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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Somalis Risk not Watching the World Cup

Where will you be when the world football gala migrates to South Africa this June? With just under 40 days remaining before the FIFA 2010 World Cup kicks off under the picturesque African blue sky in South Africa, adrenaline is already running high, tension building, and fans becoming extra ecstatic. Over a billion people are expected to follow the beautiful game as it unfurls its wings to present its undisputed festive nature to the aficionados. 

Tens of thousands will be in the stadiums, hundred millions will be watching from the comfort of their living room, others will follow live commentaries on radio and football sites, while many others will rely on getting the latest updates on Twitter and other networking sites.

However, this is a luxury that you should not expect if you happen to come from a fight-crazy eastern nation found at the tip of the Horn of Africa. SOMALIA. 

So why would one miss this history-making event in Africa? 


The militants in Somalia have banned the watching of films and football!

You read it right.

And that's not all. The Islamist insurgent group, Hisbul Islam, also imposed bans on radio stations instructing them not to air music and songs terming such act as un-Islamic. Fearing attacks from the hardline Islamists, radio stations in Mogadishu relented to this pressure and implemented the Islam command after a ten-day ultimatum. 

Following the threat, programme signature tunes were replaced with random sounds of gunfire, explosions, animal and vehicle sounds. Somalia has a tradition of music and most residents greeted the ban with dismay, saying such a move has not only denied them the comfort amidst such fracas in the capital, Mogadishu, but has denied them their voice. In the past, militants in some areas have banned bras, musical ringtones, watching films and football and forced men to grow beards. 

Recently, al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab, the country's most powerful Islamist insurgent group outlawed the use of bells in schools to signal the start or end of lessons in class because they sounded too much like Christian church bells. The order to stop the music echoes the Taliban's strict social rules imposed on Afghans beginning in the late 1990s. 

Somalia has over the years proved to be a risky reporting ground for journalists. In 2009, nine journalists were killed, while a total of 22 have died since 2005. 

Broadcasters and journalists in the Horn of Africa nation continue to operate in an increasingly hostile environment where they are muzzled and denied any form of free expression by regimes or individuals that want them silenced. 

Somalia has been without a central government since 1991 when Mogadishu warlords toppled the regime of former President Mohammed Siad Barre.

So while fans are fervently flexing their muscles as they prepare to either be part of the ecstasy experienced by the victorious or agony that grips the losers, Somalis are asking the gods, or allahs, what is it they did wrong to deserve such inhumane treatment.  

But who's to blame?

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Letter from a K’Ogello Villager to Obama

I recently met with a colleague who happens to hail from K’Ogelo, a once sleeping village which now happens to be one of the most visited remote villages in Kenya, if not Africa. Besides talking with such air of buoyancy that I believe owes its origin to Obama’s triumphant and fairytale entry into White House, he (Awilo) had so much to say about how life has changed for the villagers in that area.

Never mind his list of “things which have changed” only included what I consider as trivialities like seeing high-end and state of the art – by his standard - vehicles that continue roaming around the area, new electricity poles dissecting the roadside, police posts which became necessary only after Barack Obama (who’s literally living the ‘American Dream’) got what the gods have always preserved for him.

Awilo also had enough and sweet words to say about the Wazungus (white people) who I consider lazy to some extent. Lazy because a plethora of them suddenly developed interest in knowing Obama’s roots and made the decision to fly to the blessed village. In their landing, they have been excelling at taking some lazy pictures while shaking hands with the ever-smiling octogenarian, Mama Sarah Obama, Barack’s grandmother. I wonder when Mama Sarah started smiling all that much.

“A horde of men and women have stamped their feet on the dusty, at times muddy confines of the village, most of them who leave Mama Sarah smiling ever wider.” Knowing what could possibly make the goodwill ambassador of Camp Maradona, smile that much, I inquired about what the visitors get back.

“Most of them are just happy to get a picture with her,” he sighs.

“That’s all?” I inquire. “That’s all,” he says as if wondering why I had suddenly developed interest in the activities of the Wazungus adding colour to his village. Before I plague him with another question, he’s quick to point out that he is not sure whether the visitors ever leave the village with a meal of Ugali and fish or any other traditional menu in their bellies.

I resign to my few questions and let him do the rest of the talking.

We had a very meaty conversation. Some things were quite interesting, others, trite. My ears had this tendency to pick only the most exciting stuff. He continued saying all that he could as he let his rich menu of the day – of which I was going to pay for – reaching the resting destination in his stomach.

