Tuesday, December 2, 2008

presentation to Ford Foundation


Allow me to congratulate the new Vice President of the Ford Foundation and to welcome her to Korogocho which is a place we call HOME. This visit comes at a time when Kenya is recuperating from the post elections violence that rocked the country after the disputed presidential election results of 2007. The violence was characterized by death, displacement and destruction. In particular, over 1,500 innocent lives were lost while scores of people were injured. More over, about 400,000 people were internally displaced and a myriad of livelihoods were punctured. Sad to note is that the violence was mainly consigned to areas inhabited by the poorest of the poor like urban slums that include Korogocho. Currently, the soaring food prices and escalated cost of living are making life unbearable for many poor Kenyans especially those in the urban slums.

On a more positive note, this visit comes at a time when Kenya and the United States have provided the world with a remarkable symbol of HOPE through the President-elect of the United States Barack Obama who is a son of a black African from Kenya. Obama’s victory as the 44th president of the United States of America gives us a sense of pride. Our pride for Obama’s victory also springs from the fact that he is a purveyor of hope who endured insurmountable challenges to occupy one of the world’s coveted positions. His victory provides humanity with HOPE and an opportunity for change that the world yearn and need. On a personal note, I feel empowered by Obama’s victory which affirms to the human race that our problems are never beyond our powers to solve them and that we can be what we want to be, we can shape our own destiny.

In this respect, we are elated by the gesture extended to us by the Ford Foundation who has yet again accorded us the rare privilege and opportunity to host one of their senior officials in our humble HOME at this time when the whole world is hopeful that a new dawn has come. Such solidarity is what the whole world and in particular the people of Korogocho require. I am told that her interest to visit Korogocho was spurred by the inspiring stories that she received from some of her team members who had visited us earlier. Doubtlessly, her visit today is confirmation that the many guests who visit our Initiatives have become our great ambassadors who are telling our story as it is. They are telling the whole world the true story of Korogocho, they are telling our story of HOPE.

Korogocho is one of the over 25 slums that are estimated to provide shelter for more than 60% of the Nairobi City’s population. Sad to note is that the 60% occupies just over 1.5% of the land as the rest of the land is occupied by a handful of affluent people. A charismatic and outspoken priest by the name padre Alex Zanotelli who lived in Korogocho for a decade has described Nairobi as heaven and hell side by side as it reflects the inequalities of the highest order. Indeed, the economic apartheid that characterizes our country and urban areas has spawned enormous slums like Korogocho that have become a nightmare. More over, residents of the slums like Korogocho are regarded as illegal squatters by the Government. As such they are denied essential services and permission to grow and develop.
Korogocho was founded in 1950’s when residents were brought from different parts of Nairobi to create room for the ‘expansion and development’ of the capital city. Today, Korogocho hosts a dense population of about 100,000 people and is the third largest slum in Kenya after Kibera and Mathare. Like is the case in most slums in Kenya, Korogocho that houses over 100,000 people is characterized by overcrowding, lack of basic infrastructure such as roads, inadequate essential services such as education and health, substandard sanitation, and widespread violence and insecurity. A wide range of governmental policies and public sector programmes have particularly failed to address problems experienced by a majority of citizens who live in the slums. Most of the residents do not have access to public social services and basic amenities. In Korogocho residents suffer the indignity of poverty and are either unemployed or survive on irregular/informal jobs and trading. A majority of adults living in Korogocho are casual labourers earning poverty wages in the Export Processing Zones and othr industrial factories. Some of the residents are self-employed selling food and vegetables at the Korogocho market and along the pathways of Korogocho. No doubt, unemployment is rampant particularly amongst youth who lack education and life skills to fit in the dynamic job market. Most of them are desperate to make a living and end up engaging in illicit and illegal trades a fact that explains the high crime rate both within and outside Korogocho.

The aforesaid factors would perhaps help us to contextualize and understand the causes of insecurity in Korogocho. The problem of insecurity is as old as the history of Korogocho and complicated as the problems related to land, inequalities, poverty and a litany of other problems. For a long time the name Korogocho echoed insecurity. This is because of the high levels of crime, substance abuse and other forms of violence, violations and exacerbated poverty in the area. However it is vital to point out that Insecurity in Korogocho is brought about by the struggle for survival by the residents most whom are consigned to poverty and a myriad of poverty related problems. Insecurity is not the real problem; it is in fact a manifestation.

As I have discussed prior, the problem of land and in particular land tenure is a time bomb that cause insecurity. In addition, lack of employment opportunities for young people, lack of basic services and exacerbated poverty. In addition, bad governance, lack of necessary Government presence, inefficient police service & Government agencies amongst others form the bulk of the problems that perpetuate insecurity. Nevertheless, the high levels of inequalities & imbalances in the country especially the gap between the rich and the poor could be singled out as one of the factors that fuel insecurity in Kenya and more so in Korogocho.

A great son of Kenya once said that the greatest problem in Kenya is that it is a society of 10 millionaires and 10 million poor people. Consequently, he paid dearly with his own life. But that is the bitter reality that continues to worsen by day. In fact I can safely say that the number is today 10 billionaires and 30 million poor people. No doubt, the people of Korogocho form the bulk of the 30 million Kenyans who languish in poverty and experience unprecedented levels of insecurity. But is this really acceptable?

Human Rights
Human Rights and Security are inseparable. Insecurity is not only a Human Right violation but it also perpetuates Human Rights violations. Insecurity denies human beings the opportunity to enjoy all their Human Rights. It denies people a requisite environment and ingredients to grow and develop. In situations of insecurity education and all other essential services remain inaccessible, lives are lost, people are maimed, property vandalized, development is hampered and more violence is manifested. Not to forget the fact that people remain susceptible to a litany of other problems and violations. This explains in part the politically instigated clashes that have been witnessed in Korogocho in the past and most recently during the post election violence of 2007/2008.

While it is true that insecurity has major repercussions on all facets of the society, Korogocho Youth have suffered immensely both as victims and as the alleged perpetrators. They are constantly harassed and tortured by police to confess ‘sins’ some they never committed. Some of those who commit the ‘sins’ lose their lives to bullets, mob injustice and so on. Statistics by various authorities including the Kenya Police show that Korogocho is one of the leading urban areas in crime and is also regarded as a den of criminals. This explains in part the high levels of police harassment in the area and the high numbers of youth from Korogocho who have died in the hands of the police or the bulk who occupy the prison cells. This is because we have a confused system of governance that blames people for being poor. They assume that insecurity problems can be resolved by the bullet. This explains why the budgetary allocation for security continues to heighten to purchase sophisticated weapons to fight crime. The money would be invested in construction of more factories, markets and other worthy investments to create more opportunities for young people and further remove them from precarious activities that cause insecurity. No wonder dozens of young people from Korogocho are today behind bars, others form statistics of those shot by police or lynched by mob, some are joining sects where they feel they can find redemption; others have eloped and migrated to other areas where police harassment is dismal and so on. Is this the solution to insecurity?

Human Rights defenders are not spared either. They are regarded as enemies of the State and are at times forced to bear unbearable burdens and to pay immeasurable prices for their activism. This happens when you have a Government that is afraid of the voice and will of the people, a Government that does not have people’s interest at heart and is afraid when people mobilize and organize. To exemplify, in July 2006 Francis Ngira who is one of our luminaries was arrested by Police after leading a protest against forceful eviction of innocent residents by Administration Police in Korogocho. All this was meant to scare and to silence him and other progressive and reasonable voices that were arising to campaign against impunity. Similarly, in May 2008, Charles Kimathi Wambugu who was a progressive youth leader and a Human Rights defender in Kasarani constituency was picked by police officers and has hitherto gone missing. Such cases whereby youth and in particular Human Rights defenders are arrested, intimidated and disappeared with by police are today very common in the urban slums.

The foregoing is a catalogue of some of the gross violation of Human Rights that people in the urban slums continue to court and are forced to live with everyday. In addition, to their impoverishment and poverty, they are forced to pay dearly for their poverty.

Community Togetherness as Social Security
But that is not the end of our story. About a decade ago, the youth of Korogocho set on journey to rewrite and tell the full story that Korogocho is not all about suffering, poverty and insecurity. Like Obama, they emerged in tens, hundreds and now thousands to mobilize, organize and to give Hope to the people. It is delightful to note that Korogocho is today referenced as a symbol of hope and an inspiration by many people. Agents of change like the Miss Koch Initiative, Koch FM, Koch Monitoring Team, Cup Kenya and more recently the Kasarani Youth Congress have contributed immensely to the transformation and search for better services and dignified livelihoods. They have helped the community to realize that they (community) have a fundamental role and power to seek and find solutions to their problems. It is probably true that the residents of Korogocho are today more empowered and better organized. They have taken the front seat as the survivors and wearers of the shoe who know exactly where it hurts. They have refused to die! They are using their togetherness to cope with harsh realities and define new possibilities. They are committed to the renaissance that will see the whole of humanity rejoice and enjoy their human rights.

