Posted in Democracy in Government

A Political Theory Nerd’s Take on Kenyan Politics – Part 1

Today I am following the trends to political climate in Kenya. I write this post impartially with the only aim being to continue an analysis that started with me thesis. I have spent the summer looking at colleges and know how realizing how deeply I enjoy comparative politics. Well, I am also practicing for my grad school applications haha, so I would love your input, disagreements, agreements etc.

I have spent the summer going back and forth between American and Kenyan politics, two spectacular countries to be associated with right now. Then I ran into this gem that is Jodi Dean’s Democracy and other Neoliberal Fantasies. In this text Dean analyzes the George Bush’ win in 2000 and the choice of the Left to take the role of “victim” to posit the the Right as villain. Dean criticizes this as the avoidance of responsibility, the assumption that the other person stole the election gives the victim other a moral high ground hence authority to do anything. But this also concedes power to the legally declared winner. She aims to differentiate the resistance from leaning on victimhood.

While this book is ideologically specific to the US, comparative politics are inevitable. I will not go much into the philosophies of victimhood, but they are very much present in the Kenyan politics among all opposition parties to the ruling party. I hate to normalize tribal politics, but Kenya’s politics have continued to be very much tribal despite the effort to decentralize the government. The opposition continues to lose in field advantage to alliances of larger tribes the moment the opposition goes along in playing tribal politics. You see, tribal politics are all about numbers, and that familial identity that unless challenged, could tentatively give favor to the ones with the upper hand. I recognize the shallowness of that conclusion, but this is research and thought in progress.

So below is the beginning of my research analysis of Kenyan devolution (decentralization) and ethnic politics. 

Introduction

On December 12, 1963, Kenya celebrated independence from British rule. Since then, post-colonial state formation has been met with numerous crises and roadblocks. This has come in the form of coup attempts, ethnic conflict, corruption and other struggle. In response to these political struggles, the Kenyan state has gone through several structural changes. The most recent round of concerted state transformation was ushered in after the March 2013 elections with a new system of devolved government. Devolution is the transfer of authority, resources and personnel from the national to the sub-national level. As a more comprehensive form of decentralization, devolution’s greatest concern is to distribute more power to the sub-national level of government. Its typical purpose is to protect local minorities, ensure fair distribution of resources and diffuse conflict. The mandate for devolution was originally introduced in 2010 by the New Constitution proposed by a government appointed commission. The idea was to distribute authority across multiple levels of government. The decision to devolve was informed by several historical triggers; one of the central ones being ethnic conflict. In this paper, I explore the implementation process in the context of historical Kenyan ethnic divisions. My research investigates the question: What are the implications of Kenya’s devolution for ethnic conflict? I will address this by answering the following secondary questions: What is the history of the nation-state formation in Kenya? Why devolution now and how is it being implemented?  In what important ways is Kenya’s system different from or similar to other devolved systems in Africa? Based on specific case examples, is it likely that devolution will achieve its objectives?

This paper contains five sections: First, I hope to provide a historical background to better understand why devolution is happening now. Situating devolution in history of the Kenya posits the state as a versatile formal structure that takes different shapes at different historical moments, and uses different instruments at different stages of its formation. Second, I explore the concept of devolution, its functions, implementation, and some trends in Africa. Third, I do a theoretical analysis of the Kenyan State, and ethnic conflict – informed by its historical formation. Fourth, I zoom in on two regions in Kenya as my case studies – the county of Isiolo and the coast of Kenya. My focus in these case studies will center on the role of ethnicity in politics at the center (national or central government) and the periphery (regional semi-autonomous authorities) of Kenya. I will especially focus on land politics, political leadership, and the tribal-ethnic socio-political relations in the regions.  Leading from the case studies, I will highlight current political trends as Kenya prepares for its general elections in 2017 August 2017 elections. Fifth, I will argue for the need to pay attention to Kenya’s constitutional practices (constitutionalism), which has long been ignored across the political spectrum.  

