Kenya’s Security Act: Citizen Reporting

Restrictions in the Security Act attempt to silence independent media and citizen reporters.
For most of Kenya’s history, Kenya’s mainstream media, represented by the Nation Media Group and the Standard Media Group, has served state and elite interests. Even after the so-called second revolution, when the dictator Moi was sent into a dignified retirement and Kenya ostensibly entered a new progressive age, the mainstream media continued to promote these interests. Citizen reporting has been greatly facilitated by digital media: news circulates rapidly via twitter, Whatsapp, Facebook, email groups, and blogs. Sites such as Mzalendo have made important legal documents available, and the award-winning Ushahidi, developed to crowd source information during the 2007-8 post-election violence, gave citizens a voice and platform when the mainstream media stayed silent. Citizen reporting remains key to finding out the truth in Kenya and trying to hold the state accountable. Key Changes in the Security Bill Kenya’s mainstream media… Read More...

Kenya’s Security Act: Refugees

The amendments in the Security Act increase refugee vulnerability. They are anti-refugee and anti-human rights.
According to the United Nations Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.” The African Union Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa borrows from and expands the UN definition. 1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term "refugee" shall mean every person who, owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country, or who, not having… Read More...

Kenya’s Security Act: Police

Kenya’s recently passed Security Act substantially increases police power while reducing civilian scrutiny of police actions.
Kenya’s recently passed Security Act substantially increases police power while reducing civilian oversight. Background The Kenyan police are governed by the National Police Service Act, 2011. The head of the police, the Inspector-General, is a position created by Article 245 of Kenya’s constitution. The Independent Policing Oversight Authority Act, 2011, created the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, a board of civilians charged with monitoring the police. According to Transparency International: The institution seen as the most corrupt is the police, which an overwhelming 95 per cent of respondents perceive as corrupt or extremely corrupt.   Political interference, a lack of proper police oversight and high levels of corruption, combined with technical deficiencies have resulted in major weaknesses in the country’s police and security apparatus.   The police are the public institution with the highest prevalence of bribery.   Business executives interviewed… Read More...

Kenya’s Security Act: A Map

A brief map of the laws amended by Kenya's Security Laws (Amendments) Act, 2014.
Kenya’s Security (Amendments) Act, 2014, contains a total of 98 clauses, most of which have extended sections and subsections. Here is a brief map of the laws they amend. Public Order Act Clauses 2-11 amend the Public Order Act. A few highlights: Clause 2 (a) amends Section 3 of the Public Order Act, by raising the fine for “usurping the functions of the police” from KES 1,000/- to KES 100,000/-. In the Public Order Act, this clause targets Quasi-Military Organizations. It can be used to target any group understood to be organized in a way that threatens public order. Clause 4 (c) amends Section 8 (6) of the Public Order Act, by raising the fine for contravening curfew from KES 1,000/- to KES 10,000/-. Clause 5 (c) amends Section 9 (6) of the Public Order Act, by raising the fine… Read More...

Kenya’s Security Act: Introduction

I write these posts because I am dedicated to pursuing freedom, to making lives less disposable, and to making futures more imaginable.
On December 19, 2014, Kenya’s president, former ICC indictee Uhuru Kenyatta, signed a very bad piece of legislation into law. Rushed through the National Assembly, the legislation was not subjected to much, if any, public scrutiny. Kenya’s opposition, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), failed to establish why the legislation should be opposed. ODM’s strategy was to ask that Kenyans trust its good intentions. The Jubilee majority replicated this strategy. Clearly, Kenya is far from any kind of democracy that depends on persuading others through convincing arguments, the kind of democracy that is much theorized, but nowhere practiced. The president has asked Kenyans to read the legislation. Following his advice, I will post five blogs on different aspects of the legislation: The Police Refugees Citizen Reporting Human Rights Everyday Life   Each post will tackle how this new legislation transforms Kenya… Read More...

