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Brothers, not

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Appearances are deceiving. For me it goes something like this: That I know a fellow for a month or a year, then one day, they gasp, “Haiya, I thought you were from western!” when they hear me talking in Kikuyu. Then I laugh it off and jest that I really should ask my mother who my father is. Perhaps, he is this or that prominent politician from Luhya-land and I can go claim some inheritance. The fellow joins in the laughter, but things are never the same going forward.

Thing is, we Kenyans are tribalists through and through. Some do it covertly, others overtly. And having been judged by your tribe, you are then treated accordingly. Which means that if you are being served by a fellow Kikuyu, you will receive better service than if you were, say, Luo or Luhya. In the same vein, if you are being served by a Luhya or Luo and you are Kikuyu, they might serve their own people better. Of course, this is a generalisation, but which occurs with alarming alacrity.

So, over the December holidays, I went to Migori, then Kisumu. The elections were over and things were quite and back to normal. Of course, as I look like a Luhya (in their case, Luo – In Kisii I l looked like a Kisii and in Narok, they talked to me in Kimasaai), I was comfortable strolling around on my own. The only time I felt uncomfortable being when I had to withdraw cash from an M-Pesa/Equity agent and had to hand over my ID card.

Fact is, I feel safer in Kisumu or Kakamega than in Nairobi when we are experiencing our cyclical electoral violence. My dark complexion (I like to imagine that I fall under the category of ‘tall, dark and handsome’ but my lack of a regular girlfriend suggests otherwise) marks me out as Luhya/Luo and considering that I live in a neighbourhood that is predominantly Kikuyu, I might get killed easily, a case in point being the 2007 post-election chaos that rocked the country.

Plus, I tend to use my Christian name and speak Swahili with no accent thus I cannot be easily pinned down as coming from this or that region. Then again, I grew up in Nairobi where I had neighbours from all over the country, hence I picked up Kikuyu late in life and it is nowhere near the fluent and idiomatic kind employed by the nationalistic (read top Kikuyu leadership) leader as he or she cobbles up a coalition with other tribal demigods to reach the threshold required to lord over the country. Of course, when in Murang’a, I am taken to be a Kikuyu at face value by virtue of being there in the first place and because we have many dark-complexioned people there who might be mistaken to be Luo/Luhya elsewhere.

So now, my next-door neighbour to the right (right as when I enter the door) is my landlord’s son. When I first moved here, the landlord had assumed me to be Luhya and nonchalantly proceeded to show me the vacant houses on his lot. I then proceeded to produce my ID card for purposes of confirming the lease-agreement. And what a transformation it was when he got hold of my ID card! He switched to Kikuyu, suddenly became amenable and I even had the house repainted before occupying it.

In part, he had been a councillor and I made a cock-and-bull story about being his agent at a polling station when he had been seeking re-election. Then again, I am named after his father, so, culturally, I am both his father and his son. He always makes a point to converse with me, and me with him, whenever we bump into each other. Some might refer to this as Kikuyu Privilege, but I am not sure it meets that criteria.

Anyhow, about the landlord’s son, my neighbour. There is this thing about how the various Kikuyu groups in Nairobi relate, subtly of course as we are always one when it comes to things elections. There is the original landowners, ene, those who have bought land, oki, and akombori, tenants, with Kikuyu tenants being given preferential treatment over the others. This applies to the Greater Dagoretti/Kiambu areas. Otherwise, in Eastlands, the distinction is two, land/structure owners – ene/wenyeji and tenants – wakukuja, and who are equated to outsiders. The ene look down on the others, which means that the oki have more humility in how they deal with people. Our landlord bought property here, so he is more friendly.

Where were we? Yes, my landlord’s son. Thing is, I am his senior when it comes to tenancy here. There I was enjoying my tenancy at full blast courtesy of a brand new sub-woofer (in more polite society, I speak of it as a home theatre). Here now is this bugger sending the caretaker to tell me to tone down my music. I know I am making a ruckus, but I mean, I was here first, so you can as well sympathise with my self-indignation. Still, I could fall sick and he was the one to rush me to hospital in the dead of the night, so I might as well be civil and say hi whenever we bumped into each other.