Literature Review

The academic debate on decentralization has long pitted enthusiasts against skeptics. Both views have proven useful and informative during the process of my research. In Decentralisation in Kenya: The Governance of Governors, N. Cheeseman, G. Lynch, and J. Wills analyses the positives of decentralization. They write:

“Enthusiasts have focused on the theoretical benefits of decentralization, both intrinsic and instrumental; their intellectual lineage stretching back to de Tocqueville’s argument that it was the ability of Americans… to participate in local government that enabled them to experience political freedom” (7).

These authors view decentralized power to the periphery as the ultimate democratic freedom. They emphasize the benefits to democratic decision-making of having a population that feels that they have a stake in the political system. Others argue that decentralization could offer a potential end to regional or religious tensions. I see all these aspects of decentralization unfold in the case studies I analyze later in this paper. Cheeseman, Lynch and Wills highlight that decentralization has also been posited as one of the most effective ways to protect democratic gains in Africa and beyond.

In contrast, D’Arcy and Cornell’s Devolution and Corruption in Kenya: Everyone’s Turn to Eat? argues that although decentralization has often been proposed as a solution to a range of problems facing developing countries, and in particular, African countries. Yet, few have achieved a meaningful transfer of power because central governments have refused to transfer resources and authority, and local elites have co-opted the process. The local elites here refer to the new regional leaders in the new devolved system. In Devolution in Kenya’s New Constitution, Othieno Nyanjom argues that “the people’s representatives at virtually every level of government easily become a new class of professional politicians and then into parasites on society… For the new breed of professional politicians, national interest is the last priority” (Nyanjom, 16). Politics at the national level get replicated at the local. There is a general trend among scholars that entails expressing fear about the local elites, creation of local minorities/majority among ethnicities that might not have had the numbers to initially create an impact, manipulation by the national government, and fear that conflict at the center was being devolved to the periphery. While both ends of decentralization strive for efficiency and conflict reduction, they also have their potential pitfalls as seen in most global trends.

Despite the challenges facing decentralization, there is a continued global trend- in Africa and elsewhere- to seek to decentralize. So, why and how do African countries decentralize? In Comparative Assessment of Decentralization in Africa: Ghana and Mali Desk Studies, a USAID report by Dickovick, J.T. and Riedl, R.B., the authors seek to answer this question.  This is a comparative report that draws on 10 national level desk studies to assess the status of government decentralization in Africa. Among global trends, Ethiopia peaked my interest due to the country’s choice to decentralize based on ethnicity.  In Ethnicity and Power in Ethiopia Sarah Vaughan examines why ethnicity was introduced as the basis for the reconstitution of the Ethiopian state in 1991, examining the politicization of ethnic identity before and after the federation of the country’s ‘nations, nationalities and peoples’ was instituted. Vaughan argues that ethnic federalism in Ethiopia has ‘ethnified’ Ethiopian politics, in the obvious sense that, amongst those who are aware of its provisions, federalism has made the ethnic group (‘nation, nationality or people’) a salient category – a ‘prominent solution’ – for the mediation of access to state resources and decision-making (Vaughn). In Decentralization as a tool for resolving the nationality problem: The Ethiopian Experience Beyene argues that while the ultimate success of Ethiopia’s ethnolinguistic-based decentralization is uncertain, local self-determination has not resulted in mass secessions because administrative accountability has not yet been significantly institutionalized must thus remain on the policy agenda. the Ethiopian case as a trend helps situate my understanding of  decentralization (in this case, devolution) in a state that has been constantly hit by ethnic conflict.