When we finished our main course and were now imbibing our glass of cool crisp natural taste of alvaro (a local beverage drink), he got suddenly got serious and asked; “hey dude, do you ever get to understand all that “Uncle Obama” ever say?”

“Why do you ask and since when did he become your uncle?”

“Just answer the question and if I didn’t say it before, am Obama’s 11th cousin.”

At this point, my nerves gets excited as I marvel just how many cousins Obama has before I say: “Yes I do understand all that he says… but the trick is not to listen to every word and try to make a meaning out of it. You may get lost.”

He nods his head and after a God knows how long of prolonged silence, he calms himself and then asks me of a favour.

“You have a blogspot huh… could you kindly find yourself some time, type this out and post it on your blog and let’s both hope that Obama reads it?”

He handles me a letter of which I have an extract down below. Since I didn’t decipher the highest percentage of the wording here, I took the bother to check the meanings so that you, and perhaps the president, would understand:

In promulgating (spreading) your esoteric (ambiguous) cogitation's (thoughts) or articulating your superficial (shallow) sentimentalities (emotions) and amicable philosophical or psychological observations, beware of platitudinous (dull, cliched) ponderosity (weighty).

Let your conversational communications possess a clarified conciseness, a compact comprehensibleness coalescent (merging) consistency and a concatenated (linked together) cogency (clarity). Eschew (avoid) all conglomerations (collections) of flatulent (self-important or pompous) garrulity (wordiness or verbosity), jejune (immature) babblement (meaningless) and asinine (stupid) affectations (habits or showing off). Let your extemporaneous (makeshift) descanting (comments) and unpremeditated (involuntary) expatiation's (writings/speaking’s) have intelligibility and veracious (truthful) vivacity (liveliness) without rodomontade (boastfulness) or thrasonical (boasting) bombast (bravado).

Sedulously (persistently) avoid all polysyllable profundity (complexity), pompous prolixity (wordiness), psittaceous (repetitive) vivacity, ventriloquial (projective) verbosity (wordiness) and magniloquent (using important-sounding words) rapidity (speed). Shun double entendres (double meanings), previnient (preceding) jacosity (humour) and pestiferous (annoying) profanity (bad language or curse), obscurant (deceiving or obscuring) or apparent.

In other words, Mr. President, talk plainly, briefly, naturally, sensibly, truthfully, purely, keep from slang, don't put on airs, say what you mean, mean what you say and DON'T USE BIG WORDS.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Africa is Better off Without the West!!

“The West always comes where they are not wanted. Because they are white they think they are entitled to interfere in our system. We must rebuff them.” So said Robert Mugabe, the infamous Zimbabwe leader who the West loves to hate. But hate him or love him, “Uncle Bob” always never shies away from speaking his mind that some consider wicked.

While many a times I tend to disagree with Mr. Mugabe on some of decisions he makes and steps he takes (or doesn’t) while tackling pertinent issues affecting his countrymen and women, I have to admit I agree with him on the above. The fact that he points out the intruding nature of the West reminds me of some debates my schoolmates and I had at the dawn of the new millennium. When I was especially in high school, we used to hold such heated debates that tackled such matters from science-based like why circumcision is good or bad, to home-based like why mothers rock more than fathers, to such sophisticated ones (by high school standards) like why Westernization has brought more harm to Africa than good, and vice versa.

Of course, those proposing that
Occidentalization has brought more good than harm always carried the day. After all, they always forwarded such better facts like Africans today dress better than they used to back in the days when they only had animal skin to cover their behinds and fronts. Today, men have trousers which they can suspend just above their thighs and still not reveal their nudeness, and women have spaghetti dresses that can make a chock-full man salivate for anything but food.

Those against the motion (often referred to as opposers), always reasoned with issues like eating habits, arguing that countries like America will soon sink under the ocean due to chubby, hence unhealthy eating habits that has meant that money has to channeled towards fighting overeating. This is contrary to the traditional African setting where food, balanced diet or not, made people live more. At the end of it all, one side always had to lose the debate, but the participants still left the debating room divided.

So call it civilization or westernization, truth of the matter is what the wazungus (whites) brought into Africa could only be good or bad, or both.

But just like the proponents of the debate would argue, it’s quite apparent that the once ‘primitive’ African population, made of bushmen and barbarous individuals who knew more on how to jump and hunt than how to transfer money via mobile phone and communicate with dear ones using a gadget and space, have reaped unimaginable benefits, and changed their lives, thanks to the white settlers.

