Tragic as the alcohol abuse in our nation is, the worst is yet to come!

I belong to a clan! But in Kenya “clan” is a four-letter word – harassers (and inheritors!) of widows, dis-inheritors of orphans, practitioners of weird burial rituals – from sitting-upright interments to energetic tero buru! My clan is not as well-known as Baengele or Umira Kager – but we too have our claim to fame, that I shall shortly tell you about. However, in the interest of maintaining harmonious consanguineal relations in life, and avoiding riveting drama in death, my clan shall remain nameless!

Now, about our claim to fame – my clan are the pre-eminent brewers and imbibers of chang’aa in the entire East Africa region, including the new State of South Sudan from whence we imported the art of riverside distillery at some point after the First World War. The national media reported our celebrations at the enactment of the Mututho Rules – for that little clause that legalised chang’aa! When first introduced, the brew was known as Nubian Gin – to distinguish it from London Dry Gin I suppose! The name was derived from the Nubi people of Sudan who introduced the drink and the art of brewing it, they having been settled in Kenya as a reward for serving the British Crown in the great war. In fact, in those early days the best brewers were Nubi women, but my revered clanswomen (and men!) soon claimed the title. Of course the drink has since acquired other less dignified names, and a really terrible reputation! It is now called everything from Machozi ya Simba, to Mulika, through Kuona Mbee to Gun and Mung’are! I understand there is even a version that originated from a famous institution of higher learning that was known as Chiromo Champagne! And in some regions of our neighbour to the south, Tanzania, it was once known by the typically artistic name of Supu ya Mawe! And amongst my people, when they burst into song in praise of the stuff, they often refer to it as the the sweat of the basin, an allusion to the distillation process that involves condensation on a metallic basin of cold water!

The tipple has been blamed for all sorts of ills – teacher absenteeism and pupil truancy in our schools (very probable); decline in agricultural productivity (almost definitely); male impotence and general depopulation (hilarious!); loss of eyesight (arguable!) and mass deaths (debatable!). Yes yes yes … I have read the periodic reports of mass die-offs of alcoholic populations in different parts of the country, and I have seen the good women of the former Central Province stage demonstrations, and occasionally thrash some irresponsible drunk out of their gelded stupor! But to the best of my admittedly limited medical knowledge, ethanol (the active ingredient in all “good” alcohol) does not in “normal” or even “excessive” usage cause immediate blindness and death, or lead to the kind of generalised and chronic loss of libido and “breeding power” that is reported from parts of the nation. If indeed it did, I would be one of only a very few members of my clan still alive, for alcoholism amongst my brethren has reached calamitous proportions – just as it has in many other clans and communities!

Whatever is killing our people , emasculating the young men, potentially bankrupting obstetricians and paediatricians, is not alcohol! It is the “spice” that the dealers are adding to it – the wood spirit, the paint thinners, the methanol, the jet fuel, the battery acid, the transformer oil, the tail of a rabid cat, the remains of a large rat, the formalin … assorted stomach-churning mind-boggling concoctions of dubious origins and indiscernible pedigree!

Friends, Kenyans, Countrymen – tragic as the alcohol abuse in our nation is, the worst is yet to come! I belong to a clan, but I also have my own little clan – I am a husband and a father. And today’s papers sent a chill racing up and down my spine, caused me great vicarious suffering and heartbreak. Caused me to weep with every affected parent, and every other parent who may or may not be affected, but lives with the nightmare all the same: DRUGS!!

Citing a report from NACADA, the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse Authority, The Standard reported that almost 7% of students in Nairobi are addicted to cocaine while another 4% abuse heroin. About 3% of the students interviewed use Mandrax and Amphetamines, with another 3%  hooked on inhalants such as glue. That is 17% of the students, almost one in five! The story told of drug dealers literally living next door, pushing their poison to kids as young as 8; of drug dealers now packaging their product in “pocket friendly” quantities going for as little as ten shillings, the coin you toss to that Standard 2 nephew or niece just for being them! A counselor that they talked to observed that the dealers now appear to be targeting young people – actually TARGETING! Even in war, children are never a legitimate target – or combatants. The only wars that target children are wars of genocide, wars in which the combatants have been reduced to soul-less brutish mindless beasts! Is nothing sacred any more? And yet, this just reflects the sewers we have descended to as a nation!