Adit Malik’s Devolution And Electoral Violence: Has Kenya’s County System Created New Arenas For The Organization Of Election-Related Conflict? calls into question the impact of decentralization on intercommunal relations and levels of national cohesion. He argues that while there might be a sense of national cohesion, there is a chance that new arenas for ethnic conflict ought to/could be created at the local level. For instance, in contrast to the hope that decentralization will decrease spatial inequalities, some researchers, such as M. Robinson actually believe that it might increase the gap between the rich and poor  at the local level, and end up creating new minority groups. Communal tensions already exist in Kenya due to the existence of a polarized winner-takes-all politics. The growth of regional inequalities would likely facilitate ethnic politics and consequently undermine efforts to foster national unity and cohesion. This concern is particularly important for Kenya, a state still recovering from ethnic-based the 2007-08 post-election violence. Additionally, there have been cases of conflict in some of the newly created counties. These tensions are often remnants of local tribal-ethnic conflict that has not been dealt with.

The phrase “decentralized despotism” – meaning indirect rule – comes from Mahmood Mamdani’s Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism. Mamdani provides an enlightening account of colonialism’s legacy – a bifurcated power that mediated racial domination through tribally organized local authorities. Mamdani notes that many scholars on colonialism have understood colonial rule as either “direct” (French) or “indirect” (British), with a third variant – apartheid – as exceptional. Mamdani shows that all these terminologies mask the fact that these were actually variants of despotism. While direct rule denied rights to subjects on racial grounds, indirect rule incorporated them into a “customary” mode of rule. Indirect rule (decentralized despotism) set the pace for Africa, and became a popular mode of governance because it masked the authoritarian nature of the central colonial government by giving the governed a false sense of representation. Apartheid, Mamdani shows, was actually the generic form of the colonial state in Africa. It is against this background that Kenya attempted the Majimbo system after independence, but it failed because it was an institution set up for the purposes of colonialism. The new local elites were accustomed to certain systems of incentives, such as land as reward for loyalty to the colonial administration that had to change at independence. Chome uses Mamdani’s analysis to raise similar concerns about the new devolved government. Is it too rushed? What are some detrimental aspects of the old regime that are being carried over? Mamdani has helped change the way the effects of colonialism are understood, particularly as a legacy that continues to be at the core of present-day conflicts. Mamdani argues that some of the instabilities among African states in the 1990s were a direct consequence of having kept in place the same government structures as under colonialism, even with the changing time. Mamdani’s analysis acts as both a critique and an analysis of the process of democratization and the different instruments used. He insists on the importance of a detailed historical analysis so as to view regimes as a continuation of one process of state formation to the next…. which is what we shall do next (A historical analysis)

 

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Posted in Gender, body politics and sexual violence, Uncategorized

Witnessing Violence: Writing as Resistance

I write as resistance. For a final from my Necropower class, I started reflecting on sexual violence, witnessing it, coping, and the healing process. I have spent most of my undergrad thinking about theories of the body that has been and continues to be subjected to variations of violence. A conception of gender and racial theorists’ social death and necropower. Here is a follow-up from my previous blog post, if you have thoughts, questions, or ideas, leave me comments! 

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It must have been 3 am, when I found myself sitting outside her parents’ door. The sudden realization sent a ripple of dread down my spine. Conversations like this did not belong on the family table. Sure enough when I saw the look of realization and shame on my father’s face when he found me curled up on the verandah outside the door, I knew there was never going to be a conversation. He could not deal with the shame of having his daughter or family associated with sexual violence in a society that shames the girl for choices (or none thereof) in her sex life. The society that normalized violence against women in the name of morality. The society that failed the nine-year-old me. It failed me when I still had to attend functions and see my predator. It normalized the silence.

 Witnessing violence, healing, subjectivity, the self, social death… These are concepts that have existed at the back of my mind as I think about gendered and sexual violence that has been exerted on my body and those of women around me. However, even with the awareness I have chosen to remove myself from the pain. Somehow, for a very long time, I had “successfully” created a second persona to whom this violence happened; if I didn’t talk about it or I ran away from the pain across the world, I could easily imagine it wasn’t me. I thought it was successful until I finally got the courage to start dating, and I realized I had begun pattern in my choice of men. Men who were either my dad or my uncle, and I was unconsciously trying to find a spark of light in them, as if that would erase my past. So how does someone not live a life of a survivor or did I even ever stop being a victim?

