Even as the AU announced that it will not allow “another genocide” with strong indications that a peace keeping force will be sent to quell the violence in Burundi, Kenyans took to the streets to protest against the “state sponsored” currently being witnessed in Burundi.

White Friday

Rallying each other on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter using the the hashtag #WhiteFriday4Burundi, a group of young Kenyans walked from the iconic Tom Moboya statute in the heart of Nairobi to the Burundian High Commission.

The peaceful demonstrations were to call on the Burundian government to stop the senseless  killing of civilians in Bujumbura.

It also served as a means of shining the spotlight on the crisis in the landlocked East African nation that is now on the brink of a full blown civil war.

The demonstrators and the online community using the hash tag #WhiteFriday4Burundi asked tough questions to world leaders and citizens.

Others called for international action against President Pierre Nkurunzinza.

Bold messages like the one above are however not just coming from Kenyan protestors. The silence of the international community on in the crisis that is now threatening to spiral out of hand has been noted even by the East African Law Society who are now calling for investigation by the ICC into the developments in Bujumbura.

In a letter to ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, the East African lawyers’ body say they are concerned that very disturbing images continue to come out of Burundi despite a media ban being in place.

“It is upon this platform, and in accordance with Articles 15 and 54 of the Rome Statute which empowers the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to conduct investigations propio motu on the basis of information on possible crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court, that we call on the office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to commence investigations into possible commission of crimes against humanity by the government of the Republic of Burundi against its citizens,” reads the letter.

Petition

The Nairobi protesters also had a petition which they read out to the press.

The Petition drafted by the East African Peace and Security Women Network among other things wanted the AU and UN to initiate measures that will bring the violence and human rights violations to a stop.

They also sought for protection of women and girls from sexual violenece.

Due to mounting pressure such as this one staged by Kenyans, the AU seems to be going back on it’s “non-inteference on internal matters policy” as it is considering sending 5000 troops to Burundi. The AU is however still non-committal as to when this force will be in place – this as innocent civilians continue to die.

Though the demonstrations were only in Nairobi, Kenyans on social media from across the country have consistently stood with the people of Burundi even as their own government remains tight lipped on events unfolding across their borders.

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Burundi

Residents of Bujumbura walk past dead bodies lying on the streets on Saturday morning. PHOTO: JEAN-PIERRE HAREIMANA/REUTERS

On Saturday morning, the world woke up to news of fresh violence in Burundi that left 87 people dead, most of them shot at close range – some with their hands tied behind their backs. The military claimed that those who were killed were trying to break into a military armory to steal guns so that they can break into a police prison.

Friday night’s was one of the worst cases of violence since the botched coup attempt in May .

The situation in Burundi has been fragile for a while since the announcement by President Pierre Nkurunzinza that he will be running for a third term in office.

A BBC report says that “bodies on the streets of Bunjumbura is almost a daily occurrence.”

A report by the Amnesty International puts the death toll at 277 since April while Burundi based Human Rights monitors say the death toll is way over 350.

Among the recommendations of the report is a call on AU and the UN to ” work together urgently to address the human rights crisis in Burundi and to restore full respect for human rights.”

The report also emphasizes on the need for AU Commission Chair, Dr.  Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon “to travel to Bujumbura to press the government to end the current crackdown, beginning by lifting the legal and financial measures that target the human rights community.” This has been necessitated by Nkurunzinza’s crackdown on Human Rights NGOs which also involved freezing their bank accounts.

For about a month now some of the human rights groups were making claims that a”silent genocide” is underway in Burundi. As the new wave of violence swept through Bunjumbura on Friday night, opposition figures were calling on the world to shine its spotlight on Burundi’s crisis.

“Help us, the world needs to know that the genocide is underway,” said Jeremie Minani, spokesperson for a Burundian coalition known as Cnared folowing the death of the 87.

Events happening in Burundi remind us of what what happened in Rwanda and Burundi 21 years ago when the world watched in silence as millions were slaughtered in ethnic violence and several others displaced.

In the Central African Republic the world again watched until tens of thousands of lives were lost before France sent a peace keeping force.

Somalia has never known peace since the ouster of Mohamed Said Barre. The African Union through AMISOM only intervened decades later when the damage had already been done with little left to be salvaged.