So now, this morning, I am late for work. As I emerge from the house, I encounter him outside his door. He is high as a kite and is struggling to unlock the door. The padlock is on the inside of the house and you have to insert your hand by a space on the door to open it. Which calls for a steady hand absent in an inebriated man. I’ve had my door opened for me when in such a state and so I sympathise with him when he calls on me to help him out.

Now, on those other civil days, we say hi to each other and that is that. Not today though. His inebriation shields him from his vulnerability. And we go deep. His wife, work, et cetera, mostly in Kikuyu but switching to English and Swahili now and then. And as all drunkards go, the man speaks fluent English. PhD English.

Says he, he was traumatised for like three months, unsure how to broach the subject with me. He has judged me to be Luhya, notwithstanding the small matter of me playing mugiithi at high volume when he had the caretaker tell me to tone down my music. Why? His father had asked him how his son was – meaning me – as he had not seen me for a while.

Now, his father has three wives, with my neighbour’s mother being the third wife. Could the father be having a fourth wife out there and me as the secret son being sheltered by the father and yet to be introduced to the rest of the family? Could their inheritance shrink as a result? Understandably, he had reason to be concerned. And so, blissfully ignorant was me that I was somebody’s brother for a whole three months without knowing when continuing to greet them in the morning and evenings when we met.

My brother, now not brother, says that he was troubled until when the father, enquiring after me, mentioned that I was his – the son – namesake. It was only then that the confusion cleared. On my part, I am flattered that the landlord thinks highly of me. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t mind having a surrogate of a father to look after him in this Nairobi of ours that is shamba la mawe? Anyway, I heartily laugh at my neighbour’s narration, giving him further assurances that we are far from being brothers. In this, I invoke all three of my father’s names, home county, clan and sub-clan.

So now, the fellow has invited me for drinks. Still, we are not the best of mates, and I don’t intend us to be. So, I declined tomorrow’s offer. The bugger was insistent, and I improvised that the weekend after might just be possible. By then, I will have come up with an excuse not to accompany him in his drinking sprees. As he rightly pointed in jest, I might just drink up the rent money.

Plus, the girl neighbour that I rejected (a whole story on its own) she uses this particular neighbour as a prop (effusive, exaggerated greetings when I am around while a hapless me is totally ignored) to make me feel insignificant. And why lie, it sometimes gets to me; but not on those days when I am getting laid by a beautiful and yellow PYT (pretty, young thing) and whom she chances to bump into. Then, I too have my revenge.





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Charity begins not at home

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A whiff of sewage. A strong whiff of raw sewage is what hits you as you go past the junction of Suna Road and Joseph Kangethe Road- a few metres off what was formerly the Nairobi Winners Chapel and adjacent to the extension of Toi Market where fresh produce is being vended.

Now, this stretch of the road runs under a culvert that cuts across the road so as not to divert the course of what was once a stream, most likely feeding into the Nairobi River. However, by the look and smell of things, you would never know there is a stream; for just next to it is a manhole that spews sewage into the river as though it is being paid to do so.  During the May long rains, the sewage flooded the road such that part of the road- the sidewalk, caved in, eating into the road.

A whiff of sewage. A strong whiff of raw sewage is what hits you as you go past this stretch in a matatu. It is so strong that the odour pervades the inside of the matatu, rubbing off into your skin and clothes onwards into Nakumatt Prestige where you will alight. Now, as the matatu rides off at the edge of the road- for there is a bump here- presumably to lessen the impact of the bump on the ill-maintained shock absorption system of the matatu, you get a sneaky feeling that it might just veer off the road and tumble into the murky waters underneath. Death by sewage. Or if your imagination is one step ahead, sewage boarding- for the matatu will be upside down, you trapped inside (Good Samaritans don’t dive into raw sewage to do their rescue), the sewage clogging your lungs…

Tragedy is that this burst sewer is off a few metres from the Nairobi County Council’s sub-county offices and the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company that purportedly serves the area. The sewage flows into Moi Girls School Nairobi, Quabbz (named after a former president and who has a residence, Karbarnet Gardens, a kilometre away). Further ahead is the Joseph Kangethe Primary School- named after a freedom fighter. But no, charity does not at home begin!