 Necropower gives me language to theorize, understand, and politicize my body, its experience. In the first class we discussed different modalities of violence and how its popular discursive formations can be reductive placing different modalities. The self is subjected to violence in several ways, but I would like to insist of resistance by the survivor. I now hold on to this hope that witnessing, as theorized by Veena Das, for me becomes a first step in the right direction. For Das, the self heals through curving out an identity after the trauma; occupying the space differently from the existing cultural normativity. As a reader, I am grateful for your role in witnessing witnessing[1]. It is important that you recognize the agency and subjectivity of the survivor, not just their victimhood. In this reflection I situate my own experience as a rape survivor within a larger culture of violence against women through the case study I used for my presentation: the stripping of women in Nairobi, Kenya, for “indecent dressing,” and My Dress, My Choice, the movement that arose in protest. Protesters marched through the city carrying placards that read “My dress, my choice” donning miniskirts, or similar to what the victims wore. This is the form of resistance I talked about in my presentation: resistance through “taboo”. Protesters used their bodies as sites of resistance through that which is characterized as “deviant”. I mean, they already are walking/talking politics – bodies condemned to precarity and social death; so this form of resistance makes sense to me; for this reason I expose my shame to you, my reader. The system that allowed for such violence on my body never counted on my silence. Now as I witness in writing I begin to break the frame of the prison that has bound me to silence through shame.

In Witnessing Witnessing, Thomas Trezise writes, the breakage of a framework has to do… not only with the act of resistance to which the woman testifies but at least as much with the testifying itself as just an act” (15). I brought into the conversation Thomas Trezise’s Witnessing Witnessing, because I know that my immediate culture needs a shift in what Trezise calls “frames of reception” (Trezise, 9). What role does the witness to witnessing play, and how important is it? As a survivor I could engage I live the resistance, not just in the temporal sense, but also within a larger discursive formation of the survivor as victim, and much more so as I continue to inhabit a body subjected to social death. I would like to reiterate my writing as the reclamation of subjectivity. I share my shame not for the benefit of your knowledge, my reader, but as poisonous knowledge to a system that shames me for the acts of violence of my attacker.

More on this topic, join me next time!

Posted in Uncategorized

My Dress, My Choice. The Victory.

My dress, my choice!” “My clothes are not my consent!” These slogans rung throughout Kenya in the wake of violence being propagated against women with the excuse being their dress code. In November, 2014, Kenyans took to the streets of Nairobi in protest of the recent incidents of women being stripped naked on the streets by groups of men who accused them of “indecent” dressing. The men propagating the violence used excuses such as African tradition against Westernization and Western feminism, religion against pagan indecency and so forth. For a long while the government has been slow to prosecute, until a recent victory: “Matatu driver, tout to hang for stripping woman,” writes NTV News this morning, July 19 2017. 

This conviction comes as a great victory for the victims, the women that leave their houses wondering whether their skirts are the right length for the crowd of men standing by the streets to pass judgement. I don’t need point out the obvious, but well, we all know that it is not about the length of the skirt. It’s about the power to pass judgement and get away with it. The power that society has allowed to flourish.

I have grown up in many worlds and in each I was a woman. A woman and something else, and some cases the bottom line changed, but a woman alright. I have written enough essay prompts about woman as a symbol of authenticity, but that’s for next time. So my societies…

America woke up tense on the November 8, 2016. There was a great chance that at the end of the day Americans would have sealed their fate and handed over the highest office on the land to none other than the man who bathes in gold in all the golden glory of his tower, Trump. The day had begun gloomy, unfortunately winter had come early to the Walla Walla valley, perfectly capturing the political climate.

Earlier at a conference, my colleagues and I had a long discussion on the possibility of a Trump presidency. I was beyond convinced that he was either going to win or Hillary would win with a very small margin. Either way this day promised to be a rough day. So far the most powerful country in the world was subject to international mockery. Of course, I enjoyed every meme, and video that was a product of related comedy. Our conversation took us to my favorite kinda politics, comparative politics. I thought back to Kenya’s most recent elections and our decision to elect 2 candidates, both with active cases at the International Criminal Court for acts against humanity. To clarify, they were being charged for funding and propagating the 2007/08 post-election violence that saw one of the worst civil-tribal wars in Kenya. Yet, somehow, Kenyans elected the two men as president and vice president. Highest form of haha. 

