RWANDANS AND JEWS-Historical Lessons for Kenyans

History allows us the opportunity to learn from other peoples mistakes in the hope that we will avoid those mistakes ourselves in the future.

Two things happened this week that had a profound impact on my psyche.I finished reading A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali and i watched Hitlers death squad which aired on National Geographic.

The documentary and the book had two things in common,they all talked about the same thing-while the book documents th Rwandan genocide in which almost 800,00 Tutsis were massacred,the Jewish holocaust saw the extermination of 6 million European Jews during World War Two.

While it beats logic why people would believe the lies that were being peddled by the masterminds behind these two events,it is worth noting that Benjamin Ferencz the Chief prosecutor at the Einsatzgruppen Trial, says that these people were not your ignorant,uneducated kind but were people who looked like you and me,normal human beings engineered this evil acts.

The Rwandan genocide were the same,neighbors snitched on Tutsi neighbors,people whom the day before you probably shared some titillating gossip with over the fence.Closer home we saw what happened during the post election violence,while it was not on the same scale it still bordered on ethnic genocide where people were targeted because of what was deemed as their identity.

Closer home the events after the 2007 general elections will always remain as a dark past in Kenyans history.Over 1500 Kenyans lost their lives during the post election violence just because they came from the ‘wrong’ ethnic community and were in the ‘wrong’ place at that time.

While the best thing would be to forgive and move on,we need to ask ourselves why tribe has always been a major factor in Kenyan politics.Just look at the scandals taking place today and nay politician who feels hounded by the media because of some perceived whiff of a scandal will quickly retreat to his constituency ,maybe to seek moral support ahead of the grilling they will be facing in parliament come the next Tuesday we will never know.But that weekend will see a declaration of threats and counter-threats to all real and imaginary enemies deemed to be a threat to the politician ad the tribes well being.

While this is a sad and pitiable occurrence,Kenyans need to know all wrong doings are individual and all these money that mysteriously disappears from government coffers only go to benefit these said politicians’ cronies and never his or her tribe.With this realization should come the realization that politicians only bring up the issue of tribe when they feel they are being hounded for their personal wrong doing and seek safety in numbers.

Anyone on God’s green earth is created equal and while we may differ in the color of our skin,the texture of our hair and even our skills,no human being should be looked down upon because he is shorter than his neighbor or he has a funny name .We need to be careful about believing what our leaders tell us,be they politicians,religious or persons in authority who seem to promote prejudices and stereotypes about a group or groups of people.

Looking at the change in Kenyan society today most people below the age of 35 are more often than not marrying out of their tribe.With this i hope we will see a more Kenyan identity devoid of tribal inclinations and prejudices.

A SUNDAY AT THE POOL IN KIGALI


This was Gil Courtemanche’s first novel and it traces the Rwandan genocide through the life and tragic love story of Valcourt an older Canadian expatriate working there as a journalist and Gentille a young Rwandan working at the hotel Mille Collines as a waitress.

The story is fictional but the events taking place in the story are real.It is said the events in the book are an eye witness account of how Rwanda burned as the world watched as the land of a thousand hills drowned in the blood of innocent civilians doomed to their fate by the color of their skin,their slight build or their height.

At the beginning of the book the writer gives a brief history of how these tribal animosities between the Rwandans started.Gentille’s great great grandfather is quoted as saying’it seems we are not what we are ,nor what we appear to be…..and the future of my children will be bearable only if we become what we are not.’.And from then Kawa did all he could to change his childrens ethnicity from Hutu’s to Tutsi’s.It is sad therefore that a few generations later Gentille who is described as the most beautiful girl in Butare though Hutu was always mistaken for a Tutsi because of her light skin,slight build and height.

The stereotypes Africans have of whites are beautifully captured in the book through the eyes of Valcourt who fortunately or unfortunately is so enamored of his adopted country Rwanda despite the evils and the problems that bedevil it then.Reading the book the failings of us as humans is so well captured through the characters in the book but so is the unfaltering human will to do good through Victor who saves so many Tutsi’s while risking his life.

