Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Celebrating Njeri Kabeberi

A Tribute by Onyango Oloo in Nairobi

It must be a long time since Kenya’s largest airport witnessed such a phenomenon.

We were there

at the arrivals lounge the other day, singing and dancing for her emergence from customs and immigration.

Our celebratory chants and stomping, with our militant fists pumping the air may have startled one or two people waiting to welcome back their loved ones.

This Thursday evening in mid November was a special one for all of us who have known and interacted with her all these years-some of us going back thirty years or so.

I am talking about Njeri Kabeberi- political sister and comrade to many of us; leading figure in Kenya’s democratic and human rights community; commentator among the many hats she wears.

Many know her as the Executive Director of the Centre for Multi-Party Democracy-Kenya and the Country Representative of the Netherlands Institute for Multi-Party Democracy.

On hand were folks like members of the Five Centuries Theatre Group; spoken word/poet-activist Ndungi Githuku; the Secretariat and Board Members of CMD-Kenya; women from a myriad Kenyan nationalities and cultural backgrounds; Njeri’s mother and siblings; friends and associates, not forgetting crews from K24, NTV, KTN, Standard, Nation and other branches of the local and international print and electronic media.

Njeri was coming back to Kenya from a whirlwind trip that saw her going to Germany, Netherlands and Australia.

The highlight was Germany where

she was feted by the Chamber of Lawyers in Frankfurt am Main who conferred the Inaugural Prize for Outstanding Commitment to Law and Justice.

In their August 24th invitation letter to the ceremony, the Frankfurt lawyers informed Njeri:

The Chamber of Lawyers Frankfurt am Main has resolved to award to you the aforementioned prize as part of the conference “The Influence of World Religions on the Legal Systems of the Countries” to be held from October 29th to October 31st 2009. Hence, we cordially invite you as the winner to the awards ceremony which will be celebrated on October 29th 2009 at St Paul’s Church in Frankfurt am Main. The Chamber of Lawyers Frankfurt am Main wishes to honour you for the many years of work fighting for justice, democracy and human rights in disregard of the private and professional drawbacks and threats. The award has an endowment of EUR 5,000. We are also looking forward to welcome you as our guest to all conference sessions and events here in Frankfurt. Travel costs and accommodation will be absorbed by the Chamber of Lawyers. I trust that this official invitation letter will be accepted by the authorities when applying for possibly required entry and exit visa. Mr. Friesch has already informed you about some organisational details. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require any further assistance. Please find attached the current programme with further details on the conference. Sincerely yours, Prof. Dr. jur. utr. Dr. phil. Dr. theol. Lutz Simon President

As Njeri herself pointed out in her acceptance speech which you can access at this link, this award was not just for her but for all those courageous and patriotic Kenyan women and men who have sacrificed life and limb to make this beautiful country a better place by agitating for human rights, democracy and social justice.

On a more personal note, I was quite moved by this recognition of Njeri.

I first encountered Njeri’s passionate patriotism and commitment to justice when we were both still in our early twenties, eons ago.

At the time I was a young university student on trial and Njeri formed part of a very small band of very courageous human rights defenders who made a point of showing up in court at a time when the Moi-KANU one party dictatorship had terrified the entire populace into near total submission.

Later on, when we were incarcerated, Njeri and her comrades (mostly women, I should add, for the historical record) kept our spirits going through visits; helping us to smuggle clandestine prison letters to Amnesty International, Lawyers for Human Rights, Nelson Mandela and other comrades outside the country; supplied us with novels, poems and other progressive literature; kept us in touch with our families; coordinated our legal battles and most importantly provided a vital link between those of us behind bars and the fledgling underground national democratic movement.

All these years while I was behind bars, I had never met Njeri in person, but from all the anecdotes, I assumed that she was somebody much older than I, probably my auntie’s age.

Imagine my surprise, sometime in June 1987 when I walked into her then quite modest offices on the third floor of Continental House off Uhuru Highway. It was not a government owned building back then.

When I was ushered into her office I saw a striking young woman, not much older than myself.

I promptly asked her if I could see Njeri Kabeberi.

She simply smiled, saying modestly:

“You are looking at her.”

I still remember that moment twenty two years later.

We hit it off as comrades and friends instantly and we have maintained close political and professional contacts ever since.

People may know the public Njeri-feisty, indefatigable, committed and militant.

Many in her circles know her as the founding Chairperson of Release Political Prisoners; the founding Treasurer of the Safina Party; a founding Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission; a founding member of the Citizens' Coalition for Constitutional Change aka the 4 Cs; a senior staff member with Amnesty International both at the London head office and in Pretoria, South Africa and of course the founding Director of the Centre for Multi-Party Democracy-Kenya.

I know that Njeri too.

But I also know Njeri the ever generous friend; Njeri with her ever present sense of humour; Njeri the voracious reader; Njeri the music lover and sports aficionado; Njeri the devoted daughter and loving mother.

When she is honoured, I am honoured, all of us are honoured; yes we are honoured and some of us say it is about time!

Njeri Kabeberi is one of the finest representives of our generation of Kenyan activists of the late seventies, eighties and nineties seeping into today and tomorrow-the generation which is gently tip toeing into its middle age having spent more than half of our lives on the trenches of democratic struggle inside and outside the country; in front of and behind bars; above ground and clandestine.

The awards Njeri received in Frankfurt and

later on at the Hague are A BIG DEAL.

Her tour of Australia at the invitation of Frontline, an international network of human rights defenders means a lot to me personally.

It is indeed a Very Big Deal because so many of our unsung comrades have gone to their graves without a public acknowledgment of their contributions.

I can cite people like Patrick Onyango Sumba who was buried recently-buried with him was the history of his valiant contributions as a founder member of the Organization for Democracy in Kenya (ODK), one of the earliest exile based movements which was very active in the Scandinavian countries from the early 1980s to the late 1990s confronting the repressive excesses of the Moi-KANU dictatorship.

I can mention people like Mrs. Priscilla Abwao who died on Tuesday, November 17, 2009- the very day that the Committee of Experts unleashed the new harmonized draft constitution. I was glad that Ms. Atsango Chesoni, the Vice-Chair of that Committee in her remarks, made a point of paying tribute to Mrs. Abwao, the only Kenyan woman in the Lancaster House Conferences which helped to usher in Kenyan independence. Unbeknown to Atsango, one of our founding mothers of modern Kenya was no longer with us. It was Prime Minister Raila Odinga who revealed to a stunned nation that Mrs. Abwao had died earlier that day and requested a minute of silence in her honour.

I can talk of people like Mwakdua wa Mwachofi, a militant student leader from Wundanyi who died in American exile in 1994.

Because I respect their privacy, I can not reveal the names of two revolutionary veteran Kenyan sisters-one living and working in North Africa and the other one residing in North America who gave so much of themselves to the struggle for a better Kenya that they paid a heavy price with their very health-they have both been battling cancer for almost two decades now, all but forgotten not just by the general public, but even more sadly, by their more high profile male comrades, some of whom do not even bother to lift up a telephone to find out how their political sisters are doing-because these comrades know in detail the health travails of these sisters I am talking about.

When Njeri is honoured, it is a direct tribute also to the contributions of the late Onyango Sumba, the late Mrs. Abwao, the late Mwakdua wa Mwachofi, the nearly forgotten revolutionary sisters, veterans of the Mau Mau generation and beyond; it is a kumbu kumbu for Makhan Singh and Muindi Mbingu; Pio Gama Pinto and Me Katilili; Mary Nyanjiru and Elijah Masinde; Syo Tuna and Koitalel arap Samoei.

A few years ago, a twenty something Bongo artist from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, was lamenting in a popular tune that there is a tendency to sing the praises of people only after they have died; he demanded to be praised while he was still alive.

To this extent, I feel that celebrating the ongoing achievements of our Njeri Kabeberis is very important when we are all still living and breathing; struggling and fighting for democracy, peace, national harmony and social justice in our communities, countries, regions and in the world.

Njeri’s recent triumph in Europe is bitter sweet nevertheless.

Are we not ashamed as Kenyans that it took a group of Frankfurt-based German lawyers and a network of democrats in the Netherlands and human rights defenders in Australia to remind Kenyans that the contributions of the Njeri Kabeberis in our midst have helped to change this country?

Read the following message sent directly from FORMER UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to our very own Njeri Kabeberi:

Where is the note of congratulations from either of the two principals at the helm of Grand Coalition Government or even the leaders of the political parties whose activities she helps to support through the contributions of the Centre for Multi-Party Democracy in Kenya?

The total absence of Kenya's diplomatic representatives in Germany at the ceremony- despite getting an official invitation to the event-speaks volumes about the priorities of the Kenyan government when it comes to human rights and social justice issues.

More immediately, what have WE, her political comrades in the human rights organizations and other civil society bodies done to recognize her achievements?

We must all criticize ourselves severely for taking each other for granted as comrades.

Why must we wait for a Bantu Mwaura to die before we organize a night in their honour?

I am saying this while pointing four fingers at myself first and foremost.

Having said all that, I can only end by saying that one of the best ways of acknowledging the contributions of comrades past, present and future is to redouble our efforts in building lasting organizations and networks with concrete and practical strategies of lifting our country Kenya from its current quagmire.

In other words, mapambano continua until we achieve a lasting victory!

Onyango Oloo
Nairobi, Kenya

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Why Are We So Obsessed With Reforms in Kenya?

A Digital Essay by Onyango Oloo in Nairobi

Thank you.

