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Category Archives: Pages from the Past

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

images

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 Badass Soldiers in the East Africa Campaigns


This list doesn’t include any East Africans, just men who fought in East Africa during the World Wars. Isn’t there anyone in this region who was blessed with balls of wrought iron? 

#7 Fragetten Kapitan Max Looff

 Warhistory.com


Warhistory.com

There are two shipwrecks in the Rufiji River Delta in Tanzania. One is that of the Konigsberg while the other is that of its fuelling collier, the Somali. The Germans lost the two ships during the heat of World War I to a fleet of Royal Navy vessels. That’s the boring part of the story.

Fragetten Kapitan Max Looff, who had the most obnoxious surname ever, commanded the ship on several successful raids on British ships. When the light cruiser suffered engine failure, he steered it up the Rufiji Delta from where the damaged parts were transported via land to Dar es Salaam.

He managed to hide the ship for five weeks by camouflaging it and moving it to the upper reaches of the Delta. When it was finally discovered, the British blockaded the delta and began to launch attacks on the ship. The first attacks, using shitty seaplanes and tiny bombs, failed; the Royal Navy ships were too big to go close enough to the ship to make direct hits.

When his ship was finally hit in July 1915, Looff sent a signal to Berlin ‘Konigsberg is destroyed but not conquered.’ But that wasn’t the most poignant written communication Loof ever sent.

On New Year’s Eve the previous year, the Royal Navy Ship HMS Fox sent Loof this message: WE WISH YOU A HAPPY NEW YEAR AND HOPE TO SEE YOU SOON.

Looff, as aloof as a man with a name like that can be, replied: THANKS, SAME TO YOU, IF YOU WISH TO SEE ME, I AM ALWAYS HOME.” If that is not an invitation for a proper ass whoopin’ then I have been watching the wrong action movies. Loof managed to hold on until July that year and though they sank his ship in the end, they never caught him.

The Kognisberg wreck

The Kognisberg wreck

#5 Colonel Von Lettow-Vorbeck Tells Hitler to Fuck Off

He also win the prize hat editthis.info.com

He also win the prize hat
editthis.info.com

Whoever says badassery cannot be induced by naming your kids something badass is lying. Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck, other than having a mouthful of a badass name, is recognized as the most badass German General to lead a military force during World War I. Free Advice: Call your child Lettow-Vorbeck and watch him become the king of recess. Please don’t quote me if he doesn’t.

When the war started, Lettow-Vorbeck was leading a small garrison of just a little over five thousand soldiers. He used the Konigsberg’s guns-after Loof’s ship was damaged-to shell the Allies in the East African land campaign. One of his victories was so embarrassing to the British that they kept it secret until 1966. He proved to be a hard man to pin down, employing the guerrilla warfare strategy, and managing to keep his troops motivated for four years.

 Two days after Germany lost the war, Vorbeck was still busy fighting –and winning territory-in the Congo. He did not even know that his side had lost the war until Hector Croad, a British Magistrate, brought him a letter informing him of the armistice.

He surrendered his undefeated army of about 1, 500 soldiers, and 3, 500 porters in Zambia on 25 November, a whole week and a half after Berlin had fallen. Vorbeck and the man he had been fighting for more than two years, General JC Smuts met in 1929 and became lifelong friends.

 Smuts organized a pension for Vorbeck from the same guys he had been shooting at and trying to kill him for four years. He needed the assistance because he had made terrible political decisions, one of them being more badass than anything he ever did in war.

In 1935, he declined a diplomatic position from Hitler by telling the mustachioed dictator to ‘Go fuck himself.’ Seriously. This was Hitler, the man who would enter the annals of history as a villain extraordinaire, and a mere man, a former soldier nonetheless, was telling him, in no less words, to shove it in his own fundamentals. If you were Hitler, you would kill Vorbeck wouldn’t you? But Vorbeck lived until 1963, almost three decades longer than the Furher. If having titanium ball doesn’t kill you, only old age can. Unless you are Nigel Gray Leakey…

#5 Nigel Gray Leakey; ‘I’ll Get them on Foot!”

You can't even get a photo of the man.  www.wikipedia.com

You can’t even get a photo of the man.
http://www.wikipedia.com

You don’t know Nigel Leakey, of course not. He is one of the many famous Leakeys and his story tends to fade in the famous family name. May 19 1941; Sergeant Leakey is stationed in the Ethiopian front when the Allied forces encounter strong Italian opposition.

Tired of just shooting around like a fool, and perhaps too eager to get home, Leakey jumped on top of an enemy tank, opened the turret, and killed everyone inside except the driver. Unless you know how to drive or fly the thing you are stealing, never kill the driver/pilot. It’s counterproductive. Leakey knew that, now you do too. Use this information wisely.

He forced the driver to steer the tank to cover from where he tried to fire the canons at the Italians. This failed and he dismounted, yelling to his disbelieving fellow soldiers ‘I’ll get them on foot.” Because badassery doesn’t need a tank, badassery is its own war machine.

He tried the stunt again, this time with three African soldiers. As a fleet of enemy tanks passed, he jumped on the third one and opened the turret. He only managed to shoot one person inside before the fourth tank shot him right off the tank. Italians were having none of his shit this time round. But they lost, and part of the credit for that victory is given to Sergeant Leakey. He was posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy among Commonwealth countries. It is only awarded to soldiers with titanium balls, and Nigel had grown his while growing up in Kiganjo.

#4 Private Seidu Issalia

This is exactly what it looks like.

This is exactly what it looks like.

If you think you know badassery but you do not know Private Seidu Issalia’s act of utter stupidity and bravery, then you need to suspend that until you are done reading this entry.

If you Google ‘Private Seidu Issalia’ one of the curious finds you will get is a Dictionary entry for ‘Definition of Groin’ because that’s Issalia’s most badass part. His fundamentals. No, he didn’t kill anyone with his wand, not that we know of anyway. Maybe the titanium alloy prosthetic he got did.

On January 4 1941, Private Issalia, a member of the Gold Coast Regiment fighting in the East African campaign, was sent as a runner by his platoon commander. He was shot through the groin; please take a moment to internalize that, on his way to HQ. As the sniper giggled at his villainous hit, Issalia refused to die.

He crawled, with a bullet in his groin, to command headquarters and did his duty. Badass, no? Now you like a coward for that time you cried when someone kicked you in the groins, right? Private Issalia is just about to multiply that…

He delivered his message and then crawled back, still with a bullet in his fundamentals, back to his platoon commander to confirm delivery of the message. He was one of the few African soldiers who were ever awarded for bravery during the campaign. There is no information as to whether he was reincarnated as the African Robocop with titanium balls and a diamond wand but if there is ever an alien attack, this is one the guys we should consider.

#3 Sergeant-Major Belo Akure

Nigerian Infantry in Tanzania  www.kaiserscross.com

Nigerian Infantry in Tanzania
http://www.kaiserscross.com

The story of West African troops who fought in the East African Campaign has generally been downplayed and hardly registers a mention in Kenyan history books. Yet when you look at the number of military medals the Brigades amassed you can tell there are numerous stories of badassery and unfulfilled death wishes hidden there. One of them is that of Sergeant-Major Belo Akure.

