Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Kenya

How I became an activist?

How a youth gets engaged in changing rotten systems?

How a youth joins rallying movements?

Africa is a complex continent full of contradictions?

What’s image got to do with it? And I must say, I think Emeka is trying to send a lot of subliminal messages, because I’m going to keep harping on some of the issues that have come up.

But I’m going to try and do something different, and try and just close the loop with some of my personal stories, and try and put a face to a lot of the issues that we’ve been talking about. So, Africa is a complex continent full of contradictions, as you can see. We’re not the only ones.

0:47 And you know, it’s amazing. I mean, we need a whole conference just devoted to telling the good stories about the continent. Just think about that, you know? And this is typically what we’ve been talking about, the role that the media plays in focusing just on the negative stuff.

Why is that a problem? A typical disaster story: disease, corruption, poverty.

And some of you might be standing here thinking, saying, “OK, you know, Ory, you’re Harvard-educated, and all you privileged people come here, saying, ‘Forget the poor people. Let’s focus on business and the markets, and whatever.’ “ And they’re all, “There’s the 80 percent of Africans who really need help.”

And I want to tell you that this is my story, OK? And it’s the story of many of the Africans who are here. We start with poverty.

I didn’t grow up in the slums or anything that dire, but I know what it is to grow up without having money, or being able to support family.

Euvin was talking about bellwether signs. The bellwether for whether our family was broke or not was breakfast. You know, when things were good, we had eggs and sausages. When things were bad, we had porridge.

And like many African families, my parents could never save because they supported siblings, cousins, you know, their parents, and things were always dicey.

when I was born, they realized they had a pretty smart kid, and they didn’t want me to go to the neighborhood school, which was free.

They adopted a very interesting approach to education, which was they were going to take me to a school that they can barely afford. So they took me to a private, Catholic, elementary school, which set the foundation for what ended up being my career. And what happened was, because they could afford it sometimes, sometimes not, I got kicked out pretty much every term.

You know, someone would come in with a list of the people who haven’t paid school fees, and when they started getting pretty strict, you had to leave, until your school fees could be paid. And I remember thinking, I mean, why don’t these guys just take me to a cheap school? Because you know, as a kid you’re embarrassed and you’re sensitive, and everyone knows you guys don’t have money. But they kept at it, and I now understand why they did what they did.

3:18 They talk about corruption.

In Kenya, we have an entrance exam to go into high school. And there’s national schools, which are like the best schools, and provincial schools. My dream school at that time was Kenya High School, a national school. I missed the cutoff by one point. And I was so disappointed, and I was like, “Oh my God, you know, what am I going to do?” And my father said, “OK, listen. Let’s go and try and talk to the headmistress. You know, it’s just one point. I mean, maybe she’ll let you in if that slot’s still there.”

So we went to the school, and because we were nobodies, and because we didn’t have privilege, and because my father didn’t have the right last name, he was treated like dirt. And I sat and listened to the headmistress talk to him, saying, you know, who do you think you are? And, you know, you must be joking if you think you can get a slot. And I had gone to school with other girls, who were kids of politicians, and who had done much, much worse than I did, and they had slots there.

And there’s nothing worse than seeing your parent being humiliated in front of you, you know? And we left, and I swore to myself, and I was like, “I’m never, ever going to have to beg for anything in my life.”

They called me two weeks later, they’re like, oh, yeah, you can come now. And I told them to stuff it.

Final story, and I sort of have to speak quickly. Disease.

My father, who I’ve been talking about, died of AIDS in 1999. He never told anyone that he had AIDS, his fear of the stigma was so strong. And I’m pretty much the one who figured it out, because I was a nerd. And I was in the States at the time, and they called me. He was very sick, the first time he got sick. And he had Cryptococcal meningitis.

And so I went on to Google, Cryptococcal meningitis, you know. Because of doctor-patient privilege, they couldn’t really tell us what was going on. But they were like, you know, this is a long-term thing. And when I went online and looked at the infectious — read about the disease, I pretty much realized what was going on.

The first time he got sick, he recovered. But what happened was that he had to be on medication that, at that time — Diflucan, which in the States is used for yeast infections — cost 30 dollars a pill. He had to be on that pill for the rest of his life.

You know, so money ran out. He got sick again. And up until that time, he had a friend who used to travel to India, and he used to import, bring him, could get him a generic version of it. And that kept him going. But the money ran out. He got sick again. He got sick on a Friday. At that time, there was only one bank that had ATMs in Kenya, and we could not get cash.