I am glad I caught your eye.

First off, kudos are in order.

Shangwe na vigelegele to

Baraka Husseini Obama
for being crowned this year’s

Nobel Peace Prize

Contrary to the digital noise pollution by a host of right wing wing nuts all over cyberspace, those folks in Oslo who made the surprising announcement recognized what the presidential ascendancy of the former Illinois Senator implies for the prospects of global peace at this present historical juncture.

Not only is the 44th occupant of the White House NOT George W Bush-he was swept to office by democratic forces in the United States who were also part and parcel of the massive international anti-war movement.

By awarding President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize the Norwegian committee was firing off another volley against the danger of the militarization of public affairs.

I am sure they are not so naïve as to assume that Obama can fully dispense with the nefarious agendas of the military-industrial complex which helped to tilt the world monopoly capitalist casino economy to the brink of total meltdown in 2008.

At the same time, by conferring him with the prestige of a Nobel Peace Laureate the Oslo Committee are hobbling any inclinations on the part of the Obama Administration to revert to gung ho American martial jingoism which was such a staple of the disastrous Bush years.

Now back to the topic at hand.

As I was asking in my title, why are we so fixated with issue of reforms in Kenya?

What is the big deal with Agenda Four?

Why this love fest with Kofi Annan and hero worship of Senor Ocampo?

Is it reforms we really need in Kenya today?

Let me assure all and sundry that this is indeed Onyango Oloo penning these lines.

My mind has not been invaded by the evil spirit of Dr. Alfred Mutua and I have certainly NOT imbibed any illegal spirits or smoked any proscribed chemical substances.

Let me explain myself a little to some of my dazed and bewildered readers.

There was a time in Kenya-two or three decades ago- when agitating for reforms was considered backward and reactionary in progressive circles. I was old enough to be a young thinking and politically conscious adult at the time.

You see, back in the day, the discourse on democracy in our country was led and dominated by radicals, militants and socialists.

In those days, we used to believe in a total overhaul of the system; in complete radical transformation; we used to believe in something called REVOLUTION.

To us back then, talking about “reforms” was akin to dressing a warthog in a tuxedo or throwing its pig cousin into a soapy, frothy bath tub for a thorough scrubbing hoping that said swine would not go back to wallow in a mucky yucky trough soon after the cleaning episode.

A “reformist” to us was somebody who wanted to turn a brutal dictatorship into a more benevolent one; somebody who wanted to adjust the furniture, leaving the room intact; somebody on the Titanic who spent hours preening and grooming before the mirror unaware of the imminent destination of the sinking vessel; somebody who wanted to tinker and tailor with this or that aspect leaving the whole system unperturbed.

We used to spit out the word “reform” as a particularly vile, offensive and filthy curse word calculated; to us, "reforms" were stratagems geared to befuddle and derail our far reaching social justice aspirations.

Calling someone a “reformist” in those days was equivalent to accusing them of being a child molester or something equally offensive.

You see, in those days, we called ourselves revolutionaries and we were dedicated to fighting imperialism and constructing socialism in our life time in our own country.

Then something happened on the way from Damascus.

Something called perestroika and glasnost. The Fall of the Berlin Wall. The Collapse of the Soviet Union. The restoration of capitalism in eastern Europe.

Some of us reacted by remaining dedicated and unrepentant Marxist-Leninists even as we recognized, in excruciating self-criticism, the obscene distortions of our ideology in the corrupt bureaucratic regimes in central and eastern Europe which insisted they were building “real socialism”.

Many more from our ranks shaved off their fierce beards; tossed aside their Mao caps and Che Guevara T-shirts and started an inferno in their Lenin lined libraries.

They went to bourgeois academic temples and repented for their left wing ideological sins.

They thumbed their political dictionaries to expunge any mention of “revolution”, “radical transformation”, “overthrow of the system” or other similar and odious references implying a total repudiation of the status quo.

Instead, they became “reformists” and started preaching the gospel of “reforms”.

Our former imperialist masters were transformed overnight into “our development partners”.

The leading Western capitalist countries were rebaptized as “The International Community”.

Far from having antagonistic ideological interests with imperialism, now we were “partners for a common future” with the capitals of capital.

In the Kenyan context, some of our former leading comrades joined ranks with the very agents of neo-colonialism who had thrown us into maximum security penitentiaries and forced us into exile.

These ex-revolutionaries made a very big show of announcing how they had “matured” from “activism” to “pragmatism”.

It is not surprising that as talk of “revolution” waned, everyone started blathering about “reforms”.

What was even more alluring was that unlike in the repressive Kenyatta and Moi KANU one party dictatorship past, now in the mid to late 1990s in multi-party era Kenya, you could actually get FUNDED if you yammered and jabbered about “social change” “democracy” “transition” “liberalization” "pluralism” as long as you made it perfectly clear that you were a “REFORMIST” as opposed to being “a radical extremist” or “a dangerous revolutionary”.

By criminalizing and delegitimizing the socialist and revolutionary traditions from the broad Kenyan national democratic movement, the imperialists, their funding agencies and local, home grown functionaries and gate-keepers mainstreamed the concept of “reforms” and “reformists” to be the default template of talking about social, economic and political change in Kenya.

Those of us who insisted on our ideological fealty to a gendered radical social transformation agenda based on popular democracy, equality and justice were deliberately marginalized and shunned from BOTH mainstream civil society and pro-establishment political party formations and discourse, shunted off to a supposed “lunatic fringe” of mavericks and gad flies where our militant interventions were snubbed amidst suppressed sniggers and chuckles by dyed-in- the wool liberal democrats and right leaning social democrats online and offline.

Karl Marx once quipped that the leading ideas of the day are the ideas of the ruling class.

How still true this axiom is today in October 2009!

To paraphrase Noam Chomsky, the forces who rule Kenya in terms of ideology and hegemonic influence have defined the parameters of socio-economic and political change discourse and debate confined within the boundaries of what they call “reform”.

Today when we talk of the “reform agenda” we use the indicators provided by Kofi Annan and his team.

Agenda Item Number Four seems to be the new litmus test for measuring a commitment to real change since the year 2008.

What did Kenyans do before 2007?

We were ever interested in transforming our country?

My argument is that we have actually LOWERED the bar.

Middle class reformists have over the years hijacked the once revolutionary demands for far reaching national democratic renewal in Kenya and reduced these once noble patriotic pursuits to piece meal gestures designed to appease the likes of Annan, Ranneberger, Brown and others.

It is akin to asking the Kenyan steeple chase, marathon and other world beating middle and long distance runners NOT to strive for Olympic gold or even the world record, but rather content themselves with a seventh place finish in the preliminary heats so that they can be rewarded on their return home with plaudits “for at least trying.”

Issues like land and agrarian reforms; redistribution of national wealth; punishing human rights abusers; ensuring gender equality and youth empowered were not introduced to Kenyans during the 2008 Serena Talks-many of our comrades and compatriots have suffered greatly and even died for championing these causes since at least 1963 and even before that.

That is why our first accountability should be to ourselves as a nation- not Annan, not Ocampo not even the freshly minted Nobel laureate Barack Obama.

What is surreal and hilarious is our expectation that the Grand Coalition Government will steer the movement for radical political changes or even mere reforms in Kenya.

From where did this delusion spring from?

How can we expect a jajuok (night runner) to voluntarily give up his weird, naked nocturnal attempts to break Usain Bolt’s 100 metres record?

Why should we expect the biggest land grabbers in the country, who currently reside in the cabinet, to carry out land reforms?

Why should we expect the main financiers of the post-election violence to give up their powerful posts in the government to cooperate with Migosi Ocampo?

If Anglo-Leasing and Goldenberg are two vicious, venomous serpents, why would we expect these reptiles to cut off their heads and lead the fight against grand corruption?

If ukabila (aka negative ethnicity) is the treasured magic portion which allows big teams like PNU, ODM, ODM-K and the rest score questionable goals in the rigged football matches in their march to political power, why on earth would they throw away that superstitious amulet?

Even from our fairy tales, how can we expect the evil ogres, scary monsters and fire breathing dragons to slay themselves?

Expecting the big boys and girls in the Kenyan political establishment to carry out the “reform agenda” is like asking them to set up a public guillotine from where they will meekly slice off their own heads.

One or two words about current composition of the Grand Coalition Government.

I have many comrades and friends in ODM, PNU, ODM-K and their affiliate parties.

Some, like James Orengo, (to mention just one of dozens of patriots in that leaking GCG vessel) have an unblemished record of fighting for democracy, justice, human rights and freedom over many decades.

They now find themselves sharing cabinet space with known killers, graft barons, tribalists and poll swindlers.

As long as they are tethered to the pole of “collective responsibility” they will remain culpable in all the sins and crimes of commission and omission perpetrated by their more sleazy cabinet colleagues.

That is why you will find someone like the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Raila Odinga oscillating between demanding the full implementation of the Alston Report and participating in the recent charade with Mwai Kibaki in giving the government an “A” in terms of implementing Agenda Four.

Let us recall how Kenyans landed in the current quagmire.

On December 27, 2007, Kenyans all over the country went to the polling booths in their millions. They voted overwhelmingly for ODM in the civic and parliamentary contests. When it was clear that ODM’s flag bearer was leading in the presidential elections, PNU back room schemers staged a civilian coup and illegally installed Mwai Kibaki as President at night after shutting down the Kenyatta International Conference Centre using paramilitary bayonets.

