Battered men: Maendeleo ya Wanaume betraying its own cause

From what I can gather Maendeleo ya Wanaume lives and operates from the briefcase of one Nderitu Njoka — it’s chairman and purports to be an organisation fighting for the rights of battered men.

It is common knowledge that gender relations are in constant flux and conceptions of masculinity and femininity are being reshaped and redefined as our time passes on. Therefore one wonders why Maendeleo ya Wanaume (MYW) has chosen to exclusively focus on battered men when there are a host of other emerging issues that are equally deserving of attention including the question of the boy child and others issues affecting men as highlighted by myself here and also by nittzsah here.

Putting aside the issue of MYW selective agenda focus, the Chairman’s own recent remarks are most troubling as they reflect a total lack of appreciation of some of the underlying causes of gender-based violence in particular the recently reported cases of wives assaulting their husbands in the county of Nyeri:

“It is not an issue of poverty any more. It is about women supremacy as they want to dominate men,” (reported on Feb 12th 2012)

“Mr Njoka blames “female superiority complex” for the rising cases of husband battery, tracing its roots to the high handed female colonial chief, Wangu wa Makeri, who reigned in Murang’a with an iron fist, and was particularly hard on men.” (reported on Feb 9th 2012)

“Men should be respected as family heads, but in Central Kenya, they have been reduced to the role of fathering children before they are dumped..” – Nderitu Njoka. (reported on Feb 9th 2012)

It is clear that MYW Chairman believes there should be gender hierarchy (which must be recognised and respected) and this is precisely the kind of mentality that women in Nyeri may be reacting against.

The point of departure MUST be that men and women are equal partners in the home and therefore each of them must be respected as such. The MYW Chairman’s recent comments are misguided and dangerous in that they are capable of inciting men to blindly oppose and question the empowerment of women and resort to violence as a retaliatory weapon to “put women in their place”, so to speak.

Furthermore, the MYW Chairman is at fault for implying that there is a distinction between violence against men by women and violence against women by men. This insinuation is retrogressive, baseless and does not help in addressing the root socio-cultural, economic and political causes of gender-based violence in Kenya.

Regardless of whether the victims of gender-based violence are men or women, violence within the family unit remains an extremely private affair. As a result the majority of its victims continue suffering in the muffled recesses of this private domain. An association like MYW would be advised to work closely with other NGOs including Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization (MYWO) and The Federation of Women Lawyers Kenya (FIDA Kenya) to properly address the issues relating to domestic violence, using the backing of the Constitution and existing legislation.

The Year That Was: DR Highlights of 2011

Seasons’ Greetings!

In the year of our lord Two Nought Double One, the folks at DR invited you into our minds, hearts and thoughts and we are ever so grateful for all of you who read, commented, contributed, criticised and still spread the DR gospel far and wide!

So the aim of this post is to give you a quick run-down of a few memorable posts brought to you by the fantastic crew behind DR: davina, nittzsah, 3CB, iCon and yours truly.

Here goes:

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The Law is Broken: The Doctors’ Strike Isnt The Only Thing that May Be Unconstitutional

It is Day 3 of the on-going doctors’ strike by members of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) and despite their willingness to try and avert a nation-wide health crisis through negotiation and mutual settlement, the government has decided to play hard ball with a profession that literally holds the lives of Kenyans in its hands.

Many have argued that the Constitution is on the side of the doctors’ two fold: firstly it protects their right to take industrial action and secondly the State is under a positive obligation to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Kenyans both from a health care perspective as well as from a general human rights perspective.
However, constitutional rights are not absolute especially where there are competing rights such as the right of the general public to the delivery of essential services, which arguably would include health care services.

Before we discuss these weighty matters of legality, let’s start from the beginning.

