Sunday, August 29, 2004

Reading the Toronto Dailies on a Montreal Afternoon

A Short Story by Onyango Oloo

Inspired by the following real life incident:

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Twenty seven minutes past twelve on a sweltering Quebec summer week day.

A mild panic hits as he realizes that he has to be at President-Kennedy & University in less than half an hour.

Over here on the third floor of a McGill office building it is muted bedlam.

All day, indeed all week, fresh faces, mostly Caucasian, from Boston, Calgary, White Plains, New Haven, Toronto, Windsor, Vancouver, Winnipeg and elsewhere have been floating in and out of the office.

Dozens of new university students, it would appear, are those who want to give the mainstream Frosh a wide berth- it is heartening to find out each year that not all first year McGill students are driven to distraction by alcohol fueled fantasies of sexual bacchanals and cheap beer orgies in the Ghetto, the Plateau, Mile End, Cotes des Neiges, Place St. Henri, the NDG and other enclaves that students in this four campus town (McGill’s cousins are Concordia, UQAM, Universite de Montreal and Sherbrooke) roost in during their undergraduate domicile in Montreal.

The mainstream Frosh organized the main students society, like other orientations/rite of passages in campuses all over North America is rife with disturbing and persistent anecdotes of date rapes and similar unsavoury nocturnal happenings…

He works for an organization that has been on this campus for at least 15 years; a group that is a network of campus based social justice and environmental action organizations that were first inspired by a Ralph Nader speech in Waterloo (home of Research in Motion and a thousand other techie whiz kids) way back in the mid 1980s.

For the last two years they have been calling their Frosh, “Radical Frosh”. For years they dubbed it “Alternative” Frosh until that term was co-opted by everyone from weed addled fiendish rock DJs to neo-conservative Ayn Rand junkies. The “radical” in the Frosh denotes a conscious political attempt to orient incoming students to a militant social justice consciousness.

A glance at this weekend’s program says it all:

Organizing against police brutality; rethinking globalization; walking tours of working class neighbourhoods; Indigenous Rights 101; Food Security and Veganism as a Lifestyle Option; Power and Privilege for Student Activists…

He is the facilitator for the last named workshop and in fact right now he is tapping out the last paragraph of a scenario he wants to use in the role play after the power flower exercise for his session with the “froshers” happening on Sunday.

Another glance at his watch tells him he has to abandon the scenario right there. Dashing down the stairs(ironically his employer is not wheelchair accessible, in spite of railing for disability rights) he remembers what Manjit Singh, the coordinator of the action group fighting a Canadian mining multinational in India told him: just walk down University up to Sherbrooke, turn right on Aylmer and you should see the Delta right there. Try the Sherbrooke entrance, but you may have to go down to President-Kennedy because that is where the lobby is.

On his way, he passes more faces that ruefully remind him that summer is indeed over and the new school year is lurking around the corner ready to pounce forward next week.

Here he is already inside the Delta and it takes him a few minutes to find out that he is not only looking for the floor above him but that there is more than one trade union function taking place. A couple of burly but friendly labour organizer types tell him politely that he is hovering around the wrong room- Manjit Singh is presenting the video to the union’s international solidarity committee over on the other side of the building, just past the restaurant.

He finally locates the room, and Manjit is almost half-way into his presentation.

But he has not come for the presentation.

Instead, he has come to meet Ben Richards, a veteran Canadian socialist who has been with this union for over thirty years and is somewhat famous for having written a classic history of the South African trade union movement way back in the 1970s.

For almost half a year they have been playing telephone and email tag between Montreal and Toronto over the possibilities of a joint labour research project in one of the east African countries. As soon as Manjit’s video ends, he sidles over to Ben’s side who tells him to leave a message at his Delta hotel room number so that they can hook up later to discuss the proposal before Ben flies back to Ontario.

Mission accomplished, he bids bye to Ben and exits from the room. Since he is looking for Sherbrooke, he walks north down the corridor past the lobby instead of going up one flight and onto the street. He soon discovers that there is no real exit that way and so he turns around heading for the main entrance and lobby again. On his way, he notices a newspaper rack on his left with some complimentary National Post copies for hotel guests. He helps himself to a free copy-even though he is neither a guest nor a particular fan of the rightwing broadsheet that was unloaded by the Lord formerly known as Conrad Black to the media mogul no longer living called Izzy Asper.

The headline immediately grabs him.

A 45 year old Black man in Toronto, holding a 20 year old Black woman as a hostage was shot dead the previous day after a dramatic stand off which saw the Black man try to murder his wife with a sawn off shotgun and later a brutal beating in public in the middle of Canada’s busiest subway and railway hub.

He is reading that newspaper on the street and he does not even realize, until he is walking up Parc that he turned EAST on Sherbrooke, instead of left and that he was walking up Parc rather than University. Past the Provigo supermarket he decides he may as well take his lunch break now so he strolls over to the food court just below Cinema Avenue du Parc, just north of Milton.

Plopping down on a seat directly in front of a television showing 3 Black men in US attire take the 1-2-3 in the 400 metres at Athens, he requests the kindly looking lady to give him both a glass of water and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice plus a menu. He orders something to eat and even by the time it comes, his mind is no longer on Parc, on the food, or even Montreal.

He is on a mental flight across the Atlantic, traversing thousands of miles and going back years into time past.

He is thinking of the two Black women who were almost killed by the Black man and he is also thinking of his own sister, Black like him, who was killed by another Black man in Kenya- a man she happened to be married to at that time. And the immediate thought is that even he, a Black Man in Montreal, would NOT have hesitated to pull a trigger on that Black Man from Ajax who wanted to kill those two Black women in Toronto yesterday.

The paper in front of him is all blurry, because his eyes are welling up. He does not realize until she speaks that the kindly lady has been standing next to him trying to find out whether he is enjoying his meal. He nods, or rather shrugs, because the food is virtually untouched. She takes one look at the headline and gently snatches the paper away from him, pushing it to the side.

Eat, she says, come on, eat; do not let it bother you; read the paper later; right now, just eat, the food is very good, I made it myself…

Something in her- she looks like a southern European but she could be easily Lebanese or Moroccan Jewish, for all he knows-maybe it is those soft, almost sad eyes-something about her makes him blurt out that the incident triggered painful memories of how his own sister was killed by her abusive husband before her 33rd back day back in his “home country” of Kenya about five years ago.

She nods sympathetically, but does not utter a word.

He stabs absently at his food with his fork, eating an isolated morsel every few minutes. He actually decides to dash over to the Metro grocery store and buy a copy of the Globe and Mail even though it is getting on in the day. He comes back to his seat and apart from the stuff he had already seen in the Post he notices for the first time details that bring the dead Black man to life: he had worked at the Bay for almost 25 years before being laid off and becoming a carrier delivering the Globe to homes; the man had just been released from jail after spending a month there following a domestic incident when he threw his wife down the stairs and held a knife to the neck of his daughter; on the day he was released his wife filed for divorce, citing a long history of battery including repeated death threats….

