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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 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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Why you can’t Google Lamu, and Inspiring stories of Young Models #CaptureKenya


“You cannot Google Lamu,” that’s what a National Museum’s official told me on our last morning on Lamu Island; “You have to experience it.” Succint, nein? I had drifted away from the wolfpack to sample the town’s historical sites, the museum, the fort, and a bit of Old Town. I have written several pieces on Lamu in my short career as a pen for hire, but nothing prepared me for this experience. 700 years of continuous settlement and Lamu is still amazing! 

Lamu is a history buff’s wet dream. Before the British made it an administrative center, it was a smaller island in terms of development compared to Pate. The fort now hosts the Museum’s offices, and years of restoration have taken away the authenticity you find in some of the Old Town’s streets. The narrow streets are actually alleys, one that brought eerie memories of the one the old man who conned me disappeared into.

DSC_6094

He probably didn’t make it to the end…

Lamu has always been a party because of its access to the deep waters, a calm sea, and a long shoreline. But its dependence on tourism makes its economy a bit redundant as almost everyone is a guide or operates a motorboat. Some of the buildings have been redone and the corals polished to a bright white. All of them, including those ones that are now relics, were once that bright white.

You probably need to arm yourself with enough mosquitos repellant because the insects are ruthless! Add to the fact that mosquitoes are attracted to people who eat bananas (or are they?) and you will see why I had all the buzzy ladies were all over me. Balling!

 Test Image by Migz...


Test Image by Migz…

Meet Sauda. She is a young girl with a huge smile and big dreams. She is a fantastic footballer, and we knew that the moment we met her on Day One in Lamu. We actually bumped into her and Chela had to chase her before she disappeared in Lamu’s maze of streets. The narrow streets are also short and unless you know where someone is going, it is easy to lose them. 

Sauda is a tomboy with high adrenaline. She hardly talks though, and it’s easier to just talk to her as she dribbles. When we met her, she was playing alone along the narrow streets, using them to maneuver impossible shots. If her big smile doesn’t get you, her skills with a ball will.

The test shots took about half an hour as we sort her male guardian, Fadhili, a burly guy with a conspicuous beard. He walked out of the door sans shirt, and Chela had some optical nutrition of moobs. Okay, we all looked. It was hard not to when he was just standing there with water dripping from his conspicuous beard.

Migz says he hasn’t had any model, ever, a good as Sauda. She is a natural with the ball and getting her to do crazy dribbles for repeat shots is as easy as just asking. She can do it, and she is confident about it. “Golden child! That girl’s future is so bright!” Migz says as we have breakfast. Yet the entire time we spent with her, in Day One and Day 3, I think we only got one word from her, her name. When we asked her where she lives she just pointed and we followed. Her final shot is a marvel!

Samir 2

The other child model we had in Lamu, Samir, is a one-and-a-half year old cheerful boy. His dad, his co-model for the shot, is in his late twenties. Samir’s speech is still mostly baby talk but his confidence will win you over….and then when his father places him on the donkey, he goes ‘VROOM! Vroom!’ That really caught my attention given that there are only five vehicles in Lamu. One is the DC’s Land Rover, the others are all tractors. Although the sound could be from a motorboat, I think he meant to imitate a car.

When we got to Watamu Beach, our first models were three-year old Lenkoin and his father, Johnson. They we taking beach walk while dressed in Maasai shukas. Where Samir can’t talk yet, Lenkoin is chatty. He is a polite boy who wants to be a driver like his dad, although Migz’s inspiration might have added a second potential career to that short list.

Migz made a young friend on Watamu Beach

Migz made a young friend on Watamu Beach

 Lenkoin can even spell his name; he thinks the ‘o’ is a zero though, and my efforts to correct that might have hit rock bottom. Touché. Touché.

…oh, and Johnson doesn’t know Lenkoin’s age off head, which is no surprise given our species-level inability to memorize such details. Its how he said it though (read with a Maasai accent) “Nani najua?”

