…she say’s she’s 54- Jamhuri thoughts

“She’s 68 but she says she’s 54”- Bob Dylan explaining why he ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s farm no more.


“She ain’t a country yet but we’re gonna try one more time”-Anon


The hat.

Amidst the roiling repetition of peace torn to pieces by  protest and police I had formed a shifty routine that took me past the places that they passed. Between the major seats of commerce and justice lies a patch of land made over in grass and the sound of birds, crowned by the glory of a pond without a name, offering respite to those without a lane, and named after that thing that we all fight and wish for: Uhuru Park.


The trade I ply requires me to walk between these two places a number of times in a good week. First at about 8:30 in the morning and later whenever my business in court has been concluded. The first time I pass to the left of it and, for the longest time could look into that road that cuts right through it and tell what kind of day it was going to be. This could be seen by the number of police milling around. Constant military-type parades were held there every morning. A briefing, an inspecting, an ordering of the troops. Troops decked in green, totting truncheons, grabbing guns, protected by suits made of rubber patched over their uniforms so severally that they put me in mind of Tony Stark. They commandeered vehicles that looked out of a Batman movie, we all know Tony needs nothing more than his suit. I’d see their numbers and remember the promises from the other side and know it was going to be that kind of day.


Later on I’d go down to Uhuru Park after lunch in order to grab a smoke, after the cigarette I’d walk down the bridge in front of the pond to the benches littered under the shade of the trees and read a few pages of the book I had with me at the time. After this I’d walk to parliament road just across the street. Uhuru Highway at the time was a locale of great strife. There was always the smouldering remains of teargas, the running shrieks of the frightened and the happy exclamations of the excited, the proud boasts of those on one side (tunalipa ushsuru na wanatuambia teargas imeisha?) the weariness of those caught in the middle (biashara inaumia) and the sentiments of those leading the other side expressed in thumps of metallic balls falling all across the road and hissing in anger and warning, after all this, when the protesters had dispersed and the police moved on there would be an almost inexpressible calm. The quiet of night would steal into the day, the silence of suburbs descending on the chaos of town, and an interval of peace like that place never hears.


It was here that I bent down one day and picked up a hat. It was lying forlorn and forgotten in a ditch. The recent property of one of the dispersed. Its colours were the  black of our peoples, the green of our lands, and the white of our peace stained and strained through with the red of our blood. It was what google tells me is an ascot hat. In Kenya, once upon a time, it would have been known as a “Raila” hat because of his propensity to appear in public with one pulled over his head. In recent years though it has become the trademark of people who in general would want nothing to do with him, old, Kikuyu businessmen, with their brown coats, love of meat and toothpicks, and unconscious propping up of this one son of Kenya.


I felt guilty though. This flag I was wearing upon my head wasn’t mine and perhaps I had deprived another of something important and sentimental to them, perhaps I had stolen. This year though has given no dearth of chances to act differently “next protest.” Some time later I was walking down parliament road. The teargas was bouncing up and down, people were running here and there, I was standing near the mausoleum of the founding father when I saw a lady run near KICC and in her running drop her handbag. She kept running.


I crossed the road, stooped to pick it up, went back to the place I came from where some men in the uniforms of the disciplined forces stood. I told them what had happened, they asked me what they should do.


“Mimi nikiwa shule niliambiwa nikiokota kitu yenye si yangu nipeleke kwa polisi.”


Turns out they were from the army, despite this they advised me on how to help. We found a phone in the bag, scrolled down number after number until someone was found who could pick it up. They then told me to leave it at the gate of the mausoleum. I knocked there and was answered by men dressed in red blazers who took the bag and placed it under the protection of the ghost with a promise that it would return to its owner.


In the middle of that concerted effort to return property a policeman ran ahead of us, he knelt with a launcher on his shoulder, and let fly a canister, it flew white and wide and landed inside parliament.


The hurt.


As many indices as we can individually claim knowledge of will tell us it has been a bad year for Kenya. The businessmen have been vocal, the human rights activists have been vocal, the students have been home, the good people forlorn. We had another election or two this year and the streets ran red.


If anything proclaims the failure of ourselves as a country it is this, the streets run red while the ballots are read. It has been 54 years of independence and we have not figured out how to politic without it ending up in the morgue. We have had 6 multi-party presidential elections over the last quarter of a century and with each one seen bereavement and death. We haven’t learned at all, or enough from any of these occasions of slaughter it seems. The worst thing that can possibly happen happens for someone and the only consolation we can give ourselves is that it didn’t happen to us. I will speak for myself, the powers of privilege and the safety that having a certain amount of money can bring have kept me safe from dying, or knowing anyone who died, or living in a place where people are dying. My routine has not been shaken except for the large number of public holidays me and my house have emerged unscathed but this doesn’t mean our country has.


This, as every, election the spectre of violence has eclipsed hopes for nationality. The reality of it, the reality of it over and over again for months now has meant that this, as every election year, is a year for the red of the black to soak into the green earth and, tear the white asunder.


The Presidency has not hidden its intentions behind claims of overzealousness or mistake, after all according to its head the police did a great job during the election period, this despite obvious excesses involving the deaths of infants and children, an instance of invasion of the University, and the complete inability to find rubber bullets anywhere. Those are the sins on the one side.


It took me a while to see the sins on the other because…if they weren’t murder what did it matter what they were. Then two of my friends recalled to my mind a lesson from the life of King David, he who saw the woman of his dreams from atop a roof, he who ordered that her husband be put in a place where hails of arrows would surely find their way, he who tried to sleep with an easy conscience telling himself that this was not murder. Even I, who am hopelessly naïve about these things know that a protest results in death. Could the far more politically astute opposition leader, a man whose illusions about the heart and actions of man were forcefully removed in the bowels of nyayo house, not know?


And so wave after wave of death and its demands have attended upon us.


It hurts for our dear Kenya to have such poor choices as the commander of the invading army and a King David overcome by lusts he cannot control to choose from and yet this is where we found ourselves.


Our belief that protests shouldn’t end in blood hasn’t stopped that happening and if we could believe that more protests could put an end to this, ok, but we can’t and the insanity of doing this again and again


The hut


This land is our land, our land all. It houses within it forty something odd ethnic groups. As varied from each other as their burial cultures will tell us. We have both stoic acceptance and a touch of fatalism in the eye of the great equalizer, and screams sent to rent the sky accompanied with sobs that shake the earth’s bowels.


We have pride in our achievements whatever they may be. We have the lake that gave rise to the Nile and a mountain that is a resting place of gods. We have the promise of a shelter, a promise that requires us all to work towards it or lose it.