Today the abuser was a dead man, executed by a sniper in Toronto police uniform.

In the papers they described a teary eyed old man shaking with sorrow as he relayed how he had watched his son being gunned down on national television.

Back in the restaurant below Cinema Avenue du Parc, a flurry of questions floating around the head of a Black man whose sister had been killed by another Black man:

Would the Hostage Taker in Toronto be a dead man today if he had been a White Man instead of a Black Man?

If the police sniper could aim at the Black man’s head why couldn’t he aim at his hands and disarm him?

Does a police bullet between the eyes prevent another man, Black, White, Brown,Yellow,young, old from assaulting another woman of any race in Toronto?

He thinks of the woman in Montreal who suffered so much from a stalking ex partner who the police ignored because he was one of them.; he thinks back to the late 1980s when the Toronto police caught and released the Scarborough Rapist twice- released him because, with his blue eyes and blond hair he was too much the boy next door to be the monster in the media- until Paul Bernado graduated into a grisly killer who raped, taunted and tortured his teenage female victims before killing them. If Paul Bernado had been of Jamaican or Haitian extraction, would he have met a different fate?

True, Toronto felt safer this afternoon with the Black man transformed by a police gun shot into a dead man; but was this not just another episode in the open hunting season against men of colour in this city where the police have a long history of shooting Black men?

For a very long time he just sits there, with all these conflicting emotions and thoughts shaking him up.

Finally he pays his bill, tips the kindly lady handsomely and walks over to the pay phone to make one long distance call using his phone card before going back to work.

He is calling Kristina Mwasi, a Kenyan woman he has known for many years. Kristina works in a shelter for battered women.

After the pleasantries he asks her about the story on everyone’s mind.

To which she simply says:

“May he rest in PIECES. The only reason why his wife is alive today is because his gun JAMMED and he MISSED when he FIRED DIRECTLY at her. All I know is that today that woman and her daughter are glad that THEY ARE NOT the bodies in cold storage. Last night a woman walked in here all bloodied and bruised. That woman is convinced that her husband will find her and kill her.”


Saturday, August 21, 2004


A Play in 3 Acts

By Onyango Oloo

© Onyango Oloo 1995

[PUBLIC ADVISORY:This is a play about RAPE. Mature subject matter. Coarse language. Graphic depictions.Some incidents in this FICTIONAL work may be disturbing and even traumatizing to certain individuals. Discretion is advised-author.]

SETTING: Toronto, Canada, early 1990s

Dramatis Personae:

CHELAGAT: a Kenyan political exile in her late twenties;
ODHIAMBO: a Kenyan political exile in his early thirties;
ZUHURA: a Canadian citizen in her mid thirties who was born and raised in Kenya
RAHMAN: a Canadian landed immigrant in his early forties who grew up in Mombasa
SHARON: a Trini-Canadian domestic assault counsellor
CAROL: a Jewish-Canadian lawyer



As the curtain rises, a giant Canadian flag slowly descends. A deafening rendition of O, CANADA!.


Hearing Room No.15 of the Immigration and Refugee Board.

A table with 6 microphones and a tape deck. 3 thermos flasks and several clear plastic cups around the table.

On the right, 2 IRB PANEL MEMBERS. Facing the audience, THE REFUGEE HEARING OFFICER. Opposite him, the CLAIMANT'S LAWYER. Next to the lawyer, THE REFUGEE CLAIMANT.

The PANEL MEMBERS, THE R.H.O. AND THE LAWYER all have larger than life masks. With the exception of the LAWYER, all the masks are identical.

The hearing into the REFUGEE CLAIMANT'S claim is conveyed through mime. It ends with the PANEL ruling that the CLAIMANT is not a genuine refugee.

There is an order that the CLAIMANT be detained immediately pending deportation from Canada.

4 IMMIGRATION GUARDS march in and grab the CLAIMANT who is dragged kicking and screaming off stage.

The LAWYER watches as the CLAIMANT is carted off to the Celebrity Inn Detention Centre.

The LAWYER leaves the stage with his arm around the R.H.O.

O, CANADA! floods the room as the scene ends.



[DARKNESS.LIGHT. A group of African women enter performing a traditional dance. The spotlight follows CHELAGAT as she dances to "Our Song", a ballad which chronicles the struggle for freedom in Kenya.]


Yes, we refused to follow their foot steps leading Kenya to the edge of a gaping crater. And for that, here we are, scattered all over the world. Go to Stockholm, to Oslo, to London and Baltimore and you'll find us. We are in Tanzania, in Uganda, Zimbabwe, India and Yemen, far away from our mothers because we are all working for a new tomorrow to dawn in Nairobi. We came to Canada with hope only to be repelled with the insecticide of racism and prejudice. The Anglo Saxon refugees cowering from us in Rosedale, Oakville and Markham see in our black faces yet another wave of alien scum landing to pollute the land of the maple leaf with yet another variety of stinking meat curries.

(Enter a man with a mask and a typical Anglo-Canadian accent.)


I'm sorry but did I hear you say Kenya or Somalia?


No. I am not a Somali. I am not from Mogadishu.

(Enter a woman with a mask and a typical Anglo-Canadian accent.)


Do you come from...


No!I am not a granddaughter of Emperor Haile Selassie the First!


Are you...


No sir. I am not a South African. I am not a card carrying member of the African National Congress.


But wait a minute! There is no civil war in Kenya! We thought the drought was in Mauritania! Wasn't that Liberia they were showing on the News last night? O God! Africa is such a confusing place! Everywhere it seems, from north to south, east to west women and children are dying like flies from starvation and black tribalism! What could have happened to Kenya, the one sane place left on that mad continent? We always thought Kenya was an island of stability in a very turbulent sea of African chaos.


Didn't the Queen herself fly over to Nairobi to personally hand over independence to Mzee Jomo Kenyatta in 1963? What is wrong with these people? Correct me if I am wrong but I thought Moi was right there along with the NATO allies during the difficult and triumphant days of Operation Desert Storm. Anyone running from Kenya must be a communist, an Islamic terrorist, a drug addict or a pervert.


They know more about our country than we Kenyans ourselves. Their Kenya, their Africa, is populated by fugitives from Out of Africa who live in the Flame Trees of Thika. Their Kenya is a Kenya I have never lived in.

Enter a North American tourist complete with cameras, maps, sunglasses and a colonial cap.


I've been to Kenya three times. I loved the safaris at the Amboseli National Park. The wild primitive dancing at the Bomas of Kenya. But I especially adore the animals. Kenya's got wonderful flora and fauna. You should come over to my house in Bayview to see the videos and slides we shot. Big handsome hunky elephants. Gorgeous lions. Cute chimpanzees. Sexy zebras. Tall exotic Maasai men. Full breasted Giriama women gyrating and ululating to the vigorous rhythms of the famous Sengenya dance...

