Open letter to Sibuor, descendant of Kenyan soil!

July 25, 2015 OPINION/NEWS




Judy Amunga-Ndibo

Mheshimiwa, Jakom, Jatelo, Sibuor!

All these names in our national Kiswahili language and your native Dholuo tribe simply mean that you are great! No ordinary man! No mere mortal! Bulls are being slaughtered in your honour! A brew has been made in your honour! Government budgets are being broken to meet your visit. 10,000 Kenyan security men have been deployed to secure you. Roads are to be closed! Airspace is being sealed! A country has come to a standstill quite literally!

We are beside ourselves with palpable excitement! Nairobi city is transforming right before our eyes with extreme makeovers we never thought possible! Retired men and women, elderly and arthritic have been seen woodenly and painfully sweeping the dust off our streets. They are quick to ensure that they spray you with dust mascara if your gaze lingers too long on them, at work!

Street children, men and women have been scared off by armed men and retired into council city schools and outskirts. The official story is that they will be rehabilitated. This has been met with skepticism. Jakom, we thank you for this amazing feat! Today our roads are clear! No traffic jams thanks to your auspicious visit! You have been able to bring sanity to our roads before you even land!

Our city Governor has borne the brunt of bad grass-root social media jokes because he has brought in the grass a little too late! Greening has been aggressive this past week. We fear you may only find seedlings! A cheeky Kenyan has suggested that our governor gives you your own customised grass covered shades so that you think the grass is lush!

Ndugu Mpendwa (beloved brother) you get the picture! You are the reason for this frenetic season!

All human rights groups have come alive! Closets have been open. Bibles wielded. Marches have been held! Opinions written, posts made, debates heard!

Be on high alert, Mheshimiwa! Behind this pomp, galore and pageantry lie very real beasts eating up our nation state. Your ride in the USA head of state, presidential beast may insulate you from seeing these beasts.

You see, Sibuor (lion in Dholuo), the beasts that are attacking this country cannot be slayed in a day! They require the long neck of those giraffes that roam our Kenyan plains. It requires visionary leadership that sees far indeed! They require impartiality, attention, focus, insight, goodwill and sustained commitment.

Does your visit, great man, represent commitment? Are you that visionary leader? Will you be that leader with the long neck that truly sees this country’s beasts for what they are?

I am glad security is on your agenda! Kenya has been battered by terrorists! We have paid with the blood of innocent Kenyans. Most poignant was the recent, barbaric attack that saw over 140 students killed at Garissa University College. CNN referred to us as a terror hotbed. I have to agree as I differ with my countrymen who thought this term unfair.

The response to this attack was too slow!

Did you know that most of the youth at this campus were children of the poor, the ones who can never afford to take their children to your great country for further studies?

Stories and images of poor parents who had to sell their goats and hustle to educate their children tugged at our collective national heartstrings. Saddest was the story of elderly parents who only bore one son! Their hope perished with this son!

Did you know our very own Head of State, who is planning a state banquet and has spared no expense in entertaining you great Jakom, only wrote a letter to the parents of these youth?  Why did the state not host a state burial for them, with him at its helm? Those are the beasts, great one! Those are the beasts! Inequality!  While 10,000 security men are guarding you, these poor youth who represent our hope and future, died a death that clearly revealed the beast of inequality, inequity and selective governance.

We like to say kuna wenye inchi (which means the owners of the country) and wananchi (the ordinary citizen).

In our country, human rights, social justice and equality are not protected in letter and spirit. Constitutionalism is a distant noun and not a verb.

The beast of negative ethnicity that brought our country to its brink in 2008 has not been slayed. It is getting worse. It informs every political appointment, policy and even gesture that is given within government contexts, sadly.

In our country, certain dominant tribes continue to control the instruments of power leaving behind exclusion, frustration, poverty and great frustration in their wake.

The complexities surrounding our electioneering process are so entrenched that no foreign independent observer ever gets to the bottom of our election fiascos!

I know from following your journey to the big white house, that you once worked as a Community Organiser in the very poor neighbourhoods of inner city Chicago.

You know what it is to see discrimination and unfair, inequitable distribution of state resources.

You know what black civil rights and that robust movement did for America. You know first-hand, the story of discrimination. You are part of this story! Ours may not be racism but the negative ethnicity in this country is a formidable beast, indeed.

The beast of corruption is yet another notorious one! Corruption has totally sealed the river of development that should flow through this nation. Youth remain disenfranchised, excluded and frustrated.

Men and women over 60 years of age, once retired have been brought back into government offices, while the youth await this now elusive future.

The seat at the table of governance is dictated by party loyalties, ethnic considerations and other parochial, narrow interests. Our country is not a place of innovation, no matter what you may see at this innovative global summit! It is a place of exclusion.

As you go around the country in your beast, please ask the hard questions.

What is happening to the Kenyan children?

The great Nairobi you shall see as you drive towards the leafy suburbs of Gigiri may prove deceptive.

It is a place where over half the population live in slum dwellings so decrepit, if your beloved daughters Malia and Sasha saw them, they would embrace their privileges in the USA.

Our people mostly live in slums and rural areas. Over 90 percent of the country’s labour force are paid less than 400 US dollars a month. Those who earn over 400 US dollars a month constitute only 7 % of the country’s workforce. This money is not much to live on for many struggling from month to month. The proverbial dollar under a dollar day subsistence is sadly true for many of our urban and rural poor.

My knowledge on human rights and democracy teaches me that the majority must be considered in government policies.

As your good friend, the Reverend Al Sharpton says, there are two types of leaders, transactional and transformational leaders. Ours are transactional leaders with the ordinary Kenyan being the currency that they conveniently manipulate to their own ends.

