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Friday, February 26, 2010

A Cult Worth Joining

Everyone must have enthusiastically watched Joseph Hellon's interview with All Koinange All the Time on K24 on Thursday just before the 9 O'clock news. And boy did this cloned priest amaze. From his second-to-PLO articulacy to his second-to-none buoyancy, from his tactful approach to questions to his sheer outspokenness, the now infamous saxophonist was such a 'good grief' as Jeff would call it.

He never struggled to answer any questions and although he must have left many other queries unattended to, he seemed like he had the book of Genesis to Revelations firmly implanted in his medulla. His audacious nature even pushed him to the boundaries of challenging our Ps (pastors, priests, popes prophets, prophetesses), apostles, cardinals and archbishops for a Bible tug of war. Cardinal Njue and Archbishop Raphael S. Ndingi Mwana'a Nzeki must be wondering where they went wrong on Bible study. I advise them and our other holier than thou brethren to enroll for Bible study classes ASAP. They really need it. And the sooner the better.
About his ambitions, political ones, this guy will have to wait. We hear so much about Presidents in waiting. But President Hellon, Vice President Esther and Prime Minister Quincy will reeaaallly, have to wait. But may be not. Hellon must be one of those few individuals in this country who are saluting everything happening within the political spheres. He salutes the coalition government, the PM and President's shoddy-like work, the MPs et all. Is this a strategy to woe the wazees and other political sycophants to his Finger of God political party? Time will tell.

Woe unto you if you happened to be Hellon's friend on Facebook before he unleashed his finger. Did I hear him compare those who suddenly removed him from their friends' list to a vomit.

But why won't Esther Arunga speak to her Father who art in Earth? Why won't she even hallow his phone? Is she not willing to forgive him (Hellon) for trespassing in their marriage? Is she trying to deliver herself from the Finger of God evil, and finally dine with her fingers in the true Kingdom of God?

As Prophet Hellon left the Bench, he never answered any of the afore-raised questions. As he was on the bench, he said something that surely would make Esther delete his number from her phone. What? Simple.

This guy went LIVE on national TV and not only revealed, but Emphasized that Esther is 29 years old, almost nearing 30. Now now, we know that most of these media queens remain 24 years in the first five years, or more, of their contract with a media station. Esther had/has not stayed for that long at KTN damn it!! He also had the guts to call Esther a grown up woman for God's sake, while he should instead have referred to her as a growing lady. Why didn't he read between the lines and does he need a PR firm to sieve and let him know what can be said of a TV queen's true age, especially on national television?

I understand why you won't pick that call Esther. The psychiatrist is doing his/her job.

Away with the Fingers of God though. Let's talk serious matters now. I love this part...

An emerging religious cult group calling itself "Choma" is reported to be deeply frying humans and attracting customers in Western Kenya and Eastern Uganda. Stop drooling you Nyama choma lover! You are in trouble.

This new group should worry you all nyama choma, finger choma, kuku choma, manzi choma and all choma choma revelers. Even those users of joma cooking fat should be worried about this cult group. The police are coming for you. 

But in the meantime, if you love Choma and won't sacrifice anything for it, you are cordially invited to join Choma Religious (in quotations) group. I would have loved to be part of this. It is surely worth joining. Unfortunately, I'm working on a new church called; Thigh of Jesus.

Am recruiting members from all spheres and boundaries of this country. The boundaries are not clearly defined as of now as am also waiting for the boundaries report from the boundaries commission. And you don't have to worry about its legality. All the necessary bureaucracies have been followed, so has the unnecessary auditing and re-auditing. And I have a certificate of registration, a valid one, from the cult-est of them all; the House of Yahweh.

The aim of this Church will be to help me launch my toothless, useless, pointless, purposeless and nonsensical political ambitions. After all, I will not be the first Pastor to contest for a space at the Shangri-la. Pastor Pius tried, and lost.

Who am I to... win.

Religious leaders say there are over 50 cult groups operating all over the country. Most of these cults specialize in brainwashing and mind control and exploit their followers by foretelling their future and letting them know what curse would befall them if they don’t abide by what they are being taught.

In a worrying trend, most Kenyans are increasingly becoming victims, a scenario which methinks can be attributed to a growing feel of desperation. With tribal politics, corruption, failing leadership and poverty dominating the air, most Kenyans are now turning to the Church, any Church, in their pursuit of getting at least some comfort.

So desperate is the situation that in the course of this week, hundreds of Kenyans in Nakuru (about 157km from Nairobi) have been praying for the resurrection of two pastors who died on Monday, February 15, when a car they were driving in hit a culvert. Never mind one of the pastors was pronounced dead on his arrival at the hospital, while the other passed away while receiving treatment.