This unleashed massive fury throughout the country, especially in ODM dominated regions leading to arson, carnage, mayhem, rape, murder and other criminal atrocities.

What started off as spontaneous anti-poll protests soon evolved into a methodically planned confrontation with politicians from all sides of the divide participating in planning and executing horrific violence against their perceived political and ethnic opponents.

The PNU wing of the political elite which illegally seized power in Kibaki’s December 30th civilian coup abused their access to the organs of state terror to channel police, GSU, AP and other security organs to clamp down protests and opposition in ODM friendly areas. In these ODM strongholds, some powerful politicians directly or tacitly approved the activities of armed militias to carry out reprisals against local inhabitants who were deemed to be PNU sympathizers by virtue of the ethnic backgrounds they shared with Mwai Kibaki.

Let me give two personal examples to illustrate how I suffered directly because my relatives were seen to either belong to the ODM or PNU camps.

In Kisumu, my brother in law (whose older brother is married to my youngest sister) who was part of the peaceful ODM demonstrators angered by the presidential results announcement was shot dead in cold blood by a uniformed police officer in a chilling incident captured live by KTN television cameras.

In Mombasa, my brother in law (an older brother to my late wife) had his bar in Changamwe raided and looted by an irate mob working at the behest of a well known local ODM politician simply because my late wife’s father hailed from Sagana in Kirinyaga, Central Province-even though he had moved to Mskiti Noor on the Mombasa West mainland in the early 1950s, married a Mdawida (“Taita”) and had called the Coast Province home, with all his children being born and bred in Mombasa.

When Dr. Kofi Annan brokered the National Accord on February 28, 2008 paving the way for the creation of the Grand Coalition Government, he also created the very problems he is now complaining about.

By refusing to deal with the central issue which triggered the post-election violence, i.e., Kibaki’s December 30 Civilian Coup, Annan and his Dream Team basically ratified the current stalemate stymieing all efforts at implementing Agenda Four.

By forcing these two belligerents into sharing power, rather than embracing the KPTJ mantra of electoral Peace, electoral Truth and electoral Justice, Annan and his team consciously decided to underwrite the ODM/PNU/ODM-K scratch my back, I will scratch yours quid pro quo.

It was not only seats that were shared by the National Accord.

The two principals and their respective parties also agreed to share in the cover up over who was responsible for organizing the worst outrages of the post election violence.

How, for instance, could we expect Mwai Kibaki to denounce and sacrifice the powerful cabinet minister in his PNU coalition who is alleged to have provided money and arms to hired thugs sent out to kill innocent Kenyans associated with ODM?

On the other hand, could Raila Odinga really afford to cut his own political neck by delivering to Ocampo the powerful Rift Valley politician whose name has done the rounds as being in Waki’s stuffed envelope?

In the headlines of today’s newspapers (Saturday, October 10, 2009) the Prime Minister is quoted as saying that he will do just that to all those that the ICC wants prosecuted.

Well, that remains to be seen.

A word or two about the International Criminal Court.

Even though I am committed to justice and want to see the culture of political and criminal impunity ended once and for all, I do not believe in the moral authority of the so called International Criminal Court.

I say “so called” because the ICC is far from being international.

I will become a born again convert to the International Criminal Church, oops, Court, once I hear that Ocampo has grabbed George W Bush, nabbed Tony Blair, mobbed Dick Cheney, bagged Don Rumsfeld and dragged Condeleeza Rice to the Hague and charged all five with genocide and crimes against humanity.

Right now the initials ICC for me, stands for the International Capitalist Court to try tin pot African tyrants, despots and war lords.

Another word about Kofi Annan and his real agenda for Kenya.

Let me not be the ungrateful donkey (Kiswahili speakers are familiar with the proverb, ahsante ya punda ni mashizi) and once again thank the former UN Secretary General for working day and night to help end the night mare of political and ethnic tinged violence in 2008.

Having said that, let us unmask the Ghanaian born, Swiss-based diplomat for who he really is:

A dark skinned Vice Roy working at the behest of the Western powers to stabilize Kenya, not because of a love for democracy or desire for justice, but rather to secure the short and long term geo-political interests of imperialism in a region rocked by perceived threats of Al Qaeda and to curb the energy thirst and hegemonic ambitions of China in this region of Africa.

Once we understand Kofi Annan’s job description we can thus fathom why one of his spawns, the Kriegler Commission blandly claimed that ati it was "not possible to know who really won the Presidential elections in 2007".

Flowing from that, we should then realize that Kofi Annan’s insistence on the implementation of Agenda Four has nothing to do with the clamour for reforms, but rather it is a Big Stick to ensure that the Kenyan elite toes the imperialist line and does not rock the geo-political boat and upset the strategic dominance of Uncle Sam and her NATO/G20 allies in the region.

If, as I argue above, neither the Grand Coalition Government nor Kofi Annan and the International Community (read the Western powers) are really interested in a true agenda for reform in Kenya, where does that leave us then?

Certainly not with the majority of the wishy washy NGOs and other mainstream civil society organizations whose visions, missions, goals, objectives, program activities and project outcomes are ultimately dictated by those who bankroll their activities- the overseas based funders and donors who are in turn answerable to the Western tax payers and states.

And definitely not with the bulk of our ideologically bereft, ethnic-based electoral matatus masquerading as political parties in Kenya.

My position is that true Kenyan patriots, progressives, democrats, and yes, REVOLUTIONARIES, should reclaim the genuine agenda for sustainable, radical transformation of our country’s politics, economic relations, culture and social dynamics.

This we can only do if we rediscover our vocation to lead the fight for real change in Kenya.

In other words it is not Kofi Annan, Michael Ranneberger or Luis Ocampo who will deliver Kenyans from oppression, injustice and inequality.

It is us.

And we can only do it if we organize ourselves.


As I have been wearily saying over and over and over again for the last seven to ten years, through:

Organizing a united front of the most consistent forces for progressive change in this beautiful but tortured country of ours to fight for the realization of a national democratic revolution in Kenya.


Onyango Oloo
Nairobi, Kenya

Monday, September 07, 2009

Miguna Wants Mutula Kilonzo to Shut Up

By Miguna Miguna
(The writer is a Barrister & Solicitor in Canada & Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. He is also the Advisor of the Prime Minister on Coalition Affairs).

The Kenyan media have reported that the Minister for Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs, Mr. Mutula Kilonzo, yesterday (September 3, 2009) told the American Ambassador, Michael Ranneberger, to shut up. Mutula’s language was crude and undiplomatic. It was also bereft of any logic, reason or legal foundation. Rhetorically, it was in a league of its own; pugnacious and soaring.

But it is not what any reasonable person would expect from a minister of justice. Mutula ought to have limited the excretion of his loose tongue at the borders of coarseness. Unfortunately, he veered farther and much deeper; he entered the boundaries reserved for demagogues and miscreants. Even that might have passed the twiddle test had Mutula been an ordinary Kenyan. However, Mutula is the Minister of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs for all Kenyans!

Reports indicate that Mutula not only told Ranneberger to shut up and refrain from commenting on Kenyan law, he also threatened unspecified “government action” against the ambassador. That is ominous. It is not a threat Kenyans can take lightly.

I hold no brief for the American ambassador. I am also not aware that Ranneberger has his fingers up Mutula’s nostrils, preventing the minister from sneezing. But it is interesting that Mutula, who is a Senior Counsel, confesses that he is not competent in interpreting both British and American laws. In turn, he claims that no foreigner can interpret Kenyan laws. The logic is warped; the language crude. Significantly, Mutula has not told us what laws Ranneberger broke by communicating a message from Washington, DC to Nairobi.

The principles of legal interpretation are universal. They are not Kenyan, British or American. It is possible that a foreigner may be as good an interpreter of Kenyan law as any local expert. Professional expertise in legal interpretation is not Mutula’s exclusive preserve. Nothing prevents Ranneberger from interpreting the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act. No law prevents Ranneberger or the US administration from examining whether President Kibaki violated the law when he purported to reappoint Aaron Ringera for another 5 years.

It is immaterial whether the Kenyan Ambassador to Washington can interpret American law. No one has accused President Barack Obama of flagrantly violating the American constitution and law. Consequently, Mutula’s deflection is both ineffective and unconvincing. Mutula should deal with the charge that President Kibaki violated the law rather than saying that a foreigner has no right to criticize the President. Ad hominem is not a substitute for debate. The President is not God.

Recently, Mutula defended a Cabinet Memo and Draft Bill on the Independent Special Tribunal on post election violence, which strenuously argued that the independence of that tribunal would be guaranteed by a significant presence of foreign jurists. If foreigners are not allowed to interpret Kenyan laws, why hasn’t Mutula opposed the involvement of foreign jurists in Kenyan legal and judicial institutions?

Mutula is desperate, so he conveniently wraps himself in patriotic garb to attempt a cover-up of Presidential illegality and impunity. But like the principle of equity, patriotism demands that you approach it with clean hands.

But the main problem with Mutula’s arguments emanates from his job description. As the minister of justice, Mutula is compelled by law to be fair, objective, professional, competent and ethical at all times in relation to all matters and persons. As the minister for national cohesion and constitutional affairs, Mutula cannot act as a hatchet man for sectarian political forces. He is constitutionally compelled to respect the rule of law. National cohesion is only possible when a minister of justice discards parochial interests and affiliations and acts for the national good.

Clearly, when the President purported to reappoint Ringera as Director of Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC), Fatuma Sichale and Smokin Wanjala as Assistant Directors of KACC for additional five years, he flagrantly violated the law.