In Kenya, when violence broke out following the 2007 general elections which the opposition claimed were stolen the world reacted with once voice and brought the violence to a stop. This was largely due to Kenya’s significant role as a key ally of the Western powers in the region.

Are we going to peg intervention in times of such crisis to how important nations are economically or politically to the West?

If there was a time that the narrative needed to changed, that time is now. We do not have to wait for 10,000 people to die before the world takes action.

In the aftermath of the Post-election violence in Kenya and the subsequent prosecution of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto at the ICC, the African Union piled a lot of pressure on the court and the UN to have the cases dropped – nothing for the victims.

Now would be a great time for the moribund continental union to reclaim itself by stopping the violence in Burundi and for once standing on the right side of history. It’s time it used the resources they used in trying to stop the cases at the ICC in marshaling nations to intervene in Burundi.

Our leaders, the AU and the UN will do nothing unless we directly start telling them that we care about what is happening across our borders. We have to ask our governments what they are doing to save the lives of innocent Burundians.

From Nairobi to Arusha, Kampala, Harare, Kigali, Johannesburg, Lilongwe and to the Capitals of Europe and America these voices against increased violence in Burundi must be heard.

Here in Kenya when the news of fresh violence broke out, Kenyans On Twitter responded by trending hash tags #PrayForBurundi #IstandWithBurundi and asking their government to intervene.

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Kenyans expressing shock at the images coming out of Bujumbura.

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Others even took a swipe at Social Media Networks

We are all doing our part but our eyes are trained on the Africa Union, African leaders and the United Nations. How many more people will die before they act?

This article was submitted for publication on http://www.africablogging.org.

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Not even this kidney disease would keep her from smiling….Lillian at Kenyatta National Hospital when she was diagnosed with kidney failure in October.

It’s 2 o’clock when we arrive at Makongeni Estate in Nairobi’s Eastlands. I have never been in this part of Nairobi – no, I am not one of those “cool kids,” it’s just that I am from Kisumu and the few people I know in Nairobi live on the other sides of town – that is if Rongai counts as well.

My tour guide is from Kisumu as well – my friend Nyadida Bernard. We made the 8 hour journey to the big city to see his sister Lillian Apiyo who has not been feeling well for a couple of months now. He knows his way around here because he visited Lillian during his schooling days – she paid his fees.

A huge grin welcomes us to her two roomed house. Even with the visible strain she is still very hospitable, she offers to make us tea. Where I come from you do not refuse tea when it’s offered to you – not even at 2 PM.

It’s been raining, so the tea isn’t really such a bad idea.

As we take the tea, I get straight into it – Bernard had told me her sister had a medical issue and she needed us to help mobilizing people on social media to contribute towards her treatment.

Any blogger or person with a little influence on social media will tell you that they receive tens of such requests, it’s at times very overwhelming for them because often there is very little they can do other than send in their personal contribution – nobody would like to be the one always asking people to contribute for something.

The magnitude of these medical appeals just shows how big a problem public health financing is in our country. I decided to make this journey to Nairobi with Bernard to see Lillian because I was on my way to Mombasa for some business and I thought coming over for a few minutes to see if this is a story I could tell would not hurt anyone.

She looks at me with a smile as Bernard explains to her why we are there and who I am. The smile even grows bigger when she realizes that I am a writer and that I could help tell her story. At this point I haven’t even promised to tell her story, but looking at her hopeful eyes how can I not tell her story?

Soon the smile gives way to a drop or two of tears. Lillian was working as a supervisor at a small metal fabricating company in Makongeni before this illness rendered her jobless.

It started as chest pains and fever and she was on and off hospital being treated for typhoid and chest pains until she became very sick in October and was hospitalized at the Kenyatta National Hospital. The doctors diagnosed her with Kidney failure.

The smiles disappear at this point, she stops looking at me. She turns her eyes towards the far corner of her sitting room roof; away from me. I get the feeling that she does not want me to see her tears so I look at my little notebook as I wait for her to continue telling her story.

Lillian had a twin sister called Mercy Adongo who died exactly 10 years ago. Mercy was diagnosed with kidney failure too. She needed dialysis which is a very expensive treatment for people with kidney problems but because her family could not afford it, she passed away soon after.

