Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christ and Christmas

This is that time of the year when millions of chicken, goats, cows, turkeys and all other legally edible beasts lose their lives to the celebration crazed human society and, as if to mock this faunal “genocide”, their devourers moan the massacre in of gallons of alcohol and soft drinks in a world wide merry making frenzy.

The tendency of Christmas holidays to afflict the minds of men with desires, cravings and obsessions that are largely born of flesh rather than the strict scriptural teachings of the Christian faith has led to the rise of voices in Christendom questioning its spiritual authenticity.

For the hundreds of years that the controversial debate on whether Jesus was born on Christmas day has raged on two schools of thought has emerged: Those supporting Dec. 25 as the correct birth date of Christ and those calling it a hoax that conned its way into Christianity via wayward and lax church leaders. The latter base their arguments on the fact that the holyday predates the birth of Christ, with elements of its celebration being traced to ancient Egypt, Babylon and Rome.

Long before Jesus Dec. 25 was celebrated to mark three occasions; the birthday of the Unconquered Sun god or Sol Invictus, the winter solstice and Juvenalia, a feast honouring children of Rome, all of which made the season a carnival of excesses.

“Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down. For a month, slaves would become masters. Peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could join in the fun,” explains one ancient writer.

The Roman Church, failing to get inroads in the conversion of the masses that were deeply entrenched in paganism, began compromising by dressing the heathen customs in Christian-looking garb. In religious study this is known as transmutation where conquering religions adopt native worship tools to make the conversion less culturally shocking. This includes worshipping in the same shrines, using the same symbols and observing the same holydays.

And since no one knew the messiah’s exact date of birth, in the fourth century the Church under Pope Julius I chose Dec. 25 as Christ’s birth date principally to entice and accommodate the conversion of the hedonistic heathens.

“The festival was far too strongly entrenched in popular favour to be abolished, and the Church finally granted the necessary recognition, believing that if the day could not be suppressed, it should be preserved in honour of the Christian God. Once given a Christian basis the festival became fully established in Europe with many of its pagan elements undisturbed” explains Encyclopedia of Mythology, Religion and the Unknown.

Some of the “pagan elements” alluded here are the untamed sensual excesses, debauchery and gluttony that underlined these festivities among ancient Romans and which still resonates in many secular modern day Christmas celebrations. Other elements of paganism absorbed by the Church to please the new pagan converts were canonization, borrowed from the ancient “god-making” ritual of Euhemerus and adopting Sunday worship.

In a bid to tame the ravenous spree that this festive season triggers among their congregations church leaders introduced a theme of sharing the surplus with the needy in society, but Christmas still remains the most popular license for gluttony and unchecked indulgence.

Opponents of the December 25 thesis further argue that the events recorded in the bible during the birth of Christ are strong indicators that such a date was impossible. The scriptures say that when baby Jesus was born “there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.” In the Holy Land December is a bitterly cold winter in which no sane shepherd would venture out by night.

Adam Clarke, a renown bible scholar, explains that “as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that our Lord was not born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could He have been born later than September as the flocks were still in the fields by night. On this very ground the nativity in December should be given up.”

Clarke further argue that the fact that Mary found a room in the manger for the baby means animals were outdoors as opposed to the case in the winter where the feeding troughs were stockpiled by feeds and the barns packed with livestock. Other scholars say that with temperatures in Palestine during winter dropping as low as 4 degrees Celsius at night, putting a baby in the manger in winter with only swaddling clothes would be unthinkable and suicidal.

However some pro-Christmas historians counter this by saying the said shepherds were no ordinary sheep keepers but Levitical ones from whom the people bought the blemish-less sacrificial lambs, hence they were duty bound to remain outdoors all year round.

Emotional medieval artists, movie directors and story tellers have hugely contributed to this controversy by depicting skewed, distorted and subjective versions of the nativity scene.

Another issue pointed as a source of discrepancy by opponents of Christmas as a birth of Christ is the census that was taking place around the time the baby was born. In Luke 2:3 it is written: “Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David.” The census, believed to be one of the very first ones in the Roman Empire in order to establish the number of people to be taxed, must have been one of the reasons why the inns were full.