When an experienced officer, a British one during a time of blatant racial stratification no less, writes of you ‘I have never seen a braver man’ then you must be at the highest attainable level of badassery.

By the end of the war he had amassed three medals: the coveted Military Medal, a clasp, and the Distinguished Conduct in the field medal. The first medal was for a time when he saved eight of his colleagues from sure death. As they retreated from a tactical mistake, the company came under fire. Since they could not all fit in the canoe, Akure was left behind, lying down on the riverbank returning to god-knows-how-many German shooters. He was hit in the sleeve and died. Actually no he wasn’t.

He continued shooting until his company got on the other side, and then he swam across to safety.

In East Africa, Belo captured a middle-level German Officer ‘in spite of a spirited rescue effort’ by the German forces. Here’s how it was described “He left his place of safety and went out to the German who was lying on the ground. History does not relate what he said to the wretched man, but badly wounded as he was, he (the German) got up and followed the sergeant-major to a place of safety.” He probably just told him his name. 

#2 Eric Charles Twelves Wilson

Now you know where Van Damme got the concept for the split...

Now you know where Van Damme got the concept for the split…

Wilson revenged for being given the weirdest set of names by showing such conspicuous gallantry in Somaliland that no one thought he had survived. But he had.

It all began when Italian forces attacked a machine-gun post aptly called Observation Hill. Captain Wilson, in charge of a badass team of Somali gunners, led a successful counter-attack and started helping another nearby post beat off the attackers.

He was so successful that the Italians switched their energies to finishing him off completely. They scored two direct hits on his defenses, one of which wounded Captain Wilson in the right shoulder and the left eye, and shattered his spectacles. His guns were blown off their stand but he repaired them and replaced them, with a useless eye and a useless hand, and promptly went back to the fight. From August 12 to August 14, he manned his guns with one hand and one weak eye, the wounds unattended. He contracted malaria on the 13th, because the Grim Reaper was running out of ideas.

 He kept the post in action until 5pm 15 August, his wounds unattended, and his malaria untreated, when the post was finally overran, and he was killed. At least that is how the original gazette notice for his VC reads.

Wilson actually survived the slaughter and wandered off until the Italians captured him. They took him to hospital and then spirited him off to a POW camp in Eritrea where he first learnt of his posthumous VC months later.

When the camp was overrun by the British, Wilson was rescued and given the VC he had been awarded when everyone thought he was dead. He was then deployed to Burma where he was struck by scrub typhus. He was then moved to an infantry-training center in Uganda. The Grim Reaper quit after this and just let old age do its magic.

#1 Premindra Singh Bhagat

Is that a smack, Singh?

Is that a smack, Singh?

The most badass man on this list is Premindra Singh Bhagat! That his exploits did not kill him means death respected him enough to let his nongiveafuckery prolong his life. Here’s what Singh Bhagat did.

Over the course of his training, his company commander frequently complained about Bhagat’s ‘high opinion of himself.” When he was leaving the training camp, his company commander, MacLaughin, said “That chap. He’s off to the wars. You mark my words. He will either get shot or get a VC.” He did the latter.

He was deployed to Sudan where his acts of total-complete-one-hundred-percent-nongiveafuckery happened. On 6 November 1940, Bhagat’s company was tasked with road denial, a sabotage strategy by a retreating army to slow down the pursuing army. They rigged up two derelict tanks with explosives and then jammed them into a culvert. When the charges were fired, one jammed and the culvert held. Well, until Prem dashed from cover and into the tank, under a hail of bullets. He adjusted the charges and then ran back out. The tank exploded. Badass, no? Men like Bhagat are never satisfied with such pussy acts as simply running into a tank filled with explosives.

In January 1942, Bhagat was commanding a column of Royal Frontier Force Rifles during the Battle of Keren. As part of the recce party, Bhagat and his men had to drive out in front of the platoons. The road was heavily mined and the carrier he was in blew up. Everyone escaped unhurt, but Bhagat was not having that kind of uncertainty again. As the column progressed, the carrier drove over another mine and the driver and the sapper died.

Bhagat, after flipping at the Grim Reaper, promptly moved to another carrier and this is where the shit goes from badass to “is this man even human?” Every time the column encountered a mine, Bhagat would alight from the carrier and defuse the mine with his bare hands. For four days!

 For four long days, this man worked with no rest or food, like a mine-defusing, death defying, Grim-Reaper-Immune machine. His carrier was blown up a third time on February 2 and Prem’s eardrums, tired of being part of a man with no value for his life, simply punctured.

For a whole day, this guy refused to be pulled away from the war front, arguing with his company commander that he was the most experienced among all mine-defusers. He probably couldn’t hear what his senior was saying so it’s possible he let his exploits speak for him.

After working almost non-stop for 96 hours, clearing 15 mine fields over 55 miles and with blood oozing from his ears, Bhagat accepted to be evacuated. He was awarded the VC for “the longest recorded feat of sheer cold courage.”

—– Richhpal Ram

Shove over Looff, Ram takes the prize for head gear!

Shove over Looff, Ram takes the prize for head gear!

Now, there are badass men who don’t care much for their lives and then there’s Ricchpal Ram. When a guy’s second name is a verb that implies force and violence, you know he is the real deal.

Ram was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for, as the highest award among Commonwealth Forces is described ‘gallantry in the face of the enemy.’

According to this Gazette notice, Ram and his 6th Rajputana Rifles were fighting in Eritrea when this happened “…his personal example inspired his company with his resolute spirit until his right foot was blown off. He then suffered further wounds from which he later died. While lying wounded, he continued to wave his men on, and his final words were “We’ll capture the objective.”

Owaahh © 2013

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2013 in Badassery, Lists, Pages from the Past

 

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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

download

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

images (1)

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

download (1)

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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7 Ballsiest Hoaxes Ever Pulled by Kenyans


 I’ve only been conned once. By an old man. An old senile man. Not 60s old, older, that guy was really really old. By the time I realized I was the sucker in the transaction, he was probably on his deathbed, dying of natural causes. I was KES 2500 poorer, carrying a shredded ego and for some odd reason, finding it funny and embarrassing at the same time. Although the relic didn’t get a lot of money, the pang of my gullibility lasted for months, probably longer than him.

But when that old man was younger (or still old, but not as old), Kenyans fell for many hoaxes. To their defense, it was the Age BG-Before Google. Still, even in the Google Age, we are still made of suckers and gullibility. Suspect Everyone.

This is a sequel to this previous list.

#7 The Facebook Phishing/MPESA hoax

One of the most ingenious hoaxes/financial cons in recent years, this one takes the cake for how fool proof it can be if you are not skeptical.
It works rather simply; a Facebook friend starts a random conversation, he or she then asks you to send money to someone for them-always KES 5, 000, repayable the next day as KES 8, 000/7, 000-because they are in a fix. The appeal for first, friendship, and second, greed, is the very ingenuity of this hoax. You have friends and you are greedy because you are a human being like the rest of us. 

