Revv22's Blog

July 28, 2015

Same Issue, Different Questions: Presidential perspectives on gays and lesbians in Kenya.

Filed under: Uncategorized — revv22 @ 11:34 am

obama uhuru1

Occasion:  Presidents’ press conference following bilateral talks between U.S. President Barrack Obama and his host President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi. 25th July, 2015.

Jeff Mason, White House correspondent for Reuters is the first to be picked by president Obama to ask a question of which he has two: The first on fighting terrorism, US support to Kenya in-country and in Somalia, and human rights abuses sheltered in counter-terrorism efforts; The second is the main focus of this article and this is how it is put to both presidents.

Question to President Obama: “..can you comment on the treatment of gay and lesbians in Kenya which rights groups have called dismal and President Kenyatta has called it a non-issue?”

Question to President Kenyatta: “Can you also respond to the issue about gay rights in your country?”

obama uhuru2President Obama: “If somebody is obeying all the laws and is doing everything that a good citizen should do, but he or she is being treated differently because of whom they love, it is wrong,”

“And I say this with the understanding that Kenyans have different cultural and religious beliefs. But if you look at the history of nations around the world, when you start treating people differently – not because of any harm they are doing, but because they are different – that is the path whereby freedoms begin to go wrong, and bad things happen,”

obama uhuru5President Kenyatta: “We need to speak frankly about some of these issues. Kenyans and Americans share ideals such as democracy, entrepreneurship and family values but some things are not part of our religion or culture – and we cannot impose something on people that they themselves have not accepted”

“The gay rights issue is really a non-issue, we want to focus on areas that are day to day living of our people; health, inclusivity of women, infrastructure, education, encouraging entrepreneurship… once we deal with the current challenges, then we can look at dealing at other challenges. Right now gay rights is not an issue at the foremost mind of Kenyans. ”

As expected, these two differing responses elicited equally differing responses from Kenyans and covered in a variety angles by local and international media.

obama uhuru1The statement from the Kenyan president was met with applause by a section of persons attending the press briefing. Normally you wouldn’t have journalists applauding this, but this press briefing was attended by cabinet secretaries who had participated in the earlier talks in camera and government affiliated politicians. Interviewed individually, a section of
politicians showed support for the president’s stand against “same sex marriages”.

The local media headlines where consistent in framing the issue as either “gay rights” or “same sex marriage”. In an ironic twist, while celebrating how aware, inspirational and nuanced Obamas speeches were, many ordinary citizens reverberated the Kenyan president’s stance on this issue. It would seem Mr. Obama was convincing on everything else but not enough on this issue.

Some international media headlines such as CNN framed the response by Mr. Obama as a, “lecture  to the Kenyan president on gay rights”. This headline drew a strong response from Kenyans across the board on the nature of CNNs reporting, many stating that it was clear that the two presidents shared different views on the issue but engaged in discussions in a civil manner of mutual respect.

The swift critique of CNNs headline could be seen as a combination of the deep respect and admiration Kenyans have for Obama (making him a very effective champion for such issues).  It could also be because CNN had branded Kenya “a Hotbed of Terror” in one of it’s by lines while covering President Obama’s trip to the country; a mistake for which they were thoroughly  grilled by Kenyans on Twitter (KOT).

Eric Gitari of the National Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission expressed his disappointment in a lengthy facebook post. He demonstrated how the treatment of gays and lesbians was an issued in this region as had been acknowledged by the African Commission and indeed in the country by both the Judiciary and executive arms of government through the health ministries.

He said,  “.. when responding to the question of his thoughts on how gay and lesbian people are treated in Kenya. He should have simply made it about how people are treated (that’s what he was asked) He should have elevated the African Commission resolution that violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is not permitted. ” He added, “… the judiciary in his government has given him directions about gay and lesbian and trans issues. His health cabinet secretary told him last year that sixty percent of men who have sex with men in Kenya are in heterosexual marriages and have children, we therefore have issues of the women and children concerned in such families.”