Subsections 8(2), (4) and (5) of the Anti-Corruption Act provide that the Director and Assistant Directors of KACC shall be persons recommended by the Advisory Board and approved by Parliament before the President announces their appointment to their respective positions. The Act stipulates that the “terms and conditions of service of the Director and the Assistant Directors shall be determined by the Advisory Board.

The law is therefore crystal clear that the President can only appoint a person a Director or an Assistant Director upon the Advisory Board recommending such a person for appointment to Parliament and the latter forwarding the name of the person to be appointed to the President. The President is compelled by law to announce the name forwarded by Parliament. The President has no power or discretion to appoint whoever he wants.

Schedule 1 of the Anti-Corruption Act that the President cited is not a substantive provision. It is anchored on the primary provisions cited above.

Rather than threaten Ranneberger with unspecified “consequences”, it is Mutula who should shut up and concentrate on delivering Kenyans from injustice, corruption, impunity and Presidential excesses.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Moi Torture Chambers Revisted

By Adongo Ogony

(Kenyan ex political prisoner, former Secretary General of the Students Organization of Nairobi University and Toronto-based social justice activist

I was a little bit startled when I saw this story in the August 22, 2009 edition of the Saturday Nation, reviewing the publication

We Lived to Tell.
The heading

"The Dark Legacy"
was quite appropriate.

But what was even more dark was another story in the same Saturday Nation (of August 22, 2009) where William Ruto is reported to have led a group of 15 M.Ps in telling Kenyans that they have a right to support impunity and those who oppose them will be defeated in parliament.

In fact they (Ruto and company) were furious that those who want justice for victims of PEV in Kenya were "intimidating" them.

It would appear to me that folks like Ruto think intimidation is their exclusive domain after all they seem to have been doing it for a whole generation and are very confident they can have their way any time they want.

I will come back to that shortly.

But here is the

Ruto impunity story.

Back to "The Dark Legacy".

I was personally involved in putting together the We Lived to Tell publication in September of 2003.

What was inexplicably shocking to me was not the uniform stories of horror and evil deeds perpetrated by former President Daniel arap Moi and his cohorts on Kenyans, I knew that already.

What surprised and encouraged me was the sheer determination by the comrades that they will live to see this battle to its logical end.

And they have done a million things since then to further the battles for a freer and more democratic Kenya.

There is something very refreshing to be among comrades who do not count their successes in life in terms of how many shambas they robbed from the ADC or how many times they worked for Moi to do mischief against the nation but rather on what more they need to do to bring justice in the land.

Sitting with these Nyayo torture survivors some of whom are university lecturers, professionals in every sector of human development and just simple joes and vinyangarika like Adongo Ogony, one gets a sense nothing really shakes these people up. They expect to meet battle and resistance at every corner in the effort of Kenyans for a free nation and they want to go there and meet it.

So I thoroughly enjoyed working directly with the comrades once again to put up that piece of work.

We had a lot of fun and enjoyed the companionship.

Sometimes people think we are a group of grim folks beating their heads on the walls with anger every minute.

Ask the National Security Intelligence Service.

They know us better.

We are fun people most of the time.

I think we laugh and joke around more than we shake our fists at injustice in the land and beyond.

But don't be deceived.

Ask Moi.

I would urge those who read the book to pay close attention to the preceding chapters to the body of the document namely, Dedications, Prologue and Introduction and to the conclusion, Chapter 13 entitled What Next?

Those chapters are crucial in understanding the grim stories in between.

It would appear to me that the very things we predicted six years ago have come to pass. If we pick up those lessons, chances are we are heading in the right direction. I seem to think we are. History is full of contradictions and every struggle for social justice goes through its own peculiar path of contradictions.

As to the Rutos-Isaac and William, I have no grudges against them. In fact I have been accused of being a William Ruto supporter.

I am fine with that, but I will say this. Isaac Ruto was a fellow student leader with me and folks like Onyango Akello, David Murathe, Titus Adungosi to mention only a few.

He (Isaac Ruto) was reputed to be a close Nyayo spy on students in the 1980s and we all know what the consequences of those were as exemplified in the We Lived to Tell historic document.

I have every reason to believe the allegations are true considering the path his life took.

Today Isaac Ruto's name is appearing in every land grabbing scam in the country including the ADC farms and the Mau.

I would think those are just tips of some terrible icebergs that hide mountains of the Moi treachery that still bedevil our country as its consequences continue to explode by the day from environmental disasters, to massive land grabbing from state institutions etc all of which is entrenched in the culture of impunity.

What the whole country knows is that both William Ruto and Isaac Ruto were the founder members of YK92, a literal terror group similar to the brown shirts of Adolf Hitler an his Nazi mass murderers.

They obviously were rewarded handsomely for their efforts as emerging evidence continues to prove.

They have every right to defend their gains, but I would suggest to them that they have no right and may not be able to deny all other Kenyans the right to reclaim their dignity as human beings.

I don't think any of us want a fight with the Mois, the Rutos and whoever they have pocketed, but I would want to assure them that we are very ready for that fight should it become necessary.

The Narc squabbles starting from 2003 that was brought about by tribal jingosim from State House saved the Moi gangsters as both sides started to court them for support.

What happened is now water under the bridge and nobody can claim the monopoly of being right on this matter.

But if the Mois and the Rutos think they now own the country and Kenyans must bend to their every wish ati because they supported Raila or whoever, they are in for a big surprise. Kenyans really don't care whether Raila becomes the next president or not. It is not important.

Kenyans want justice and are ready to move forward, but I would advise those living in stone houses not to be so generous with the stones.

At the end of the day justice for the nation is more important to Kenyans than Raila, Ruto or Kibaki.

Stop fooling around with the citizens.

The Imanyara bill is going nowhere as some of us have said so many times, but justice is coming without a doubt.

Kenyans do not need any permission from any politician for that.

If they did we would still be under one party rule with baba na mama as an over eighty year old president.

Obviously that is not the case, or it?

That is the question.

PS: Click here to read the tribute to Adongo Ogony from one of his closest friends and comrades.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Post-Election Violence in Nyanza: Killer Cops Must Be Punished

By Joshua Odhiambo Nyamori, Nyanza Youth Coalition

In the wake of the post election violence, the Waki Commission reported that 107 people were confirmed dead in Nyanza province, 79.9% of them having been victims of gun-shot wounds inflicted by the police.

More than 747 are still nursing bullet wounds or other serious injuries. The Waki report confirmed that majority of the victims of police shootings were shot in the neighbourhoods, away from the Central Business District property that the police claim to have been protecting. The victims included innocent men,

women and children, whose only offense was being residents of Nyanza. The report says that according to the provincial pathologist

“53.6 % of the gunshot casualties had been shot from the back pointing to the inference that police shot people who were already in flight and not with an aim to immobilize but for purposes of killing and maiming.”

Extra judicial killings by the police during the post election crisis were not the first in Nyanza.

During the 2005 referendum campaigns, seven innocent people including school children in uniform were shot dead and several were left wounded in circumstances that could have been avoided if the Government respected the sanctity of human life. This is in addition to police killings that happened in Kisumu during the in 2003 during the saba saba demonstrations, in 1997 Saba Saba demonstrations, 1989 -1992 demonstrations for multi-party democracy, 1982 attempted coupe and 1969 Kisumu Massacre by President Kenyatta’s Guard.

It is disappointing that to date the Grand Coalition Government has not made any meaningful steps towards bringing to justice all those who were directly or indirectly responsible for all the successive extra-judicial killings in Nyanza province. The sole case that went to court was motivated by outrage from across the world after a police officer was caught on camera killing two innocent youth. But the people who gave orders for such killings are still free.

Even as the victims and relatives of the deceased continue to cry for justice, the Grand Coalition Government has never made an attempt towards supporting the families whose bread winners were killed. Many people who were injured are still suffering without any support towards their medical and other needs. The Government has never even found it appropriate to offer an apology to the victims, their relatives and the entire community, despite the fact that successive independent investigations have found its officers culpable on extra-judicial killings in Nyanza. At the same time, it is disappointing that whilst the National Accord, Kriggler Report and the Waki Report envisaged comprehensive institutional reforms as a way of protecting the ordinary citizens from police brutality, the half hearted moves by the Grand Coalition Government towards reforming the police service and the judiciary are a betrayal of the trust that the people of Kenya bestowed upon the Grand Coalition Government.

We must demand that incase of any further delay in formation of the special tribunal or reference, all the police officers who were responsible for extra-judicial killings in Nyanza during the post election crisis be arrested and charged in Court. Criminal and political responsibility should also be placed on all those who issued orders for the killings or failed to take action to prevent the killings. These should include police bosses and government officials at the local and national levels.

The people of Nyanza province must also demand that the police force be taken through total overhaul and that the Police Commissioner, Gen. Hussein Ali, who has epitomized the culture of impunity in this country, be held accountable. The culture of denial even where there exists incontrovertible evidence of omission and commission is a major stumbling block towards embarking on meaningful reforms.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On My 49th...

Onyango Oloo Muses on the Day He Turned 49 Years Old

1.0. A Tale of Two Women

She was glad that school was out and the kids were enjoying their second term holidays. The municipal kindergarten where she taught kept her busy all year round punctuated with the breaks in April, August and December. Nakuru was still the organized, smartly dressed, clean and beautiful, younger sibling envied by her older sister towns of Nairobi and Mombasa. In the heart of Kenya’s Rift Valley, Nakuru was an urban agricultural, multi-cultural hub where Luos spoke the Gikuyu language fluently and Kalenjins could converse at ease in Kiswahili; a place where Somalis rubbed shoulders with Wahindi and Europeans could claim it as their home town; it was a place where Kenyans of all nationalities, races and creeds were comfortable.