 

 Owaahh, 2013

 

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Capture Kenya, Short Lists

 

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7 Things that Strike You about Lamu on Day One ( #CaptureKenya )


Lamu Tamu. This whole week, I will be shadowing Migz as he takes photos for Safaricom’s 2014 calendar challenge. Safaricom always finds a way to shine in its branding and for next year’s calendar; five of the best photographers in the country are tasked with capturing Kenyans in their day-to-day hustle.

Migz of MagiqLens KE has Lamu/Malindi/Watamu, Mutua Matheka has Central Province, Allan Gachigi has Kisumu and the rest of Nyanza, Tom Otieno has Nairobi Region, and Isabel Gathoni has Rift Valley. Each has a producer and a blogger embedded to document the process and the magic. So, @CrazyNairobian, @KevdaNative, @Raidarmax, @Mwirigi, and I will live, breathe and exist #CaptureKenya this entire week from different parts of the country.

#7 Lamu is an Island accessible only by sea

DSC_6049

If you know anything about Lamu, then of course you know this. But this means Lamu Airport is not in Lamu, but on the neighboring island called Manda. It is from the jetty that you get a boat across the channel to Lamu Tamu!

This was Migz’s look when he discovered that the landing he thought was Lamu/Manda was actually the Malindi stopover.

 DSC_6013

Then the turbulence in Manda just knocked him straight out.

 

When we landed from the twerking plane.

DSC_6031 

The producer, Chela, has hydrophobia. So between Nairobi and Lamu, both Chela and Migz had to ‘face their fears.’

#6 Lamu people are so friendly

DSC_6054

@Kevdanative pointed it out when we met in the check out cafeteria at JKIA. Still, nothing really prepares you for the kind of hospitality and friendliness you get from people who live in and around Lamu.

Even a brief conversation about the project has to start with more than just the casual ‘hey.’ You have to start a conversation with a potential model with a brief conversation, and smile, always smile.

 

 

#5 The Chief is a cool guy

DSC_0003

The chief is this chatty, sharp guy with an awesome name (Fankupi). I think it’s spelt with the ‘I’ but the name mantel on his desk spells it Fankupy. By the time we do the short courtesy call at the hotel next door where we found him and the short walk to his office to sign the visitor’s book, we know so much about Lamu that it now feels like home.

Did I mention that he is a gadget head? He has a smartphone whose brand I couldn’t quite capture, but it looks like a HTC or Huawei; but that tablet on his desk was surely an iPad. I think I glanced at him using WhatsApp on his phone. Lamu has 3G by the way.

The most eye-catching thing in his office was this dhow pen though. It looks uncomfortable to write but he signs his official documents with it.

 DSC_6058

We all thought it was for aesthetics but he told us it’s because he lost so many pens to visitors with itchy fingers that he sought a pen that was too conspicuous to steal.

#5 How to handle female models

DSC_6102

Because Lamu is a Muslim town, one cannot simply walk up to women and take random shots even of spontaneous moments. Other than the basics of etiquette that are emphasized here, it is important to handle female models with greater sensitivity than the male ones. In most cases, she must get first approval from her husband or father.

DSC_6106

But the men will readily offer you their wives as models or henna artists. This random guide we got, Cisqo, made sure his wife was nearby when we landed on the jetty from our evening boat ride to chase the sunset. Then we met a guy called Cisqo who seems to be the general factotum…and the guy can make a hard sell. She wanted to do Chela’s henna tattoos but she ended up signing up as a model. So it goes.

#4 Donkeys, Donkeys, Donkeys

DSC_0046

Lamu’s narrow streets make it impossible to use vehicular transport here. Our logistics guy, Wachira, pointed out that there are probably five cars here-then one passed on the street at that moment. Which means we had seen 20% of all the vehicular traffic on this gorgeous island?

Donkeys here are used to transport pretty much anything. Donkey taxis, donkey carts, donkey everything.

I climbed on one when Migz and the rest of the team weren’t looking. The donkeys are mostly slender and the only saddle is a thin bag. I got off almost as soon as he galloped a bit and my pelvis started to crack. To think these guys are at it all day?