Gitari said that the president politicized a question which was about how people are treated and felt “disappointed” and “very excluded by a president sworn to defend the majority and the minority.”

He was concerned by “a president who just said not all Kenyans are equal …” and finished his rant by saying that the president had lost a chance to brand Kenya as an inclusive democracy that doesn’t tolerate violence and discrimination on any ground.
It has to be noted that prior to the US presidents visit to Kenya, there had been apprehensions within the various LGBTI constituents on what may come after Obama’s commentary on the issue. The President, who has shown to be very keen on what is going on in the country, did well to focus on the “treatment of gays and lesbians”.

President Kenyatta’s position that “gay rights is a non – issue” was perhaps more clearly defined and supported by an opposition senator, Mutula Kilonzo Jnr who said same-sex marriage is not an issue in Kenya. He added: “President Obama went a step further to say that no one should be discriminated for whatever reason.”

The government has in previous occasions used “lack of social acceptance” as an excuse for not repealing undesirable laws such as the sodomy laws.

All this goes to show how the phrasing of the rights debate, the context within which the language is derived and eventually used has a lot to do with how effective a rights campaign will be in not only changing the hearts and minds of people, but also in getting government lead by example by tackling mistreatment.

The kind of support shown has to be appreciative of the other side of the argument otherwise it will immediately be short down as “imposition of outside values”, or “promotion of foreign ideologies”.

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October 11, 2013

Kenya Government: That Good Corporate Citizen

The Government® has announced plans to restore Westgate Mall and support traders to re-establish their businesses.

In a meeting that sought to explore ways and means of mitigating economic losses arising from the closure of the mall, Ms.Kandie (East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism Cabinet secretary)  said her ministry would establish a team comprising Westgate Mall stakeholders to consider and advise on specific measures that Government®  and other parties would jointly take to restore the mall. According to reports, the proposed committee will also identify the immediate actions by the Government®  to safeguard on possible loss of more than 2000 direct jobs resulting from the terrorism attack.

The announcement has stirred a debate among the good “individual citizens” of Kenya. On one hand, there are those who support the Government® s move especially on the argument that the approximately 2000 persons who “lost” their jobs (and are still alive) will be able to work again. On the other, those who oppose the move saying the businesses were insured and tax payers monies should not be misused.

Recognising what followed Bomblast-1998 at the former Nairobi US embassy; I would refrain from suggesting that the mall be turned into a memorial something simply for the fact that it was private property. For the same reason, it should be none of the governments business to provide funds for the reconstruction of a privately owned; mandatorily insured businesses.

But is it as simple as that?

Firstly, the Government®  is tasked with ensuring the protection of life and property of its citizens, especially within our borders. Government®  security agencies have been blaming each other for bungling the response operations. The CEO himself, according to reports, also admitted that they bungled the operation due to a failure in the internal communications department. He went ahead and paid for a feast to calm down the nerves of one of the security agencies. In light of these blunders, and many other pending in-tray matters such as IDPs, and personal scandals facing the CEO and his deputy, Government®  is once again in need of a PR exercise that is relevant and can mitigate this particular Watergate Westgate fumble. If the government offered to pay all the hospital bills of the victims, both with and without health insurance, i have a feeling that the debate would be heavily swayed towards supporting.

Unfortunately, Government®  was beaten to that role by other “good corporate citizens” Who simply needed to keep doing what they do on an everyday basis, subsidize what it would cost normally and voila, have their names and banners over a “corporate social responsibility” event. It came naturally for them. That means that whatever CSR opportunity that is left for Government®  would expose something that the ordinary individual citizen has been made to believe doesn’t come naturally to government- prioritize business and investment over the promotion and protection of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of individual citizens.

The issuing of travel advisories by some of our “friends” was aimed at ensuring the protection of their citizens from physical harm in the event that Al-Shaabab are able to make good on their threats gain(read putting their citizens first). Our Government®  had pre-empted this and asked our “fiends”, not to issue travel advisories as “terrorist attacks can happen anywhere” (read will greatly impact negatively on our tourism revenues).