MPESA

The phishing component is often the first phase. You receive a random link to vote for someone or something of the sought that takes you to a dummy Facebook page where you need to enter your email address and password again to access. A day or so later, you can’t access your profile, and suddenly your Facebook friends are calling you asking you whether your friend got the money. You try to change your password, but nein! The fraudsters add an extra password recovery email address to your profile and it’s a game of cat-and-mouse between the two of you, battling for control.

The name of the MPESA is always something common, like Tracy Kamau, Stacy Kamau, Janet Kamau. You will never get your money back.

#6 The Medical Adverts

There was always a sense in the Kenyan ‘spirit’ of Harambee that skirted the thin line between altruism and survivor guilt. Pure concern for others, it would emerge in later years when the ‘spirit’ was banned, is easy to exploit especially in a country used to throwing money at problems. Every disaster or accident is immediately followed by a call to fundraise, and no questions are ever asked about why the system doesn’t work. News reports on almost anything sad, even the death of a cat (hasn’t happened yet but who knows) are followed by  a Pay Bill number for the sad reader to restore some hope to humanity (or its endless greed).

 The medical adverts con is easy, and the epitome happened only two months ago. Two men walked into local dailies and paid for a medical appeal advertisement for a Master Cavlin Wanzila.

It later turned out that Wanzila is not really Wanzila, but Laren Galloway. Galloway has creepy but intriguing blue eyes, most likely caused by a genetic disorder called Waardenburg Syndrome.

Does this picture look familiar? You've been duped.

Does this picture look familiar? You’ve been duped.

Now you know that, but when the photo was published in local dailies in August, not many did and the hoax worked. With a small investment of about KES 50, 000 and remarkable ingenuity, our confidence team of two men and a woman just sat back and watched the monies roll in from gullible well-wishers who seriously wanted to help.

Ruth, the woman in the story, had received at least Shs. 1.7 million by the time the trio was made.

#5 Fred Achieng’, or was he?

By the time the British justice system sentenced this guy to four years imprisonment for fraud and theft, he had left a trail of bruised egos and bad debts. His greatest ruse was that he was the playboy son of Saudi arms dealer Adan Khashoggi, Mohammed Khashoggi.

He used his ‘father’s’ name to win over favors which mostly included free nights in presidential suites at five –star hotels, all over. His ruse even managed to make suckers out of successful businessmen like Allen Sheppard, the proprietor of the Grand Metropolitan Hotel Group in London.

He was a big spender and an astonishingly talented pianist. That latter attribute worked well for him, winning him many nights in five-star hotels. At some point, he was a cabaret artist in a prestigious hotel. At another, he was swindling everyone who had money at the coast. Using his best ruse and at other times claiming he was the son of a Permanent Secretary, Fred (or whatever his real name was) really had a blast in Nairobi, Mombasa and London. The lowly porter with a knack for the keyboard pushed it too far by targeting five-star hotels, but since there was no Google then, it took sometime before his huge bills got him made.

#4 The Miracle Babies

There has only been one true miracle baby and he was crucified on a cross. Or so the story goes. Unless you believe your pregnant daughter too when she swears she was fertilized by nature, and not by a young man you can blast with the shot gun you will buy for just that purpose. But Deya and his wife Eddah Odera had 12 of those, the miracle babies, not the shot guns, between 1999 and 2004.

The man with magic bullets.

The man with magic bullets.

At 56, Eddah was post-menopausal and her body should have shut down that business of churning out babies like a Coca Cola bottling factory sometime in the decade before. But she claimed it hadn’t. The entire system was simply machine-gunning out babies like it was being paid to do so. The Lord, through her husband and prophet, Gilbert Deya, had seen it fit to bring forth a new football team in five years (there are some teams in the EPL that can attest to this never working).

barnes and noble

The ministry’s advert openly solicits “God has blessed us with miracle babies that the world has never seen anything like before. Your donation is very useful to your miracle.”

It was total BS.  DNA tests showed no genetic link between the dozen children and their bewildered post-menopausal mother. No one seems to have thought of claiming that the foreign DNA was God’s. Wait, if we are theists, all DNA should be His, right? Logistics, logistics, you would think Nature or someone would make it easier. No one used the defense that maybe because a deity was simply making sperm out of thin air, maybe the DNA couldn’t match in the first place.

One of the women who was jailed with Deya’s wife, Rose Kiserem, later confessed to the whole thing being a ruse to hide a child-trafficking ring. It was a face-saving confession, and it only came after Deya refused to ‘apologize to her.’ Wait, shouldn’t he be apologizing to all those women who lost their kids?

#3 Kamlesh Pattni

Of course the Brother Paul had to be here. The story of Goldenberg is old, and tired, and Pattni is still rich, but it still needs to be told.

In the early 1990s, the not-so-bright Kenyan government sought to mitigate the economic crisis it had created the decade before by encouraging exports. Local businesses were given an incentive that  included a payback of every $20 for every $100 of products exported. Simple, yes, but there was no system of verifying volume, the entire process relied on the paper trail.

Pattni, young and ambitious, quickly opened a company and started exporting nonexistent gold to get the bonus. There was only one tiny gold mine in Kenya at the time, in Kakamega. The actual gold that was ever exported was first smuggled in Kenya from Congo and then forwarded to get the government bonus. He roped in the suckers and collaborators throughout the system; more later when he was almost caught and instead conviniently started his own bank, Exchange Bank Limited which made his system foolproof. Instead of the usual 20%, Pattni earned 35 percent for his gold and diamonds exports.

Never has this picture been more relevant. Source: LA Times...

Never has this picture been more relevant.
Source: LA Times…

By the end of the mess, Kenya’s public coffers were $600 million short, and through a commission of inquiry and some lethargic prosecutions, Goldenberg would become a tattered rag of a story, and Pattni would become Paul, Brother Paul. Rich and blessed by God, a greedy system, an obnoxious judiciary, and apathetic at-least-he-did-not-steal-from-my-house taxpayers.

#2 The Man who milked an Elephant

Unlike Brother Paul who seems to have emerged from his elephant-milking unscathed save for a bad reputation, Peter Baraza had the injuries but no milk. In a story headlined ‘Meet the man who milked an elephant that appeared in a local daily in 1998, the 21-year old Kenyan farmer claimed that he had milked an elephant as she grazed with her calf. The irate mother, after letting him milk her a bit, then turned on him and gave him a proper ass-whoopin’! But it didn’t smash him or cause very extensive injuries-he had a dislocated shoulder, ‘other internal injuries’ and the shock of surviving with such an awesome story.

Dramatization

Dramatization

So, why didn’t he, like Nyaumbe (the man who bit and beat a python) make it to Badass of the Week. Because it was a hoax. One that everyone, including papers such as LA Times, went ahead and re-published. That article raises a poignant question about the original report that appeared in the Daily Nation, why Baraza, other than the reason that he just felt like doing it, had tried to milk the elephant.

The story was also insensitive to the elephant- it implied that she had only knocked him out when she realized that he was milking her, which was like a minute later (like her boobs are that numb, but who knows).

