Saturday, November 05, 2016

Waiguru: A View from Kirinyaga County

A digital essay by Onyango Oloo

People who have been following this particular Onyango Oloo on these blogs, online fora and social media mailing lists over the last fifteen, twenty years know that I have lived a very colourful , if somehow tortured existence, which in some senses, reads like an excerpt from a Nigerian soap opera. 

Incidentally, I never ever watch Nollywood on Citizen, K24, KTN, KBC, NTV or any of those pirated, cheap DVDs readily available in the streets of Mombasa, Nairobi, Kisumu, Eldoret or Nakuru.
And I am not talking about my five years as a political prisoner at Kamiti Maximum or my almost twenty-year sojourn as an exile in the frigid climes of southern Ontario or Quebec.

I mean, if ever I want a whiff or sniff of  

Patience Oghre Imobio, 

Genevieve Nnaji, 

Ini Edo, 

Nse Ikpe-Etim, 

Linda Ejiofor, 

Sylvia Oluchy, 

Omoni Oboli, Belinda Effah, Dayo Amusa, Queen Nwokoye, Tonto Dike, Ufuoma Ejenobor,Adesua Etomi, Klint the Drunk, Ramsey Noah, Desmond Elliot, Van Vicker or even 
Basket Mouth, all I have to is to dip into my very own romantic autobiography which is far more ravishing and melodramatic-and moreover, pure concentrated tropical juice. 

Over the decades, I have had loving and satisfying relationships with Meru radical socialist feminists, Kendu Bay models, Tala hairdressers, Lamu bankers, Jamaican-born, Toronto-based, post-modernist literary dilettantes, Dar es Salaam nutrition consultants, demonic and insatiable Nyeri marathon lovers, Oyugis trade unionists, Kiambu All Africa taekwondo martial arts champions, Cleveland playwrights, Murang’a deep underground political activists, Kisii clinical officers, made in Jonglei dark charcoal Dinka beauties and Kirinyaga  senior  marketing executives. 

Who could ask for a more super-duper existence? 

You simply cannot make this stuff up!

By the way, did I mention that this digital essay is actually about Anne Waiguru, the former Devolution Cabinet Secretary?

The other week I was in Sagana visiting another set of in-laws located in that of the country-like others dotted throughout Kenya as I have alluded above. I was there for almost a week, observing the thriving industry at the Fisheries, sampling the succulent, humungous watermelons at the nearby Kagio market and drinking in gory and macabre tales of the blood-soaked nights of gloom and doom where their vicious feuds between the dreaded Mungiki and the equally vicious vigilantes who hunted down Maina Njenga’s boys and literally executed the young men at the KAgumo in Kirinyaga at a place known ominously as “The Hague”. Locals were nostalgic about the salad days of  the late John Michuki and his Mau Mau era style of state sponsored extrajudicial killings which all but wiped out what they called the “Mungiki menace” bolstered by the gun toting, grenade wielding, red bereted GSU thugs.

In conversations with the villagers, I was struck by the gushing, almost delirious love and hero worship some of them reserved for one person and one person only-Anne Waiguru.

Somebody literally pointed out where Waiguru’s father lived in Sagana-before they moved elsewhere in Kirinyaga.

To some of them, Anne Waiguru was a mugithi queen, an ohangla star; a lipala diva; a chakacha malkia. The fact that she was running for Governor endeared them more to her, with some vowing that if the thy would get away with voting for three or four times without getting caught, they would do it without batting an eyelid.

And their main source of admiration were all those millions upon millions she was supposed to have “liberated” from the Devolution ministry and NYS.

If, like some of them argued, they could propel her into the Governor’s mansion as the next Jubilee incumbent in 2017, the goodies of ugatuzi would finally dawn in Kirinyaga.

Who knows?

She may even end up inheriting Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and finally shut up all those people from Murang’a, Kiambu and Nyeri who had been insulting Kirinyagans for eons as “those primitive Ndia Kairos who used to haul human excrement”.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Jicho Pevu Icon for Nyali MP!

