Wednesday, April 25, 2007

WHOSE RIGHTS ARE WE DEFENDING?

The idea that we should give divorcees more rights in that event is gaining currency in Kenya with the claims that married women, whether employed or stay-at-home, contribute significantly to the acquisition of the family wealth. This may or may not be the truth; however, the application of the law should be done so in honesty, based on fact and not emotion or sentiment. Unless a credible argument can be made that the system as it is today is unconstitutional with regards to divorce settlements, then there is nothing that can be done in the way the courts interpret the Marriage Acts and other family laws.
The laws that we apply today in the deciding of family cases admittedly are archaic given the changed nature of the society. But, women and other interest groups have not done much to advance the cause of law reform in the last few years to address the inequalities inherent in the present system. I am not persuaded that the best way to proceed is the Indian or American way where 'activist' judges literally take the law into their own hands. The best way forward, the way that would avoid anarchy and confusion in the courts, would be to reform the relevant laws. Women and the youth form at least seventy per cent of the population of this country. Is it too much to ask that they combine their forces to thwart the retrograde policies of the old guard and the powers-that-be in Parliament today? Of course, there could always be violent demonstrations to indicate the level of displeasure inherent in the patriarchal systems of family being applied today!!!

Monday, April 23, 2007

KENYAN WOMEN ARE CORRUPT

Recently, the Sunday Nation had a caption in one of its stories claiming that Kenyan women politicians are or would be less corrupt than their male copunter-parts. I am astounded at this level of naivette in what is presumably a well-run, well-staffed major newspaper. It is canards like these that perpetrate the sexual divide in Kenyan public life as in all other aspects of social life in this country. It has been proven time and again that women are just as corrupt as men: remember Nyiva Mwendwa and her 'hairdresser' to Beijing? Wasn't there some HIV/AIDs money that went missing during the tenure of that famous woman who got Kibaki's pardon? What about that woman who was in charge of the Pyrethrum Board? The Rent Tribunal? These cases are legion.

Now, we should be championing the inclusion of women in public life, not because they are better than men but because they are just as competent as men as well as the fact they will bring new perspectives to national debates on important national subjects. Perhaps becaus of their needs, national focus may be shifted to social programmes of which the lack thereof affects women more than men. I sincerely hope they will act just as corruptly as the men; it is high time women got paid for all the lapses of the men in charge of national affairs. And if we get a women-led Goldenberg or Anglo-Leasing, I will consider it progress.

GUNS DON'T KILL PEOPLE

Now, I am sure all those folks in Virginia Tech must be going out of their minds with the all the 'concern' being expressed by politicians of all persuasions at the tragedies that have befallen them in recent days. But, I am hoping that they will step back and reflect on the fact that their politicians are not treally concerned about their welfare but of looking good in front of potential voters so that they can score points in 2008. The presidential race has well and truly began.

The issue of gun-control will always be on the minds of Americans, but when politicians equate the US Constitution with the avalue of human life, it defeats the purpose for which the United States were created in the first place. The 2nd Amendment was enacted for a different time and when morons like those in the NRA and like-minded travellers state that amending the 2nd Amendment would be an attack on 'American civil liberties', I wonder whose civil liberties they are protecting? Is it all those armed felons out there or is it really the gun-manufacturing industry. Canada has proven that gun possession can be controlled and gun use can be regulated as shown by the remarkably low rate of gun-crime in North America.

George W. Bush and his cabinet have done woefully little to address the issue of guns and crime. The rate of gun crime in America is not going down, never mind that the rate of violent crime might be reducing. But the proportion of gun-crime within violent crime has remained steady for years. With 240 million guns in American hands ( and those are the licensed, lawfully-owned ones) America is still one of the most gun-happy nations in the world.

From a geo-political point of view, this is not reassuring. The permanent members of the UN Security Council are the highest exporters of small arms in the world. Where do you think these arms end up? Think of all those insurgent movements and little wars going on world-wide. From the Darfur to Iraq, the P5 are all guilty of perpetrating this cycle of violence.

So when I see members of the US Congress decrying the increasing use of guns to commit crimes in schools and colleges across the country, I am convinced that they are speaking with forked tongues. Apart from a lone Congress-woman who introduces gun-control legislation every year on Capitol Hill, the rest of that bunch will keep looking the other way when the youth of the nation are cut down before the prime of their lives.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Your Family or Your Job?