This is an aside, but does anyone know whether elephants have nipples? If they do, they must be big. Baraza-crushing big. They are probably the ones that knocked him out. What search terms do I even enter into Google for this without looking like am researching for a fete of wildlife intercourse, pun intended?

I am not very sure what is happening here.

I am not very sure what is happening here.

But there was a major problem. The real Peter Baraza from Nyahururu had no injuries and had made no such claim. He, like the rest of us mere mortals, feared elephants for their sheer size and their ability to make a smudge out of our entire lives. Someone had made up the story, and when Baraza was done with Nation Media Group in a defamation case, he was KES 2 million richer. This time, he had milked an elephant for real, just not in the forest.

#1 Eric Awori

This is one of the least known, yet the ballsiest hoax ever pulled off by a Kenyan on Kenyans. Yes, it beats Brother Paul’s daylight robbery. Even Deya’s how-about-we-sign-up-a-whole-team-from-this-uterus ruse.

 In the pre-automatic cars age, and when cars were still the reserve of the government and her owners, Awori decided to play what would turn out to be the most embarrassing con someone, make that entire newsrooms and thus, millions of readers, would ever fall for. Forget the old senile man who made a sucker out of me, forget him and his shaking hands and dying wishes, Awori made a fool out of an entire nation.

Step 1: Sourced from www.blog.espow.com

Step 1:
Sourced from http://www.blog.espow.com

Awori’s con was simple. Sometime n 1985, he made the ballsy claim that he had driven a car in reverse from Mombasa, through Nairobi, to Rongai (the Nakuru one, it’s further than the landlocked country past Lang’ata. You need a Christopher Columbus for this one) and then back to the capital city. Simple, right? Until you re-read the first sentence in this paragraph and notice the words ‘in reverse’!

Parallel parking an automatic car is hard enough as it is (someone said it would can be used to sort out who to sacrifice to the zombies first, I think that can work) but we have a guy here who swore by the gods of Motor oil that he had put his manual shift in reverse and driven about 650km (on bad roads, by the way) without his head getting permanently sore from looking at his driver’s mirror and without a single accident.

There was no mention of a navigator, although that would have been confusing. It’s like when you are trying to direct your wife out the parking lot, and you tell her to turn the wheels to her left, and then she asks whether it is your left or hers, and then you sit and cry? Or one of those times when you have to do the writing motion to remind yourself which one is your right upper limb?

Awori claimed the world record was then held by Gerald Hoagland, and in the celebrity shenanigans that followed the king of reverse in Kenya, he even got a new Toyota Corolla from Westlands Motors. True, a Gerald Hoagland had driven 102 km in reverse “Fortunately for Hoagland and motorists in general, the event took place on a special track.” Because driving in reverse is disorienting and bound to get messy. The girls might cheer you on and cream their pants for you, until you drive right into the bevy of cheerleaders. Men will put pinups of your car’s booty on their walls, and worship you. Awori knew that, he banked on it. 

But he wasn’t done. He announced he was going from the city to Mombasa driving a 7-tonne lorry. In reverse! Clearly, all these reversing was growing the ballsiness of our antagonist here. The even crazier part? Car companies fell for it! The very people who sold such machines fell smack into the con! DT Dobie (you would think, you would think.) donated fuel, and a Mercedes-Benz lorry for Awori to guide with his back-of the head eyes all the way to the Kenyan coast. Car companies, mainstream newspapers (I see you, Daily Nation), and just about everyone else.

They say you should never marry someone until you've watched them drive in reverse. Image from www.getahead.rediff.com

They say you should never marry someone until you’ve watched them drive in reverse.
Image from http://www.getahead.rediff.com

They say you shouldn’t marry someone until you’ve watched them drive in reverse.

Of course he won! …and a ‘John Miller’, a supposed Guinness Book of World Records adjudicator, sent a telegram confirming that Awori had smashed a record. In reverse. He was putting Kenya on the reverse map and local dailies were buying the story like sponges.

Once you win over everyone at home, the next step is New Zealand, right? Awori new that, and according to his telexes, that was his next step, Auckland, for the “620-km Kiwi Auto Reverse Rally. ”He took the hoax too far by ‘winning’ that world championship too far, and before long, his Kenyan assembled bubble burst. When the cops caught up with him after the New Zealand High Commission called BS on the win, all the reversing that Awori had been doing was his swivel chair in an office in Mama Ngina Street as he shuttled between the telex machine and the coffee pot, periodically breaking into maniacal laughs while patting himself on the back. 

People are still setting records for reverse driving, but Awori is not among them

People are still setting records for reverse driving, but Awori is not among them

 No mention on whether he was jailed but if he was, you can be sure someone in prison made him drive. In Reverse. If you catch my drift…

Owaahh©, 2013

 
9 Comments

Posted by on October 27, 2013 in Badassery, Crime, Lists, Pages from the Past, Weird

 

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6 Chilling Survival Stories in Kenyan Aircraft Crashes


Aircraft accidents are the Grim Reaper’s buffet. But sometimes some people just refuse to die, some of them don’t just stare down death in the face and wag a finger at it, they also swim for miles or feed their infants whisky. Wait, what? Sorry Reaper, not today (hiccup).

—-#7  Mr. Bean Saves the Day

(Added 8 September 2013: Thanks to MMK’s comment down there for adding this entry to the list)

Rowan Atkinson, the ‘hilarious’ ageless Mr. Bean once saved himself and his entire family after the pilot blacked out. At 4, 877 meters on a flight from Mombasa to Nairobi, Mr. Bean flew a plane despite having zero experience flying the twin-propeller engine. 

The Cessna 202 chartered plane had four passengers: Atkinson, his wife Sunetra, and their children Ben and Lilly. The pilot fell unconscious about 45 minutes into the flight, forcing the comedian to take the controls as his wife tried the good old method of slapping the KO’d guy into consciousness. It worked.

Where some of us would just soil out pants and pray someone deletes our internet history while telling the wife that we never liked her morning breath anyway, Atkinson took the damn controls. Like a typical man, yanked that think up and down until the plane balanced from its murderous nosedive.

The pilot is thought to have been suffering from dehydration. Once he revived, Atkinson moved from the controls and let the pilot do the professional piloting.

It is unclear whether he immediately went into character at the time and grinned as he saved the day.

#6 “Let it Burn”

Over to you, Usher.

Over to you, Usher.

Image from http://www.mcgrow.org.uk

 

Ever hated a plane so much that you begged the fire crew to let it burn immediately after you saved yourself from its murderous cabin? Of course you haven’t, but someone has.

On 11 April 1962, an EAA operated Canadair C-4 Argonaut plane struck the Embakasi Airport (Now JKIA) runway and almost immediately caught fire. The plane was carrying out stimulated three-engine approaches when the training captain attempted to unfeather the feathered engine and feathered one of the others. The plane stayed airborne for 1.5 miles before hitting the runway and beginning a fire bonanza!

The Canadair Argonauts had been forced on the EAAC by the BOAC, British Airways predecessor, despite the fact that they were ill-suited for East African routes. So the pilots hated them. So much that after saving his own skin and that of his two crew members, he simply asked the fire crew to…Let it Burn!