Kenya’s Security Act: Notes

Kenya’s president, former ICC indictee Uhuru Kenyatta, assented to a very bad law on December 19, 2014.
Kenya’s president, former ICC indictee Uhuru Kenyatta, assented to a very bad law on December 19, 2014. The Security Laws (Amendment) Act, 2014 was rammed through the National Assembly by the House Speaker, Mr. Muturi, and the Jubilee coalition majority. It is not enough to say that this is a very bad law and that it was passed in a terrible manner. I’m going to demonstrate why this Act is very bad law by focusing on three aspects: implications for working class and poor activists and residents of Kenya; implications for refugees; and implications for rights and freedoms. Even though I’m not a political strategist, afterwards, I’ll suggest what might be the long game in play. In short, I believe the Jubilee coalition would like to amend the constitution, and passing this Act—how it was passed and that it passed—is… Read More...

echoes of loss

we gather for the ungeographies of slow death, fast death, silent death, unseen death, unbearable death: Mpeketoni, Gaza, Ferguson, Peshawar, Mandera
another geography, another stretch, another gathering, another call, another re-call we gather for Peshawar we gather for Mpeketoni we gather for Ferguson we gather for Mandera we gather for Gaza we gather for the ungeographies of slow death, fast death, silent death, unseen death, unbearable death we gather names, ages, faces, occupations, dreams, we gather loss, desperation, anger, we truncate we gather in prayer we gather in song we gather in silence we gather in defiance we call and re-call, as each geography calls out to another, each death resounds in another, each loss echoes another these are the echoes of loss Peshawar Mpeketoni Mandera Ferguson Gaza Read More...

radical queer africa

What would queer Africa look like detached from racist developmental logics?
i. Many of us continue to search for a new political direction and agenda, one that does not focus on integration into dominant structures but instead seeks to transform the basic fabrics and hierarchies that allow systems of oppression to persist and operate efficiently. --Cathy Cohen, “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens” ii. The best phrase G.W. Bush’s speechwriters wrote: “the soft bigotry of low expectations” iiii. What would queer Africa look like detached from racist developmental logics? iv. While histories of African resistance are cited and celebrated, the idea that Africans might know how to imagine freedom seems inconceivable, not only in a missionary global north, but, increasingly, within Africa itself. v. In this moment, what are we willing to do to be free? --Cathy Cohen, Kessler Lecture vi. I have been thinking about how little is expected of African… Read More...

Reading the U.S. Torture Footnotes

How might we understand mourning, when the event has yet to end? When the injuries not only perdure, but are inflicted anew?—Saidiya Hartman
Following September 11, 2001, I returned to Edmond Jabès. At an earlier period, he had provided me with the language of the void, the necessity of the scream: “What is the story of the book?” “Becoming aware of a scream.” An attack on U.S. soil, as the headlines screamed, threatened all those aliens—legal and illegal—present in the U.S. A Kenyan friend had to escort her brown colleagues in upstart New York to the supermarket. My university sent concerned emails to all international students: to have an un-American name or accent was newly dangerous. “Our ties to beings and things are so fragile they often break without noticing.” I needed Jabès to map a social that was rapidly changing: I started watching congress proceedings on TV. I parsed political speeches for the words “American citizen” and “American soil,” for the protections… Read More...

Blind Peer Review

Blind Peer Review: or, the tragic life of imprecise prose
1. I am writing to ask for some references on papers on homosexuality/homophobia in Africa, partly out of my own interest and partly for teaching. I was able to review your paper on "Re-Thinking African Homophobia". 2. Unfortunately, we are unable to publish your work, for which we hope you will find an appropriate forum. 3. With regards to mechanics, for example, the numerous sentences in need of stylistic attention and sentences with awkward transitions to quotes (in both grammar and syntax) suggest a work that is still in the draft stage, and represents oversights that are a distraction to the reader. 4. Again, word choice and prose leave the argument unclear 5. The first 11 pages need to be reshaped -- and perhaps condensed -- to present an organized and clear thesis and critical/theoretical blueprint for the analysis of… Read More...

terrain & terroir

What bodies are being produced as Ugandan? What spaces as public spaces? What intimacies as possible intimacies?
Shhhh. This writing is really about the latest anti-queer legislation in Uganda. Don’t tell those looking for an “African’s view” on the matter. Though, truth be told, since this is being written in fairly standard English, if using improper U.S. spelling, it is automatically disqualified as genuinely African. You know it’s Genuine African because of the Subtitles. Softly. Softly. (we don’t want them to hear us) * I have been reading Stuart Hall. He uses “terrain": The interrelations between feminism, psychoanalysis and cultural studies define a completely and permanently unsettled terrain for me. ("Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies") The problem of ideology, therefore, concerns the ways in which ideas of different kinds grip the minds of masses, and thereby become a ‘material force’. In this, more politicized, perspective, the theory of ideology helps us to analyse how a particular… Read More...

