Friday, April 24, 2009

Blue Ribbon Against Child Abuse

"It's not a good idea to interfere in what goes on behind closed doors." This is what too many people say. "Interfere"! I say "What kind of person doesn't interfere"?

My name is Sarah
I am but three,
my eyes are swollen
I cannot see.

I must be stupid,
I must be bad,
what else could have made
my daddy so mad?

I wish I were better,
I wish I weren't ugly,
then maybe my Mommy
would still want to hug me.

I can't speak at all,
I can't do a wrong
or else I'm locked up
all the day long.

When I awake I'm all alone
the house is dark
my folks aren't home.

When my Mommy does come
I'll try and be nice,
so maybe I'll get just
one whipping tonight.

Don't make a sound!
I just heard a car
my daddy is back
from Charlie's Bar.

I hear him curse
my name he calls
I press myself
against the wall.

I try and hide
from his evil eyes
I'm so afraid now
I'm starting to cry.

He finds me weeping
he shouts ugly words,
he says its my fault
that he suffers at work.

He slaps me and hits me
and yells at me more,
I finally get free
and I run for the door.

He's already locked it
and I start to bawl,
he takes me and throws me
against the hard wall.

I fall to the floor
with my bones nearly broken,
and my daddy continues
with more bad words spoken.

'I'm sorry!' I scream
but its now much too late
his face has been twisted
into unimaginable hate.

The hurt and the pain
again and again
oh please God, have mercy!
oh please let it end!

And he finally stops
and heads for the door,
while I lay there motionless
sprawled on the floor.

My name is Sarah
and I am but three,
tonight my daddy
murdered me.

There are thousands of kids out there just like Sarah. And you can help.

All I am asking you to do is take some time to send this on and acknowledge that this stuff does happen, and that people like her dad do live in our society, and pray for child abuse to wither out and die; but also pray for the safety of our youth.

Please pass this poem on as a Blue Ribbon Against Child Abuse because, as crazy as it might sound, it might just indirectly change a life.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The curious case of David Kihuha

What do you do with a Kenyan on an expired visa who just won’t go home?

In the curious case of David Kihuha, the U.S. government wants to resume a rarely used and controversial practice and sedate him, then put him on a one-way flight to Nairobi. But that has proven to be difficult, at best.

Indeed, the case of the 36-year-old Kenyan, a former Olathe resident, has frustrated federal prosecutors, hobbled the government’s deportation system and led to the unusual tactic of indicting Kihuha on federal felonies for, in essence, refusing to leave. As the drama plays out in U.S. District Court in Kansas, Kihuha remains in a cell in Leavenworth, and he’s made it abundantly clear he prefers prison in America over freedom in Kenya.

Fearful that returning home could be dangerous, Kihuha—who has been in the United States 13 years on an expired student visa—sought asylum because of violence in Kenya. "That is the fuel that feeds his intransigence," his federal public defender, Melody Evans, said in court. "Whatever his circumstance here, it cannot be worse than what he faces at home," wrote Evans, who declined to comment further on the case.

Just how determined is Kihuha? Since he was denied asylum, Kihuha has used every means available to avoid deportation. Twice last year, when immigration agents tried to deport him, Kihuha managed a last-minute reprieve. He bit, he spit and, according to government records, managed to "cover himself in his own excrement." He also chewed up a head covering known as a "spit mask".

"I told them I did not want to go. I told them to take me back to jail," Kihuha said in a phone interview from his cell. Belabouring the obvious, the government noted in court filings that commercial pilots "will not accept a violent, feces-besmeared passenger who chews off protective clothing and spits and bites."

The government’s frustration with Kihuha is evident in documents filed after his indictment last year for refusing to leave. "Dumping defendant out the door of the plane with a parachute is not practically or diplomatically prudent," the government noted at one point. "Delivering defendant to the front gate of the nearest Kenyan Embassy is also not on the list of approved repatriation techniques," the government said in another court filing.
As for his methods, government prosecutors said, he has "crafted a relatively painless plot" to prevent his deportation "and he has done so at the mere cost of occasional dignity."