America has prided itself with exceptionalism, so the world sat in waiting looking to the empire that denies being one. How could the world rest easy? This presidential meant so much for immigration. The UK had just made Brexit a reality. We all know about that one. Two outcomes awaited the day for sure. Americans, who had been in denial thus far, were going to run to the hills declaring they didn’t know what happened to their America. Or, they would have shown the world how exceptional they indeed were the moment Hillary took victory. Either way, it was a turning point in America’s political history.

“I grab them by the pussy… and they let you when you are star.”  The famous ‘locker room’ talk by the almost-leader of the free world.

Could people really elect this guy? Was society so rotten that a man that proudly talked of sexual assault could be elected president? Oh, and it was all caught on tape, and was getting away with it?

Well if society, whatever that may mean to you, has taught me anything, it is that a man, more so, a wealthy one, could get away with anything.

It was one of those difficult morning for me. I woke up particularly tired and absolutely apathetic. I was tempted to miss classes, but I had sworn better this particular semester, haha. I mean I assumed teachers would understand, but it was a promise I aimed to keep. I dragged myself around, even decided to go to the gym before my Chamber choir meeting. I was so worn out by the afternoon, because every interaction demanded that I shared how I felt about this fate. Every discussion left me feeling like walking politics, well which the US constantly reminded me of.

By the time I got to the writing center for my shift that evening, I was too emotionally drained to tutor. I was glad to find no one scheduled for my tutoring I decided to just be a bad employee. I left my belonging at the my favorite spot at the corner and decided to sneak a peek at the unfolding news being screened at one of the school auditoriums. You know the end of this fated evening. 

This conviction is therefore a victory. Small as may be, we hope to walk around hoping that society flinches at such violence. In this post I celebrate, next I will celebrate the resistance. How did the Kenyan women resist and why this particular form of resistance? Join me next time as we talk traditions, taboo, despotism, etc. 

Posted in Uncategorized

Lamentations of an International Non-Trust-fund Recent Busy-bee Graduate

11:33 AM, I’m sitting on a wooden bench, enjoying the perfect shade shielding me from the July sun. A gentle breeze caresses my skin ever so lightly keeping from suffocating in the the 90 degree Walla Walla heat. I watch the the sun strikes the jets of water from the water fountain, creating a shiny silver effect. Two ladies walk over to the fountain and dip their feet in the rectangular pool that holds the fountain’s bronze sculpture. The clock tower makes the main administrative building stands still in its majesty, and to the left is one of the most beautiful and well equipped 24-hour libraries. The trees are green, and so are the perfectly sculpted lawns. Whitman College. Straight ahead, past the the trees and the two buildings, a group seems to be at a tennis training camp or something. Perfect serve, miss, perfect return, miss. I watch for a while, and wish I could join, but between the one-hour run and jumping up and down at Zumba this morning, my torn meniscus can only handle so much. Stop and serve again. I keep watching the group as with the coordinated tennis outfits and sun caps (there’s probably a name for those).

This day and landscape is what you’d call perfect. It’s a liberal arts college Pacific Northwest suburban kind of perfect. And I am enjoying these resources by virtue of being an alumnus of this perfect liberal arts college. You can go ahead and count how many times I use the word “perfect”.

I return my attention to my fourth book of the summer, Garth Stein’s A Sudden Light. It was a birthday gift from my host, and so far I know it’s something about a curse. The ladies in the fountain didn’t stay much, they moved with friends to another fountain. I look at my phone for time; it’s 11:37.

I still have a full day ahead of me, ugh! TIME is my new enemy. If you’ve been at a liberal arts college you know that we thrive on being busy bodies, and lawd do we enjoy pointing it out! “I have four tests, three quizzes, five 60-page readings, three club meetings, and a 20-hour work-study week,” laments one over-achieving environmental politics, sociology and music triple major. This made-up student somehow manages decent grades and leads clubs, organizes events, and yet doesn’t look like a zombie despite all-nighters and much much coffee. We know about this student because you hear the lamentations, A LOT. If you’re not almost this student, then you’re not doing liberal arts right. But no judgement.

This is the culture I have thrived in for four years. For those who know me, you have probably pointed out the obvious, “Why don’t you drop a few things?” This, followed by proclamations of admiration, and amazement over how I manage to do it all and stay sane. You see, half the time I was not quite sane, but I knew that, with my background, I had to be this student in order to even have a chance at opportunities after graduation.

Being an international student, being your own breadwinner, father and mother, and sometimes your family’s breadwinner, YOU HAVE TO BE THIS STUDENT. Well, or so I thought. Take up every leadership opportunity and those work hours, and that tough class, and that volunteer opportunity. To tell the truth, I enjoy it all, but eventually something suffers, often yourself, but that’s a story for another day.

This student graduates with a BA in politics and a decent GPA. Time with nothing to do becomes a pain. And this is my current curse.

Another week has just gone by, and I am still waiting for the OPT extension on my visa which would allow me to work for a year. My folder of rejections and unreplied applications keeps getting new material. My motivation to study for GREs and look at graduate school applications is at an all-time low. It has been a downward trend really. The funny this about this is I have all the time in the world, but I just can’t. I am still that student. I thrive on heavy schedules and projects, and that’s what motivates me to do anything else. So, now with all this time to do a lot of what I couldn’t do when I was so busy, I am finding so difficult.

The job hunt. My professional-development designed liberal arts education taught me to measure my time by impact, or at least that’s one big thing I took away from my four years. Positive impact on other people. The environment. The community. I could not be more grateful for the values. But I also learned really quickly that there’s value in someone else or a committee of interviewers saying to you, “Hey, YOU, we think you’re better at this thing than all these other people. We want you to be the one to do it, not anyone else.”

Applications. Rejections. Action-reaction. I applied for the Princeton in Africa fellowship program, an application process that started well before my winter break. I got the interview. Became a finalist. April, and I have my first choice, the African School of Economics. You read through the email saying, “We are glad to inform you… please confirm that you have not taken other opportunities.” I am graduating in May and I know what I am doing after. I am a planner so this is perfect! BUT, there was a catch. Wait, don’t celebrate yet, we might have someone better actually, so you have to interview with the director at ASE. Oh. I wait for two weeks, and a short phone call later, I know it was a mistake to have put all my eggs in this basket. I do not wish to slander anyone or the institution so I will not give much more detail. I don’t hear back as promised so I send a panic email to my contact. “We are sorry, they decided to go with another candidate. We will put you back in the applicant pool in case someone turns down theirs.”

Dreams. The sound of silence as the yolks spill into the basket. The breeze blows. It’s 11:50 on this Saturday morning. Time has decided to haunt me. I think about all the applications I have sent out. The interviews, and the cancelled ones because they required proper paperwork. All the houses, dogs, and cats I have sat for. All the gardens and plants I have checked. The friends I avoid because I don’t want to keep annoying them with my frustrations. The edited cover letters and resumes. The cancelled vacations. Unanswered emails, texts, phone calls. The long days and nights. The miles I have ran and biked to kill time. The episodes and seasons I have watched. My increased practice in French and Spanish. Time spent and sometimes, wasted.

Time has increased my frustration. I worry that I will not land a job. What should I be doing differently? I have tried schedules, being “okay with it and patient”, applying in mass, and even attempted to “maximize my time while I have it.” I have even tried to follow advice to “manage my expectations” as an avant-garde. But, it’s almost like I leave a piece of myself at every interview or with each application submission.

