We are gathered here today to say ‘kwaheri’ (farewell) to something that’s been a member of every Kenyan household and very dear to our hearts and indeed our bums for decades. Today we say adieu to the ‘kiboko’ a.k.a. the ‘cane’ or the ‘rod’. Here in Kenya, the kiboko has touched the lives of many both young while in the hands of ‘loving’ parents, equally ‘concerned’ relatives and friends and not forgetting those overzealous school teachers. Personally, I could say I owe my relatively turbulent-free formative years to the kiboko for putting the fear of God in me and keeping me on the straight and narrow path.
As you are aware, the kiboko met its fatal demise on August 27th 2010 at around 10:25pm at Uhuru Park with the promulgation of the New Constitution of Kenya. If you turn to Article 29 entitled Freedom and security of the person, sub article e) mentions that the right to freedom and security of the person includes the right not to be subjected to corporal punishment. In essence this new law supercedes the previously existing right of any parent or other person having the lawful control or charge of a child to administer reasonable punishment on him as provided under Article 127 of the Children Act 2001.
I believe the Committee of Expatriates (CoE), through questionable drafting, deliberately masterminded the demise of the Kiboko! How, you may ask? Well, the Committee of Exceptions (CoE) decided not to insert this new right forbidding corporal punishment in Article 53 (“Rights of Child”), for the simple reason that it would be spotted easily and hence would spark off heated debate on the subject. Instead the sneaky CoE decided to ‘hide’ this right not to be subjected to corporal punishment under a totally different but seemingly related Article 29 (“Freedom and security of the person”) where it would go unnoticed. I guess they were counting on Kenyans being Kenyans and not reading through the whole Constitution properly. Sadly, it worked. I would argue that had the CoE not gone through all this trouble, the kiboko would have become yet another contentious issue standing in the way of the passing of the New Constitution.
See, Kenya is a predominantly Christian state and most if not all of its Christian parents believe that the administration of corporal punishment emanates directly from their religious teachings which clearly state: ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child’. And as we already know “the rod” has been interpreted very generously to include punches, slaps, pinches, throwing of objects, hitting, spitting, jujitsu etc…
But with the dawn of our country’s new constitutional era, our children can now take us to court if we as adults so much as apply an iota of force on their person by way of ‘tough love’.
I believe this will soon become an issue of constitutional litigation since it can be argued that the prohibition of the administration of corporal punishment violates the religious beliefs of Christian parents enshrined under Article 32 entitled Right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion (No, I’m not being argumentative. Forbidding the kiboko is unconstitutional! Who’s with me?)
Ok, quick show of hands: how many of you were caned as children?
If you were caned, it worked.. didn’t it? You’re reading this so I can only assume that it worked, to some extent. Anyways, stop me if you remember any of these precious moments:
-Being sent to sent out to pick the belt or stick you’d be caned with, only to be sent back if the switch or belt you got was to small
-Being hit in the head or knuckles with a ruler in order to correct a defect (writing with your left hand, for instance).
-Being told: “Shut Up or I`ll give you something to cry about” and while being beaten, mummy or daddy or auntie or mr. headmaster was pronouncing every syllable —”Didn`t —I– tell —- you — not— to — do —that — *!*!$? — no — more?
-Being pinched for dozing off in public
-Being in so much pain but never thinking of reporting it to someone as child abuse.
-Hearing things like: “Lord, please don`t let me hurt this child!!” right before you’re given the whipping of your life.
-Hearing things like: “I brought you into this world, I can take you out of it ….”! and then being caned until the cane breaks against your backside.
-Getting thrown for the nearest random object: plastic hangers, hair brushes, combs… (no wonder some of us were such pros at ‘kati’ back in the day).
Over to you esteemed DR dwellers, care to share your fondest experiences of corporal punishment… you know, the ones you’ll undoubtedly share with your kids before you ‘ground’ them, send them on a ‘time-out’ or whatever other ‘humane’ punishments being meted out to kids these days?