Some who know him say Kihuha is no poster child for the sympathetic immigrant. And since going to jail, he has become so obsessed with remaining in America that he has reportedly become unpredictable and uncooperative, even with those who are trying to help him. While Kihuha is "no picnic" to have in prison, the government says, "he is not mentally ill, and his behavior is 'generally acceptable.' "

But detention for more than 20 months in four different facilities hasn’t been any picnic for Kihuha, either. He has been segregated in a federal holding facility in Leavenworth and confined to his cell for up to 24 hours a day. At one point Kihuha allegedly sabotaged his toilet, forcing him into the all-too-familiar situation of having to live with his own excrement. "It is really quite unfair," Kihuha said, "because when you don’t know much about the law, they take advantage of you."

Kenyan in Leavenworth for 13 years on an expired student visa refuses to go home. he always manages to escape deportation.

The government argues that it must sedate Kihuha to get him on a plane. That alternative, they maintain, is "certainly less intrusive than a straitjacket, (remember the defecation) covered by a body bag, (remember the spitting) …" government attorneys noted in court filings. What’s more, they say, "a smiling, if uncommunicative, defendant is less frightening to the other passengers than a thrashing body bag, which may become still, due to positional asphyxia." The sedative solution, however, has limits and numerous drawbacks. Until last year, the government used "pre-flight cocktails" on hundreds of deportees. But a lawsuit and outrage by some immigration groups severely limited the practice.

Now, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, wants to resume sedation in Kihuha’s case and at least one other. Government lawyers claim ICE has the legal authority to do so on their own, but doing so without a court order would violate new policies adopted last year. So the government has asked a judge to order them to do it. Even as that request is pending, however, immigration officials are having their own internal debate over the practice.

Kihuha must be medically evaluated to make sure sedating him would be safe, but the government agency charged with doing that, the Division of Immigration Health Services, or DIHS, has balked. Critics say the practice is controversial and potentially life-threatening. While the government hasn’t said what drug it will use in Kihuha’s case, in the past it has used an anti-schizophrenia drug called Haldol, which has serious side effects. "The protections of the Constitution are unambiguous," said Ahilan Arulanantham, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who brought the lawsuit that last year put a stop to the drugging. He said the Kihuha case shows that the government still doesn’t understand that. The Kenyan Embassy agrees: "They (the deportees) are not supposed to be drugged. It’s a violation of human rights," an embassy official said. ICE spokeswoman Pat Reilly said that the agency has been granted only one order for sedation recently and sought one other. "We cannot talk about where or for whom these orders were required," she said.

Even if federal officials prevail with Kihuha, their problems may not be over. If commercial airlines refuse to board a sedated, semiconscious deportee, the government may have to deport Kihuha — and perhaps other sedated Kenyans — on a chartered flight. But at this point the U.S. government has only tentative approval to send a charter to Kenya.

In the end, if Kihuha is convicted, he could serve a year or more in a federal prison before he is finally sent home — sedated or otherwise. And that is what he seems to prefer.

In the meantime, his resolve remains firm. As government prosecutors noted: "A case like this reminds the bored American of the gifts that geography and luck can bestow."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sex attacks cabbie faces a "very substantial term of imprisonment"

Police fear cab driver John Worboys, 51, could be one of Britain's most prolific sex attackers.

He was found guilty last month of assaulting 12 women during an 18-month reign of terror in London. Many of his victims were young women who had been drinking at bars and clubs at trendy night-spots in the capital. The cabbie offered them champagne secretly spiked with powerful sedatives to celebrate a fictional lottery win that left them unable to defend themselves.

Detectives said they have since been contacted by other women who claim the former stripper and adult film star targeted them with his distinctive ruse. They said at least he is the prime suspect in 85 attacks in the London and Dorset areas dating back to 2002. Senior officers said they will interview Worboys in prison after he is sentenced in a bid to clear up dozens of unsolved sex crimes.