The beast of youth unemployment is a real and painful story! The young entrepreneurs you shall meet are mostly children of privilege. Their middle class and wealthier parents had the money to take them through school and into the various private universities!

Please, even as you look at this youth, do not be blinded to the fact that most youth in our country are languishing in slums, rural areas or even in the north eastern province branded Al Shabaab. Youth radicalisation is an alluring reality for them.

Great man, in Africa, we believe in telling stories. We believe that our elders are wise and the keepers of knowledge. They are also able to view stories from all points and make objective judgements. Step into this hallowed role as Elder!

I speak for many of the slum youth I work with as a Community Development worker in one of the biggest slums in sub Saharan Africa.

I am daily faced with the faces of hopeful children in slum schools that remain forgotten in mainstream education policies.

I deal with girl children as young as 10 years old forced into sexual activity due to their inability to say no and their fear of their adult male slum dweller neighbours, teachers and sadly relatives.

I meet many resourceful women struggling to hold communities together, yet facing massive gender discrimination, harassment, sexual violence and neglect.

I know what it is to stare into the vacant eyes of an old man! Only that this is no old man but a young, unemployed man who has given up and who realises that not even a shot of marijuana will open up opportunities.

These are the beasts you should be aware of Jakom, as you ride around in your reinforced Beast.

This letter places you on high alert. This beloved land of your late father is a country that has not secured its basic pillars. Health, education, human rights are not guaranteed for citizenry!

Mr President, be reliably informed! The dreams from your father were very real. Development is not occurring equitably. Corruption, selfish and ethnically polarised leadership has rendered development a still birth.

Just last week, over 30 children in a small area called Busia, from the minority Teso tribe were experiencing paralysis in their limbs, because they had been injected with the wrong medicine by an irresponsible nurse.

While you sweated and had sleepless nights in the USA, over the complex issues of health care reform, our country has no commitment to health for the urban or rural poor.

As I write, the parents of these children are still crying for help. No one has responded. No one is listening. Your visit has given us such a pleasant distraction!

Security is crying out for reforms. Most of our policemen are but hungry kids bearing arms! They live in such dehumanising conditions; some have joined cartels of crime gangs and lend them guns.

The beast of road carnage has run amok! Corrupt traffic policemen have organised extortion bribing systems, allowing unroadworthy vehicles to cause tragic accidents! Once again, the blood of innocent Kenyans cries out from their graves!

Have you ever wondered what would have happened to your late father if visionary leaders like Tom Mboya had not been? Who would have organised airlifts for Kenyan children from all walks of life? Modern day sheroines, such as your grannie Sarah, pay fees for their young sons only for such sons to end up unemployed. Our very celebrated, first African nobel peace laureate, the late Wangari Maathai was a part of such airlift!

The climate in our nation is like that good house one visits. While the owner of the house is entertaining the guests with their best china, the members of the household are crying from hunger pangs, hidden from sight, threatened with dire consequences if they disturb the visitor.

Sibour! Lion who roars and nations listen! Please roar loudly in the land of your father!

May your roar be one that makes those gathered around you realise that the beasts in our country need to be tackled!

May your roar be articulate, compassionate and based on the very real things that afflict us!

We development workers, in the trenches of poor communities fighting for social justice, human rights and meaningful opportunities, are counting on you!

Welcome to our great nation! You are proof that greatness can bear humble roots!

You taught me the audacity of hope by your fight into the White House and your exemplary example!

You are surrounded by greats whom you respect! Michelle, Sasha and Malia! We welcome them into our town with open arms! I am elated that there are powerful women in your entourage!

I write in hope!






Judy Amunga-Ndibo

Judy Amunga-Ndibo is a Kenyan Lawyer, Journalist and Community Development Worker for Tatua, having gained experience with UNHCR and the ICRC previously.

1 Comment

  1. Mina Onga'yo July 28, at 06:48

    Nothing could be far from the truth, madam JA-Ndibo. Your letter has summarized the true and entire situation in Kenya and many other African Nations.Interestingly this morning, I was thinking the words of JF Kennedy. Shall we keep asking what our country can do for us or what we can do for our country. Jakom, woud Obama and other allies can help us in one big way, by stopping to pump money into some bottomless pit, dollars that do not help every Kenyan but a few. Since Jakom is the head prefect of the world, let him put strong sanctions on all African nations. There is no African country that is independent. Africa is largely dependent on the west(recently east even, economically.) So what independence are we talking about when we cant even clear garbage from our streets, leave alone our back yards. The day Africa will learn that no one has its genuine interest at heart but itself, it will wake up and develop. How did India develop? Africa lacks leadership. Jakom, this is the country of your father, are you willing to help Kenya shape true leadership? We don't need dollars to achieve this. We need the fruit of the spirit as outlined in Galatians 5:22, Amen Well done Judy, continue being the voice of the voiceless, your reward is round the corner. On the other hand, count the small positive steps. Would you have written this, as open, if this we were in the Kanu error? Those are the strategies that we should embrace and run with. Even we Kenyans, are not willing to suffer and sacrifice for change. We think it will drop from heaven one day. WE MUST FIGHT FOR WHAT WE WANT. THE WORLD NEVER GIVES WHAT ONE DESERVES, IT GIVES WHAT ONE FIGHTS FOR! KENYANS, WAKE UP AND JOIN THE LIKES OF JUDY, IF YOU WANT TO EMBRACE A KENYA THAT OPERATES THE WAY AMERICA DOES! IT CAN BE DONE, YES WE CAN DO IT! WE JUST NEED TO SAY, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH


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