Tag Archives: leadership

April 2015 – Always Remember.

Terrorists walked in to Garissa University College and massacred students who were only there to get an education. Students who were the beacon of hope for their families. Students who, like most Kenyans, were determined to get an education regardless of their school’s location or proximity to their loved ones. You see, the thing is, unless you are well-connected or you come from old money, education is typically the main way through which you can uplift your family and change your circumstances.

Parents and guardians do everything within their power to make sure their children get an education. Sacrifices are made, loans are taken out, fundraisers are held and furniture sold so that children get an education and a chance at a better life. The families that sent their children to Garissa University College are no different from the rest of us. They did what they had to do, with the resources that they have, in order to ensure their children where educated and had the opportunity to get ahead in life.

For these families to go through this…sigh…there are no words. I can’t even begin to imagine the horror they are experiencing as they try to trace their loved ones. The numerous questions that they are asking themselves. The what-ifs and whys. The uncertainty about the whereabouts of their loved ones.

I read the names of the students who were killed out loud. It reminded me of graduation ceremonies and the fact the students won’t get to graduate. They won’t experience that feeling that you get when your name is called on graduation day. That singular moment that reminds you of the challenges and triumphs that got you to that point. Their loved ones won’t get to sit in the audience and cheer them on on that day. They won’t experience the satisfaction of seeing the fruits of the sacrifices they made for the student.

How could this happen? How? All the promise and potential that each of the students killed carried within them…gone. Why would this be allowed to happen? Why weren’t the students protected? Why wasn’t the university adequately secured? This was a preventable situation, so why wasn’t it prevented?

I hope our leaders are awake and alert now. This cannot keep happening. We need an effective security strategy. We need well-trained and adequately equipped security forces. A system needs to be put in place for security personnel to be able to act on intelligence. Paying lip service to insecurity will not keep any of us safe.

#147notjustanumber is a hashtag that was started on Twitter to memorialize the students who were killed. Please check it out. Behind the statistics are human beings who had hopes, aspirations and dreams.

Kenya’s Red Line Train Ride

Hmmm…after the events of this week, I am now convinced the Kenyan government is taking us on a tumultuous train ride to Nowhere Land. They are playing us like the ukulele while at it too. We currently have a digital government whose key security (and everything else really) strategies are speculation and the blame game. I am not sure how they figure they can propel a country forward based on such. How are we expected to continue entrusting them with our lives when they have repeatedly shown they cannot be asked to ensure the safety of Kenyans?

This past Sunday, al Shabaab linked militants attacked Mpeketoni, a Kenyan coastal town, killing at least 49  people and injuring several others. They also set buildings and other property on fire. That attack lasted for hours. On Monday, al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack. According to Mail & Guardian, in a statement sent to Reuters, al Shabaab said, “Commandos last night carried out a successful raid on the town of Mpeketoni.” They added, “Kenya is now officially a war zone and as such any tourists visiting the country do so at their own peril.” The reasons they gave for the attack are the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia and the extrajudicial killings of Muslim leaders.

Joseph Ole Lenku, the cabinet secretary in charge of interior security, came out with the full force of a circus act, describing the attack as “heinous”, calling the attackers “bandits” and stating that they had crossed a “red line.” Which red line, you ask? Well, guess we might never know since Ole Lenku didn’t display any of Netanyahu’s illustration skills, but I digress. He then claimed that security had been beefed up across the country after the attack, and the attackers had been chased northwards by security forces. Basically, rest easy Kenyans, the government has your back NOT.

The militants called bullshit on this security facade by returning a day later. They must have known what we now know…the government stayed asleep. This time they attacked Poromoko, a village close to Mpeketoni. They killed at least 15 people and set houses on fire. Residents told the BBC that at least 12 women were abducted in the latest attack. They also said that the government did not send in enough forces to protect them after the first attack. Evidence that Ole Lenku was putting on a show. Only he knows who it was for.  Al Shabaab also claimed responsibility for this attack.

This is where the circus plot gets lost.

In an address to the nation, President Uhuru decided that this was an opportunity to gain political mileage. He went in on “reckless” and “divisive” leaders hell-bent on creating hate and intolerance. He also said that such leaders make it easy for terrorists to operate in our country. He then stated, “The attack in Lamu was well planned, orchestrated, and politically motivated ethnic violence against a Kenyan community, with the intention of profiling and evicting them for political reasons. This therefore, was not an Al Shabaab terrorist attack.”  Eh…say what!? Wait just one minute Mr. President. Didn’t al Shabaab claim responsibility for both attacks!? Or are they lying to us? If so, to what end? We have had several unclaimed attacks, why would they pick this one out of all of them to claim!? Something does not add up here. Who is fooling who, sir? And while we are on the subject of profiling and evicting people for political reasons…isn’t that the same thing your government is doing to ethnic Somalis?