The real hope that was sowed by Initiatives like Miss Koch has today become the magic bullet that is doing wonders in and to the community. There are positive indicators that the efforts are bearing fruits. Today another name for Korogocho is hope and determination to survive. It is then no wonder that people who visit Korogocho today more than ever before come to show solidarity not charity and sympathy. People no longer visit Korogocho to mourn poverty and insecurity but to celebrate the people’s power ad how people’s unity of purpose can be a social security.

Koch Initiatives
Koch Initiative is a forum that brings together specific groups from Korogocho that are united by a common vision of a better Korogocho, a better Kenya & a better World for all. Currently it is composed of selected groups that epitomize the Hope desired by the urban poor like those inhabiting Korogocho.

i) Miss Koch Initiative
Miss Koch Initiative is a renaissance of the Korogocho youth founded in the year 2001 as an intervention against socio-economic and political problems that robbed people of their Human dignity, Human rights and freedom. No doubt, Miss Koch Initiative is today referenced an epitome of people’s determination to define their own destiny. Its four substantive programme include: WADADA- Girl rights, empowerment & education, DARAJA-Human rights, governance, & peace, BADILIKA-HIV/Aids, Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health & Child development, BURUDIKA-Talent, skill and capacity development. True to its mission, the Initiative has inspired the establishment & growth of numerous initiatives in Korogocho and elsewhere.
ii) Koch FM
Koch FM is the first community owned ghetto radio in Kenya. It was founded in 2006 by the youth from Korogocho. The radio is an extra ordinary innovation by the community youth who are truly committed to provide the constituents with the requisite information that is needed for their effective participation in the socio-economic and political processes for greater achievement. The radio inspires community pride and confidence as it amplifies the voices of the people and ensures that they are clearly heard. Its editorial focus includes human rights, governance, gender, health, environment, entrepreneurship, religion, sports, child welfare amongst others.
iii) Koch Monitoring Team
Korogocho Monitoring Team was established in 2006 by people of Korogocho to enhance citizens’ participation in the search for good governance, development & freedom. The Monitoring Committee is today registered as the first Residents Association in the urban slums. It has done a remarkable job of entrenching accountability and transparency in Korogocho. The team has been undertaking an intense campaign that seeks to emphasize the significance of people’s participation in making decisions that affect their daily lives is vital as it ensures shared responsibility, sustainability amongst other benefits.
iv) CUP-Kenya
The Coalition of the Urban Poor in Kenya was founded by youth from Korogocho and currently runs four programmes key programmes with focus on poverty reduction and wealth creation, Human Rights & social justice, HIV/Aids & Reproductive Health, Information Communication and Documentation The organization has played a key role in informing and emancipating the community in various ways through the community newspaper Koch Mirror.

v) Kasarani Youth Congress
Kasarani Youth Congress is a youth Initiative that seeks to strengthen unity, connectivity and collective action amongst youth in search of new socio, economic and political order. The initiative envisions a society with new socio-economic and political order that acknowledge youth identities and freedoms and deal appropriately with their needs.

e) Challenges
i. Though Initiative is meant to strengthen and drum up support for community in the national affairs, it is at times quite difficult to do this in view of inadequate capacity and funds. The initiative would achieve much more if they were adequately supported with the requisite, financial, human, material and technical resources.
ii. The initiative is also constrained in terms of capacity. Capacity development like training, skill promotion and talent nourishment would be essential for the sustainability and growth of the initiative.
iii. The Initiative lacks adequate functional base. Our wish has been to put up a magnanimous centre in Korogocho that would house the initiative and accommodate the ambitious ideas, growth and the overwhelming demands. This is constrained by our squatting at the community centre that also houses various other institutions.
iv. The initiative requires more strategic and programmatic partnerships with like minded organizations. Most organizations are only able to support activities and not programmes proposed by the initiative.
v. Though the Initiative has been able to do a remarkable job in Korogocho it lacks the much required exchange programmes and exposure forums that would provide the initiative with the opportunity to learn and share experiences with other people.
vi. Forging closer links with service providers and other people in authority to deliberate pertinent issues that affect the people of Korogocho remains a major challenge though important for our initiative.
vii. Youth and girls in much of Kasarani Constituency are still virtually absent or poorly represented in the decision making of any kind. They are excluded and at the same time they exclude themselves. There is need for constituency wide conscietization.

f) Way forward
We deeply appreciate the role that people of Korogocho and numerous organizations have played and continue to play to rebuild human dignity and ensure enjoyment of human rights by all. We pay special tribute to members and cohorts of the Koch Initiatives that have made remarkable contribution as purveyors of HOPE in our community. We salute their efforts and solidarity. Finally, we are inspired by the affinity and commitment that has emerged from Ford Foundation. In particular, we are grateful to the Ford Foundation for the honor and the rare privilege they have bestowed on us to host their Vice President. We trust that you shall continue to stand by us as we tackle the challenges that deny us the right to live dignified lives. THANK YOU ALL!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Yes We Can by Rapho

OBONYO Raphael[1],
Nairobi, Kenya

Wednesday the 5th of November 2008 will forever remain a historic day in the human calendar. It is a day when the whole world rose to the good news of the election of the first ever black president of the undisputed powerful nation in the world. It is on this day that one Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States of America after a resounding win. Doubtlessly, Barrack’s candidature for presidency had received resounding endorsement not only from Americans but the rest of the world and as such his victory is celebrated far and wide.

Obama ascent to Presidency is a fulfillment of the dreams of his predecessors who fought hard to ensure equity and justice in America and the entire world. Some of them who did the painstaking job as pace setters, some who fought and condemned injustice with boldness resilience and some who launched the dream of a more equal and just society. The litany has names of Rosa Packs, Martin Luther King Jnr, Malcom X, Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko amongst others. Obama joins this rank as the epitome of the achievement the black history.

Prior to his election and out of immeasurable curiosity, I read the two books that give a snap shot of Obama’s history and his dream for the future. I first read his autobiography, the audacity of hope where he outlines his dream for America coherently. It is in this book that Obama interrogates and shares his views on how he thinks America should review, reconstruct and face the insurmountable challenges that it faces as a nation. What I liked most in this particular reading was his candidness, boldness and insightfulness. One thing that is outstanding in his articulation in this script is that any person who aspires to lead at any level must have a dream and vision for his or her project. Martin Luther King Junior summarizes this so well when he says that ‘a man or woman who does not know the reason why he or she is alive is not worth living’.

In his second autobiography entitled the dreams from my father, Obama narrates his history and gives the readers a glimpse of what he is made of. It is in this book that Obama narrates his divided history, his youthful dreams and seeks to give meaning to his life. He accords the reader the ingredient that causes him to tick. He embodies all virtues of incisive leader interalia brilliance, diligence, insightfulness, optimism, humility, boldness and so on. It is in this book that one realizes that Obama lives in the future and not the past. He is a forward looking gentleman who faces the future with hope and buoyancy, he is an initiator who has made history throughout his life. He began his career as a humble community organizer with a passion to transform the desperation and the disorder of the down trodden people in the society, he was the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, he was once the U.S senator from Illinois and is today the first ever Black President elect of the United States of America. Like Winston Churchill would put it, Obama draws from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.

Obama’s victory as the 44th president of the United States of America gives me a sense of pride. This is a man who is a son of a black African, a Kenyan and a luo from Alego where my auntie is married. Notably we share the O factor because we are all from the Lake region but do I say! My pride for Obama’s victory also springs from the fact that he is a purveyor of hope whose painful and perverse black history on provided him with more calories to yearn and work for a better future. He embraces the notion of justice and freedom for all and trod the rugged path and endured a gallery of weighty episodes with humility and optimism, diligence and focus and overcame surmountable challenges to accomplish the great dream. His victory provides humanity with an opportunity for change that the world has yearned for centuries. Indeed, I feel empowered by Obama’s victory which affirms to the human race that our problems are never beyond our powers to solve them and that we can be what we want to be, we can shape our own destiny. Yes We Can!

[1] The writer is the convener of the Kasarani Youth Congress and can be reached through Email: raphojuma@hotmail.com or Cellphone: +254 725 278 758

Obonyo raphael

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

Yenny at Radio Favela in Brazil

Yenny with the crew at Radio Favela in Brazil..let the talks begin.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Spot the guest@KochFM

Stevo and Isabel giving Fumi some hands on.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

KochFM @WSF Brazil January 2009

Hot on the heals of the Swedish visit KochFM will pitch tent in January in the Favelas in Belo-Horizonte in Brazi. In my humble opinion this will be a historic meeting given the inspirations we draw from Radio Favela! The fact that the WSF will be in Brazil once again will provide KochFM with the opportunity to connect with the global movement...

As details fall into place we invite you to join us in this journey.


Monday, September 8, 2008

KochFM representing in Sweden

Our friends Shiko, Toto, Roba and Raphael are alle representing KochFM at the Informal Cities Symposium in Stockholm, Sweden.

Goto radioclave.se and leave a message to the messengers.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

KochFM live on Radio Clave in Sweden today @5pm Swedish time

Radio Clave is guested by Koch FM!

