Alienating The Centre – The Folly of Kenya’s Political Elite

Mitt Romney’s infamous 47% remark may have been in bad taste and not entirely accurate, but he had a point. In any political contest, each main candidate (or horse, in Kenyan political speak), has an army of loyalists who will support them, no matter what. In our Kenyan reality, unfortunately, such loyalties are mostly defined by tribe and tribal alliances. But even in our case, there always remains a few people, the centre, whose allegiance is, to an extent, determined by more objective considerations.

It is impossible to be 100% neutral. Some of those in this centre may therefore lean slightly left or slightly right. But one of their defining characteristics is the ability to note and acknowledge the good and the ugly of all the players, and to decide to swing one way or the other depending on the aggregate of all those factors.

One of the biggest mistakes of Kenya’s political elite, especially those in the “Big Two” alliances – CORD and Jubilee – is choosing to ignore this centre. Sometimes, the centre is too small to matter in the political equation. But the centre is dynamic, and it grows. It may mean the difference between 49.999% and 50% + 1.

I hope you are listening, CORD.

The Numbing, Cowardice Inducing, Effect of Nairobi

Two weeks ago, three men robbed me of my laptop and phone. This happened just outside The Bazaar on Moi Avenue, Nairobi, at around 8.30 PM.

On any other day, I would probably have reacted riskily (or stupidly if you wish). But on this day, I wasn’t in a risk-taking mood. I complied with their orders, on the assumption that what they showed me was a real gun, not a toy. Call it Stockholm Syndrome, but I was somewhat touched when they accepted to give me back my keys, which were in the laptop bag, and my Telkom Wireless CDMA phone, whose resale value is almost zero anyway. One of them demanded for my wedding ring, but I told him to be reasonable: they already had the laptop (an HP Elitebook 8460p) and the phone (an Ideos), asking for the ring was asking for too much. Surprisingly, that worked.

What struck me about the incident is how people around me reacted. Two ladies were walking straight into my path. On seeing what was happening, they quickly ran away, quite understandably. Several other people walked past us during the two or three minutes that the ordeal lasted, but none noticed anything wrong. Right across the street, a few people were just watching, ostensibly aware of what was happening, but not willing to do anything about it. Then I remembered an earlier account by one @sokoanalyst on twitter, how he was robbed in broad day light as a traffic police officer and other motorists watched. Plus several other similar stories.
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In Defence of KDF Re The Westgate Aftermath

The Kenya Defence Forces have, understandably, come under stinging criticism from the public in the past few days, following their performance during the Westgate “siege”. If you have been following the news, you must definitely have seen the CCTV clips showing soldiers apparently looting from some of the shops at Westgate while the “rescue” was ongoing. And this is what triggered most of the outrage against KDF.

Whereas a good part of this outrage is justified, I think we are taking it overboard without considering KDF’s side of the story. Don’t get me wrong, I abhor most of the BS the government feeds us with as “official truth”, and that’s not the side of the story I am talking about here. But below is why I think we’ve lost our objectivity in this KDF issue.

The impression we have created is that KDF duped all of us, including the commander in chief, to think that they were dealing with the terrorists all those four days that the “siege” lasted, while in actual fact they were busy looting. They also lied to us that there were between 10 and fifteen terrorists, when in fact there were only four. To further hide their incompetence, they lied to us that they had killed five of the attackers, yet in truth all the attackers may have escaped on day one.

And what are we basing our truth on? The CCTV clips and the media investigative reports.

Let’s for a moment consider the clips. Certainly, their content is almost irrefutable. But were these the only clips from all the CCTV cameras at Westgate? Or is it possible that the media only got some, but not all of the available clips? Could there have been other terrorists not captured in the few clips that the media obtained? Remember the TV eyewitness who claimed that one of the attackers of Arabian descent escaped as people were being evacuated from the mall? In light of the new CCTV evidence, has his testimony been invalidated?

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Totally Random – Totally Half-Thought – All Hail The King

All hail the king
Anointed of God to be master and lord
Let’s sing his praises, let’s kiss his behind
Let’s prostrate at his feet, adore his infallibility
His wisdom is infinite, his intentions impeccable
Service to humanity is his only mission.