 A Digital Essay by Onyango Oloo

There are a number of superb Kenyan journalists-Alex Chamwada, Uduak Amimo, Anne Mawathe,Musau wa Nzau, Mukalo wa Kwayera,Gitahi Ngunyi, Kwamcheti  Makokha,Tony Mochama, Mohamed Juma Njuguna, Wanjiru Kinoti, Wycliffe Muga, Kevin Mwachiro- this list is not complete; not mentioning a handful of veterans  like  Philip Ochieng’,Mutegi Njau, Njeri Rugene,Dorothy Kweyu , Joyce Mulama, Rose Kweyu  and the late Mitch Odero who have mentored and nurtured the above.

In my opinion, the foremost investigative journalist in the country is 

Mohamed Ali of Jicho Pevu fame- no slag or discredit to the equally courageous and brilliant John Allan Nyamu.

What leaves me in awe about Mohamed Ali is his panache, his chutzpah, his derring do, his speak-truth -to- power party pooper mindset-emanating in turn, from his innate total lack of fear for authority-this all the more remarkable at this juncture in our contemporary history where a plethora of blatant and brazen incidents of callous incidents of criminal police and security sector impunity and other acts of state terrorism recently forced journalists from across Kenya come out in furious mass protest.

I admire his life long love affair with Kiswahili-our official and national language-such is his dexterity and comfort with the lexicon, the idioms, the double entendres with this, the most widely spoken African tongue around the world.

As exhibits in the People’s Court to justify my audacious claim attesting to Mohamed Ali’s stellar status, I hereby reproduce Exhibit A-the 

coverage of the Westgate crisis; Exhibit B-the expose of the 

dastardly plot to snuff out the controversial wheeler dealer Jacob Juma; Exhibit C-the unfrocking of the 

charlatan televangelist Kanyari; Exhibit D-the 

ruthless critique of Jubilee’s so called 2013 poll victory and rest my case having proved beyond all reasonable doubt that Mohamed Ali and his inimitable squad of which John Allan Namu is a crucial part- are indeed the permier investigate team working in Kenyan television today.

Well, the good news is that the Jicho Pevu giga star and pop culture icon has decided to take it to the next level. 

He is gunning to be the next MP for Nyali Constituency in Mombasa County come the 2017 elections.

Enthusiastic residents of Mombasa like 

Onyango Oloo (the ORIGINAL!)  will campaign night and day to make sure that is a reality- for unlike the empty wind bags who can not think  beyond their tribes and the stolen/ counter feight moolah in their ill-gotten swag, Mohammed Ali has demonstrated, week after week in the national living rooms across the country that he is the most qualified people's representative because of his intelligence, his charisma, his articulation and his intimate knowledge of the complex array of the myriad political, economic, social, cultural and other issues. It helps that he is also very easy on the eyes for photographers and knows how to dress.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Philip Murgor: Watch this space!

A digital essay by Onyango Oloo

I am among the almost half a million people who follow Robert Alai on Twitter. So when I saw him announcing that veteran lawyer, former senior prosecutor  

Philip Murgor was running for President, I sat up and took notice. I immediately contacted Philip to ask him if it was true.

I have known  

Philip Murgor for over thirty years.   

We both entered University of Nairobi in 1981-he to the Faculty of Law while I was admitted to the Faculty of Arts. In August 1982 we were among over sixty students who were rounded up and hauled to kangaroo courts on trumped up charges in the aftermath of the abortive coup. The university students- including people like MP Richard Onyonka, the rugby stars Vitisia and Sagala, not forgetting then dreadlocked thespian Kibisu Kabatesi-now a confidant to Musalia Mudavadi-spent over six months in horrid and filthy conditions at the notorious overcrowded Nairobi Industrial Remand Home. Ultimately, because of sustained international pressure and a global human rights outcry they were released and many like Murgor, resumed their undergraduate studies with Philip going on to get his top honours law degree in 1985. A handful of others, like the late  

Titus Adungosi, former ambassador to the USA, Oginga Ogego  the late  

Jeff Mwangi Kwirikia (dad to popular Kenyan music artiste STL) and blogger/activist Onyango Oloo went to receive stiff sentences which they served in full at the Kamiti and Naivasha Maximum Security Prisons.