Trial judge Mr Justice Penry-Davey warned Worboys he faces a "very substantial term of imprisonment" after guilty verdicts were returned at Croydon Crown Court. The handling of inquiries into serious sex attacks by the Metropolitan Police has been severely criticised since Worboys' conviction.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Gang of bandits in designer sunglasses and Italian suits


IF YOU HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING the debate about Africa’s prospects over the last 15 years, you will very likely have encountered George B. N. Ayitteh.

A Ghanaian, Ayitteh is a distinguished economist at the American University in Washington, and president of the Free Africa Foundation.

To be honest, he is a divisive figure. His writing on Africa can be as illuminating as it is annoying. What can definitely be said for Ayitteh is that his deep contempt for the African political class is surpassed only by his faith in the industry of regular African society.

I bought the latest issue of the journal, American Interest, because Ayitteh had a long piece on Africa in there. He was true to form, referring to African “vampire states”, and to our governments having been “hijacked by a gang of unrepentant bandits and vagabonds in Ray-Ban sunglasses and Italian suits . . . .”

Ayitteh’s article evokes serious reflection, but we shall return to that in future. However, as always, one drifts to other articles. So it was that my attention was caught by one with very bloody photos, entitled “Blood sport: The evolution of American pugilism” by Austin Long.

The article examined the decline of boxing, and the rising popularity of mixed martial arts (MMA). This is a bloody mix between old-fashioned bare-knuckled boxing, kick boxing, and conventional championship boxing, and is gaining a huge following. I hate boxing, but was totally blown away by some of the insights about the sport that it offered.

I had always been under the illusion that the reason gloves (and head protection) were introduced, was to increase safety.

Long suggests that the real reason was to protect one’s hands, not an opponent’s head!

Bare-knuckle boxing, apparently, limits punching to the head, as the closed fist is not as hard as many of the bones in the skull. That is why many bare-knuckle fights, especially the ones in the local pub, never last long because the first blow often injures the hand of combatants and they limp in pain.

With gloves, Long argues, boxers can throw full power punches with impunity. Heavier boxing gloves also reduce cuts, a good thing you might say. Yes, but by so doing, they limit fighting stoppages, and therefore allow more punches to be delivered to the head.

IN BUSINESS TERMS, THEN GLOVES, allowed those who paid to watch fights to get their money’s worth because the bouts lasted longer. And, surprise, surprise, Long quotes a study that found that MMA (which uses light gloves) is easier on the head than the “civilised” boxing with fat gloves.

Gloves made boxing more socially accepted to the queasy middle classes, but increased the risk of the sport. Therefore, if we really want to make boxing safer, we might be better off banning gloves.

Incredibly counter-intuitive, but sensible. What this analysis tells us is that what we consider to be the right thing and clear common sense, are sometimes just baloney.

If we take Long’s mindset to the Somali pirates who are very much in the news again, it leads us to very interesting places.

They are criminals, yes. However, as we have noted before, they are also a product of the global fishing industry.

With no government, South Korean, Japan and other trawlers took the opportunity to move into Somali waters – one of the richest sources of tuna in the world – and illegally fished tonnes of it. The predecessors of the pirates were patriots who put out to the ocean, to see what the world’s fishing giants were up to, and to get a piece of the action for the Somalis.

With the Somalis involved, the trawlers backed off, and soon there were few fishermen to tax. With that, the Somali pirate was born, because they were used to money from the waters, and so moved on to find it elsewhere: by hijacking ships for ransom.

Even Ayitteh would appreciate one thing about the Somali pirates. They provide something hardly any other African government does – social security. In the towns where they are based, the pirates have set up funds worth thousands of dollars to help unemployed people and others whose businesses are not doing as well as piracy.