Now we know where Usher got his inspiration.

#5 Richard Leakey 

Setting standards for badass poses. www.sierraclub.com

Setting standards for badass poses.
http://www.sierraclub.com

But whenever he is not out looking for poachers or cavemen treasures, Richard Leakey was out there surviving plane crashes.  He survived a small propeller-driven plane accident in 1993 that crushed his lower legs, which had to be amputated. Three months later, the man was again walking on prosthetics.

It is well-known (but hush-hush, don’t-tell-anyone-I-said-it kind of news) that the crash was most likely an assassination attempt. Given that no attempts seems to have been after that, it seems the Reaper and the assassins simply recognized his invincibility and left it to good ol’ time to do the work.

 When he was 11, he fell of his horse and fractured his skull.He also survived Moi and Kenyan politics.

Oh, and when the aircrafts weren’t trying to kill him, his kidneys were. He was diagnosed with terminal kidney disease and given a prognosis of less than 10 years. He got a kidney transplant in 1979 from his brother Philip but it was rejected only a month later…he survived the pneumonia and pleurisy from a weakened immune system

Whenever death sees this guy, it just offers him a cigar and kisses his ring.

#3 ‘The Drunk Infant’

On 28th June 1946, a Rapide VP-KCU plane enroute from Nairobi to Mombasa made a crash landing in Garsen near Lamu.

The pilot had been flying on the wrong bearing and went off course, eventually running out of fuel and being forced to crash. The eight passengers promptly abandoned the wreckage and begun a three day survival series that would be so awesome that it would almost be forgotten in Kenyan History.

The passenger manifest shows that the passengers included a pilot, five adults and a baby girl.

The plan was spotted by RAF Baltimore on the 30th but the party was only rescued the following day. In total, the six adults and an infant survived three days in the wilderness with nothing to eat but biscuits, marmalade, chocolate, and whisky. 

Whisky, saving babies since 1946. www.rsc.org

Whisky, saving babies since 1946.
http://www.rsc.org

…and dew water of course. There is no mention of whether the eight month infant was fed on whisky. But aren’t babies always high on something?

#4 Flight KQ 430

When a Kenya Airways Airbus A310-300 crashed into the cold Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the Ivory Coast on 30th January 2000, there was little hope of finding any survivors. There was no distress call from the pilot before the crash, and it took at least two hours for rescue operations to reach the wreckage. But one man didn’t wait to be found, he swam his way to life.

The bird crashed less than two minutes after taking off from the seaside runway. 168 people died in that horrific accident; which was also Kenya Airways first fatal accident since its formation in 1977. Rescue operations involving powerboats and local fishermen saved seven survivors from the water.

The still unnamed Frenchman’s survival instincts kicked in, and his good swimming skills also helped, and he swarm 1.6 kilometers (1 mile), with cuts and bruises, to the shore. How did he find the beach? Simple, he followed arc lamps set up by the rescue operators. 

He was a good swimmer. That’s how he managed to survive.” Also, he flipped the Grim Reaper-this part is not mentioned in the story. 

#2 A Propeller Walks into the Cockpit

Knock Knock Who's there? Just me, Propeller, Prepare to die! www.mcgrow.org.uk

Knock Knock
Who’s there?
Just me, Propeller, Prepare to die!
http://www.mcgrow.org.uk

On 27th April 1964, an EAAC plane landing at Kilwa in modern-day Tanzania left the runway. The soft ground brought the plane to a sudden halt, causing the port propeller to contact the ground. Given the design of the plane, the propeller flew off, hitting the cockpit and killing the pilot.

The man who survived the horrendous accident was First Office Tommy Turk. Turk survived because the pilot did not follow DC 3 flight manual procedure on a planned forced landing at the time. As he notes in his report, the manual stated that the captain should land the aircraft from the right hand seat, the FOs side, with the FO moving to the passenger compartment.

Cases of the propeller ‘walking’ into the cockpit after a crash were not uncommon. And that’s exactly what happened, a propeller strolled into the cockpit and sliced the good Captain in half. Tommy Turk later described the scene : “The Captain. was in a huddle on the floor, at an odd angle, holding his elbow, saying ‘my arm, my arm’. The arm had almost been totally severed, just above the elbow… I leaned over to pull the Captain up towards him so he could better apply pressure to the artery.  Only then did I notice that the Captain’s  body had been sliced in half by the propeller. Within seconds the Captain lost consciousness and died from the massive blood loss.”

Tommy Turk was a Hungarian pilot who lived in Kenya for most of his life. He retrained and retired as a Captain in 1973.  

#1 Captain Solomon Nyanjui

Death 0 Cpt Nyanjui 4 www.africanews.com

Death 0 Cpt Nyanjui 4
http://www.africanews.com

Captain Nyanjui is a man who has come to a consensus with death. You stop messing up my flights and I’ll stop making you look so incompetent. And given that he is still flying choppers today, it seems the deal is working.

Captain Nyanjui has crashed four times, each seemingly crazier than the last. While flying a chopper from Isiolo on November 15, 2007, Nyanjui crashed into the dense forest underneath. Thus begun one of the greatest survival stories that would last eight days.

The crash broke the man’s ribs but not his spirit. He had no food so he survived by eating leaves. To further compound the situation, and to make Lost even look more realistic, he had crashed in a region with torrential rainfall and teeming with wildlife. Wildlife is too general a reference, according to the man, a herd of elephants rocked the aircraft at night. Now, your nightmares of accidentally being rejected by your crash look like child’s play don’t they?

He then found the dislodged battery for his phone and sent an SMS to a friend. A whole new level of wingmanning was thus born, and can only be surpassed if someone in space needs to be rescued from a nagging date. He was, however, found by a group of farmers out digging a water trench.

He is a man who the gods of the air have tried to kill incessantly, and to no avail. Two years before the crash, he had crash landed an aircraft in the Aberdares while carrying the then Nation and Safaricom CEOs-Wilfred Kiboro and Michael Joseph. The crash was caught on camera.

…and of course he went back to flying again a few months later (he said he would)because fuck you, death.

You would think the Grim Ripper would just quit, right? Well, in 2008, Nyanjui had to make yet another crash landing while carrying a dignitary. 

 

Owaahh © 2013

 
6 Comments

Posted by on September 7, 2013 in Badassery, Death, Events, Pages from the Past, Short Lists

 

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7 Kenyans Who Made it in Hollywood before Lupita Nyong’o (Part 1)


Lupita Nyong’o’s role in 12 Years of a Slave (2013) is a milestone by itself. Although it represents the achievements of Kenyans and Kenyan-born actors on the global film scene, she is not the first Kenyan to make it that far. In fact, there are about eight decades between her and the first Kenyans to act in a Hollywood movie.

You can read Part 2, another list of 7 Kenyans who made it in Hollywood, here.

 #7 Kipsang’ Rotich in Star Wars

Kipsang

You probably know that episode in Star Wars: Episode VI-Return of the Jedi where Nien Nunb says something in an alien language that happens to be the Kikuyu language. But did you know that the guy who voiced Nien throughout the episode is Kenyan? And not even Kikuyu? Kipsang Rotich  is not credited for his role in the film.