 

#3 History, Heritage

DSC_6067

As one of the oldest surviving settlements in Kenya, Lamu is a history buff’s dream heaven! I have written so many stories of this place without ever being here. Every guide seems suspiciously conversant with the town’s heritage, and most get the facts right. The younger guys are hazier on the facts, quick to quote dates, but older guys like Chief Fankupy do it so easily and have so much to offer.

Lamu fort, Lamu square, the canons, the Old Town, the Present Town, Shela…you are spoilt for choice here. You are also spoilt for choice on guides. The younger ones are faster and more proactive, and will readily offer you deals before you even stop to talk to them.

 

#1 The Afternoon Siesta

This is an evening shot though...

This is an evening shot though…

Nothing had prepared us for how important the afternoon siesta is to the people of Lamu. Almost every first contact we made; our guide Pascal, the chief Fankupy and a random boat guy, pointed it out. The people of Lamu take their afternoon siesta very very seriously.

Migz can’t get many shots done in those few hours between 12.00 noon and 3.00 because the town slows down to a near standstill. People only wake up for those 4.00 pm prayers.

 

Safaricom is using the #CaptureKenya challenge for the 2014 calendar. Join the different teams in their quests for the perfect shots on Twitter using the hashtag #CaptureKenya.

 OwaahhÔ

 

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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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

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

 

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Disaster? Cue the Looting, This is Kenya


When I saw images of Abdul Hajj, I automatically knew he was not a Kenyan cop. There was something about him that told of affluence, a man who gyms in a proper facility and eats well. Later, I bounced on an image of the cop (the unlucky thief) currently being prosecuted for looting from the dead at Westgate. It is because we pay our police so badly, I thought to myself in a moment of temporary insanity. Then, when we all knew that KDF had almost exclusive access to the mall for days, stories of looting reappeared. This time, the possible looters were not poorly paid officers but elite forces that are among the best paid employees in the country. So I hang my head in shame and sighed. We are doomed.

It is not as much as what was stolen but by whom. The police, underpaid and neglected, have a ‘social license’ similar to that we give politicians who bribe us for our votes. We think it is an abhorrence, but we have learnt to live with it. If you commit a traffic offence, for example, and are arrested, anyone will tell you not to open your wallet in the arresting officer’s field of vision. One lady did exactly that and the officer snatched the bundle of brown notes, totaling 5,ooo bob, and let her free. And so it goes.

We have so institutionalized looting that we see nothing new about it. That’s why my sentiments on Westgate looting point towards the underlying and nagging idea that with exclusive access, the military officers might have hauled away luxury watches and other valuables. Our astute forces, well paid, and provided for as much as they would want, most of it untaxed and exclusive, might have conducted one of the most blatant thefts in the history of our society. It is too soon to claim the end of the AFCO tax breaks triggered the looting, so, why would those we pay well enough to do violence on our behalf steal from us like those from whom we expect similar services but pay poorly? Does it even have anything to do with the salary and allowances or is it deeper, engrained in our hastily clobbered national genotype?

In Its Our Turn to Eat, the case is made through the Anglo leasing story that being in a position of power in Kenya is chance to loot. If you don’t do it, someone else will, goes the story. We tend to associate politicians with five year mandates with this social license to raid public coffers and behave plainly like assholes in their interactions with us common folk. We allow that, because they are elected or nominated, and are thus in a God-given electorate-legitimized position to thief for themselves and their ilk. Maybe some crumbs will fall our way, we think.

It does little to our collective national psyche and legendary apathy, and will probably be forgotten in no time, but it raises questions of a deep moral angling. Is it that we have become so used to looting, whether as participants or victims, that we can only be shocked now if it is done by those we thought above such a trivial offence? Didn’t the crowd that had to be repulsed using teargas want to access the mall even before it was secured? They had an epiphany of what the disciplined forces, bar none, would do when left alone in a upper class mall where all hell had broken lose? It seems they did.

Almost all disasters are followed by looting of some degree, so much so that one academic called it the ‘cliché of disaster journalism.’ In most cases, it is simple citizens first looting for basic stuff such as food and water (before eventually hauling luxury items, going up the Maslow pyramid) but in Kenya, the protectors are quite adept at it. Instead of appearing as astute members of the disciplined forces, as perhaps we all think of military officers, policemen tend to appear as low socio-economic players.