Do you know which is the world’s most ratified human rights treaty? It is the Convention on the Rights of the Child – virtually ratified by all the nations of the world, following an arduous 9-year drafting process and 4-year ratification period. Article 33 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child categorically says that: States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislative, administrative, and educational measures to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, as defined in relevant international treaties, and to prevent the use of children in the illicit production and trafficking of such substances.

Kenya ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) on July 31, 1990 and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1999) – which makes the same provisions in almost identical words – on July 25, 2000. The enactment of the Children’s Act of 2001 (reviewed 2007) gives domestic effect to the obligations of Kenya under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Children’s Charter. Clause 16 of the Children’s Act provides that: Every child shall be entitled to protection from the use of hallucinogens, narcotics, alcohol, tobacco products or psychotropic drugs and any other drugs that may be declared harmful by the Minister responsible for health and from being involved in their production, trafficking or distribution.

Yet, as long ago as August 1998, Catherine Mgendi, in an article entitled Corruption and drugs in Kenya at page 9 in Africa Recovery, Vol.12#1, observed: Corruption seems to be a major part of the Kenya drug problem. In one recent case where 20 tonnes of hashish — the largest haul ever — were seized, the suspects were released for lack of evidence. Making his ruling, Mombasa Chief Magistrate, Aggrey Muchelule, said the case had been “interfered with by the Mafia and riddled by police cover-up.”  Even more amazing, she writes: In another case, it was revealed that 600 acres of the Mount Kenya forest reserve had been cleared for a bhang (cannabis) plantation. Administration police and forest rangers were used to guard the plantation.

Kenya is now suffering corruption that is on a drug high – hyperactive, supercharged, irrational, without boundaries or values of any kind! And who is behind it? In the report Termites at Work: Transnational Organized Crime and State Erosion in Kenya, published by the International Peace Institute in September last year, Peter Gastrow points out that …powerful criminal networks constitute a direct threat to the state itself, not through open confrontation but by penetrating state institutions through bribery and corruption and by subverting or undermining them from within. Governments that lack the capacity to counter such penetration, or that acquiesce in it, run the risk of becoming criminalized or “captured” states. Rampant corruption in the police, judiciary, and other state institutions has facilitated criminal networks’ penetration of political institutions.

In their article in The Star on 17th December 2011 entitled Kenya: Drugs – the Final Frontier in the War Against Corruption John Githongo and Ndung’u Wainaina summarise these findings very succinctly: What the drug traffickers found in Kenya is a weak criminal justice system, an easily corrupted police force and judiciary, and an easily ‘bought’ political elite. To paraphrase, some countries have a mafia, but in Kenya, the mafia owns the country! Or do they?

Where are our legislative, administrative, and educational measures to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances? Where are the laws that make the sale of drugs to children exquisitely painful, extremely unprofitable? Where is the outpouring of outrage, the Parliamentary Select Committee?

Fellow parents, it is not “other people’s children” doing drugs – it is our children! Because we have also failed them right in our homes! We are busy making money for their food, their clothes, the roof over their heads, their school fees and their birthday gift we really have no time for them! We would rather they went to boarding school where they can be “safely” locked in, attend holiday tuition and church youth camps so that their heads do not become the devil’s jua kali sheds! We may not be able to pre-empt youthful experimentation, but we should have adequate contact to know when experimentation is descending into addiction – and a short brutish life of hopelessness, crime and disease!

The trafficking of narcotics in and through Kenya is a major and growing problem that has permeated all strata of the society, according to a report on the global drugs trade by the US State Department that has been presented to the U.S. Congress to inform legislative policy. Drug trafficking is linked to the prevailing culture of impunity, and presents serious ramifications to the nation’s health, security, and stability, states the 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.

Drug abuse is a real monster and is one of the most devastating and crippling scourges facing mankind, the then Nairobi Provincial Director of Education, Mr. Erastus Kiungu, told a meeting of head-teachers in March 1998, the same month in which the Child Welfare Association, released findings of a study that revealed that one in every 15 Kenyan students is on drugs!

The fourteen years since 1998 is almost half a human generation, during which time the putrid fundamentals of this situation have become even more malodorous – now it is one on five children on drugs, and foreign “meddlers” tell us that the traffickers are in Parliament, in the Executive, in the Judiciary, in the Police, in the Customs Department, everywhere! We have failed our children by not installing a leadership that will not let such things happen, that will relentlessly bring to account those that will without a care destroy the future of this country; those that have corrupted and usurped the organs of state to perpetrate this insidious genocide!

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It is my right to massacre my brethren ….