However, we know that Rotich replaced some of his scripted lines with dialogue from Kenyan dialects, which would explain the Kikuyu line which, translated, means “All of you over there, come here.”

Nien Nunb is Lando’s first officer in the Death Star run in Jedi. The rest of his lines that sound gibberish even to the Kenyan listener are actually in the Haya language spoken in Tanzania. Since the Kikuyu line is missing from the episode’s script, we can’t tell whether it was still Kipsang who voiced it or someone else.

#6 Mary Oyaya in Star Wars

Originally a model, Oyaya’s only claim to this list is the Star Wars character she played in two Star Wars movies. She played the role of the Jedi Master Luminara Unduliin in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.Her modeling agent hooked her up with the Luminara casting role and she was an automatic fit when she first went to the Fox Studios for auditions.

She is a Kenyan-born globetrotter who has lived in Kenya, Sweden, Canada, and Australia.

#5 Benjamin Ochieng’ in The X-Files

The X-Files (1999), Tears of the Sun (2003), The Shield series (2005), The Anatolian (2007), The Disciple (2008). Benjamin Ochieng’  is Hollywood’s go-to actor for Kiswahili lines. Benjamin’s claim to stardom has actually been his proficiency in Swahili. After playing 50 to 60 roles as an extra, he told the Associate Director on X-Files that he spoke Swahili and was hired three minutes later for his first speaking role.

He is now an actor with an impressive filmography and is fast making a name for himself as a producer and sound editor. With 20 titles to his filmography that include a voice actor in Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, Ochieng has also worked in movie crews as a sound editor and a writer. He has also directed two short films: Mr. Brewer’s Difficult Day (2011) and MISSInformed (2013).

#4 Kiran Shah and Deep Roy in almost every movie

I bet you didn’t know there is a Kenyan-born actor in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, Titanic (1997), and Alice in Wonderland. Wait, did someone say Titanic? The Titanic? …and all three Lord of the Rings movies?

The man with such a splendid filmography is Kiran Shah. Shah was born in Kenya in 1956 but moved back to his parent’s native India when he was only twelve years old. A stuntman and actor, he first featured in a movie in 1977. His most recent role is as Goblin Scribe in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Which Kenyan-born actor has starred in Doctor Who, Star Wars, and Star Trek? Hint: All the Oompa-Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are digital replications of him? No, it’s not Kiran, its Deep Roy, also credited as Roy Deep or GorDeep Roy. Ignoring the fact that reading those names aloud sounds like making bedroom noises, Deep Roy is also of Kenyan-Indian descent. He was born Mohinder Purba in Nairobi but emigrated to Britain.

Deep Roy

Here is a good list of Roy’s most prominent actor roles. In the Doctor Who serial Talons of Weng-Chiang, he plays Mr. Sin. In played Droopy McCool in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, and an Ewok on Endor. In Star Trek (2009), he plays the alien Keenser.

Kiran has 31 Titles in his filmography and Deep Roy (we can’t get enough of the name) has 46.

So, why are these two actors often mistaken for each other? There is the obvious similarity that they were born in Kenya, at around the same time, immigrated, then launched their careers in the 1970s. But there is something more apparent. They are both dwarfs! Roy is 4 ft 4 inches and Kiran Shah is slightly shorter at 4’ 2” or 1.26 meters tall.

Now, guess which one of the two was Elijah Wood’s (Bilbo Baggins) body double in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

#3 Edi Mue Gathegi in the Twilight Saga and House

Gathegi

I know. We shouldn’t be proud of one of Kenya’s sons making it to Twilight. Not since the series made vampires look so timid and mushy (and one spent his immortality vibing an underage highschool girl). But if you think about it, given our proven acumen on the track, we would make superb I’ll-even-give-you-a-head-start vampires. Gathegi is already making it happen.

Born on March 10, 1979 in Nairobi, Gathegi has acted in X-Men First Class (2011), Crank (2006), House, Gone Baby Gone (2007), and Twilight (2008). In Crank (2006), Gathegi is the Haitian cabbie; in Death Sentence he is Bodie; Darudi in The Fifth Patient; Cheese in Gone Baby Gone; He is Dr. Jeffrey Cole in House; Laurent in Twilight; and had a guest star role in CSI: Miami. Most recent roles include Atlas Shrugged and Family Tools.

He took up acting because it was an ‘easy course’ after he injured his knee playing basketball. When he first auditioned for his role as Laurent, he had not even read the Twilight books—understandably-and had no idea that the character was a vampire.

#2 Charles Gitonga Maina in The Air Up There

charles_gitonga_maina_2009_12_15

This 6’10”giant of a man was born in Kenya 1976. His claim on this list is The Air Up There (1994) where he co-starred with Kevin Bacon and Yolanda Vazquez. Maina stars as a tall basketball Winabi prince who is spotted by the main character, Jimmy Dolan, played by Kevin Bacon, as new talent for his college team. After seeing a home video of Saleh doing his signature skyhooks and reverse slum dunks, played by Charles Gitonga Maina, Dolan travels to Africa to recruit him. 

For the Saleh role, Maina and his friend were selected at the final auditions in LA. His natural talent got him the role and a basketball scholarship at Lynn University.  He moved back to Kenya after being unable to return to the US from Greece where he had gone to try out for a pro-team.

Maina also acted in SeaQuest DSV as Professor Obatu.

 #1 Mutia Omoolu and Riano Tindama in Trader Horn

1931. That’s when the first Kenyan-born actors made it to Hollywood. Trader Horn (1931) is a story about the titular character, Trader Horn’s journey to an unexplored area of Africa. They find a missionary has been killed and her daughter abducted by a native tribe. Nina, the daughter, has become their queen and Horn’s role is to ‘bring her back to civilization.

The movie was shot in Kenya and the reshoots at the MGM Studios in California. In the Kenyan set, Mutia was the unofficial casting director for the Kenyan crew. During the shooting, a crewman fell into a river and was eaten by a crocodile. A boy was killed by a charging rhino-and the scene was captured on camera and is included in the movie.

Mutia and Riano got very stereotypical roles. Mutia’s role in the movie is Horn’s Gun Bearer while Riano is a Witchdoctor; Riano is not credited in the film. They moved to California for the duration of the reshoots.Legends grew around their presence in Hollywood, including one popular, but fake, anecdote of how Mutia once threatened his boss at MGM in an alleged love triangle involving a Central Avenue prostitute. Mutia is said to have protracted a venereal disease from such sexacapdes.

The bigotry-oozing article titles as “Jungle Actors are the Unhappiest of Film Stars’ tell the modern reader much about the culture shock and racial stereotypes the two faced. In the article Mutia is said to have shed tears when his shoes became too tight. It goes on to say that their only savior from the culture shock was the set where they enjoyed acting with a ‘childlike innocence.’

When they returned to Kenya, Mutia started a business with his money but never talked about the film again. Riano simply disappeared from the streets of Nairobi and from history.