It happened before at JKIA and has probably happened many times prior. It is just that now that we all have and want good stuff, we are talking about it. Living in a consumerist society, you want to know that at least your valuables will outlive you, and go into your estate should you die during a terrorist siege or a traffic accident. But that comfort, friend, is denied. We will loot. We will loot from you everything on your corpse before your soul reaches the roof. Hell, if you are not dead enough to let go of your iPhone, we will help you either journey yonder or wait like vultures, until your lungs heave that last one, and away we go with all your bling and cash. Maybe your family will get your wallet. Such is not assured.

What ails our national morality then? In the cliché mentioned prior, most cases tend to be instances of horrific disasters such as Hurricanes and earthquakes. There is a desperate need to get basic utilities and, for those whose inner animal has an automatic switch, acquire nice things. Yet there is hardly ever looting in Japan.

It became a phenomenon after the earthquake and Fukushima nuclear reactor aftermath. The Japanese do not loot, and if they do, not at the scale seen in other scenes globally, even in richer societies. In most discussions of this phenomenon, most contributors argue that the Japanese culture of shame, community, and respect, has something to do with it. The consumerist culture has not managed to kill of this national conscience, and the deep respect for one another stretches to a moment of desperation. Where other countries take years to recover from a disaster, Japan’s system is efficient because it is built on a system of restraint, if not trust.

One can imagine the temptation, the fact that you are standing in front of a shop with things you have only seen on displays. There is no one to catch you, or a bigger crime (than the one you are about to commit) is being committed. Who will worry about the dead man’s phone anyway? Or how much cash he had on his person when the hooded terrorist shot him point blank? The dead do not need the money, their dependents are probably rich enough to survive without it, you think. But you do. Who will ever catch you anyway? If the police do, you will only have to forfeit a portion of it and voila, the handcuffs of justice will magically disappear. Hell, you will even get an armed escort home that day. Such is. Such is.

Our culture of looting and plundering is not epitomized by Westgate but by our reaction to it. It is the deeper sense of apathy where we figure most of the shops were insured and thus, it does not matter that their valuables were lost in a crime scene. A crime scene with layer upon layer of cordons, and a retinue of our protectors. Our protectors got rich that day, maybe they will not be too hungry when they arrest us tomorrow.

But looting feeds avarice, another of our national treasures, which in turn breeds the kind of hunger that addicts of morphine get on subsequent doses. That is why majority of the onlookers at Kenyan crime scenes are there. It is not to ask after the dead and injured but to await the slightest opportunity to carry a trophy. Drive on any road and if you come upon an accident, study closely how first responders pocket valuables while pulling people from the wreckage. Such is.

There is an actual criteria for when looting is morally permissible. In such cases as where there is actual desperation. The argument there is that in an interdependent society such as ours, everybody plays a part, however minute, to the production in and progress of society. This position thus means that in case a fair exchange of goods is not possible because of the circumstances, such as breakdown of social order after a disaster, then one is in his human right to seek basic needs from those who have. It would be, another argues, selfish of us as human beings to judge those desperately seeking to survive. Our very existence as a species would be at risk.

But there was no breakdown of social order per se at Westgate or JKIA. There was perhaps, too much order. Normal ad hoc looters do not come carrying grenades and other explosives to open safes and access ATMs. Neither do they, at least the first wave, go after the cash registers and other movable currencies. Yet that is exactly what happened at Westgate, and before at JKIA (there were no explosives here though). Systematically, responders took time off their busy schedule of protecting us to help themselves to items on the aisles and the mannequins. The clinical organization meant that even shop owners who had luckily managed to lock up their shops still suffered the same fate as those who left them wide open.

Those looting were not poor and desperate, as we would be if, say, a Hurricane were to miraculously hit Nairobi. They were in no danger of imminent hunger if they did not wear the gold chains and watches from the shops. In fact, brave Kenyans filled their cars and set camp to feed responders. There was more food where that came from, that’s for sure. All, except maybe the community policing units, receive a constant monthly salary and allowances that was still assured when and if they survived their mission there. There was no social order to warrant breaking into ATMs, or even justify it. Yet the hapless gaffe-prone Interior Cabinet Secretary will proudly downplay the significance of the crime by saying only ‘two or three shops were looted.’

