Monthly Archives: October 2014

#LifeSnippets – Guilt Tax (Kenyan welfare)

Setting : A middle class estate in Nairobi.

Cast : A group of men are seated at the ‘base’. Chewing mugoka, drinking spirits and smoking as they ‘escort the sun’.

‘Base’ is the name for where jobless, hustling guys seat in Nairobi estates passing time, abusing drugs, taking in the sights of the neighborhood and debating anything and everything.

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Me: (passing in front of Base, waving)

Cast: Come for a bit!

Me: (walk over wondering wsap)

Cast: We need to talk.

Me: About?

Cast: Ever since you moved on up and started working there is something you have not done.

Me: What?

Cast: Blessed the Base

Me: Ooooh!

Cast: You need to buy us drinks till we drop. Do not think of us drinking your money but more like you pouring liquor on this base and the base thereby blessing you and your money.

Me: (laughs a lot) I have heard. (Walks away)

***

Unemployment is huge in Nairobi. You may think its only prevalent in the slums and lower class estates but even the so-called middle-class estates are not immune.

Its effect is worse in the middle-class estates as the unemployed are children of retired bankers, civil servants, teachers. They saw their parents work their butt off to secure their education but now that education is redundant as job search becomes the job. Their parents being working class also limits their entrepreneurial spirit as all they were conditioned to aspire to is employment.

No job leads hopelessness. Hopelessness leads to life apathy. Life apathy leads to a drug-full life. Whiled away at base.

Simplification? Yes. Reality? Yes.

If you are lucky enough to get a job and you are from the hood then you will at one time or another pay guilt tax.

TAXES

Guilt tax is paid when you are walking/driving through the hood and someone asks for a ten bob for a cigarette or you are in the local and someone hustles you for a beer or for additional cash to buy a drink.

You pay the guilt tax not because you are rich or because you have to but because you know but for the grace of God there goes you.

You are not special just lucky.

Away from the hood setting, the guilt tax is also paid in family, extended or nuclear. We all have that uncle who texts asking for an MPesa donation because he has new wife, new child or new cow.

In retrospect, the guilt tax maybe Kenya’s version of welfare.

Plugging the gaps and pushing the broken societal wheel forward.

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So maybe I will bless the base after all.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

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#LifeSnippets – 4am Loving

*Of interesting things that happen to me and things that I happen to overhear.*

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4am on a Saturday morning.

At the gate to the court in the estate.

A Passio driven at top speed comes to a halt.

A lady jumps out and says, “Thanks! Ufike poa.”

The male driver pleadingly asks, “You’ve just gone? You can’t even say thanks with a kiss?”

Lady leans in. Kisses man for half a minute. Then bangs car door and jauntily walks into court.

Man reverses in haste. Gears engaged. Car flies off.

Frustration is not a good look.

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Got me thinking. At 4am not only do you have to look out for drunk drivers you have to be wary of another breed of drivers.

The sex-crazed: Those who have chipod and are rushing to get some.

The frustrated: Those who thought they have scored only to discover they were a cabbie for the night.

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Stay safe on the roads and no matter what time you love do remember to use protection.

GOD BLESS KENYA!


#LifeSnippets – Becoming Baba Nani.

*Of interesting things that happen to me and things that I happen to overhear.*

Setting – barbershop in the hood

Man 1 – late 20s, early 30s, office worker. Getting haircut.

Man 3 – mid-30s, hustler in the hood. Waiting in the queue.

Man 2 – Barber. Oldish guy.

 

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Man 2: Mbona umetulia hivi. Mawazo ni ya nini? Si ulimarry juzi. Mama ameenda nini?

Man 1: Sare za ovyo. Mi nataka mjunior mbaya. Nimepeleka mama mbio lakini wapi.

Man 2: Wacha nikuchapie. Hii kitu haitakangi mbio

Man 3: Eh. Mimi first born wangu nilikula mama kutoka first mpaka thirtyth ya mwezi ya kwanza. Halafu next month hivyo hivyo. Na bado hakuget ball. Mpaka ikakuwa tension kwa hao. Ndiyo mzae fulani akanichanua. Kula ni ka mchezo. Usifikirie stori ya mjunia.

Man 1: Nashangaa niaje. Nikicheza nje kitambo madem walikuwa wanaget ball na misitaki. Sahii nataka siget.

Man 2: Nimemarika for long. Nisikizeni. Mtoi ni God. Ukimwonyesha ati wewe ndiye unajua atakuonyesha si wewe. Utakula mpaka uchoke. Na usiget mtoi. Kwa hivyo tulia. Toa stori ya mtoi kwa kichwa. Kula mama bila pressure. Enjoy. Utashangaa atakuambia anaball.