Radio Clave has invited the Kenyan radio station Koch FM to broadcast live on September 6 and 7. Roba, Shiko, Rapho and Big Toto from Koch FM will be broadcasting live in Sweden, from Dieselverkstaden in Sickla as a part of the exhibition and meeting: Informal Cities (www.informalcities.org).

Listen live for the first time online


We are in Solidarity


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Message to the Miss Koch Assembly 2008

Message to the Miss Koch Assembly 2008

Otieno Wandei
Perth Western Australia
22 August 2008

Certainty of Purpose

Two events stand out today that embody the chosen theme. First is the Olympics’ being held in China, initially there was a lot of scepticism as to whether China could indeed pull it of - what with their human rights issues and a major outcry on pollution? But China has given the world the most memorable spectacle the world has ever seen so much so that Britain is now questioning itself whether the budget allocated for the Olympics is adequate. If that concern were to be unpackaged it means the Almighty Britain is questioning whether they can achieve what China has done or more so do even do it better! What the Chinese have proved to the entire world is that if people have certainity of purpose and then they will be un-stoppable. The fireworks at the opening ceremony perhaps signify how high China has pushed the Olympic legacy. Not so far from China though there are different kinds of fireworks as Russia pounds Georgia in what appears in my view to be a warped sense of purpose. The unfortunate occupation of Georgia is a pointer of lost purpose, lost cause.

These events might seem so far removed from the reality of life in Korogocho but I point them out as important and significant lessons of what can happen if we are to commit ourselves to our given objectives and aspirations. They also paint a context of the times we live in, times when it can be very difficult to define what we believe in, what we stand for and how we want to achieve our goals.

When Miss Koch emerged as an idea/concept it was viewed by some as un-achievable dream. We were saying that we the youth of Korogocho will take the centre stage in addressing our issues. This was at a time when the image of the youth of Korogocho was at rock bottom. It was during the era where the relationship between the youth and the community was characterized by suspicion this is aptly captured by the interaction between the police and the youth. The situation was so dire that every young young person was percieved giulty untill proven otherwise. But over the years I believe we have contributed in changing the image of the youth by addressing some of the fundametal assumptions that were held by the community and the young people. Miss Koch was also viewed as counter culture for we were reconstructing the notions of beauty and how young people relate to their identity. We were allowing the people of Korogocho to project what they held dear and once this was achieved we moved to embrace our beauty and used it as the basis to treat ourselves with respect and dignity and expected the same from the community. We realized that once we redfined who we were it would be possible to rally people to defend what we had defined as precious and worthy. Our work was also viewed as subversive as we were targeting the centre of political power, urguing for a paradigm shift. Asking difficult questions about governance and providing evidence of how things could be done differently to address the imbalance that had lead us to untold suffering and misery. We were presenting an alternative model of responding to issues like distribution of bursary, relating to people, communication e.t.c. We had numerous run ins with the powers that be, but I am reliably informed that the administration is now waking up to the reality and embracing some of the ideas we put forward.

With the benefit of hindsight it is possible to say that our analysis of the situation was correct and our response justified because over the past seven years we have continued to grow and make an impact at local, national and international level. I want to believe that we have achieved all that because we have certainty of purpose.

It would be misguided to assume that we have grown without pain, or that we have travelled without holding our breath or looking back and even at times despairing. The biggest challenge in my view has been internal harmonization and the recent loss of organization money. For me the priority of the organization must be to ensure that the membership is walking at the same speed and pace otherwise those who are running fast ahead will get tired of pulling the weight and in the process may be burnt out or worse bruise those who are moving slowly. The reverse is true that those who feel are following from behind also can be disillusioned and lose sight of the gaol, they could also be so heavy so as to drown those ahead. So as an organization we must periodically listen for feedback with sincere and earnest will to accommodate each other.

The reported loss of Miss Koch money again points to the fact that there could be a weakening of the trust we have bestowed on each other and a need for greater scrutiny of how we are conducting our financial affairs knowing that anyone who handles money is at great risk as there are so many forces at play to corrupt our souls. If one was to take a quick look at other agents of change in Korogocho one would be able to appreciate this fact. The St Johns Catholic Church for instance had its fair share of incidents at the beginning, so did the Tumaini Clinic (am not updated of recent events). That is not to say that it is excusable for anyone to work against the collective aspirations of the movement but I use these cases to illustrate that we are working in an environment that is quite unfavourable and any success we achieve we must guarded religiously.

It takes people of great courage and determination to achieve purposeful existence and I see all of us in Miss Koch born with that capacity. While there is need to acknowledge the people who sat around the table and brought into existence the organization, time has come now when we need an entirely new breed of leadership at the helm of Miss Koch. This leadership in my view should be individuals who joined the organization after inception and thus in theory have been mentored. Having new leadership is also strategic as it clearly shows that as an organization we have taken in the lessons we have learnt seriously-that given an opportunity and right structures we can all be leaders. I speak from a general point of view as I do not have the benefit of knowledge of day to day affairs of the organization....

Miss Koch continues to provide for me so much more than just a social gathering, it has provided for me over the last seven years with radical ideas, a place to sharpen my wits and I am better at what I do today because I am surrounded by people who we share a purpose.


19th August 2008

Greetings to you all!

The Co-Founders of the Miss Koch Initiative have the pleasure to invite you to Miss Koch 2008 Assembly which will be held at the Miss Koch Community Resource Centre on the 24th August 2008 from 2 to 4 p.m.

The theme of the meeting is: Certainty of Purpose

The assembly will feature presentations and discussions from the co-founders, invited Government officials and other distinguished speakers. This will also provide participants with an in-depth perspective on lessons learnt and the future engagements of the Miss Koch Initiative.

Your participation will contribute to enhanced effectiveness, sustainability and advocacy of the Initiative.

Thanking you in advance.

Yours Sincerely,

Obonyo Raphael


Friday, July 25, 2008

Building a Reading Culture in Korogocho Slums

There is a common joke in Kenya that if you want to keep your money safely, keep it not in a bank but a book! Nobody will touch the book to get your money! This joke illustrates how far the reading culture is from many Kenyans. Those who study do it merely to pass examinations and forget about the hell of reading. It is therefore not surprising to hear students who passed their final national examinations a few months ago swear that they would fail the same examinations if they repeated them today. Why should they pass again when most of them burnt the mid night candle to save notes in their heads to pass their examinations and once this was accomplished, they deleted everything from their minds and donated their notes and text books to friends?

One institution is out to put an end to this culture of being allergic to reading. The St. John Community Library is in the fore front in encouraging communities in Korogocho not just to read for examinations but read for life too. The library located at Korogocho Slums in Nairobi stocks about nine thousand text books relevant for curriculum coverage and general reading fort life. Every day, hundreds of readers from Korogocho, Dandora, Baba Dogo and Kariobangi estates throng the library to read. Over eighty per cent of the readers are in primary and secondary school students though the numbers of students from higher institutions of learning are on the rise. The readers have not been disappointed with the services offered since four librarians are always available to serve them, listen to them and answer to their requests of new text books they need purchased.

While the library has grown rapidly in the last ten years, it is still underused according to the librarians. While the turn up of students using the library is overwhelming, few adults out of school turn up to read. This is because the community has not yet understood the larger role the library plays in transforming their lives. They have not come to terms with the richness of acquiring widespread knowledge which shapes their global perspectives in looking at things hence empowering them to participate competently in national building. To most of the adults, the library is a God sent messiah which has saved them from buying text books for their children but it has nothing to do with it.

Aware of this misunderstanding, The St John Community Library has organized a library day to sensitize the community about the services available for different classes in the community and how they can acquire knowledge through these services. The day whose theme is ‘Usomi Ni Ujuzi Na Uwezo’, will be marked on Saturday 26th July 2008 at 9.00am at St. John Catholic Church play ground. Several activities have been lined up for The Library Day which has been sponsored by Concern World Wide. The main activity will be essay writing and poetry competition on the topic ‘Importance of The Library to the Community’. Winners in the categories of primary school pupils, high school students, elders, women, teachers and youth out of school will be awarded. Other activities will include video shows, exhibitions, dances drama and speeches from invited guests. The Library Day has targeted readers from different backgrounds in the community to create awareness among them to read for life even among those who have not been to school.

By Oluoch Japheth
The Writer is an employee of The St. John Catholic Church.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tsvangirai's Daughter speaks out

It is a sunday afternoon am in the middle of Perth Australia outside a church biulding. A small crowd is already gathering, there are a couple of television crew setting up their gear.

Rimbidzai Tsvangirai is dressed in a white tshirt with MDC slogans written all over. She is twenty two years old and today for the first time she is here to make a statement on the political situation back in Zim. The atmosphere is electric.

The rally starts with heated Zimbabwe chants..

New Zimbabwe!

Mugabe Out!

MDC a new beginning!

The convenor of the rally narrates how Zim has fought against oppression for a long time and the songs that they used to sing when ZanuPF was spearheading the independence struggle are still relevant today. He invokes the spirits of the ancestors to join in the liberation of Zimbabwe...

The next speaker is a representative from the Workers Union of WA who points out that the struggle of the people of Zim is the struggle of the worker, it is the struggle of men and women who desire and wish for peace...There is a mock election held to gauge the view of the Zimbabweans present in the rally...