Enter young woman reading the Toronto Star


Paul Simcoe has just come back from an exciting holiday at the Kenyan coast. He has fond memories of the fun times at Salt Lick Lodge in the Taita Hills. He particularly relishes the day he caught sixteen giant tilapia fish while snuggling on the back of the friendly hippos from the nearby lake... And there was the night he took a break from civilization to wrestle with the dazzling beauties who prey on their Western victims at the world famous Sunshine Day and Night Club in the exotic Indian Ocean city of Mombasa....


Well Paul, we Kenyan women whom you bump into on your annual sex safaris are perhaps too friendly for our own good. Were you at the Sunshine Day and Night Club the night they killed Njeri? Do you remember Monica Njeri? Monica, a single mother from Kiambu was forced by Reaganomics Moi style, to the Mombasa meat market to lease her body to the groping hands of Japanese, European and North American seekers of the African orgasm. In return for a few francs and a couple of kronor we are expected to do S&M tricks even with your dogs. It seems like only yesterday, that night in 1980 when Njeri was picked up by that All American marine boy, Sundstrom. He wanted her body as a toy for the night. After huffing and puffing he was deflated for the night. But then like so many before him and since, he refused to do the one simple thing that had made Monica endure all his childish indignities. He refused to hand over the ten or so dollars which was the price they had agreed upon. He completely refused to pay and an argument flared up. She asked him to leave her room and went to the toilet to go and wash off his filth from her body. Behind her back the All American marine boy sneaked into her handbag to steal the few shillings left in her purse. Monica caught him red handed and she flew into a rage screaming obscenities at him to leave immediately. Red faced, Sundstrom took out his big sharp knife, grabbed poor Njeri and stabbed her over and over again. In the morning they found her, belly ripped open, drowning in her own blood with her entrails spread out all over the cement floor of the boarding and lodging room. Later, Sundstrom emerged from his hideaway in the nuclear destroyer docked at Mtongwe to appear in a Simi Valley trial in Mombasa.[Slides show old Kenyan newspaper clippings and pictures of the trial.] The British expatriate judge was so moved by the testimony of Sundstrom's wonderful mother and hard working father who came all the way to Kenya from far away middle America... The judge was so moved by the character of this strong, upright Christian boy who had always dreamed of serving his great country... The judge was so convinced with the mitigating circumstances of this case that he set Sundstrom free on a 500 dollar peace bond.

A slide projector shows images of American soldiers in the Middle East, Vietnam, Somalia and Kenya. In the background we can hear "Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones . Pictures of Third World women. The finale image is just a slide covered from top to bottom with the colour red. "Satisfaction" plays over and over again until it finally fades off...



[CHELAGAT'S apartment. It is a neat bachelor. On the wall are posters depicting African, Middle Eastern, Latin American and First Nations struggles. A bookcase full of magazines, books, audio cassettes, compact discs and videos. An 18" colour TV. A tiny short wave radio. An old Mac computer sits on a small table. Two chairs, an African stool and a reading lamp. A futon which doubles as bed and sofa. Kenyan music in the background. A big NO SMOKING sign. CHELAGAT and ZUHURA are sitting on the futon. RAHMAN is on the stool leafing through a recent Society magazine from Kenya.]


Things are really happening at home! Sometimes when I listen to the news or read the papers I can't believe it is the same Kenya that I left four years ago.


It is not. Two years ago who would have dared to play anti-government music full blast in an overcrowded matatu?


Imanyara exposing tribalism. Odinga calling for a government of national unity. Rubia and Matiba challenging Moi to a public debate on multiparty democracy...


And Wangari Maathai, standing dignified and strong against the KANU big wigs...Wangari, defiant Kenyan womanhood personified... Wangari, denouncing them for their shameless attempt to erect a 62 storey monster in Uhuru Park. But we forget, we always do, the tens of thousands who were not interviewed by the London Observer and the New York Times, the nameless teenagers who are the first to sniff the tear gas and feel the rungus of the GSU.

[In the following exchange between Zuhura and Rahman, their body language contrasts sharply with the seemingly hostile bantering.]

I saw Kamau Kuria the other day on the MacNeil\Lehrer News Hour, listened to him narrate how he hid at the American embassy after the Saba Saba pro democracy rally.


Isn’t that funny? Today it is the Americans who are "leading" the fight to restore democracy in Kenya. It was just last week that they were training the special branch goons of Nyayo House. These Americans! But as we say,"bendera hufuata upepo", the flag follows the wind.


I know the Americans are not perfect but I don't think you are being fair. America has been supporting Moi because whether we like it or not, it is a fact that Moi has been the most consistent defender of Western interests in Eastern Africa. Look at the Marxist tyranny in Ethiopia, the clan anarchy in Somalia, the ethnic cleansing in the Sudan, the guerrilla madness in Uganda, and the Ujamaa confusion in Nyerere's Tanzania. If you were Reagan, Bush or for that matter, Thatcher, who would you support?


Am I glad that not even a miracle would ever transform me into Reagan, Bush or for that matter,Thatcher!


Come on, with all its faults, America has been the leading beacon of change and champion of democracy around the world. Look at Russia. Albania. Poland. Czechoslovakia. If it wasn't for the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, the Berlin Wall would still be standing between the East Germans and their freedom in the West.


You mean the freedom to roam the streets of Frankfurt unemployed, window shopping on empty stomachs? Or you mean the freedom the Aryan youth of Berlin and Leipzig now have to firebomb the hostels of immigrants and refugees from Turkey, Mozambique, Bosnia and El Salvador?


Zuhura, let me ask you something. Why is it that with you even ordinary conversations degenerate into sterile ideological debates?


Every commonplace remark hides an ideological assumption. Five years ago, before I even thought of moving in with my ex boyfriend here in Toronto, I used to live in the Bronx right in the core of the Big Rotten Apple. Living in the New York projects is worse than sleeping in a trench in the Mathare shanty town back in Nairobi. The crime. The drugs. The trigger happy cops. The racist thugs on the streets. Racists in the stores, racists in the night clubs, racists everywhere. All those years living underground without papers, staring at an empty fridge twenty days out of thirty. Sneaking into the subway penniless dropping dimes instead of tokens...Bravely boarding a bus hanging on to a crumpled transfer long after it expires, hoping to flash it past the redneck driver...Crossing your fingers, praying you never fall sick in a country which does not recognize universal health care. Going to college by day...Washing mountains of dishes and cleaning acres of office space by night... All this in a country which brags about being the land of the free and the home of the brave. Don't tell me about America The Beautiful. I am more familiar with Malcolm X's Yankee nightmare...

[Chelagat serves masala tea with mahamri buns]


Here, have some of this.


What did you put in it? I know there is ginger and cinnamon.


Oh. Cloves. Cardamom. Mint. Mace. Other stuff.


Did you make the mahamri yourself?


No. I bought them from that new Swahili donut shop in the east end. You two are always jumping on each other. Sometimes it is hard to believe we are all on the same side, fighting for democracy in Kenya.

RAHMAN (with an ironic smile)

Are we, all on the same side, fighting for democracy in Kenya?


