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No hunger strike for us battered men; we shall suffer our shame in silence

Monday February 20 2012



I have always looked on bemused at the antics of one Nderitu Njoka, who speaks for some outfit he calls Maendeleo ya Wanaume. That is supposed to be the male counterpart, or answer if you please, to the oldest and biggest women’s movement in the country, the Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation.

Apart from occasional statements on behalf of supposedly “oppressed” Kenyan men, Maendeleo ya Wanaume seems to have really struggled to catch attention over the past few years.

Things can be particularly hard for any lobby group that is so difficult to find.

Google, in this day and age, does not come up with an office, address, telephone, website, e-mail address, or any other physical or cyber presence for this largely invisible Maendeleo.

There is a little Facebook presence, but one gets pages for groups that are largely dormant, with only a couple of members or likes, but other almost zero actual activity.

Anyway, this group that one wag dismissed as a mobile Maendeleo — operating out of a briefcase and a mobile phone — has in the past fortnight or so been handed a potent cause that could catapult it to go head-to-head with the noisier feminist lobbies in the scramble for media attention and donor funds.

But typically, our Nderitu Nioka flunked the big test. His response to the sudden spate of “man bites dog” stories of women in Nyeri routinely beating their men to pulp was to launch an abortion of a “hunger strike”.

Mr Njoka wants men across Kenya to boycott the home meals cooked by their wives and instead resort to taking their lunches and dinners outside.

He reckons men could gather in groups outside their homes to share meals and the experiences of physical and emotional battering by their better halves.

Methinks this Maendeleo ya Wanaume fellow lives in Cloud Cuckoo Land.

First, save for a few hopeless ones who get themselves beaten and then are foolish enough to seek public sympathy, battered Kenyan men will not gather to shame themselves with stories of how they have been worked on. They would rather suffer in silence.

Secondly, Mr Njoka obviously does not see that far from providing solutions, the absurd strike would only make things worse.

There are already many Kenyan men who have their meals away from home, feasting daily on nyama choma washed down with copious amounts of beer, while the wife and children make do with watery cabbage.

This self-appointed crusader for men’s rights is actually providing further rationale for those who routinely avoid Mama’s meals anyway, to swell their numbers, and probably extend the “away games” to more than just meals.

Meandeleo ya Wanaume clearly has little clue on how to address this “Nyeri woman” problem. Mr Njoka might be more useful if he took his primer on domestic strife to the feuding fellows on the political rostrums.

The G7 Alliance obviously needs some help. Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka is coming across as the desperate spurned bride hanging on to a duo, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr William Ruto, treating him with undisguised contempt.

Maendeleo ya Wanaume could work on persuading Mr Musyoka that as VP, he actually is senior to the two Hague suspects and, therefore, need not go to them on his knees.

He could try standing up like a man, telling Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto where to get off, and charting his own course.

Then there is the kerfuffle in Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ODM provoked by the uncharacteristically aggressive challenge by his deputy Musalia Mudavadi for the party presidential nomination.

The very fact that Mr Mudavadi — always the pliant follower, never the leader — has come out fighting has raised eyebrows.

As Mr Odinga’s cohorts show signs of panic with suggestions that their leader must get the ticket without competition and that Mr Mudavadi must have been “sent”, the latter gets more emboldened.

ODM could be headed for a messy divorce if one thinks he has a God-given right to the ticket and the other might be upping the ante as part of an exit strategy. Mr Njoka to the rescue?