 Owaahh, 2013.

 

 

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7 Most Badass Prison Escapes in Kenya


     Prison is a shitty place. In fact, let us rephrase that, next to hell for theists, prison is the worst place you can ever be. There is always something trying to kill you, suck your life and blood or sodomize you, if not all three. If you do survive all that, the government is waiting just outside to execute you or drag you back to the cholera cells. So one can understand why Kenya’s 101 prisons have seen more than a few escapes and attempts. In fact, any prisoner who is not thinking of escaping ought to be released! Or have a mountain named after him, like one of these guys…

#7 Naivasha Maximum Prison

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As one of the country’s maximum-security prisons, Naivasha GK Lice Prison has seen more than its fair share of successful prison escapes. Its most notorious record prisoner hemorrhage to date was the escape of 28 prisoners on April 21, 2004. Two dozen plus prisoners simply vanished from the prison-some reappear on a later entry on this list. It is like the prison guards weren’t even trying.

The government, ever eager to pass the blame, thought so too and quickly blamed ‘inadequate staff and laxity of prison warders.’ We don’t know that much about how the labor system works but of course 300 worker bees will appear lax if they are doing the work of a hive of 900. But who are we to judge the government, the government knows. We will move on now.

After the December 2007 escape of seven death row inmates, the opposition party at the time, ODM, claimed that the government had deliberately assisted the prisoners to escape to assassinate top ODM leaders. The news of the escape quickly faded from the public limelight as we started cutting and torching each other while digging into our tribal cocoons. If ever there was a group of prisoners to benefit from a Force Majeure then it must be the Naivasha 6. What was that? The PEV was not an Act of God? I thought the deity was to be blamed for everything, being omniscient and all…

#6 Kamiti Prison (mostly attempts)

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It is perhaps not surprising that there are very few, if any, successful escapes from Kenya’s most secure and most notorious prison. If Jonah Anguka and John Kiriamiti are to be believed, Kamiti is actually worse than you think it is. Go on take a minute; imagine how horrendous life must be in Kamiti prison. Now, multiply that by the largest figure you can come up with and then divide that by the number of lice colonies you think you can sustain during a life sentence. If your worst nightmare does not include some big burly prisoner making you his ‘mtoto’ then you are not thinking of living within the walls of Kamiti.

Almost there...

Almost there…

One of the first reported attempts to escape from the place where lice has more freedom than men was in February 2000. Eleven years later, on September 21st 2011, six inmates also tried to escape by cutting the metal grills in their cells. They had already exited the cells when a warder spotted them. The cockbocking warder-a crude analogy given the prison context-was most likely rewarded by a pat on the back. The Kamiti 6 are still the laziest group of prisoners on any list of prison escapes in Kenya-they had figured out how to get out of their cells but had no idea about how to exit the compound. You can imagine the walk of shame back to the sodomy cells.

There is the small issue of whether prison escapes from Kamiti have been hidden from the public eye. One example is the case of three Langata Road execution victims. Remember the front-page images of a Flying Squad cop executing three men who had surrendered and were lying on the road in broad daylight? The one that was a national outrage for all of two minutes before we quickly reverted back to our usual apathy and showing justice the [[midfing]]? Well, there was a deeper story, one of the men was supposed to be in remand at Kamiti and the other two had been released only halfway into their sentences. Hussein Gichuki Mwangi (Ochuka), the ringleader, had been sentenced to death while the other two Hezron Mwangi and Paul Njomo,  had been sent to the slammer for seven years each for robbing ‘Kenyan tycoon and politician’ Cyrus Jirongo of jewelry worth KES 750, 000 in 2004. Gichuki’s appeal had yielded a retrial but he was not released on bond-he was expected to be in prison but had presumably levitated out of a maximum prison and back into the crime world.

Kamiti is famous for other things, like the prisoner who went beserk and killed two others in the sickbay by strangling them with crutches, and the video of brutal beatings during a prisoner search in 2008.

#5 Sonko Escapes from Jail

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The Tana River escape was the center of one of the latest prison escapes. In it, three serial killers charged with over 38 murders escaped from their prison cells at the standard hour for prison escapes-3.00 am.

Shimo la Tewa has a less glamorous history. In the most recent escape, two murder suspects constructed a ladder in the prison workshop and hid it within the compound. They then used it to climb over the wall. It turns out that the seats in the refurbished Parliament are not the only tools to be made in a prison workshop and then used for criminal activities. You are in good company, MPigs!

A ladder is not exactly Scofield’s ducks.

But perhaps the most famous prison escape was the 1998 escape of the future MP for Makadara and Senator for Nairobi. You know him as the man with a lizard on his head, more metal than a steel mill…he often looks like so much is happening around his fashion sense that nothing sensible is actually happening, as if he attempts to put his audience into a trance so they don’t hear the stupid he spews out. His most recent? During a recent parliamentary debate, the also-why-wont-you-shut-up Anyang’ Nyong’o made a reference to Hugo Chavez, the now dead socialist leader of Venezuela and the prison escapee thought he was referring to ‘Rachel Shebesh.’ I will wait for you to stop laughing.

Are you even trying, Puss?

Are you even trying, Puss?

Technically, Sonko did not escape from Shimo la Tewa prison itself but from the Coast General Hospital where he was chained to a bed. He bribed his way throughout the whole process in 1998, and then again a decade later into parliament. He had paid some guy to make his faked illness look even more legit, and then paid off almost everyone—El Chapo Guzman style-before making the successful escape. His later defense was that he had gone to bury his mother. How noble.

Did I mention that he was disguised as a lady? The Standard issue of May 18, 1998 was not clear on whether he added boobs to his charade but given his antics over the last five years, we would be safer assuming he even had mascara.

Oh, and he and Pastor James Ng’ang’a were cellmates at Shimo la Tewa, whoever says that we do not rehabilitate needs to see these guys. Chuckles. Who says our correctional facilities are just cholera and sodomy centers? Oh wait, that was me.

…and remember that book, John Kiriamiti’s My Life in Crime, where he escapes from prison? Sonko claims that inspired his escape…before he goes onto to quote from the bible.

#4 King’ong’o Prison ‘Break attempt’

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This one doesn’t even qualify as a jailbreak. It is here because the government propaganda machinery first branded a case of brutality as necessary force to foil an attempted jailbreak.

On 3rd Sept 2000, 6 deathrow inmates died in King’ong’o Prison. The prison department attempted to cover up the killings and recorded them as being the result of fatal falls from the 40ft wall during the attempt. They hurriedly buried the mangled bodies and then went back to taking bribes and not fighting cholera.

The official story was that two escapees had managed to escape but one had been caught later randomly strolling in a nearby village wondering what to do with his newfound freedom. But the story refused to go away. First, there was the issue of the hurried burial and the horrendous state of the bodies.484742_473436542710590_605536596_n

After the intervention of several human rights groups, a lethargic Moi government began an inquest that ordered the exhumation of the six bodies. The official story was fraught with loopholes. The postmortems noted consistent extensive injuries inflicted with a blunt object. . This differed from the incident report recorded by the police of the cause of death as gunshot wounds . None of the prisoners had any bullet wounds and all of them had signs of extensive injuries including broken skulls, jawbones, ribcages and gouged out eyes. Way to foil an attempted escape Prison Department! Way to go!

