‘Stand up for Liz’ grabs West’s attention

Saturday November 9 2013

Kenyan protestors march on October 31, 2013

Kenyan protestors march on October 31, 2013 towards the police headquarters in Nairobi to deliver a petition of over a million names demanding justice after men accused of brutally gang raping a schoolgirl cut grass as punishment. The ferocious attack on the teenage girl and lack of action against those who carried it out has sparked outrage in the country. AFP

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Political demos aside, Kenyans do not seem to organise protests on social issues the way other countries do.

If the world media carry film footage from Nairobi, it’s most likely about ethnic violence, such as the post-election killings, or security mayhem, as with the recent Westgate mall takeover.

Thus Africa-watchers were surprised last week when hundreds of Kenya women took to the streets to demand an end to sexual violence.

In particular, they wanted punishment for six men who gang-raped a girl aged 16 in Busia, western Kenya. The men were let go after being made to cut the grass by local police.

The outrage of the women marchers was reflected in the widespread coverage of the story beyond Kenya, when reports were carried by BBC, ITV, Al Jazeera, CNN, US National Public Radio, The Guardian, Bloomsberg, ABC, Yahoo News and others.

“Cutting the grass is no punishment for rape,” read one placard waved outside the office of the chief of police, and a petition with more than 1.5 million signatures from around the world was handed in, demanding that the girl’s attackers be arrested, charged and prosecuted.

The victim was thrown into a 15-foot pit latrine after the rape and needed surgery to repair damage to her spine, bladder and bowel.

But she personally identified three of her assailants, and a child protection agency in the girl’s home area gave the police the names and addresses of the six suspects, now in hiding.

By early last week, none had been arrested. One policeman has been suspended.

One of the marchers, Sara Longwe, said: “Rape is becoming ever more common and people are even thinking it is normal. They are raping toddlers and babies. And nothing ever happens, though the perpetrators are known.”

Nebila Abdulmelik, who started an online petition on the campaigning website Avaaz, said: “We are taking our demands to the street. We have reached a stage where people are outraged.”

A recent study by the UN children’s agency, Unicef, found that almost one in three Kenyan girls had faced sexual violence at school. The Guardian newspaper said research by women’s groups estimates that a female is raped every half-hour in Kenya.

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Master Criminal 1: Michael McStay, 39, was feeling suicidal so he ripped a pipe off its mounting intending to gas himself. But then he changed his mind, opened the windows and lit a cigarette.

The explosion blew the roof off his upstairs flat and put him in hospital for a year with burns over 65 per cent of his body. A Newcastle Crown Court judge said the cigarette was an act of folly and he sent McStay, who had 27 previous convictions, to prison for 27 months for arson.

Master Criminal 2: Lee Wilson went into a corner shop, picked up four cans of lager and, showing the knife in his waistband, told the lady behind the counter he was not going to pay.

Soon afterwards a relative of the shop owner dropped by, checked the CCTV and recognised the thief as someone he had known since childhood.

He drove around the neighbourhood and soon spotted the malefactor in a garden only yards away, drinking the lager with a friend. Lee Wilson, 28, was promptly arrested. He was sent to prison for two years.

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A man went before a judge seeking compensation for a work injury. He said that since the accident he had been unable to raise his arm properly.

The judge asked him to demonstrate and he raised his arm about a foot from his side, wincing as he did so. The judge then asked how far he could move it before the accident and he lifted the arm above his head. He lost his case.

An Englishman in France was stopped by the traffic police and asked if he had been drinking. “Sure,” he said, “I’ve been to my daughter’s wedding and downed lots of wine at the banquet then finished off with half a bottle of whisky.” Shocked, the policeman said: “Do you understand I have stopped you for an alcohol test?” The Englishman said: “Do you understand this is a British, right-hand drive car, and my wife is in the other seat behind the steering wheel?”

Not-quite-right notices: “Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.” “Guests are requested not to smoke or do other disgusting behaviours in bed.” “Customers who find our waitresses rude ought to see the manager.” “We take your bags and send them in all directions.” (Just like British Airways).

“The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.” “You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.” “When this sign is under water, the road is impassable.” “Persons are prohibited from picking flowers from any but their own graves.”