With savvy political leadership wanting and the Church also failing credibility test, one never fails to wonder where Kenyans will turn to. But they need to turn, anyway.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Arunga "Denies" Being a Finger of God-er

Latest reports indicate that Atuech, a former Finger of God-er for those who don't know, has been watching, you guessed it, Quincy Timberlake!! on YouTube! Now, I don't know what to make of this but only to feel sorry (a little) for my dear dearer colleague. Am also feeling that my personal security is now under threat or increasingly becoming compromised in her presence. I think her mind has officially been recruited and deeply entrenched into this whole cult thing. Though I have not bothered to check in and confirm or not about the alleged presence of Quincy in Atuech's room, some jazz-like sound has been dominating the air for quite some time since she settled in front of her Macintosh. Some Hellon jazz-like tunes. To be precise.

I have to admit the tunes are quite entertaining. Period.

Am really getting worried now. I think I should take a short leave until the last remaining nail of this finger is gotten rid of. As for Atuech, we need to save her from this psychological and perhaps, emotional distress (she just told me a lot happens in the evening, the fingers can point anywhere). Who knows what kind of faith-based che-men-stry she has/had with King Quincy? Atuech needs a psychiatrist as much as I do need to get the hell out of her touching distance.

And Esther.

I wouldn't be surprised if this former TV Kingcy were to come out with her sweet vocals blazing hot and start such a long narration on what went wrong.

I quote. I would like to categorically deny that at any point in time was I part of the outlawed, ridiculous, anti-God, and unlawful Finger of God mafia group. This has all been a politically motivated propaganda and smear campaign orchestrated and fully funded by my political detractors who are already sweating on their panties at the thought of me being at the helm and are hell bent on blackening my authentic reputation, rubbing me on the wrong side and portraying me as a  rebel in the eyes of my right-thinking a million plus supporters nationwide.

I would also like to state in the strongest words that can possibly be whacked out of the Oxford lexicon that the reports circulating in media that I will vie for Vice-Presidential seat come 2010 are premature, fallacious, mendacious, in bad state, ill-conceived and ill-motivated, besides being a fabrication of the truth. If only I had the chums to sue all of the media houses and the gutter press in this country. Nkt!!

However. However. I would like to officially announce that I will take a stab and win the parliamentary seat for Langata constituency come 2012 or before. If I fail, I will vie for the same position in 2017 but in Othaya constituency and win and become the youngest MP in the whole worl... Kenya.

In the meantime, I would want to urge my political detractors, the likes of NPC, NCCK, Holy Family Basilica, NHIF, JIAM, FPE, and others to stop cheap and malicious politicking and focus on development issues as well as ensure that our sovereign nation finally gets a new constitution. Just to add on that, the chapter in the constitution that says "there's freedom to worship" should be underlined, bold and in caps for all the obvious reasons.

Finally, I would want to elaborate that the Finger of God, or whatever that thing is called, is a cult. I deeply regret ever being part of it and ask for pardon as a result of the incommensurate and irrational behaviour that I exuded when the nail of the finger was cut off. Somewhat.

I also declare that I would return to reading news just in time, but not before Tiger Woods returns to playing golf. Tiger is such a sinner and he needs to be baptized by the House of Yahweh.

Final Finally, I encourage Atuech and like-minded former Finger of God-ers to come out strong that together we shun this phantom of mysterious and controversial fingers. It has emerged obvious that there's only one part of God's body that should be referred to, and that happens to be... well, apparently it's not the finger.

Last but not least, I extend my olive branch of apologies to my former colleagues and employers. I really miss my job already and would like to call upon any would-be employers not to shy away from looking at my UPDATED CV (which has no word of a finger), or visit my website at tingsagwan_nolongerafinger@kenya"churches".com.

And more final than finally, I appeal to all my fellow members of the fourth-state not to misquote me and catapult this friendly tittle-tattle into a slanderous chit-chat.

Did I mention that I have formed a committee of experts to investigate, audit, suspend, re-audit, and un-suspend the organizers who led to the cancellation of my planned wedding with him.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your time. You are all invited for this evening's praise and worship service at the fi... forget it!!

End of Quote.

And That's theSteifmastertake!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Touched By A Finger of God

Finger of God. This is the latest of many catchwords, "churches" and or businesses to come out of Kenya's booming religious sector. So ubiquitous has this name become in the minds and even acts of some Nairobi-based Kenyans that mention it anywhere and you will receive, in the very least, an expression of want-to-know-more. And this is brought to you courtesy of a TV poster girl, and a jazz music maestro-cum-preacher. What a combination!!