On this her 54th year talks of breaking Kenya apart have been had. Secession has been talked about, very seriously by some. People have been arrested for their stances on it, anger has been fomented and shouting matches have been had.


I am not for secession, if only because it would put paid to this tradition of writing a blogpost every Jamhuri Day. But I think it’s important to talk about this house we all live in. A century and some decades past a group of Europeans took a map, a ruler, and their balls and carved into many and varied pieces our home of Africa. As far as colonialism goes we got the good guys, the British for all their faults were gentler than the French, the Portugese, and the Germans. This is not an extollation of their virtue but an acknowledgement of the excess of the vices of their brothers. When all that came to the end of its first act 54 years ago we had this country, or rather this group of countries striving to live together.


It has been an unequal living arrangement, and as living arrangements tend will continue to be so. Inequality leads to discontentment leads to anger leads to effort leads to disillusionment leads to hopelessness.


There are people in our country who have lost all hope in it. Who can blame them really? Hate has spewed out of mouths and onto comments and arguments and posts and memes. There has been an inability for the citizenry to separate their ethnic identities from their political affiliations, there has been an even greater inability to empathize with each other. There is between a lot of people a cloud of anger, a cloud of disbelief, an inability to understand “how you can’t see the evil of…”


The blood and our two leaders haven’t helped. We got to a point where either of them was as bad as the other for any hope of national unity. We got where each of their supporters were as blinded as the others in their adoration for and disdain of the other.


And yet we need to live together because unity is usually the best option. This little hut though is cracked and careening into pieces. The paste that we chose back in 2007 to hold it together, a paste made of the sentiment “accept and move on” is proving unable to bear the strain of what we ask of it.


It is unreasonable to ask that nobody be punished for what happened over the last 4 months. It is incredible to expect this to be swept under rugs too, it is insane to keep using that paste. We only have 5 years till we have to do this again. If we accept that negotiations should be writ in blood 25 years later what happens in 5? What happens when Kenyan elections @ 30 come by again. Do we accept this all over again? And to what end.  It’s been a long struggle building this shelter for all these people but if we keep insisting that injustice of the kind we have been witness to shouldn’t be repaid then the wounds fester, the beneficiaries of the injustice are emboldened, and the hut falls apart. Kenya cannot be unified with blind faith, sheer will-power of the kind needed to accept and move on is not enough. If this is allowed to just pass, and I believe it will, then the hut crumbles just a little more. When people are dying the first thing to do is to stop them dying, the second is to punish the people who caused the dying, and while doing all these things we need to do what we can to ensure that next time no people are dying. Kenya is failing on all counts and I am as pessimistic about the state of the hut as I’ve been in a long time.


Year 54 was not good for our unity and sense of nationhood. If we allow it to just slip into oblivion without doing the things that are so obviously needed then it will be as a gale that takes the thatch out of the hut, a cold and bitter wind that the inhabitants cannot huddle close enough to each other to ignore.


The heart.


I was going to board a matatu one day, I’m tall-ish near 6 foot so I need to sit in front if I want comfort. There was however a man taller than me who wanted to sit in front. He was also big and old, you can tell the old, his walking cane, his face that had seen things, his missing teeth, his ruddy almost ragged laugh.


I sat next to him on the bitch seat in the middle. He asked me where I was from, I told him I’m Luo. And he told me he’s Nandi.

“Nyinyi vijana mnatudanganganya ati mnataka kuvunja nchi.” You youth you want to break our country.


He then told me about his youth. When he was in his 20s or so he was herding some cattle when the maasai came and raided. They raided and they killed. He said this was the worst thing that they took not only goods but also lives.


“Hii ilikuwa ’58. Umeniskia? 1958.” This was in ’58, you hear? 1958.


The world is wrought in pain and justification for revenge he was telling me but heaven’s image only exists in the capacity for forgiveness and the belief that together we can walk through these things.


He had no promises to extract from me. He only wanted the pleasure of instructing a young man that he had randomly ran into. He spoke and laughed with such heart that the whole matatu looked back wistfully as we left him at his stop.

The danger lies in generalisations. Over the year I had to remind myself over and over to look at the policemen in the face, to look at their hands and see them as distracted by their smart-phones as we all are, to see when it was a man and a woman and the pleasure of flirtation on their face, to remember that each of them is a heart beating.


The danger lies in generalisation. Over the year we have all come face to face with the intractability of ourselves and our friends. We have seen the lines drawn in the sand by us and them. We have waited unmoving as the sun scorched our resolve black. But here’s a hope, the hope that most individuals share certain values. That when stripped of the circumstances of political fervour and tribal hatred we can all agree on the sanctity of human life, the pleasures of peace, the necessity of justice, the virtue of forgiveness, and the rewards of memory.


That while every human being must move on accepting may mean accepting that we have to do more. Accepting that reprisals and revenge are not the way. That in the Bible when the Lord claims vengeance for himself it is for a good reason and we should leave that to him. But that justice cannot be forgotten for crimes, for sins we can forgive but for crimes we should punish. Punish dispassionately having had vengeance wrung form our hearts by the necessity to live together but punish all the same.


That old man has been here for longer than this our country. And the real pleasure he had in talking to me, the actual joy we take in each other, all the sex between tribes, the laughter at our stereotypes, the complexities when we are not painting big swathes of this side and that side. The heart of Kenya, the individual Kenyan, that old man, me, you. That should give a glimmer of hope.


The hat got lost, I left it in a club somewhere. I didn’t go look for it. I hope it finds a home with another individual who only knows this particular chain in the story. It’s gone but I wrote it this poem:



May the hat march on,

may its heart stay strong, 

May it be a hut and keep some warm,

may it heal the hurt and offer shelter from the storm


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Had you heard about Jesus’ elder brother?

Let’s start at Genesis.


If you’ve read this book you’ll remember that a lot happens here. The world is created and sin sneaks in on the slithering tongue of a snake. Brother kills brother. Men live for centuries. Then the sons of god fornicate with the daughters of man and more sin creeps in. A tower is built with the intent of poking the eye of God or maybe giving glory to him by reaching as far up as man can, but he thought it was poking his eye so languages come. We have a great flood and we meet the first of the Jewish Patriarchs, Abraham the unbending. A man possessed of a faith and certainty that is admirable and terrible.


Somewhere along the story of his life the war of the nine kings breaks out. They array themselves 5 against 4. In their number we have the King of Sodom and the King of Gomorrah, the other side numbers among it’s member Tidal the King of Nations. As usually happens in the bible, Sodom and Gomorrah get the worst possible ending. They lose the war, all their goods are carried away  aaand all their people including recent emigrants like Lot the nephew of Abram.