Experts on Roman civilization have reasoned that the Emperor would not have ordered the census in winter when massive movement of people back to their birth towns would have been difficult and troublesome. Evidence backing this opinion was found in a Roman document discovered in Egypt dating back to A.D 104.

Besides, Romans were famous for their meticulous and efficient sense of social order and administrative skills from which modern day governments and military organizations derive most of their blue prints. Hence it’s argued that Quirinius, the Roman governor of Syria at that time, could never have organized a census in the dead of winter.

One author claims that this census “could hardly have been at that season (winter) for such a time would surely not have been chosen by the authorities for a public enrollment because it necessitated traveling in storms, heavy rains and mud which made journeys both unsafe and unpleasant in winter, except in especially favourable years.”

Another incidence presented as evidence against the December date is the conception and birth of John the Baptist, who happened to be a cousin of Jesus. In Luke 1:36 (NIV) an angel informs Mary that “Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in old age, and she who was to be barren is in her sixth month.” This means that John was conceived and born six months ahead of Christ and by following the temple duty roaster of the priests of the order of Abia, in which John’s father Zechariahs belonged to, it emerges that the Baptist was born around March or April according to the Roman calendar. Adding six months to this brings the birth of Christ to September or October in autumn, way ahead of Dec. 25.

Santa Claus, the mythical white haired gift giving old man riding on a sleigh pulled by flying reindeers, is yet another prominent Christmas feature that strongly points to ancient paganism. Though some people have linked this fictitious character with a St Nicholas from Myra in the Mediterranean, his fur-trimmed wardrobe, sleigh and reindeers betrays his true origins of the cold climates of the far North. While some sources trace Santa to the Northern European gods Woden and Thor, from which the days of the week Wednesday and Thursday get their names from, William Walsh in The Story of Santa Klaus claims that the figure has its roots in the Roman god Saturn and its Greek counterpart Silenus.

However the supporters of Dec. 25, who are the majority, remain resolute in their belief that Christ was born in this day. Alfred Edersheim, a Messianic Jew, summarizes radical standpoint by claiming that “there is no adequate reason for questioning the historical accuracy of this date. The objections generally made rest on grounds which seem to me historically untenable.” Peculiarly, among the gospel writers only two, Mathew and Luke, delve in the details of the birth of Christ where they notably omit the actual date and time.

Therefore the biggest question among believers across the world for ages have been whether it’s by coincidence or providence that the bible, the book on which the Christian faith is based on, never mentions “Christmas”, Christ’s birth date or anything about commemorating that birth?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

City of Jails

We are aboard a Steinway Transit Corporation bus marked Rikers- Island –Limited-Stop-Service cruising through Queens, one of New York City’s five boroughs. Majority of the passengers, most of who are in a state of deep quietude, are Blacks and Latinos. After a brief stop over on 19th street to pick more people the bus mounts a three way bridge rising from the north west of Queens to extend for more than a mile over the East River.

Besides the uniformed officers guarding the entrance and the roadblocks there are numerous signs on the bridge walls warning motorists not to drop or pick passengers along this route. Only the roar of jet engines overhead from planes flying in and out of LaGuardia Airport’s northern run ways shatters the silence that rules the bus. Thousands of cars and buses commutes past this steel and concrete roadway each day, we are told, but few New Yorkers want to end up where the tightly guarded bridge heads to.

More posters prohibiting cameras, tape recorders, cell phones, beepers and weapons line walls as we approach the gates to the city of jails.

“Home of New York’s Boldest” sign board welcomes us to Rikers Island, New York and the democratic world’s largest correctional facility. Known as the Rock to inmates and Gotham City to outsiders, Rikers is one name that runs the ice down the spine of every wannabe lawbreaker in the Big Apple and beyond. Sandwiched between the East River and the borough of Queens and the mainland Bronx and adjacent to the LaGuardia Airport runways the jail is a “township” by its own right. It has a budget of USDs 860 million a year, a staff of ten thousand officers and one thousand five hundred civilians to control a yearly population of up to 130,000 inmates.