At least we all agree that Moi must go.


To be followed by what? Communism???!!

[A persistent ring followed by loud thumps.]


There is someone at the door.

[She goes and looks through the peep hole. Slowly unlatches the door.]


Odhiambo! You were here yesterday! Surely you know that the bell is still new. You don't have to knock down the walls to enter my apartment.

ODHIAMBO [out of breath]

I've just been speaking to Hamadi's room mate. He went to see him last night at the Celebrity Inn Detention Centre.


How is he?


He is being deported on Friday.


That gives us only three days!


Saidi said Hamadi is in very bad shape. His right arm is broken.


What happened?


They tried to force him to sign a statement claiming that he had agreed to go back home voluntarily. He refused. Remember Robertson, remember him from the last time we went to bail out Kamau and Mutiso in Mississauga? Robertson called Hamadi an African monkey who was being taken back to his jungle home. Hamadi kicked him in the balls. That's when the three other guards began kicking and punching Hamadi. He can't remember exactly when his arm was broken but he is pretty sure it was Robertson who did it.


Are you sure about all this? I am a true African and even truer Mswahili and I know that we can be very, very creative with the truth. After all, this is Toronto, Canada.

ZUHURA (very angry)

Rahman can you shut up! I am sick and tired of you putting down your own people! Why do you always do this? I have never seen somebody filled with so much self hatred as you!


Who are you to speak about what I know and feel about my own community! Tell me about Somali customs and traditions...


I am not a Mswahili but...


You are one of those land grabbing Kikuyus!


Actually, for your information, I am a Luo.


So what? Luo Kikuyu, Kikikuyu, Kijadholuo, who cares? It doesn't matter. All you Muslim hating, Swahili dharauring people from up country think you can just come to Mombasa and other parts of Pwani and grab whatever you want! Do you know how many Luos were hired at the Ports when Moi made Okundi Managing Director of KPA?


I know that I too, don't qualify, being a Kalenjin from Baringo Central, Moi’s own back yard. Rahman, I won't be surprised if you accused me of taking part in the so called ethnic clashes. But don't you think it is rather childish to be wasting precious time on these backward tribal arguments when a Kenyan is languishing in detention?


From the way Rahman is talking one would think that Hamadi poked himself in the eye and broke his arm over his own knees to get a little extra attention.


Which flight are they putting him on?


We don't know yet. He told them he'd rather die in Canada than be sent back home to face Moi's terror. That's when they told him he was a suicidal nuisance. One of them was laughing as he told Hamadi that they would give him medication so that he could not disrupt the comfort of the other passengers on the flight back to Nairobi.


They what?!


Hamadi has refused to eat.


What about his lawyer?


Nowhere to be seen. Yesterday he was in court all day. According to his secretary. He has not returned any of our calls.


How about the Amnesty people?


Kate Shields who looks after the East African cases told us that there is very little Amnesty can do for somebody once the Refugee Board rules that a claimant has no credible fear of prosecution.


What do they want? Should we arrive at Pearson International Airport with fresh gun shot wounds? Or do they want a two hour video tape of the Nyayo House torturers doing the third degree?


I think Amnesty has tried their best. Let's give them some credit. For God's sake we have to know who are our enemies and who are our friends! Why are we always whining about discrimination? Amnesty can't go beyond their mandate.


Look at you, making excuses already for their dithering!


Frankly,I think there is very little that even we can do.


So what should we do? Throw ourselves off the CN tower in despair?


Let's call a meeting and see what the Kenyans in Toronto think.


That's a rather tall order. You expect all these people to agree with each other just because they come from the same country? If at home Luos don't see eye to eye with Gikuyus and Watu wa Pwani resent Watu wa Bara, what makes you think that they will agree to come to a meeting about a refugee claimant they don't even know? Besides, are you inviting the York University and U of T students as well? Half of them are the sons and daughters of ministers and permanent secretaries!


There is only one way of finding out who will come to the meeting. Let's see how many will show up. We have to start calling them right now. And we have to get a place. Remember that place on Spadina and Bloor? The Four Twenty Seven. There is a Caribbean sister who works there as a wife assault counsellor. Sharon Persaud. I met her last month at the solidarity benefit for Cuba. She is very good. I am sure she can help us book the place and link us with some good doctors. Hamadi must be examined by a doctor before we can do any public action.


She has dreadlocks doesn't she? I saw her in the Share newspaper leading the protest against the police shooting of Sophia Cook.


No. Not her. You are talking about Malaika Manley from the African People's Defence Committee.


Why do these Jamaicans call themselves Africans? I wouldn’t want to be mistaken for a Jamaican. These people and their drugs. No wonder the police are always shooting them.

CHELAGAT [grabs Rahman by his collar and shakes him VIGOROUSLY]

Listen Rahman! This is not the time to deal with your usual narrow minded garbage! We have someone in detention who might be deported any day from now!


Like I was saying, Sharon is a very good sister.


I'll go and see her first thing in the morning.


Try her in the afternoon. With all these provincial government cutbacks they can only afford to pay her part time. I'll phone some lawyers.


I can handle CKLN, CIUT and CHRY. Odhiambo, why don't you add Share,METRO WORD, the African Times etc to your list for tomorrow?




We must do the big media as well. I have nothing against all those tiny community radio stations and papers you just mentioned but what is the use of talking to three listeners for eight minutes on a Thursday night?


Why don't you work with Zuhura on a press release? You can then fax it to the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, the CBC, CTV, NOW, Maclean's... You name it...


And we must not forget all those community and solidarity groups. Rahman can we work on these ones as well?


Yes and we can get Wamalwa, Njoroge wa Ciku and Kathini Kavisi wa Mbingu to help. They volunteer for half the groups in Ontario.


I'll go and see Dan Heap tomorrow. He seems to be the only Canadian MP with a moral backbone when it comes to standing up for refugees in this country. Jamani, there is no time to waste. My God! Look at the clock! It's one thirty already. I have to throw you folks out.



[Winter. Outside CHELAGAT's apartment which she now shares with ODHIAMBO. We can hear their voices as they argue and shout about sharing the housework. The sound of furniture and kitchen utensils crashing and breaking. ODHIAMBO slaps CHELAGAT, who screams. A door opens and slams. CHELAGAT hurriedly puts on her winter coat and stomps off with a Kenya bag over her shoulder. Moments later ODHIAMBO comes out of the apartment to throw out CHELAGAT's TV which is shattered beyond repair. He slams the door. Our eardrums are almost shattered when ODHIAMBO plays Lingala music at full blast.]



[Inside ZUHURA's apartment. It looks like CHELAGAT's except for the furniture and the African textiles on the walls and the carvings on the fridge and table. She does not have a TV. ZUHURA is busy at the ironing board with walkman headphones on her ears. From time to time she goes over to the stove to check the food. At first she can not hear the banging on her door. It gets louder. She takes off the headphones.]


Who is it?

CHELAGAT (from without)

It's me.