If we remained coldly dispassionate, we would have to conclude that the ordinary African might be better off if we allowed most of our countries to be run by Somali pirates.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Kenya's new breed of refugees

Kenya is steadily contributing to the refugee population in the most unusual fashion. Besides the Kenyans who fled to Uganda due to the post-election violence, a new category is leaving the country or going underground.

Early last week, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions wrote to Kenya asking that the government stop systematically intimidating people who defend human rights. As it were, 20 human rights defenders have had to go into hiding at home or in exile because they spoke to the UN special rapporteur, Prof Philip Alston, or have knowledge of evidence that would reveal serious crimes that have been committed in Kenya. They have received threatening phone messages, or visits from the security forces to them or their families.

The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions wrote to Kenya asking that the government stop systematically intimidating people who defend human rights.
Now, Prof Alston says the behaviour of the police and the military towards his fact-finding mission violated the most basic rules: “Non-cooperation with a UN mission is one thing,” says a statement from Prof Alston’s office, “but making threats against those who have provided information to the UN, as well as harassing their families, is quite another.”

Since his report – asking the President to make a statement on extrajudicial killings – two human rights workers have been shot dead in yet unresolved circumstances. The government has not taken up offer of help in investigations from the FBI. Mid last week, former Kabete MP Paul Muite joined the long list of those who say they have been threatened. A small word of caution to the government and the security forces: Prof Alston’s hard-hitting comments were only part of a preliminary report. If you over-react now, what will you do when the final report is released, perhaps later this month?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The "heavy price" of patriotism

Following press reports last week, I would like to be among the first people to send my message of thanks and congratulations to the family of Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta. Negotiations, we are told, are under way for the former First Family to sell a whopping 37,000 acres of the land they own in Taveta for a paltry Sh10,000 each so that the government may settle the landlesss.

Land scarcity is a major problem, especially in Coast Province, and the patriotism of the Kenyatta family in making this offer deserves the nation’s gratitude. Of course, the fact that the minister for Special Programmes, under whose docket this initiative is being pursued, is a member of KANU should iron out any fractious issues that would unduly delay a major reform issue such as the settlement of squatters.

And almost as if by divine intervention, the person who will decide whether or not there is Sh370 million at the Treasury to compensate his family for its patriotic sacrifice is himself a Kenyatta. One small question though, before the cheque leaves the Central Bank of Kenya: How did the Kenyatta family come into so much property, and when?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

If Kibaki is the problem, what is the solution?


Today I will break into the political "residence" of Martha Karua for fooling me last week. At first I sympathised with her resignation, then it stopped making sense.

More so after I summoned the evidence. For instance, she told us she is a reformer. Zero. She is actually a turncoat; a reformer of convenience. And her "reform story" is nothing. When it suits her, she is a reformer. When it does not, she is a hardliner. Until recently, she was a Kibaki hardliner. Then, out of ambition, she abandoned the man to become a reformer.

This, in my view, is deceit. I must also add that the country is in crisis because of deceit.

Now we must turn to important matters. But first a story to console President Kibaki. Not because of the Karua resignation, but because of Premier Raila Odinga’s indignation. Last week the Prime Minister was "mean" towards the President. My story is, therefore, to comfort the old man.

Once upon a time, the lion decided to ensure that all the animals in the jungle knew that he was king. He was so confident that he by-passed the smaller animals and went straight to the bear. “Who is the king of the jungle?” the lion asked. The bear replied, “Why, you of course!” The lion gave a mighty roar of approval and moved on.

Next he went to the tiger who gave a similar response. But when he got to the elephant, he was treated to a surprise. The elephant grabbed him and whirled him several times in the air, slammed him into a tree, pounded him several times on the ground and later threw him into a near-by lake. Beaten, bruised and battered, the lion struggled to its feet.

He looked at the elephant through sad and bloody eyes and said: “Just because you do not know the answer, you don’t have to be so mean!”

Like the lion in this story, the President should not worry about his status. If Mr Odinga is mean and rough, it is only because he does not "know" the answer. Or does he? Allow me to flip this argument.