Their names not in any urgent need for mentioning, but I will anyway, Senor Joseph Hellon and former TV anchor, Senorita Esther Arunga, are finding it rough in their pursuit to shed off their celebrity-tagging and live a personalized life defined by one finger and cushioned from the hands of many critics and doubting Thomasses who have dared to challenge the pair's faith.

Whilst Esther Arunga has stirred and snowballed the whole saga to its boiling point, many faithfuls of the Finger of God ministry are not shying away from announcing that they were once touched by this controversially holy finger. Many of them are unexpectedly confessing that they belong or once belonged to this church (read, cult, if you are not a Finger of God-er). And that includes this colleague of mine am beginning to fear her touch and fingers. Let's call her Atuech.

Atuech confessed to me that she has been attending evening prayers at a certain joint - I call it, joint, because she can only give directions using bars and pubs - located in the Central Business District. Every evening after the hustles and bustles of work, she walks nonchalantly towards this joint run by the Finger of God ministries for a praise and worship session. This 'inspiring session', as she calls it,  starts from 7pm and ends at around 10am, with songs, dances, loud ululations and preachings satiating the urge for faith-based evening appetizers, main courses and deserts. This table is only reserved for a congregation of twenty or less, she says.

After jumping herself to the comforting eclectic jazz tunes and electric sermons, she leaves this place feeling blessed and holding her finger higher than when she went in. Atuech says the evening praise and worship session is normally graced by all the single ladies, bachelors and the who's and who's in the Kenyan media fraternity. "Most of these personalities from the media industry attend the Church's prayer sessions, yet they are the same same ones who are know casting stones at her (Esther A-ruined Gal) and playing the holier than thou game," she sighs.

Atuech, just like many other lambs of the Finger of God Church came to only knew fully of the Church's un-Church-like activities when the wind finally blew hot.

"One of the Tatuu's (a popular local song group of three songstresses) attend the sessions, so does a former Mr. Kenya, former Who's Smarter Now anchor, celebrities, other journalists from KTN (Esther Arunga's former employers) and even employees from NTV," she laments.

Atuech is however quick to point out that none of the doctrines taught in the sessions - not Church -  contravenes what the Holy Book fronts for, except the fact that responsible and speed-governed-kind of alcohol guzzling is highly encouraged.

"I started getting suspicious when Hellon one day mentioned to us that the church eggs on alcohol drinking, something that clearly breaches the teachings of the Bible," she says. It's at this point that Atuech does something that clearly contravenes the beliefs of the purely faith-ed people like I should be. 

She touches me!!

Though this is not the first time she has ever done this, the fear that grips my conscience and the alarm that rings through my spine is indisputably hair raising. To make matters worse, she notices the apprehension in my face and... touches me again! Now, now now, surely.

I explicitly don't know what to think at this time. The thought of "I have been touched by a Finger of God-er" sulks my conscience and a feeling of unease clots my blood. But since there's not much I can do, I resign to that fact. But the way that I view and handle Atuech changes from this moment on, lest I start wondering which of my fingers happens to be that finger that is God's Finger.

And That's the Steifmastertake!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Video Essay - From Kenya with Love

SKortiz Productions is a pioneer project by two young and ambitious Kenyans who have decided to eke out a living in a country where politics is the only thing one gets served with, whether sitting comfortably in your living room at prime time, or flipping across tabloids in the office. Fed up by partisan politics of underdevelopment, pissed off by the evil of corruption and materialism and irritated by the lax in accountability, the two have come together with the ultimate aim of bringing back the the zeal of many Kenyans who have lost interest in watching television, since the events of flawed elections in 2007 which led to widespread violence and destruction. Their most fundamental objective is to produce perpetual and varied content that would leave everyone nodding in conformity and satisfied beyond the word, satisfaction.

Whether comical or educational, entertaining or informative, incisive or exclusive, this is the only platform to find it all. With our (Skortiz Productions) roots and energies firmly planted on the urge for perfection, we work under the belief that true victory is only achieved when you win. And we won't relent until you achieve that victory.

Skortiz Productions is where we bring special people to do special things for special persons in a special way with a special motive. Lets all shun the evil of politics and work towards making Kenya a better place.

Instead of watching Kenya's political satire on YouTube, why not utilize your time and watch:

SKortiz Productions Promo Part1
- This is a short promotional video that... just sit back and watch!!