We then sing the national anthem of Zim and Rimbidzai is invited to address the rally. We all inch foward with anticipation.

She strides and reads out a prepared speach. She talks about the countless times that they have prayed for the safe return of their father from the hands of police. She pledges to campaign for democracy in Zim for as long as she lives. She urges the Australian government to tighten pressure on the Mugabe regime and also extend aid to those suffering as a result of the violence.

"I will soon return home once we attain democracy" the crowd cheers at every pose...

I leave the rally wondering why history is so cruel, repeating itself albeit in different countries. Mugabe blatantly refuses to conceed defeat. He points out the freedom struggle and yet today majority of people in Zim are worse off than ever. It does not matter if you are killed by a bullet fired by an African soldier or by a white farmer both kill..It does not matter that you are bashed by a black Mugabe supporter or a racist white farmer both intimidate, maim and intend to oppress.

MDC has pulled out of the elections and this might be the last straw..but we must commend the oppossition for containing their supporters and for being peacful during this tyring times..

MDC and the oppossition should now seek massive support locally so that even if Mugabe wins it will be with the smallest number of votes ever..One danger though is that MDC supporters might be targeted if they do not go out and vote..my be they should still go out and spoil their votes..

I am reminded of the road that Kenya has travelled and how little the Mugabe regime seems to have learnt from other happenings the world over..

The best description of what is happening in Zim is that the regime has eaten the fruits of independence now they want to eat the indepence itself!

Wake up and smell the rain!


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

KochFM featured on Swedish TV

Check out this feature on Korogocho on Swedish TV

Friday, May 2, 2008

Kawive's take on Participatory Theatre in Kenya

©kawive, wambua

The Artists as the Managers of the
Transition in Kenya*

A paper by
Kawive, Wambua

*First presented at the KOLA Conference on East African Oral Literature,
Kisumu, Nov. 2005
kola2005/Paper/Kawive/docu 2 ©kawive, wambua

(a)The Kenyan Experience
Kenya, once described as an island of peace, has indeed know very little peace for the
man and woman of conscience. This individual has been faced with the task of society
mobilisation for change and development. The process of conscietisation of a community
or a nation must take in to consideration the “important questions about national or group
exclusivism and the impossibility of avoiding of syncreticism” (Ashcroft et al, 30).
Though here they refer to language appropriation, it is important for us to look at it in
relation to the political space in Kenya.
Some communities (and inevitably classes) were evidently left out in both the discourse
of community development as well as the material and resource mobilisation.
When the communities or groups of individuals rose to assert themselves, then there was
Kamiti, there was the Nyayo House cells, and there was a number of other outlandish
government sponsored atrocities. Consider here the crackdown on Mwakenya, on FERA
and that on the perpetrators of the 1982 coup that came before. The country was steep in
a plastic silence akin to that of isolated graveyards.
This was against the background of constitutional amendments that saw the declaration of
a one party state, the withdrawal of the security of tenure for judges, and the banning of
any other political activity apart from the praise to KANU –institutionalised as Mother
and Father of the nation.
Moi was a culture. He traversed the political, social and economic landscape like a
colossus. There were Nyayo Tea Zones, Nyayo bus, Nyayo pioneer car, Moi schools and
university…Moi this, Moi that. The state broadcasting station KBC took about one third
of its prime news time talking about the exploits of Moi. The whole country was
hypnotised by the presence of Moi. At one time when he had to leave the country to seek
medical attention and there was no reporting, the country was gripped by tension. People
demanded to know his whereabouts. It was not out of love, but out of conditioning.
Pavlov could not have done better.
Take for instance the Nyayo philosophy. It was not that there used to be no love or peace
or unity in this country, but when the president made those three the rallying point of
Moism, it started looking as if he was the one that had invented the words. In the advent
of multiparty democracy, he warned that there would be chaos, ostensibly because the
country was not ready for multipartyism. And indeed there was violence. The ethnic
violence that rocked the country in 1992 and 1997 (significantly around election time)
lend credence to his word. And he was re-elected on both cases to take charge of a ship
that could have sunk were it not for him.
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Pressure from the international community and human rights watchdogs led to the
repealing of the Chief’s Act in 1991 and the subsequent adoption of multiparty politics in
Kenya. This paper does not intent to cover the political rigmarole of the period preceding
and after. But for two five year terms, it was a multiparty of a single party, otherwise
called “Multiparty ya Moi”. This image was very important in that it captured the irony
of democracy in which one individual/party dictated the trends. This was occasioned by
the question of resource mobilisation and the use/misuse of state machinery and resource
in politicking. And thus the jinx had to be shaken off and the land cleansed.
This was the thought in the heads of civil society leaders and politicians who had been
locked out of power. They each had tried to go it alone and failed or made insufficient
impact and now they had learned their lessons. This led to the formation of four main
bodies in the civil society: CRE-CO, ECEP, CEDMAC, and the Gender Consortium
Out of these it is CRE-CO that adopted theatre as the foremost tool for implementing
civic and community education. The others also had theatre components but not as
significant as in CRE-CO. The mandate was to work towards sensitisation of the people
away from the characteristic lassitude. It took advantage of the expanded political space
to make it a reality for the people to achieve what they had yearned for and had not been
able to actualise.

(b)Something About the Civil Society Movement.
The civil society movement in Kenya had been bogged down by intellectualism and
extremism. The former gave birth to the later. The players in these societies saw the entry
point as the rampant abuse of human rights by the government and its organs. And so,
like the arrogant intellectuals that they were, they focussed on the extremist conceptions:
reviving the call for a second liberation, resurrecting the freedom fighters creed of
“Uhuru na Mashamba”.
They missed the point that the people’s apparent complacency had been brought about by
the continual betrayal by their leaders. Again, the most immediate need for the people
was reclaiming their lost space in terms of identity, that is, redefining their environment.
It is only after this necessary step that the impact of the environment on the person can be
addressed. Therefore, it was difficult for this crusade to be successful for it is only when
the affected people see the need to change their status (not when they are shown or told
about this need) that viable and sustainable change can be realised.
Many workshops and plays on educating the people on their rights have remained just
that: “supplantations” of information. Not that this was useless. No. It was a useful stage
/process in the conscietization of a disenfranchised people. But change is not external.
You cannot change people. People have to see the need to change.
Human rights activists, either went far too back in history or far too ahead of the people
into the present social dialectic (in regard to universalism and the locus of world trends)
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and hence were not in tandem with the target groups. Illiteracy has nothing to do with
this. Kenyan’s are a very resilient people. The question was whether the people had
enough will to act. The mundane issues of earning bread and the business of having sex,
giving birth, bringing up children and burying the dead were greater concerns than human
rights. An abstraction cannot beat the simple/usual things of life. Indeed it bores people.
The prevailing need was that the link between these mundane issues and their causality
relationship with human rights and the socio-political and economic situation had to be
made. And by the people. This was the entry point of IPCET.
Theatre in the four organisations named above, and especially CRECO, was a key
element. Its mandate was to adopt a language, mode and image whose metaphor would
be that of a people disenfranchised and which would then incite the people towards
taking control of the political aspect of their lives. It had to be simple enough yet
sufficiently complex to evade the still simmering heat of KANU’s tyranny.
The Power of Theatre.

(a)Cultural Expression and Identity
Kenya, on emerging from the dark ages of colonialism has never been able to find its
identity. The almost blanket adoption of westernisation has received more support than a
cultural renaissance. But for the postcolonial country, the reality of cultural hybridity in
the country’s expression is as inevitable as the presence of other artefacts of the
previously dominant culture. The artist is thus charged with finding the locus of culture
without necessarily antagonising the society. One of the things that the artists delicately
did was the choice of the forms of expression. C J Odhiambo’s observation in a paper
“New Wine In Old Wineskins: Exploiting Indigenous Folk Art Form In Our
Contemporary Pedagogical Practices In Kenya” that
the (con)temporary pedagogical practices must indeed, with all intent and
purpose, take cognizance the import of approaches of the “past”. For without the
past, the present and the future will be bereft of any meaning and significance
seems most significant in the CRE-CO play design, for it was an integration of forms that
the community had in their lore. In the nationwide campaign, the drama kept on remaking
itself. A skit that was ideally an offshoot of the original play was permanently called the
“Matrix” and could not get a Kiswahili replacement. This is what Ashcroft et al call the
use of code switching and transcriptions: a “most common method of inscribing alterity
by the process of appropriation” (72). Though in their book they talk of vernacular
transcriptions, it is clear that here the vernacular (strictly used here to mean local
language) appropriates and transcribes the English (foreign language). The skit was
performed in Kiswahili but the word was constantly repeated and never translated. It is an
uncommon word even among the elite. For non-academic set-ups like a village in

Mavindini where the people who are learned are teachers and the chief (and mostly the
word is not in their active vocabulary) this word worked wonders. Toothless old women
would see a drunk man talking nasally deflected English to his wife and would
immediately and unreservedly laugh at the stupidity of men, soon recoup themselves and
either give him a name or declare for all and sundry that such a man is wont to do ill to
the family.
The image of the learned individual as a leader and a community development mentor is
then interrogated vis a vis his quality as a person on the ground (not a heavy-vehicledriving-
grinning-son-of-so-and-so-who-wants-us-to-follow-him). In this case it was a
celebration of cultural bastardisation and or interrogation of cultural identity and the
acceptance of hybridity. Thus the learned and the “other” felt at ease in the interactive

Larry O’Farrel in a landmark paper, “Building a Better World Through Drama
Education: Educational Drama as a Catalyst for Cultural Identity and Community
Development” explores the use of ritual drama in community development. The school
model he uses is in tandem with idealist development agenda: the reinvention of the
society. He argues that:
the renewal of community is central to postmodern epistemology. The individual
exists, not in splendid isolation, but as an interactive member of a diverse
community, embedded in a matrix of traditional values and practices. In such a
complex the structural imperatives inherent in humanist thinking – the cult of the
creative genius, the judgemental bias of education, the strict separation of high art
from popular culture – all prove hopelessly inadequate as means to achieve even
their own central goal of liberating the individual. (5)
And thus the role of theatre as a cultural tool of reinventing the individual and of
reconstructing identity becomes imperative. The culture of hero worship and of fixity to
channels of communication that are ideally external, i.e. not in the interest of the person
to whom the communication is directed, had to be eliminated so that the community
could get a new lease of life.
Dan Isiko Kisense in his paper “A Theatrical Approach Towards Attaining a Barrier Free
World” argues: “theatre obliterates boundaries, cultural norms and offers the most
desired and most effective communication not only (to) the masses but also policy
makers” (77)
The cultural situation in Kenya was (and is) no different from the one that Mzo Sirayi in
a paper “The Impact of a Cultural Bomb in South Africa” saw in South Africa. He says
that cultural groups were mobilised on short notice to perform on official functions, to
give them a face of inclusiveness whereas these people had not even been sufficiently
facilitated. And then when they performed, they played to the political axis and are not
essentially aware of the fact that that “delicacy” they give to state players can be their
own weapon of cultural reorientation. He says “South Africans have to be challenged
and conscientised about the importance of decolonising the mind and the indigenous
cultures and link them with development.”(42)

And this can only be done in educational drama. The reason is simply that drama
provides a situation in which the protagonist and antagonist share a space in which they
conflict and reconcile. Decolonising the mind, though it has often been used in the West
versus Orient dialectic by such scholars as Homi Bhabha, Ngugi wa Thiong’o and
Edward Said, in this case it applies to the challenge to the organs of discourse
“origination”. Mumma, in his thesis, observes that
Above all, in educational drama, the language of drama is accessible to the
participants themselves so that there is a certain understanding (on) how
they are progressing. Within the educational/theatrical/context (this)
provides for a vehicle of participation and a forum and focus for raising
and analysing problem; decision-making and collective action. (433).
Change is the product of the latter. Positive transformation of society is indeed
occasioned by the simplification of the points of conflict and the fragmentation of the
areas of difficult. The society therefore is able to view each vis a vis the social will power
and ability to handle them. Since it provides the opportunity to challenge dominant and
accepted values, drama thus is important in the creation of a counter culture.
(b) Theatre: Some Theoretical Precepts and its Practice in Kenya
Bill Ashcroft et al, in their book The Empire Writes Back, see the multiplicity of
linguistic and cultural forms of literary expression as the onset of a system of
conscietisation, a way towards the reclaiming of the empire from the self-imposed
emperor, a way of creating space for self-identity. Referring to new writings from
countries of the third world, they argue that, “Their literatures could be considered in
relation to the social and political history of each country, and could be read as important
images of national identities” (17)
This is important in the discussion of the artists as the managers of the transition. In the
first place, community theatre as has been explicated in the Boalian ideal is the negation
of the tetrarchial, and Aristotelian inundation of theatre as a whole, the removing it from
the monarchical and ruler orientation to its original place in the hands of the people:
Aristotle formulated a very powerful purgative system, the objective of which is
to eliminate all that is not commonly accepted, including the revolution, before it
takes place. His system appears in disguised form on television, in the movies, in
the circus, in the theatres. It appears in many and varied shapes and media. But its
essence does not change: it is designed to bridle the individual, to adjust him to
what pre-exists. If this is what we want, the Aristotelian system serves the
purpose better than any other; if, on the contrary, we want to stimulate the
spectator to transform his society, to engage in revolutionary action, in that case
we will have to seek another poetics! (Boal, 1979: 47)
These poetics are those of Community Educational theatre. Community theatre has its
inception in the postulates of epic theatre as envisaged by Bertolt Bretcht. Epic theatre
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entailed the defamiliarisation of the theatrical space, a reorientation of the theatrical
conception of the Aristotelian time in which the role of catharsis was a hallmark of the
tragic to the translation of theatrical images to the reality of the audience member who
becomes an active participant.
Community theatre as envisaged by Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal constitutes a devising
and or creation of theatrical scenarios by members of the community that are used to
launch inter and intra-personal dialogue on issues that affect the community with an aim
of correcting an anomaly or initiating a process of action and thus change.
Ngugi’s experiment at the Kamiriithu centre in Kenya has been oft quoted as a leading
example. Opiyo Mumma in his paper “Drama and Theatre as Modes of Creative
Learning” notes that
education for transformation will help people to become critically creative, free,
active and responsible members of society. In participatory education, participants
are recognized as thinking, creative people with capacity for action and hence it
poses problems in its dialogue and communication. (30)
He explores the Kenyan theatre scene from the 70’s upto 90’s. He notes the kind of
reception that Ngaahika Ndeenda and Maitu Njugira by the Kamiriithu Community
Drama (KCECC) got from the government forces who saw these texts as an affront to the
rule of (unjust!!!) law.
He further explores Aminata and the frustrations that the writer and artists went through
in the 90s when the democratic space was seemingly wider. This goes to show the plan
by the government, like all oppressive governments the world over, to thrive on the
ignorance of the people.
Mumma observes that, Francis Imbuga’s play Aminata “took a leading role in getting
artists together for debates on ‘the role of the artist in time of political change’”. The
Free Travelling Theatre (FTT) and Kenya Drama in Education Association (KDEA)
“formed Aminata as an argument to mobilise artists and cultural workers in the quest for
political change. In this set up, Aminata became a launching pad for futuristic action.”
(Mwangi et al 39)
This “futuristic action” that Opiyo Muma talks about is interpreted as the effort the
actor/teacher/learner and audience/teacher/learner, as participants in the process of
performance and creation of the theatrical piece, take to remedy the issues affecting their
lives (for this matter the political anomaly) that they find themselves in. Perhaps
deserving a special mention is a performance by Theatre Workshop Productions;
“Drumbeats on Mt. Kirinyaga”, a monumental play that used the symbol of the Gikuyu
and Mumbi story as a call for unity to the diverse ethnic communities of Kenya, a call for
reevaluation of our values as a people and to eat fruits together.

Other plays that were significant in the 1990’s were such as Kivutha Kibwana’s Kanzala,
Wakanyote Njuguna’s Kabla ya Dhoruba, Kithaka wa Mberia’s Kifo Kisimani, Wahome
Mutahi’s Mugaathe Mubogothi, Makaririra Kioro, and Mugathe Ndotono among others.
Though these plays lack specific merit as PET or even IPCET texts, they were
unconventional (some even compromising style for messagism) and they interrogated
difference and diffidence in community leadership. These writers as well were prominent
figures in the intellectual and human rights movements and hence had a lot of influence
in the course of action on the educational theatre scene. Their plays, among others, were
the precursors of the underground NGO movement that came up with the IPCET play.
The individual and really forceful activities of civil society organisations like Citizens
Coalition for Constitutional Change (4Cs), Centre for Governance and Democracy
(CGD), and Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) and a plethora of other organisations
suffered the same fate of being but information points for the community. Information,
we should note at this point, empowers, but it is only communication that liberates. And
this key issue was never sufficiently addressed. Art was severally massacred at the behest
of militant advocacy. The exploration of whether or not these interventions led to the
development of a unique form of art necessitated by the milieu of the time is beyond the
scope of this paper.
I would like to isolate the 4Cs and say the following. The organisation started off as a
loosely structured lobby group for constitutional reform. But for three years, its single
programme was theatre. The theatre group used the rich history of oppression in the
country to create a play “Five Centuries” later to become the name of the group. The play
was an interrogation of the suffering and pain the people of Kenya have gone through in
the hands of selfish leaders, the fact of an independence that never was, and the need for
this century to be a century of nation reconstruction and a new constitutional order. This
trend has survived across the years, at times faltering at the intersection of artistic
expressionism and political advocacy.
Towards behaviour change, the clarion call of Kenya Drama in Education Association
(KDEA) was either not well understood or treated as suspect. But on organising a
congress of world artists in the country, a new wave of change was envisaged.
Commenting on the activities of IDEA Congress in 1998, the then Kenyan Minister for
Education Kalonzo Musyoka in a Paper “Powers of Performance: What Theatre has in
Store for Educationists” said:
What I witnessed is testimony that drama is being used as a powerful
medium of communication to expose pertinent and sometimes disturbing
experiences in our society. For instance issues such as corruption, bribery,
immorality, jealousy, misguided ambition, treachery and so on, which
have featured in this congress, educate and challenge the society to
seriously review their attitudes and values. The aim of the student artists is
noble. (Mwangi et al 1999, 12)
Kalonzo also observed that Educational theatre had demonstrated “clearly that forging
unity and a sense of nationhood can easily be achieved”(12). It is in my opinion that the
artist educators were well aware of this and took the opportunity to actualise it.
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J B Okong’o, in a paper, “Fictional Constructs, The Theatrical Process and African
Communities in Development” observes that the “ participatory aspect between
facilitator and community enables for a fictional process that builds an understanding
through the cooperative construction of an imaginative world…in the process, the
creation becomes an inbuilt feedback system that tests whether communication is
effective.” (286). The artists therefore in the adoption of the IPCET model discussed
here, were sure that the message of change, the element of education had been shared by
both the actor educators and the audience teachers.
Theatre as a Tool in Kenya’s Transformation.
And thus the work of seeking to orientate the Kenyan people towards behaviour change
(from complacency/inactivity to active and effective decision making and
implementation). For this, the following theatrical modes were adopted and duplicated
across the country:
· Story telling
The story of the Lion and the Sungura and their conspiracy in the digging of a well.
In this story, the gullible animals are duped to dig a well and later the lion with the
help of Sungura as a think tank, repossess the well as a private property. The
dilemma is whether the animals should be silent and die in the drought or fight for
their right to access the well. This story was in over 90% cases cited by the audience
teachers as a case of the government fleecing the citizens. Every four out of five
people saw the lion as Moi. In a performance in Machakos, a team of artists was
arrested and spend a long time in the District Commissioner’s office pleading
innocence by asking the officers whether they had never heard the story before. They
had of course, for it is a common story. But they insisted to the chagrin of the artists
that it was mockery to the government. And then one lady artist asked whether her
great, great grandmother, who had told the story to their mother, had lived during
Moi’s era. They were released. Hurrah to the power of the story! In lauding the story
as a future form of Educational theatre, Opiyo Mumma said that:
The storyteller links incidents and events into a narrative construct that
echoes with similarities and a certain meaning. It allows the participants to
at once become the story, the constructors of the story, and the people
living through the story. (412)
· Simple Scenario Skits
1. Based on simple domestic violence against workers.
In this skit, the lady owner of the home gives just too much work to the house
help, including bathing between sessions) so much so that it looks
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melodramatic. When she goes out, her son makes sexual advances at the girl
and when rebuffed offloads his own share of work on her.
2. Marriage of a beautiful girl: “Mschina Mzuri”
Here a learned and beautiful girl who can’t apparently get a husband decides
to marry the village buffoon without consulting anyone. It was based on the
story told in a popular old song. This skit was useful in appropriating both the
old people’s political space and tradition and/or cultural interrogation.
· Song /dance — eliciting the joy and pain for the people who went down memory
lane, interrogated why we fought in MAU MAU, and catapulted them to the pain
of the present. As well it captured the positivism and negativism of the present
socio-political ethos.
These theatrical pieces were strung together with the use of the Joker- a common
phenomenon in Forum Theatre and the Facilitator commonly used in TIE and TFD. The
multiplicity of form was to ensure maximum output. And indeed there was a great
impact. Theatre was voted the main (best) tool for education by the implementing
partners. Steven E. Finkel, et al in a paper “The Impact of The Kenya National Civic
Education Programme on Democratic Attitudes, Knowledge, Values, and Behavior”
“NCEP activities were effective in changing many important democratic
orientations, values, and behaviors; coupled with the findings from previous
assessments, there can now be little doubt that civic education can be an important
instrument for democratic change” (vi).
Educational Theatre was a major component of these activities and although the
programme was initially designed after a workshop orientation, the observation is that:
NCEP activities such as drama presentations, puppet shows, and public lectures,
also contributed significantly to changes in engagement and
competence…roughly equal, and in the case of efficacy and intentions to
participate, larger for the other NCEP activities than for NCEP workshops” (34)
This kind of deduction, coming from an assessment of a workshop oriented evaluation
matrix, is indeed a testimony of the fact that the people of Kenya remembered more the
theatrical symbols and images than the rhetoric of the

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Monday, April 21, 2008

A Moment


By Mwashi Litonde Peter.

Think, Think for a Moment,
Of the abilities within you to change,
To change not a moment,
But the world we are at the moment!

A Moment is here for us to create,
And to contribute, at least for a moment,
That which is needed for precious moments in future,
Even if it’s a comment in moment!

At least you and I share one thing, This Moment!
A moment that gives us hope for the next,
Shall we set this moment for positive?
Can we dedicate this moment for change?

This moment comes with a story,
A story of shared- past moments,
Those which are deep within us, for us!
Moments that has made who we are today,

A moment like this can only be special,
It’s new but lives with us forever,
It awakens us to rise up to the occasion!
In a moment, this one will be over!

But imagine how it would turn in a moment,
To utilize the potential within you,
In sharing your wisdom and creativity,
So to have this moment marked and treasured!

Of the Billions of people in the world,
How many moments are those?
At this moment, we can decide to overcome!
And finally at one moment we shall say,
“It’s a moment worth remembering”

Mother Peace


By Mwashi Litonde Peter

You are said to be a healer,
Or should I say a reconciler?
We are told you comfort and console,
You heal and cure the broken hearts!

But where were you mother peace,
When things went out of hand,
When brother turned against brother,
When “Killing” overpowered you,
It is the moment we needed you most oh peace!

We longed for your presence and control,
When helpless children were mercilessly killed
When women and sisters were being raped,
When neighbors cared no more for each other,
A time when houses were being torched!

Where did you hide yourself peace?
When gun shots flared all over,
When the fire was burning day and night,
When the stones rained all over
And cries filled the air oh peace!

Not to imagine when they shot dead my brother,
When through the sword demise met my mother,
When they stoned to death my dear dad,
When my sister stopped breathing,
After they misused her every opening,
When my family perished in fire!

How come you didn’t show up mother peace?
When grannies were running for their lives,
When the thirst for human blood rocked,
When hate dictated our moves and actions,
More than ever the time we craved for you!

But I have heard the whispers and rumors,
That you showed up on several occasions,
That you knocked on our doors and mind,
That you always clinked in our conscious,
But we decided to ignore you peace!

You only needed our attention and support,
To overcome the ills within us,
You needed us to realize your potentials,
And ability to conquer the unfortunate,
But we were too busy with revenge!

Your voice would be heard calling,
Yelling loudly to us to stop and think,
Asking us to care and reason,
Pleading to us for tolerance and patience,
But we took it as noise and distraction peace!

But now we call upon you mother peace,
That you may forgive us for our ignorance,
And that you remain with us and never leave,
Guide us through your steps, walk with us!
Help us to know you oh peace!

Fill our hearts with your character,
Come to our minds and souls,
Befriend our brothers and sisters,
Let the children respect you always!
Accompany our parents when they go and come!

We cannot afford to be without you any more,
Having you assures us of the future,
You offer yourself to us and between us,
Remind us of your strength regularly
Be first in our differences oh peace!

With you we can laugh and hug,
We can argue and never fight,
We can differ and never be enemies,
For you draw your strength from forgiveness,
And our children can bravely face the future
Leaning on you and referring to you always!

And at last we shall live in freedom,
With confidence to swim out safely,
From situations of anger, hate jealous and revenge,
To the land where you rule and dominate,
Only if we know and embrace you mother peace!
For with peace, we win!

Peace to all!!

Pen and Paper


By Mwashi Litonde Peter.

My Son, You are now a grown up Boy,
Although you have come up not with Joy,
There is still hope for you to Enjoy,
Only if you fight not to Destroy,
Make use of this Pen and Paper!

I give you this Pen and Paper,
That you may write of your Past and Future,
Don’t shy away from the huddles you’ve come through,
Write of the forgotten Heroes and Heroines of Our Nation,
Write about their efforts for freedom,
Write about Dedan Kimathi and Tom Mboya
Write My Son with this Pen and Paper!

My Son this should be your weapon,
To highlight of the social injustices you’ve come through,
Write of the Human Rights violations witnessed,
About the children dying from Hunger in the land of plenty,
Mention about the neighbor who defiled your sister,
Write about the impunity with which they Killed!

With this Pen and Paper, You will let the world know,
It will be known of the sleeping teacher in your class,
Let it be known of the cheating and stealing politician,
Don’t forget of the careless local leaders,
Who share the sweat and the blood of innocent,
Write and write with this Pen and Paper!

But again my son,
Be fare with your writing,
Write about the beautiful sites of Nature,
About the Maasai Mara and Lake Nakuru,
About the Great Rift Valley and Mt Kenya,
Jot of the Kenyan coast and Lake Victoria,
Never forget the Tsavo and the Mau forests!

In your writing, include this Paragraph,
About the Richness in culture of our 42 Tribes,
On this Paper you can draw,
Draw the cows in Rift Valley and North Eastern,
Paint the farming in Central and the Fishing in Nyanza,
Outline the Hard work in western and the hunting in Eastern,
Why not color the tourism in the coast?
Frame all this with the Business in Nairobi!

Continue writing of the abuses in the Industries,
Of the poor wages and Harsh working conditions,
Don’t forget of the commanding and abusive language
Write these in red!
Write about the illegal detentions at the expense of justice,
Write on how you were brutally arrested with no offense,
All these with this Pen and Paper!

Remember on how you were denied a chance,
A chance to compete in a music contest, Your crime?
You don’t have a God farther even though you are talented,
Remember also when you could not join the National team,
Write my Son of the Auditions you never managed,
Full of talent, But you are not known,
Write my son with this Pen and Paper!

Write of the Organization,
That gave you 200 shillings to Riot,
I know you my Son, you are a Defender,
You did this with a passion to change and,
To let your Voice be heard and not for the 200 shillings
But what happened when you were badly beaten by the Authorities?
The Organizers were taken to Nairobi Hospital,
And you were taken to a poor Local clinic!

In your writing, mention this,
Mention on how they preach water and take wine,
Write of the few hypocrites in the name of Religion,
Hiding their real character during the day,
Make sure you include their immoralities,
Write on how they speak of richness in Heaven,
When they seek theirs on earth!
Write my Son, with this Pen and Paper!

Write on how you would like it be,
Wouldn’t life be better if we lived in Freedom?
Freedom to enjoy our Human Rights and Democracy,
How about letting the prevalence of Justice?
Justice despite of our political, economic or social Background,
How better would it be to fairly share our National resources?
It would be a heaven on earth if corruption would actually,
Burn in eternity, It is the heaven we may want NOW!
Write it down My Son, with this Pen and Paper!

But before you write all these, my Son,
Make sure you have enough Ink,
The Ink of Courage and Determination,
The Ink to Overcome Threats and Intimidation,
The Ink full of Energy to Change the World and,
To save Our Nation!

Check if the Ink is enough to Motivate our,
Fellow brothers and sisters to join in,
And guarantee your generation and the future ones,
A better place to live in and a hope to Overcome!
Go on my Son, and write with this Pen and Paper!

Dedicated to the Youths of Kenya!

My Bike

By Mwashi Litonde Peter

This poem is inspired by a story of a small boy living as an internally displaced person in the Rift valley Kenya after the post election violence witnessed in the country as a result of disputed results of the presidential election, announced on 30th December 2007.

The violence left over 200,000 people displaced and more than 1000 dead. The worst affected area was the cosmopolitan Rift valley. Women and children suffered the most.

The boy was in the Kenyan media on the material day he went back for his bike. I can only imagine his feelings as he awaits what the future holds for him and many in the camp.

I once owned a bike, a good bike,
This bike was part of me,
A treasure that I can’t measure
It perfectly, suited me, served me!
A bike that no one couldn’t like!

It would take me to school,
I would use it to go to the shops,
And more so to visit my friends!
With my bike we all shared a ride,
One after the other, together we enjoyed.

But I left my bike behind, out in rain,
When everyone was running for their life,
How come I didn’t remember
That with my bike I would be faster?
My bike, I undermined its potential!

It has bean worrying me much,
Of what begot my dear bike.
Today I ran miles back to find out,
At this point tears fill my eyes,
And not that my bike is not there,
But of the condition I found my bike!

Full of rust, it is won out,
It cannot function at the moment,
The chain is dry out of oil,
The tires are full of punctures and wholes,
I can only carry my bike on the shoulders!

What pains me, is the neighbor, my neighbor
Who warned me not to dare come back,
I wish he new the pain in me of my bike!
A bike that was well functioning,
But it will need a serious service to serve!

My bike will need a scrub and a new paint,
White I propose, to look new!
A Lubricating oil from the city of tolerance
New tires that can endure this journey of democracy,
And stronger brakes to control the impatience

If possible another pair of peddles of dialogue
A good sit of love and trust will work,
This way I will have my bike back may be better,
To take me to school, and to my friends,
One by one I will carry them,

To a new field cleared of impunity!
The field of truth, justice, and reconciliation,
And more so of a mature democracy,
I will start with my very own neighbor,
For with my bike we shall peddle once again!

The poet is a children rights activist and a thespian specializing with participatory approaches for community change working with an initiative ‘Child PEACE Africa’ currently in Korogocho slums in Nairobi Kenya. (plitonde@yahoo.com)

Monday, March 31, 2008

Proposal to deal with the post election conflict


Project title: Enhancing harmony and Development among slum Dwellers in Nairobi through reduction of horizontal violence and strengthening of peoples Organizations.

Time Frame: April to May 2008.

Project Goal: Reduction of Horizontal violence among the dwellers of informal Settlements, through organizing of residents into Neighborhood Peace and Development groups, strengthen the existing CBOs and FBOs and use them to protect Rights.

Beneficiaries: Direct Beneficiaries shall be 250 CBOs with 25,000 members Indirect Beneficiaries shall be all residents of the informal Settlements.

Contact: Lawrence O. Apiyo.
National Chairman, Community Organization Practitioners
Association of Kenya.
PO Box 6253, 00200, new Hurlingham Plaza 3rd Floor Room D11
Nairobi - Kenya.


Community Organization Practitioners Association of Kenya (COPA-K) is a professional membership body of social development workers whose concern is community organizing as a key to genuine people’s empowerment, transformation and sustained development. The Association’s main objective is to promote and enhance community organization work /profession in Kenya. It aims at developing the capacity of its members to be more efficient and effective as community organizers. This is also extended to the leaders of the people’s Organizations in order for them to be effective leaders to their membership.

Basically, Community Organisation is a social development approach that facilitates a community driven development processes with a view to enabling people to actively participate in shaping their destiny.

The post –Election Violence prompted Members of Community Organization Practitioners Association of Kenya to engage in direct mobilization of residents of the informal settlements of Nairobi through leaders of Community Based and Faith Based Organizations.

It was on January 1st that a quick consultation through the short message system among the members arrived at an agreement that the intervention of the Association was of vital importance since the areas that were most affected were the same ones where they work and the affected were the same people they work with. At this time, all the mother agencies where members of the Association work were still on Holiday.

The horrifying horizontal violence was/is uncalled for. It is painful to see poor community members who have lived together in harmony for years, turning against one another, killing one another and destroying/burning one another’s properties. The poor people’s attention has so far been turned away from the main issue, the irregularities surrounding the outcome of the general elections, to the horizontal violence and destruction of properties. COPA – Kenya therefore was convinced that it was within its mandate to facilitate its members to positively intervene and promote peace and reconciliation among the poor.

In the last one month, Kenya has experienced an unprecedented violence as a result of the disputed general elections results. Most affected are the Slums where majority poor live. The on-going violence is characterized by looting, burning of houses, and destruction of business premises, forceful displacements, illegal occupation of houses, refusal to pay rent by tenants and Killings. The police have intervened and opened fire, resulting in more deaths. The violence has divided so much the different ethnic communities that have lived together for many years in the settlements along the political persuasions.

Problem Statement.

It is right to say that the violence we are witnessing and experiencing in this post election period was premeditated by a wider section of the Kenyan society. However, it is not true to say it is a result of the just concluded discredited General elections. Kenya’s problems are as old as its independence. When Kenya fell to colonialists, the problems also set in. Some of these problems revolve around governance, and equitable resource allocation among others. The clamor to correct these historical mistakes and injustices began almost immediately after independence, taking different forms. It is therefore the view of
COPA – Kenya that the violence resulting from the election dispute is just a sign of frustrations and of the nipped hope for change Kenyans have long desired. It has remained a belief and tradition that this elusive change can only be brought about through democratic elections that brings people centered leadership, who would create democratic structures/institutions and systems for indiscriminate governance and resource allocation. It is for a fact that the violence was very evident in and around the poor communities. When the poor turn against one another, they turn against those they perceive belong to the side of oppressors and when they turn against the middle class areas, Business places, transport agencies, it means they destroy anything they feel is a manifestation or a pillar of oppression. Of greater concern to COPA – Kenya is the preparation of the grassroots to participate in the coming Truth and Justice Commission and Electoral review committee hearings. We are concerned that the hard truths that will come from these commissions may fuel some disharmony and disrupt the gains already made in creating peace in the settlements. Worth mentioning is the fact that no institution or individual can neither force nor prosecute anyone for hate, but genuinely sustained positive change processes can cause transformation and conversion. Based on this, COPA-Kenya seeks not only to address the violence through peace and Reconciliation initiatives, but also on a longer term community organizing for good governance and asset Building among the poor in our urban towns and cities.

Reduction of Horizontal violence among the dwellers of informal Settlements, through organizing of residents into Neighborhood Peace and Development groups, strengthen the existing CBOs and FBOs and use them to protect Rights shall become the core m mandate of COPA –Kenya in this endeavor.

Beneficiaries: Direct Beneficiaries shall be 250 CBOs with 25,000 members. Indirect Beneficiaries shall be all residents of the informal Settlements in Nairobi.