President Uhuru further added, “Evidence indicates that local political networks were involved in the planning and execution of the heinous attacks.” Ok…you have evidence but yet no arrests have been made? What is being done to ensure that those involved in the planning and execution will face justice? What about the abducted women? Do the local political networks have them? Are security forces looking for them?

Perhaps one of the most disturbing statements that President Uhuru made is. “It is now clear that intelligence on this attack was availed to the security officers in Mpeketoni.” What!? In short, the attacks could have been prevented but they weren’t. Why, Mr. President, why? Why was there no action taken? What were security officers doing? Sitting on the intelligence and hoping nothing would happen? Or do they lack the resources required to act on such intelligence? Just what exactly is going on Mr. President? Or intelligence isn’t acted upon until the “red line” has been crossed? I would assume that the possibility of Kenyans losing their lives would result in action but apparently the government would rather cling to inaction.

Of course the President had to throw in this usual statement, “I am satisfied that for the most part, our security agencies have performed well and thwarted innumerable terrorist and other criminal conspiracies and attempts.” Every time there is an attack, the President makes a similar statement. He makes it seem like the security agencies are on top of their game. So how come they missed all the attacks that have happened!? Why weren’t they able to thwart those particular attacks? If security agencies are performing well, why aren’t some of them acting on the intelligence they are provided with!?

At the end of the day, President Uhuru and the rest of the government, all we want is to be safe. We want to be able to move around the country without fear. Security in our country has gone to the dogs…that is undeniable. Whether the attacks are orchestrated by local political networks or terrorist groups, the bottom line is insecurity is on the rise. It is your responsibility to protect the inhabitants of the country that you lead. We can be each other’s keepers, as you suggested in your address Mr. President, all day every day. But if we have security forces that fail to act on intelligence and a government that couldn’t care less about its citizenry, then how is that useful to us?

When a handful of countries in the West issued travel advisories, our government was up in arms. “We will find tourists elsewhere,” they said. When it became obvious that more countries were unwilling to remain silent as their citizens travelled to our attack-prone nation, the rhetoric changed to “Tembea Kenya.” Domestic tourism is great and should in fact always be encouraged and promoted.  However, it does to not deter attacks.

Now that you have realized that Kenyans are after all not bulletproof, what are you going to do about these attacks, dear government? How many lives have to be lost before you cut the BS and actually come up with an effective plan to put an end to these attacks!?

 

KENYAN LEADERS = REFUSAL TO PROSPER

Kenyan leaders seem to have a very hostile relationship with the country’s prosperity. They constantly and very determinedly refuse to let us, as a nation, prosper. They have honed their “turn non-issues into issues” skills so well that it’s almost amazing. Almost. They are too busy dodging the country’s pertinent challenges by proposing/passing laws that are so life unchanging it should be a crime.

Last week, members of parliament proposed a law that would result in people being jailed for a year or paying Kshs 2 million for failing to refer to MPs as “Honorable” when addressing them. Yes, you read it correctly…jail time or fine for not referring to an MP as  H.O.N.O.R.A.B.L.E! I understand the title but is it really necessary…especially given the fact that there is very little that is honorable about these MPs!? If you have to threaten Kenyans with punishment/fines so that they can refer to you as “Honorable” then maybe you should question why we are not inclined to refer to you as such to begin with.

According to the MPs, “the principle purpose of this Bill is to promote the good image of the country, foster orderliness, discipline and decorum in the process of governance.” When did having titles promote the image of a country!? If that is the case then we should all get titles. Instant boost to Kenya’s image right there! And orderliness!? Where is this that they are looking for orderliness? If it is at state functions then orderliness will be achieved through proper planning, coordination and execution. Titles are not going to do that for you.  Discipline and decorum in the process of governance!? Say what now!? Titles can make that happen!? Well, we have a president and deputy president that we refer to as such all the time but that hasn’t done anything for us on the governance front, dear MPs. How do you explain that!? Referring to you as member of parliament so and so hasn’t worked out well in that department for us either. MP is a title too no!? Or doesn’t it have the magic that the titles you are proposing have!?

“The Bill also proposes a hierarchy for State officials according to seniority. The ranking of the public officials will see MPs placed higher than governors, Supreme Court judges, former Presidents and Vice-Presidents.” In short, the MPs basically want to feel more superior than other public officials. What is that feeling of superiority going to do for you MPs!? Will it make you better leaders!? Will it ensure that you will play a pivotal role in attainment of the MDGs!? What is this silent fight that you seem to have, especially with governors, all about!? Why are you forcing the rest of us to join your ego trip!?

Dear MPs,

If you really want to foster orderliness, discipline and decorum in the process of governance then simply act right. Be disciplined individually as well as collectively and fulfill the promises that you made to your constituents. It wouldn’t hurt to take your responsibilities seriously instead of making a mockery out of the people who voted you in believing that you would make a difference. There can only be as much order as you want there to be. You are the leaders, you set the pace, you set the tone. Surround yourselves with people, and also be people, who are invested in making a positive impact on Kenyan communities, and all these things will fall into place. You want to be chaotic and then claim that a title will foster orderliness, discipline and decorum!? How now!?

As for promoting the country’s image, well, you can do that by acting right, as mentioned above. Also, tackling the issues that we as a country are facing. Focus your energies on addressing insecurity, corruption, poor education, lack of health care amenities, underdeveloped transport systems, poaching, inconsistent electricity and water supply, among others. If properly addressed, these are some of the things that will boost our country’s image not titles!

Try and get it together quick please.

Sincerely,

A Kenyan.

#Digital #Security #In #Kenya

When they told us that it would be a digital government, the dynamic duo was not joking. Other than retweeting praises pelted at it by superfans, the Kenyan government has become the king of #hashtags. Nowhere is this more evident than in the security of our nation. Security in Kenya has officially gone digital, people! Hashtag it and they will get the illusion that we are actually doing something about (in)security seems to be the motto.

Last week, the president gave his first State of the Nation address in which he stated that the government had launched two major new security programs. One of these is the Nyumba Kumi Initiative, a community policing program geared towards ensuring that communities participate in their security matters, or #NyumbaKumi. Public participation is important in any society. However, I find it curious that the president considers the initiative a major security program. Getting residents to discuss their security challenges and share these concerns with the police is great. But, does it really count as a security program especially if the police, which happens in most cases, don’t do anything with the information? The police in Kenya, as we have come to realize over the years, are ill-equipped, poorly trained and simply unresponsive. Mr. President, we can talk our heads off about insecurity and obsessively share information with the can’t-be-bothered police but does that really a security program make!?

A cursory look at #NyumbaKumi on Twitter shows that it has become a hashtag space for anything ranging from jokes to finger-pointing to genuine concerns about its practicality and efficacy. The government and its don’t-you-dare-criticize-jubilee-because-they-can-do-no-wrong staunch believers continue to promote #NyumbaKumi as the light at the end of the insecurity tunnel. You know what they say about that light though – it could be an oncoming train.

Not to be stopped there, there is now #UsalamaWatch. This hashtag, according to the official government of Kenya handle for reporting crime @UsalamaWatchKen, is meant to address issues of insecurity through allowing Kenyans to report suspicious activities directly to authorities online. Who monitors its feed and hashtag? Is it monitored 24/7 or just sometimes? What is the response time from initial reporting to police acting, if at all they do? Is there a procedure in place to authenticate the suspicious activities reports? How effective has #UsalamaWatch been? What happens in cases of emergencies? Are people expected to just tweet and cross their fingers that police will be dispatched immediately?

Then there is the Rapid Results Initiative, or #RRI/#RRI14, that the president launched in February. According to the official twitter handle @RRIKenya, the initiative is a method of gaining community input and decision-making on a focused topic in a short amount of time. A vague description if you ask me, but nobody’s is asking me…ha! As per its Facebook page, RRI as a strategy provides an opportunity to re-examine ourselves and to review our approach to security. Also on the FB page, the RRI also seeks to discuss the continued evolving cases of crime in the country and possible ways of eliminating them. The Official handle for the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government in The Office of the President, @InteriorKE (sounds like a home design company but that is neither here nor there), tweeted that the RRI’s thematic areas are crime reduction, streamlining the process of issuance of national identification and travel documents. Hmmm shouldn’t these be handled by different departments? What does crime reduction have to do with streamlining the unnecessarily tedious ID and passport acquisition process? There also seems to be many a discussions about insecurity. What is being done with the information that comes out of these discussions? Are the voices of Kenyans even being heard? Or are they lost behind the hashtag Olympics that the government seems to have going on?

And of course you all know it would not be complete without #SecureKE which, according to @InteriorKE, should be used for immigration, police and issues affecting you which need to be addressed by the government of Kenya. Or basically what all the aforementioned hashtags are supposed to be used for.

Clearly this digital security is not working out for us. In the past month, gunmen attacked a church in Likoni killing four and injuring more than a dozen others. There are claims that police were informed of the impending attack but they didn’t act on that intelligence. This past Sunday a suspected suicide bomber died while assembling a bomb in Nairobi’s Eastleigh area. On Monday three explosions killed six people and injured dozens others. Today, Wednesday, bomb experts detonated an explosive device that had been buried outside a residential area near Eastleigh. Meanwhile the government stays pushing these hashtags like goody goody.

Dear Mr. President, we, as a nation, cannot hashtag our way out of the insecurity. You globetrotting isn’t going to do it either. Practical measures need to be taken to address insecurity.  Have we not learnt anything from Westgate? What will unresponsive, poorly trained and ill-equipped police officers do for us? How will a security force that seems to have no clue what to do with intelligence help us? What will the overzealous arrests of individuals accomplish? Isn’t your government creating a society that lives in fear of the police and neighbors? How are these hashtags going to change anything?

 

On Churches and Policing Women’s Bodies

I happened upon this hashtag (#finderskeepers) on Twitter yesterday. It is based off a similarly named series that Mavuno Church, in Kenya, is doing on how to find and keep the one/that great everlasting love. Now, I am all for love and all its greatness, passion and power. However, some of the statements that have been tweeted from Mavuno’s account as well as comments made by the pastor on his Facebook page with regards to the topic are worrisome and disturbing.

There was a discussion about defensive barriers to help people win the war against sexual temptation. As per the tweets, one of these barriers is your body. Here is where the plot left the building and the default it-is-your-fault-woman came in. (Read each screenshot from bottom to top…you already know of course)

mavuno 1

We do teach people how to treat us, that much I agree. But do we really do that by how we dress? If I wear shorts and a t shirt, does that mean you should treat me with less respect than you would if I wore a suit? Aren’t you supposed to treat people with respect simply because 1) they are human beings and 2)that is how they treat themselves!?

If you dress like a cute little plaything and present yourself as a toy, then boys will be boys and try to play with that toy. Even if not physically, then with their eyes and lust.” Wait…huh…what!? What exactly is dressing like a cute little plaything? Sometimes cuteness is in the eye of the beholder. There have been times when I have dressed in what, to me, is casual attire only to meet a friend and have them tell me I have a cute outfit on. Even when I deliberately set out to be cute that did not mean that I was looking to be a “plaything”. I simply wanted to be cute. Period. The end. How does one present themselves as a toy anyway? Women, whether dressed in a Kitenge complete with the headpiece on or as “cute little playthings,” are NOT toys. Referring to women as toys is cosigning that women-are-objects message. Really church!? Is that how you view women!? What happened to honoring women as the good Bible says!?

And of course they had to throw in the escapist “boys will be boys” phrase. That phrase should be banned. Unless you are trying to say that boys are genetically engineered to be so basic that they can’t look at a “cutely” dressed person without lusting after them. It is such phrases that embolden men who assault women. This tweet implies that if women dress in a certain way then they are asking for whatever “play” comes there way. Seriously!? I am appalled that a church would make such statements. Whatever happened to preaching self-control to the men!? It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit no!? Or are men exempted from the fruits!?

 

mavuno 2

Again, reference the preaching self-control to men bit. Only men can control their own feelings and emotions. Women cannot do it for them, neither should anyone expect them to. If you are stimulated at the sight of a scantily clad body then you ought to figure out a way to handle that issue internally. Alright godly men, if you want to honor your wives then do so. Do it because you love them and are committed to them. Keep your eyes on them. Other women are not there to keep you faithful and stray-free. Ala! They have their own lives to live. As for the Lupita dress…ha! Are you acting selfishly or lovingly? Abeg…so women are supposed to choose their outfits based on men’s stimulation potential!? Oh…I can’t wear this plunging neckline dress because I might encounter godly men and I don’t want them to stray. Can you imagine having such monologues every time you are getting dressed!? Women can be covered from head to toe and the straying eyes will stay doing just that. So in response to the question, it is men that are acting selfishly by thinking they have the rights to women’s bodies.

 

mavuno 3

Apart from how you dress it, please also guard your body physically around men.” Ati nini!? Eh! Like I said before, dressing has nothing to do with it. I remember once I was walking home wearing a knee-length winter coat, knee-length boots and a scarf. I was as covered up as could be to deal with the brutal cold. This guy, old enough to be my ancestor, asked me where I bought my coat. I gave him the store’s name. He told me I looked nice. I thanked him and kept walking. He proceeded to yell out to me, “I bet you are glad you aroused me today.” I was covered up. I was minding my own business. I was aware of my surroundings. I was alert. Then here came this “boy being a boy.” Should I start walking around in a sack!? Or maybe wear a baggy coat!?

“…guard your body physically around men.” This statement implies that men are simply beasts constantly ready to attack. Also, men, don’t you get tired of being classified as such!? As creatures that people need to protect themselves from!? Apparently you can’t even be given warm hugs because your body systems will go into some ecstatic overdrive levels.

Come on churches…you can do better than this. Society already places the blame and burden solely on women. Churches are supposed to be safe spaces, I thought. So why would you engage in the same women-blaming, shaming and burdening game!? When will you start holding men accountable for their own feelings, emotions and actions!? More importantly, when will you stop policing women’s bodies!?