Man 3: Imagine hivyo ndiyo kulienda. Ki-surprise tu mama akaniambia anaball.

Man 1: Wazi jo wasee. Nilikuwa nimeshangaa niaje.

Me: Aha!

Such is the level of intimacy men exhibit at a barbershop.

Also, conception and parenthood is as much a concern for men as for women.

And fathering a child (when said man is ready) is seen as a feather in the cap by most men.

GOD BLESS KENYA!


Spinning the ICC, Governing by PR

Let me let you in on a little secret.

I lined up to welcome private citizen Uhuru Kenyatta who returning from his Hague date. Ssssssssh. Keep it between us.

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As a schoolboy lining up for retired president Moi – who prophesied that KANU would rule for 100 years to much derision (Who is laughing now?) – was normal. He seemed to always be on the go and he (or his handlers) felt that school children should either be lining the road waving or singing for him at different forums. Moi also said “now you are saying Moi must go but one day you will say Moi must come.” And the hullaballoo at Moi’s birthday did somewhat validate his statement.

So Chief Chef Lenku’s circular requesting for peace-loving Kenyans presence along the roads which the private citizen/President was not a shocker. After all the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Curiosity and my continued study of human nature fuelled my ten minutes walk to Makadara along Jogoo Road. And my timing was impeccable. Fifteen minutes upon my arrival the motorcade made its appearance.

It is common knowledge that Uhuruto used ICC case and astute PR to ascend to power. Communities which felt under siege came together to protect their sons using the tyranny of numbers. And spin or PR if you like whitewashed the picture (and eyes).

Just how much this ICC and PR narrative sold is now unfolding.

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The mass of people at Makadara was positively buzzing. These were not rent-a-crowd folk. These were people sharing a common unshakeable belief. Not subject to reason or logic. It is because it is kind of belief. It felt like a stadium or a church.

Young and old. Male and female. Seated and standing. All waiting. Happily. Anxiously.

Snippets of conversation in the alternative national language floated around me. “He is ours.” “God-given.” “He is our blood.”

One side of phone conversations was overhead; “I am here. I could not miss it for anything. Where are you standing?” Also, “Where are you?….you can’t make it…he is almost here.”

Then the outriders’ zoomed past signalling the much awaited moment was near and the buzzing crowd became alive. Screaming, chanting and dancing. The junction into Buruburu from Jogoo Road was blocked as the frenzied crowd demanded an address.

Before I walked away I caught a snippet of Uhuruto and their astonishment was clear. The narrative gelled together around ICC and PR had worked beyond their wildest dreams. More conversation snippets floated around me. “See what we voted for?” “See the fruits of our labour?”

The ICC case and astute PR has managed to turn Uhuru support into a fanatical undertaking. The support is more than political. It is something akin to religion. And religion is now being woven into the narrative. Uhuru is viewed as the Chosen One. A popular chant of Uhuru supporters is “Si nguvu/si uchawi, ni maombi.” (It is not our strength/it is not witchcraft, it is prayer.) Songs have also being composed to that effect. Uhuru’s presidential victory is touted as an answered prayer.

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Another by-product of the ICC case and PR is flag-waving patriotism. Most of the crowd at Makadara had the flag. Matatus and even private cars flew the flag. The flag being used was Kenyan but is the Nation Kikuyu? Put another way, to the crowd at Makadara is the Kikuyu nation synonymous with the Kenya nation? Or another way to ask the question is did the challenge mutate from personal to communal to national? And now international?

Articles 147 and 134 are in the constitution. Ruto is a Deputy not Vice. It follows then when principal is absent the deputy acts. But politics is about perception. And Uhuruto use of PR is phenomenal. So amid much fanfare President Uhuru became a private citizen while Deputy Ruto became Acting President complete with trappings of power.

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A fact that one following the ICC case may found hard to believe is that post election violence actually happened. The Kikuyu bore a substantial brunt of the violence. The Uhuruto bromance aside, the hoi polloi still harboured a grudge. A Ruto presidency was unfathomable. Too much blood under the bridge it was said. But after ‘the handing over power’ show a Ruto presidency is now somewhat discussable. Which given numbers tyranny, then a ten plus ten Uhuruto reigns may not be fiction.

Remember the 100 years prophesy? Tingisa kabisa.

So what do all these variables portend for mkenya wa kawaida or for Kenya?

Is the ICC case good for mkenya wa kawaida or for Kenya?

Is the management by PR good mkenya wa kawaida or for Kenya?

I have no idea.

You?

GOD BLESS KENYA!

p.s – ALL images courtesy Google.


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