The family couldn’t get cash for him to start the treatment until Monday. The hospital put him on a water drip for three days. And finally, we figured, well, OK, we’d better just try and take him to a public hospital. At least he’ll get treated while we try to figure out the money situation. And he died when the ambulance was coming to the hospital to take him.

6:45 And, you know, now, imagine if — and I could go on and on — imagine if this is all you know about me.

How would you look at me? With pity, you know. Sadness. And this is how you look at Africa.

This is the damage it causes.

You don’t see the other side of me. You don’t see the blogger, you don’t see the Harvard-educated lawyer, the vibrant person, you know?

And I just wanted to personalize that. Because we talk about it in big terms, and you wonder so what? But it’s damaging.

And I’m not unique, right? Imagine if all you knew about William was the fact that he grew up in a poor village. And you didn’t know about the windmill,? And I was just moved. I was actually crying during his presentation. He was like, I try and I make. I was like Nike should hire him, you know, “Just do it!”

7:47 And this is, again, the point I’m trying to make. When you focus just on the disasters  we’re ignoring the potential.

So, what is to be done?

First of all, Africans, we need to get better at telling our stories. We heard about that yesterday. We had some of them this morning. And this is an example, and blogging is one way of doing that.

Afrigator is an aggregator of African blogs that was developed in South Africa. So we need to start getting better.

If no one else will tell our stories, let’s do it. And going back to the point I was trying to make, this is the Swahili Wikipedia.

Swahili is spoken by about 50 million people in East Africa. It only has five contributors. Four of them are white males — non-native speakers. The other person is — Ndesanjo, if you’re here, stand up — is a Tanzanian, [the] first Swahili blogger. He’s the only African who’s contributing to this.

 We can’t whine and complain the West is doing this. What are we doing? Where are the rest of the Swahili speakers?

Why are we not generating our own content? You know, it’s not enough to complain. We need to act.

Reuters now integrates African blogs into their coverage of Africa. So, that’s a start, and we’ve heard of all their other initiatives.

The cheetah generation. The aid approach, you know, is flawed. And after all the hoopla of Live 8, we’re still not anywhere in the picture. No, you’re not.

9:46 But the point I’m trying to make, though, is that it’s not enough for us to criticize.

And for those of you in the diaspora who are struggling with where should I be, should I move back, should I stay? You know, just jump.

The continent needs you. And I can’t emphasize that enough. I walked away from a job with one of the top firms in D.C., Covington and Burling, six figures.

With two paychecks, or three paychecks, I could solve a lot of my family’s problems. But I walked away from that, because my passion was here, and because I wanted to do things that were fulfilling. And because I’m needed here? I probably can win a prize for the most ways to use a Harvard Law School degree because of all the things I’m doing.

One is because I’m pretty aggressive, and I try and find, you know, opportunities. But there is such a need, you know?

I’m a corporate lawyer most of the time for an organization called Enablis that supports entrepreneurs in South Africa. We’re now moving into East Africa. And we give them business development services, as well as financing loan and equity.

I’ve also set up a project in Kenya, and what we do is we track the performance of Kenyan MPs. My partner, M, who’s a tech guru, hacked WordPress. It costs us, like, 20 dollars a month just for hosting. Everything else on there is a labor of love.

We’ve manually entered all the data there. And you can get profiles of each MP, questions they’ve asked in parliament. We have a comment function, where people can ask their MPs questions. There are some MPs who participate, and come back and ask.

we started this because we were tired of complaining about our politicians. You know, I believe that accountability stems from demand. You’re not just going to be accountable out of the goodness of your heart. And we as Africans need to start challenging our leaders.

What are they doing? they’re not going to change just out of nowhere. So we need new policies, we need — where’s that coming from, you know? Another thing is that these leaders are a reflection of our society. We talk about African governments like they’ve been dropped from Mars, you know?

They come from us. And what is it about our society that is generating leaders that we don’t like? And how can we change that? So Mzalendo was one small way we thought we could start inspiring people to start holding their leaders accountable. Where do we go from here? I believe in the power of ideas. I believe in the power of sharing knowledge.

And I’d ask all of you, when you leave here, please just share, and keep the ideas that you’ve gotten out of here going, because it can make a difference. The other thing I want to urge you to do is take an interest in the individual. I’ve had lots of conversations about things I think need to be happening in Africa. People are like, “OK, if you don’t do aid, I’m a bleeding heart liberal, what can I do?”