Having said this, it is important to let Government®  do all it can to mitigate the current problem it finds itself in. All corporate entities have a right to describe their mandate and find ways and loopholes around the small political problem of who actually gave them the mandate. Sometimes shareholders opinion might be split down the middle; or to be fair just above the middle with 50% plus, give or take, 8000 votes. After all, isn’t the Kenyan definition of democracy inteprated to mean majority takes all, is all and decides all?

June 29, 2013

Love as a Crime: My statement at the launch of the Amnesty International Report by hte same title.

In Kenya, like in many African countries, gender transgression and non-heterosexual orientation are not as widely accepted and recognized as in some parts of the world. This can be attributed to the patriarchal nature in which most of our cultures are set up; a set-up that has, since time immemorial, oppressed the self-determination of women, youths and anyone that seems to challenge the balance of power in society. Apart from cultures, the conservative interpretation of religious doctrines has immensely contributed to not only non-recognition but also in creating a pre-text that encourages the use of violence and discrimination against same sex loving persons.

As human rights campaigners, we know that getting to that vital point of tolerance and eventual acceptance is a process of cultural evolution that will solely rely on the dynamicity of culture.

As we wait for this cultural change however, there continues to be gross violations to the dignity, equality and basic human rights of individuals that form part of our families, communities and society. In the last seven days there men from three different towns in Kenya survived a slit throat, hammer blows to the head and a machete attack respectively. The common denominators are that all three were perceived to be homosexuals and that a week prior; a study was publicly released claiming the three towns had the highest number of gay men in the country.

On a weekly basis, about five persons fall victim to blackmailing rackets that threaten to expose them, others face evictions from their homes as their right to privacy is invaded, some are expelled from learning institutions, while other people are unable to access vital healthcare for STIs and HIV.

It is the responsibility of the government to protect the rights of these citizens. This obligation cannot be transferred or put aside for a more accommodating time. The existence of regressive laws and policies that hinder government ability to protect the fundamental human rights of its citizens should be addressed and our African government must not continue turning a blind eye.

Human rights are not relative to geography, time and tradition. They are universal- as universal as the human being- each and every one of which is born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Thank you.

May 29, 2013

Constitution as the will of the Kenyan people, the AU and the ICC Affair

On the 1st of June 2013, Kenya will celebrate 50 years of Self-rule. A few days prior, the African Union (AU) commemorated 50 years of its formation following a successful pan-African push for self-determination and independence from European colonial masters. Among the more notorious colonial masters was Britain which colonised about 18 countries and whose Queen Elizabeth celebrated her Diamond Jubilee as ruler* of the commonwealth just months ago. It is indeed a Jubilee year, 2013.

Looking at the achievements of the three, with regards to missions set out 50 years ago, I can say that the mission is still relevant as the vision is yet to be achieved.

For Kenya, we still have to tackle ignorance, poverty and disease in a cultured environment of intolerance, corruption, impunity and a warped sense of democracy.

The AU has managed to successfully hold colourful ceremonies commemorating events such as changing its name from Organization of African Unity; holding AU Heads of State Summit and in the meanwhile failed to have such celebrations to signal the establishment of viable institutions such as courts with the capacity to handle problems such as human rights violations with an African dignity.

The ruler* of the commonwealth has managed to remain so, a ruler, since despite the existence of the AU, free African states colonised by Britain continue to have High Commissions as opposed to Embassies as the nomenclature for their diplomatic missions.

With the jubilee year, an appropriately titled Jubilee Coalition was declared the winner of Kenya’s Presidential Election 2013 after our Supreme Court unanimously voted against petitions challenging the electoral body’s declaration. What followed was an inauguration ceremony attended by Heads of African states and other dignitaries including, Rev. Jesse Jackson of the US (there had to be a face from the US). Apart from the couple of the day President Elect Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President Elect Bill Ruto, two other African leaders received significant news coverage; Sudan’s Bashir for the alleged invitation and dis-invitation due to his ICC arrest warrant status and Uganda’s Museveni for his anti-ICC rhetoric that has become more elaborate in recent days.