When I asked him over the phone to confirm what Robert Alai had tweeted,Wait for the official announcement David” was Philip’s response using the first name I used to go by when I was younger. 

His coy answer was poignant in that he did not disavow his bid for the top elective office in the land- just that he would tell us himself when he was good and ready.

Still, the mere prospect excited. Here was someone around my age, someone of my generation, someone I ate half cooked ugali and weevil infested maharagwe with saying:

Let’s do it!

More importantly here was a man whose integrity I could vouch for.

Given his stellar marks in law school, Philip Murgor could have easily gone into lucrative private practice after his pupilage at the prestigious Hamilton, Harrison and Matthews firm. Instead he opted to be a poorly paid state counsel in Kisumu- in effect, bucking the elitist trend by choosing to be a public servant. Although he did set up his company in partnership with his wife in 1992, a decade later, the Mwai Kibaki appointed him the Deputy Public Prosecutor- without soliciting for or applying for the job!

Unfortunately, his diligence and no nonsense approach to fighting criminals was to prove his undoing. After two years on the job- because he was determined to collar and incarcerate the politically connected, deep pocketed thugs behind a high profile cocaine case, powerful insiders in the Kibaki administration schemed, in much the same way that saw the forced exit of anti-corruption czar John Githongo, Philip Murgor was fired from his job.  You can read more about the cocaine story by visiting this link  , this other one and this one. You can also get a first hand account from this Daily Nation interview he did in 2013.

The good thing about being incorruptible is that you can walk openly in public with your head held high because every night you go to bed with a clear conscience. Philip Murgor simply went back to what he had been doing before- running a successful law firm and raising a wonderful family.

People close to him intimate that Philip is focused on slaying four dragons- the behemoth of corruption; the monster of tribalism; the scourge of inequality and the contagion of impunity.

 Is he up to the task?

Well, as the main said, wait for the official announcement.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Happy Birthday to Someone I Know Well

I turned 56, today, Friday August 19, 2016.

Happy birthday to me, David Onyango Oloo.

It was not always obvious I would live to see this day-and for that I say thanks.

I could have died in a hail of GSU bullets on Sunday, August 1, 1982, when as a very naïve first year University of Nairobi undergraduate I was among a throng of enthusiastic students trooping past the police headquarters fists shaking, arms waving, screeching pambana! power! at the top of our young hope filled lungs.

I could have passed away at Kamiti Maximum any year between 1982 and 1987 when I was incarcerated for “exciting sedition and disaffection against the Government of Kenya by law established”.

Who knows? I could have gone the way of Githirwa wa Muhoro, my fellow political exile who died in Toronto in February 1994; Mwakudua wa Mwachofi another comrade who died in Wisconsin in July 1996; Kariuki wa Gathitu, Gupta Thiong’o, Njuguna Mutahi, Bantu Mwaura or many of the dozens of my friends and comrades who have rejoined the ancestors in the intervening decades.

So once again, I am grateful to be alive today to celebrate my fifty sixth year on planet earth.

Two and a half weeks ago I was at the open grave where a beautiful, ever smiling intelligent twenty-three-year-old third year Moi university student was being lowered to her final resting place having finished her battle with leukemia. 

Linda Oloo-

my niece, daughter of my younger brother was given a very teary, fond farewell  by my sisters, cousins, aunties, uncles and other relatives, while her two sisters were crying their hearts out, writhing on the red lateral soils of Luanda Dudi village, determined to depart to the afterlife with Linda while their father Washington Oloo, stood stoically, clutching a cross and a bunch of flowers, waiting for the inevitable mound to cover the casket  of his beloved second daughter lying next to our father, our sister and two brothers, Linda’s mother and sister who proceeded Linda.