The First Cut
- Two brilliant, genius, upcoming young Kenyans slowly start following their trajectory to success. Follow these two inventive minds working under their own entity, Skortiz Productions, as they crack your ribs, speak their minds in utmost frankness, and tackle the most fundamental issues affecting the modern world. This is IT!!

Lost in the Sunny City - This is a hilarious comedy about Canister and Bokassa who are two great friends first, and brothers second. Their lives have just begun in that they have just cleared school after which they relocate to the capital city. They come to learn early enough that life in the city, and more so under the thumbs of their Aunt is not a bedside joyride... watch the drama

Kenya Rugby- Watch some of Kenya's best tries from last season

And That's the Bottomline and the Steifmastertake!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Want Some Milk? It's 'Milk-Flooding' in Kenya

It had been long since I visited my shop to buy some milk. Reason? Well, I don't like milk, hence I only take some (extremely diluted as white tea) on the weekend. Sunday to be precise.

But with my dad yawning in bed with the loudness that one would mistake for a sex-hungry bloating he-goat, I had to pay a visit to the shop. Surprise. The last time I bought milk at the shop, I grinned in anger just how much I had to part way with. But on this day, I left the shop nodding in agreement with the much, read less, my favourite shopkeeper took from me. Never mind the difference was 15 per cent. Only.

That was then. Last week, after getting my salary for January, I raised my living standard. Instead of going to the shop, I took a trip down the road to a supermarket, not to buy one milk, but two, with three also a possibility now that my pocket could afford a cough of notes.

Okay. My trip ended when I landed at the milk-shelf, where I found the usual so many brands of milk, but with one difference. They bore the same tag: buy two 500ml packets of milk, get a 250ml absolutely free! Better yet, the 15 percent price reduction had also reached the supermarket. Now, it's at this point that customers normally have the chance to become choosy. Different brands, same price, same free milk? No price wars? Just perfect.

And even though I now can't remember which brand got my nod, whether Tuzo or Fresha, Ilara or KCC, or none of the four, I settled for the one that sounded freshest enough. Not Fresha though. Perhaps Tuzo because of so much television advertising, hence reputation, from back in the days. May be I went for Ilara (which means - scrambling for me) if directly translated into my Luo language.

One thing is for sure. There's a milk glut in Kenya. Cows had surfeit meal over the period of El Nino rains, they are returning back the favour to their keepers by producing milk, apparently in excess, dairy farmers are hurting and crying foul as the surplus overwhelms processors.

Kenya has been witnessing an upsurge in milk production over the last 6 years. This year, the milk levels have reached its peak. A peak that is now presenting enormous challenges to the dairy processors, who as expected, are ill-equipped and have inadequate capacity to take advantage of the prevailing glut in milk supply.

The government has shamelessly admitted it has no capacity to absorb the commodity that just last year, was in short supply in the country. The producer prices have been dropped (sorry guys), the consumer prices have also dropped as a result - guess you know who is affording the biggest smile - the consumer of course. It's called the seesaw effect, or "do me, I do you." When the consumer cries, the producer laughs best, and the reverse is true.

Since processors have also cut their intake besides reducing producer prices, it's a double disaster for the dairy farmer. But not all of them. 

Some dairy farmers are reportedly seeking to be registered as "milk bar" operators. Can you imagine getting into a "bar" where you are served with some nutritious, opaque white liquid produced by the mammary glands of a mammal? Oh mama!

I know someone is already thinking of a hangover. A milk hangover. Although I might not be one of the visitors to such a bar, I believe most people wouldn't mind visiting the milk den, even if it's for the sake of saying, "I just came from the bar and had glasses after glasses of... milk."

Of course the glut is only temporary and in 45-days or so, things would perhaps have reverted back to normal. And may be in 60-days time, the milk-bar owners would have changed their line of business and commodity of sale per se, from the healthy milk to some illicit brew.

But in the meantime, I say it is a good idea to pour the excess liquid in milk-guzzler's stomachs than let it go to waste. After all, the thing is healthy and should have no side effects. The milk bar operators however should think of diversifying their products. Traditional yoghurt already sounds like an idea out of a milk processing guru's mind.  

For someone like me though, I'll remain a teetotaler, at least until someone opens a juice or soda bar. Sounds impossible doesn't it? Those who say it's possible and those who say it's not are both right, for there is power in what you believe in.

But what can the government do to help the farmers and reduce the impending wastage? There are not so many short cuts.  

First, the government should stop the importation of powder milk and encourage processors to start converting milk from dairy farmers into powder. This will be a long term venture and has every potency of succeeding, granted that the necessary structures, and not bureaucracies, are put in place and followed. 