In one inauguration event we had three main indicators of how high regard our African leaders hold the ICC. Firstly, in his speech, the sworn in president mentioned that he will continue to co-operate with the international community and respect the rule of law and international treaties. Methinks the “dis-invitation” of Bashir, second indicator, was a ‘walk of the talk’. Lastly, Museveni’s speech was to show that when pushed to the wall a dog could still show its teeth as a reminder of its willingness to save its own skin. This to me was a perfectly orchestrated PR plan as complete as the trinity.

The AU passed a resolution to push the ICC to refer the cases against two citizens of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto back to their home country. This resolution was proposed by Uganda’s Museveni consistent with what he said during the duos inauguration as president and deputy president of Kenya.  The support for this resolution was unanimous and only Botswana was brave enough to object to it. It was guised in the spirit of Pan-Africanism and Sovereignty, an argument that has become sacrilege to speak against. Listening to the speeches by invited guests from the diaspora, particularly the Caribbean, one could not fail to appreciate their perception and vision of Pan-African as an idea whose time is long overdue. It would however be a lie to say that Museveni’s elaboration of the ideal inspired the same confidence, especially with regards to his sincerity.

The ICC handling of Kenya’s 2007/2008 Post Election Violence (PEV) cases was a result of the peace accord signed by Kenyan leaders. The accord, drafted and debated by Kenyan leaders in the presence of Eminent African Personalities recognised by the AU, recommended that a tribunal be set up to investigate and try the perpetrators of violence locally. It gave a deadline to establish the courts and deliver timely justice to the victims and whoever shall be accused. When efforts were being made to push members of the Kenyan parliament to create laws enabling the setting up of a local mechanism, t parliamentarians, particularly those affiliated to the now ICC indicted, vehemently opposed it and coined the famous chant, “Don’t be vague, let’s go to Hague”.  Where was the AU, Museveni and his anti-ICC rhetoric, oh yes… he was enjoying the international courts help in dealing with the elusive rebel, Joseph Kony.

One may ask why the parliamentarians opposed a local tribunal.  Simple: Elections, presidential campaigns and the eligibility to contest in an election so as to occupy the only capacity that is immune from prosecution-the Presidency and Acting Presidency.

The drafting of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 was a very elaborate, civilian involving exercise that appreciated not only the historical context of Kenyan Law and its applicability in pursuing justice, but also the PEV and how fresh it was in the minds and flesh of the citizenry. Kenyans drafted and voted for it and in Chapter Nine-The Executive, they were very clear on what circumstances would grant anyone immunity from prosecution for alleged crimes. It also enshrined the establishment of various acts and the constituting of bodies that would determine who was fit to hold public office and especially the only office that grants immunity.

To circumvent these hurdles in the face being mentioned as suspects, Uhuru and Ruto managed to rally their troops in parliament to ensure that no local tribunal was set up.

They would have to deal* with the ICC when the time comes. Ruto is on record saying that the ICC cases can take up to 99 years.

Having cases in Kenya would mean that every time any evidence is produced in court, the newspapers and other media would be splashing it in the headlines and their popularity would drop. Every time a witness testifies against them or fails to testify or recants his testimony, it would have been felt first hand by the person who knows a victim of the violence and perceived in a way that would not favour them. Most importantly, every time a victim took to the witness stand to give their story, the cameras would turn to the face of the accused and Kenyans would associate that face with the ‘monster that sponsored it all’, whether it was true or not. Perception is everything. Their opponents knew it and they knew it and I believe they acted on it as any ambitious politician would. Despite the existence of a vetting body and challenges to their candidacy in the High court, Uhuru and Ruto managed to vie for public office. How regulations saying “facing charges in court”, lost to “innocent till proven guilty” I will never comprehend because this wasn’t not a challenge to natural justice but a challenge to integrity. Moving on.