And when I talk about my ideas, they’re like, “BBut it’s not scalable, you know. Give me something I can do with Paypal.” It’s not that easy, you know? And sometimes just taking an interest in the individual, in the fellows you’ve met, and the businesspeople you’ve met, it can make a huge difference, especially in Africa, because usually the individual in Africa carries a lot of people behind them. Practically. I mean, when I was a first-year student in law school, my mom’s business had collapsed, so I was supporting her. My sister was struggling to get through undergrad. I was helping her pay her tuition. My cousin ran out of school fees, and she’s really smart. I was paying her school fees.

 A cousin of mine died of AIDS, left an orphan, so we said, well, what are we going to do with her? You know, she’s now my baby sister. And because of the opportunities that were afforded to me, I am able to lift all those people. So, don’t underestimate that. An example. This man changed my life. He’s a professor. He’s now at Vanderbilt. He’s an undergrad professor, Mitchell Seligson. And because of him, I got into Harvard Law School, because he took an interest.

I was taking a class of his, and he was just like, this is an overeager student, which we don’t normally get in the United States, because everyone else is cynical and jaded. He called me to his office and said, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I said, “I want to be a lawyer.” And he was like, “Why? You know, we don’t need another lawyer in the United States.” And he tried to talk me out of it, but it was like, “OK, I know nothing about applying to law school, I’m poli-sci Ph.D. But, you know, let’s figure out what I need you to do, what I need to do to help you out.”

14:21 It was like, “Where do you want to go?” And to me at that time university — I was at University of Pitts for undergrad, and that was like heaven, OK, because compared to what could have been in Kenya. So I’m like, “Yeah, I’m just applying to Pitt for law school.” He was like, “Why? You know, you’re smart, you have all these things going for you.” And I’m like, “Because I’m here and it’s cheap, and you know, I kind of like Pittsburgh.”

Like, that’s the dumbest reason I’ve ever heard for applying to law school. And, you know, so he took me under his wing, and he encouraged me. And he said, “Look, you can get into Harvard, you’re that good, OK? And if they don’t admit you, they’re the ones who are messed up.” And he built me up, you know? And this is just an illustration.

15:02 You can meet other individuals here. We just need a push. That’s all I needed was a push to go to the next level.

Basically, I want to end with my vision for Africa. A gentleman spoke yesterday about the indignity of us having to leave the continent so that we can fulfill our potential.

my vision is that my daughter, and any other African child being born today, can be whoever they want to be here, without having to leave. And they can have the possibility of transcending the circumstances under which they were born.

That’s one thing you Americans take for granted. That you can grow up, you know, not so good circumstances, and you can move. Just because you are born in rural Arkansas, whatever, that doesn’t define who you are.

For most Africans today, where you live, or where you were born, and the circumstances under which you were born, determine the rest of your life. I would like to see that change, and the change starts with us. And as Africans, we need to take responsibility for our continent.

Patsy Z shared

“[…] Accountability stems from demand. You’re not just going to be accountable out of the goodness of your heart.

as Africans, we need to start challenging our leaders. What are they doing? They’re not going to change just out of nowhere.
So we need new policies — where’s that coming from, you know?

Another thing is that these leaders are a reflection of our society. We talk about African governments like they’ve been dropped from Mars; they come from us.

And what is it about our society that is generating leaders that we don’t like?
And how can we change that?”

how she came to do her heroic work reporting on the doings of Kenya’s parliament.|By Ory Okolloh

“Development programs in Africa are planned poverty”; (Jan. 21, 2010)

This article introduces five young African authors and activists: Aminata Dramante Traore, George Ayittey, Celestin Monga, Marc Ona Essangui, and Rasna Warah.

            “Africa is not poor; Africa is being impoverished” wrote Aminata Dramante Traore.  Born in 1947, Aminata was minister of culture of the Republic of Mali (1997-2000); she is a pan African militant, author, and entrepreneur; she owns the restaurant-gallery Le San-Toro and the hotel Le Djenne in the Capital Bamako.  In 2008, Aminata published “Humiliated Africa” denouncing France policies that support dictatorial regimes to maintain its multinational exploitation of the continent: colonial powers still sustain the same contemptuous and contemptible discourse of the same colonial mentality.

In 1999, Aminata published “The vice (L’etau)”; she details the intellectual swindle and institutional mechanism of the Western powers (such as the neo-liberalism that structures the International Monetary Fund) that produce disastrous effects.  Under the cover of “liberty”, neo-liberalism is annihilating Africa competitiveness to the benefit of developed State funded subsidies of agricultural industries. Aminata is militating for the cancellation of fraudulent international debts and for Africa to set up selective protectionist programs that the developed nations applied for centuries.