Secondly, the private sector should come out of their sleeping blankets and plunk massive investments in the dairy sector. Nordic countries like Finland, Sweden and Norway, the UK, Australia and Canada are among the top nations in the world known for their reputation of consuming a lot of milk. In short, there are markets. 

The third viable solution would be to revivify the school milk programme that was introduced by former president, Daniel Arap Moi in 1980. The objective of such a move should be the same; to boost the health and diet of children. Add other benefits like improving school enrollment and attendance, providing nourishment to children who report to school with empty stomachs, encouraging children to consume dairy products as part of a balanced diet, creating jobs through the milk chain, and eliminating milk surpluses and I guess there's every reason to reintroduce such a programme.

The programme which was totally funded by government and rolled throughout the country targeted primary school children aged between five and 13 years. By 2005 more than 4.3 million children from 11 000 schools were benefiting from the programme. Although my habit of not taking milk started way way some time back, I benefited when I enrolled for primary school in 1994 till the programme was sadly phased out. Sadly, because I would always collect my 200ml packet of milk and carry it home to my mum. 

Such a programme will also ensure teachers don't miss classes. My teachers back then frequented school and missed no lessons. I have even noticed that most of them were fatter than the modern day teacher. The teachers supervised the distribution process in school with the help of prefects. The possibilities of hundreds of packets remaining and reaching the teachers' households were always guaranteed. The prefects never benefited any less as our school headboy would report for term one lessons looking emaciated, and by mid-term, the guy's cheeks and body would have swollen, making it difficult to differentiate him with our chubby Swahili teacher.

Methinks reintroducing the programme, even if it's short term, would help revert the ridiculous situation of thousands of litres being wasted everyday.

In fact, any of the above moves by the Kenyan government would prove quite beneficial and smart, whichever way you look at it. It's a win-win situation.  

The other option would be to start marketing Kenya as a milk-tourism destination. All the tourists can come and rest in bars drinking gallons of milk instead of beers and cappuccinos, bath and swim in milk instead of wasting our water (the water levels in Kenya are still low), and even carry some milk home for the children. The milk-marketing gimmick can go under the tagline: "If you want some, come get some," and feature the minister for cooperative development wearing a disgusting moustache covered with milk.

In the fewest words possible, we have a glut, farmers are counting their loses as thousands of litres of fresh milk go to waste, and in a few months we will have shortages, the prices will shoot up, and someone will start importing milk. That's just the way we do things in Kenya. That's just the right way to do things in Kenya.

Now, let me get on the phone and ask a collegue of mine what he thinks of my ideas. And about the milk bar.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Giving that Bribe Makes the World Go Round - Only in Africa

The eight-lane superhighway is taking shape! These are the words that swam in my brain as my matatu (minibus) rattled Nairobi-Thika Road, a road which has so far been known for its unenviable reputation of making commuters whine to no one in particular as they sit and yawn in heavy traffic for hours and hours.

I had no reason to whine, but I yawned in satisfaction at the sight of a road that once completed, will definitely increase the number of vehicles moving up and down the route currently estimated to host 70,000 vehicles a day. The figures will double. Perhaps.

But yes. The multi-billion shillings project to expand the route from a four to eight-lane is looking north. And the route has become sort of a tourist attraction site for most Kenyans. And why not. After all, this is gonna be the first superhighway of its kind in this part of the world. And may be Kenya's ministry of tourism should look into generating some income from the road under the tag of "domestic tourism."

Personally, am enthralled by the way the thing is coming out. The Chinese are definitely working. Everything looks super. The highway itself, the earth-moving machinery, the potential flyovers and underpasses, the ample road-space, and even the names of the construction companies (China Wuyi, Sino Hydro and China Shangli.)

So my journey from Nairobi to my friends home via Thika road was busy enough, at least for my eyes. I kept on swinging my head from left to right (and even back and forth to preview and review the construction), lest I miss a sight to behold. At some point, I even forgot that the music that was keeping my ear busy had stalled. I was in no hurry to fix this though. Again, lest I miss a super sight.

Now that everything must always come to an end - unfortunately on this one - my adventure did reach an end. There was no more construction towards the end of my tunnel. I was rather disappointed, but consoled myself saying, "there's always a journey back."