AIDS,the African problem is ever present in the narrations in the book.Maybe this is well viewed through the eyes of Celestine who figures we are going to die anyway and he goes ahead to give pleasure to all the women in the market where he sells tobacco while also gifting them with the HIV.

Its a wonderful book and though it had to have the white man as the her there are many good things to be said about African characters like Victor,Zozo,Elise and Emerita’s mum who fight tribalism and show why in the final end the human spirit and will does more good than harm most of the time if not always.

KENYAN WOMEN STAND UP AND BE COUNTED!

Martha Karua is one of my favorite MP’s,she is intelligent,witty,courageous and she is a woman to boot.I wish some of her qualities would rub off me because listening to her state her case in Parliament or in front of the cameras and you know here is a woman who knows what she wants and is out to get it.Whether you agree with her or not she has an attitude that many of us Kenyan women especially those aspiring to any office or career should embrace.

It is often said women are not ones to blow their own horns and more often than not a woman may be by passed for a promotion in favor of a male colleague just because she may be afraid to show how smart she is.In Kenya today we are still saddled with the mentality that a woman’s fast rise to the top is because she gave a few favors along the way.It never crosses the minds of these haters that the so called woman has the necessary skills to get the job done .

This needs to change and the generation of women having young daughters today need to show them that we can succeed in spite of our gender.When looking at Kenyan women in high flying careers or businesses what stands out is the way they were brought up.Most of them attest to the fact that their fathers/mothers brought them up with the mentality that they can succeed if they just worked hard.Having a parent(s)who instill a hard work ethic in their girls is a beginning to a great future in whatever career for a woman.

Women in the work force today are more than the number that were their in my mothers generation ad this is due to the fact that more and more of them are seeking financial independence and arent waiting for the proverbial prince to come sweep them off their feet.While 30 years ago a woman could afford to stay home and take care of the children while the man when to work,today’s economic demands mean that a home needs two incomes to survive and one cannot afford to sit home and twiddle her thumbs while the man brings home the bread and butter.Kenyan women are going back to school for their Masters,Phds and even running their own businesses.

A lot has been said about the new constitution but something that should be repeated over and over again is that the new order brings a lot of good for women.There are a lot of seats available in both the national assembly and senate for women and it is my hope that we are going to see worthy female candidates come 2012.

As we elect the next batch of women in the next parliament,i hope they will take their time to study the rules of the house,take a more active role in house committees and debates.As it is today watching parliamentary proceedings it is very easy to see that women are overshadowed by men when it comes to contributions.Hopefully this changes in the 11 th parliament.

It is my prayer that with these new beginnings for women in all areas ,in the next 50 years we are going to bring up a generation of women who certain of their strength and role to play in our country and the worlds future will stand and be counted.

NAKURU’S GROWTH

Everyone claims Nakuru is growing and very fast.A lot of the reasons put forward for this have been largely attributed to the post election violence in 2008 that saw people displaced from towns like Kisumu and Eldoret seek refuge in Nakuru.

A number of reporters have tried to do articles on Nakurus growth and while some have got it right some haven’t done their research.Just today morning this article appeared in the business daily-Banks rush to tap Nakuru’s robust growth.The writer claims that Eco Bank has opened shop in the last 6 months,yet it has been here for more than a year.The newest banks in Nakuru are Chase Bank,Bank Of Africa,First Community Bank and a newly opened branch of the cooperative Bank that is located on Kenyatta Avenue just next to Tuskys.

The newest entrants in the health sector have been the Karen Outreach Clinic and the Aga Khan University Hospital that has opened up a clinic too on the fourth floor of Riva Business Center.The only hospital that had a clinic in town was the Evans Sunrise Hospital.