And so the children in these schools grow up knowing it is ok to have open sewers. They grow up and become leaders who let sewage flow freely- for that is the way things have always been. But before that, they will vote in the same same leaders come election time. For the City Fathers know that money talks, bullshit (or is it human shit?) walks.

Nairobi- once the Green City under the Sun, now the Green (another kind of green though, sewage green) City Under Shit. How things change! I miss John Gakuo. Come the general elections, I will vote for him as my preferred gubernatorial candidate.  They will declare my vote spoilt, but it matters not, for I saw what the man could do. Now, if only I knew where the man lives, I would pay him a visit and convince him that the governorship is his for the asking- Nairobians are intelligent.

Over to you Nairobi peeps. Let’s clean the city. Let’s vote for John Gakuo.

adminCharity begins not at home
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sKEndalsylvaNYA: Betraying the Kenyan National Anthem

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They give new meaning to the phrase ‘putting forward one’s best foot’. Sinewy and agile, keeping abreast with the pacemaker, trudging mile after mile under the scorching sun or the biting cold, aiming for the ultimate prize… the Olympic gold; paid for in blood, sweat and tears. They run for glory, pride written all over their face as the drums roll, the national flag is hoisted and the national anthem sung… “O God of all Creation…”

Reality: They run while aiming at the ultimate prize… feeding their family and surviving the political, social and economic turmoil that bedevils the country as regular as clockwork. At night they pray. They pray for a little less rain. The rain of corruption and tribalism.

A bit of history: Mzee Moroa Galana is dead. Do you know Mzee Moroa Galana? No, you don’t. Mzee Moroa Galana is not synonymous with the Kenyan National Anthem. In other countries, he would be a hero. Why? He is the one who suggested the tune of a beautiful Pokomo lullaby be adopted for the national anthem. In other countries, he would be feted as a hero- a living hero. Here, we have dead heroes; immortalised in death (for a short time, anyway, before the next scandal) while they were left to wail in penury while they lived.

The lyrics: O God of all Creation

I refute that God, or at least the one referred to in in our Kenyan Constitution, created everything. Corruption, nepotism and tribalism are definitely man-made in Kenya.

Bless this our land and nation

Kenya is a blessed country: the Great Rift Valley, Mt Kenya- God’s own mountain, pristine beaches, a beautiful people… Now, we have water and oil in Turkana. We have seen what oil has done in the Sudans, Nigeria and the Middle East. We shiver at what the future holds for us; for surely as day; the politician will auction our resources to the highest bidder… with the end justifying the means.

Justice be our shield and defender

Once upon a time, justice was our shield and defender… Whom am I lying to? Money has always been our shield and defender… the more, the merrier. Why hire a lawyer when you can buy a judge?

May we dwell in unity

Presently, the only people dwelling in unity in Kenya are the cabals and cartels that run the country; or rather, the cabals and cartels that ruin the country.

Peace and liberty

Foreign concepts that have their origin in European countries. Enemy to the country’s progress and development (Our community is being targeted). Still, we need foreign aid and so we have learnt to run a show of peace and liberty in order to receive this aid.

Plenty be found within our borders.

Perhaps it is time we as Kenyans (do politicians count as Kenyans?) really put thought to the words of our national anthem. What is it we want to be found in plenty in Kenya? Corruption? Tribalism? Nepotism?

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The shame that is living in Dagoretti

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Recently, my grandma was to visit me to see and bless her new-born great-grandson. Now, I live in Dagoretti in one of those villages with a funny name- Kanungaga. Kanungaga borders Gatina Village, with Macharia Road separating the two. From town, you board a Route 56 matatu at Railways, where touts, as they scramble for passengers, shout at the top of their voices. “Gatina, Kanungaga. Gatina, Kanungaga.”

Well, you can imagine my discomfort at what my grandma would think of me. See, she raised me strictly in the Catholic faith, even seeing to it that I got baptised as Ephantus; me thinks Fanta was her favourite soft drink. Anyway, Gatina literally translates into a small butt while Kanungaga means little smelly thing in the Kikuyu language. Conjoin the two words in the same breath and ignominy is born.