Last Sunday in the Sunday Nation, they went on and on about the fact that parents were taking their pre-teen children to pubs in the excuse of family days while in actual fact they shunt them off into laxly supervised play-pens and proceed to get druink with their cronies. Never mind that these joints do not have separate sanitary facilities for the young 'uns; never mind that these children are being socialised in very un-socialble places; never mind that the law is clear about access by children to dens of iniquity and vice; what we are witnessing is a generational shift from family values to hedonism. Young parents, and some of the elder ones, no longer want to spend time with their loved ones; they want to spend time with their friends and work-mates. Look at how much time we devote to making and spending money, and how much time we do not devote to keeping our children on the straight an narrow. The result: ten-year old alcoholics undergoing rehabilitation. And we wonder why this country's families are going to the dogs, don't we?
I see a paradigm shift in the role the community and government played in socialising families. Never would your village have allowed you to drag your children to a makuti jam rescue as a form of family entertainment. Never would the village have allowed you to transform your children into your friends. Society would have reminded you that your children need to behave and play fair; that a rod a day kept alcoholism at bay. Society would have punished you harshly for destroying your family's future by indulging yourself. Today, the government is busy self-destructing and community no longer exists. We are all busy struggling to survive life to bother with your life. If you screw up, that is your own damn fault. Will your siblings pick-up the slack? Hell no! Your brother or sister is busy scheming on how to cheat you out of your inheritance to really have your welfare in mind. Your pastor is busy scheming to defraud the church and deflower your daughter (or son, if he is a Roman Catholic). The local cops are busy colluding with their kindred spirits in the Mungiki to rob you blind-literally.
Where do you turn? Whom do you turn to? The answer, unsurprisingly, is yourself. As parents you have no choice but to grab the bull by the horns and address this crisis. Else, you will not have children living under your benign direction, but revoltionaries on the warpath of change. Teenage hormones simply complicate matters. Remember how difficult you were at that age. Now just alcohol and whetever drug of choice is available to the mix, and stare in awe at the results!
Recently a family was shocked to discover that their innocent-looking daughter was not only promiscous but on her way to full-blown alcoholism. That they didn't know is no surprise. It is time parents remembered that money is not everything; its pursuit can ruin you in other more devastating ways. Look after your real investments and enjoy retirement at the right age. Ignore them, and your will suffer whirlwinds such as have never been suffered in family histories.

The Education of Climate Change

The world is currently seized of the topic of climaTe change, but Kenya is living with its head buried in the sand. The Government is not doing anything to create a national discussion of the issues. They should borrow a leaf from the Old Man as in his soil erosion campaigns and the construction of gabions kuzuia mmonyoko wa udongo, as the slogan went. The world is spending goodly amounts of dollars to make the problem of climate change go away. You have your CDMs, your carbon-trading and such-like programmes. When a less sophisticated country like Uganda is getting the lion's share of funding for climate change mitigation/adaptation programes, it is time for the Kenya government to wake up to the realisation that the global cake is being divided and we are not even at the dining table, let alone in the room. For this country to benefit from the resultant allocation of international resources and the attendant technologies and knowledge thereof, we must evolve a strategy that involves all Kenyans-from kindergarten upwards. This top-down strategy that is currently being pursued is not going to yield sustainable fruits.
Which brings me to the role that NEMA is playing in the matter of environmental management today. It is completely missing its point by a mile. What NEMA should be actively engaged in at present is co-ordinating government departments in the arena of environmental management. They should be taking their lead from NEMA, not the other way around. When you have Perment Secretaries refusing to meet with the Director General, you have serious problems in emphasising your mandate. Dr. Mwinzi is a personable enough man, but he should now put his foot down and tell them that the show is his to run. NEMA has a unique opportunity of reversing the trend towrds environmental irrelevance that this nation has been following since Rio in '92. Whenever the Western powers come up with a strategy to move the UNEP HQ to some western capital, the lead in countering this should be taken by NEMA, not Tuju's MFA which has proven itself inept and crippled by cronyism and scandal.
NEMA occupies a unique statutory position in that it can dictate to any government department on environmental policy without the fear of political interference. That it is not happening just shows how much we need to move in empowering parastatals and other public instsutuions to ignore ill-judged and ill-implemented political machinations. When it starts playing its role in the full, the matter of environmental policy and all the attendaant subjects will become national topics that are addressed by all Kenyans, just like in the bad old days.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Child Abuse

What happens when a child who was molested grows up? There are those whose traumatic experiences ruin their lives from the get go; then there are those who are on a slow burn until it all boils over and they act out. For boys who become men, their mistrust of all others is all pervasive. They are unable to sustain relationships for long, they cannot move beyond the horror of the beastly or perverted acts they were compelled to do. Especially when the acts were perpetrated by the ones who were supposed to care for them. They never recover; no one does. They grow up, become lawyers or doctors, but beyond their careers, they have nothing. They are closed off from the rest of the world, from their families. They don't have any friends, just acquaintances. They TRUST NO ONE, THEY BLAME EVERYONE!