In “The rape of the imaginary” Aminata denounces cultural oppression of the North to the South: Africa has just got to dig into its intellectual and social vision in order to draw and design proper sustainable economic development. Practically, Aminata works with local associations, peasants, and artisans.

            “Africa is poor: Africa is not free” stated the Ghana born professor of economics George Ayittey: He teaches at Washington University.  Ayittey published in 2005 “Africa in chains: project for development” that promote the ideas of improving infrastructures and the renegotiation of external debts.  George is more concerned with contradictory political actions performed by international aids since development cannot be “imposed from the outside”.

George focuses on absence of ethical conducts and lack of sense for general interests among the African politicians: many State governments are vampires.  In Africa, the richest individuals are politicians or ex-politicians.  The politicians are like “hippopotamuses (lazy, slow, and wicked) that ruined post colonial Africa”.

(As usual, authors keep hopes on newer generations “the cheetah” but this hope we have heard it many times in every generation). Ayittey created the “Foundation for free Africa” with headquarters in Washington and uses his connections among universities and the international institutions to defend his propositions.

            “Africa suffers of 4 fundamental deficits: confidence, knowledge, leadership, and communication” stated Celestin Monga.  Born in 1960 in Cameroon, he was imprisoned for 6 months by President Paul Biya for sending an open letter in 1991; Monga was released due to mass demonstrations and mobilizations.  Monga settled in the USA in 1992 and works at the World Bank in order “to design concrete projects” such as establishing a private university in Cameroon. 

Celestin said: “Educational systems in Africa are prolonging the colonial system of producing functionaries who are semi-literate.”  Monga published “Anthropology of Anger (1995)”; “Money of others (1997)”; “Getting out of monetary trap (1999)”, and “Nihilism and negritude (2009)”.

In “Arts of living in Africa” Celestin Monga interrogates the philosophy that the “multiparty administrations in Africa are incapable of generation new ideas since oppositions joined the governments; African civilization lost terrain in the last century; only infusion of renewed energy cam make a difference and Africans have got to revolt against skeptical thoughts; idealistic critics among the oppositions have to give way to pragmatic transformations.”

            “There are no lack of potentials and resources in Africa. The real evil in Gabon is bad governance, bad distribution of budgets generated from forest, mines, and oil exploitations” said Marc Ona Essangui.  Born in 1962, Essangui graduated in “genetic psychology” in 1991 because he had no access to university of law for disabled students since he is paraplegic from polio at the age of 6.

Essangui presides the association Brainforest and contributed in the creation “Publish” in 2002. Publish denounces secret contracts done by governments and multinationals (for example, the mine in Belinga and the controvertial victory of President Ali Bongo in 2009; Publish was suspended, its members imprisoned, and facilities ransacked. Essangui managed to get an exit visa to receive the Goldman Prize in San Francisco for his ecological engagements.

            “Development programs in Africa are planned poverty” claims Rasna Warah.  Born in 1962 in Kenya, Rasna is an Indian descendents from the early waves in the last century. There are currently over 70,000 of India origins who are gathered in communities after suffering reprisals after the Independence of Kenya; the arrival of Chinese entrepreneurs is exacerbating the social tensions.  Warah is a photographer and contributes to the Kenyan Daily Nation and the BBC; she said “It is exhausting to be Asiatic in Kenya”

Rasna published “Triple Heritage: A journey to self discovery (1998)”.  She denounced government inactions during the food crisis in 2008.  Warah participated in the UN-Habitat report “Status of cities in the world (2006-07)”.  Working at the UN encouraged Rasna conviction to interrogate the foundations of development in Africa.  Rasna gathered 15 authors in East Africa who witnessed the cases of “Missionaries, mercenaries, and misfits: An Anthology (2008)”; this book pleads for re-enforcing local institutions and the dangerous trends of “depoliticizing poverty

State highest interest: usurping Public Opinion; (October 17, 2009)


            In a previous post “The critical decade of Radical Islam” I stated as conclusion:”

As the Soviet Union was disintegrating in 1991, the US and Europe were busy with a new world order and intentionally forgot radical Islam for an entire decade.  The US was after the financial domination of the world and playing the role of International Police Force; Europe was busy re-unifying East Germany, managing the Eastern European States seeking independence of Russia, controlling the Slavic question of Yugoslavia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Serbia, and finding an appropriate resolution for expanding the European Union.