11:55, I decide to write this post as suggested by my significant other, because he’s probably heard it a enough times. So I walk back to one of my many homes trying not wake him up because I will rant and not write. 12:00, I write so you read, and you may have other brilliant ideas you could share that I haven’t tried. Or really a loud cry, I NEED A JOB! Or do I?

Posted in Uncategorized

No Seemed to Mean Yes

In light recent conversations on rape or the sexual assault, I share the story of the night of Imani’s 9th birthday. Sometimes people confuse rapists with good people, so allow me to clear up your confusion. Growing in a big family, Imani’s home was always crowded. To ease the space issue, her mother would send one or two of the children to sleep over at her uncle’s place. Dinner then trek to the mattress on the floor that would be their bed.

On the evening of her 9th birthday, after an uncomfortable dinner under the lecturing of their father, Imani and her younger brother headed over to their “sleeping quarters”.The two of them always fought for the side of mattress we would sleep on, and this time Imani won, her brother got to sleep closer to the door. Small victories. She was always tired after a long trek to school and back, She was out as soon as her head hit the pillow-less mattress.

Toss and yawn… her bed had suddenly gotten warmer! Maybe she was dreaming, because her brother had transformed into a much a larger body. The body always has a way to protect itself, and as her mind woke up Imani realized that her body was some sort of danger. It was one of those sensations you get when you know there is danger lurking in the shadows, but you have not yet realized how much. Her heart went cold when when she realized where she was. It was first the strong alcohol breathe right by her ear, then the wicked whisper in her ear, “Shh, go back to sleep.”

At that instant all her senses were on alert. Imani was hyper aware of her brother’s snoring right next to her, if it was a dream she was going to kick her brother the following day for invading her dreams. The next thought, She had not seen her uncle’s wife at all on that day, and it had not occurred to her to ask. For Imani and her brother, their only business there was a place to lay their heads. Either way, they were alone with their uncle. And he was on their bed.

The fingers moving down her pants were surely never in any of her dreams even if she never remembered them! “Shh, you’ll wake your brother!” Without notice, Imani was lifted off the mattress. Just like a predator after a successful hunt, the intruder was taking his kill elsewhere.

“Uncle! What are you doing?” Imani shouted, but it came out as whisper. It is like in one of those really horror dreams when you open your mouth to scream for help but no sound comes out but nothing comes. In that instant you know you have surely fallen prey.

“Don’t be afraid, you will enjoy it. It will feel good” Imani lay still hoping that her predator would get bored and go away. What was the “it” he was referring to? All she could remember was that her mum had said she should never allow anyone to touch her there, maybe if she told her that he would let go.

But she lay still as he removed his pants, and smirk swept across his face as he held his “thing” to her face and whispered, “you will like it.” He took his time with his prey. He was in no hurry, after all he had the whole night, and his prey did not seem to be fighting. Some people’s fight-or-flight instincts get activated in danger, right? Why was she unable to move?

She managed to repeat “Hapana! Hapana!” But in this instant no seemed to mean yes, because he continued to stroke every part of her body. It was a strange sensation. Then his thing was suddenly in her mouth. Everything in her mind went dark…

***

It must have been 3 am, Imani found herself sitting outside her parents door. The ever noisy slum seemed fast asleep. George, the village drunk sung as he made his way home. He will probably wake up in ditch somewhere, she thought and laughed to herself.

Her laugh was interrupted by the sudden realization that she was sitting outside by herself in the dark. Through the thin walls Imani could hear the snoring neighbors. One of the sleepily staggered past her to go to the public pit latrine. On her way back Mama Jamila stopped in her tracks, “Why are you outside? It’s late, child, you should not be outside by yourself!”

“I will go in soon, I just came back from the toilet.” Imani replied, aware that she was looking down at my bare feet. With one more glance she head back to her house. For some reason Imani jumped when she heard the door close behind Mama Jamila. Her senses were fully activated now. She shook like a leaf in the wind. It wasn’t cold otherwise she could not be sweating at same time. She contemplated knocking, but what would she tell her father. He would definitely not like being woken up, and would wake the neighbors when he started reprimanding her. She thought it wise to not do it, she curled up in a small ball on the veranda.