With all these growth and opening up of new businesses,Nakuru has been injected with new life.Most of these banks and new businesses are employing young people because these are more willing to relocate .We also have young families who having moved here in the past 5 years when Nakuru’s landscape started to change.This has made real estate the most lucrative business for anyone interested in the towns commercial growth.From high rise office buildings to residential properties in Nakuru and its environs,the town is in a battle to find accommodation for its growing population.

Nowhere is this more evident than during peak hours in the morning and in the evening when people are going to work and commuting home in the evening.It is no longer surprising to see people queuing for matatus.We also have mini traffic gridlocks in the town center reminiscent of Nairobi whenever the heavens open.

Rapid growth brings with it undesirable elements like pickpockets ,robberies and burglaries and Nakuru once so peaceful and easy going is seeing a rise in robbery and theft cases.A few years back it was very hard to even find beggars along the town streets but nowadays they are common place along the main avenues.

Hopefully the Nakuru town council is tracking this growth and they arent going to be caught flat footed.It is now that they should be planning on how to harness the growth being exhibited right now to return this “pink town” into its glory days when it was the cleanest town in east and central Africa a few decades back.

NEW CONSTITUTION:WHAT IT HOLDS FOR KENYAN WOMEN


“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”

Marie Curie, Physicist and first woman to win the Nobel Prize

Kenyans gave a resounding yes vote for the new constitution and now that it is place,i wonder if Kenyan women know of the opportunities available for them in elective posts.I am going to paraphrase chapter 8(On Legislature) of the constitution states:

The National Assembly consists of 290 members and out of these there are 47 seats available for women.

The Senate which shall consist of 47 members will have sixteen women members who shall be nominated by political parties according to their proportion of members of the senate elected under clause(a) in accordance with article 90 of the constitution.

There shall also be two members,being one man and one woman (in the senate)representing the youth and persons with disabilities.

This can mean nothing but good news for the Kenyan woman and it is my hope that we will see more Kenyan women stand up for elective posts.For too long Kenyan voters have been harsh on women standing up for leadership positions and this has not been more apparent than in Parliament where we have just 15 elected and 6 nominated female MP’s out of the 222 members.

IN MY DAUGHTER’S EYES………..


While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.
~Angela Schwindt

Just the other day while we were watching Tusker Project Fame show on Citizen TV(Kenyan version of American Idol)my daughter asked me where Alpha (last years winner)came from.I answered Rwanda, and she told me”you are going to take me to Rwanda mum,so i can go see him”.I was stunned to say the least,that she said this and her voice held no doubt that mummy is going to do it.

While more often than not i am always second guessing myself,here was my four year old reminding me that i can accomplish anything i set my heart on(within reason of course).

She is still afraid of the dark and will not go to any room at night without her pleading”mummy come switch on the lights” but my four year old has taught me quite a number of lessons.I have watched her determination as she struggled to roll chapati dough like mum.and while i often scold her at spoiling my dough i am amazed at her willingness to take on challenges,she lives by the energizer bunny mantra “never say die”.I hope i remember this all so often whenever i am faced by challenges in my business and personal life.That its OK to be scared but help is just a call away,and that if i keep it at,i will definitely get it right …eventually.

So here is to hoping my daughter gets the intricacies of making chapati dough and rolling the perfect circle in another 10 years.

THE KITE RUNNER-KHALEID HOSSEINI


Amir is a boy growing up in Kabul with his friend Hassan ,the son of their live in man servant Ali.They are the best of friends and one of my favorite lines by Hassan is ‘for you a thousand times over’.This is the phrase Hassan uses whenever Amir asks him to do anything for him.

Yet with all the love,loyalty and kindness Hassan bestows on Amir,his best friend betrays him when he need it most.

This book is a narration by Amir and tells the story of growing up in the days when Kabul was a city other than the one we know today.It gives a one of a kind glimpse into Afghan,and traces his story all through to the land of dreams -America.A great read that opens up so many questions about life,family,truth loyalty and the second chances at being good again.