I am deeply touched by Lillian’s story and I am convinced that even though I am not sure of how to tell this story or the impact that whatever story I write will have, I have to try. Lillian’s life literally depends on me doing my bit and letting people who are touched by it help.

As I sit through the rest of my journey to Mombasa, I can’t help but think of the thousands of Kenyans who do not have blogger friends or know influential people in the media but have to deal with situations such as Lillian’s where they are the only bread winners of their families but are unable to go to work because of illness and cannot afford medication.

I am angry, angry that we have a medical scheme that does not really cater for the needy in our society. In Kenya being poor can be literally translated as a death sentence.

Yes, once in a while we come out for each other – remember us raising Ksh. 6 million for Jadudi? Yes, that was because Biko Zulu was able to write a good story about his situation and Zawadi Nyong’o with her followers worked the twitter magic. How many stories will Biko write though, how many hashtags will we trend to provide our people with something our constitution describes as a basic right?

Mercy died aged 27, she did not have the chance Lillian has today of appealing to your generosity on social media. Lillian has gone through 10 sessions of dialysis already; her doctors say she has 20 more sessions to go before they can know the next cause of action. Being single and out of work, she has used up all she had saved in her treatment, she needs us to push her to the next mile.

We can save Lillian’s life with whatever little we have by contributing to her medical fund using the numbers given in the image bellow – even Ksh. 100 can make a huge difference.

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Send whatever contributions you have to the numbers provided

Even as we contribute towards this cause, let us remember though that there are hundreds if not thousands of Kenyans like Lillian who need medical interventions but do not have people to speak on their behalf. There is just so much social funding we can do to help such cases – there is actually never any guarantee they will be successful.

We have to put pressure on the ministry of health to overhaul the NHIF and restructure it in a way that ensures that even the poor among us have access to basic medical care, which is the only way to guarantee that people like Lillian have a chance to live their lives fully.

#Dialysis4Lillian

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As the rest of the country was still dazzled by the Pope’s visit and his message of hope and show of humility, there was an important event happening a continent away but of great significance to the country as we strive to achieve some of those ideals that Pope Francis spoke about during his three-day visit to Kenya.

The Assembly of State Parties (ASP) was making a decision regarding Kenya’s submission to amend  Rule 68 of procedures and evidence.

Kenya’s amendment sought to have the the earlier amendment to the rule done in November 2013 applied  in a non-retroactive manner.

In a layman’s language, we were asking the ASP to refuse the use of recanted statements in the ongoing cases at the ICC involving Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang’ and to some extent against President Uhuru Kenyatta in case the case against him will be opened in the future.

Rule 68

Immediately the ASP plenary agreed to adopt the changes – albeit with a caviet that it will be up to the ICC Appeals Chamber to decide on whether the Prosecutor; Fatou Bensouda was justified to use recanted statements by witnesses in her case against the two Kenyans, Kenyan media were already celebrating a win for Ruto and Sang’.

In an article that appeared largely as a PR statement for the Foreign Affairs CS Amina Abdallah, Capital FM claimed victory for Kenya.

“Kenya wins as ASP adopts text on ICC recanted evidence” 

 

Was this really a win for Kenya?

Constitutional Lawyer Gitobu Imanyara thinks otherwise:

The seasoned lawyer says that it will still be up to the courts to determine whether to use or not to use the recanted evidence.

Prof Makau Mutua, a former Dean at the SUNY Buffalo Law School agrees with Imanyara on this.

Dennis Itumbi, a Director of Communications at Statehouse though not a legal expert thinks this was a straight win for the government.

While another lawyer Ahmed Nasir Abdulahi thinks Kenya put in a redundant request.

The “Legalese” aside, was this really a win for Kenya?

The government has spent millions of shillings pushing for these amendments to the evidence rules of the ICC. 32 members of parliament, foreign affairs ministry staff, the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecution among other dignitaries and their aides were being fed and housed at The Hague and even paid allowances using tax payers money.

The big question therefore is, was this in Kenya’s interest or those of the accused?

The trial against the two has started, why waste state resources in stalling it while the accused can argue for themselves in court?

While we are employing the principal of “innocence till proven guilty,” let us not forget that these two people are being accused of murdering Kenyans, forceful evictions, rape and other criminal activities. Who speaks for the victims of these atrocities.

