The New Kenya: “Children of The Fifth Monkey”

Sometimes enlightenment beams through the oddest crevices.

I was reading a book by David Thorne, a renowned internet troll, where he sarcastically called one of his coworkers something to the effect of “Harlow’s fifth monkey” for blatantly following rules without questioning them.

For those not familiar with Harlow’s monkey experiment, it goes something like this (and I’m paraphrasing).

He took 5 monkeys and put them at the bottom of the stairs and then put a bananaat the top. When one monkey approached the stairs, all 5 got sprayed with ice water. This was repeated until none of the monkeys tried to get the banana and resolved to remaining warm and dry. At this point, one of the monkeys was replaced with a new monkey. When this monkey went for the banana, the other 4 beat the sh** out of it. It was never sprayed. After this monkey was thrashed once or twice, yet another of the original 5 was substituted for a new one and it was yet again thrashed. The other monkey joined in to this monkey ass whooping with even more enthusiasm and vigor than the original four. No spraying. They replaced the third monkey to the same outcome; no monkey dared approach that damn banana. Eventually the fourth and fifth monkeys were also phased out slowly and initiated with the violent orientation whenever they approached the banana.

A new 6th monkey was introduced. And although none of the 5 monkeys that had been sprayed were there, the 5 in their place still handily dished out a thrashing to the new monkey when it tried to go for the banana. They had no reason to. They didn’t know about the water sprays and the cold that came with them. They didn’t know that they actually could have the banana now. Instead they made sure all other monkeys stayed in line. What line though, is questionable.

I read that and think of this.


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Marriage Law Debate: Are Kenyans Inherently Polygamous?

“Since we became independent and in the 10 lives of the Independent Parliament, we have not found time to legislate over our families. One could almost ask whether our independence has not just been skin-deep if we have not bothered to liberate our families from dictation by such colonial relics as the family Laws of 1962.”
– Judy Thongori, a leading Family Law practitioner

The history behind the failed attempts to enact a comprehensive Marriage Bill in our country is something former law lecturer, now Deputy Supreme Court Justice Nancy Baraza once termed as ‘very sad indeed’. It is no secret that both the 1970 and the mid-1990s parliaments shelved the bill because of their strong opposition to the proposed criminalisation of adultery and the non-recognition of polygamy. See, polygamy in particular is deemed to be part and parcel of “african” culture ergo any Western law that went against this was considered “Un-african”.

So now, thanks to Nancy Baraza and the good folks over at the Kenya Law Reform Commission, we now have a new Marriage Bill. A Bill that doesn’t criminalise adultery and expressly recognizes polygamous marriages. The question I would love to be answered by our women is whether a declaration by their spouse-to-be that their marriage is potentially polygamous would deter them from getting married in the first place? And perhaps more generally, does this provision promote/condone promiscuity by men in society?

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The Politics of Vetting, Parliament and Government Scams

It Is said that a single day in the life of Kenyan politics is a very long time. This week has been one of Kenyan politics at its best. The results of this week speak for themselves: Kenya now has a new Chief Justice (CJ), Deputy Chief Justice (DCJ) and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) as well as 5 new Supreme Court Justices.

Also this week, Parliament reared its ugly head when debating the judicial nominees and the DPP nominee. Sadly, what I feared earlier this week has come to pass. Parliament failed to rise to the occasion and ensure that Kenya gets a suitable candidate beyond reproach as its first DPP under the new Constitution. This week also saw the release of an internal audit report by the Ministry of Finance stating that 4.2 Billion Shillings was misappropriated by the Ministry of Education in its Free Primary Education programme.

All these events sum up a week that will certainly go down in history as the most bittersweet 5 days of 2011.
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Fearing What’s Next: Kenyatta, Marende and Parliament

I am writing to you from a country where generations have grown up fearing the government. A country that has never been free.
In the past, there were several particularly oppressive periods, among them the colonial era during the Mau Mau times then later during the last years of Kenyatta’s regime and ofcourse the Moi era. Granted, during the latter era, Kenyans were griped by a palpable fear of secret police, disappearances, detentions, dungeons, Nyayo torture chambers, persecution of individuals and their family and so forth. This type of fear, I am happy to report, has been largely neutralized by the current regime of President Kibaki.

However, the fear that currently grips citizens of this country is the fear that the government continues to do stupid things and endangers the two public goods most valued by the citizenry: law and order, and the improvement of the economy that benefits all.
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Please Legislate On Our Behalf, For a Change.

Dear Honourable/Mheshimiwa Prof./Bishop/Dr./Eng./Mr./Mrs.,

My name is NV and I address this to all 222 of you, noble members of Kenya’s Legislature.

At the referendum ballot, Kenyans spoke unanimously in favour of a new Constitution which was subsequently promulgated by the Head of State. Now we look to you MPs to respect the will of the people and take on your noble job of legislating expeditiously with the best interests of your constituents and the entire nation at heart.
But as we know all too well, parliamentary legislation is often an exercise in contestation. Lies, propaganda and selfish pursuits often come into play. You cannot afford to gerrymander with this monumental task of enacting laws under the new constitution, nor infuse into it diversionary considerations, constructed from political posturing ahead of the 2012 elections.
As a nation, we will be vigilant and ensure that the implementation will follow the timelines laid out in the calendar established in the Fifth Schedule of the constitutional text. In addition to the timetable being respected, we will insist that the content of the legislation you enact must live up to the spirit and letter of the Constitution which inter alia, upholds the essential values of human rights, equality, freedom, democracy, social justice and the rule of law.

With that said, I would like to make two short points as you embark on your legislative functions at the dawn of Kenya’s new constitutional era.
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