50 Years Angrier: On Celebrations, Riots & Revolution

Look at our country.

kenya at 50 celebrations

All 50 years of its freedom have amounted to everything you see around you today. All the freedoms that we enjoy, all the development that we witness and all the suffering that remains.

Last week, the the Creative Director at my place of work drafted a fairly sober email for one of our clients to send out on independence day. It talked of the “battles we won and the blood we’ve shed”. I had to tell him to rewrite it as it was too dark. Because if truth be told, we have tons of reasons to celebrate.

But while we’re being honest, it’s hard to remember those reasons when everyday, we are blinded by archaic injustices.

Yesterday, I happened to be a stonesthrow away from where the University riots began when they began. I read online about how the students were infuriated because one of their own supposedly committed suicide while in police custody for cheating on an exam. Students I spoke to seem to think “suicide” is a cover up. It’s not clear and I’m not here to take sides.

What is clear is that students rioted last night. And in response to the riots, police escalated from teargas and crowd control to live rounds and murder. Continue reading

The Police vs. The People Part 2: “Inspection”


Like I said in Part 1, my cab guy works small miracles for a small fee. I’m never mad to pay him; he earns every single penny. It also helps that he’s hopelessly honest and pretty damn focused. 20 something with several cars in several cities; you can’t hate on that if you tried.

So that Friday morning, he was getting his insurance papers sorted out; all those PSV stickers that make no sense to the layman. He then took his car for servicing and spared no expense ensuring his vehicle was up to standard.
The good thing about sober, focused taxi drivers is that they know exactly how to avoid trouble; it’s not by driving faster or using the backroad. It’s not by bribery or lying. It’s by doing your job and shutting up.

By 10am, he was done with ensuring his vehicle was legal and up to par and running checks on his other cars and drivers. He drove out of Adams and before he got to the roundabout, a lady flagged him down.
“Tao.”
She didn’t say anything beyond that. So he began driving towards town. When he got to the Kenyatta avenue round-a she said “Globe Cinema”. She wasn’t chatty and had no intention of playing nice. He didn’t mind. Halfway up K-Ave, his phone rang to life. It was me. I explained my conundrum and he calmed me down and told me he’d send someone.

He calls his friend and sends him my way. Right at that time, he sees a waving black baton being flailed by a chubby officer of the law. Continue reading

The Police vs. The People Part 1: “Operation”


It was 10am on a Friday in a busy dusty Nairobi. The sun was shining just bright enough to provide camouflage for the bone rattling chill. And it did so expertly; the treacherous glow had however convinced the masses to underdress.
But not I, Popeye. I anticipated this deceit and layered up.

I can’t stop glancing at my watch doing mental mathematics: I was meant to have an appointment at 11am at a hotel in Gigiri and had just gotten out of one in the CBD. Unlike the wealthier lot of you, my chauffeur was not waiting for me at the door when I came out, but instead at the bus stop where I was headed. ‘If I hop on a 106 or a 107 I’d make it to that area in 20 minutes or less and be half an hour early.’ So I stroll leisurely towards the stage.

10:20am: I’m waiting for a Matatu so we can leave.

Then I realize “Hey, I’ve never had to wait for one of these.” Continue reading

6 Most Useless Kenyan Service Providers

There are services on which we have built our country that still remain unapologetically pathetic. Frankly, I can’t think of one area of service in Kenya for which I can say “That’s a well oiled up-to-date machine.” None. Meanwhile, I can pinpoint quite a few total failures. For the large part however, our country is plagued by average bare-minimum-type organizations. In this massive pool of mediocrity, pathetic-ness and incompetency, 6 particular services have managed to float to the surface as the end-all-be-all of Useless Kenyan Service provisions. In increasing order of uselessness, they are:

6. Zuku

Oh, Zuku. We’ve been down this road before. So to avoid seeming biased, let’s perform the objective “Google Test”. Continue reading