Abram is not having that shit. He arms his servants, the ones born in his own house numbering 318 (he’s as rich as a lord) and then tells them, “we’re going after the army of the 5 kings, they have my nephew and we can’t let people start thinking they can just cart away my family members where would that end?” I imagine there was some protest, I imagine Abram shut it right down, this man remember will one day carry his own son up a mountain with the assurance that God will provide the ram.


Abram and his 318 go and they smite the army of the 5 kings so hard the battle is known as the slaughter of Cherdolaomer.  Coming back he gets a heroes welcome, the King of Sodom is there to receive him and also the King of Salem, Melchizedek. Salem, which sounds suspiciously like Shalom and also lends root to that famous city or in Hebrew that famous “Jeru”, means peace.


The King of Peace promptly brings out some bread and some wine. He, we are told, is a priest of the Most High God and knowing how mass needs to be celebrated brought his tools. Then Abram makes his tithe. The King of Sodom only wants his people back ready to give up all his treasure to Abram for saving them but  Abram refuses to take anything that’s not his. These three men get thrown apart by life. The King of Sodom goes off to his city with his wealth and presides over the complete destruction of its morality and then the reckoning of its mortality. Abram modifies his name, almost kills his son, dies himself, and leaves a seed that goes off to Egypt, comes back, throws out the inhabitants of this place, and forms a Kingdom whose baffled King will compose hallelujah…


As well as a much lesser known song of praise, the Psalm of the two Lords. It begins rather abruptly “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Yaani  kaa hapa hadi ukanyagie maadui wako.


David sings to his Lord who sits at the right hand of the Lord and praises his strength and the steadfastness of his people, talking about the “beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning” that is attributable to his Lord. His Lord he tells us is a priest after the order of Melchizedek  the King of Peace who we haven’t heard from for so many books. As it turns out more and more has been revealed about him in the background, so much more in fact that being a priest in the order of Melchizedek is an attribute of David’s Lord.  This being of glory deserving worship and a title equal to Yahweh’s who is admitted into the presence of the Lord to sit at his right hand and await vengeance is only following something established in the person of Melchizedek. David’s Lord, we are told will strike through Kings in his days of wrath, he will fill places with dead bodies, judge among the heathens and wound the heads over many countries.


Here we leave the baffled King as he spends the rest of his life composing his psalm to the glory of God. His kingdom is inherited and expands and turns to dust. His people are carried away in the manner feared by Abram. Trials and tribulations visit them as they are handed from empire to empire to Rome. From amongst them arises a man who preaches peace and love. He implores all to forgive their neighbours and to love their Lord. A man who for all his troubles is strung up like the worst kind of criminal and allowed to die on a wooden cross.


His philosophy is too powerful to die with him. He gives us the lesson that love cannot be buried in the darkness, he shows us that it will rise out of the earth and ascend to the heavens on the wings of angels. Men see this and men believe. They take it upon themselves to spread the gospel of love as well and as far as they can.


One of them from far away decides to write a letter back home. And in this letter he muses on the qualities of a high priest: that he must be taken from the people and know their suffering because how otherwise would he have compassion? A high priest when he makes sacrifices for sins should make sacrifices for both his sins and that of the people. This honour is not given by men but by God. It was given to Aaron for example. Jesus did not take it but was appointed by God when he was called his son. The man writing the letter remembers the cries of anguish made by the Nazarene in the fear of death and reminds us of the ultimate obedience we all owe and tells us that by submitting to it Jesus became perfect and the author of salvation, called of God, a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.


Melchizedek who met Abraham when he was still Abram. Melchizedek who is called here the King of Righteousness and again the King of Peace. Melchizedek who is “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, but made like unto the son of God.” That’s just the beginning of how awesome this guy was, it seems that the revelations about him never stopped coming. The writer reminds us that even Abraham gave this guy a tenth of his spoils. He mentions that this is usually done to the Levites but goes on to say that even Levi gave our man a tithe for “he was yet in the loins of his father.”


The King of Righteousness is raised by the attributes given to him above all men, he is raised above angels. He is the embodiment of the perfect priesthood and when Jesus was here he was only following his example, joining that holy order instead of the one established by Aaron.


Some characteristics of this priesthood seem to be the ability to live forever in order to keep interceding. In fact with this changing of the guard a lot becomes different, “for the priesthood being changed, there is of necessity a change in the law.” Or rather a return to basics sealed by the death of the second priest in the order of Melchizedek.


If we could for a moment stop and consider the momentousness of the introduction and weaving of this character throughout the bible. In three disparate books covering different time zones we are reminded over and over that there is someone here who is the utmost. He is given not just immortality but his example is also used to exalt beings who the people writing about clearly believe to be Gods.


We don’t hear from Melchizedek again in the bible or even usually during Christian discourse. The disappearance of this King of Peace and Righteousness, the big brother of Jesus Christ from general Christian consciousness is an abiding mystery. One almost as impenetrable as the central mystery of Melchizedek, who in the world was he supposed to be?


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Try Again

Where were you when it happened?


I was sitting in the office, internet crapping out on me, trying to catch up on as much as I could of the Advocate’s oral submissions. The attorney general had been reliably eloquent and then I had watched Mr Neworjee and been surprised at his charisma.


Then it was 11:15 or thereabouts and the judges filed into the courtroom. Black on red robes. White tabs and the Lady Justices wearing these weird frilly things around their necks. I saw those and got irritated again. Why aren’t all the Justices wearing similar tabs?


Here’s a fun fact about those tabs (the things that they wear around their necks instead of ties, sticking out like two ivory pillars) they are meant to represent the ten commandments. Funny thing about the ten commandments, Moses went up to see God and they sat and chatted. God then brought himself low to write on the tablets of stone. For the first time since creation the physical form of the Lord made itself felt on the face of the earth. Contained in those tabs was the word of God, the literal word of God. Then Moses got angry and hurled the Law of God at the idol of humanity. In that instant the word of God was lost to us forever. Justice, the seat of God, disappeared from humanity on that night. Yes, we got other commandments but they weren’t touched by the divine. We have other laws but they are not the law of God. No matter how you read that story, literal or allegory or fable,  there is a hint in there that humanity drove a wedge between itself and its God by choosing other things, the idols of power and greed drove us away from the consideration of justice and left us cold. The efforts of the best of us to bridge the divide were in vain due to our human faults. And now we try to reach up to those heights but can’t. The world has no justice, only laws.


And back on earth the Chief Justice announced that there were dissents to the judgement. Right now, as I write this I can’t remember what happened, were the dissents read first? Did it go directly to the Chief Justice reading the majority finding? Barely a week later it starts to turn foggy. What I do remember is that once the CJ read the first limb of the determination and said that our Electoral Commission had failed in its duty towards Kenyans the internet stopped. There was nothing I could do for it. Here we were in this historic moment and I couldn’t watch it anymore. All I was receiving were whatsapp messages summarising what was happening. The texts said we were going to have a fresh election, that the last thing we did was a dry run, a trial, a chance for IEBC to work out the kinks in their system and that we would try again.


I was glued to my phone. Where were you when it happened?


A part of me was going to be happy no matter what. One of the little children being guarded by my soul had broken out and was dancing all over my table as soon as I heard that there were going to be two dissents. Two dissents!!!! Before I ever knew how this was going I heard about those dissents and reached for the rainbows. Not one but two!


A dissent is basically a differing opinion. When a court sits with more than two judges democracy is established. Let the majority have its way but let the minority have its say. These things are usually wonderful. Right there in the judgement that will be released in 2 weeks will be the minority’s say. The minority will write pages and pages backed up by evidence, based in law, laced with logic eviscerating their companions. Saying how could you people have got it so wrong? Who do you think you are to invalidate this election? Don’t you know people voted? Don’t you know they queued? Don’t you know they chose? And where do you get off telling them that they didn’t? Right now I can’t even believe I share this bench with you, I am so appalled at this thing you did, at these things you decided. It’s just my vast respect for you and the law holding me back. But you know what, the whole world is going to know just how wrong I think you are.


Right in there and I can’t wait to read this. I was so happy about the two dissenting from upholding the election (as I thought was happening)  so, so happy. So when I heard the election had been overturned and that the dissent was a decision to uphold it, that little boy did a jig. He turned into marble and gold, walked into the courtyard of the Supreme Court and stood there fish over his shoulder, turtles spitting up at him, proudly taking a piss.


Engineers its like someone made some new cement, musicians there’s a new instrument, businessmen there is an untapped niche market at the bottom of the ocean, teachers there’s this new Montessori method, bankers there are new….


What I’m saying, for a lawyer this was huge. The tome they drop on us will change the face of law for years, decades. In every court of law in the commonwealth if ever a presidential election is challenged the judges there will be told, “And the Kenyan Supreme Court in Raila Odinga v. IEBC part 2 held that…”


All I can do is imagine what’s in there. I’ll save a review for when it’s actually out.


Another golden ray of sunshine plays on my skin. I like to write and I love a good story. Lots of people try but nobody touches God. Life is stranger than fiction. Much, much stranger. From the mists of history we have those two great men of Kenya as it hurtled towards independence. Jomo Kenyatta ruminating in a prison cell somewhere as Jaramogi Odingais offered the premiership. Like caeser he turns it down, he says that only one man can unite our country, and you mutherfuckers have him locked up. Then that one man is no longer locked up. One midnight the flag of the imperialists is rolled down and ours sent to fly in the wind. The two men turn to the business of governing the country and soon they split apart. The very first opposition party is formed by Jaramogi and multi-partyism is outlawed. In between all this they somehow manage to have families. They somehow manage to pass on a certain something to their sons, neither of whom are the first to be born incidentally and neither of whom is sullied with  a name honouring a god not of their ancestors.


In the fullness of time history repeats itself and we have a President Kenyatta and opposition leader Odinga. They gear up for what we all hoped was their last fight. They throw everything at it. The dynasties we have been hearing about for all the life of our country are having what we think is the last great showdown. It’s a plot right out of Game of Thrones. Every thing down to the reality that you can’t beat an incumbent. Results are announced and it’s the Kenyatta who is declared winner.


That weekend an old man wakes up in Nyanza. Age has addled his mind and he’s not sure when it is. He can hear screams outside and he knows blood is being shed.

“Ango ma timore?” what’s happening.

“Gi nego wa” they’re killing us.

“Nga?” who

“Jo Kenyatta.” Kenyatta’s people.

“Gi dwar ango” what do they want?

“Gi dwar wa were gi Odinga.” They want us to stop supporting Odinga.


And the old man wonders, if it’s still 1969 why do I feel so weak?*


Then the court battle. In the Lord of the Rings, the hobbits make it home after destroying ultimate evil to deal with ordinary evil. The scouring of the shire shows that there is no end to the fights we fight. It stops and it starts. It cools and it heats. Yet the stakes don’t always feel as high. The stakes didn’t feel as high. I watched it to learn how to conduct myself in court. I watched it sure that no court turns over a presidential petition. We all did. We all knew there was only one outcome.


Instead of that one outcome we got the election overturned. Narratively this is one of those twists in the tale that stretch it’s credulity just a little too much. Do there even exist movies or books about courts overturning presidential petitions? There are movies where all the action is over and the protagonist is going home when out of nowhere a car hits her. This is what happened. A car came bounding out of the night and hit everyone.


“Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?”- Bob Dylan


And the stage is set. It is cleared of other contenders. All other contenders. One last dust up. The boxers at either end of the ring are both tired, they’ve both played dirty, they are both hated, they are both loved. Their families have thrown themselves at each other over and over and over again. The referee has been reminded that if he wants to favour one of the contestants he shouldn’t be so fucking obvious. The judges order a rematch, the bell rings and they are off.


How it ends nobody knows, they have both planted let’s see who sows.


Will it be good for the country what we are doing now? I hope so. In the coming weeks we are going to snipe at each other, we are going to claw, we are going to try to draw blood. We will take that blood and put a line in the road. The story accompanying the Kenyattas and the Odingas is the story of the Kikuyus and the Luos. A story of a brotherhood gone sour. A story of two cultures so diametrically opposed and yet having something in them that calls to the other. The blood of Abel called to Cain as much as his sacrifice did.


We are preparing to spew so much hate at each other. Understanding will be difficult to achieve. That bright red line is set for a while. I remember thinking at the end of the last election cycle (the just concluded County and Legislative elections) that you could call it a good one if you hadn’t lost any friends. Yeah.


People are going to lose friends. We will look at each other and be unable to understand how someone so reasonable could say that, could support that. When this is run down the rift between these two peoples will be a gulf. After that we will heal, after that maybe we will find a way back to love. for now if you are Kikuyu, if you are Luo get ready to hear the worst things about your brother get ready to see the worst forwards about your sister. Get ready for your family, your friends, your self to push you to hate and enmity. Get ready and resist as much as you can. It will be bad this time.