And what a journey back I had! Fast rewind to two months past, then forward to last weekend when I had gone to visit the same colleague, used the same matatu, plied the same route and kept everything routine, from looking sideways to munching biscuits, to salivating at the sight of my neighbour's yammy-looking cake. On both journeys from Thika back to Nairobi, I noticed something so terrible - may be not - about a group of people in Kenya known at times for sheer brutality, taking what they have not worked for nor deserve, accusing people of "crimes" like looking at a government building suspiciously, wearing patriotic fronts, or pot bellies, and of course, kukula mlungula. I'll explain.

If you still don't know who these guys are, it's the Kenya traffic police.

A cold chilly morning could not deter these gentlemen and ladies in blue from getting to work. "What an industrious police force we have in our sovereign nation," you might conclude. But alas! The early bird catches the worm(s). The early policeman/woman catches even better and more worms (matatu bribes) at close of "business."

In both journeys, everything was routine. I got on to the vehicle, looked for a seat near a beautiful lady or a savvy-looking gentleman (reason being that shaggy men from that side smell cigarettes - and perhaps the less beautiful women as well), plunged the headsets on my ears, put on my safety belts, and zoom...

A few minutes into the road, this policeman ushers my so-far moderately-speeding, traffic-rules observing driver to stop by the roadside. My driver obliges. A different hungry-looking guy in blue, whose turn has come or perhaps has not gotten his share of the morning matatu-cake, comes towards the conductor's seat, opens his palm tactfully, the conductor hands over 50 shillings (about 60 US cents) through a small opening in the window, and, problem solved. The vehicle had apparently flouted some traffic rules, and according to the traffic laws, the offender was supposed to part way with a bribe.

At this point, my face goes into an awe-struck moment, but I shrug off the incident. Zoom... the vehicle drives past. Having lost a quarter of the fare one passenger is supposed to pay for the drive to town, the conductor stares at me suggestively. It's time to return the favour. I hand over the fare in different notes of one 100 shilling and two 50s, the latter which my conductor rolls into a round shape and keeps separate from the other flock. I swear to keep my eye on my fifty.

Two kilometers into the ride, another policeman stops my Matatu. This time round, a female traffic police officer works her way toward my conductor, who already knows the charge for "flouting traffic rules" within such a short distance. But something happens here that leaves my conductor smiling and almost jumping out of the vehicle in celebration. After huffing and puffing here and there, she doesn't take her fair share! The relief that runs through the conductor's vein you can observe is as red and pure as his red gabs and can only be compared to when Caster Semenya would find out that he/she is a woman. The conductor ought to thank me at this point. But he doesn't "Had it not been for my watchful and sentinel-like eye, madam could have taken it," I whisper to myself and let go.

"Ameogopa, huyo ameogopa kuchukua" (she has shied from taking), shouts my conductor to the driver as we leave unscathed by the long arm of the Kenyan traffic police law. My fifty survives. At least for now.

The conductor's celebration is short-lived as five-minutes into the drive, two female police officers have also observed us, again, flouting the rules and we are stopped. Another 60 cents goes into the pocket of the police. My 60 cents. At this point, I have already participated in a corrupt deal having let the conductor give away part of my money to an undeserving officer.

Kenya Police 2 Matatu Tout 0. And we are not even halfway into our journey!!

So far, we are talking about 100 shillings in total that the men and women in blue have unjustifiably taken from the two men in red. What an unbalanced game this is turning out to be. One-hundred shillings may seem little, but in a country where most people earn as little as 150 shillings for a whole day's work, the Kenyan police is already living large, minus his/her salary.

Did I mention that the score is just between my Matatu and the police and not the other matatus? Well, if I haven't, note that at every stop, three other matatus, or more, had to pay the tax for using the road. All this time, this passenger (me), apparently sitting next to a pungent smelling sweat oozing out of a man he had mistakenly considered savvy, just shook his head in disbelief, feeling like he should do something. But What? Report to the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission? Evidence? Big Fish!

Just like I was helpless with the body odour of my neighbour, so was I helpless with the favour my conductor and the police were doing for each other. So, I shut my mouth, opened my eyes, and the journey continued. Six more stops before we reached Kasarani roundabout, a 30-minute drive from Nairobi central business district, my conductor had parted way with a total of Ksh400 (am not a currency converter, but that's about $6).

Insignificant amount? May be, depending on which social class you belong to in Kenya. Let me just say that amount is enough to support that struggling single mother in food expenses at Kibera slums for six days or so.

                                                            Round two
My second journey to Nairobi was almost identical. Almost, because this time round, it was not the conductor, but my driver who was giving the policemen along Thika road what they had woken up for. Now that every one has known that the conductor is the pointman for the bribe, why not delegate the duties to the driver who can hardly drive for half-an-hour without breaking traffic rules?