ZUHURA (opening the door)
Karibu Ndani.


(She takes off her coat and hangs it carefully on the rack next to the door and puts her boots on the mat)

Ahsante. It is freezing out there.


They said the wind chill factor would make it minus eighteen. What are you doing in Etobicoke at this ungodly hour?

CHELAGAT(sitting down wearily)

I should have called. I just found out as soon as I got to our place that I had locked myself out.


Is Odhiambo still doing that night job?


No. The temp agency sent him there for only a month. The Alliance for Employment Equity chose him as a delegate to yet another conference. He is in Vancouver for this seminar on Visible Minority Workers And The Canadian Trade Union Movement. Another talk fest funded by the provincial government in British Columbia.


When is he coming back?


I expected him yesterday but he called last night to say he would be in over the weekend.


Something to drink? Sorry I only have hot chocolate.


Thanks a lot. Don't worry, I'll fix it. Want some too?


Sure. Open the last cabinet and look in the left corner of the top shelf.

[CHELAGAT starts preparing the drink. ZUHURA stops ironing, walks over to CHELAGAT and holds her by the shoulder from the back, turns CHELAGAT around and looks her keenly in the eyes.]


What's wrong Chelagat?



You look very down to me.


Just tired. Shuffling boxes in a factory is not fun.


No less stressful than being a legal secretary. If it wasn’t for the recession I would have quit a long time ago.



Have you been crying?


No! It's just my allergies. Living near the Gardner Expressway and Lake Ontario does not help either.



What's that swelling on your temple? There is a nasty bruise on your left arm.



Oh... I... slipped and fell. Didn't see the ice when I got off the streetcar. This is the second time I have landed on my butt this winter...


The hot chocolate is ready.

[She takes out the mugs and pours a drink for ZUHURA and herself.]


So how are things between you and Rahman.


OK, I guess. Rahman still goes for physiotherapy. They don't know whether he will ever walk again.


And that Canadian driver went scot free.


Surprise, surprise.



Remember how surprised we all were to find out you two were seeing each other?


On the other hand, who didn't know that you were stroking Odhiambo?

[They both laugh.]


Rahman is a great lover. I mean before the accident. But he still drives me bananas with his tongue!


You mean tongue lashing you over your position on Thailand and the Virgin Islands?

ZUHURA (with a chuckle)

You'd be surprised over the number of positions we agree on when we are all alone. The Rahman you know is so different between the bed sheets. What's up with you and Odhiambo? Still fighting over the dishes?


I wish you wouldn't make it sound so trivial. Odhiambo is a wonderful comrade. I just wish he wasn't drinking so much. And yes, things would be much better if we both did our share of housework. We both come home after eight thirty yet he still expects me to cook and do the dishes. It's a battle to get him to take out the garbage on Wednesday night.


But Odhiambo is so advanced compared to Rahman around women's issues. He is always helping out during International Women's Day and taking on his friends for using words like "bitch","mankind" and "postman".


I wish every day was International Women's Day. And there is more to sexism than just chauvinistic language. It looks guys are injected with this virus even before they climb out from their mothers.

[The phone rings. ZUHURA answers it. Puts her hand over the receiver.]


It's for you. Odhiambo.


(She picks up the phone. Listens for about a minute.)

Can you stop bothering me? Why did you call here? Who told you I was here? I hate you! I hate you!

[She bangs the phone angrily and breaks out into uncontrollable sobbing. ZUHURA takes CHELAGAT in her arms and comforts her.]


Don't worry Chelagat. Everything will be OK. You will be fine. Everything will be OK.

[CHELAGAT is now weeping openly, loudly. ZUHURA holds her tightly wiping the tears away from CHELAGAT's eyes.]



[Inside SHARON PERSAUD's office. Prominently displayed on the walls are posters with captions like: "Wife Assault- It's A Crime" "Break the Silence", "End The Violence Against Women". Sitting in a triangle facing each other are CHELAGAT, ZUHURA and SHARON.]


And I was telling her that if it had been me I would have left the guy after the very first beating.


But you see Zuhura, I am not you.


What I don't understand is how you can take all this crap. You have always been the strongest among us. You have been the core of our movement in Toronto. You have taken on the Kenya government. You have taken on the Canadian state. You don't take nonsense at work and you don't let landlords push you around. Why can't you just dump him?


I am not some kind of superhero woman OK? Besides I am actually in love with this guy. He is a pig when it comes to housework and all that but he has so many other good qualities. I can handle the shouting and the cursing because I do that too. I only wish he wouldn’t hit me. And he only does that when he is drunk.


Stop making excuses for him!


Chelagat, under the law, any assault on your person is a criminal offence which should be immediately reported.


It is not that simple. You two don't see where I am coming from. Do you know what would happen if I called the cops? Sure they would come and arrest Odhiambo. I would then be forced to testify against a comrade that I have done so much with, both personally and politically. I just don't see myself being the star prosecution witness who will earn Odhiambo a few years in the Don Jail and a one way ticket to Nairobi after that. It is not going to be me.


A true comrade should never have to resort to violence to win an argument.


This is about power and control. Abuse never gets better it gets worse, unless there is some intervention.


Maybe if he sought help with his drinking problem then he wouldn’t be so violent.


Chelagat, for once stop and think about yourself! Why is it that women are always thinking about taking care of others and neglect their own needs?


I am an African who was raised to think of the good of the community. I have been a political activist for most of my adult life. I have always struggled against the individualism borne of this selfish Western culture.


You forget that I was born in the Caribbean where we have the same community values. Before you become anything you are first and foremost a person, an individual.


I am not really in the mood for an academic debate. I came here to seek your help.


That's what she is trying to do! Whether you look at yourself as an individual or as a community activist the fact remains that you have to deal with this abusive relationship right now.


Perhaps you should go to a shelter for a while.


I will never do that!


So what do you want us to do?!


Why don't you want to go to a shelter?


I don't need some patronising advice from some white woman gloating at the spectacle of yet another Third World victim. I can almost hear her: "Isn’t that terrible what he did to you? Those kinds of things never happen here in Canada.."


I told you about my ex husband. You get no whiter than Alexander Campbell's family. Seventh generation Canadian of English stock. Family owns a car dealership in Don Mills. Alex is a chartered accountant. We met in New York and he fell in love with me. Or that's what I thought. He came across as very liberal and open minded. A member of Green Peace. A volunteer with the Toronto Anti-Apartheid Committee. Subscribes to Mother Jones. Listens to CIUT and watches PBS. We even adopted an Ethiopian child through World Vision. All that did not stop Alex from beating the living daylights out of me. I remember how he threatened to withdraw the immigration sponsorship if I left him. I tell you, boys will be boys will be boys whether they are white, black, brown, yellow, red, green or blue.


Chelagat, look at me. I am from the Caribbean and I work here as a wife assault counsellor. Not all shelters are run by white middle class women. You can go to Shirley Samaroo, Ernestine's or Nellie's.


I still want to try and work things out with Odhiambo before I consider going to a shelter. Things are bad but not out of control.


