several local TV series other than Better Days such as Changes, Tabasamu, Mali and Nairobi Law. He also featured in the South African-Nigerian hit Jacob’s Cross. 

#4 Damaris Itenyo Agweyu

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Between 2004 and 2005, Damaris raked up four credits as an actress and then simply disappeared from the art. She acted in The White Maasai (2005) as Asma, in The Constant Gardener as Jomo’s Wife, in Project Daddy, and in the Transit as the Public Clinic Doctor.

Her character husband in The Constant Gardener, Jomo, is played by Bernard Onyango Oduor. John Sibi-Okumu plays Dr. Joshua Ngaba in the film.

#3 Karara Muhoro

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Karara Muhoro is the ultimate Kenyan hustler. He is an actor, a scientist, and former  former US Army National Guard.  The chemistry professor has three movies in his filmography; in Phone Booth (2002), The Legend of Tillamook’s Gold (2006) and Congo (1995) and the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2003). He is also a voice actor in the video game Resident Evil 5 (2009).

In Phonebooth (2002), Muhoro is the toy seller operating the toy robot that the caller (Kiefer Sutherland, yes, Jack Bauer) shoots when Stu (Colin Farrell) doesn’t believe he can shoot him from wherever he is.  The toy seller is credited as Nigerian but he speaks Swahili, which is one of the biggest goofs in the movie.

"Isn't it funny?You hear a phone ring, and it could be anybody...but a ringing phone has to be answered, doesn't it?"

“Isn’t it funny?You hear a phone ring, and it could be anybody…but a ringing phone has to be answered, doesn’t it?”

Karara Muhoro is now a chemistry professor at the Los Angeles City College. 

#2 Charles Malinda

Charles Malinda plays Sampson, in the 1967 movie Africa Texas Style. The 109 minute color movie was the forerunner to the TV series, Cowboy in Africa. The TV series was based on a similar premise spread across 26 episodes.

In the series, Sampson, Malinda’s character, is played by African-American actor Gerald Edwards. Samson is a young orphaned Kikuyu boy. He marks Jim, the cowboy, as his adoptive father and does everything he can to become the son of a ‘world championship cowboy.’ Jim promptly adopts him and spends most of his fathering time trying to nurture him into a proper man.

Malinda’s role, like Mahinda’s in Kitchen Toto, feels stereotypical. The Samson role is worse because it feels unnecessary”  “he’s cute as a button, but serves no real purpose other than to pad out the running time which, at 109 minutes is about 108 minutes longer than it really needs to be.

Charles Malinda was the foremost character played by a Kenyan in the film. There were several other Kenyans, including Stephen Kikumu, Ali Twaha, Mohammed Abdullah, and the awesomely named Honey Wamala as Mr. Oyondi. Stephen Kikumu was one of pioneer broadcasters in Voice of Kenya, now KBC.

 The soundtrack, featuring the song Harambee, was written by Daudi Kabaka. He is uncredited in the film.

#1 Belinda Akinyi Owino

In  Quentin Tarantino’s award-winning movie Django Unchained (2012), Belinda Owino plays one of the house servants in Candyland. She is uncredited for that role as an extra but is credite for her role as a Stunt Performer in the movie.

According to Belinda, working with the madman of Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino, was  the best role yet.

Belinda plays Candie's (Leonardo Di Caprio)'s house servant. www.sivrisinema.com

Belinda plays Candie’s (Leonardo Di Caprio)’s house servant.
http://www.sivrisinema.com

In the span of three short years, Belinda Owino has built more impressive filmography than most of the actors on this list. She also has one credit as a writer on Everyday Advice for an Optimistic Life (2012)

Belinda’s mother was also an actor. Joseph Olita, the man who plays Idi Amin in Amin: The Rise and Fall (1981) is her great-uncle.

Owaahh, 2013©

 
 

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#CaptureKenya: The Water Bottle


There is something about living in Nairobi that often makes us forget the concepts of family and sharing on which this country’s real roots are founded. The surprising thing is that nearer to the sea, to the cities and towns that have survived capitalism and our five-decade freefall (sometimes tempered with a few glows), one’s faith in Kenya’s ability to be a family is restored. Not even by the open sea or the constant greetings and social warmth, but by this reused 3-litre bottle…

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We sat outside a small hotel while waiting for a potential model to report to his place of work. The hotel is on the main street, known officially as Harambee Avenue, overlooking the sea and the jetties. While the rest of #TeamMigz went down the sea barrier to get spontaneous shots, I lagged behind to watch the bags-it reminds me of my first school trip in high school. It was a drama trip, and I was so excited, only to be designated the unofficial security person for the costumes and bags when everyone else was out chasing the sister school. This was different though. We had woken up at 4.30 to get some sunrise shots; the sun rises so early in Lamu, almost as if it is eager to go somewhere. A five-minute video of the horizon would look like a time-lapse video of the orange ball just hurtling its way up the sky.

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Its only 5.45 am in the morning….

Anyway, on the table where we had established base, I spotted the reused empty bottle. They were empty when I got there, and probably shouldn’t have attracted my attention. Then I noticed that every few minutes, a passerby stops, checks the bottle, finds it empty, and moves onwards. It turns out that this is the culture in Lamu; almost everyone with a table on the main street places a bottle of water and a plastic cup for any thirst passerby. No cost, no formalities, just a courtesy for everyone by everyone.

Lamu's famous Old Town's streets are narrow. If this was anywhere else, I'ldbe scared of what lurks in the corner...

Lamu’s famous Old Town’s streets are narrow. If this was anywhere else, I’ldbe scared of what lurks in the corner…

It is not much, and they probably don’t have to, but they still do. Such random acts of kindness, especially where they fulfill someone else’s banal needs at no cost to themselves, are probably the most salient thing missing from our everyday transactions. I pondered over how Nairobi would be such a culture shock for anyone who has been a Lamu resident his entire life since there is no free drinking water, and if there were, no one would drink it.

Lamu is a one big warm family.  In our three days here, we have made impromptu decisions severally, at times leaving the first person who approached us with a deal for his friend with either a better one or a better boat. No one ever gets angry; it’s almost suspicious how easily they take it. It’s as if capitalism reached the island in such a mild form that its murderous tentacles are missing from the real natives of Lamu.

Blessed with a calm shoreline and direct access to the high seas, Lamu’s main street is the Central Business District (CBD) with several banks, airline offices, government offices, the donkey sanctuary, numerous shops and hotels, and always teeming with groups of idling men. The men are not really idling, however, as this is the widest street in Lamu and most frequented by tourists. The speedboats tied to the jetties are owned or run by these men here, and once in a while, you will pass a group of men singing together or playing a board game.

Lamu's main street. Its a seafront affair...

Lamu’s main street. Its a seafront affair…

The bank aisles are almost empty, and the teller will happily chat with you about why you are in Lamu while she processes your money. No one is in a hurry, except our de facto tour guide and casting director, Cisqo (he is a slave driver this one, sharp and on his bare feet all the time).

I spotted a poster offering a 30*40 plot of land for KES 200, 000, in case your quest to enter the land bubble brings you here. But come only if you promise to visit or live only if you promise to place a bottle of water outside your door. 

Owaahh©, 2013. 

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2013 in Adventures, Kenya, Random Musings

 

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