Luckily I think the violence we will do each other will only be psychic and not physical. We aren’t heading to an election, not really, we are heading to a referendum. From the last two referendums we had I trust Kenyans in this particular exercise of democracy. I trust it will go well, it will end well, and that half of the country will be so heartbreakingly sad.


The other 40 tribes, I hope we can get out of the way of your country after this. I hope we both realise that for the good of the country national leadership cannot continue to be tainted by the memories of what we did to each other. I hope we are going to be strong enough to accept that. If not, well the history of the country contains this little nugget about KADU being formed to fight the tyranny of numbers represented by the membership of KANU, the Kikuyu and the Luo. The Kalenjin dark-horsed their way out of that early coalition. Quite unfortunately no matter what we do we have another 5 years of KANU. After that, I really hope that we can be led by a person who does not carry the baggage us two carry. Those guys who formed KADU were right. This story of the Luos and the Kikuyus, this story of the Kenyattas and the Odingas it’s not good for our country. It got the best last chapter it ever could. And I really hope that’s it, done and dusted. There isn’t going to be real unity in this country under the leadership of either of us. That is a sad assessment of the next five years but at least we get a beautiful curtain to fall over everything.


Unless I’m wrong in this assessment. Unless my countrymen are better people than I give them credit for. Unless some light of empathy and understanding falls  on our path and we can at least understand each other’s choices even if we never agree on them. The sooner this happens the faster we heal. After we heal we will be stronger as a country. We will have at our back a judiciary we can trust, an electoral commission that is chastened, an executive that realises it’s power is not absolute but subject to the will of the people. The will of the people as expressed at the ballot. The will of the people that is expressed in our constitution. It’s a living document and unlike the vote does not stop at anytime. What we said we wanted when we voted for it continues to be said. it is said to all and we’ll remember that, we’ll remember that and feel powerful. After we heal. So let’s start healing.


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a spoiler at noonday

When you cry, for some reason, your sinuses clear up. You feel healthier right then but afterwards you are sniffling and sucking mucous in. When you cry your eyes begin to burn up. They turn red as if a small flame has been introduced to their vicinity. Salt water has flowed through them after all and brine is not something to cook eyes in.


It hurts to cry. It pains physically as well as emotionally. There are a myriad of mental diseases and yet I don’t see grieving included there. I imagine this is because grieving is more like an injury than a disease, its being hit by a car, cut by a sword, passed through with a bullet, stopping a punch. Your body tells you immediately things are not ok, that they are not as they should be and the reason you are hurting is external. You can point to it. You can say I’m limping because I strained my ankle. You can say I’m crying because all those people have been killed by the police since we voted. You can know this but it won’t stop you hurting for all the hours you are awake, it won’t stop you wincing when you put your weight on that leg. Just because you can identify the source of the pain that feels like its killing you doesn’t mean that you’ve stopped it killing you.


Yesterday Raila told people to stay home and mourn. All day I’ve had to listen to all these jokes about it. I’ve had to listen to valid points too, bills must be paid, bosses placated, life lived. It’s true and a fact that we don’t take mental disease seriously, it’s also true that we don’t take mental wounds seriously.


Were we together over the last few days? Did we all hear the news of our country burning. Are we going to discount the news from Nyanza province about the killings, the beatings, the torture there? Will we say that the people in Mathare, in Kibera are lying when they tell us the police are breaking into their homes and pulling them out? What about when we see the videos of it being done what do we say then? Are you sure that’s not ’07? I’ve heard asked. The answer to that must surely be, no we’re not because we remember seeing a policeman shoot a young man dead in Kisumu back then and also in 2013  and we’re going to go crazy if we have to believe that this shit is happening again.


What will we say when a 6 month old baby is hospitalised because police broke into its home despite the protests of its parents, and get this, hit that baby. Have you touched the scalp of a baby? Remember how soft it is at that time, remember the wispy hair,  the size of a child that young and then imagine policemen hitting that child. Punishing it for the crime of its parents. But what crime did the parents commit? They weren’t protesting. They were home. Why do they have to watch over this little soul in ICU and beg God not to take it away?


What do you say to the parents of an 8 year old girl who was shot while playing on her balcony? She was home. She was not protesting. She was home. What do you tell the father of that child when our Internal Security Minister gets up on tv and says that the only people killed are criminals? When did we even miss the part that allows the police to kill criminals? Was it when three boys were shot in Isili and we applauded it? Was it when three dead and tortured bodies were found rolled into a river? Was it earlier? How do you hold the mother of that child when she hears that the policeman who killed her daughter did it on purpose? What do you use to wipe away the tears of that poor woman when she hears from two eyewitnesses how this policeman took aim and shot?


When judgement was passed on the first murderer recorded in the Bible the Lord said “What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood calls to me from the ground.” And sentence was passed “a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be on earth.” And Cain pled for mercy and mercy was found, “Therefore whoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.”


Just before all of this Cain had asked that most famous question of those who do not wish to accept responsibility, am I my brother’s keeper? And I say to you Mr. Kenyatta that you are. As president of this country you are the keeper of all her people. When the blood of any innocent is shed it calls to god for justice and for you to be his instrument. When the blood of any of us is shed by your emissaries and agents then it is as if it was shed by you. This, the heavy and terrible price that you pay for executive power. Being president is difficult and it should be. At the end of the day you are responsible for the executive. Your justice and your wrath are all we have because you give orders to the men with guns. And you told us you wanted to give orders to the men with guns. You told us you were the best possible person to give orders to the men with guns. A shitload of us said, ok, you tell the men with guns what they should do. We also said that what they do is now your responsibility. If you want this power you had better be ready for what it comes with. When blood is shed by the men with guns and we ask why your answer had better not be am I my brother’s keeper? Because you are.


If one of these men with guns disobeys you, we expect your wrath. Immediate and terrible. When what feels like co-ordinated attacks are launched against areas where people said they don’t want you in control of the men with guns, then weren’t they always right to say they didn’t want you? Weren’t they always right to protest you having that power? Weren’t they always right to say that the result no matter how meticulously guarded and verified that gave you the power over the men with guns was a wrong result?


And you can sit there where you sit and plead innocence. To prove your innocence you can point to your impotence. You can say, without batting an eyelid, that you were unable to guard even your own Deputy’s house from attack. We remember that a lone machete-wielding, motorcycle-riding, AP-gunning, mutherfucker went and took over the Deputy’s house for 8 hours and that the best of your men with guns couldn’t stop him till all of a day was done. So if you say again, “mnataka nifanyaje?” a fair amount of people will sympathise with the weight of the crown on your head and a fair amount will want you to put it down.