Mbala-most of her friends found that to be an odd, even weird name for a Luo-had made Nakuru her home when she moved here to take up her job as nursery school teacher. She hailed from the Kanyamuot clan in Ugenya even though she had followed her famous older brother B.A. Ohang’a when he relocated to Got Regea in North Gem in the late 1940s, when she was still in her early teens. Her brother had married Margaret Okinyo, the second born of Jaduong’ Isaya Oloo, the son of Agina of Luanda Doho village, which was about two kilometers from Got Regea, half-way from the Dudi shopping centre on the Kisumu-Yala-Busia-Kampala road. B.A. Ohang’a was to later become the first African cabinet minister in the dying years of the British colonial administration in Kenya. He also represented Central Nyanza in the Legislative Council before he was turfed out by the even more legendary Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in 1957. Despite that, the Odinga and Ohang’a families remained life long friends. Three of Mbala’s nieces from the Ohang’a branch were to earn recognition in their own right: one started a successful law firm; another became the first woman to become a bank manager in Kenya and a future Commissioner with the Kivuitu led Electoral Commission of Kenya; her twin sister was to later briefly head the Electrical Regulatory Commission of Kenya…

But all that was decades into the future.

On this Friday morning in August, she looked at the moon faced light copper complexioned young woman sweating and writhing with pain beside her in her tiny bed sitter in Paul Machanga estate, a modest working class area in Nakuru. The contractions were getting closer and closer and she was relieved she had sent the eldest of her three young daughters to summon the mid wife who lived a few streets away.

She assured Jennifer Siare, who had just turned twenty a mere eight months ago, that everything would be alright, she had been through the experience.

They had become quite close, the two of them. Jennifer was the young bride of Richard, the younger brother of her sister-in-law, Margaret and Jennifer had ended up in Mbala’s house because Richard was away in Nairobi attending an Officer Cadet course at the Prisons Training College. So Mbala had assumed the role of guardian and protector of Richard’s brand new wife, despite the fact that Mbala herself was a widow in her mid twenties with four young kids (her first born was a son) of her own. Her late husband was a first cousin of Richard. So she was a double sister in law to Richard-she was a sister to the man who had married Richard’s older sister and the wife of Richard’s first cousin.

But it was even more complicated than that.

Richard was also the father of her two youngest daughters.

Ok. This is how it had happened.

Her late husband had been very close to Richard who was his age mate. So when Mbala’s husband died suddenly, Richard spent a lot of time comforting the young widow. Maybe too much time.

Richard’s mother Doris Awiti was a feisty woman adamant about her Christian probity in the community. When the wagging tongues-and bundles of joyful, bouncing, living testimony- of the romantic liaisons between her fifth born child and her widowed daughter in law could no longer be ignored, she put a lot of pressure on her son to get a “proper wife” married in the “proper Christian way”.

The successful candidate showed up in the form a beautiful teenager , striking to behold with her blazing eyes, her shining sheen of light copper covering her from toe to her jet black close cropped crown; a rambunctious girl who could outbox any boy who dared to cross her boundaries of personal space; an intelligent and courageous being who used to trek fifteen kilometers from the hills of Rawalo village in the outskirts of Yala and Jina to visit her older brother Walter Ombiro Wandolo who was staying at the Isaya Oloo homestead in Luanda Doho village because it was next to the biggest primary school that many parents in that part of North Gem wanted to take their children. At first it was her older sister Hilda who was supposed to be married to Richard’s elder brother, but that is another story. How Richard met Jennifer and the two fell in love, is also the subject of an upcoming movie currently in development in Riverwood-Nairobi’s answer to Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood.

Yes, so here she is, Mbala supervising the delivery of the first born of her best friend and her de facto co-wife.

What thoughts were going through her mind as she witnessed the arrival of this brand new baby boy at around 9:30 am on this sunny Friday, August 19th 1960?

Mbala has been resting in peace for almost twenty years now so that is a question that is slightly difficult to answer.


By the way, that infant who was born that day was soon given a name:

David Fredrick Onyango Oloo.

2.0. Upstaged by 2 Dogs, 2 Rats and Several Mice

I am not really surprised that news of my birth failed to hog the headlines of the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Toronto Star or the South China Morning Post.

From what I found out years later, I was the unfortunate recipient of the ancient curse:

“May you be born in interesting times!”

The night before I was born something captivating had taken place at the gallows at a small prison in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

This is from Wikipedia:

Peter Poole (born c. 1932 - died August 18, 1960 in Nairobi, Kenya) was a British-born Kenyan engineer and shop owner. He is the only white in Kenya executed for killing an indigenous African person .

On October 12, 1959 he was charged for killing Kamawe Musunge in Gordon Road, Nairobi. Musunge had been riding a bicycle when Poole's two dogs stopped him. Musunge threw stones at the dog, for which Poole shot Musunge dead with a Luger pistol . Musunge was Poole's houseboy. Poole was executed on August 18, 1960. At the time Kenya was still under British rule, and the verdict was received dismally by white settlers in Kenya, who could not accept that a white man could be sentenced for killing an indigenous African .

Poole had emigrated to Kenya from Essex and was an engineer by profession . He owned an electrical shop on Nairobi's Government road (now Moi Avenue) . Poole served in the British army during the Mau Mau Uprising . Peter Poole was married with two children. His father was Norman Poole .

Time magazine covered the story in its August 29, 1960 edition:

Precisely at 8 o'clock one night last week, the slight, heavily shackled form of 28-year-old English Engineer Peter Poole dropped through the hangman's trap door in Nairobi Prison. For the first time in Kenya's history, a white man was executed for killing an African.

Condemned to die eight months ago for shooting his African houseboy (who had stoned Poole's dogs), Poole became a near martyr in the eyes of many white Kenyans who recalled his services against the Mau Mau, and worried over what would happen to his aging parents and his two young children. In Nairobi, Poole's parents circulated petitions for clemency, addressed to British Governor Sir Patrick Renison, and collected more than 25,000 signatures, including many from Africans and Asians. Even African Nationalist Tom Mboya, though he would not sign himself, agreed not to influence his fellow Africans against signing. In London, Laborite M.P. Fenner Brockway appealed to Colonial Secretary Iain Macleod to reprieve Poole on the grounds that his execution would damage already tense relations between whites and blacks in Kenya.

But neither Macleod nor Renison could find any legal grounds for intervening. Last week, as a warder solemnly posted announcement of the execution on the gate of Nairobi Prison, an African in the keyed-up crowd gathered outside cried: "Justice has been done; Macleod is with us!" Turning away in cold anger, a white settler muttered: "Now you've had your pound of flesh." Commented the London Spector: "It is a savage irony that future generations in Kenya will be able to point to 1960 as the year when the equality of the races was finally demonstrated, not by the granting of rights to Africans to farm on the White Highlands, or to become members of white clubs, but by the proposition that all men, regardless of color, are equal on the end of a rope."

As you can see, I had competition from the get go, because Poole dominated the Kenyan headlines on my very first birthday.

But more was to come- and this time it was two dogs, two rats and forty mice that made the world delirious with excitement.

Why, you may be wondering with befuddlement.

Those hounds and those rodents were first class passengers on a space flight that left planet earth on Friday, August 19, 1960 aboard Sputnik 5 from the Soviet Union.

The first dog was called Belka aka "Squirrel" and second one answered to Strelka aka "Little Arrow" or "Pointer". Apart from the rats and the forty mice, several plants were on board.

Twenty four hours later they all safely returned back to earth.

This particular Friday happened to be the very day that Pan African nationalist hero Patrice Lumumba called a press conference condemning Dag Hammarskjöld, UN Secretary General for undue foreign interference in Congo.

Lumumba said on August 19, 1960:

...In view of this insolent attitude of the United Nations white troops sent into the Congo, the Government was compelled to demand their immediate withdrawal and allow only African troops to enter the Congo under U.N. control. This will enable us to avoid a cold war, because some states are now using units sent to the Congo from certain European countries to further their own interests. This has already been proved, and for the benefit of the Security Council I stress once again that the Government of the Republic has passed a decision on the withdrawal of all military units belonging to European nations.

We have stated, on the other hand, that the United Nations special representative in the Congo has distributed U.N. armbands among Belgian nationals and that they have used this badge to attack the Congolese population.

The U.N. Secretary-General declares in his note that he will be obliged to ask the Security Council to reconsider the entire United Nations action in the Congo. This blackmail by the Secretary-General does not surprise us.

To this my reply is that for its part the Government of the Republic is prepared to renounce the services of the United Nations, because the Congo, a sovereign and independent country, is nobody's property. We can easily and quickly restore order by ourselves and with the direct assistance that we can get from a number of countries, which have already given us their selfless support.

The Government of the Republic:

1. condemns the personal actions of the U.N. Secretary-General;

2. demands the immediate withdrawal of white troops, who were behind the latest incidents and who have shown bad intent with regard to the Republic;

3. demands and repeats its request that a group of observers from neutral countries, a list of which has already been submitted to the Security Council, be sent to the Congo;

4. confirms its desire loyally to co-operate with the United Nations in establishing peace on earth.

Unknown to Patrice Lumumba, the CIA were at a very advanced stage with their dastardly plans to eliminate the Congolese nationalist.

From recently declassified information an author I met on the internet has been able to put together the following account based on the CIA telegram correspondence:

On August 18, 1960 the CIA Station in Leopoldville cabled the DCI: "Embassy and Station believe Congo experiencing classic communist effort takeover government. Many forces at work here: Soviets...Communist Party. Although difficult to determine major influencing factors to predict outcome struggle for power. Decisive period not far off. Whether or not Lumumba actual commie or just playing commie game to assist his solidifying power, anti-West forces rapidly increasing power in Congo and there may be little time left in which to take action to avoid another Cuba." This cable also stated the Station's operational "objective of replacing Lumumba with pro-Western group." Bronson Tweedy, then Chief of the Africa Division of the CIA's Clandestine Services, replied the same day that he was seeking State Department approval for the proposed operation based upon: "Our belief that Lumumba must be removed if possible."

On August 19, 1960, Richard Bissell signed a follow up cable to Leopoldville: "You are authorized to proceed with operation." Several days later the Stanleyville Station reported that a plan to assassinate Patrice Lumumba had been proposed to President Kasavubu by Congolese leaders: "Kasavubu refused to agree saying he was reluctant to resort to violence and no other leader sufficient stature to replace Lumumba."

On August 25, 1960, Allen Dulles attended a meeting of the Special Group - a subcommittee of the National Security Council responsible for planning covert operations. The Special Group "finally agreed that planning for the Congo would not necessarily rule out 'consideration' of any particular kind of activity which might contribute to getting rid of Lumumba." The next day Allen Dulles signed a cable to the Leopoldville CIA Station which stressed the urgency of 'removing' Patrice Lumumba: "In high quarters here it is the clear-cut conclusion that if Lumumba continues to hold high office the inevitable result will at best be chaos and at worst pave the way to Communist takeover of Congo with disastrous consequences for the prestige of the United Nations and for the interests of the free world generally. Consequently we conclude that his removal must be an urgent and prime objective that under existing conditions this should be a high priority of our covert action." Allen Dulles cabled that the Station was to be given wider authority "including even more aggressive action if it can remain covert...We realize that targets of opportunity may present themselves to you." Allen Dulles authorized $100,000 "to carry out any crash programs on which you do not have the opportunity to consult Headquarters." Dulles assured the Leopoldville Station that the message had been seen and approved at a competent level in the State Department. But the Director of Central Intelligence made a special point of assuring the Leopoldville Station that he was authorized to act unilaterally in a case where the United States Ambassador to the Congo would prefer to remain uninformed: "To the extent that Ambassador may desire to be consulted, you should seek his concurrence. If in any particular case, he does not wish to be consulted, you can act on your own authority where time does not permit referral here." "This mandate raises a question as to whether the Director Central Intelligence was contemplating a particular form of action against Lumumba which the Ambassador would want to be in a position to plausibly deny United States involvement. Richard Bissell would later tell the SSCIA that he was "almost certain" that the cable was a circumlocutious means of indicating that the President wanted Lumumba killed."

QJWIN was met in Luxembourg on October 19, 1960, and October 20, 1960, by two Agency officers and was asked if he would undertake a trip to Africa, presumably Dakar. He was not given the true objective of his mission because of its extreme sensitivity and pending a final decision to use him. Instead he was told that the Soviets were operating in Africa among nationality groups, specifically the Corsicans, and he was being asked to spot, assess and recommend some dependable, quick-witted persons for our use. On October 30, 1960, QJWIN was paid 3,500 Belgian Francs. On November 2, 1960 he accepted an offer to proceed to Leopoldville, Belgian Congo. He was informed the mission might involve a large element of personal risk. On June 26, 1963 William K. Harvey noted that some of the funds given to QJWIN during September and October 1960 could not be accounted for. On November 3, 1960, QJWIN was in Paris. On November 6, 1960, he received 15,000 Bfrs. November 11, 1960, 25,000 Bfrs; November 15, 1960, 30,000 Bfrs. In November 1960, Sidney Gottlieb prepared an assassination kit which included a lethal biological agent, hypodermic needles etc., then personally delivered it to the CIA Station in Leopoldville, where QJWIN had been placed.

Even if Patrice Lumumba had canceled that press conference in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) the Argentinean born Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara (a medical doctor by training) would still have grabbed the limelight with this speech he gave on the same day to the Cuban Militia:

This simple celebration, another among the hundreds of public functions with which the Cuban people daily celebrate their liberty, the progress of all their revolutionary laws, and their advances along the road to complete independence, is of special interest to me.

Almost everyone knows that years ago I began my career as a doctor. And when I began as a doctor, when I began to study medicine, the majority of the concepts I have today, as a revolutionary, were absent from my store of ideals.

Like everyone, I wanted to succeed. I dreamed of becoming a famous medical research scientist; I dreamed of working indefatigably to discover something which would be used to help humanity, but which signified a personal triumph for me. I was, as we all are, a child of my environment.

After graduation, due to special circumstances and perhaps also to my character, I began to travel throughout America, and I became acquainted with all of it. Except for Haiti and Santo Domingo, I have visited, to some extent, all the other Latin American countries. Because of the circumstances in which I traveled, first as a student and later as a doctor, I came into close contact with poverty, hunger and disease; with the inability to treat a child because of lack of money; with the stupefaction provoked by the continual hunger and punishment, to the point that a father can accept the loss of a son as an unimportant accident, as occurs often in the downtrodden classes of our American homeland. And I began to realize at that time that there were things that were almost as important to me as becoming a famous or making a significant contribution to medical science: I wanted to help those people.

But I continued to be, as we all continue to be always, a child of my environment, and I wanted to help those people with my own personal efforts. I had already traveled a great deal - I was in Guatemala at the time, the Guatemala of Arbenz- and I had begun to make some notes to guide the conduct of the revolutionary doctor. I began to investigate what was needed to be a revolutionary doctor...

I am pretty sure by now you know all about that Kenyan student who went to the United States of America and somehow contributed to the election of the 44th President of the most powerful country in the world.

Well, guess what?

All those plans for air lifting Kenyan students to the USA were being finalized right around the time I was being born-in a literal sense that is.

For proof, browse this excerpt from a document prepared by Senator John F. Kennedy’s office in August 1960:


In response to letters from Mrs. Ralph Bunche, a director of the African-American Students Foundation (AASF), some 230 scholarships valued at over $1 million were offered for African students by Class I accredited colleges in the United States.
This 1960 program included not only Kenya as in 1959, but also Uganda, Tanganyika, Zanzibar, Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland. About 230 students were selected, and money was raised in Africa from Africans to provide about $1,000 per student for living expenses in the United States.

A. State Department's decision not to finance project
Repeatedly, beginning in November 1959, the State Department was asked to finance the air transportation of this, the largest student travel scholarship program ever to be undertaken in Africa. The chronology of these requests and the State Department's negative responses follows, with full documentation available:
(1) On November 18, 1959, Mr. Scheinman, the vice president of the African-American Students Foundation (AASF), wrote to the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Mr. J. C. Satterthwaite, outlining the program for the 1960 airlift of some 250 students from central and east Africa, and asking for transportation assistance.
(2) On December 10, Assistant Secretary of State Satterthwaite replied saying that he regretted "to have to respond * * * in the negative," and adding that "Perhaps you will wish to send a copy of this letter to Mr. Mboya so that he will not have any unfounded expectations regarding this matter."
(3) On January 15, 1960, Mr. Scheinman wrote to Mr. Satterthwaite asking for reconsideration. No reply was received by AASF.
(4) On June 9, 1960, Mr. Jackie Robinson, on AASF letterhead, wrote to Vice President Nixon asking for his assistance in the matter.
(5) On June 23, Mr. Nixon replied that he was urging the State Department to give the project serious consideration.
(6) On July 7, Assistant Secretary of State Satterthwaite, wrote AASF taking note of Mr. Nixon's interest but advising that it would not be possible for the U.S. Government to finance the air transportation.
(7) On July 13, in an effort to persuade the Department to change its negative decision, Mr. Frank Montero, the president of AASF and Mr. Scheinman, met in Washington with several State Department officials, including Mr. C. Kenneth Snyder, Program Officer for Africa, Policy and Plans Staff, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. After about a 3-hour conference, the Department officers had not changed their position and in fact had given additional reasons why the Department could not be involved in the project. They said the project had gone up to the "top" and been finally rejected.
(8) On July 21, Mr. Mboya telephoned from Africa to express his alarm about the failures to secure transportation for the students. It was decided he would fly to the United States to make a direct appeal.
(9) On July 23, telegrams were sent to all members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee bv AASF telling of Mr. Mboya's trip and asking for appointments for him.
(10) On July 25, Mr. Mboya attended a conference called by the Phelps-Stokes Fund in New York of some 50 representatives of organizations concerned with higher education in east and central Africa. The African airlift program was discussed. Mr. Snyder represented the State Department. Also present were representatives of the Institute of International Education, the Carnegie Foundation, the Foreign Policy Association, the African-American Institute, the American Society of African Culture, the American Council on Education, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Mr. Snyder explained why the State Department was not in a position to support the project: It could not operate on a crash basis, and was limited in its work in colonial territories such as east Africa.
(11) On July 27, Senator Wiley, in response to the telegram requesting an appointment for Mr. Mboya, wrote to Mr. Montero as follows:

I have your telegram requesting an appointment for the purpose of discussing the airlift of 250 African students to the United States this coming September.
After consulting with our State Department, which is not unaware of your problem, I have been advised it does not look with favor on an airlift of foreign students at Government expense. You can readily understand that if an exception were made in one instance, a precedent would be established which would not only be difficult of control but would subject the United States to criticism at home, and abroad by those not so favored. Therefore, much as I approve of encouraging exchange of foreign students, I cannot be of assistance to the Foundation in this instance.

B. The Kennedy Foundation's support of the project
(1) In response to the telegram about Mr. Mboya's visit, Senator Kennedy invited him to come to Hyannis Port. They met on July 26 for a long discussion of the African situation. Mr. Mboya described the great opportunity of filling over 200 scholarships for Africans which was about to be lost because of lack of transportation. He asked Senator Kennedy, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, to intercede with the State Department. Senator Kennedy said that if Mr. Nixon had already tried and failed, he could do little there. He suggested, however, that the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., Foundation might be able to help.
After consulting with the executive director of the Kennedy Foundation, Sargent Shriver, Jr., on the telephone, Senator Kennedy informed Mr. Mboya that the Kennedy Foundation would contribute at least $5,000 and would take the initiative in securing the rest of the funds needed from other foundations, perhaps on a matching basis with the Kennedy Foundation.
(2) On July 27 and 28, and later, Mr. Shriver called a number of other private foundations, including Carnegie, Ford, Phelps-Stokes, Rockefeller, the Institute of International Education, and the Foundation for All-Africa (of which Mr. Robert Kennedy is president). While some of the foundations were interested, none was prepared to move immediately.
(3) On July 29, upon learning that no progress had been made in securing other financing, Senator Kennedy asked that Mr. Shriver be advised that in his opinion, as a trustee of the Kennedy Foundation, the whole project should be financed by the Kennedy Foundation, so that the planes could be chartered and the students could arrive here in time to take up their scholarships in September. Senator Kennedy said that a condition of the grant should be that there be no announcement of it, in order to keep the project out of politics.
(4) On August 5, 1960, Mr. Shriver wrote to Mr. Joseph P. Kennedy as follows:

Last week, Jack met with Tom Mboya * * * up at the cape. Mboya told Jack that there was a million dollars worth of scholarships awaiting students of Kenya in the United States, but that Mboya did not have the money to transport these students to the United States. Jack offered to help in a modest way and asked me to find out if other foundations would be willing to join our foundation in providing money for the transportation of these Kenya students to this country.
While I was in the process of contacting the foundations (none of which were flexible enough to move quickly on this urgent matter), Jack decided he would like us to go ahead with the project on our own.
Approximately $90,000 is required for the transportation since 250 to 350 students are involved, and I am recommending to Jack that another $10,000 be appropriated so that we may have the expert services of the Institute for International Education or the Phelps-Stokes Fund to select the students and make sure they are assigned to institutions in the United States where they are capable of doing a good job.
Over this weekend I will be talking to Jack and presumably getting his final OK. Jack's theory is that we would have no publicity about this matter.

(5) On August 10, in Washington, D.C., the AASF officers, Montero and Scheinman, were informed that the Kennedy Foundation would assure the transportation costs of the student airlift. They were also informed that a condition of the grant was that there be no public announcement about it. They agreed to this. While details remained to be worked out, Messrs. Montero and Scheinman left with the assurance that the commitment was made.
(6) On the same day, August 10, Mr. Shriver invited Congressman Diggs to serve on an advisory committee, which the Kennedy Foundation intended to establish to see that the best possible arrangements were made for the students both in their travel and in their studies here.
(7) On August 12, Mr. Shriver called a meeting for Monday, August 15, at 2:30 p.m. at which final details would be worked out and the advisory committee established, and to which the AASF president, Mr. Montero, would be invited, along with representatives of the Institute of International Education, the African-American Institute, the Phelps-Stokes Fund, the Foundation for All-Africa, and the Ford Foundation. At the time Mr. Montero received this invitation on Saturday morning, and agreed to be in Washington Monday to complete the plans, he says that he had received no indication that the State Department was considering reversing itself.

C. Mr. Shepley's role
(1) On Saturday, August 13, after the Monday plans had been agreed upon, Mr. Jackie Robinson called Montero to say that Mr. James Shepley of Mr. Nixon's office wanted to talk to him. When Montero then called Shepley, Shepley expressed his interest in getting the State Department to support the project. Either in this call or in a call the following day, or in both calls, and Montero believes it was in both, Shepley stated that he knew that the Kennedy Foundation had offered up to $100,000 to finance the airlift. Montero says he neither confirmed nor denied this because of his agreement that there be no publicity, but he did tell Shepley that a private foundation was prepared to finance the airlift. Shepley urged him to let him try to get an offer from the Government and said he would call back the next day. According to Montero, Jackie Robinson, as a member of the board of the AASF, was informed of the Kennedy Foundation decision; Robinson denies he knew any more than that the Kennedy Foundation would give $5,000 and seek to raise the rest from other foundations. Senator Scott's account is that in this Saturday telephone talk Montero related to Shepley "that during the period immediately after the Democratic National Convention the Kennedy people had offered to make $100,000 available for Airlift African, 1960." (Cong. Rec. Aug.17, p.15442.) This is in accord with the Washington Star's article (Aug.14) in which Mr. Nixon's press secretary, Herbert Klein, is quoted as saying that Shepley found out that the Kennedy Foundation was involved on Sunday "when Mr. Montero called him to say the financing had been guaranteed." However he found out, it appears evident that at least by Saturday Mr. Shepley knew of the Kennedy Foundation grant.
(2) On Saturday, August 14, despite his knowledge that the airlift financing had already been arranged privately, Shepley called Montero to say that although he still had nothing firm to offer he hoped the Department would reverse itself before Montero's meeting with the Kennedy Foundation representative on Monday. He said he was taking the issue up with Undersecretary of State Dillon. He made arrangements to reach Montero on Monday before the meeting. Later the same day, Montero and Jackie Robinson talked about the situation and, according to Montero, agreed that it didn't matter who financed the airlift if the students got here in time for school.
(3) On Monday, August 15, Montero and Shepley talked on the phone several times, with Shepley each time saying that he hoped within a matter of minutes to get an affirmative answer from the State Department. During the noon period Shepley called to say that he would speak with Dillon as soon as Dillon finished testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A few minutes later, Shepley called to say that he had been authorized to make a definite offer that the Government would provide transportation costs up to $100,000 for the airlift. He asked that Montero contact Mr. Robert Thayer, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for Cultural Affairs, for further details. Montero said he would talk with Thayer but that there was already, as Shepley knew, a prior commitment agreed upon with the Kennedy Foundation.
Mr. Shriver, as executive director of the Kennedy Foundation, told Montero and Scheinman that they were entirely free to accept the Government's offer. The latter decided that in view of the Government's reluctance about the whole project, the preference of many Africans for nongovernmental support, and the Kennedy Foundation's concern for the interest of the students while in this country, the AASF should not reject the Kennedy Foundation grant. Rather, it should urge the Government to apply the proffered $100,000 to an expansion of its own scholarship program for east and central Africa. (Last year the Government's academic scholarship programs for all Africa amounted to 142 students.)
At the 2:30 p.m. meeting the following persons were present in addition to Shriver, Montero, and Scheinman: Dr. Fred Patterson, of the Phelps-Stokes Fund; Mr. Gordon Hagberg of the African-American Institute; the Reverend Gordon H. Fournier, executive vice president of the Foundation for All-Africa; and Mr. Albert Sims of the Institute of International Education. Mr. Shriver explained that the Kennedy Foundation had decided to finance the airlift and hoped they and Congressman Diggs would serve as an advisory committee to the project. It was agreed that several members of the advisory committee would shortly go to Africa to study the procedures used in selecting students and to accompany the students to this country in early September.
Later Montero called Shepley and Thayer to inform them of the decision. Montero says that Shepley protested their action in "turning down the U.S. Government" and that he implied that efforts might be made by his side to suggest in the press that this was a politically motivated act by Senator Kennedy.

D. Senator Scott's role
(1) The next day, Tuesday, August 16, Senator Scott announced that the State Department had granted $100,000 to finance the African student's airlift. Senator Scott is a member of Mr. Nixon's campaign board of strategy. He has stated that although Mr. Shepley knew of the Kennedy Foundation grant on Saturday, the 13th, and the Department of State knew at least by Monday, the 15th, he (Senator Scott) did not know of it when he made this announcement on Tuesday. Who gave him the information about the State Department's offer or authorized him to announce it, or why such person did not tell him of the Kennedy Foundation's prior grant, is not known. One possible source is suggested by the Senator's references in the text of his release to Jackie Robinson, a strong supporter of Mr. Nixon.
(2) Early on the same day, August 16, Montero informed Jackie Robinson of what had happened Monday and of the decision to go ahead with the Kennedy grant. Robinson read Montero the draft of a column he had written for publication in the New York Post on Wednesday, August 17. The column essentially followed the line of Senator Scott's announcement, mentioning only the State Department's offer and not the Kennedy Foundation grant. It read in part:

Good news is all too rare these days, but on Monday I received a call from Washington which added up to just that. Jim Shepley, an aid to Vice President Nixon, called to tell me the State Department has decided to pick up the tab for the three planeloads of African students which the African-American Students Foundation is bringing over this year to study at American universities.
* * * * *
Incidentally, it is no accident that an aid of the Vice President was the one to call me about this. When I conferred with Mr. Nixon in Washington several weeks ago, one of the points we discussed was this project.
***Shepley was assigned to follow up on the matter, and Monday's phone call was the happy result.
* * * And I congratulate, President Nixon, Under Secretary Dillon and Jim Shepley for the vital roles they played in bringing it about.