I adore Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic Uganda, that much-tarnished Pearl of Africa. Do I see shocked expressions, cynical smiles, disbelief? I declare that gold is still gold, even if blighted by a little rust! Nothing that a little brasso and elbow grease cannot cure, restoring its fundamental nature, its lustre!

President Museveni, a much younger slimmer version with more hair and less tummy, who preferred battle fatigues to ill-fitting business suits, who wore headgear considerably less ridiculous than a broad stetson; one not as yet quite used to being Your Excellency, having been in power for just six months, made an incredible speech on Tuesday the 29th of July 1986 at the 22nd Ordinary Summit of the Organisation of African Unity in Addis Ababa. He stood before the gathered continental potentates, reclining in various states of twitchy arrogance, somnolence, senility, and insouciant imbecility, and in sonorous tones declared:

Over a period of 20 years, three quarters of a million of Ugandans perished at the hands of governments that should have protected their life …I must state that Ugandans were unhappy and felt a deep sense of betrayal that most of Africa kept silent while tyrants killed them. The reason for not condemning such massive crimes has, supposedly, been the desire not to interfere in the internal affairs of a member state, in accordance with the Charters of OAU and the UN. We do not accept this reasoning because in the same charters, there are explicit laws that enunciate the sanctity and inviolability of human life. While we accept and recognise the validity of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of a member state, we strongly hold that this should not be used as a cloak to shield genocide from just censure. African silence in the face of such gross abuses, we should realise, produces results prejudicial to our just goals … undermines our moral authority to condemn the excess of others….Tyranny is colour-blind and should be no less reprehensible because it is perpetrated by one of our kind.

Of course he did not receive a standing ovation and wild cheers from his audience… octogenarians tend to get fidgety at the mention of toothless gums! But in all the free countries of the world there was a collective telepathic “Tell them!” while in the countries ruled by his fellow heads of state, there was a furtive looking-around, lest state security agents judge that you are enjoying the speech a little too much, or subscribe to the sacrilegious ideas espoused therein!

So where am I going with this? Stay with me just a little while longer – and I might just begin to make sense. I recall the great liberator Yoweri because of yet another fellow with a sonorous voice, a bad accent, bushy eyebrows and a secretive smile – one Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Today he made an unremarkable statement, in the class of the sun shall rise in the east and set in the west, there will be light in the day and darkness at night! And yet, due to the breathtaking foolishness that suffocates our continent, his innocuous utterings (maybe even mutterings!) have been elevated into profound newsworthy material. All he said was: Being African is not an alibi to kill Africans. Surely, that is obvious, isn’t it? That does not need saying, does it? And if perchance it does get said, should it not be met with politely disguised boredom, a droopy-eyed lack of interest? I say a resounding NO, because he made this statement at the United Nations in New York, and because he also said: In this building, the world … ignored the Rwandan genocide …

His statement cannot be dismissed offhand because in Africa, confirmed savages that we are, we have the inalienable right to hack our brethren with machetes, incinerate them in their churches and homes, bludgeon them and their children, eviscerate their pregnant wives lest they bring forth more of the same, and sever their private parts that they may ascend from being boys into being men as they bleed to death! Given our inherent right to violate their bodies, we naturally also have the right to evict them from “our land”, to irrecoverably damage their investment in property – built on “our” resources, to reclaim that which they unfairly ate because “their man” was in charge; ruin their livelihoods by evicting them from jobs that they won “unfairly”, or deny them appointments because they already had their turn to eat; the right to decline to pay rent on premises that we occupy because they grabbed them anyway and they are already rich enough! And having done all this, being the special people that we are, we can then forgive each other – surely “peace” and “reconciliation” are more important than being held to account, more important than justice? Isn’t it obvious that we can have reconciliation without the necessity of truth and justice? But again, being physically far from the Motherland may have clouded my judgement, numbed my understanding!

Allow me to quote my hero Museveni again, this time on dealing with the perpetrators of the Rwanda genocide, from a speech at the Conflict in Africa Conference, Arusha, Tanzania, as reported in New Vision, 11th February 1998: The international community must hand them over – and the sooner the better. The crime was capital and the punishment must be capital! Definitely a firm believer in crime and punishment, and the one matching the other! And to his credit, he did not insist on the lifting of the warrants of arrest against Joseph Kony of the Lunatics (!) Resistance Army to guarantee peace in Northern Uganda!