I thought of using Route 105 matatus and alighting at Uthiru. From here, I could book another matatu to Kawangware and onwards to my house. Still, the last time I used this route, I ended up dozing off and waking up at Kinoo. Well, if you know your history, you will know that our Founding Father never could refer one of our most brilliant athletes by his second name. Instead, he always referred to the athlete as ‘that man with that name.’ The athlete in question is Kipchoge Keino. Kinoo and Keino are virtually the same and denote the female genitalia.

Route 4C, Kabiria and Satellite bound, was no better since it meant I had to go past Wanyee Road; Wanyee being ‘he descended from the testicles.’ Again, in their evasion of the traffic police from Kabete Police Station, I could easily find myself being dropped at Ndurarua- “Are you not getting circumcised?”

What place names in your town or neighbourhood embarrasses you?

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Yes, there are still ‘husband material’ bachelors in Kenya

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I am writing in response to Karimi Gatimi’s (Wife speak) friend’s quip that they are no longer any bachelors worth turning into husbands in Kenya. Girl child empowerment and boy child neglect aside, I’d like to register my disappointment at her stereotypical assertion which, unfortunately, is shared by a majority of the womenfolk in the cities and towns.

These ‘husband material’ bachelors are everywhere… the casual labourer at the construction site, the ‘mahindi  choma’  guy, the mandazi seller, the yuppie who has struggled to acquire a  blue Subaru only to be dissed by the likes of Njoki Chege… the list is endless.

These are guys whose parents struggled to give them their all; food, shelter, clothing, love and whatever level of education they could afford. Most importantly, they inculcated in them virtues  like honesty and hard work such that they choose to do these lowly, despised menial jobs instead of using shortcuts to riches and a flamboyant lifestyle. Me thinks this is how they would also like to raise their kids.

Perhaps, part of the reason as to why single women are finding it hard to find partners is because of their romanticised, through-Western-prisms, ideals of what a husband is and is supposed to do. In no particular order: chocolate, flowers, cooking for her… big car, big house, exotic travels… c’mon, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

As long as our society continues to define success by material wealth, then these single women will continue wailing at the lack of ‘husband material’ bachelors. Meanwhile, the casual labourer guy at the construction site will get a wife from ‘shags’ who will motivate him to  graduate to a ‘fundi’, then into a contractor and a real estate magnate.

Meanwhile, Miss Independent who snubbed the casual labourer ten years ago- she stared at his muddy shoes in disgust and shrivelled his ego- is desperate. Consequently, her aunties have set up a committee to find her a husband. Any husband. Or at the very least, she should get a child, they say.

adminYes, there are still ‘husband material’ bachelors in Kenya
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Alfred Mutua must go!

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I won’t stoop low by addressing him as Governor Mutua, His Excellency or such other grandiose titles, more on that later… You see, Dr Alfred Mutua (yeah, the fellow has a PhD too) represents everything that is wrong with our country Kenya. His much publicised PR stunts, with which he misleads a gullible public as ‘developments’ is just a tip of the iceberg that is the rot he heads at Machakos County. Let’s sample a few of these so called ‘maendeleo chap chap’ to illustrate my point.

1.The 33 km Kithimani road: This road was built at a third of the cost projected by KeNHA; so obviously it must be of poor quality. I mean, such an important body as KeNHA has qualified engineers of all sorts, so they must know what they are talking about. This is the only plausible explanation I can come up; else the poor state of the road can only be explained by my wild, unscientific and unsubstantiated theory known as ‘The Background Noise’.

The Background Noise theory assumes that whenever there is public outcry over this or that, some behind the scene forces must be at work. Now, just imagine how lucrative the construction of a road is… 10% kickbacks (says Chinua Achebe’s ‘A Man of the People’), funds with which to build one’s campaign kitty in preparation for the next election as well as pay back business interests which believed in your vision and contributed generously towards your campaign.

Then again, a road, more so a rural road, is never supposed to be completed. Pray, tell me, what will the good governor promise to do for the people of Machakos County in the next election so that they can re-elect him if he finishes the construction of all roads in the county? I think it is high time he fired his current advisors for a poor job; else he should switch churches.