In this god forsaken land we were born in, numbers shock us but hardly ever enough to make an actual difference. 1, 100 people died during the 2007/8 massacres. 40 officers died in Baragoi. Over 100 civilians died in Tana River. Another 40 died in a single bus accident. More die each day. The death toll in the Northern Frontier is so high that it does not make headline news anymore. Wajir was bombed the day after Westgate was (sic!) retaken (and bombed, for some reason). Isn’t it ironical that we should derive a lesson as ‘the death of one is a tragedy, the death of a million is a statistic’ from a diabolical dictator who massacred his people with the gun and famine? Shouldn’t it embarrass our very core as an ‘inter-religious’ but constitutionally secular (ignore the allusions of faith) in the Preamble country?

A US official recently told Museveni that his military officers are ‘good soldiers but thieves.’ Then reports appeared pointing towards Kenya’s complicity in the charcoal trade in Kismayu, the very jewel we won from its murderous rulers just last year. Do you know what that would mean if it is true that our military has been facilitating illegal business in Somalia? That we actually funded the Westgate 5 (or 15 or 20, no one seems to know how many hostiles held us in panic for over 72 hours) and all that they did. We rubber-stamped our own death by spreading the tentacles of our selfish ambition to enrich ourselves at whatever cost. Sealed our fate so our wallets could be heavier. The children will never know their education was funded with blood money. The wives will never know the red on the flower petals is blood from victims of our greed. Even if they do, they will not care much. It was not anyone they knew, they will argue, and if we had not done it, the next person would have. So why not us? Also, we prayed for forgiveness and filled the offertory.

Some might argue that from a Hobbesian perspective, looting is a way through which those who-have-not seek to bridge the class gap with those who have-yachts. But the injured driver who loses his valuables to his helpers is a man hustling as any other. Start a fire in a slum and see whether the looting of other residents has anything to do with class warfare. It is pure human greed, nothing else.

The ethics of looting depend on the facts of the subject. After 9/11, for example, firemen took water from nearby stores to rinse their eyes. When a hungry man steals from a store, then there is a moral case to let that man eat; and to make sure that he has a living so he does not have to break social norms again. In the Argentina food riots of 1989, poor women walked into stores and stole food and other basic supplies. There were no cases of looting of non-essentials and the cash registers until later when other mobs followed. But Kenya’s two recent cases are interesting and disturbing.

The looters are not desperate hungry mobs, at least not in an ad hoc sense of the word. They are organized units with a clear mandate and training to handle emergencies. Their very job description is built on the fact that their role in society is sacred. The salaries are low, the hours depressing, the populace thankless (unless it is in one of those rare occasions of national reflection), and all but hope is lost. That is still no defense for such an abhorring crime as grave robbing.

So, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Since it is their work to do that to us, to hurl us in jail if we (are caught) loot, to protect us from external threats by doing violence on our behalf, who will do it to them? In the next disaster, as one surely will come, are we to helplessly stand by as our businesses are ransacked simply because these are ‘the untouchables.’ One of the victims succinctly saidThis is Kenya. Let’s just face it, what’s lost is lost.”

It is plunder, mate, and these are times of war and uncertainty. Accept and move on. In fact, grab something from that glass window or aisle and move on with it. 

Edit, 2nd October 2013 1710hrs

Prompted by panoramicdon’s comment below, I remembered that indeed the TJRC report is teeming with testimonies of looting by our ‘esteemed’ forces. A cursory reading of the relevant volumes points towards a tradition of looting as a military strategy, a strategy of yore, the medieval days of pirates and plunder. Even sadder, looting is connected to other crimes such as rape and murder. But no commissions, if any, have ever been formed to investigate the suffering the NEP and Mt. Elgon residents went through. We are an unequal society, dear reader, and you are not invited to the looting.

 

 

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