It is utter nonsense that AU resolution. I am sure they are aware Chapter Nine- The Executive chapter, in 143(1) says clearly that “criminal proceeding shall not be INSTITUTED or CONTINUED in any court against the president or a person performing the functions of that office, during their tenure of office. If the President is away and the Deputy President is acting in that capacity, then in my lay opinion, he shall be indeed ‘performing the functions’ of the office of the president. Therefore what the AU is effectively telling Kenyan PEV victims to be patient and wait for justice when Uhuru and Ruto retire, probably ten years from now.

This is the ‘later’, which Uhuru and Ruto would have to deal with the ICC. Kenya is a willing signatory to the ICC, and we could pull out of the Rome Statute anytime we want to but that would not be a remedy for already on-going cases that were instituted while we were till signatories. This is why pulling out is not an option. An in any case, Sudan positions as non-Signatories hasn’t offered Bashir any sanctuary from the arrest warrant on his head. Heck, he couldn’t even step into Kenya for the Jubilee inauguration. Many are forgetting that Museveni himself promised to execute the arrest warrant if Bashir steps on Ugandan soil. Someone pointed out recently that when you look at the legal battle, especially in Uhuru’s case, you will find that it is white British lawyers, against an African, femal prosecutor. And we say our leaders have confidence in our local mechanisms?

There are many who are using 143(1) to mislead Kenyans on the level of immunity that a sitting president has. 143(4), leaves no ambiguity on the issue and says, “the immunity of the president under this article shall not extend to a crime for which the president may be prosecuted under any treaty to which Kenya is party and which prohibits such immunity.”

This was written by Kenyans and voted for by Kenyans at a time when we had experience something we did not want to experience ever again. It wasn’t written for Uganda, or East Africa or Africa but for Kenya. If we are to embark on Pan-Africanism as our chosen ideology, we cannot begin at a point of in-sincerity, selfish interest and convenience. Pan Africanism cannot be equated to reversed racism justified by sins of the father. The old colonial masters have to be challenged to compensate our people, but we cannot instil hate on our youthful population, especially not in a globalized world.  We must shun Museveni’s militarism when he blatantly accuses our ancestors and forefathers of being “weak” and “to blame” for slavery and colonialism. A leader, who kills democracy in his own country through violence, cannot be the role model that our young and vibrant president is to follow.

My word to Uhuru and Ruto; you are young and despite the fact that you need to clear your names before you have the full support of many Kenyans, your glass is half full and not half empty. Use this chance to break free of old-culture as you have already shown you are capable of. Make me proud to call you guys my president and deputy president.

April 18, 2013

Why Raila Odinga Lost

Filed under: Uncategorized — revv22 @ 12:45 pm

Without citing massive Irregularities and the advantage/disadvantage of running a campaign as a coalition, Ken Opalo gives a very convincing argument as to why Raila lost to Uhuru…

An Africanist Perspective

Why did Raila Odinga, the man to beat in the 2013 Kenyan presidential election, end up losing by up to 7 percentage points? Here are some quick answers:

I. Bad campaign management:

Back in 2009 James Orengo, one of Raila’s closest operatives said this about Mr. Odinga:

“Odinga has done nothing to reorganise his office to make it more effective. Odinga is a poor manager who does not follow up, and he is primarily focused on preparing for his presidential run in 2012, Orengo said. Odinga has avoided bold moves because he is hostage to his difficult political constituency”

The constituency mentioned must comprise of politicians and not the residents of Kibera because Mr. Odinga’s ODM/CORD secretariat was run by old/disconnected politicians. Yes he may have had administrators running the back office but the face of the ODM operation was one Franklin Bett, a veteran politician that elicited…

View original post 1,253 more words

April 9, 2013

Fox in the hen house; guarding the constitution.