Nine prisoner warders were charged with murder, and all were found guilty and handed the mandatory death sentence on 18 December 2008. Five filed successful appeals but the appeals of the other four were denied in April 2013.

It must be sad-and dangerous- being an imprisoned former prison warder. Think about how the ‘mendes’ (the sodomizers in Kenyan prisons) will pass you around while making you ‘wield the knob’ and ‘open the cell door.’ I think something like that happens much later in the Prisonbreak series plot, the warder going to jail part, but luckily after Tbag was out.

In 2010, two inmates tried to scale the wall but were captured after they fell and broke their limbs. At least someone had thought up something slightly legit about the high wall in the 2000 escape.

#3 Mageta Prison Escape

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At the height of the state of Emergency, the British government established several camps away from the conflict zones to house political prisoners and suspected Mau Mau insurgents. One of those places was Mageta Island, a small Island on Lake Victoria. One of the two entries on this list from the colonial era, Mageta is a story of darkness, human sacrifice, and forgotten escapees.

On February 5, 1956, 11 prisoners (or 9, depending on the source) escaped from the treacherous island. First, they hacked a fisherman, Onimbo Haulu, after he refused them use of his canoe. They hid his mutilated body in a nearby bush and it became the source of propaganda. The official story spread by the local authorities was that the escaping prisoners had used Onimbo’s blood and body parts to perform an oathing ritual. Most historical accounts are unclear about whether this actually happened, but that does not matter, what followed the news does.

They vanished as soon as they arrived in Usenge. The obviously overzealous security forces killed three during the subsequent hunt. An angry mob killed Jotham Njoroge in Alego and another killed two of his colleagues in Sakwa. The rest managed to escape.

Mageta contributed somewhat to the post-independence animosity between the Kikuyu and the Luo since most, if not all, of the escapees hailed from Central Kenya. The rumor that they sacrificed Onimbo portrayed them as brutal savages, an effective tool perfected by the colonial government. One wonders what happened to the other five (or three).

#2 The Embu GK Prison Escape

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The most badass prison escape in postcolonial Kenya, the Embu GK prison escape of 2006 makes the other entries on this list look like skipping school. It was as much an escape as an attack; a group of gangsters stormed the prison, in stuff that you only expect in cliché movies, armed several inmates, and then shot their way out of the cholera and sodomy. You probably know this plotline from several terrible movies where the villain is imprisoned and his minions stage a badass attack to free him. They shoot everyone who is anyone, and then drive out with guns sticking out through the windows. Embu was no different.

Other than having pairs of titanium balls and tonnes of nongiveafuckery, the gangsters had had previous target practice. Embu GK seems to have been part of a systematic plan to free a specific gang of criminals. First, Silas Mugendi Njeru, one of the masterminds of the prison attack, had himself escaped from Shimo La Tewa prison a few months before. The other target practice was Entry #7 when two dozen plus prisoners levitated from Naivasha GK and the other was an escape of 29 suspects from Meru courts.

While the bro code is unclear about what one should do when a bro is in prison, we are sure it does not include getting guns and shooting your way in. Maybe something less murderous, like giving money to their wives (criminals always have several) and lecturing their children. Among the prisoners who escaped were Simon Gitau Saitoti and Godfrey Mulwa Kitheka, two of the most badass criminals in modern Kenyan crime history. The two, known in the crime world as Saitoti and Ngilu, were later shot and killed in typical extrajudicial execution style.

The whole shenanigans led to four deaths: a trader, a gangster, a remand prisoner, and a prison warder. Wait, what was a businessman doing in Cholera country? We might never know.

#1 A picnic on Mount Kenya, or the Oxo Tin Escape

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So, how can a 1943 prison escape win dibs on a list that includes the classic storming into a prison with guns blazing, jumping over the wall, and masquerading as a woman? What can outdo the public execution of prisoners who had teleported from maximum-security prison walls? I’ll tell you what-an escape so badass that the prisoners walked back to the prison after they were done doing even more badass things. Hell, the escape even spawned a book!

In January 1943, a group of Italian Prisoners of War (POWs) escaped from the POW Camp 354 in Nanyuki. The three prisoners, Felice Benuzzi, Dr. Giovanni Balletto and Vincenzo Arsotti escaped from prison, went on a three-week adventure, and then walked back into the prison. That last part seems to defeat the entire logic of a prison escape, doesn’t it? Why would you bother to, say, dig through a pit latrine to the other side, or sneak through barbed wire, only to stay three weeks free and then walk back? But you are not Benuzzi and Co., and history will soon forget you.

IN context, Felice Benuzzi was a man who didn’t like to get bored. He was that eccentric friend you still hung around despite your guts instincts repeatedly warning you that one day, one of his stunts will kill both of you. Benuzzi first pitched the idea of escaping the boring POW camp to a professional mountaineer. He didn’t intend to have them walk all the way to Italy, which would have been sure death, but wanted them to escape and climb Mount Kenya, which was even surer death. The expert mountaineer, in following with the script that all experts are douchebags unless you are paying them, trashed the idea. Benuzzi should have listened to the advice on food and ideal wear but he was not a man to get bogged down by such details.

So he went for the next best pair, a doctor and a sailor. Perhaps he figured the sailor knew a thing or two about being in places with funny weather and a million things that want to kill you, and the doctor would, well, do whatever witchcraft it is that doctors do. Suck on that expert mountaineer!

On the 24th January, the trio begun what would be an 18-day odyssey. They presumably drew a phallic image on the mountaineer’s forehead with prison marker pen-equivalents before sneaking out while giggling like the badass metrosexual prison escapees they were. The only map they had of the mountain was the label of an Oxo tin …of course, because they were guys, they would rather consult a food tin than ask for directions, puh! The sailor fell sick at the base of the mountain but the relentless Benuzzi and the doctor soldiered on for 17 more days, reaching a point at about 5000 meters on the North West ridge. They planted the Italian flag and left a message-bottle on Point Lenana, presumably a dedication to Mussolini and a prayer to the gods. You can see the logic in the act, it was high up in the mountain, the gods live up there, it was closer.2012-2-14-tumbiumbimadness_179

You can imagine the shock of the camp commandant when the three POWs leisurely strolled back into the camp on 10th February. He was so impressed that he reduced their month-long solitary confinement to a mere week, a nod to the daring act. A prison escape so badass that the guy who should be punishing you reduces the punishment? …and then proceeds to telegraph his superiors a story they will need likely not believe. It is a manual on how to win respect from your jailers, and your fellow prisoners from whom you stole food and supplies.

The British government then sent an expedition to remove the Italian flag and host the Union Jack, but nothing they did could remove the embarrassment.

The prison escape was so badass that it spawned a book and has been the subject of many documentaries and spinoff books…and a point on Mount Kenya is named after the man who led the escape because that is what we do, we celebrate achievement, not means.

 Owaahh, 2013.

 

 

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