Friends, Kenyans, Countrymen – to paraphrase many great sages, you cannot appease evil, you cannot negotiate with it, you confront it, you defeat it, you crush it! We will be in great error if we imagine that a peace or harmony built on the expedient exigencies of the moment will be sustainable – the fact that scab covers the wound does not mean it is healed! For true healing, we must rip off the scab, however painful, and dig into the putrefaction beneath. We must subject ourselves to a national debridement – the removal of dead, damaged, or infected tissue to improve the healing potential of the remaining healthy tissue. We must hearken to the words of Benjamin Franklin: They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety!

But how do we achieve this, you may ask? The primary disease is politics as usual, and the vector that transmits and sustains that disease is our collective ignorance. In the words of Thomas Jefferson: If a nation expects to be ignorant and free … it expects what never was and never will be! It is the willful ignorance that fuels our tribal biases, it is the ignorance that leads us to believe the unbelievable because our Tribal Aristocracy says it is so, it is the crass stupidity that leads us to believe that our nation actually has 40-plus tribes – not just two, the haves and the have-nots, the wenye-nchi and the wana-nchi, the eaters and the eaten! It is the amazing self-delusion that builds in our minds a land of milk and honey, achievable immediately upon the election of our ethnic overlords to top national office! It is the ignorance that begets fear, a fear that will not let us try something different, deliver a national game-changer, by sweeping aside the entire leprous motley crew and giving ourselves a fresh start! It is the myopic ignorance that leads us to believe that “sovereignty” and “independence” are values that are above justice and accountability, and that we – a nation that can neither feed itself nor domestically fund its development – can actually legitimately complain about “foreign interference”!

I again cite Rwanda, and the words of one of my all-time favourite authors, Nobel Literature Laureate, Wole Soyinka, quoted in the Los Angeles Times of 11th May 1994: The horror of Rwanda is too high a price to pay for a very vaporous and whimsical notion of what constitutes inviolable territorial boundaries… Of course the African Union has been the most ardent defender of our sovereignty, alongside that of our fellow independent states on the continent, such as Libya. In describing the role of the AU’s predecessor club in the matter of Rwanda, Ghanaian economist George Ayittey, in the work Africa in Chaos (1998) observes: The Organisation of African Unity was nowhere to be found … during the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsis, the OAU was furiously doing the watusi in Addis Ababa! For the un-initiated, the watusi was the second-most popular dance craze in the 1960s in the United States, after the twist. Its name derives from the Watutsi, the primary victims of the genocide!

Koffi Anan, our saviour, the then Undersecretary-General of the United Nations observed: If the pictures of tens of thousands of human bodies being gnawed on by dogs do not wake us out of our apathy, I do not know what will!

We have instead chosen the path of appeasement – lest “the fragile peace” be broken! Brethren, remember the words of Winston Churchill, in rejecting suggestions that he should negotiate with the evil that was Nazism and Hitler: An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile—hoping it will eat him last!

But again, I am Kenyan – and perhaps these too are delusional rumblings: I know my country, and I know my people! Whether it be December 2012, or March 2013, we shall sit up all night and, with extreme tension and apprehension, watch the results roll in – and mourn as our tribe is “finished” or rejoice as our tribe is elected! And we shall then go out and slaughter livestock, or each other, to celebrate or mourn, in equal measure, the perpetuation of the hegemony of Ali Baba and the 15, 20 or even 40 thieves! And we shall continue to complain…. and wallow in blissful ignorance!

This is my truth, and I shall stand by it against all facts …

I was looking at the Kenyan newspapers today, and as usual politics dominates – the politics of elections, the politics of the ICC trials, the politics of guaranteed party breakups, the politics of land, the politics of political succession – politics, politics, politics!

There were a few brilliant non-political pieces – like Caroline Mutoko’s profound advice to recent Form 4 leavers in The Star, urging them to find something useful to occupy them as they await the next stage of their lives, to make a connection between work and money, not to unduly focus on being “cool”! Unfortunately, wisdom is a comb that life gives you long after you have lost all your hair … and it is unlikely that her heartfelt words will register with the target group! Especially when our society is overflowing with examples of how corruption and lack of integrity pay, and pay handsomely; how hard work rarely brings success; examples of “know-who” trumping “know-how”!