But one doesn’t have to be book-savvy (another thing introduced by the west) to learn that such Westernization, just like colonialism has come with its problems. Modern and most paramount quandaries affecting the earth today, from global warming (Geography) to economic downturn (Mathematics), environmental degradation (Biology) to diseases like HIV/Aids (General Science), from piracy to coups and all sorts of mayhem that are symptomatic of all the bugs that were either ferried, flown or transported to Africa by these people who “always come where they are not wanted, because they are white and think they are entitled to interfere in our system,” as our proverbial drunken Uncle Bob would say.

What of tribalism, racial divide and other kinds of inferiority complexities that the whites deemed fit to introduce into Africa? Didn’t the whites introduce arithmetic into the black continent, letting the occupants know that things need be divided in the world? Can’t perennial problems like inter-tribal and inter-faith violence in some African nations be attributed to such mathematically detaching mentalities that were bestowed in the minds of the ready – but not eager - to learn masses? May be things could have been positively different had we rebuffed the whites, hence their diversionary devices.

More probable than not, there wouldn’t be any such record of events like the Rwanda genocide, civil wars in Liberia, Sudan and Somalia, apartheid in South Africa, political assassinations in Kenya, sectarian violence in Nigeria and use of child soldiers (who thanks to the west, they learnt how to wield weapons and live by shoot or be shot philosophy) to commit atrocities in Congo and Uganda. But the West came where they were not wanted and because they were white, they thought they were entitled to our system.

During the debates, some students mentioned of trade, or business as everyone seems to refer to it today. Financial markets, investing, oil prices, et all comes to mind at the mention of this word that makes the world go round.

So what of trading? Or in the African traditional setting, exchange of goods and services? While the modern world boasts of electronic payments where one can buy, bargain, sell and resell almost anything and everything with the click of a button, the uncivilized Africa had people who excelled at traveling long distances to trade their goods. In fact, one could trek from Kampala in Uganda to Bamako in Mali to exchange his/her bunch of bananas with a sack of beans. Try this today and either it will be considered as a human rights abuse - depending on who sends you - or an adventure to discover the roots of Ugandans living in Mali.

But these individuals would cover tedious distances, to and back, without realizing they had covered some distance. But since the west came where they were not wanted, introduced the word distance and found a few people to translate it to native languages, the African adventurer has found it difficult to walk to the market and buy groceries. Why walk when you can drive and ride and fly? Nobody is heeding the advice of Johnnie Walker. Nobody is keeping on with the walk.

The result? We have an African population where while part of the population is emaciated, part of it is dying of having too much food. Something completely un-African!

So what and how could it have been had the west not come to this land where they were not wanted? What could have happened had we successfully tried to stop them from interfering with our system? What could have transpired had we rebuffed them?

There’s no doubt that the world revolutionizes. Once, agriculture was the in thing with agrarian revolution. Now, technology is spitting into this world Ipads, human robots, 3Ds, Blackberry’s and what not. All this, thanks to 14 billion human brain cells. I admit had Africans been left uncivilized, the continent couldn’t be boasting of Internet and fiber optics.

But it is also obvious that these bushmen and women could have worked out, either different, perhaps better ways of working, connecting and doing all that is human. After all, the human brain, black or white, always finds inventive and innovative ways to execute things.

May be there wouldn’t have been a need for airplanes, just like there wouldn’t have been need to travel to Doha for climate talks. Instead, Africans could have been flying aboard a banshee - avatar-like bird  - as they crisscross the sky and travel long distances. After all, the human brain, black or white, always finds new and better ways to do things.

May be there wouldn’t have been need for food aids, grants, International Monetary Funds and World Banks, because money could not be needed to buy everything. How about UNICEF, World Health Organization and the likes. There wouldn’t be diseases such like AIDS which continue munching populations as researchers fail to get the cure. All diseases could be treated with herbal medicine, and we wouldn’t be having cases of broken metatarsals, fractured collar bones and dislocated knees.

How about televisions? One of the greatest achievements of mankind. The beautiful flowers decorating the environment, the refreshing aroma of trees, the slithering movement of clouds, the flickering stars, the swaggering, slow but finely structured tour of the moon and the ever-stunning sun perambulating the African sky could still be providing the visual spectacle. In any case, the heavenly bodies have lived since time immemorial and we still look up and never fail to admire them. You can rest be assured that the same doesn’t happen of TV today, and especially if you are a John Terry or a Tiger Woods who really can attest that technology more than anything else in this world, has brought more harm than good.