“Imani, what are you doing sleeping on the veranda so late? Why are you not at your uncle’s? Where is your brother?” In response Imani must have stared blankly or something because all she remembers is her father taking her by the hand and saying “You will explain this tomorrow.” Their couch became her new bed.

***

The night never came up until 10 years later…

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Sometimes a Hero Needs Saving (cont…)

The story goes: I grew up in a very low-income family of 8. Owing to hard work, at the my end of primary school examinations, I went to one of the best boarding high schools. It was uncertain how I would get through high school because my family’s financial situation was rough. This was right after the 2007/2008 post-election violence in my country, and my family had just lost land which had been a large investment. On my second semester in high school I heard about this amazing girl’s scholarship fund, and future of my high school education looked brighter when I applied, and became a scholar, with my tuition fully covered for the 4 years in high school. Not to bore you with details, but today I am on a full scholarship in a great liberal arts school. I have been all sorts of things, co-founder of organizations, school president, employee in great non-profits…

So on to my reflections; people don’t expect this girl to be that imperfect but…

Late May 2014 – Some of my diary entries

My boyfriend [or so I thought at the time] has left on a month-long trip to India. It ought to be a boring long month staying alone, and not having regular work hours for my then job. I need to find something else to do. Anyway, more break for me so yay!

At the conference. I am so inspired my head could explode! Such great leaders and especially women leaders. Gosh the bar is being set a bit too high!

My clothes feel tighter than normal. I do think that I am not eating too much but I just seem to be getting bigger by the day. In fact I have been eating way less because I am paying for my own food this summer.

Yay! I just landed another internship position for the summer with another international organization. Way to go Faith!

June…

I just celebrated my birthday. He sent a gift, but he’s not even talked to me since he left. He said it was connection issues, but he has been posting about his trip all over facebook. Anyways happy birthday, you’re still a queen! And now you’re actually 21 you don’t have sneak into places tsk tsk. BTW some annoying bouncer didn’t let me into the club, said I had to be 21 for over 24 hours… so much for trying to show off, I should have used my friend’s ID like always. I’m still 21, I will go back there tomorrow, just because hehe!!

Work at organization has been great. I was given really honorable responsibilities. This summer is looking up alright! Something is bothering me though, I felt sick this morning and I have been pretty sluggish… I really don’t know why I’m feeling like this. I think it is a cold, I will just buy some lemons and honey and fight it before it catches up with me.

I threw almost threw up on the train… umh this is really freaking me out. I didn’t eat anything new I don’t know what is upsetting my stomach for for more than 3 days ugh! If this is not okay by tomorrow…

 

 

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Sometimes a Hero Needs Saving

A year ago today I made one of the most difficult choices of my life; I chose to walk out of an emotionally abusive relationship. A year later it is difficult to pull it together; to not call myself stupid or to question my own judgement. Why didn’t I trust my instincts from the start? Why did I let him treat me the way he did and make light of it? Why did I let myself go back every single time even when he made it clear that he was never going to respect me? Why? Why? I still ask why. But WHY do I?

    “On International Youth Day on August 12th, we’ll be reminding the world that women are girls first. Our Girl Heroes series, which shines a spotlight on remarkable girls who are making the girl effect a reality, demonstrates why global development policy must reflect that… Faith is living proof of that.”

When I look back at that description and many others that have been attached to my name, I can’t help but frown what I have become. When did I lose this girl? When did I become so ordinary or even worse, less than average??

So you see on the surface I am an exemplary student or at least I have always lived up to that standard. Graduated top of my primary school class and in the top percentile in my high school. Despite difficult circumstances, I have managed to maintain a good GPA in college. I have taken up more leadership positions that a lot of people my age. The list goes on and on. I am that daughter whose parents brag about in family gatherings you know. Always been Ms. Perfection or that’s what most people know of me on the surface.

Allow me to peel that mask off just a layer, and what we find may not be worth bragging about…