CLAYCOURT - Ministerial testament

Friday July 22 2005

By CLAY MUGANDA, [email protected]

Fellow Kenyans and the mourning families from the far away land of Marsabit, this is a sad moment for our country because 42 years after independence, people are still slaughtering each other like chicken that was a part of our sumptuous meal at a five-star hotel on the day when people were massacred like, well chickens, in some remote part of the country.

So remote is the place that news from Nairobi gets to London — and vice versa — faster. 

When there was a blast in London, and before the British intelligence could figure out whether it was a terrorist attack or a power outage, our condolences had already reached there. But when it was reported that people had been massacred 400 kilometres from Nairobi, it took us some 24 hours to react, because we had to go for dinner at a five star hotel in Nairobi and open an agricultural show some 140 kilometres away from Nairobi.

Why am I going to great lengths to explain all these? My aim is to give you an insight on how caring our government is. First by attending the dinner, we wanted to show that amidst that suffering, Kenya is a land of plenty with very many poor people who pay taxes, which we can use to feed ourselves at five-star hotels. Another thing is that we are a Working Nation, and
no matter what happens, we have to continue with our work as earlier scheduled.

People may be quick to point out that the government did not act fast enough to avert more murders. That was the fastest we could do — 400 kilometres is not a drive to your health club, especially if the destination does not have sandy beaches where we can have fun. (You know who foots the bill.)  But all this was in keeping with the government's credo of not rushing in to decisions. We have to make calculated moves, and sit at every fence that we come across before we make any statement, take any action or condemn any heinous act against Kenyans who voted for us.

It has been reported that the massacre occurred because the communities were fighting over pasture and water. That could be true, but every reaction, is due to some action, which, in this case was, the loose tongues of Opposition Members of Parliament who have been inciting, not only people against each other, but even animals and the weather.

If it were not for these Opposition MPs, that area could have been having enough rainfall, and enough water, just like in Budalang'i and Nyando where people are displaced every year because of floods.

In Marsabit and those surrounding areas, a situation like that is impossible because the leaders incite the weather to go against the people. They talk so ill about the government that they annoy the gods who reside in Mount Kenya, who in turn deny them luxuries like rain, and subsequently pasture, and even roads, hospitals, schools and other basic amenities.

The Opposition MPs are responsible for this country's problems. 

Take a case like Mau forest where people have been evicted and their homes set on fire. The government did not issue them with those pieces of paper — they got them from the Opposition MPs, who are now inciting the government against them. If the government was not incited, these people, with their useless pieces of paper, could have continued living there peacefully, and their houses could not have been razed and there could not have been any need for the government to give them food aid after evicting them. We are just being responsible for our actions and those of the Opposition MPs.

First render them homeless and then give them food aid. How else would they know that the government is caring if we do not create a problem, then try to solve it?

To avert more problems by the Opposition MPs, the government is working very hard to eradicate the Opposition — that is why those MPs are being appointed to the government. 

If it were not for the Opposition, we could not have had to evict people from slums like Kibarage, or even demolish structures at places like Uthiru, like we did the other day. Neither could people die of methanol poisoning. But Opposition MPs have been inciting people to drink methanol while expensive wines and single malt whiskies are available at five-star hotels.

Take the case of insecurity in the country. Ours is a Working Nation, but the Opposition MPs have been inciting people not to take up the zillion jobs the government created just within hours of coming to power. They say these unemployed people turn to crime to make ends meet, yet we all know even crime is some sort of employment and the government is only making the environment conducive to all kinds of jobs, but try telling Opposition MPs that.

They have perfected the art of inciting people and unless they reform by joining the Government, these problems will continue.

Fellow Kenyans and the patriotic citizens of Marsabit, the government would like to assure you that if you want to develop, and partake of the national cake, which is now being shared unequally among the very few, you will have to shun Opposition MPs and start listening to the government no matter how detached it is from you.

Turning a deaf ear
When I left Nairobi 17 years ago, the streets were not as noisy as they are now for the simple reason that people were not as horny — literally and metaphorically — as they seem to be now. Even though motorists used to blare their klaxons even at those behind them, vehicles were fewer and hooting had not become a listening sport, as it is now whereby motorists compete on whose vehicle's horn is the loudest.

Also, condoms were expensive, as were other forms of contraceptives, but the population was lower even though our birth rate was among the highest in the world. 

There were fewer old beggars on the streets and child beggars were a rarity. We had not been bombarded with non-governmental organisations dealing with women and children's issues and, NGO-ese was not something of an official language. Thus, there were parking boys — not street families — and phrases like birth control, boom missers, caregivers, child
exploitation, demobilised soldiers, disaster mitigation, child rights, child survival and such like were not a part of everyday lingo.

When I came back after nine years, Kenyans were poorer but condoms and other contraceptives were cheaper. The use of the former was considered "protection" and not contraception. However, the birth rate was high, as was infant mortality and the number of back street abortion clinics and deaths occurring from (unsafe) abortions.

The streets were full of children and women beggars, yet Nothing Going Ons, sorry, NGOs dealing with them were all over the place. It is in this sector that I got my first job, and phrases like "facilitator training"; PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal), PEP (Participatory Evaluation Process), SNE (Special Needs Education) and such like became a part of my lingo.

But as these NGOs increased, so did the number of CEDC (Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances), UC (Unaccompanied Children), OVCs (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) and PLW (Pregnant and Lactating Women), which made the "civil society" to call on
"stakeholders" to address "gender mainstreaming" and avoid "gender bias." Phew!

Over the years, the number of child beggars on the streets has increased, and funny enough, they are always accompanied by their mothers who have coached them, and they know they kind of people to approach, and cling to until they are given a coin, or two, before letting go till another "prey" comes around and they start all over again.

They know what words to use to evoke sympathy and passion from their "prey" and have been taught to feign hunger and sufferance and ask for something to eat so innocently that one would think the child is on the verge of passing out.

Streets of Kenya's towns in general, and those of Nairobi in particular, resemble maternity hospitals, with children crying, screaming and shouting at passers-by, asking for alms, while their mothers watch from a distance.

Apparently, the authorities do not seem to hear these children's cries or have just turned a deaf ear on them as they move from one shop front to the other, or as their mothers pinch and torture them for not bringing "home the bacon."

When Narc government came to power, it promised to rid the streets of these beggars, and the then mayor, Joe Aketch, was steadfast in his resolve to clear Nairobi streets of beggars, old and young alike. When Dick Wathika became the mayor, he did not take over from where his predecessor left, which is why these women continue to mistreat their children with abandon. 

Bwana Wathika, are your hands so tied that you cannot even lift a finger against these mothers who literally litter the streets and make it difficult for pedestrians to walk around without fear of being clung on until they part with a coin or two?

Drinking spree (2)
Last Saturday, I went to Kaloleni estate, Nairobi, to find out more about a young man, who it is alleged, died at the hands of the police, and whose death sparked protests. I wanted to find out what  happened, and under what circumstances he had been arrested, but instead, I ended up feeling like a rabbit — I ate so much vegetable salad.

While I was munching on plate after plate of vegetable salad, I realised there were some men, in their late twenties and mid-thirties, who kept on shuttling back and forth between one end of the estate and the other. With every trip, they seemed more and more unsteady, and their walk became shakier.

I later learnt one of them was used to be paratrooper with Kenya Air Force and an international boxer, another one used to work at the Treasury and had scored a Division One of six points in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education, one used to work with an insurance firm, and one once owned a fleet of matatus.

The reason for their unsteady walk after every trip was because they were going to some house at the end of the estate to have their favourite tipple, a concoction of chemicals like the one that killed people in Machakos District last month.

I could not help but wonder if we will be told, when these people are blinded, or killed, that it is because they were poor. I could also not help but wonder if the authorities are not aware of the existence of those liquor dens. 

I am sure the authorities will act after a tragic incident happens. That is how reactive we are.