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In Search of a Good Dictator

What I am about to tell you, I would never tell anyone else. Yet I trust Diasporadicalists. You are the least judgemental people I know. I am confident that none of you will use what am about to tell you against me. I know my confession is in safe hands. Okay, deep breaths everyone. Here goes:

When people ask me what democracy is, I still reply with a definition my primary-six civics teacher scribbled on the blackboard. That is:

‘Democracy is the government for the people, of the people, and by the people.

That’s all I know democracy to be.

When I read about Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue’s super-secret, super-expensive, super-yacht project, code-named ‘Zen’, the first thing that ran through my mind was that the dude must be a closet American. Supersizing is the American’s forte, is it not? I’ve heard whispers about our leaders and their families and friends owning streets in Luxembourg, ranches in Texas, hotels in Paris—the whole kit and caboodle. Yet that yacht catapulted Teodoro into a completely different ballpark.  It is going to be a while before anyone tries to beat that.

Right.

Now that we’ve finally come round to accepting that there is, in fact, such a thing as a self-made African man, there’s just one more thing with which we need to reconcile ourselves, apparently. This one more thing being, of course, that we are ‘not yet ready for democracy’.

We—the sub-Saharan, black-African lot of us—may perchance not even be destined to enjoy democracy. It might not be in our cards. That if we can’t, at the very least, find ‘benevolent dictators’, like the ones in Asia, say, we should do the smart thing and move on.

Move on to what, though? Where does one go after a dictator? How to let go of a mental lifestyle that’s been seeded by a lifetime’s worth of democracy-talk? We are the generation that’s been weaned on talk that a country has to be at a certain point on the development chart before its peeps can even begin to comprehend democracy, much less enjoy its fruits. The country shouldn’t have so many freaking poor people, for starters, because you just can’t trust poor people. They never ask for much. A litre of paraffin and some cooking oil is fine, really. We have spent half our lives listening to life-presidents perpetuating the idea that, while we might never be ready for democracy, we are always ready for dictators. It would appear that we have a proclivity for despotism. That’s our lot.

Sometimes, I catch myself thinking that, yes, democracy is overrated, and that we really should move on now. As long as we have hospitals, schools, and no brain drain. Maybe what we really need is better dictators. Perhaps what we need is the sort of dictator who will deal us the Queen of hearts, at the worst.

Perhaps we can compromise.

If we can’t get them to stop rigging elections and stuffing ballot boxes, we can attempt to persuade them to go about their dubious business in a subtler manner—the kind of dictators that won’t insult our intelligence, for instance. The kind that will rig elections and stuff ballot boxes without our having to find out. The kind of dictators who’ll tell better lies. The kind of dictators who won’t have to kill so many people. The kind that will steal money ‘nicely’.

Instead of ‘eating’ 90 million dollars in one go, these dictators will siphon off little, over a much longer period so it won’t immediately be obvious what they are up to. These are the dictators we need.

If you’re a good dictator and you’re reading this, therefore, do get in touch. We need you.

The Writing was on the Wall: Africa and The Failed States Index

“I guess Kenya will always have middle and long-distance athletics to fall back on.” – Anonymous.

In case you’ve been living under a rock or in one of Ferdinand Waititu’s deluxe Embakasi high-rises then you may have heard of some mzungu NGO that has released a report classifying Kenya as a “failed state”.

I hate to say I told you so.

Anyway, according to this list of Failed States, we are in the same league with Somalia, Ivory Coast and Haiti! These rankings are derived from a wide range of social, economic, political and military variables, which are taken as indicators of stability or latent instability. The index is supposed to rank, ultimately, all the countries depending their vulnerability to collapse.

I guess this would be a good time to pause and ask what is the definition of a ‘failed state’?

Failed States are those whose governments are ‘incapable of projecting power and ascertaining authority within their own borders, leaving their territories governmentally empty.’