Dynamism is the word. Everything in this world is underlined by the word dynamism, giving bribes notwithstanding. So how did my driver do it? Simpler than reading the word, Wuod Nyasembo.

Just tuck the money under the car door lock, let the officer match towards you swaggering his swagger stick, he partially opens the door and yets! you got it big guy. That's what you call, vintage collection.  It's as simple and yet effective as the 'pass and move' tactic of football that Liverpool, under Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley were famed for back in the days.

Repeat this scenario six times and even if your automobile is a pure amalgam of speed along the route or have no safety belts fixed, you will have no problem with the officer. The amount solves everything. You can even drive off when they stop you, just make sure you drop some notes at a point they can see.

So while the multi-million eight-lane superhighway venture would go a long way into offloading heavy traffic from the city center and reducing millions of shillings lost in delays and traffic snarl-ups, millions of shillings are being lost in bribes to lazy, ineffective, selfish and uncouth police officers serving themselves, and not citizens along different routes in the country.

But in a country where the word accountability still remains a new vocabulary known but not practiced by anyone, millions of shillings will continue to go on a safari to hang out with other billions stolen in government ministries and trillions that have traveled and are stacked in foreign accounts.

And all this money belongs to a group of Kenyans called, the elite. And the elite belong to a group of goons called the politicians and deceitful financial crooks, a group which also owes its beginning to post-colonial land grabbers and grabbers of everything, who took advantage of the much that the colonialists left for Kenyans to share, but they saw no need of doing so since we live in a world where you eat and let only your close relatives and friends eat, and no more.

Giving a bribe is no lesser crime as receiving it. But the matatu tout and his driver have no option but to bulge into the act. After all, it costs less to bribe a police officer than start the protracted process of being arraigned and charged in court, a place where the offence can always be exacerbated from a mere mistake of playing loud music, to reckless driving, disregarding highway obstruction or even vehicular homicide.

The Kenyan police is a dirty linen. Literally. Whether it's traffic police or that guy who patrols late in the evening holding an AK47 riffle, the difference is the same. While the traffic police will threaten to sue you of traffic demeanuor you hardly committed, the evening patrol officer can charge you with anything and everything. Obstruction of justice, smoking with violence, loitering with the intention to committing first degree murder, looking at a government building suspiciously, soliciting sexual favours from an unwilling female, looking at a rich-man's dog with the intention to kill, running with the intention to cause public disorder and et cetera.

My colleague, Sean (a South African in Kenya for three months), recently lost a game on his first encounter with the Kenya police. He had alighted at the crossroads, an offence, depending on how much the officer has collected since he woke up. Handled with utmost politeness and not knowing what charges the "offence" could attract in an imaginative court, Sean parted way with 700 shillings (about $10).

When he narrated the whole story to me, I just laughed it off and said, "it happens." 

Yes it does.

And it is happening more often than not. So next time you meet that officer and you are running late for work, just get into your pocket, shove some fifteen dollars or so and bang! Problem solved. 

Only in Africa though.

And that's theSteifmastertake!!

Hello Haiti, Goodbye Africa

It’s remarkable what’s being done for Haiti isn't it? But it’s also remarkable what hasn’t and isn’t being done for nations like war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, and crisis-hit Somalia (the land of al-Shabaab and pirates of Somalian). 

The January 12 earthquake may have killed over 230,000 people in Haiti and devastated the already impoverished nation, but does this mean the world turns its back on drought-ravaged, conflict-infested African nations like the Congo who desperately need the world?

Twenty-five years since the charity anthem “We are the World” was recorded to raise awareness of famine in Ethiopia, Quincy Jones (who produced the 1985 anthem) and Lionel Richie (who wrote the original with Michael Jackson) spearheaded a 25th anniversary re-recording of the song, but with proceeds going toward Haiti relief. Star-struck singers, rappers and actors, including Barbra Streisand, Kanye West, Celine Dion, Nicole Scherzinger, Miley Cyrus, and others stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the same Hollywood studio to redo the song to benefit recovery efforts in Haiti.

And for a moment, the hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians who lost their lives in the equally devastating famine that ravaged the nation were forgotten. For a moment, the fact that Ethiopia and Horn of Africa in general still grapples with famine problems every year was forgotten. And for a moment, Africa’s problems from the war in DRC to insurgency in Somalia, from the refugee situation in Daadab camp to Darfur crisis in Sudan were shelved to the bottom, perhaps never to be looked at again, unless of course thousands more die.