After hearing this read, Montero told Robinson that this was unfair and inaccurate reporting. He says Robinson told him he was going to print it anyway.
(3) After Senator Scott's announcement Montero and Scheinman sent a telegram to Congressman Diggs stating that the State Department's "belated offer" was "only made after the foundation, which had repeatedly requested help during the past 12 months and was finally turned down late last month, was successful in obtaining a grant of $100,000 from a private foundation. * * * The fact is the State Department has repeatedly turned a cold shoulder to the airlift-Africa program." They suggested that the funds allocated by the Government should "be made immediately available to other African students on a continuing basis." As agreed upon with Senator Kennedy and Mr. Shriver, they did not identify the Kennedy Foundation.
Congressman Diggs released this telegram to the press with an accusation that the State Department was playing politics by announcing a grant which it knew had been made too late. The Department "showed interest in the matter," said Congressman Diggs, who had tried diligently since 1959 to persuade the State Department to act, "only when their inaction was about to prove embarrassing to the Republican Party."
(4) On Wednesday, August 17, Senator Scott on the Senate floor stated that "since" the time (the previous day) when he had been "privileged" to announce the State Department grant (the day after it had already been turned down), he had "been informed that the long arm of the family of the junior Senator from Massachusetts has reached out and attempted to pluck this project away from the U.S. Government." He said he was "surprised" at the decision of the African-American Students Foundation but he could "understand the pressures brought by the Kennedy people and their anxiety to take over the functions of the Government in advance of an election." He said he was concerned "at the apparent misuse of tax-exempt foundation money for blatant political purposes." He asked why "the Kennedy people" were so anxious to commit themselves to this expenditure "just 1 day after learning of the action of the Department of State."
(5) In reply to Senator Scott on the Senate floor, August 17, Senator Kennedy outlined the facts in this memorandum, calling Senator Scott's statement "the most unfair, distorted, and malignant attack I have heard in 14 years in politics." He said in conclusion:

* * * the Kennedy Foundation went into this quite reluctantly. I am chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa. I think this is a most important program. * * * Mr. Mboya came to see us and asked for help, when none of the other foundations could give it, when the Federal Government had turned it down quite precisely. We felt something ought to be done. To waste 250 scholarships in this country, to waste $200,000 these people had raised, to disappoint 250 students who hoped to come to this country, it certainly seemed to me, would be most unfortunate and so we went ahead.

He urged the State Department at this late date to use the funds "to bring other students to the United States."
(6) On August 18, Senator Fulbright addressed 13 questions to Secretary of State Herter on the role of Mr. Shepley and the Department in this whole matter, asking for answers by Monday, August 22. To the press Senator Fulbright stated that:

If the facts are like they appear to be, I think it is an outrageous distortion of the facts on the part of Senator Scott. If it is true that the State Department was pressured into allocating funds, it was an unacceptable interference with the orderly conduct of our foreign policy by the State Department for partisan, political purposes.

(7) Later on August 18, Lincoln White, Director of the State Department's Office of News, stated that the Department had turned down the African airlift when it was originally proposed early in July because it was confined only to Kenya, because the specific request was for free transportation through MATS, because it felt the project should be conducted through the Institute of International Education, and because there was inadequate provision for the students' expenses in the United States. Mr. White stated that the project had been finally approved after assurances were given meeting all these Department objections. He stated that the Department was informed on Monday that its offer was not accepted, because the airlift had already received private financing.
(8) On August 19, Vice President Scheinman of AASF wired Senator Fulbright that the Department's explanation that the decision was reversed "because we finally met requirements laid down by the Department is patently incorrect because the Department never laid down any requirements at all." Specifically, Scheinman said that the 1960 airlift was never designed just for Kenya alone and that the other countries involved were listed in his letter to Assistant Secretary Satterthwaite on January 15, 1960. Nor was the request ever confined to Air Force transport. Nor had the other alleged objections been met, he said, unless the Department was counting on the support of the Kennedy Foundation for expenses of the students in the United States. Mr. Lincoln White conceded that he had been in error as to the original proposal for 1960 being limited to Kenya. But he insisted that the other conditions had been met, although he would not disclose the source of any such assurances.
(9) On August 19, Jackie Robinson published a second column on the matter, stating: "I don't mind admitting it: I was wrong." He said he would not dispute the account by the African-American Students Foundation that the Kennedy Foundation had already committed itself to support of the full project by the time the State Department offer was made. He stated that "as late as the time my column was written on Tuesday I was not told the State Department offer had been rejected." He did not add that after writing the column but before it went to press Montero had told him this and the other relevant facts refuting the main theme of that column.

You get the idea.

To make sure that there was a complete world wide blackout of the news of the fresh arrival on this planet of the baby Onyango Oloo, the US U-2 spy pilot Gary Powers was also sentenced to ten years imprisonment by a court in the USSR.

On that very day.

Just to pile it on.

This was the day that the Dallas Cowboys decided to have their very first home game ever, thus depriving me of the attention I deserved on that day.

And to add insult to injury, the Cincinnati Reds defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 at Crosley Field on this exact day.

I believe I can rest my case now.

I have been able to demonstrate using extensive documentation the reasons why I was kept out of the Kenyan and international headlines on August 19, 1960.

3.0. Celebration of Birthdays

To tell you the candid truth, the first time I threw a birthday party was in the late eighties when I was living in Canada as a permanent resident.

In my immediate nuclear family we didn’t do birthday parties.

Even though by Kenyan standards we qualified to be called a middle class family in Mombasa, there were just too many of us-four brothers and four sisters- that in practical terms we lived a working class existence while maintaining a middle class social identity.

My dad could take you to the most expensive private school in town (like he did when I did my “A” Levels at H.H. The Aga Khan Kenya Secondary School- called Kensec to distinguish it from the more plebeian Aga Khan High) buy you the most expensive text books and even get you a personal tutor (never needed one).

Try to suggest to him tactfully that perhaps the purchase of a few balloons with a smallish cake thrown in together with one or two candles would be in order a few days before your latest birth date and he would simply shrug it off, explaining how that money would be better used by my grandmother in Gem or to pay for yet another cousin who had just finished school and needed to travel to Mombasa to come and kick me out of my bed.

When I was doing research for this essay (I research everything. If I had to write a piece on why I woke up on the wrong side of the bed on a particular day, I would do loads of research to find out the origins of the curious notion that a bed has a “wrong” and a “right” side to it) I found out the whole idea of birthdays has definite pagan origins- now careful, my Christian pals out there, I did not say “Satanic”.

Anyways, here is one nugget I picked up:

The tradition of observing birthdays started in Europe a long time ago. It was feared that evil spirits were particularly attracted to people on their birthdays. To protect them from harm, friends and family would to come be with the birthday person and bring good thoughts and wishes. Parties and gifts brought even more good cheer to ward off the evil spirits.

At first it was only kings who were recognized as important enough to have a birthday celebration. The working class observed the birthday of a male, but there were no parties. As time went by, women and children became included in birthday celebrations. The first children's birthday parties occurred in Germany and were called Kinderfeste.

Here is another factoid:

As bizarre as that may sound, before anyone started singing "happy birthday to you," it was actually more common to celebrate a person's death than his or her birth. This is just one of many peculiar and fascinating origins of how western culture came to celebrate birthdays.

In biblical times birthdays were a sacred event, but were only celebrated for royalty. The first birthday celebrations took place in 3000 B.C. In ancient Egypt, for example, only the birth dates of male members of the royal court, such as the pharaohs, were even recorded let alone celebrated. Women and children? Forget about it - they weren't considered worthy of notice.

The occasional queen was deemed worthy of having her birthday recorded and celebrated, but sometimes not quite the way they'd hoped. Cleopatra II (yes, there was more than one), a rascal if ever there was one, decided to marry her brother Ptolemy despite the fact, among other things, that she was already married at the time. Worse, she and her new husband had a son. It doesn't take a rocket scientist - or should we say a pyramid scientist - to know that Cleo's little side action would upset her husband. Well, being the nice guy that he is, he decided to throw Cleo a birthday party and gave her a birthday present to boot. Unfortunately, the present turned out to be the dismembered body of her son.

It was the Greeks who started the ritual of a birthday cake and candles. The candles were a tribute to the goddess of the moon, Artemis. The Greeks were actually birthday manic. They celebrated the birthday's of the gods every month. Still, there were no celebrations for women or children. The male dominated society even continued celebrating male's birthdays for years after they died. Some guys will do anything to keep getting presents! The Romans went them one better by starting the custom of celebrating the birthdays of important men and making them national holidays as well.

I think I will leave the matter, having made my point.

You know I was going to include a Section 4.0. in this essay when I suddenly realized that at the rate I am going, I am likely to miss the actual birthday party that some friends of mine have put together for me.

Imagine spending my birthday glued to my lap top writing a digital essay.

Now who would be crazy enough to do that?

Only Onyango Oloo!

To which I say:

Happy Birthday to Me and to all, like Bill Clinton, Tipper Gore, Chris Murungaru, Matthew Perry, Malcom-Jamal Warner, John Stamos, Njeri Mugo, Winny Atieno Obama, Wambui wa Sandra Wanjiku and others who were also born on August 19th.