Named after a Dutch settler Abraham Rycken who owned it, the island was acquired by the City of New York authorities from his descendants in 1884 at a fee of USDs 180,000 and has acted as a penitentiary since then. However due to its small size then, measured only 87 acres, the island had to be expanded by landfill to its present size of 415 acres. Even after that overcrowding led to introduction of make shift cells in form of barges.
The fortress, consisting of ten jails each the size of Kamiti Maximum Prison, is only accessible over the unmarked 1.28 kilometer long Rikers Island Bridge, later renamed Francis Buono after the supervising warden, which is not open to the public. Before the bridge was built the only access was by ferry two of which were later converted into floating jails.
Rikers Island holds local offenders who cannot afford or cannot obtain bail, those serving sentences of one year or less, and those pending transfer to other facilities which does not have space. It also has a maximum security section for hard core criminals.
The jail town is a self contained colony catering for inmates, popularly known as Rikers, of all ages hence have its own schools, medical clinics, ball fields, chapels, gyms, drug rehab programs, grocery stores, barbershops, a bakery, a power plant, print shop, a bus depot and car washes. Although it’s official function is to contain New York City’s social misfits Rikers Island has been a source of powerful emotions to many, especially artists.
“How loud quiet nights in the mists of crime” sang R Kelly in his 1997 hit Gotham City “ “A city of justice, a city of love, a city of peace; we all need it, can’t live without it”. Other artists whose inspiration bells were rung by Rikers are Coco Tea, LL Cool J, Kool G Rap and Jim Carroll.
Just eleven miles away from the blazing torch of Lady Liberty and her promise of freedom to newcomers Rikers Island is famed for its hot reception to new residents of New York. Coco Tea attested to this in his timeless classic hit Rikers Island when he said:
The first time the youth come a New York,
Them tell the youth you mustn’t skylark,
Learn a trade or go to school,
And don't you turn yourself in a fool.
Coz him never wan go a Rikers Island.

Besides songs and other literature Rikers Island, also known as Land of Darkness, has also featured in numerous movies, books and video games. Carlitos Way, Marvel Comics and A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints are some of the movies where the jail features prominently.

Known for its infamous residents, ninety nine percent of whom are Blacks, Latinos and immigrants, the jail has had its own share of famous inmates. Multi platinum selling artistes DMX, Intelligent Hoodlum, Tupac Shakur and Lil Wayne are just a few of the big names that once served a term here.

Landing at Rikers leaves one bewildered, especially those from Africa where maximum security jails are hostile labour camps. Instead of an Alcatraz- like atmosphere hushed by a looming potential for violence, Rikers is a “town” bigger and better maintained than the Nairobi CBD, with enough parking for hundreds of vehicles that visit every day. The marble lanes interlacing the mundane cell apartments are so smooth and the lawns so neatly manicured that they resemble scenes from a middle class suburb somewhere in Kileleshwa or Muthaiga. Until you see the barbed wire and the gangs in orange jumpsuits.

For a jail of this magnitude the atmosphere is quite serene and peaceful thanks to a spate of reforms in the New York City jail system. Prior to the reforms the island cells used to be a hotbed of gang wars.

Since ours is a chartered educational tour we are guided to our main area of interest; the Island Academy. Although you have to pass through a lot of security hurdles to get here elements of a regular school setting are noticeable. Wall displays of student achievement and friendly interactions among staff and students through the hallways. Classification of the two thousand plus students in the Academy is according to gender, crime type, mental stability and intellectual abilities. Many students describe their first day at Rikers as extremely intense with the feeling of physical restriction setting in the moment they walk through the gates.

Later, traversing through the hallways to get to a backyard, we gaze across the bay on the expansive LaGuardia Airport, bigger than JKIA by any standards. “You never think about how an airport is such a symbol of wealth, privilege and freedom until you are in prison next door, watching planes fly overhead.” observed a sixteen year old boy from The Bronx on noticing our curiosity.

I couldn’t agree more.

Since we are here as part of a volunteer program working with incarcerated teenagers, among our activities in the class will be conducting poetry and visual arts.
As the lesson progress we give the students an open session where they freely air their views. They speak eloquently in heart wrenching verses and prose about their past and present predicaments. For a moment the room ceases to be a cell. The youngsters feel empowered to express themselves and for a few minutes take control of their tethered lives. Most of the juveniles are in for drugs or petty crimes. And most of them are very willing to change their ways and start a new life.

Time and prison restrictions allow us to stay no more than one hour hence the rest had to be postponed to the next session which is in a week’s time. We can’t wait to come back for the bond with the young jailbirds is already tight even in this very first day. On the way out at the entrance lobby there hangs a four by three inches sketch of Jesus on the cross.

“The original was done by Salvador Dali and hung on these walls for sixteen years before it was stolen and replaced by this fake in March 2003.” Explained a prison official. The artist did the sketch as an apology for not attending an art lecture at Rikers back in the sixties, and the piece was brought here from the prisoners dining hall after an inmate tried to vandalize it with a cup of coffee during an emotional outburst.

We are ushered by the uniformed escort to the parking bay where we board the white bus back to Queens. Though there are hundreds of enquiries and requests by potential visitors to Rikers every year, only a few are granted after a prolonged processing. Our case sailed through on the basis of charity and although we are scheduled to hold our classes every Friday for the next three weeks the same bureaucratic protocols had to be observed each time.

There are no surprise visits to “Gotham City.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


When people think of Christian history and shrines, countries such as Israel, Rome, Greece, Italy and Turkey come to mind. Ethiopia? Rarely, if ever. However, high in the Lasta Mountains in the Ethiopian highlands is a collection of one thousand years Christian history in the ancient rock hewn churches of Lalibela.
A stroll through this dusty little town is a walk through the pages of history.
The architectural ingenuity, beauty, antiquity and sheer presence of these mighty churches is amazing. But despite the large number of foreign and local tourists who visit the site every year, little is known about the magnificent structures outside Ethiopia. The origins of these churches are still clouded in myth; what little is known of King Lalibela’s life is drawn largely from hagiography done centuries after his canonisation by the Ethiopian Church.
Born of the Zagwe dynasty while his half-brother was on the throne, Lalibela is said to have been exiled to Jerusalem after the reigning king tried to poison him. As a youth, Lalibela witnessed the dejection of Ethiopian pilgrims after the fall of Jerusalem to the armies of Islam in 1187 and vowed to build a New Jerusalem. After being ordained king upon his return to Ethiopia, Lalibela embarked on his quest for an African Jerusalem.
This claim is backed by the fact that although the rock churches are connected to one another by maze-like tunnels, they are separated by a stream symbolically named Jordan.
The structures on one side of the Jordan represent the earthly Jerusalem while those on the other side represent the heavenly Jerusalem. However, like the Great Pyramids, the actual methods used to build these churches remains an engineering enigma, since archaeologists estimate that the chiselling of the structures from the solid volcanic stone must have been the work of more than 40,000 men!
To credit the ancients for their labours and to avoid destruction by human encroachment, Unesco named the churches to its World Heritage List in 1978. Despite once being the headquarters of a great kingdom, the centuries and modernisation have reduced Lalibela to an obscure village with a slow pace of life, where residents hardly seems aware of the importance of the monuments in their

Friday, November 12, 2010

Writers in Detention

Throughout the history of literature and writing prison cells have been a well from which scribes have drawn material for their works. While veterans come out with confounding titles people with no literary back ground are converted by penitentiary confinement into great writers.

Due to their quest to pinpoint the society’s shortcomings through criticism, satire, dramatisation and prose scribes more often not end up being confined in a bid to silence them.

And it’s in prison where the flames of their conviction burn brighter for condemned to many hours of loneliness they indulge in retrospect, meditation and soul searching which sprout into diaries, notebooks and memoirs whose teachings later on inspire millions.

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” Written by Nelson Mandela during his incarceration at Robben Island on some scraps of paper which he buried under the floor of his prison cell, these words were to mark the first chapters of the Long Walk to Freedom.

One of the most outrageous manuscripts to emerge from a prison cell is Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kraf, which turned to be the Holocaust manifesto.

Besides spinning a school of religious, political and social writers, detention and imprisonment has also inspired great works from academics and literature giants. Ngugi wa Thiongo’s Writer in Detention which he wrote in the years he spent in Kamiti and Jeffrey Archers “Prison Diaries” are just a few examples.

Egyptian woman writer Nawal -el Saadawi, despite the banning of her books, detention by the state and death threats from Islamic militants, continues to be the loudest voice of Muslim women rights in the world.

Cultural, religious and political barriers have not hindered her from penning controversial titles like The Hidden Face of Eve, God Dies By The Nile and Two Women in One.

However there are those who find solace and repentance from writing despite being condemned to jail for criminal offences. Never being writers at all they first taste the literary pill in gaol and get hooked.

Besides their characterisation and plots being influenced by both sides of their life, most prisoners’ writings divert sharply from the convectional styles. Defiance from the rules of law-legal, literal and moral-defines the foundation of their works.

A good example here is Donald Goines, a career criminal and drug addict who wrote the first of his two novels in prison. The titles of his works reflected his morbid life style that handed him six jail terms in the thirty seven years he graced the earth. Whoreson, Black Gangster, Cry Revenge and Death List were some of the books he penned with two of them, Never Die Alone and Crime Partners being made into movies.

Though his work was dismissed by the literary class of his time as “junk marauding as art” his outrageous titles has not only influenced modern day gangsta rappers like Tupac Shakur and Noreaga, but has also been adopted by the rap influenced African American population as part of their cultural heritage.

Besides these weird titles he also created a four book series featuring a gang hero named Kenyatta who leads a militant organisation determined to clean American ghettos of drugs and prostitution. The character, peculiarly named after Kenya’s founding father, is brutally shot dead in the series’ last novel Kenyatta’s last hit.

Like the characters in his books Goines life ended violently when he and his wife were shot dead on the night of October 21 1974 in what was suspected to be a botched drug deal.

Closer home Kamiti seems to be the hatching nest for jailhouse literature in Kenya with Benjamin Garth Bundeh’s Birds of Kamiti and Wahome Mutahi’s Jailbird having flown from there long after John Kiriamiti’s My Life in Crime.

According to Piri Thomas, the Latin American poet and writer who launched his thirty year old career while serving a seven year jail term with his autobiographical Down These Mean Streets, “Writing is the only way one can relieve the load of guilt, loneliness, despair, disillusionment and pain that comes with life in prison”

This is confirmed by the fact that even those unable to write a book usually spend ample time of their mostly idle lives scribbling graphiti on the cell walls.

Due to the increased number of writers and journalists imprisoned in the line of duty International PEN, a world wide association of writers, formed Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) which advocates for the unconditional release of scribes held unlawfully around the globe.

November 15th is the official Writers in Prison day when Norwegian WiPC awards the Ossiezsky Prize for outstanding achievements in the field of expression. Among those honoured in the past is the outspoken Kenyan politician and author Koigi wa Wamwere.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Orange Oracle

Next time you peel that orange pause for a few seconds and look at it critically because there is more in this fruit than just the juice and seeds. The peelings of this sweet citrus share their famous colour with the dawn sky which signifies the tide of new beginnings.

For this reasons orange has been used symbolically in as many fields as man has ever ventured but politics and war leads the pack.

Since ancient times to present armies and political activists have flown orange banners, flags and pendants in their quest for supremacy and conquest and for reasons that are hard to comprehend orangemen, most often than not, carry the day. This theory is solidly backed by the current political landscape in the country where Orange parties retains a lion’s share of Parliamentary and civic seats, besides having the premiership and the vice-presidency.

But how did orange become the colour of power?

The weird phenomenon dates back hundreds of years from the mediaeval principality of Orange in southern France. A princely dynasty known as House of Orange led a successful military campaign against the French and the pope and went on to take the throne in The Netherlands, which explains the country’s obsession with anything Oranje.

The Orange Revolution in Ukraine that brought Victor Yushchenko to power six years ago after protests by hundreds of thousands of “orange” mobs seemed to have rekindled these long forgotten revolutionary tendencies of this colour of dawn.

An outbreak of orange activism exploded all over the world thereafter, with Kenya being its first stop in Africa. And although commentators have described this as just another wave of colour revolutions that had previously rocked governments in countries like Georgia and Lebanon, something about the orange-politics symbiosis smells mystery.

Every time the two sleep under the same sheets victory is more often than not conceived, albeit to be prematurely born or aborted.

Orange is also the colour chosen by activists in the United States to remember when Floridan voters felt ignored “in order to put the governor’s brother in White House” during the 2000 presidential poll. Radical Israeli settlers used colour orange as their rallying symbol against Gaza evacuation in 2005. The Orange Order is the biggest and one of the most radical protestant sectarian groups in Ireland. Strangely, prisoners in many American jails are made to wear orange jumpsuits to make them easier targets in case of a prison break.

However all this orange fiasco had remained an Asian, European and American affair until five years ago when one Samuel Kivuitu, the controversial chairman of the now defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya, either by coincidence or providence, dragged it into the African political scene. As if that was not enough he went on to set the stage for a fierce ideological battle between the Orange revolution and the concept of banana republic during the explosive referendum campaigns.

This not only led to a widespread public abuse of the two popular fruits by politicians and their followers but also set the precedent for one of the most violent electioneering seasons in the country’s history. And with the multibillion dollar deal between Orange Telkom and CAF painting all international football tournaments in Africa orange in the next seven years, one is bound to ask whether all these events are just coincidence or a visitation of the long forgotten orange oracle?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dark August

So much rain, so much life like the swollen sky of this black August
My sister, the sun, broods in her yellow room and won’t come out. -Derek Walcott in Dark August.

The month of August 2010 have been excessively generous to Kenyans, which is a sharp deviation from the past when many ushered this eighth month of the Gregorian calendar with mild sense of apprehension.
Apart from the biting cold that spilled and chilled its way from July, the month was engulfed by a huge sense of expectation and hope as the country ushered in the birth of the Second Republic.

If an optimism survey was conducted August 2010 would have recorded one of the highest percentages in the country’s history. For the first time in many years the citizenry is facing the future with a renewed sense of patriotism, hope and a self belief.

Those with political aspirations has welcomed the fact that there are now more elective offices to vie for and they need not necessarily seek the patronage of party bigwigs since they can run as independents. The Kenyan Diaspora breathed a sigh of relief in the knowledge that being granted citizenship in their country of residence is not tantamount to losing their birthright as Kenyans.
And last but not least, the popular Wanjiku is perhaps the biggest beneficiary, since if everything runs as proposed she will no longer have to wait for his Nairobi-based Member of Parliament to approve funds for setting up of a market stall in her village. Structures of governance have been brought to her doorsteps through devolution.

Apart from holders of public office-from the President, Prime Minister, the Vice-President to MPs-taking the oath of allegiance for the second term within a single term entire process of constitution making have also added new vocabulary in the speech of many Kenyans. Before August “promulgation” was a word reserved only for the PLOs of this world but today it’s the new tongue twister in town.

To sprinkle icing on the historic celebrations Zain Kenya pulled the carpet off the feet of its rivals by unleashing one of the most subscriber friendly calling rates ever witnessed in the country. This has turned out to be the first salvo in the bitter battle for supremacy, with all the other networks announcing new rates a few days later.

Just like in the referendum vote, ordinary Kenyan have emerged the biggest winner in these mobile wars. Folks can call their kin and kith to celebrate the birth of the Second Republic without the worry of being cut short.

And all these bliss came raining down on Kenyans in August, a month that have always ushered in calamitous incidences in years past. From the death of a sitting president and vice-president to a coup attempt and a terrorist attack August is remembered by Kenyans more for its ominous events than good tidings.

In the morning of August 22, 1978 the founding father of the First Republic Mzee Jomo Kenyatta passed away in his sleep at his holiday home in Mombasa, ushering into power a 54 year-old man called Daniel Arap Moi. His seemingly harmless and reserved demeanor led many to dismiss him as a “passing cloud”, albeit to their own peril.
Mr. Moi’s 24-year reign influenced and impacted a whole generation of Kenyans. Apart from feeding their mouths and minds with Nyayo milk and philosophy, the intrusive leader also elevated those born in 1978 into a celebrity status.

However it’s the events of the first day of August 1982 that would prove to be one of the biggest turning points for the country’s political destiny.

After a clique of Air Force soldiers led by a Senior Private called Hezekiah Ochuka staged an unsuccessful but bloody putsch the Moi regime got an excuse to purge its enemies, both real and perceived. Tens of political activists and other prominent personalities ended up in detention or the infamous Nyayo house torture chambers.
From this time forward fighting or serving Moi became the only ticket to national prominence. Raila Odinga, Kenneth Matiba, Mwai kibaki, James Orengo among others made a name either as friends or foes of the self declared professor of politics.

After taking a 20 year hiatus the dogged days of August came calling again with a catastrophic intent in 1998 when 252 people, among them 12 Americans, lost their lives and more than 5,000 were injured after a huge bomb exploded in the American Embassy in down town Nairobi. Today, an August Memorial Park stands in this ground zero.

Besides startling the nation to the threat of terrorists, the incidence brought to the limelight the infamous Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda and also marked the first phases of the now popular global war against terrorism. Five years later the ghosts of August reared their dreadful heads again, this time round robbing the country of the ever smiling and eloquent Vice-President Michael Kijana Wamalwa.The demise of Wamalwa triggered a political chain reaction whose aftershocks were greatly felt in the 2007 general elections.

Named in honour of Julius Ceasar’s great grand nephew Augustus for defeating Marc Anthony and Cleopatra to restore order and prosperity of the Roman Empire, the month of August is intertwined in as much folklore as the number eight from which its derived.

Previously called Octavia, the Emperor changed his name to Augustus-which literary means ‘of the gods’- in order to create an aura of a deity around him. According to biblical teachings, number eight signifies new beginnings since this is when it’s said God started working again after resting in the seventh day.

But the fatality of August is not exclusive to Kenya alone. There are numerous world changing events that took place in the month of Augustus. The famous Martin Luther King Junior’s I Have A Dream speech, devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, Christopher Columbus setting sail for the Americas, invention of photography and potato chips and the resignation of President Richard Nixon all happened in this “month of the gods”.

The list of high profile personalities celebrating their birthdays this month is also long, and somewhat intriguing. Besides a record five US presidents other notables who popped into the world in August include Michael Jackson, Napoleon Bonaparte, Malcolm Forbes, Fidel Castrol, Mother Theresa, Roger Federer, Leo Tolstoy, Kobe Bryant and Robert Di Nero.

However, one of the most extraordinary births happened in the 4th of August five decades ago in the far away Hawaii. At exactly 7:24 a boy whose father hailed from a remote Kenyan village called Kogelo was born to an American mother in these popular holiday lands. Christened Barrack Hussein Obama II, a name that would grace the lips of millions across the globe many years to come, he was destined to change history by becoming the first of his kind to lead the most powerful nation on earth.

The same date and month 49 years later, Kenyans overwhelmingly said Yes to the birth of another special baby, the new constitution. But whether this new Kenyan baby will live to scale the heights of its American birthday-mate only time will tell.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Far beyond the frontiers of sanity
Lies hectares of untamed mindlands
Where chaos and order coexist
A halo unlit by normal thought lines
The mad zone
Birth place of all Madness
A field ablaze with fires of fantasy
Kept alight by fuels of ecstasy
Humans who cross the threshold
To these lunatic wonderlands
Unlocks the door in two ways
By chance when the mental fuse blows
Or through the divine portal
That brings forth ideas immortal
Both history and science
Principle pillars of human conscience
Proves beyond the gates of doubt
That bounties of brilliance
-Sometimes hammered on anvils of evil-
Can spark and glow
From these mental dark holes
And like molten magma
Explode into cataclysmic creations
That shakes the world
Shattering long held dogmas
And scattering powers and dominions
In these mystic mental dungeons
The Holocaust was hatched
The immortality of Mona Lisa designed
And the Rwandan massacre mapped
Standard theory of the madness
That claims man is born mad
And most of his actions inspired
By intentions to gain fame
And stoke the economic flames
Emanates from one insidious fact;
The mad zone is aglow in all souls
The only difference being the intensity
There is mild madness which creates
And acute madness which decimates
Or if portrayed in polarity
Positive madness breeds posterity
And negative madness bleeds brutality
This triggers the question;
How many acres of these lunatic lands
Pollutes the minds of terror titans
Like Taylor, Bin Laden and Mussolini
And men of gargantuan visions
Like Einstein, Drucker and Lamborghini
The ravenous floods of revelers
That jams and clogs fun houses
Emitting heat and sweat like swines
As bodies gyrate to boisterous beats
Propelled by unholy water and the devil’s sacraments
Are all in a quest to explore the Zone
And savor its fantasy fields and hypnotic hills


Human bonds
Are held fast by four fluids;
Blood. Semen. Tears. Booze
But emotional fragility
Social instability
And the quest for tranquility
-Which from mankind oozes
Like decaying juices
From a dead hog’s bruises-
Leads to hallucinations
And imaginations
That germinates the Great Illusion
The Big Lie;
“Ungenetic Love”
That a bond can be born
Between those of different seed
And be as tight and soul-binding
As those baked from one womb?
Total Utopist bullcrap!
The cohesion between spouses
And the “emotionally” conjoined
Is just a bout of lust that lasts
Expressed in portions of patience
And pretentious politeness
Mankind is by nature a social beast
Remote controlled by instincts
And constantly assailed by urgent urges
Sometimes brought forth by semen surges
And sometimes by other external charges
That pushes him to seek a “soulmate”
But to conceal these hedonistic needs
And their vicious dimensions of greed
Reality is masked in bright robes
And like a tot’s quinine
Under a coating of thick sugar orbs
To make it easy to swallow and benign
Lust is pampered and flowered in lovelies
To sustain and maintain the network of lies
And hide the underlying crude animalistic cravings
To quench the emotional, physical, social and economic thirst
Hence the only true and timeless tie
Whose endurance is final and eternal
Is the one joined by the red juice of life
Sowed from the fusion of seeds maternal and paternal
The reason for this beef
Lies in a simple brief;
While semen glands can run dry
Tear bags drain to the last of their salty drop
And booze tanks clank empty if there are no hops
As long as the heart pumps
Rich, genuine, genetic love flows
And through the thickness of blood it glows
Making links joined by all other fluids
No more than Lust Refined

Friday, June 11, 2010


The realm of human existence
-Mind. Body. Soul-
Is defined by walls
From the geneses of creation
-or for Gnostics evolution-
When matter emerged from confusion
To the sands of modern times
History is written on walls
-From the ancient Wailing Wall
Through the amazing Great Wall
To the dollar empires in Wall Street-
Some walls are landmarks of adversity
And insult to human dignity
Like the broken Berlin Wall
Korean border walls
The West Bank Separation Wall
Baghdad neighborhood walls
-erected to set apart sectarian foes-
And Apartheid racial path walls
But others like the Sistine Walls
African painted cave walls
And the leaning walls of Pisa
Are milestones in human creative craft
Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Picasso
All relied on walls to display their art
And frame timeless frescos
When doom was declared upon the binging Belshazzar
And his gang of gluttons
It was done in writing on the wall
The sumptuous scenes and ‘sins’ in bedrooms
Secrets in boardrooms
And the gross in bathrooms
Are concealed under lock and four walls
In football
-watched by many on silver screen walls-
Winning depends on defensive walls
To block goal bound balls
Facebook walls
Are popular social platforms
Learning in public schools is done on blackboards
That are painted or plastered on walls
The ingenuity of graffiti
Is expressed in spray on public walls
Shield corporates against online cannibals
The Divine Wall
Curtains this life from the mysterious hereafter
Spenders line to load their wallets
From money minting machines mounted on walls
The vagaries of darkness
And the beauty of daylight
Are separated by the time defining wall of shifting shadow
Graves and tombs
Are eternal prisons six feet under four walls
The authority of kings
Is safeguarded by a wall of bodyguards
And enforced from high-walled palatial strongholds
Borders of nations
Are political walls partitioning populations
The splendour of cities
Is painted on concrete and glass walls
Men of high morals
Are portrayed as ‘a city of walls’
Anatomy of organisms
Is structured by cells held fast by membrane walls
The human birth suit
Is concealed in layers of garment walls
The human heart
-chambered by walls into ventricles-
Is the chief architect of divisive walls
That separates souls and instigates wars
Hence humanity should forever stand on a wall of will
United in demolishing all dividing walls