2.Machakos County Comprehensive Water and Food Security Programme: An overly ambitious programme which, in his own words ‘My Government is devoted to ensure that every household has clean water and sufficient food; every child has access to education and every youth is empowered to create wealth.’ How now? Perhaps this man has a mental disorder which we are not aware of.

I mean, look at it this way. This man did not elect himself; rather, he depended on the goodwill of some party or the other and its stalwarts to ride into power- which party had a manifesto promising a variety of goodies to the electorate. I take it that this manifesto promised, among many other things, to alleviate poverty and create employment opportunities. So far so good.

My problem is how Alfie (we attended the same high school and I was once their neighbour in Riruta Satellite, so I guess I can address him as thus) has managed to own this promise. I mean, he should have let his seniors own the same as he clapped deliriously on their wings. Then again, relief food, more so when the election year falls in a drought season, can be the swing vote that alters the course of an election. Why must Mutua complicate matters for other leaders by empowering people to feed themselves?

Youth employment is another raw nerve that Mutua has touched. In the words of Herbert Hoover ‘Older men declare war. But it is the youth that must fight and die.’ Now, just imagine how uncontrollable an empowered youth populace would be. Who would cause mayhem at political functions? Who would go to cheer wildly on a working day, roasting in the sun the whole day as they await their messiahs who partake their lunch in Hilton and come to address them in the late afternoon if all the youth were profitably occupied? Mutua has another think coming.

3.Vehicles: Mutua has deigned himself to purchase police cars and ambulances for his county. And in so doing, he has empowered his people by procuring the same from them instead of importing them or rushing to Nairobi to purchase them. That is a downright wicked thing to do. If security falls in the docket of the national government, then, it follows that by buying police cars, he is merely duplicating a role already catered for. Then again, how will the opposition remain relevant if all counties followed in his footsteps and eliminated insecurity; for opposition, any opposition, thrives in insecurity.

As for ambulances, what is a few lives lost? Isn’t he aware that by increasing the longevity of his people, he will only be contributing to the pressure occasioned by a large population versus limited resources? Alfred Mutua needs to get his economics right. Why must he play God by deciding that a fellow who has had a nasty accident (perhaps a drunk driver from Masaku 7s) should be rushed to hospital in an ambulance and handed a new lease of life? What’s more, this Mutua fellow has the audacity to equip his county’s hospitals with modern equipment to improve the accident’s victim chances of survival.

I could rant forever about Mutua… and yeah, I reiterate, I will not address him as Governor. I lied though, I am willing to address him as His Excellency; an excellency of a higher order too. Just think of how ruinous our country would be if Dr Alfred Mutua was our president (insert ‘7th Heaven’). That said, should he turn completely mad, forget his place in the food chain and run for that office, I will hand him my voting card to stay with it. That way, he will be assured of my vote come election day.

Yes, Mutua must go! To State House and sort the mass, the mess, the miss, the moss and the muss that is Kenya.

adminAlfred Mutua must go!
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The political creature: a discourse

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The political animal is a creature of dubious means. Testosterone laden, it is known to spew vitriol at any given opportunity and which happens whenever a microphone is thrust in its direction. This is understandable seeing to it that its brain capacity is less than that of the general populace from whence it is descended. What is not understandable is how the rest of the populace falls gullible to the shenanigans of this creature. Perhaps this can be explained in the theory of one Prof Alloys Rims on group dynamics in which he postulated that this creature, by way of compensating its diminished intelligence level, exhibits super confidence that can best be described as foolhardy if not outright stupendous. Consequently, this is mistaken for leadership qualities.

Predominantly, the political creature is male, though here and there, the scene is speckled by an errant female kind that exhibits all the characteristics of its male member. It is thought that this phenomenon is necessitated by the need for the continued propagation of this species, which if wholly left to the devices of the male, would make the species go the way of the dodo.

The political creature primary concern is the acquisition of power and the retention of privilege. This is cleverly packaged as a clarion call for the equal distribution of various resources among the various segments of population that this cabal purportedly represents. These segments are artificially created and christened as tribes, races, nationalities among other divisive names. To the political creature, the creation of these segments was as monumental- perhaps even more so- as the invention of the wheel.