Last week my mother-no, not my biological maternal parent who was claimed by breast cancer on December 9, 1980, but the eighty-two-year-old mother of my first cousins Ayieko, Okello, Adhiambo, Oloo, Mudhune, Akumu and spouse of my late father’s late eldest brother Omole was interred in Yala, Gem

I still cannot forget 

how she wailed and sobbed, weeping uncontrollably, with her daughters, my late mother’s brother Walter Ombiro Wandolo and my father’s youngest sister Joyce Ohwenya next to her on that cloudy day in November 1982 when her nephew David Onyango Oloo was whisked off by baton wielding askaris to begin his five-year sentence.

So today is kind of sour and bitter because just yesterday I received a text message from Opondo Kakendo on the outskirts of Sega, Ugenya that his thirty-four-year-old son was found near Ukwala murdered by unknown thugs. I spent years at Kamiti with Opondo who was an ex-military man jailed by the Moi regime in the aftermath of the abortive coup.

Still today just underscored the under ending cycle/circle that is life.

I was musing the other day with my younger sister, the Durban based Janet Okeyo ruefully as we recalled the birthday parties we never had or knew from our doting father and devoted mother- parents who would rather put us in the best schools, buy us the most expensive text books rather than throw away good money on something as frivolous as a birthday bash. Tomorrow we are converging at my youngest sister’s Ruth Awuori’s house in Donholm where my siblings are throwing a delayed dinner bash for their big brother’s fifty sixth earth day occasion.

I am mighty glad that I am still a militant radical and committed socialist today. I did not go the way of other former Marxist-Leninists who are today disciples of 

Fukuyama and 

Reagan worshippers of

Spivak Chakraboty and 

Michel Foucault at some post-modernist pagoda, dreaming of evolving into Kenyan versions of 

Dangote and Buffett.

I am proud that Jukwaa- the online discussion platform that I founded eleven years ago and the Kenya Democracy Project, Masharikki, Kenya Sizzle and the plethora of blogs I started in WordPress, BlogSpot, Tumblr, Google + and other social media places are still going strong.

Offline I still hold fast to the activist web mail provider 

Rise Up which exhorts all of us to get off the internet and spill on to the streets.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Arrest the Culprits Behind the Nairobi Floods!

 a digital essay by Onyango Oloo in the Kenyan capital

Our deepest condolences to the families, relatives, friends and associates of all those who died, were injured or lost their homes and/or other property at Huruma. Our hearts also go out to to those Nairobians who lost their lives or were in in way or another caught up in the ongoing floods.

While it is certainly true that in one way or another, this was a natural disaster and an unfortunate accident, there are things which could have been done  differently to prevent  needless loss.

Indeed, Kenya is not alone in undergoing such tragedies.

We know what the people of Ecuador, Japan and many countries around the world go through from time time.

Last year, there were floods which affected different parts of  South India like Coromandel Coast ,Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh,the union territory of Puducherry, with Tamil Nadu and the city of Chennai (formerly known as Madras) particularly hard-hit. More than 500 people were killed and over 1.8 million people were displaced,with estimates of damages and losses ranging from nearly US$2 billion to over US$15 billion.

But there were very many man made causes to the floods in India.

According to Sunita Narain, the director of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) think tank,  the  floods in the Chennai metropolitan region were the direct result of unregulated urbanisation. He said:

"Our urban sprawls such as Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Srinagar, etc., have not paid adequate attention to the natural water bodies that exist in them. In Chennai, each of its lakes has a natural flood discharge channel which drains the spillover. But we have built over many of these water bodies, blocking the smooth flow of water. We have forgotten the art of drainage. We only see land for buildings, not for water."

According to research conducted by Centre for Science and Environment , Chennai had over 600 lakes in the 1980s, but a master plan published in 2008 showed only a fraction of them to be in a healthy condition. State records have shown the total area of 19 major lakes shrank from 1,130 hectares in the 1980s to around 645 hectares in the early 2000s, reducing their storage capacity. Drains carrying surplus water from tanks to other wetlands have also been encroached upon, while city storm water drains are clogged and require immediate desilting. Chennai has only 855 km of storm water drains against 2,847 km of urban roads, resulting in flooding after even a marginally heavy downpour.

Yesterday afternoon,(Saturday April 30, 2016) I was having lunch at the Chiromo Club with a few of my scholarly egghead pals who are distinguished Kenyan specialists in mechanical engineering, urban planning, architecture, physics, political science and other disciplines at the University of Nairobi. I was arguing polemically, ignorantly as it turned out, that Nairobi  is a very poorly planned city. They promptly corrected me, pointing out the Kenyan capital is one of the most rigorously planned metropolitan areas on the African continent, with a history going back to the 1930s and 1940s. One fascinated me with the multitude of underground rivers running through Nairobi.

The problem, they pointed out was in the IMPLEMENTATION Of the plans. So is that why we were witnesses to speculators and land grabbers erecting malls in wetlands in Westlands, putting up  illegal apartments in Clay Works, Kasarani and  stealing school grounds to build hotel parking lots in other areas of Nairobi.

I concurred with their  overall collective assessment- we could not discount the  Corruption Co-Efficient on these seemingly "natural" disasters involving collapsed buildings and urban floods.

Clearly after  Nairobians have come the churches, mosques, temples, pagodas, synagogues and traditional shrines commiserating with the victims of Huruma and the Nairobi floods, they should exhort Boinett, Tobiko and Nkaisserry to redouble their efforts to investigate, apprehend, prosecute and incarerate the handful of politically co9nnected fat cat criminals behind the recent outrage.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Kenyan Homage to a Global Musical Prince

 by Onyango Oloo

Kenyans of  a certain age, like their contemporaries around the world, have a reason for floods of tears flowing, spasms of weeping and profound sadness.

I am referring especially to those of us who were in our teens and our early twenties in the late  seventies and early  eighties.

Everyone dies; we all expire; we all get buried at some point.

But the passing of Prince Roger Nelson at 57 on the day Queen Elizabeth turned 90 after more than sixty years on a the throne sounds awfully like a cruel, weird prank.

For now we pay tribute to the  genius who gave us Signs O' the Times, I Wanna Be Your Lover, Purple Rain and Why Doves Cry.

Media reports tell us that Prince was cremated at a private ceremony  attended by family and friends.

We have been told by virtuoso versatility of the multi-talented singer-songwriter who played a gazillion instruments; of how he sold more 100 million records in a career spanning 50 years.

In the past, Prince like his contemporary Michael Jackson, was stereotyped by the mainstream press as some kind of a freak especially when he changed his name to

Many people unaware of the politics behind the name change, simply freaked out at
 Why did he write the word "SLAVE" on his cheeks?

After the success of his 1991 album “Diamonds and Pearls” (1991), Prince signed a contract worth 100 million dollars with Warner Brothers to produce six albums. This led to a long legal and creative tussle concerning ownership of Prince's entire catalogue which Warner Brothers claimed it owned the body of work the artist had produced for the company. In frustration, Prince declared his artistic persona dead reverted to using a symbol as a name and calling  himself a slave. In his own brilliant way, Prince was saying "fuck you" to Warner Bros- because it was now difficult to exploit his name, The two only made up in 2014 when they resumed a working relationship which allowed Prince to gain back the ownership of his releases on Warner Bros.

Over the last ten years Prince has been fighting  other parts of  the multi-billion music industry to ensure  his creative work is protected- he even sued a mother for posting a video of her son dancing to a Prince song on YouTube. In 2014 the artist filed suit against 20 people whom he claimed violated his copyright protections by either posting his songs online or by participating in file sharing services that posted his music. The complaint sought $1 million in damages from each person.After those accused of violating copyright in the cases mentioned ceased their activity, Prince dropped the cases.

More recently,  according  to  a new story, Prince, along with other artists such as Taylor Swift, began demanding that online retailers and streaming services pay better royalties to the artists whose music they play. In 2015, Prince pulled his music from most online vendors, opting to deal exclusively with Jay Z’s service, TIDAL.

In terms of his politics , some people claimed that Prince as  a "Republican". He was raised as a Seventh Day Adventist and he later became a Jehovah's Witness.But to get to the artist's politics, let us look at his ACTIONS. He released the tribute song “S.S.T.” in September 2005 to raise funds for Hurricane Katrina victims. It went to No. 1 on the then-fledgling iTunes charts. Prince was active both publicly and privately in the Black Lives Matter movement. He worked with the Rev. Al Sharpton, donated money to Trayvon Martin’s family and legal fund, and threw a concert in Baltimore whose proceeds went to youth groups. He also wrote and performed the song “Baltimore,” decrying the police violence and systematic racism in the city. And finally, to make it a Black Lives Matter trifecta, he said this at the Grammys: “Like books and black lives, albums still matter.”

Visit this  link to see  the political content of Prince's lyrics over the years.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Maurice White Rejoins Ancestors

A tribute from Nairobi by Onyango Oloo

This is a question I am posing to my fellow Kenyans.

Who was the leader of a  globally famous soul, funk group;   bandleader and producer of most of

  Earth, Wind and Fire's albums;

Who earned legendary status winning six Grammy Awards out of a staggering fourteen nominations, an NAACP Hall of Fame Award, a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame and four American Music Awards and the sale of over 90 million of the group's albums worldwide?

He was born in 1941 and died a couple days ago in early  February 2016.

Since I was a teenager in Mombasa in the 1970s  I can positively answer that question.

Those were the days when the internet was largely unknown in most of the world.

Kenya had only one main radio station-run by the government.

It had a Kiwahili  channel and the English language "General Service".

These were the days of Leonard Mambo Mbotela,  Elizabeth Omolo, Abdul Haq and Mick Ndishu. Musically on the local scene people like  John Mdichu, Slim Ali and the Hodi Boys, Gabriel Omollo and Apollo Komesha, Daudi Kabaka,  Habel Kifoto and the Commandoes, Sukuma Bin Ongaro, Kabila Kabanze and Mangelepa, Samba Mapangala and Les Kinois reigned supreme.

As far as African-Americans went, this was the  heyday of Millie Jackson, Roberta Flack, Marvin Gaye, Cameo, Fireside, Side, Donna Summer, Aretha Franklin, the Commodores, Bootsy Collins, George Clinton and Parliament to name just a few.

And yes, teenagers like myself who went to Mombasa Baptist High School and Patrick Mukholi of Lenana School in Nairobi  followed Earth ,Wind and Fire avidly.

We knew standards like standards like


Boogie Wonderland



Today we mourn the untimely passing of one of the main faces of the band-Maurice White- yes we knew he had a brother called

Verdine and another one called

Fred and that

Phil Bailey was the other main vocalist.

To find out more about Maurice, go to this link.

It is a  sad testimony that today's Kenyan teenagers with access to Google,  Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, iTunes and Netflix do not know what is happening in their own town, county or county leave alone other cultural events. They may have heard fleetingly of  Niki Minaj, Justin Bieber and Rihanna through some accident.

But in our day- when we used to pen university undergraduate essays with Biros and heard never heard of YouTube, we  were  better informed.

And it was not just about pop culture.

We could talk about the Sandinistas in Nicaragua with some intelligence and we  knew about Steve Biko in South Africa and the  poet Kim Chi Ha from the Korean peninsula. We could discuss questions to deal with the world's political economy and could debate the feminist ideas of Angela Davis, Germaine Greer and Simone be Beauvier. We knew where Ben Bella had been  born and what Ho Chi Minh did for national liberation. We had read the Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born and  seen local theatre productions of Waiting for Godot. And we  could tell you where Bob Marley lifted the lyrics of  War from.

Today many of  the Kenyan youth spend their time on the internet surfing for hard core porn or  hurling  tribal abuse at strangers even though most of them can not put a coherent sentence together in their own mother tongue.

What  a shame.

Rest in Peace, Maurice White!  

Many of us miss you already.