Here is a more detailed definition of ‘failed state’, tell me which part of this does not scream ‘KENYA’:

“a state is failed when its government is losing physical control of its territory or lacks a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Other symptoms include the erosion of authority to make collective decisions, an inability to provide reasonable public services, extensive corruption and criminal behavior, inability to collect taxes or otherwise draw on citizen support, sharp economic decline, group-based inequality, and institutionalized persecution or discrimination are other hallmarks of state failure”

People, this index is not there willy nilly to measure small things like who was throwing what stones at which Rally, this is the real deal. So lets stop being defensive and stubborn for once, soberly sit down and think about our Kenya as we know it. Ofcourse we verily concede that given the right conditions, any nation on earth is susceptible to internal conflict but the question we need to address ourselves to is why is Kenya featured on the Top 20 of this List? What have we done between 2010 and 2011 to be paraded on this List of Shame?

Whether we decide to list them alphabetically or chronologically, there are a number of things that immediately come to mind:

– We have two governments working at cross-lengths, cross-hairs and cross-purposes ALL THE TIME
– Northern Frontier skirmishes/ porous Kenyan borders in the North
– IDPs, IDPs, IDPs.
– Grand corruption
– Government Scams
– Sam Ongeri (aka Nemo) and the other ‘big fish’ in government
– A government that refuses to pay taxes (Parliament and Executive)
– ICC suspects being tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Hague.
– Wastage of government funds on ‘shuttle diplomacy I, II, III’ and Executive Suites at the Waldorf Estoria in New York.

I’m not one to air dirty linen out online so I’ll stop there. Long story short, Kenya rightly deserves a spot on the List of Failed States.

In fact, to be brutally honest, the only thing that Kenya has achieved since the last time we were on the list of Failed States last year is that now we have a brand spanking new Constitution intended to affirm Kenya’s status as an open and democratic nation whose society is based on human dignity, equality and freedom.
However we as Kenyans must understand that democracy alone cannot earn us status or hegemony or wealth. And while it is true that freedom and democracy may favour development, it is also true that people cannot eat democracy. Kenya may have gone through remarkable even ‘revolutionary’ transformation in the last year or so but the ordinary Kenyan has little to show for the enhanced democratic space. The media-hogging initiatives by Government and the public sector only target issues that are important to the tiny, town-dwelling middle class, and have little to do with the rural areas where the majority of Kenyans eke out a perilous and almost impossible existence.

And so with the decline of Kenya comes the consequent rise of Tanzania, by default. Tanzanians went to the polls the other day and re-elected Kikwete and no one barely noticed meanwhile Kibaki’s and Museveni’s re-elections were marred by violence, chaos and shame. This and many other reasons is why Tanzania is not ranked among the Failed States of the world. Kenya’s decline in the East African region is an indicator, not just of reduced prestige, but also of the external frustration that mirrors the frustration of Kenyans at their leaders’ incessant bickering and tolerance of corruption, not to mention their utter failure to deliver even a modicum of sane governance.

It would be naïve to deceive each other that we are not a failed state but it would be unforgivable for us to allow self-pity or foolish pride to prevent us from accepting the challenges at hand. We must continue to push for reforms in our own small ways, we must continue to assert our constitutional rights and we must demand institutional transformation while continuing to hold all our public officers accountable to their employers: the people of Kenya. It is for us through our government to prove that we do not deserve to be compared with Somalia but until we do, we will forever be associated with them.

People who want to arm themselves with more information about political topics such as failed states can find information at online college classes. Politics and economics are two subjects that rule our world, and it is helpful when we understand as much as possible about them.

The Ugly Side of the First Lady Syndrome in Africa

“Macbeth: If we should fail —
Lady Macbeth: We fail!
But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
And we’ll not fail.”
– Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, Scene VII

Political Science 101: power is the capacity to make others do what they would not ordinarily do. Often described as the power behind the throne, First Ladies are well positioned to either build or destroy a nation by virtue of the power they wield over their spouses. In my earlier piece on Last..err..First Ladies in Africa, I focussed mainly on their instrumental role as peace-makers and advocates of change. A role which many of our First Ladies have not taken up and as a result, they are also blamed for the failures and short-comings of their husband’s rule.

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