Yes, my President, you can always plead innocence and to prove just how guilt free you are show us to your incompetence. Remind us that you are unable to keep us safe. Remind us that you are unable to keep Mr. Ruto safe and that it is only by the grace of God that any of us stands here where we stand. But if that’s true why not give up power over the men with guns? Surely you know just how powerful those things are. There is a sound of thunder and a spot of red and 8 years after she came into this world a girl is dead. Imagine if these things were put to better use. But forgive me for asking you to stretch towards competence.



I remember the first time we asked you to shepherd the men with guns. I remember how I felt about that court that wanted to hold you to account for allegedly financing other men with guns, in another election, in another time that feels as familiar as this. I wanted them to go away. We Kenyans had chosen you and chosen your Deputy to lead us. I offered you congratulations because this is what the country wanted and with its democratic voice it had chosen. I put aside the niggling feeling that it’s wrong to put a man charged with crimes against humanity in charge of the men with guns. That last sentence seems obvious doesn’t it? It seems very, very obvious. But I said that the voices of 6 million needed to be louder than my doubt. And then we began to die.


At first it looked like you were doing all you could. When Westgate was attacked and with tears in your eyes you reminded us about our lions and their invincibility, I thought you were crying for the country but maybe it was just for your lost family members. Which, Mr. Kenyatta, I tell you is fine. The sting of death is most real when you know the life lost. Feeling that sting should lead to empathy, it should allow you to imagine how those people in Mpeketoni felt when they were attacked time and time and time again. When you stood up that day and said that it was the opposition undermining our country had you forgotten how it felt already?


Take a look at what your army did then. Remember how they kept us worried as they drunk and looted? Didn’t you realise that there was a discipline problem? Just last year when that lawyer and that client and that taxi driver were killed in a manner and following a series of events that implicated police posts and men all through your country didn’t you think that maybe something was wrong? When a man in a bulletproof car was gunned down and the whole country was convinced that your government was to blame didn’t it occur to you that maybe, just maybe, things were not right? When another lawyer was killed and nobody talked what did that make you feel? How does it feel to lead a country where only the first death matters? When Mr. Msando was killed just before the election and even some of your  voters thought it was you didn’t it pain you? Didn’t you realise that the force you were in charge of were a bunch of trigger-happy death-dealing maniacs. Ahhh you must have known you cannot claim that level of incompetence.


I’ve been reading the book of Jeremiah and, I wouldn’t recommend it as a book of comfort. The vision of God in that book is bleak and terrible, sample his words to his people in the 15th chapter:

“Thou has forsaken me saith the Lord, thou art gone backward: therefore I will stretch my hand against thee and destroy thee, I am weary with repenting. And I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land; I will bereave them of children, I will destroy my people since they return not from their ways. Their widows are increased to me above the sands of the seas: I have brought upon them against the mother of the young men a spoiler at noonday; I have caused him to fall upon it suddenly and terrors upon the city.”


He is weary of repenting. He does not want to hear how sorry his people are. He has turned his back on them. He will allow them to die by the droves, good god he will even send game of thrones spoilers their way at midday on a Monday. He is wroth.


Look, you never want your people to feel any familiarity with the threats of an old testament god. Not if you are a real leader. If you are a real leader you will not act like he did and fan them with a fan in the gates of the land, and send men with guns to waylay them and instead of using rubber use lead until the widows are increased.


That bleakness is not the lot of a people. And, it is your responsibility, and nobody else’s to make sure that these things don’t happen. When our Ministers of Internal Security and Government Spokesmen say such hateful things as to lie about death I remind myself that if you didn’t want them to lie about death they wouldn’t be doing it. At least in this you cannot claim the clean hands of a commander whose soldiers fell to bloodlust. These are the pronouncements of men reading off of a script that you have directed.


My President, it would be wrong to say that you sent these men out with a purpose and that that purpose was to kill and to maim. It would be wrong to say that just because you were accused of crimes against humanity that you actually committed them or were partial to their commission in that future that is now our past. Nope, not to my president can you impugn such things because where is the proof? What makes you say anything so hateful without proof.


So we will do what you asked of us and clean your hands with incompetence. Your inability to see that the disciplined forces you command had tasted blood and seemed to like it. Your short-sightedness when you didn’t make an order that only rubber bullets should be used should there be protests against an election. Your inability to inspire fear in that man who killed that girl, he thinks he’s getting away with it, imagine that. That is what he thinks of your wrath. That is how well he thinks you can protect your people. Yet you didn’t see it.


Not seeing it, is that enough of a crime? Maybe not. Not for the rest of us. But you asked to be given control of the men with guns. You had control of them for 4 years and some change and then you asked again to be given control of them. Just as soon as you were given control of them for 5 years this happens? All this death around us. That’s all good Mr. Kenyatta and while we sit here and give hallelujahs because you are so much more just than your father you had better be sitting there and doing the same because it is not the wrath of the Father that is coming after you. The Father wearies of repenting, he can hear blood calling for justice, and he claims vengeance for his own. With him you would not get away with saying that you aren’t your brother’s keeper.


Murder happened on your watch by your people carrying out your orders (however imperfectly they may have been but remember even Cain just grew bad fruit in the opening verse that led to this very first murder.) the question you have to ask yourself in your cloak of innocence when you wonder why all these people are shooting arrows of guilt and responsibility your way is the age old question, am I my brother’s keeper?

We heard you speak about corruption and are worried you meant it about violence too when you said “sisi tunakula nyama, wao wanameza mate.” And your supporters said no, no, no he doesn’t mean that they are stealing, he just means that they are enjoying power. Well it’s been a post for painting you in the best possible light I can find. While you are enjoying that power please remember the awesome responsibility that comes with it. When I tell you the bible is a story about a God taking responsibility for the sins of his people even though he didn’t commit them do you realise this means that according to the God you believe in a leader must take responsibility for the actions of his people. That he is unable to plead ignorance or incompetence. That when that policeman knelt and shot that girl it is as if you knelt and shot that girl. It is a lot to ask of a person this responsibility I ask of you, but it is also a lot to ask of a people that power you asked of us. You have what you want…now?


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having eyes…

There’s a cloud hanging over us.


I don’t think that elections should always be times of existential crisis. I don’t believe that we should head towards polls feeling the kind of fear we do now. I don’t think that the most symbolic exercise of  democracy should ever be a by-word for terror.


Yet I live in Kenya.


It’s been 10 years since that traumatic event that we can’t get over or maybe shouldn’t. I had plans to go to Mombasa for my first time, the election was just after Christmas and I was getting on a bus to leave for celebrations, not about who won but for the new year.