The DRC offered $2.5m in emergency aid to Haiti, to help the devastated country cope with the upheaval that has left over 230,000 dead, and rendered many more homeless. Whether this is a kind gesture in support of the poor-help-poor democracy, or a sheer wastage of resources from a country that boasts of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced refugees is anyone’s guess.

And did I hear that Senegal had offered large tracts of land to Haitians willing to relocate to the West African nation? While I don’t dispute such a high degree of philanthropic work being extended to a nation in dire need, why hasn’t Senegal, or any African country, offered to allocate a few hectares of land – albeit temporarily - to help thousands of refugees struggling to eke out living in over-stretched camps (like Daadab) where the number of refugees setting in are far more than the land “allocated” to them?

Nigeria was part of a strong police contingent serving with the UN police mission in Haiti that assiduously worked to rescue people trapped in the rubble following the devastating 7.0-magnitude quake that also had dozens of aftershocks. Why is there no presence of such a police force in Somalia to help the transitional government that is almost being toppled by the radical al-Shabaab group?

Is it a case of Africans feeling sufficiently philanthropic to help “black nations” like Haiti, while forgetting that they also have internal problems in the continent that needs disaster-like attention and response?

The west will always come to help, if need be. But Africans should remember that should a disaster of Haiti’s magnitude hit any nation outside the Black Continent, its (Africa’s) problems will always find space in the bins of oblivion.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pay More for that "Big Body" Luggage

"Novice budget travelers should learn to pack lightly before mastering any other money-saving technique. Now more than ever, airlines are imposing hefty penalties for heavy baggage," I read this somewhere - but with no intention to get airborne any time soon - and said, "okay, fair enough for the so-named novice budget traveller." "I'll surely be one someday and I'll heed the advice to the letter," I murmured as I hoped to a different tab I had opened on my Apple iMac computer (yes I own one, the office one of course).

But this other tab had a problem (or was it something unusual) with a certain group of people. It was talking about one of those many surveys. Since statistics and me are utterly inseparable, I developed an immediate affection and my curious side of the brain took over the reigns of wanting to know more. And knowing more I did!

Some skinny or average-weighed surveyors at Skyscanner, a travel website, must have been having problems or complaints from equally skinnier colleagues travelling to various locations under the unwanted and unwarranted company of their superiors, in weight.

So what did they do? They decided to conduct a survey on whether airlines should charge overweight passengers more if they (passengers) needed an extra seat, in what they called a "fat tax." 

Only 22 percent of the 550 people questioned disapproved of introducing extra payments for overweight passengers. In other words, 88 percent, 484 juvenile-like and insensitive people questioned approved the introducing of extra payments for our overweight colleagues.

I don't condone eating without excess-food governors fixed - even if it's loose - in one's food-crushing and belly-drowning machines, neither do I condone surveys that can cause emotional distress to travellers. While it is okay to accept one's body size, the modern world has taken "big persons" big bodies to be a disease. Of course it is, to some extent. But which airline cares? Air France? Oh c'mon!

Apparently, Air France has, since 2005, offered overweight passengers the option to buy a second seat at a 25 percent discount. I wonder how many have taken the option.

But isn't it prudent and advisable for these airlines to design seats that can accommodate all and sundry? Why design seats that can and will only fit my fifty-something kilograms body weight, and almost-invisible butt within 500m, without reasoning that Mr. Paul Wight, a.k.a The Big Show, might want to come to Kenya and burn out some of his 220kg while chasing a chameleon at the Masai Mara Game Reserve?

Some respondents to the poll said it was airlines' responsibility to make seats for all shapes and sizes of passengers, while others suggested that the charge should be calculated on the weight of the passenger plus their luggage. Now the former group of respondents reason. The latter, well, they must be thinking the Wright Brothers discovered, invented and built the airplane for them only. How wrong they ought to know they are.

But with such "recent developments," one never fails to wonder what "fat tax" overweight people would have to pay in the not-so-distant future. But one thing that is for sure, they will be required to pay something extra. "Fat tax" on entering a boutique, shopping at a supermarket, driving through a highway with less-fat people, searching for information on average-sized-only websites, and et cetera.

But in the meantime, overweight passengers will perhaps have to pay for that extra luggage, which happens to be the chunks and more chunks of fat embracing their bodies. 

Crazy world I tell you. But before it reaches even crazier for "Miss and Mister Fatty fatties," let me continue starving, lest I miss that all-expenses paid flight to watch Liverpool FC play Kenya's Gor Mahia at a newly built Stanley Park Stadium in Stanley Park, Liverpool, England.   

See you there. If you ever get there.

Now let met get back to my reading. About the novice budget travelers of course.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!