Why haven’t we seen the government use all in its power in seeking justice for the more than 1,000 people who died in the 2007/8 Post-Election Violence (PEV).

The government threatened to leave the ICC if her demands were not met, why don’t we see such threats for justice for the victims?

Why are we not seeing efforts made at getting justice for the women who were raped, people who were forcefully evicted?

When the Kenyan media calls this a win for Kenya, do they mean that William Ruto, Joshua arap Sang’ (and maybe Uhuru Kenyatta) are more Kenyans than those who lost their lives, were raped, were evicted, lost property?

This was definitely not a win for Kenya but an attempt to subvert the justice process against the victims of PEV.

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Uhuru corruption

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So serious was Uhuru’s statement this time that the vice was not only termed as a “sin” but declared a threat to national security.

On March 25th 2015, President Uhuru Kenyatta addressed the nation from parliament buildings, making his 3rd ever State of The Nation adress.

In his 7,346 worded speech (punctuated by several standing ovations), the President made what would be know as the strongest ever indication that he was sincere in his fight against graft.

His tough statements, were welcomed by pundits, supporters and foes but there were those like me who saw that there was going to be a tough journey that needed to be walked.

243 days later the President was making yet another statement – a tough talk on corruption. So serious was it this time that the vice was not only termed as a “sin” but declared a threat to national security.

Kenyans are tired of tough talk

After the much anticipated speech, Kenyans in their usual character poured onto social media platforms to “analyse” the president’s tough talk on corruption.

These two examples are from thousands of tweets from Kenyans who think Uhuru’s fight against graft is a big PR joke meant to hoodwink Kenyans who have the past weeks shown their displeasure with the government’s handling of corruption issues.

This speech and the presentation of corruption reports and an anti-bribery bill coming just days after the resignation of the powerful Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru who was accused  of being involved in the theft of Ksh. 800 is more than just a mere coincidence.

These statement’s expressed by “Kenyans on Twitter” show that the country is tired of speeches and want action taken against perpetrators of graft.

We do not lack laws, implementation is the problem

While some of the suggestions in the report on fighting corruption and the bribery bill are very commendable, it should be noted that Kenya’s problem with the war on graft has never been about the unavailability of strategies or legal frameworks.

Kenyan’s agree that it will definitely take more than good laws – we already have enough starting with the biblical “ten commandments” (or Torah in Islam):

Across the border in Tanzania for instance, newly elected President John Magufuli is leading from the front in fighting corruption and wastage of public resources.

Kenyans are now increasingly afraid that Tanzania which has been lagging behind other East African states will finally surpass Kenya due to the good will of the current regime.

As the Pope lands in the country tomorrow, I hope that he will have a strong message, to the leadership of this country – Good thing the President is Catholic and we hope he will listen to the wise counsel on service delivery from the “Holy Father” who has exemplified what true servant leadership is all about.

If he refuses to listen then let’s hope that Pope Francis will inspire a modern day miracle – this country is badly in need of one because we do not have too many options.

All said, that was a good speech but as far as the intentions to actually defeat  corruption is concerned, we are not buying his speech:

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SANTA CRUZ, BOLIVIA - JULY 09: Pope Francis greets the attendees of a conference as part of the II Meeting of People's Movements on July 09, 2015 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. (Photo by Amanecer Tedesqui/LatinContent/Getty Images)

Pope Francis greets the attendees of a conference as part of the II Meeting of People’s Movements on July 09, 2015 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. (Photo by Amanecer Tedesqui/LatinContent/Getty Images)

In less than two weeks, Pope Francis will kick off his maiden tour of the African continent when his plane lands at Jommo Kenyatta International Airport on 27th November.

This visit is not only significant to the 12 million Kenyan Catholics but to the entire population of Kenya (The Pope will also be visiting Uganda and the Central African Republic).

The Pope’s visit comes at a time when the country is suffering economic turmoil brought about by the near collapse of the tourism industry following increased travel advisory by key tourist source markets as a result of the ever present Al-Shabaab terror threats.

Tourism

A visit by the leader of the world’s largest Christian Church coming hot on the heels of another visit by “The leader of the free world” is nothing short of a stamp of approval that “It is safe to visit Kenya.”

The high profile visits which culminate with that of British Prime Minister David Cameron early 2016 will go a long way in returning confidence among tourists. Frequent terror attacks in Nairobi, Mombasa and most recently Garissa University where 147 people lost their lives significantly drove down Kenya’s earnings from the sector which was for a long time the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner.

It is my hope that the Pope will use this visit to remind the world that terror is a problem in Africa just like it is in the Western world where hundreds of lives have also been lost.

France, one of the world’s top tourist destinations has been a victim not once, but several times with the last being this weekend where 128 people were killed in six different locations in Paris.

Throughout his visits outside Vatican, his message has always been consistent – mankind’s duty to help the poor and less privileged. This is a message he needs to remind the West of, that it does more harm issuing travel restrictions to victims of terror like Kenya while not doing the same when Western Nations face equal or even worse terror threats. 

Unity

This visit comes at a time when religious tensions between Christians and Muslims are at an all-time high following increase in terrorism activities. Unlike his predecessors, the Pope is known for pushing a conciliatory agenda and visiting a region with a significant population of Muslims should provide him with an opportunity to reach out to Muslims and set the stone rolling for a process of inter-religious unity in the fight against extremism.

This approach will go a long way in defeating the Al-Shabaab propaganda that has been aimed at creating tension between Christian and Muslims. This I hope will be a key message during his public mass to be held at The University of Nairobi.

Religious unity though is the least of Kenya’s problems, this country is now far more divided along ethnic lines than it were in 2007 when hundreds died as a result of post-election violence. Today “leaders” have perfected the art of spreading hate messages at public gatherings – even doing so in the name of God.

Social media has been used to divide this country along two major ethnic/political blocks. The prosecutions going on at the ICC and the arrest and prosecution of hate-mongers locally has done little to deter people from engaging in spreading hate messages.

Across our borders, ethnic cleansing is rife in Burundi even as the world turns a blind eye the same way it did two decades ago. It is my hope that “the people’s Pope” will use this visit to call on world leaders to stop the violence before it grows out of proportion.

Tolerance

The biggest problem facing the world today is tolerance to divergent opinion which has given rise to religious extremism, ethnicity and human right abuses.

Even though the Catholic Church does not accept homosexuality in its doctrines, Pope Francis has widely been seen to be accommodative to the LGBT community compared to his predecessors – this has even ruffled some feathers in the Church.

If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” – Pope Francis.

While we do not expect him to push for the legalization of homosexuality, Pope Francis will almost definitely encourage African governments to deal with homosexuals in more a humane manner. The Pope is on the record acknowledging that criminalizing homosexuality is extreme.

Disappointment 

I am however disappointed that the Pope will not be visiting West African countries that have fought and defeated Ebola. This was a good time to show solidarity with that part of the continent and appreciate the men and women who volunteered – risking their own lives to save others.

Africa needed him to show compassion with the victims we lost to Ebola, their families and those who got infected but fought and defeated the deadly disease. I hope it’s not too late to change his schedule.

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The widespread exam leakage should be a reminder to the education stakeholders that the sector is in dire need of reforms.

The widespread exam leakage should be a reminder to the education stakeholders that the sector is in dire need of reforms.

While releasing KCPE results almost a year ago, Education CS Prof. Jacob Kaimenyi announced the abolishing of school and candidate ranking in national exams. This announcement would be the basis of a raging debate on the pros and cons of such a move for a couple of days that followed.

Today, as both form four and class eight students sit for their national exams, I still believe in my stand that the move was a first step in the right direction. The ills that schools were engaging in to score good mean grades were not only unethical but bordered on outright obscenity.

However just like I said in that article the move was just but a first step. 

Today as these students complete their final exams, the credibility of our national examinations is sharply coming into question after the nation witnessed massive exam leakage for both primary and secondary schools final exams. Even as the ministry and the examinations council tried to conceal the magnitude of the leakage, papers were still circulating on social media as recent as Monday evening.

Nation media group for instance managed to get their hands on the Mathematics paper sat on Tuesday more than 12 hours before students sat for it.

Treating the symptoms

While it is actually very commendable that the government’s security agencies moved swiftly and  arrested some of the perpetrators, without looking deeply into why such mass leakages occur in the first place and why teachers, parents and those charged with protecting the integrity of these exams actively participate in stealing the exams will be like prescribing panadol to a patient suffering from Malaria. All though the symptoms might be suppressed for a while, it does not completely cure the patient.

While it still remains to be seen if the ministry will keep up to it’s policy of not ranking students and schools, there is still a lot left to be done to ensure that we have a properly designed education system.

Overhauling the university admission process

I am writing this piece sitting at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg waiting for my flight back to Nairobi from South Africa where I have been attending two conferences; the last one of which ends tomorrow at The University of Witwatersrand. This university which is now hosting a investigative journalism conference was a few weeks ago the center of student action demanding for reduction of tuition fees.

While Kenyan university education is fairly affordable for government sponsored students, admission to the university continue to be based on bed capacities. According to the Kenya Universities and Colleges Placement Service (KUCPS), students who score C+ and above deserve to be admitted for undergraduate degree programs at public universities.

That is however usually in theory rather than practice. What happens is that because of the limited places available the cutoff points usually rise to B+ with special considerations to marginalized groups.

Coupled with competition for admission to lucrative courses like medicine and law, students (aided by their teachers and parents) will go to unhealthy lengths – which includes cheating: to secure admission.

Expanding the capacities of universities to take more students will reduce the pressure on students  to get A and B grades – as much as that would also be very desirable.

Moving away from the first and second steps of overhauling our education system, there needs to be a strengthening of middle level colleges to offer technical training for students.

In an attempt to increase the capacities of universities to hold more students, the government embarked on an ineffective approach that involved transforming technical colleges in the country which had for years produced some of the best skilled workforce into university colleges.

This move not only robbed the workforce of middle level technicians but also reduced chances of bright students who score between B (plain) and C+ (plus) getting opportunities for tertiary institutions. This in effect means every student sitting for their secondary education will be fighting for the KUCPS admission places in public universities.

The situation is not any different for KCPE candidates

The suggestion to have students continue straight from class eight into form one without a national exam will ensure a100% absorption and eliminate exam cheating at this level.

So it will not be surprising that students who were scoring Cs and Ds will next year get mean scores of As and be admitted to medical schools and law schools across the country where the reality of our failed education system will check in as these students will not be able to cope. That is however not the tragedy – the real problem is that the students who really deserve to be the next crop of doctors will have been left out – if that is not obscene I don’t know what is.

This is definitely not the silver bullet that will solve Kenya’s education sector process but ultimately we have to start somewhere if we are to achieve our goal of streamlining the sector. Sorting out the exam and related issues amounts to that “first step” in the direction of creating an education system that can not only compare to the very best of the world but also provides the job market with people who have the right skills.

The widespread exam leakage should be a reminder to the education stakeholders that the sector is in dire need of reforms. That the policies that were formulated more than four decades ago can no longer cope with the demands of the modern environment.

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Have you ever wondered what role music has to play in the struggle for the democratization of Africa or any given society for that matter?

On my recent trip to Johannesburg, South Africa I found out that impact of music in our struggles is sort of similar from the Harlem streets in New York to Soweto in South Africa.

With two colleagues from Tanzania, we had arranged for a little trip to Soweto during our free time on the sidelines of the Power Reporting Conference at Wits University. We met a Zimbabwean taxi guy who had offered to be our tour guide around Soweto for only R500.

Ignatius has been living in South Africa since the late 70s. He first lived in Soweto with his relatives before moving closer to Johannesburg when he got a job in Sandton – one of the Suburbs around Johannesburg.

When I got into the taxi the first thing I heard was a very familiar sound – music from D. O Misiani and Shirati Jazz Band was oozing off his stereo.

The late D.O Misiani was a musician from Shirati area of Tanzania but lived in Kenya and sang songs in Luo – one of the languages widely spoken in Western Kenya.

Most of his music had political connotations which made him very popular among Luo politicians and their followers. On this day “kisero pek chalo kidi” is what our friend was playing.

Ignatius tells us that he has a lot of East African music in his car and as we drive to and from Soweto we confirm as he shuffles from one popular East African artist to another.

Why East African music?

“During the struggle for liberalization of Zimbabwe, many of the guerilla fighters escaped to East Africa for training,” he explains.

“When they came back they brought with them a lot of records from East Africa and played them in the village to entertain themselves when they were not in the bush,” he adds.

Ignatius was born in 1966 but he had older brothers who were liberation fighters and he says they left him a lot of music each time they came to the village.

The music reminds them of their struggles because the colonial government had banned Zimbabwean music from the likes of Oliver Mutukudzi. To them the fact that East Africans could play their own music was motivation of some sort to continue with their struggle for independence.

Today he has collected more music than was handed over to him from his travels to Nairobi with the International Redcross Society where he at times volunteers. As we drive through the streets and music flips from one East African hit to another, Ignatius is on a journey of his own – a journey back in history to the days of Colonial Africa.

Our Zimbabwean taxi driver Ignatius Ndlovo with my Tanzanian colleague Maggid Mjengwa pose for a photo at a sign post as we enter Soweto.

Our Zimbabwean taxi driver Ignatius Ndlovo with my Tanzanian colleague Maggid Mjengwa pose for a photo at a sign post as we enter Soweto.

This journey has more meaning especially today as we drive to and from Soweto where the present day Johannesburg was born – from the struggles of black men and women who came here to work in the mines and industries in town and the rise of the liberation movement immortalized by Nelson Mandela who today we are visiting the house he lived in at 8115, Vilakzi Street, West Orlando in Soweto.

Standing outside the Mandela House on 8115, Vilakazi street, where Mandela lived with his first wife and later on with Winnie Mndela in Soweto.

Standing outside the Mandela House on 8115, Vilakazi street, where Mandela lived with his first wife and later on with Winnie Mndela in Soweto.

Music though did not just have this impact in Southern Africa. In Kenya for instance where most of the music Ignatius is playing on our little journey comes from, music played a key role in the second liberation of Kenya from President Moi’s dictatorship.

Unbowogable (a corrupted Luo word which is loosely translated as fearless) by Gidi Gidi Maji Maji united Kenyans around the idea that it was not impossible to dethrone Moi and his KANU government. Moi and by extension KANU had been in power for 24 years and the defeat of Uhuru Kenyatta who was then a KANU candidate was sort of a liberation for Kenya after years of institutionalized corruption and pillage of public resources.

Today across the border in Uganda, the country is in an election mode. Popular musician Jose Chameleon has just released a song Beene also known as Kabaka in which he openly praises President Yoweri Museveni. Museveni is one of the longest serving African Presidents having been in power for over 21 years.

In the song Chameleone is seen performing at events attended by Museveni and socializing with the first family.

The liberation movement led by Dr. Kiza Besigye is strife in Uganda but his supporters are not happy that the top musicians are not supporting their movement.

“Your talent becomes worthy the day the public invests it’s trust in you. The moment you abuse that public trust you will regret having discovered it (your talent) and revealed it to them,” says Shawn Mubiru, a politics activists from Uganda in a Facebook post.

Juliana Kanyomozi, another big musician from Uganda has also been criticized for her support for Museveni. Her critics hit hard at a time in which she was contesting in the #CokeStudioAfrica music competition sponsored by Coca-Cola by threatening to vote for her competition.

juliana Kanyomozi's fans are not happy with the beautiful songbird's open support for President Museveni.

juliana Kanyomozi’s fans are not happy with the beautiful songbird’s open support for President Museveni.

So bad is the backlash that it could stop Ugandans from voting for her in #CokeStudioAfrica. When she asked people to vote for her, this was the response from some of her followers.

“….tukoye..u even sang like an idiot in the tubonge song..tomanyi nakuyimba.. let sevo vote u,” read a comment from one Gifted John.

“Only a fool will vote for you Juliana Kanyomozi-for some you have smeared a bitter taste -as goof as your music -I wish all Ugandans boycott it,” said another.

“Sevo will vote for you.”

I want to know the people you are competing with, I want to vote for them…,” 

“Ask m7 to vote you twesonyiwe,” said yet another one

“I wish there was a negative vote that will negate another positive vote. I would go for negative vote,. You dont acre about your country Uganda. I wonder why you sang “Oh Uganda…” song.”

Of course there were those who thought they are just expressing a democratic right.

 “Most of the comments on the issue of tubonga nawe show how we ugandans really think.So because JK is an artist that stops her from being a Ugandan with a right to support whoever she wants?Y’all need to take a chill pill and vote whoever you want on that day.If you dont want to vote for her Mash up still its ur right temutukooya.Wamma lets vote for the princess of Ugandan music,” says Lubega Michael.

“Guys this is not politics…. Those who wants to vote her vote….those who can not find plz..reserve yo votes to some one else… U can even give it to Besigye or Amama mbabazi…. She did not ask u to vote m7,” says Regina Mbabazi.

One thing is clear though, the role that music is playing in the political arena and the political stands musicians take cannot be overlooked.

StillAMum

Imagine carrying a baby for 30 weeks then one evening, labor pains come and even though it seems too early you (or your wife) packs the baby’s clothes and head to the hospital. The doctor checks you out and realizes there is no fetal movement – trying not to raise an alarm he orders an ultra sound. The look from the lady doing the ultra sound is not reassuring either – you know something is wrong…the doctor calls in your partner and together he breaks the news to you that the baby is not going to come out alive. That was an experience my wife and I went through early this year.

“Every woman who carries a pregnancy expects to receive her bundle of joy after 9 months. Sometimes, however, matters beyond her control make it impossible for her to do so, and her anticipation for a baby is instead clouded with loss of the pregnancy and feelings of hopelessness thereafter.”  – BAKE Blog

This though is not a less common problem, Wanjiru Kihusa – the founder of Still A Mum lost a pregnancy herself. The experience she went through made her reach out to people who are suffering in silence. In our case she reached out to us too, and talking to her gave my wife some comfort. This though is not about me or my wife – this is about the 4.2 million women who suffer miscarriages every year in Africa yet nobody talks about this monster. Apart from the loss of the baby and the painful medical procedures , these women have to live with stigma and the feeling of being less humans. Today is the World Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day – we are basically breaking the silence on miscarriages. Having talked to a lot of women suffering in silence, Wanjiru Kishusa tells us how we can be of help to those suffering around us in silence.

More than ready – Still a Mum from Chatterbox Stories on Vimeo.

Before you can help someone dealing with miscarriage and child loss, you need to understand grief. Death is devastating #StillAMum — Still A Mum (@StillAMumKE) October 15, 2015

  Grief is more complicated that we imagine. To help someone who has lost a child, don’t rush them. #StillAMum pic.twitter.com/pALhtOK750 — Still A Mum (@StillAMumKE) October 15, 2015

So how can you help someone who has lost a baby? The Next series of tweets will be very important:

If you do not know anything about miscarriages or what could have caused it, this is a good time to shut up. An author Known as Will Rodgers once said “never miss an opportunity to shut up.” This is one of the moments that following his advice will actually be a very smart move.

“How come you people have been together for three years but you don’t have kids, what are you waiting for?” You don’t know why couples do not have kids or what they would do to have kids. Not all people who don’t have kids are so because of choice. Not everyone will tell you their miscarriage story, so it helps minding your own business or just shutting up if you don’t have better questions to ask.

Imagine going through all the motions of pregnancy, hearing the baby’s hear beat…the kicks. Isn’t that a real person? The planning as couples wait for the baby’s arrival. Buying clothes and pampers, ensuring they have the correct medical insurance plan, deciding baby names then the baby comes out dead and for some reason you think they do not deserve to grieve because the baby was not real?

Do not play guest…help with whatever you can. She is probably both mentally and physically exhausted.

Something you also need to do around someone who has lost a baby or a pregnancy is watch what you say. If you are not going to shut up there are things you just cannot say.

Which God will want to put somebody through pain?

So how much time does one need to get over the loss of a baby?

How common are miscarriages, you might ask:

So next time someone has a miscarriage you will know how to do.

Tweets courtesy of @WanjiruKihusa and @StillAMum on twitter.

Follow me on twitter @IamOminde

Huku Kisumu

Now you probably flanked your biology class…we all did apart from those who went on to become doctors. Nah, now you are there trying to convince yourself that you did not flank bio just because you scored an A- or a B+….hmmm

So let’s see how much you know about kidneys, I promise to make this a fast lesson unlike Mrs. Rhoda Amolo’s biology class at Kisumu Boys’ High School in 2001.

There is this thing in your body called a liver that is about 1.6kg in weight. It’s main function in the body is to detoxify harmful substances from your blood – believe me with the world we live in today and the things we consume there is a lot of that in our system that this important organ chucks out every day (now Mrs. Amolo’s would not allow me to use phrases like “chuck out” in an exam…

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