Are you waiting for him to bash your face in before you do something about it?


Come on Zuhura, it's Odhiambo we are talking about. Not Jeffrey Dahmer or some serial killer for God's sake!


I don't think there is anything more we can do. It's your life. All the same, why don't you take down these numbers just in case something does happen. You never know.


Don't say I didn’t warn you. Like I told you, my place is your place. You don't even need to call.


I guess we better be going.

[ZUHURA and CHELAGAT leave SHARON's office.]



Early evening at CHELAGAT's apartment. She is at home, busy at the computer. From time to time she picks out a book from the shelf for reference. After a few minutes, Odhiambo comes home. He takes off his jersey and jacket and throws them on the floor. He walks all over the carpet with his wet boots. Goes to the fridge and takes out a beer. Walks over to the phone to order a pizza.


ODHIAMBO pops in a Tracy Chapman CD into the music system . He goes to the fridge takes out another beer and forgets to close the fridge door properly. He picks up the remote and increases the volume. CHELAGAT looks up from her work but does not say anything. ODHIAMBO gets up again, goes to the table where CHELAGAT is working and picks up an old magazine which is lying next to the computer. He goes back to his chair. CHELAGAT pauses to go and put the kettle on and make some coffee. She prepares two cups. Puts one in front of ODHIAMBO, who ignores her. CHELAGAT resumes her work at the computer. The CD ends and ODHIAMBO puts on a Bob Marley album. He increases the volume when it gets to Redemption Song. CHELAGAT again looks up, this time with obvious irritation but she still does not say anything. Goes back to her work. ODHIAMBO goes to the fridge for another beer. He opens the beer with his teeth and the froth overflows on to the floor. He does not bother to mop it up. Plunks in his seat and continues listening to Bob Marley. CHELAGAT finishes what she was doing exits from the program, switches off the computer and replaces the books in the order in which she found them. She goes to the sink, washes her cup, picks up ODHIAMBO's untouched coffee pours it down the drain and puts away the cups to dry. She wipes the table and mops the floor where the beer spilled. She goes into the bathroom and we can hear her running the water and brushing her teeth. She comes out in her kimono ready to retire for the night. She switches off the light by the kitchen and goes to sofa/futon. She looks at ODHIAMBO indicating she would need his help to make it into a bed. He ignores her. She struggles with the futon. Finally it is transformed into a bed. She gets out the sheets and the duvet. She gets an extra comforter which she places on one side of the bed. She gets into bed and covers herself.


Your mother wrote you a letter.

[CHELAGAT does not say anything.]


She says that things are really bad at home. A loaf of bread is now fifty shillings.

She wonders what devil it was who possessed you to get mixed up with a Luo like me.


Odhiambo! You have started going through my mail!


You two thought that you were being quite clever writing to each other in your language. You forget that I was born in Eldoret and went to school at Kabarak.

Give me that letter right now!


It is inside that new Society magazine.

[There is a buzz at the door. ODHIAMBO opens the door. It is the pizza delivery person. ODHIAMBO pays him and starts wolfing down the pizza at the door. CHELAGAT gets up from the bed to retrieve her mother's letter. She reads the letter two or three times before putting it away. For a long moment she sits up on the bed staring ahead of her in deep thought. Finally she gets into bed. ODHIAMBO finishes eating and leaves the pizza box on the table. He switches off the light and then gets into bed. In the darkness we can hear both of them twisting and turning. The fumbling and groping of hands and rustling of bed sheets. Tossing and turning, CHELAGAT grunts with obvious disapproval.]


Odhiambo, I'm not in the mood OK?

[We can hear her moving away from ODHIAMBO. After a few minutes, ODHIAMBO jostles closer again, trying to fondle CHELAGAT.]


Odhiambo! Can you please leave me alone?! How can you even think of sleeping with me when we have been fighting for the last week?


Chelagat, I'm really sorry... I don't know what I should do about this terrible temper of mine. Why don't we just forget about all those bad things?


What do you take me for? Some kind of a fool or something? You think you can give me hell the whole day and then expect me to open my legs for you to fuck me at night? You must be joking.


Besides, you are not even wearing a condom.


How many times must we go over this? You know perfectly well that I am not seeing anybody else. You know that I have never been one to sleep around.


You are making the dangerous assumption that I ever believed your stories in the first place. That is not even the point. Here we are in the nineties and I still have to persuade a self declared revolutionary that safer sex is the way to go.

But why are we even wasting time over this? The furthest thing from my mind right now is sex. I am trying to find some sleep.


Chelagat you know that I don't have AIDS. Even before I went to prison I used to live a very disciplined social life. Just ask the comrades who knew me at the campus.


So when did you start drinking? And did you live a disciplined life in prison as well?


Chelagat, what are you trying to say? Are you suggesting...


You were in Naivasha prison for all those years. You are only human. Don't tell me you were wanking off by yourself all those years. You must have craved for some punani.


Ooh Oh! So! What a twisted filthy mind! I never thought I would live to see the day when I would hear something like that from you of all people. How can you even suspect me after we have been living together for this long?


Odhiambo, sex to me, is not a crime whether it is outside or inside prison walls. What I am trying to say is that having lost so many friends to AIDS I can no longer assume that anyone is safe including myself. I am going to the Hassle Free Clinic to be tested next week. Like I told you last week, I am serious. You are not getting anywhere near me without a condom. And for the last time, as for tonight, condom or no condom, you are not sleeping with me!


(enraged, he punches CHELAGAT, who screams)

So that's why! That's why you treat me with so much madharau. You think I am a bloody homosexual hiding in the closet. You don't think I am man enough for you? Well I'll show you tonight that I am a full blooded African MAN!

[There is a vigorous struggle as ODHIAMBO tries to rape CHELAGAT.]


Odhiambo you are hurting me! If that's all you want please stop twisting my arms and squeezing my breasts. I'll let you do whatever you want. Just stop hitting me please.


Hurry up you bitch!I am going to give you a lesson you'll never forget! So you think I am gay?! Let's see if a fucking faggot can do to you what I am about to do!

[We can hear ODHIAMBO breathe heavily as he tears off the clothes from CHELAGAT. We can also hear the wheezing, grunts the thumps and the thrusts...CHELAGAT is sobbing. Suddenly, a frightening blood curdling scream. It is ODHIAMBO. CHELAGAT jumps up and runs out of the apartment.]


(Writhing in agony, he fumbles to switch on the light.)

Uuuuuwiiiii!!! My stomach!! What have you done to me Chelagat?!! This woman has destroyed me!

[We see ODHIAMBO clutching his abdomen with a puddle of blood at his feet.]




[A donut shop in Toronto's east end. About a dozen Kenyan men in their twenties and thirties are huddled over coffee tables talking excitedly.]


I tell you! I don't know what I would have done if somebody did that to me...


Ali was saying that she almost cut it off.


It must be all this Lorena Bobbit thing on television. I am sure that's where she got the idea from!