Reporting

It’s difficult to feel intimidated by maize-eating police. Here, in their space, there’s an at-homeness to police bodies and postures.
David Mwole Kimaiyo C.B.S D.S.M. Inspector General unsees you A colored photograph hangs in a small office. Far above eye level. Positioned so you notice that it might notice you but will never see you. This is familiar. It happens in restaurants all over Kenya. Wait staff are to be unseen. Service to the state is lofty. The state is above all. The Inspector General, C.B.S. D.S.M., serves loftiness. In this space, he is king. You are in his house. You are too flustered to check if his image hangs in every one of the small reporting offices. And, anyway, unlike those who work here, who seem to wander in and out of rooms at will, interrupting whatever reporting and recording of statements is underway, you do not have such freedom of movement. The door to the small room remains… Read More...

#mybodymyhome (iii)

Rebeka Njau’s The Sacred Seed imagines that Kenyan women can create and inhabit freedom, justice, and healing.
First published in 2003, a year after Daniel arap Moi had left office as second president of Kenya, Rebeka Njau’s The Sacred Seed imagines that Kenyan women can create and inhabit freedom, justice, and healing. The novel is set in a time of toxicity: It seemed a demon had entered the minds of many people, filling them with venom that made them consume sordid stories of slander which they gleefully vomited out without blinking an eyelid. Everywhere one turned people were gossiping maliciously. Like flies attracted to a rotting carcass, men and women buzzed around each other with malice and ill-will instead of tackling the poverty and disease which stared them in the face at every street corner, on every village path. As the city stank with mountains of uncollected garbage, the rumour-mongers’ stink of malice polluted towns, villages, and… Read More...

red dots

A trail of small red dots connect Tyna Adebowale’s body of work.
A trail of small red dots connect Tyna Adebowale’s body of work. In the exhibition space where I encountered it, the red dot stood out most vividly against the stark white of “I Am What I Am / I Am Who I Am,” raised white letters against a white background. Visible, at first, as texture—the words become clear as one approaches the work. Seen from a distance, the work is a brilliant white background marked by a red dot—the text is illegible. As one draws nearer and reads the text, one notices the red dot that lies to the left of the complete text. The red dot breaks up the visual field of white against white and hints at what lies outside this declaration: the blood-producing violence that haunts this sotto voce declaration. Also, perhaps, the blood-producing violence against which… Read More...

#mybodymyhome (ii)

The moment when a feeling enters the body is political. This touch is political.
The way you felt when the chokora reached for your left breast in the street, held it, you in your checkered school uniform and bag, socks and shoes, the breast barely settled in to it seat on your chest, he sooty and blue, coated in unknowable filth. Daylight could not shield you, and time does not, nor does silence, telling, returning or not returning to the place. --Ngwatilo Mawiyoo, “The Way You Felt Remains” The moment when a feeling enters the body is political. This touch is political. --Adrienne Rich A friend tells me that babies who are not touched enough—with love, with care, with compassion—fail to develop the capacities of care and compassion. Another friend discusses being touch-averse, saying, “I wasn’t always this way.” After too-many years of giving away touch—the too-casual hug, the too-casual kiss, the too-casual holding,… Read More...

#mybodymyhome (i)

Pursuing Freedom Dreams
Wiathi is my mother’s word. It is a word she repeated so often that it might be called talismanic. A word she’d repeat to me at night, when we were alone, in those still moments when world-altering revelations emerge. A word she fed me, carefully, constantly, relentlessly, because she knew—as mothers always know—that I would need it. That I could build a world around it, shape my dreams through it, imagine a somewhere else, not here, because of it. Wiathi means freedom or self-determination. My mother learned this word as a girl in colonial Kenya. She gave me this word under Moi’s tyrannical regime. I claim it for this moment, for the worlds it opens, for the dreams it sustains. I claim it for #mybodymyhome, a campaign against sexual assault. I hear my mother’s voice whispering, “wiathi,” feeding the political… Read More...