15 years ago I was too young to vote but I remember that on December 31st people would wave their two fingers and say NARC instead of happy new year, because of this I could make plans to go celebrate.


But this is not how I feel now.


Let me be clear I don’t expect any form of widespread violence. The statistics bear me out. 1,000 people or more died last time in addition to this there are the undocumented rapes, the severed limbs, the destroyed relationships, the traumatised children, and a nation with PTSD. It’s quite a toll on a country. We haven’t gotten over it yet and how you know is how you feel.


I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that we lost 1,000 people and were at war for 2 weeks and the result of this is a “never again.” It proves to me that Kenyans in general have no stomach for the vagaries of war. Wars our neighbours engaged in go on for years. Wars our former slave-masters were engaged in killed tens of millions. The horror that took place in Rwanda killed almost ten percent of their population. That every death is a tragedy is a fact. Every single person who died that day left someone to mourn them. Every single person who died left. They went into the great unknown from which none of us has returned. They may be in any of the versions of heaven or hell that we believe in so much, they may be ghosts roaming our land, they may have come back to us in the form of all the new life since then, they may have been snuffed out and that light they gave the world lost forever. Death is a tragedy for everyone left behind but until we go there and know what awaits us we have to believe and behave as if it is a horrible tragedy for the one who died, otherwise what are we even doing here? Still I take heart from the fact that the relatively small scale of our war left us like this. We haven’t gotten over it yet.

So here we stand within grasp of the next election. The month of July served us up some big hiccups in terms of trust in our institutions, trust in our leaders, and trust in our mortality. The deaths of six Kenyans have left us shaken. Actually the truth is that the general forgetfulness and misogyny of Kenyans means that the deaths of 1 person has us shaken. Four men from the time of Moi died in that month within days of each other. The grim reaper had a field day calling them up to that vastness in the hereafter, by now we don’t really think about them too much because we are Kenyans. Remember that a KRA employee was found dumped on Mombasa Road just last month? He does not affect the math or us this sad reality is part of being Kenyan. Learning the value of human life by how much thought you put into it yourself.


Last week an IEBC commissioner and a young lady were killed. Who did it and why? We desperately want to know. Someone somewhere decided to order at least one death and sanction as many others as were necessary to cover up that first. Someone somewhere for reasons that are difficult to fathom did this to us this close to the election. Someone somewhere does not care about the lives of you and me and our loved ones. It pains me, this situation. It feels like something broke when this was done. There have been deaths and there has been anger before. We don’t speak about those deaths anymore we don’t think about that anger because something makes us forget these things.


When they killed Mr. Msando, when I really considered that they had gone and done it was clear to me at least that no life is sacred anymore. None of them can be protected. God has been endeavouring to remind us of this very fact all of our lives. The four men of Moi were scooped up in an attempt to tell us that death is not part of our province. That death is not something we should deal with. That for death all we should ever do is wait and not even for too long. Yet refusing to listen they killed him. The forces of the world conspired to leave us not only scared as we usually are when there are elections, but also saddened and angry.


They also killed Ms. Mundu. 21 years of life is all that was slotted for her. While medical professionals keep striking this is what our country does to them, it kills them. It kills them at an age when they are still full of life. It kills them before they have a chance to save any lives. It kills them and forgets them.


We have considered the death of Mr. Msando and treated that of Ms. Mundu as a by-line. She died for her country too. She too was a person who had chosen a life of service. She too was killed for all of us. The pain of losing somebody so young for something so senseless is not something I can pretend to understand or access.


And as one more death came to beg us to choose futility instead of hope another came to remind us that there is more than one type of hate in this country of ours. We have been talking about tribalism for so long you would think this was our only problem. Yet there are people always speaking about the other kind of hate. We dismiss them all the time. We say that the problems they talk about aren’t problems. We say that they hate men. We say that their concerns are quotidian. We turn the words of the bible against them. We deny that the world is kinder to us than it is to them. We take comfort in our conclaves. And, because this is how the world has looked to us we refuse to accept that it can look any different to anyone else.


People I consider reasonable waited barely a day before they took this death as a pulpit from which to preach the ills of adultery (as the only explanation they could reach for this association.) Ms. Mundu was blamed for not staying in her lane, she was blamed for associating with older men, women of her age are being told right now that this is what happens if they don’t do as told.


In the midst of this brutal reminder of those dark days ten years past somehow this poor woman was found guilty. If Jesus of Nazareth can see us what must he think? When he said let he without sin cast the first stone in order to show us that this act, whether or not a sin, is not a crime who do they think he was talking to? How can a society that believes that this man is God take advantage of a tragedy like this to cast stones?


There is before us a crime. We don’t know who the perpetrators were but we know what they did. They went and killed two of us. There are people to blame even if they are shadows, even if they are the forces of the world, even if they are the eponymous they. It is the killers to who we should turn with accusing fingers and eyes red with anger and tears. It is the murderers who we should throw at words of morality and quotations from scripture. It is the assassins who deserve our ire and our fire. In a situation where the lines of morality are so clearly drawn in blood red against the soil of our country some of us can still find it in us to blame Ms. Mundu.


We have some problems to fix in Kenya. There is hate in our hearts. There is a love for power which if we squint at just right looks exactly like a hate of people. And there is this hate of women. This thing we have encouraged until a person can in the same day ask us not to speculate on the possible reason for the death of Mr. Msando and use the death of Ms. Mundu as some kind of moral instruction to young women.


I’ve been seeing and accepting that women have it bad here. I had no idea it was this bad but it is.


What are the solutions to these problems? Fucked if I know, fucked if I don’t. Everything here is breaking apart and the truth is it is up to us to hold it together. To grab it in our pain with our palms to make it our aim to give up alms until it is fixed. As for the election, I wish my country and her people the best of luck as they go out to vote.

As to what to do when in front of a ballot paper with the blood of Kenyans dripping from the roof to allow you to vote let us remember the words of he who never wanted a stone cast “Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?”



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And into my little house

Blare the praise songs of the mighty

Those to whom I am a small louse

Send out their noise nightly

I can hear them

Even if you can’t

I know who to blame

It must be that…nah I can’t

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the dance

After a Shakespearean series of tragedies and misadventures I ended up at the Court Users Committee annual get together last week. It was being run to bring together all users of the Milimani Criminal Courts for bonding and a greater understanding.