Egoistic princes of darkness, bent on subversion
Seek to sow seeds of doubt and disaffection against the messiah
These, the king must deal with, to asseverate his kingliness
And all patriotic duty-bound non-idiots must rise to the occassion too
The world must know, that despite what’s written, the king is king
The epitome of virtue.

Oh hail the king!

 

Dear Kenyans, Be Careful What You Wish For, You Might Just Get It

Thank God for the peace that prevailed during and after the elections. We all know how disastrous it would have been if we went back the 2007/08 path. Every Kenyan, the media included, played an important role in ensuring this peace, so congratulations are in order.

However, as many sober minds have pointed out, it will be very unfortunate and retrogressive to use “peace” and “moving on” as an excuse for stifling the voices of those raising questions about the integrity of the whole electoral exercise. True, we don’t want unnecessary tension in the country. True also, we want to get back to building the nation and living our lives. But if indeed the rigging allegations are true, it is in Kenya’s best interests to have this corrected.

Why are we condemning CORD and Raila Odinga without even considering the evidence they have? Rigging is theft, an evil against the whole country, and it doesn’t become less evil just because my favorite candidate benefited from it. If we overlook it today, what justification would we have to condemn it tomorrow when applied to our disadvantage? And remember, evil begets more evil. If the perpetrators get away with it once, they know they can get away with other “minor things” several other times. And that’s how impunity gets entrenched. Continue reading

Life Isn’t Unfair – It is Just Life

An innocent boy lies in hospital, dying of an infection passed on to him through no fault of his. Five blocks away, the boy’s elder sister is in bed too, making crazy love to her new husband. The “happy together ever after” promise looks so real.

A young man devotes all his youthful energy preparing for the future. By age 37, he has built it all, a stable company, several prime properties, and is now ready to “settle down”. Unbeknownst to him, a small dudu has been growing in his brain all this while. One sudden morning he feels dizzy, he’s taken to hospital, and by evening he is no more. The tumor has claimed him.

Unfair? No. It is just life. It has its own schedule and ways. Make the best of the today you have. Learn to be grateful. Avoid too much grumbling. Have fun whenever you can. Enjoy your life while it lasts.

In memory of my two friends – Mbela and Oscar. R.I.P.

Which Way, My Beloved Country Kenya?

“This time round, I am not taking any chances. I will be sleeping with a panga by my side. These guys have already started threatening us, and I won’t allow myself to be wrong footed. In fact I wish I knew how and where to get a gun…”

If you think the above statement  is far fetched, think again. That’s part of an actual conversation I overheard on my way home yesterday. This group of makangas were talking in their mother-tongue, which I understand a little bit.

Apparently, in the part of Nairobi where they live, the majority of the residents are from one community, let’s call it Tribe A. One of the “leading” presidential candidates, candidate A, comes from Tribe A. The makangas are from tribe B, which is perceived to be sympathetic to candidate B, another “top” candidate for the presidency.

Seemingly, some members of  tribe B have been warned that, should candidate A lose the forthcoming elections, they should be prepared to leave that residential estate or face unspecified consequences.

The optimist in me wants to believe that this was just a bad joke misunderstood, or at worst an isolated case of extremism, not a true reflection of the situation in the rest of the country. That optimist wants to believe we learnt our lesson only too well in 2007/08, and that we aren’t going down that road again. But the realistic observer  in me is getting concerned. Perhaps 2007/08 only made us harden our positions. Continue reading

Dear Google – Why Don’t You Start Over With a New Search Engine

A not-so-tongue-in-cheek rant
I’ll try to be brief and straight to the point. Perhaps I should have posted this in my internet marketing blog, but here goes anyway.

Before you came along, your predecessors were primarily relying on on-page factors. But marketers are marketers, they’ll abuse, exploit, manipulate, make the best of any available loophole, and this they did thoroughly well.

Then you appeared in the scene, and, in your wisdom, decided that the solution lay in web links. All this while, these web links had been an innocent form of outreach. Yes, even the reciprocal and the directory-type links. Concepts like “anchor text” and “page rank” were non-exisitent.

Granted, you got many things right at first, and your method delivered just the right results for a [long] while. No wonder you gobbled your competition and their cake so fast. But then you did not realize that you were also setting yourself up for manipulation. OK, to be fair, you knew of the manipulation attempts and Continue reading