In a poll conducted by a television station last week, 80 per cent of the viewers said that President Kibaki is the problem. There is a general lack of confidence in his leadership. Yes, he is the ‘‘King of the jungle’’ but he is an old, uninspired, tired lion. Like the elephant, Mr Odinga’s attack was an expression of frustration; a frustration shared by 80 per cent or so Kenyans.

The question, however, is this: What do we do? If the President is the problem, what is the solution? Our choices are few, drastic and sacrificial. Consider some with me.

One, we can borrow from the ancient civilisations. In these civilisations, a failed king was convinced to fall on his sword. Put simply, he was persuaded to commit suicide -- literally. But can we convince the President to "commit suicide"? Can we even convince him to resign in the interest of Mother Kenya?

I doubt it. Especially for a person who was sworn in at night. This option, in my view, is out of the question. President Kibaki does not love Kenya enough to make a personal sacrifice. Or maybe he does!

The second option requires a sacrifice from members of parliament. This one, in my view, is like pushing a camel through the eye of a needle. And it refers to section 59 of the constitution.

If 112 patriotic MPs can come together, they can send the President home. But, in so doing, they will also be sending themselves home. According to this section of the constitution, 51 per cent of Parliament can pass a vote-of-no-confidence in the government.

If such a motion passes, the President has three days to resign or dissolve Parliament.

If he refuses to do so in three days, Parliament will stand dissolved on the fourth day. From the fifth day, the country would have to prepare for a fresh election. The question, though, is this: can Parliament commit mass suicide for the love of Kenya? I doubt it.

The third option is at Section 12 of the Constitution. This section is entitled: “Removal of President on Grounds of Incapacity”.

The argument would be to remove the President on account of poor health. For this to happen, a Cabinet Resolution is needed. And such a resolution requires a simple majority.

With the resignation of Martha Karua, ODM has the simple majority in Cabinet to initiate such a resolution. If passed, it would be handed over to the Speaker, who is required by law to pass it to the Chief Justice.

The Chief Justice is then compelled to constitute a medical tribunal to examine the President. If the tribunal declares the President incapable of executing his duties, he is required to resign within three months as per Section 12(4). But is this possible? We do not know. My hypothesis is that President Kibaki was never sick, in the first place.

Where does this leave us? Yes, the Prime Minister and the country are frustrated by the President.

And maybe we should send him home. But there is an irony in this attempt. We are damned if we do; damned if we do not. If we send him home prematurely, we will have a violent election. If we do not, the 2012 election will be violent. Either way, we are doomed!

And, faced by such a dilemma, a wise nation does not react. It waits. The question is: can we? I am persuaded that we can. But while at it, we must watch out for politicians like Martha Karua. She is like a vulture. While we are hard at work, she will be cycling above us looking for a carcass; our failure to survive will be her nourishment! Or am I being too harsh on her? Only time will tell.

How to embrace "reformer" Karua


Former Justice minister Martha Karua may just have written the manual on how to achieve an image makeover in less than a year. In the space of just under 12 months, she has gone from being the most intransigent hardliner to conciliator to reformer.

Yet the image of Ms Karua insisting on comprehensive constitutional reforms after the referendum is difficult to erase. She set up a committee of eminent persons to advise on how to conclude constitutional reform in a year.

She used the report and the processes thereafter to stonewall and stall, so that by the time Kenya went to the elections in 2007, the electoral boundaries had not been reviewed, the electoral commission had not been reformed, the powers the Electoral Commission sought had not been passed and even the barest minimums of electoral thresholds for holding the office of the President could not be passed.

Many will blame the polarised politics of the time for many of these initiatives, but as minister, her leadership defined the atmosphere in which those polarities were exercised.

Ms Karua was an eloquent speaker in her time at the Justice ministry. She dismissed John Githongo’s concerns about corruption famously with the words: “He was never hired as an investigator; he was only an adviser.” Now, Ms Karua complains about the Kenya Anti-Corruption Cover-up Commission.