I took a seat at the front to watch the dancers who began the ceremonies. Dressed in their sisal skirts and blessed with their rhythmic bodies they shook and slid for us. Then there was a talk by someone or other. Followed by a dialogue between two prisoners from Langata Women’s Prison. Part of the dialogue consisted of the sad fact that there are three crimes in Kenya that attract a mandatory death penalty: treason, murder, and robbery with violence. This means that if you are found guilty of any of these three then the magistrate’s or judge’s hands are tied and the circumstances don’t matter. They are not allowed to judge just how guilty you are, they have to sentence you to be hang by the neck until you die.


We haven’t prosecuted anyone for treason for a long time. When it comes to murder, well humanity agrees, in its sense of justice or perhaps overblown arrogance, that killing one of us is the worst thing we can possibly do. In fact so many of us believe it is so bad that the only way to remedy it is to do it again. Then there is robbery with violence. I still believe this is the most unjust law ever to grace our penal system. If someone steals from you and is either in the company of others, or harms you, or threatens to harm you immediately before or after the theft then they are guilty of robbery with violence. If they threaten to harm you they can be sentenced to death. The only way to commit theft is through threats of violence without this it is charity, it is obtaining money by false pretences, it is burglary, well pick-pockets I guess are still prosecuted for theft. Anyone else, anyone else who ever stole from you can be sentenced to death. In September last year a court in this country found that particular offence unconstitutional-then they suspended their judgement for 18 months to give the executive branch some time to get their shit together. They can suspend judgements? Apparently. What happens to anyone attracting this heinous sentence between then and March, 2018? Well if we begin following our laws we will hang them by the neck until they die. And where are they kept as they wait?


In Kamiti Maximum Prison. This is a place they are let out of every once in a while, if they happen to have an artistic bend in their body and there is a court user’s committee going on then they may be let out to come and sing and dance and entertain the prosecutors, magistrates, policemen, passers-by, well-wishers, judges, court-staff, and prison officers who attend this event.


They may even be allowed to sing. And in the song they thanked the justice system and the judge sitting right there for sending them to jail. They said thank you because they were going down a wrong path and now they would be rehabilitated. They sang a song of warning to those who would steal sadaka (church offering) and buy sweets with it. This was the first crime in a litany that took that young thief to Kamiti Maximum Prison but they told that young child that this was not the end. Imagine that.


There were three dancers. They had moves, they slid this way and that, their legs in unison, smiles plastered on their faces, just enough of a misstep between them that we could enjoy their individuality without breaking out of rhythm. They made me think that human beings should maintain prisons for no other reason than to test the resilience of the human spirit. These men had been sentenced to death. It was commuted by the President so they will just live in jail until they die. Yet somehow they practised, and somehow they wrote, and somehow they choreographed. Here they stood at the end of all of these and they smiled and dance and they took their bows. A rose will rise from concrete and an art from suffering, and for that maybe we should keep prisons.




They sang thank yous to the ones who sentenced them to death. They thanked the judge and it broke my heart to see this. Prison is one of the worst human experiences we have. Your life at that point is formulated into small, precise steps taken inside a grey, formless place overseen by powerful, human guards. When to eat and when to pee are decided upon. The warmth of human touch is denied. Love is withheld. Family is locked out. Sex when it happens is either covert or forced. You look around the walls of that prison and know that this is it for you. Then you are told that there is a court users committee and they want you to perform. So you write your song and do your dance. This song and dance has to please the supreme authority that the guards are. The guards pay obeisance to the judge and he needs to hear sweet, sweet lies, its his day off after all.


So they are brought out and they thank the justice system for sentencing them to death and locking them up forever. We sit and watch and smile and play fools in this fucking farce that is the human justice system. Everyone knows that it is broken, everyone knows its been destroyed. From the smiling prisoner who is seeing Nairobi for the first time in years to the grizzled judge who has been at this for decades to the warden as he dances with his wards. We all know that we are brought together by injustice. And, yes there is a reason for these places. People do kill and steal, people do rape and act in hate. There is a need for places like this where we tie up those who would tie the rest of us up there is and I know this but…


…our laws have such a thing as robbery with violence and suspended judgements and peoples lives have such bad luck as to be charged with that in the next 9 months. And putting these people away doesn’t bring back what was lost, it doesn’t even seem to act as a deterrent. It makes me sure that justice is not the work of humans.


All we know are laws. We are taught from a young age that there is something out there from which justice radiates. Something omnipotent, something omniscient. And when we are told this we know that justice is his job and nobody else’s. We prostate ourselves at his feet because all we know are laws and we can never be just, not really, not with all of our errors. And yet the lord above seems to have abdicated his duty. he has turned his back on us and on justice and we must now use laws. We must use laws to maintain peace as best we can, we must take his place, we must ask people to take his place even though we know what people are:  criminals. And we play this farce where someone does something and is punished according to his crime, we sing and dance and say that what we are doing is right, that we all deserve to be in this prison yet behind those plastered on smiles we are all breaking because we can hear the news, and we can see the world, and deep inside we know we will never, ever get it right.


After these guys  6 ladies from Langata Women’s Prison came to dance. As I watched the men dance I sat and thought of injustice and the broken ladder of Jacob we try to climb so we can sit on the throne above. When the women came to dance it was visions of Delilah, Bathsheba, Salome and Magdalene. It was a group of six and I vividly remember two of them, all had their hair done right, these two were so beautiful though. They’d flash their smiles as they danced and wipe away thoughts. When they turned around and shook my head shook with them. They went forth into the crowd with the honoured guests and pulled them up. They danced with these old men and these old men danced with these young women. The men were conscious of where they were and who they are and so they hid it well. They hid well the lust that beauty and especially young beauty inspires. One of them began shaking her waist slowly moving it down and then up again, seamlessly turning her body into a wave, into a ride, into a promise.


While the women danced all I could think about was them and their dance. Sensuality and sex, the anticipation and satisfaction that exists thanks to the female form is so powerful. In a minute it pulled my mind from an abyss considering cells and loss of freedom and set it free in a realm of imagination and desire. Just the sight of this beauty brought me from considerations of hell that had my face scrunched up in all these frowns to glimpses of heaven, a heaven populated with angels. It’s not something I understand but I hope that we have all felt that pull towards a person. That pull that says there is something divine hidden somewhere inside her and that just the search for it will remove all earthly considerations from mind.


Let’s say that God is not omnipotent but just extraordinarily powerful. Powerful enough to create the whole universe around us but not enough to make it a paradise. If he is just powerful enough that he cannot wipe away all our miseries despite how much he wants to. If he is not powerful enough to be justice at all times to all people at least he thought to include beauty in his design. At least he was powerful enough to create something within us that responds to something without and wipes away all the faults of the earth for an instant. An instant of paradise is enough for a hallelujah.


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