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Kenya voted for a devolved government ! This statement should be all that is needed to put any concerns to rest. The constituion will turn 3 years old in August 2013 but by the looks of it, there is a risk that it may look like a malnutritioned child suffering from kwashiakor, scarvy and marrasmus by that time.

This is because like the days of the ‘land grabber’ and his predecessor the ‘trustee’, legal terms like de facto and de jure may feature in our civic education texts. This time not in reference to the reality of a ‘single-party democracy’, but in reference to ‘centralized system of governace’.

There is a deliberate effort to ensure that central government maintains the colonial type control of affairs at the grassroots. They simply can’t afford these emerging chants of; “nyanza si kenya” reminiscent of “pwani si kenya”. It’s not that they are afraid of IRA-type resistance tactics, but because it is bad for business.

This move by Issac Ruto may seem like it is geared towards ensuring governors have full authority in the affairs of the county but in the real sense, having a governors summit/commitee that negotiates power at county level with the head of central government(president)is against the whole devolution agenda. Kenya did not vote for county administration/commissions; parliament brought it in during their devolution debates and executive appointed them “unconstitutionally” acording to AG Githu Muigai. 

I.Ruto is on record stating that “devolution does not mean decentralization”. What we have now is a classic case of the fox guarding the hen house.

There is this lie going round that one has to work with/in the government to ensure that his constituents needs are catered for. It is ludicrous to even contemplate this proposition. Especially if you are an elected official who has the fresh mandate of the people. I salute the resistance of the three seniors in the CORD coalition to ‘join hands’ with the president who is being sworn in as I pen this piece because in their actions, lies the surerity of a formidable alternative alive and ready to put the government to task in implementing, protecting and fostering the evolution of our lovely constitution.

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No matter how wooly the sheep’s clothing being worn by the likes of Issac Ruto may seem, it doesn’t change the fact that a wolf’s teeth and jaws are designed to tear flesh, or that wolves have an instinctive appetite for RED blood, never for GREEN grass.

March 31, 2013

Constitutionalism; First Step in Protecting and Implementing the Constitution of Kenya

The Supreme Court of Kenya has, in its verdict declaring the 2013 General elections valid, scored a big point for Kenya on the test of constitutionalism. The main petitioners, CORD and AFRICOG, have secured a win for Kenya by abiding by the ruling of the court.

When Dr. Willy Mutunga was nominated for the position of Chief Justice, one of the complaints by some parliamentarians and politicians was that he was an “activist”. They were afraid of Judicial activism. If you asked them then whether they could imagine the CJ being part of a bench that unanimously arrived at todays decision, they would tell you you are out of your mind.
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February 15, 2013

The Question Of Same Sex At The Deputy President Debate – Identity Kenya

Filed under: Uncategorized — revv22 @ 8:50 am

http://identitykenya.com/index.php/homepage/editorial/1319-the-question-of-same-sex-at-the-deputy-president-debate

February 13, 2013

The Tribe-question:lessons from the “Tyranny of Numbers”

Contrary to popular opinion, I am increasingly convinced that Kenyan politics is becoming more and more about ideology and value systems rather than simply tribe and ethnicity.

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February 10, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — revv22 @ 9:18 am

Tyranny of numbers stripped bare

Kenya Stockholm Blog

The falsification reeked of intellectual bias and dishonesty

On the surface, Mutahi Ngunyi’s warped hypothesis, claiming that the March 4th Elections had been won by the Jubilee Coalition when IEBC announced voter registration results in December last year appears very convincing. Ngunyi has received a lot of criticism following the publication of his findings while on Facebook, a “condolence book” was opened by those who believe that the quality of Ngunyi’s analysis had “passed away” and that Ngunyi’s career deserved to be buried and left to Rest In Peace.

While attacking Ngunyi is a matter of freedom of expression, opposition to his findings should be based on a factual challenge of his basic assumptions, table of figures and principle line of arguments which constitutes the nucleus of his now infamous conclusions.

Ngunyi’s first assumption is that “We do not see things as they are; we see them as we…

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