As a member of the Cabinet, a close confidant and defender of the President, Ms Karua coined the refrain that became the stock response to complaints about electoral irregularities in 2007: “Go to court.” The courts are no longer even pretending to adjudicate electoral disputes and Ms Karua wants the whole Judiciary reformed.

Ms Karua drove a hard bargain during the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation talks. She wanted President Kibaki in charge and delivered just the deal. She moved the National Accord and Reconciliation Act in Parliament and asked MPs to pass it without amendment.

She saw through the belated decision to appoint her to the permanent coalition management committee and turned down the honour. Now, she says she is frustrated and wants to work for reform. Is this what the leadership paralysis Kenya is experiencing now what she fought so hard to give this country?

For those who had it in for her, such as President Kibaki when he warned of dismissals, and the group of youthful members of Parliament who had threatened to introduce a censure motion against her, her departure from Cabinet has stolen the thunder from her detractors.

They will probably say it is good riddance since she was such a hardliner incapable of making the compromises necessary to secure the passage of a new constitution. That is neither here nor there.

While her frustration with anti-reform forces in government draws sympathy, it also exposes a scheming, calculating side to her that should invite public caution.

Those who want to see action on poverty, inequality, land, corruption, constitutional review, a more accountable police force and court system would be well advised to embrace her – at arms’ length before they can discern if hers mirrors the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A very “Powerful” picture from Barrack Obama's trip to Britain

According to one commentator, "This is the most powerful photo in the series. Remember they are not supposed to shake hands, but the two brothers couldn't resist the historic moment. The black royal cop never imagined in his wildest dream that he would usher a black American president into the British corridors of power. Nice."

On that note, have a great Easter!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Congratulations to all my friends born in the 1930's 1940's, 50's, 60's and early 70's...

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and or drank while they carried us and lived in houses made of asbestos. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, raw egg products, loads of bacon and processed meat, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer.

Then after that trauma, our baby cots were covered with bright coloured lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

Take away food was limited to fish and chips, and occasionally sausages; no pizza shops, McDonalds, KFC, Subway or Nandos.

Even though all the shops closed at 6.00pm and didn't open on the weekends, somehow we didn't starve to death!

We shared one soda with four friends, from one bottle, and NO ONE actually died from this. Sometimes we shared with them our chewing gum (Pussy Cat or Big G)... while chewing!

We could collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner store and buy Toffees, Gobstoppers, Bubble Gum and some bangers to blow up frogs with. Alternatively, we would give them to chupa na madebe.

We ate pancakes, white bread and real butter, and drank soft drinks with sugar in them (remember Tree Top?), but we weren't overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And we were OK.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of old prams and betas from car spare parts, and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. We built tree houses and dens and played in river beds with matchbox cars. When April came round, it was a sacrilege not to fashion a rally car from old Kimbo and Cowboy tins (yes, plastic hadn't been invented then) and slippers (pati pati) because Safari Rally was on during the Easter holidays.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo Wii, X-boxes; no video games at all, no 60 channels on DStv, no video / DVD films, MP4s, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms... WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no Lawsuits from these accidents.

Only girls had pierced ears!

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

You could only buy Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns at Easter time.

We were given air guns and catapults for our 10th birthday.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!

Mum didn't have to go to work to help dad make ends meet!

RUGBY and CRICKET had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that! Getting into the team was based on MERIT. Even the estate football game's selecion was purely on merit. If you didn't make the team ("HE WEARS SPECS!") you patiently waited for the Football gods to smile on you next time around.

Our teachers used to hit us with canes and gym shoes, and bullies always ruled the playground at school. Closing Day didn't go past 10:30 for most of us because we were "WANTED".

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

Our parents didn't invent stupid names for their kids like "Kiora" and "Blade" and "Ridge" and "Vanilla".

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL.

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good. And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.

PS -The capitalised words are because your eyes are not too good at your age anymore...