            Radical Islam got under way in organization and proliferation and performed many operational activities in Indonesia, Somalia, Tanzania, Kenya, Chechnya, Pakistan, India, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia (the Khobar bombing of the hotel where the American aviators had residence) to end up with the 9/11/ 2001 attack on the Twin Towers.  During the decade, after the dismantlement of Russia, the US Administrations toned down every terrorist’s activities to its public opinion in order to focus on world financial domination and the restructuring of Europe.”

            Many evidences from outdated archives are surfacing that shed strong lights on the many instances that US Administrations usurped its public opinion on the ground of the “Nation Highest Interests”. The cult for secrecy in the various data (intelligence) gathering services in the US is not a recent discovery after the 9/11/ 2001 attack of the Twin Towers.

            Roosevelt had set his mind in joining the war against Germany and Japan since 1940 and was frequently deliberately provoking the navies of Germany and Japan.  Truman initiated clandestine contacts with Mao Tse Tong in 1948 that Stalin disrupted by purposely starting the Korean War.  Many nuclear American scientists were secretly permitted to flee to other foreign nations in order to appease public opinion after the debacle of the execution of the innocent Rosenberg couple in 1953. The US Administrations deliberately minimized the health risks of open ground nuclear testing and later the under ground testing.  The CIA was controlling experiments on brain manipulation and biological war fare.  President Reagan buried the conclusions of the committee of the Chamber of representatives that the assassinations of the two Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King were organized works. Irangate was the transfer of arms to Iran against the resolutions of the Parliament which also prohibited destabilizing Nicaragua.

            Two factors impress on the Executive branch to act in secrecy: Stock exchange and public polls. Two days after 9/11 the stock devalued 60%.  Greenspan injected several billion dollars in the private economy; trade level stabilized in four months. The reach this goal the tetanized public opinion was to be reassured of no further catastrophes. Thus, a quick victory in Afghanistan was urgent as well as mass disinformation on the danger of bacteriological warfare and the proliferation of the Pakistani nuclear threat. The anthrax affairs before and after 9/11 was quickly buried and toned down as related to a lunatic. Two kinds of anthrax were used; a high quality used in the US military and a rough quality. The Tcheck President Vaclav Havel confirmed publicly that the Iraqi Embassy in Prague got in contact with Al-Qaeda leader Saif Al Adl and anthrax was delivered.  The CIA promptly demanded that the Tcheck security services deny that fact. 

            Timothy Mac Veigh, one of the bombers of the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995, was quickly executed and 150 pages of the instruction disappeared in order not to go further in the investigation: the second suspect Terry Nichols had secret contacts in the Philippine with a girl friend who was also in close contact with Ramzi Youssef (another leader of Al Qaeda and in Manila at the time).  The downing of the TWA 800 by a small missile off the shore of Manhattan was attributed to a stray Navy missile on maneuver.  All these cover-ups were done with the close cooperation of both Republican and Democratic parties, the FBI, and the CIA. When the main superpower permits the widespread exercises of disinformation to its public opinion then this practice is capted instantly by the rest of world States.


            All these operations by Al Qaeda were backed by the triumvirate Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iraq of Saddam Hussein.  In Saudi Arabia, the financial backer of Al Qaeda and the Pakistani nuclear program, Prince Sultan was Defense Minister and his cadet brother Nayef was the Minister of the Interior (Bandar, the Ambassador to the USA and semi-brother of Sultan, was later appointed chief of the security services). In fact, all Saudi diplomats were sneaked out in secrecy after 9/11 even when evidences piled up high of their cooperation in the attack; two princes of the “Royal Family” were high ranking in Al Qaeda: They were disposed off shortly after the attack. Saudi Arabia sovereign fund was effectively cash money for the US Administration to use when the US Senate refused funding of any programs.

            Pakistan was in charge of training (the pilots of Al Qaeda received two years of training there).  Pakistan was the real threat for arms of mass destruction, nuclear, biological, and chemical, and no longer Iraq but Pakistan vital as base for attacking Afghanistan and for supply and logistics. Saddam Hussein cooperated and delivered the biological and chemical tools.   Thus, the US targeted Iraq as next pre-emptive objective after the economic fundamentals in the US stabilized; (Read my post “Why massive occupation of Iraq”).

            When the main superpower permits the widespread exercises of disinformation to its public opinion then this practice is capted instantly by the rest of world States.


Note: I extensively used information from a chapter in “The world is a kid playing” by Alexandre Adler.




March 2023

Blog Stats

  • 1,518,877 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by

Join 764 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: