Book review: The Wizard of The Crow; a satirical analogy for Kenyan Politics.

A loot-a continua

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I’m embarrassed to admit that I only discovered Ngugi wa Thiongo as late as last year. However, let my saving grace be that I picked ‘The Wizard of the Crow’ as my first book.   

When I first sat down to read Wizard of the crow it was a little challenging to read I’m not going to lie. It’s one of those books where you struggle for days to get through only the first three chapters, and then one day you just read 400 pages, not lifting your eyes even once. Perhaps at first, I was not familiar with Ngugi’s descriptive style, but when I got into it, the book absorbed me. And it provoked me, politically.

The book to me is the most befitting satirical analogy for Kenyan politics, which i have come across, and today I decided to share some quotes that demonstrate this;   

“There is nobody quicker to anger than a thief who has been robbed”


“The dictator’s reputation for making minister plot against minister, region rise against region, and community fight against community was now a matter of legend. He would side with one warring faction, which would rejoice at its alliance with power only to wake up one morning to find that the dictator had sided with its adversary, for a time, at least before changing sides again or even goading altogether another faction into the fray”


“.. The self- appointed leaders of communities, members of parliament, and especially cabinet ministers never ceased competing to sit on the right hand of the father. Yet the winner always lived in terror of being displaced by a rival wilier in the ways of sycophancy”


“When it came to forests indeed to any natural resource, the Aburirian State and big American, European, and Japanese companies in alliance with the local African, Indian and European rich, were all united by one slogan: A loot-a continua


“The government also had to mindful not to upset tourism by sweeping too many beggars off the streets. Pictures of beggars or wild animals were what many tourists sent back home as proof of having been in Africa.”


“Why did Africa let Europe cart away millions of Africa’s souls from the continent to the four corners of the wind? How could Europe lord it over a continent ten times its size? Why does needy Africa continue to let its wealth meet the needs of those outside its borders and then follow behind with hands outstretched for a loan of the very wealth it let go? How did we arrive at this, that the best leader is the one that knows how to beg for a share of what he has already given away at the price of a broken tool? Where is the future of Africa?”


“…In any case, in Aburiria justice ends up in the pockets of the highest bidder.”

Something worth noting is that Ngugi wrote The Wizard of the Crow in 2006, over a decade ago (12 years). The fact that these quotes fit todays political context, three general elections after, is an indication of how little has changed in the Kenyan political scene. An indication that for the past three general elections, Kenyans have essentially been exchanging one set of crooks for another.

Charlotte P.

 

Budding feministas; a re-introduction

I have authored this blog under a different username for the past three years now, sometimes with the help of a brilliant friend. When I started this blog, I started it for very personal reasons, I was having a really hard time then, struggling everyday for the most of everyday, with myself. You see in 2015, I embarked on a journey to rediscover my self. I decided for the first time ever, consciously at least, to live my life for myself. That meant looking into myself and asking the hard questions. Who are you? What do you want in this life? What makes you happy? As a process of reconciling my existential crisis, I filtered old bad habits and monotonous unchallenging routines. And as the saying goes; In with the old and out with the new, I replaced those, with newer, better hobbies and routines. I taught myself new habits, that were more ‘me’.

This blog was one of those newer better hobbies. My initial thought for this blog was that it would be about the many things I loved and learned in this newer better life I was building for myself. I was going to do book reviews and opinion pieces on socio-political issues. I thought it would be a good way to cultivate my reading and grow my writing skills.

Yesterday I was reading one of my friend’s blogs, The Yellowbean. I started with this one entry about the show 13 Reasons Why and Triggers, and as I read I thought to myself, ”this is so Mitchel”. I went through every one of her posts and all four of mine, all my drafts and then it hit me. Her blog had something mine didn’t. Authenticity.
And what is the point of a blog if it is not Authentic? My blog, judging from my four posts are a far cry from what 19-year-old me intended. It is a short collection of articles that serve more as rhetoric statements than my own opinion.

I thought hard about this realization before I fell asleep, and that is when I decided to take my blog back. I called my brilliant friend, who’d co-authored one of my posts and turns out she felt the same! And after hours of raving about new blog ideas over the phone, ‘Budding feministas’ was born and here we are.

And we are looking forward to making this blog truly our own.

Stick around. 🙂

Charlotte P & Malory A.

Marital Rape, Let’s talk about it!

Margaret Schuler- “Understanding the phenomenon of gender violence requires an analysis of the patterns of violence directed toward women and the underlying mechanisms that permit the emergence and perpetuation of such violence[1]

When it comes to issues faced by women, states are quick to justify their actions through the analogy of the public/private sphere dichotomy. They use this analogy as a screen to avoid addressing issues such as marital rape, female genital mutilation and many more. Women therefore are constantly finding themselves in horrible situations where they cannot rely on the law to provide  them with  adequate protection against gendered violence.

The Kenyan Sexual Offences Act (2006), is an example of how the state excludes women’s issues by categorising marital rape as a matter for the so called ‘private sphere’. This apparent refusal to intervene in a situation simply because the act of rape in this instance occurs within the boundaries of a marital contract does not mean that the state it is not playing a role in the perpetuation of that situation. In fact, by doing this, the state is reinforcing systematic discrimination against women. Intentionally excluding marital rape from the category of non-consensual sex in the Sexual Offences Act, reiterates the point that the state therefore does not consider marital rape as a severe injustice towards the physical and moral integrity of married women. Furthermore, it reinforces the archaic and patriarchal analogy that women are property and therefore if the state intervenes, it would be interfering with the private property of a man.

It is also imperative to question the existence of this so called public/private sphere dichotomy. The state purports to not interfere in the private sphere which in the case of marital rape (boundaries of marriage), however, it appoints itself as commander in chief when it comes to policing the reproductive functions of women, this can be in form of maternity leave, the use and availability of contraception and so on and so forth.

It is up to us, and by ‘us’, I mean both men and women to question the legitimacy of discriminatory laws such as ‘marital rape’. Culture should not be used as an excuse for misogynistic laws. It is essential for us to create dialogue amongst our communities (friends, family, colleagues) to find out why women are considered to be unequal to men. Furthermore, we should challenge stereotypical and misogynistic attitudes towards women.

Malory A.

[1] Margaret Schuler, Violence Against Women: An International Perspective in FREEDOM AND VIOLENCE, supra note 23, at 1, 10.

Abortions; what we don’t talk about.

“Abortion is a direct product of poverty; social and economic insecurity.”

The status quo.

Every year, according to WHO, a staggering 21.6 million women procure illegal abortions. A good majority of them (that’s 18.5 million women) are reported to come from developing countries. Looking at these figures this is what can be construed; 47,000 women die annually from these illegal abortions because more often than not, and this should come as no surprise, the procedures are unsafe.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information in 2012 conducted a cross-sectional study on abortions in Kenya specifically, and their findings were just as grave.

In Kenya, about 49% of the recorded pregnancies are unintended/unwanted, of these, 41% are aborted. This translates to about 310,000 abortions being performed every year.
We have a glaring problem, because despite the laws in place to stop abortions, the numbers are in fact only rising.

Abortion Laws in Kenya

Abortion is outlawed by the supreme constitution of Kenya.
Article 26, subsection 4 provides that –Abortion is not permitted unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.
This is preceded by subsection 2 of the same article which states that –The life of a person begins at conception. 

The role of economics vs criminalization


So this is the situation we are faced with as a country: we have strict laws that criminalize abortions yet we still have high abortion rates. Why aren’t the laws in place deterring abortions? This is the question I seek to answer in this write up.
In any conversation on abortions people obsess over the question of legality, with pro-lifers on one end of the spectrum championing for its criminalization and pro-choicers on the other championing for the woman’s right to chose ‘what to do with her body’.
But one thing that I think is consistent whichever side of the debate you fall, is the fact that we all want to see a reduction in the number of abortions.

If we’re serious about reducing abortion, we have to change the conversation.
The most important issue is beyond the legality. The most important question and ironically the one that is ignored by both the Kenyan people and its government is the economic question. It is a discernible fact that societies that do the least to support mothers and child-bearing have more abortions.
If we want to  reduce abortions, we must first ask ourselves; Why do women procure abortions?
Abortion is a direct product of poverty; social and economic insecurity.
A woman who enjoys the most emotional and financial security and who has chosen the timing of her pregnancy will not choose abortion, even when abortion is legal.
A woman who is dominated, who is poor and who fears bearing the child is likely to procure an abortion, even where abortion is illegal and even where the procedure puts her life at risk.
The Netherlands has one of the the most liberal abortion laws in the world. Today the Netherlands reports one of the world’s lowest abortion rates annually.
However, in 1996 to 2003 there was a shift in that incidence, the abortion rate in the Netherlands increased by 31% in those seven years.
The first question; What changed to cause that sudden increase?
The Guttmacher Institute, the leading source of data on global reproductive health, cited that in these years well over 50% of the abortions were performed on immigrant women.
The second question; Why did immigrant women procure more abortions than dutch women?
These women chose abortions because they had become sexually active in a male-dominated culture. Although they lived in the Netherlands they did not enjoy the social and economic security that dutch women enjoy. They lived in homes and communities where access to birth control was restricted, female sexuality was policed, and where pregnancies out of wedlock were a disgrace.
Furthermore, in these cultures the costs and obligations of childbearing landed almost entirely on the women alone.

For a majority of Kenyan women, the circumstances of these immigrant women are their reality. Throughout the country especially in rural areas, there is limited access to birth control and even where it is available, it is expensive and women are expected to bear the costs alone.

Apart from the financial burden women face in accessing and acquiring contraception, many Kenyan women face further social impediments; poor sex education and stigma. In a study done on women in Baba Dogo slum Nairobi and the Chwele slum in Bungoma by Kamau RK et al on the Barriers to contraceptive use in Kenya, it was discovered that even where there is access to contraception, women do not use these mainly because of two things; the misconceptions surrounding the side effects of contraception and the misogynistic male attitudes of their husbands who see contraception as a threat to their matrimonial role as the decision maker of the household.

Many Kenyan women especially single mothers, mainly in impoverished areas are also burdened with almost all of the costs and obligations of childbearing.
Up until May 2016, Kenyan women could not include the name of their child’s biological father, without his consent, if the child was born out of wedlock. This meant that it would be very difficult for these women to legally seek child support because they wouldn’t even have the most basic document to establish a parent-child relationship between the father and the child. This meant that single mothers were entirely burdened with the financial responsibilities of raising their children while their fathers faced minimal to no consequences.
In May 2016, a landmark ruling by Hon Lady Justice Mumbi Ngugi, overturned this patriarchal law, stating that all birth records will have a mandatory inclusion of the father’s name, even when the child is born out of wedlock.

However, even now with the laws in place, women are still bound by their social and economic insecurity such that they can hardly ever access, let alone recieve such justice.
 

The Germany example 

Germany operates perhaps the world’s plushest welfare state. Women enjoy 14 weeks of paid maternity leave. The state pays a child allowance to the parents of every German child for as many as 25 years, depending on how long as the child remains in school. Women who leave the work force after giving birth receive a replacement wage from the state for up to 14 months.

Maybe not coincidentally, Germany has one of the lowest abortion rates.
Now while I am aware that Germany and Kenya cannot be compared, Germany being an economic giant vis a vis Kenya which is still a developing nation, the example of Germany is purposely to serve as a real time illustration that there is actually a direct correlation with socio-economic security and a reduction in abortion rates, that we must not continue to ignore.

A tenable suggestion for the way forward 

The law makers in Kenya tend to respond to social problems by criminalizing them and then pretending they do not exist. Criminalizing abortion has not worked. If it was truly ‘deterring’ women from procuring abortions, the statistics would read different. But they do not.

Perhaps instead of just criminalizing abortion and then sweeping the entire issue under the rug, our law makers should first address the question; Why do Kenyan women choose abortion? Those are the questions that make the difference. It’s amazing how little we talk about them.

The government instead of focusing only on the illegality of abortion, should also provide women with an option that is better than abortion.
A big part of the reason why abortion rates  are so high in Kenya, and the developing world, is the fact that contraception, sex education, and other family-planning services are scarce and hard to obtain. It’s simple: where there’s little contraception, there are more unintended pregnancies; where there are more unintended pregnancies, there are more abortions. Even for those women who don’t procure illegal abortions, carrying unplanned pregnancies to term may condemn them to a cycle of poverty.
Rather than creating laws that just ban abortions, the law makers (our Mps) should create laws that support happy and healthy childbearing, to reduce unwanted pregnancies and the socio-economic stresses on mothers to be.

A HELL OF A MAN.

First things first; A very happy 69th birthday and a merry early retirement to the now ex Chief Justice, Dr Willy Mutunga. By far the best chief justice Kenya has had so far.

On 20th June 2011, President Mwai Kibaki after consulting with Prime Minister Raila Odinga, appointed, under the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission, Dr Willy Mutunga as Chief Justice of Kenya and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya.
As he gracefully retires today, he exits, a great man and a true revolutionary; devout to human rights, social justice, the development of law and good governance. He was a hard-as-nails reformist then and still is.
The crux of this write up is to provide a minimalist outlook on his achievements prior to his tenure as CJ and his achievements as he goes into retirement five years on.
As a young man, Dr Mutunga’s radicalism was inspired by admirable nationalists like Dedan Kimathi and Pio Da Gama Pinto. The former civil rights activist bears, and does rightfully so, the scars of battle in reforming the Kenyan Justice system; from a bout of detention, police arrest to exile.
His days of activism spawn up to three decades prior to his appointment as CJ in 2011.

During these years, even before he had any substantial administrative power within the judiciary, he revolutionized the Justice system by establishing and serving in several civil society organizations. Among them; his time as vice chairman and chairman of the Law Society of Kenya – where he really built his local profile. After the return of multi-partism in 1991, Dr Mutunga and other exiles returned and he got involved with Kenya Human Rights Commission as its Executive Director. His work with the KHRC is what helped midwife the creation of and dig roots for institutions like Kituo cha Sheria and the Public Law Institute. In my view the most salient, is the establishment of the Legal Advice Centre, commonly known as ‘Kituo Cha Sheria’. Which I can only describe as a gift, from Dr Mutunga to the Kenyan Justice system, and to the Kenyan effort in the attainment of social justice. I say this because practically, the work at Kituo Cha Sheria, is really the only actual form of Access to Justice that Kenyans can enjoy.
Dr. Mutunga’s endeavours have not been glossed over. The previous CJ has been accorded numerous awards for his efforts. Among several; Elder of the Golden Heart for his distinguished service to the nation and for his role in leading reforms in the Judiciary under the new Constitution (2012); appointment as Senior Counsel, Government of Kenya (2003); Lifetime Achievement Award for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights from the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, (2003); the Jurist of the Year Award from the International Commission of Jurists, Kenyan Section (2003).
Dr. Mutunga’s most consequential achievement, prior to his tenure, and in my view the one that has and will continue to be so contemporaneous to his ideals for the Kenyan Judicial system, is his effort as one of the drafters of the New Constitution of Kenya, 2010.

As if being appointed as CJ is not tasking enough in itself, Dr. Mutunga’s entry was further saddled, only in the first eighteen months of his tenure. First with the court’s decision on whether the looming ICC trial on the President and Deputy President disqualified them from running for office and soon after, the tall order of deciding an election petition.

Now, five years later we ask ourselves this: Has Dr. Mutunga been the panacea that we all anticipated for all the shortcomings that previously plagued the Judiciary?

Indeed he has.
In more ways than one he has done the one most important task of a Chief Justice of any democracy; upholding constitutionalism.
To give a quick example I will use a precedent judgement of the Supreme Court that have asserted and preserved the doctrine of Separation of Powers, which is one of the ideals the 2010 Constitution intended to effectuate.
In the Speaker of the Senate v AG case, where the National Assembly unconstitutionally passed the Division of Revenue Bill, without involving the Senate even though the constitution blatantly prescribes that Bills ‘concerning counties’ must be passed by the Senate as well as the National Assembly. The court ruled that the National Assembly, solely passing the Bill was ultra vires to the functions of the National Assembly provided for in Article 95 of the Constitution.
This doesn’t only uphold the doctrine of Separation of Powers and constitutionalism, but also the aims of devolution.
I would describe Dr. Mutunga as a servant of the Justice system. He did not act as though he was above it merely by virtue of him being the CJ. He to this effect, did not take lightly, misconduct. This was demonstrated in the swift and effectives that the tribunal (headed by Dr. Mutunga) on the investigation for the removal of ex Deputy CJ, Nancy Baraza employed.
Upon his appointment he was anticipated to be the new Chief Justice for the new Kenya, and he was.
Beyond the courtroom, CJ Willy Mutunga has made personal decisions that reflect his judicial integrity. His decision to retire at 69 for instance, makes quite the statement. The ex CJ had until next year June before he was constitutionally required to step aside, but he took into account the forthcoming presidential elections and  the need for a stable and able bench of the Supreme court at such a time, rather than selfishly wanting to milk his tenure dry for personal gain.
This I think, is one thing that other Judges should emulate. They should put the nation first before making limp misinterpretations of the constitution to fit their greed for power.
Other than that he has also gone beyond promoting and preserving Judicial ideals. He launched the Judiciary Museum of Kenya which showcases a wide range of artefacts, materials and equipment that were used during the pre-colonial era to date.

All of this withstanding, I am not saying that the man was an angel.
His time as CJ also saw one of the biggest corruption scandals involving a Supreme Court Judge: Justice Philip Tunoi, who has been accused of procuring a 200 million Ksh bribe from Nairobi Govenor, Evans Kidero. This case, which is yet to be decided and has raised many doubts on the integrity of the entire Judiciary.

However, all things considered, it was a job well done and his will be mighty shoes to fill.

As Dr. Mutunga stated in his retirement speech, the Supreme Court under his administration “sought to lay the foundations for a transformed Judiciary, aware that even though five short years would not be enough to complete the job, they would however be long enough to start the journey.”
And that is exactly what he did as CJ, he set the pace.

Now, I as a Kenyan citizen and prospective lawyer can only be hopeful for Kenya’s Judicial future.

We may not be where we need to be, but thank God, we are not where we used to be.’