She is lucky it wasn’t me! A woman could never get away with that in my case!!!!!!!!


That's why I am importing direct from my sweet home in Nyalgunga. You can't trust any of these Kenyan women here in Canada even if they are from back home. Drunk with dreams of equality! When things are good you think you have a nice Kenyan woman in your arms and then one day you wake up to find this feminist monster sleeping in your bed. You can't trust any one of these filthy double crossing creatures.


Call me old fashioned but I am letting my old man handle all the arrangements. My fiance is from a good family and there will be no question as to who is the boss when she gets here.


Chelagat has been charged with aggravated assault.


I can't wait for the trial to begin next week. She must be taught a lesson. Imagine what kind of example she could set for our women here. She has ashamed all Africans in Toronto.


And yet Chelagat has done so much for us. if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here today. Do you know how many times her telephone has been disconnected because of long distance calls about human rights violations in Kenya? I have seen her in every demonstration against Moi. How many people from the President's own tribe are prepared to work for his downfall? Chelagat is usually the first one to sign a petition or post bond for someone detained by immigration. Who knows more refugee lawyers than her?


Why did she have to be such a fucking crazy feminist bitch?


I always had problems with the way she tries to look like a man, speak like a man and dress like a man. She is so beautiful. Why doesn't she put on a skirt like a proper lady. Somebody told me that she is a secret lesbian.


Now we are all agreed that Kenyan women these days are brainwashed but what you are saying is absolute nonsense. These are the 1990s not the 1890s!


Well guys, I have to go. I am on night shift this week.


I am on night shift every week. At home !

[Several of the men scatter. The rest chatter on.



[ZUHURA is in SHARON's office.]


Who is this lawyer you were telling me about?


Her name is Carol Blackman. She has a very good record. Remember the Margaret McKenzie case?


You mean the woman who took the Etobicoke fire department to court for not hiring Canadian women as fire fighters?


She helped Margaret get a handsome settlement. She is also involved in the appeal against the Thibbadeau decision.


It sounds like she has more experience in civil matters.


All I know is that she is a strong feminist lawyer. And that is what Chelagat needs right now.


Does she take legal aid cases?


Of course. Do you want to try other lawyers?


No. Why do you say that?


It's just that I was beginning to get the impression that you don't really like Carol?


What's wrong with you this morning Sharon? Can't I ask you a question without you thinking I don't trust your judgment?

[SHARON reaches out and gives ZUHURA a long affectionate hug. For a few minutes they do not say anything.]


It's been a nightmare ever since they arrested her. I remember that night when she showed up at my place with the bloody knife in her hand and the fire in the eyes. But she was not afraid. She was not happy. But then she was not sad either. She said she just came to tell me what had happened. She insisted on calling the police. I tried to persuade her to leave town, tried talking her into going to stay with my friend in Vancouver for a while until things cooled down... She wouldn’t hear of it. She said she had done nothing wrong, nothing to be ashamed of. Before I could say another word she was dialing 911... Oh my God! What an experience! I have never seen so many cops in one room at the same time. Uniformed police, detectives in street clothes, the special guys from the SWAT team... Firefighters stumbling over ambulance drivers... And I don't know how City TV and the Toronto Sun got there so fast... The worst part was when they pinned her against the wall and searched her for weapons... The handcuffs.. I just could not bear the sight...

[ZUHURA breaks down and sobs.]

SHARON [still comforting ZUHURA.]

Chelagat will be alright. Don't worry. We'll see this thing through to the end...


[A court room in downtown Toronto. It is packed with spectators and the media. A judge. A prosecutor. A jury. CHELAGAT is in the prisoner's dock. Her lawyer is skimming through a thick law text as the prosecutor makes his final submissions.]


Your honour the crown had the burden of proving that the accused assaulted the complainant, Odhiambo Otieno, causing actual bodily harm. We have attempted through our witnesses and the introduction of material evidence to discharge our burden of proof.

Your honour I believe the crown has successfully discharged its burden of proof.

We have the recorded testimony of the accused herself. In that document, which the accused wrote herself after being advised of her rights there is a direct admission of guilt.

The accused goes into graphic details to show how she planned and carried out this heinous act on the unsuspecting complainant.

She states, and we quote her: " I took the knife to bed with me. I was determined to teach him a lesson if he dared to touch me that night. I stabbed him the moment he tried to penetrate me by force. I had been waiting for this moment. My only regret is that I cut him in the abdomen. I wanted to chop his ding dong thing off."


Your honour, those are the words of a cold, calculating, diabolical and violent felon. This was not a crime of passion. This attack did not occur on the spur of the moment. It was no accident.

No amount of abuse would justify the callous way in which the defendant took the law into her own hands.

Your honour, she is no victim who deserves your pity or mercy.

All that Chelagat Sabina Chepchumba deserves is to be punished to the full extent of the law.

Members of the jury, you have seen the demeanour of the accused. She has shown no remorse.

She has not denied that she took a sharp knife and deliberately ripped open the belly of a man who thought of her as a lover and a companion.

Members of the jury, we urge you to return the only verdict which is consistent with the law and with the facts. That verdict is "guilty as charged."

Your honour, members of the jury the prosecution rests its case.

JUDGE [Motions to Carol Blackman to make her submission]


Your honour, members of the jury this case is about aggravated assault. It is a case about violence. It is a case about a cold premeditated crime.


The only problem with this case is that the wrong person has been charged. It is not my client Chelagat Sabina Chepchumba who should be on trial. She is not the one responsible for perpetrating an act of violence on a defenceless human being.


Your honour a crime has been committed and it should be punished. Justice must be done and seen to be done. Members of the jury there is somebody who is guilty of the offence of aggravated assault.


That person is right here in this room. Your honour, members of the jury, it is not my client who should be standing trial today. The real culprit is the complainant.


It is the complainant who is guilty of systematically assaulting my client. My client has medical records showing a history of physical abuse at the hands of this man.

Members of the jury, you heard the testimony of Sharon Persaud, a respected wife assault counsellor affirming and verifying the horrible psychological nightmare that my client has had to endure at the hands of this man.

You heard from Chelagat herself testifying how this man raped her and put her life at risk by sexually assaulting her without even bothering to use a condom.


Your honour, members of the jury, is this not assault? Does her pain count less? What is rape if it is not one of the worst forms of physical assault? Why are we
here today trying a woman who was at risk at the hands of this brutal monster?


Members of the jury, it is our submission to this court that Chelagat was a victim at the hands of this man who has the nerve of prosecuting somebody he had so shamelessly degraded and abused.

Your honour it is our submission that Chelagat is a victim suffering from the Battered Women's Syndrome.


[Chelagat who has been impassive throughout the trial breaks into a sudden shout.]



[Several people gasp in shock. There is a murmur throughout the court room.]


Order! Order!


Your honour can we go on a five minute recess so that I can consult with my client.


I will grant that request on condition that we resume the submissions and finish this case.