And while TVs, CDs, tapes and all that are being employed as record keepers today, methinks the interactivity of story-telling which went on from generation to generation was such a fine way to learn about history than the tear-prone books of today which have been translated, “bettered” hence manipulated by many to the extent that each generation know of history different from the previous and subsequent ones.

But what really could Africa be had the west not interfered with our living system? Could we be better off? Could we be having a much more stable life around one another without conflicts and poverty and corruption and fight for power and greed and chronic diseases and hunger and drought and global warming and piracy and all the bad things that the west think of and associate Africa with?

Why does Africa perform poorer both economically and politically than the US or Europe? Why is there little financial independence and more economic deprivation in Africa than in the West? It’s because these items were introduced by the West. So while we always struggle with the teething problems year in year out, the west, having been there, done that and in no need to be there all over again scoff at at us, making fun of our efforts as we toil and swelter in our pursuit to be like them. After all, if you are not like them, you are an outcast in this world – their world.

As a matter of fact, westernization has become a disease that eats the mind more than AIDS feasts on the body and mosquitoes suck the blood of infants. What good does divorce do than break down strong foundations and bonds of marriage agglutinated by mutual respect shared between two, or more, OPPOSITE sexes? I emphasize on OPPOSITE because same sex relationships, leading to marriage is the latest, and another disease that westernization is hurriedly injecting into the blood of Africans. They say the African polygamous way of life is wrong. And what do they introduce?

Since when did a man start appealing, sexually, to another man? Since when did women become sexually attractive to fellow women? What good does homosexuality bring to this world and why was there nothing like gays and lesbians in the traditional African  - may be Asian and South American - setting? Were Africans so uncivilized that they even failed to notice and realize how sweet men could prove to fellow men, or how better women could get in bed to fellow women?

It’s quite unfortunate that homosexuality is one of those uncouth, squalid and filthy 21st century ideals that the west is trying to civilize Africans with. But it’s fortunate that there exists pure-minded do-good driven Africans who are neither willing nor ready to take in anything and everything being thrown at them by the west, in the pretext of a free world with human rights to protect.

That countries like Uganda and Malawi are mulling over enacting punitive laws and legislations that would condemn dim-witted same sex offenders to the hangman’s noose or death penalty is a violation of human rights, such a move is also quite commendable, depending on who and how once at it.

If Africa can successfully shun this new homosexuality dogma being encouraged by the west, it would be such an achievement and will prove that the continent’s civilization didn’t go to waste. Then, and only then, will opposers of the debate that Westernization  has brought more good than harm will cross the floor and join the proponents to support that motion.

But one thing I keep on asking myself of this Westernization creed is; could we (Africans) be living much longer than we are right now had we not allowed ourselves to be chartered from our traditional oasis of calm to the choppy waters of civilization? At least on this latter question, I say yes. We could be living longer. 

Let me expound using an exemplar of Mzee Stephen Kimani Maruge, a grandfather who burst into public limelight when he enrolled for primary school education (civilization) at the age of 84 in 2004. Many dismissed this as a bad joke and a public stunt driven too far. But this Mzee, a Mau Mau veteran, with uttermost dedication decided to push on.

Within short time, he had his name firmly inscribed in the coveted Guinness World Records Book for being the oldest person to start primary school.

Within short time (in September 2005), Maruge boarded a plane for the first time in his life, in a UN-sponsored trip to New York, simply the highlight of his life, and addressed the United Nations Millennium Development Summit on the importance of free primary education.

Within short time, this Mau Mau veteran, having fed on vegetables and wild fruits (the only sweet foods he knew) for most part of his life, had been introduced to the Western menu that made people die of diabetes, obesity and heart diseases. And just four years after bursting into the glare of publicity, Maruge finished his mission on earth and went to join the creator and wait for his reincarnation.

What killed him? Stomach Cancer! A disease that the West civilized Africa with. Agree with me or not, Mr. Maruge could have lived longer had he been left to live the bush-like, Mau Mau way of life.

I repeat: he could have lived longer. “But the West always comes where they are not wanted. Because they are white they think they are entitled to interfere in our system. We must rebuff them!”

And That's thesteifmastertake!!