Target Areas. The targeted Settlements/slums are found in Nairobi city and include: -
Kibera, Korogocho, Huruma, Kiambiu, Baba Dogo and Mathare.

Current priority problems.
• Loss of sources of livelihood.
• Illegal occupation of other peoples houses.
• Weakening Community Based Organizations.
• Insecurity.
• Limited access to adequate basic needs such as food, clothing, and households.
• Fear, Trauma, suspicion and hopelessness.

Please contact COPA-Kenya for further information


Monday, March 17, 2008

Kochfm response since January 2008

Koch FM’s Intervention to the Post Election Violence
Community Outreach Department

1.0 Introduction


The political violence witnessed in Kenya after the disputed results of the December 27, 2007 general elections is the worst civil violence in her history since the attempted coup of 1982. As in the past women and children were the most affected with youths being accused as the active participants in the violence. In all the occasions it is the poor who suffered most. The suffering the poor underwent was extremely painful for a right thinking person to just see and sit back. It is also sad to note that the largest destructions and killings took place in the dwelling areas of the poor. In Nairobi for instance massive destruction of physical properties and killings was experienced in the peoples’ settlements of Kibera, Mathare and Huruma Ghetto. Kijiji cha Chewa that used to neighbor Mathare 4A is now history as the ghetto was burnt to ashes.

A section of the field which, before the announcement of the results of the 2007 elections, was a home to over 3000 people. This is where Kijiji cha Chewa used to be.

Though Korogocho community was not badly hit by the violence, by this I mean witnessing inter-ethnic violence and destruction of properties, the acts of violence in the neighboring communities impacted negatively to the Korogocho community. For instance the violence witnessed in Ngomongo-neighbor to the east, Kasabuni, Kariadudu and Kariobangi-neighbor to the west highly contributed to acts of robbery within the slums. The idle young adults used the tension and confusion to engage in acts of lawlessness injuring and killing quite a number of people.

The persistent tenancy conflict in Ngomongo almost ignited a bitter violence between the residents of Korogocho and Ngomongo when the latter confronted the other community alleging that youths from Korogocho accompanied the Police and the landlords in an aborted late night operation to arrest those who are alleged to be rent defaulters. Again, the thugs took good use of the tension and confusion robbing many and killing one person.

A good number of victims of the violence from other parts of the country also found their way and refuge in Korogocho. There are a sizeable number of such people from as far as Western, Nyanza, and Rift Valley province who are now considering themselves to be residents of Korogocho.

2.0 Past Experience

The violence witnessed after the announcement of the much disputed election results arouse the past inter-ethnic violence witnessed in Korogocho in the year 1992 and 1997. And like now the fights highly contributed to almost total collapse of security in the area. A number of people lost their lives.

3.0 Koch FM’s Intervention

In line with our objective –to promote peace and peaceful co-existence amongst the various ethnic communities in Korogocho and to defend human rights and safeguard human dignity, we resolved to;

Advocate for peace and understanding amongst our listeners as we believed and hoped that an acceptable solution would be reached through dialogue and debate. We made peace messages and jingles from the community members and regularly played them on air. This is still on-going.
We mobilized for food and clothes through radio appeals. Our listeners overwhelmingly brought clothing items which we took to the over 500 families that were camping at the Star of Hope Academy in Huruma.
In collaboration with other pro-peace initiatives, we managed to mobilize, organize and undertake a call-for-peace procession in Korogocho and Ngomongo. The procession attracted a huge number of participants. Apart from peace slogans, songs and chants, we also distributed handbills and T-shirts with peace and reconciliation messages.

3.1 The intervention’s important dates chart

Date Objective Activity Place Target/Beneficiaries
01/01/08 Appeal to our listeners that justice will only prevail in a peaceful environment
Playing peace/justice music
Koch FM studio Our listeners
02 to 19/01/08 Raise materials to support the victims of post election violence
Hourly radio appeal for support in any form
Koch FM studio Our listeners
09/01/08 To show our/listeners solidarity and support to victims of the post election violence
Distribute the collected items
Star of Hope Academy in Huruma 500 people who had sought refuge in the school after their village-Kijiji cha Chewa-was razed to ashes
12/01/08 Reduce political tension and promote peace
Pro-peace procession
Korogocho, Ngomongo Korogocho/Ngomongo Residents
23/01/08 To show our solidarity with the victims/affected
2nd distribution of the items collected
Miss Koch boardroom, Korogocho 85 people affected by the post election violence in Korogocho
30/01/08 To promote peace & co-existence
Radio debate
Koch FM studio Koch FM audience
22 /02 to 08/03/2008 Promote peace and reconciliation
Radio peace and reconciliation message jingles with APHRC
Koch FM studio Korogocho community and the entire Koch FM audience

3.2 Koch FM’s Impact

Koch FM made a great impact to the lives of the residents of Korogocho and her general audience in many ways i.e.

Providing not only a medium of communication but also a platform for Kenyans to contribute and share whatever little they had with their brothers
Cooled down the tempers and tensions of our listener through peace messages and this to some extent kept the violence in the low level witnessed, compared to other slums of Nairobi
Provided a space for the community to pre-empt possible planned attack or revenge through the radio leading to aborting of such plans if at all there were any, after the story goes on air in a reconciliatory manner
Provided an opportunity for the individual residents of Korogocho to speak their mind on peaceful co-existence to the rest of the community members and this greatly influenced the potential peace breakers positively. The community members were impressed and could be heard commenting that they heard so and so appealing for peace through the radio.
Being a media the community takes whatever information they receive from us truth and we therefore play a greater role in shaping their opinion

4.0 Current Plans and Activities to Promote Peace, Justice and Reconciliation

Koch FM, through her Community Outreach Department intends to embark on a myriad of activities to;

Educate people on the importance of dialogue and issue based debate
Promote peace, reconciliation and peaceful co-existence
Establish community conflict management/resolution structure to facilitate peace talks when need arise
Promote nationhood, good governance, democracy and respect for human rights

4.1 Implementation Strategy

Our implementation strategy shall include;

Inter village sporting activities and dialogues
Special focus on youths and women in village leadership structures
Radio talk show/debates
Participatory theatre/drama
Workshops/Focus Group Discussions (FGD)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

How did we get here?

In the streets of Perth Western Australia am sitting in the train, the lady next me is reading the local news paper the West Australian. She looks up with concern and tears on her eyes and she asks me where are you from? I say Kenya and she looks again at the article and asks how did you get here? For a momment am thinking thats idle talk, I came by air, then before I can answer her she points to the article and the pictures jump out. It is a scene that I have seen, smoke raising from a burning house, a man running away with a little girl on his back. And immediately I know what she is asking.

I have no answer, all I can say is we did not see it comming, the elections were very peaceful, there were observers, we had an electoral commission that had the experience having overseen the past elections of 2002. I also muse to my self, that there was a lot of investment in civic education, promoting peace, tolerence and all desirable virtues. I do my best to explain what I think must have transpired.

Painful as it is once again we have been reminded of how fragile peace is and how in one action mayham can be caused. There are those who believe that the violence was premeditated and as such are looking around for the inciters. There is the other school of thought that says the violence was all spontenous a reaction to events as they unfolded.

The first premise of organized response to the election is easy to deal with as it gives us the false comfort that people were acting under orders, it basically shifts the blame on the individuals who violently reacted to what was happening. The second idea is hard to deal us it forces us to squarely look at the reality that amongst us there are people who are ready and willing to kill and maim to make a statement.

In a country with a judiciary and a well ordered way of resolving dispute this is a big blow as it negates all the gains that we had made in advancing democracy and human rights discourse in Kenya.

She then asks why do people in Kenya like living in their small communities even when they migrate in the city? And am thinking right, we got Kisumu Ndogo in almost all cities of Kenya, we got Garissa in Nairobi, for a momment I wonder if that shows how tribalized we are, but then I point out that in so many countries there is a China Town, and I have always visited the China town's to get some Chinese stuff and it is so beautiful. The landscape of Perth City or Sydney would be incomplete without the little china town's. I also remind my self that the Indians almost without exception reside in one area of whichever city or town they might migrate to. So in a sense living with ones own kin should not be seen as a bad thing of itself but the flip side is that when the tension rises this blocks can feul a conflict.

I also tell her that in any community there are people who are just waiting for an opportunity to be disruptive, we have witnessed mob violence in the streets of Nairobi that point out clearly to a complete disregard of human life and due procedures. The lady gets off am heading to the last station from Perth and as such I have the rest of the journey to reflect upon what has become of Kenya..

As I journey in Australia am a walking source of curious looks, talks and discussions, suddenly everyone has realized that there is a country called Kenya and they have issues to deal with.

As dutiful Kenyans we have joined hands here in Perth Western Australia to raise awareness on the plight of people affected by the post election, we are also collecting funds to support relief efforts and hope we will be involved in the long term process of finding sustainable peace.

Hope she reads the message that we are sending out, that we as Kenyan's in Western Australia will work as hard as we assist people to overcome the challanges that have been caused by the conflict..