The political creature has been the cause of mischief and strife for millennia, seeing as its quest for power is unquenchable. Towards this end, its methods have been subtle, at times brutal- once or twice nearly obliterating the species from the face of the earth. Undaunted, it never learns from its mistakes- which are well documented- but chooses to continually try and erase itself from existence. This agenda is being slowly achieved by diverse ‘-isms’ such as capitalism, communism, socialism, New World Order-ism, Third Way-ism, Fourth Way-ism, whatever-ism among others. Sub-types of these run in all facets of life; with representation being drawn from political, social, religious circles and the media- all who feed on the carrion that is the stupidity of the general populace.

Escape from the claws of this creature is nigh impossible as it has vast resources at its disposal. Should a threat arise to its domination, it quickly forgets the numerous wars within its many factions and close ranks to eliminate the threat; after which it is business as usual. Business as usual, in this case, being the same narrative- sold to tens, thousands or millions others- that the only way development can occur is if this or that faction is voted into power in order to pursue the agenda of the common man.

The only way the human race can continue to exist is for the general populace to put as much distance as possible between them and this creature whenever it starts making utterances; preferably by running at a speed of 180 km in the opposite direction, thus avoiding the corrupting tendencies of this animal which has been weighed and found wanting. Should a critical mass of people heed this advice, then the political creature will be vanquished at last.

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Big Brother is watching you: Kenya moving towards a police state?

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“Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you.

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching you…”- The Police

1984 is a dystopian novel by George Orwell in which residents of Airstrip One are subjected to perpetual surveillance by an omnipresent government machinery epitomised by ‘Big Brother.’ Essentially, they are reduced to robotic elements that have to pander to the party-line since individualistic thinking is frowned upon. Consequently, the term ‘Orwellian’ was coined to describe totalitarian governments that constantly monitor and dictate the activities and thoughts of her citizenry.

This brings to mind Uhuru Kenyatta’s speech over the Madaraka Day celebrations. To curb insecurity, he mentioned the installation of surveillance cameras in streets across major towns in the country. While such efforts are laudable, there are a number of questions that have to be answered first. In short order, they are:

1. Will the surveillance infringe on the privacy of ordinary Kenyans?

2. Are they prone to abuse?

3. Can the whole system be hacked?

4. Is this another scandal in the making?

Kenya’s constitution guarantees the right to privacy. As such law enforcers have to obtain a court warrantee to search one’s premises, records and so on- a detailed process in which they have to justify to a magistrate why they should do so. Ultimately, it is such checks and balances that safeguards one’s right to privacy. Unfortunately, however, this surveillance system by-passes a rudimentary tenet of justice in showcasing reasonable cause as to why Kenyans should be deprived of their right to privacy.

Secondly, we must question the whole design behind the surveillance. Say for example, what criterion is used to zoom on a particular individual for specialised attention while ignoring the rest in the crowd? If we are talking terrorists here, is the system designed to zone out members of a particular community who are perceived as more of a terrorism threat than others? Xenophobia must not be bred in the guise of tackling insecurity.

Thirdly, in an interconnected globe, hacking is a very real threat. Just how (in)secure is the surveillance system to hacking? Further, hacking is not confined only to malware; we have other nations/agencies spying on others too. I shiver to imagine the ramifications.

Lastly, how transparent will the tendering process for the acquisition of the surveillance gadgets be? Will we be getting value for our money or will the surveillance cameras go the Ango-Leasing way? Further, is there public participation or is this just another Nyumba Kumi initiative? I believe goodwill is a core component for any system to succeed.

Then again, how motivated are the police to ensure the initiative is a success? Could improving their welfare have been a better way to increase their zeal to fight terrorism by refusing bribes emanating from potential terrorists or their facilitators? To further aggravate matters, the Anti-terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) is terribly underfunded to the tune of a paltry Kshs 28 million (USD 321,839). In contrast, the Office of the First Lady was allocated Kshs 78 million (USD 896, 551) in the last financial year.

Ultimately, it is up to us Kenyans to ensure that the surveillance system functions as it is being advertised. Otherwise, we will have no one else to blame should we find our rights trampled or should Kenya slide into a totalitarian state under our watch.

adminBig Brother is watching you: Kenya moving towards a police state?
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