But, true to my Kenyan self, back to politics! That is a most fascinating report from the International Crisis Group on the impact of the ICC cases – especially their condemnation of the “press”! But really, why would we expect a higher standard from the media – aren’t they part of us, don’t they share the same biases, suffer the same tribalisation, seek the same patronage? Don’t they too benefit from “our man in the House” and “our turn to eat”? Can they really be any different, drawn as they are from the same cesspit that we all exist in – analysts, university dons, businessmen, drug dealers, hawkers, fishermen, youth, women’s groups, diaspora, the whole lot of us? Can the mainstream press really be free in a nation such as ours? Can we, in all sanity, expect that our national sack of potatoes actually has palatable components when eight out of every ten pieces that we pull out are diseased, squishy and malodorous?

Friends, Kenyans, Countrymen – I submit that the only true free press exists on the Web, where you can without fear or favour show your true self while being whoever you want to be, where you can preach hate and love and win an audience in equal measure, where a name like “Muruithiaihi” is just as valid as “Ngunjiri Wambugu”, and in no way inferior to “Akukudanger1” or even “TruthDoesNotRot”. A media sector hobbled by things such as accountability (to the media owners), transparency (against those we do not support), and truth (if it is self-serving) cannot by any stretch of imagination be truly free! Like the the malignant (and saintly) Netizens, the “mainstream media” are just as putrid or just as aromatic, only more refined about it – you see, they have names and faces attached to them, and an address that can be raided by unknown persons!

Amidst all the gluttonous servings of our favourite national intellectual tripe, occasionally that confounded figure 1,133 and that acronym Aidipee (it is now a word, not initials!) gets tossed about by the press – or those covered by the press. Dear People, numbers dehumanise and acronyms obfuscate! That is why Hitler’s concentration camp victims were numbers, not names .. or even people! That is why prisoners are known by an inmate number, not by their baptismal or “tribal” name! As for Aidipee, it no longer means a person violently uprooted from “home”, a person living in conditions worse than a rich man’s pampered guard dog; it does not mean a father who can no longer provide for his children, or a mother nursing a toddler conceived during a gang rape! It does not mean a child with dreams postponed – permanently, or a young person full of anger and bitterness at the injustice of it all, anger and bitterness more virulent for its powerlessness. It does not mean a retiree, with absolutely no chance of ever getting her life back together before she exits the stage. In fact, the more one thinks of it, the less comprehensible the term becomes! One thing, though, is clear – because they are “internal”, they are not “refugees”;  because they are not in Daadab, they do not concern the interfering international community!

But we continue with our politics, with generous coverage from our ever obliging free press – the most robust in the region! We pray for the “victims” of the Hague, and we demand that “all” IDPs be resettled. We do our political mathematics, painting sophisticated scenarios on “what if….”. We make it seem like “greatest responsibility” is the only crime that was committed. I ask, was murder committed? Was rape committed? Was assault, causing bodily injury, committed? Was arson committed? Was theft committed? Was destruction of property committed? Was rumour-mongering, likely to cause alarm, public despondency, breakdown in law and order committed? Was government property damaged? Was our national infrastructure destroyed? Were people unlawfully displaced? Was negligence committed by those responsible for our safety? Was our sovereign right as citizens to choose our leaders violated? Were there irresponsible calls to popular uprising? Is the crime of keeping people away from their land still being committed? Is incitement still ongoing? Most important, is politics as usual still happening?

And is our free and vibrant press abetting all these? Where are the personal stories to remind us that Aidipees are human beings, with names, with dreams, with nightmares? Where are the pieces that remind us that when we slashed them they bled, that  they have organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Where is the clarion call to the Supreme Court of the People, higher than any other court, to speak through the ballot and deliver a decisive verdict against everyone that advanced the cause of Cain and visited a plague upon the land?

I say – by all means report the politicians, report them verbatim – you must! But also figuratively wrap their deceitful tongues around their necks and strangle them! Meet their every call to tribal mobilisation with a national call to repudiation of their parochialism, their every new lie with the searing truth of their past statements, their every twisted statement with indisputable fact, their every churlish act with derisive caricaturisation, all their grotesque convoluted reasoning with inviolable common-sense. And then pray that the people follow, in the same way that it is alleged by  persons of considerable intelligence, that they follow your lead on the important issues of the day.

But having said all that, I regret I am a realist – which in the Kenyan context means I am a pessimist! Tomorrow I shall still be judged by my presumed tribe, and condemned and praised by the usual suspects! The IDPs will still not be a national issue, and the circus of prayers, rallies, party elections, national elections, governors and senators will still continue … and as has happened again and again, the national baby will yet again be stillborn!