[Brief recess. Carol Carol can be seen talking animatedly to Chelagat who keeps shaking her head vigorously. An obviously flustered Carol tears at her hair in frustration. She goes back to her desk, collects her books and files and waits for the judge to reenter the court.]


The court is now in session. Counsel, have you conversed with your client?


Yes, your honour.


Are you prepared to continue with the case?


She is your honour.


Can you finish your final submissions counsel?


Actually your honour, I am afraid that I cannot proceed.


I don’t think I am quite following you counsel.


Your honour, during the recess I had the occasion to talk to my client. She told me that she objected to being classified as suffering from the Battered Women's Syndrome. I explained to her that this was a key element of the defence's case. I emphasized that her actions could not be explained or justified without reference to the Battered Women's Syndrome. She persisted in her belief that she was not a victim of the Battered Women's Syndrome. I made it clear to her that I would be unable to continue with my final submissions without such a key plank in my arguments. Your honour, I have done a great deal of research (pointing to the heap of files and books on her desk) on this subject and I was going to cite case law and precedents to support my arguments. I was going to demonstrate how the facts in this case fitted similar circumstances where the courts have ruled in favour of the accused in cases where domestic violence could be proved to have been a factor. Your honour I was going to recommend that the accused be acquitted subject to psychiatric assessment and treatment. I had explained the gist of my strategy to my client and there was no objection. I am therefore surprised and disappointed at this turn of events. Your honour, I have given the best legal advice to my client. She has chosen to disregard my expert opinion. Under the circumstances, I have no option but to withdraw forthwith from this trial. Your honour, I would like to apologize for this inconvenience to the court. I deeply regret it.

[With that, she scoops up her files and books and exits the court after a brief bow.]


[Everybody seems to be talking at once. Rustling of feet. The media people in the court are feverishly jotting down notes.]


May the accused stand up.

[CHELAGAT complies.]

Chelagat Sabina Chepchumba.


Yes, your honour.


You have heard what Ms. Blackman has said.


Yes, your honour.


Did you understand what she had to say?


Yes, your honour.


Do you realize the full implications?


Yes, your honour.


Do you wish the court to grant you more time to retain another lawyer?


No, your honour.


Are you then prepared to proceed with this case without legal counsel?


Yes, your honour.


Are you sure? Do you need some time to reconsider your decision?


No, your honour.


Can we then proceed with your final submissions immediately?


No, your honour.


Miss Chelagat Sabina Chepchumba, did you not, a minute ago, indicate to this court that you wanted to go ahead with the trial without a lawyer?



Yes, your honour. But I have only one small request that I want the court to grant me.


What is that request Miss Chepchumba?


Can the court give me five minutes to prepare my submission?

JUDGE (relieved)

The court hereby is going on another five minute recess to enable the accused person finish final submissions for the defence.

[COURT RECESS. The same excited chatter from people in the room. After five minutes the Judge calls the court back in session]

The court will now hear from the accused who has opted to act in her own defence.


[Standing up. She looks dignified, calm and in control.]

Your honour, members of the jury, I stand here before you accused of assaulting Odhiambo Otieno causing him actually bodily harm. In a few minutes you will pass judgement on me.

The main facts are not in dispute. I stabbed Odhiambo Otieno in the abdomen. He required medical attention. I called the police and gave myself up. I wrote a statement in which I admitted that I had assaulted Odhiambo. I was charged with
committing a felony contrary to section... of the criminal procedure code. I am here before you today awaiting judgement.

What is in dispute is the characterisation of my actions and what motivated me to do what I did.

I reject the image painted of me by the prosecution.

The notion of me being a cold, calculating felon is as ridiculous as it is monstrous and false.

I have been living with Odhiambo Otieno for four years. I have been madly in love with him for three of those four years. This mad love blinded me to the gross abuse that I had endured at the hands of Odhiambo. This man who was supposed to be mylover, my comrade, my best friend tortured me in a way familiar to most of the women in this room.

I had to cook for him, wash his clothes for him, clean up after his mess every single time.

I had to have sex with him every time he felt like having sex with me, no matter whether I was in the mood or not. If he felt like having sex with me five times in the night I would have sex with him five times in the night. If he felt like having sex with me at 7:30 or 8 O'clock in the morning before I went to work I had sex with him at seven o'clock in the morning. If he was in the mood for action at six o'clock in the evening when I had just arrived from work we would have to do it then.

On the other hand, if I wanted to have sex and he was not in the mood then I would not have sex. If I wanted to do it a different way, in a different style he would stick to the missionary position.

In the meantime Odhiambo used to beat the shit out of me whenever we had an argument. What were our arguments about? They were about what some of you may call " the little things". You know, so called "trivial matters" like doing the dishes, sweeping the floor, not leaving the toilet seat up... throwing out the garbage.. If I asked a question like "Odhiambo, why didn't you take the garbage out last night?" I would get a tongue lashing about how I was always nagging him when he had more important things to think about.

Two of my ribs were broken by Odhiambo three months ago. Last year he knocked out one of my teeth. I have a scar on my chest from the time I cut myself on a broken beer bottle during one of the many beatings I endured. Odhiambo has tried to literally choke the life out of me on two occasions. A year and a half ago I miscarried after Odhiambo kicked me in my belly because I did not have dinner ready and had pleaded with him to stop drinking.

The first time I said no to Odhiambo's constant demand for sex he went ahead and raped me anyway, forced himself on me without a condom to punish me for suggesting that he may have had a homosexual encounter when he was a political prisoner in Kenya several years ago.

That night when I said no for the first time was the same night that I stabbed Odhiambo. It is true what the prosecution said, I was trying chop off his dick and I honestly and sincerely regret I was not able to do that.


You have seen a very capable lawyer walk out of this court unable to continue with my defence. I respect Carol Blackman for her professional competence and the strength of her feminist convictions.

I thank Zuhura and all those women who rallied to find a lawyer and raise funds for my case.


However I cannot agree with Carol Blackman's characterization of me as a victim suffering from battered women's syndrome.

I am not a neurotic or psychotic woman who needs psychiatric help.

I refuse to be pathologized.


Fighting against oppression is not an abnormal condition which needs psychiatric intervention and years of therapy and counselling.


What syndrome are the South African people suffering from? How about the Palestinians and the Irish? What mental illness are the militant people of South Korea grappling with? Under what strange delusions and feverish hallucinations do the people of Guatemala and El Salvador find themselves?

Are working people insane when they resist exploitation? Are colonized people mad when they struggle against imperialism?

Are people of colour off their rockers when fight against racism?

Are people with disabilities neurotic when they reject the madness of the able bodied power elites? Are young people demented when they tell grown ups to get off their case?

How about lesbians, bisexuals and gays? Are they crazy when they stand up against homophobia? Are we women raving mad, are we really insane, are we actually psychotic when we take up arms against sexism, when we say no to patriarchy and defend ourselves against male violence?


Your honour, members of the jury, that is all I have to say.


[The jury retires to consider the verdict. They do this by going to sit among the audience. After a few minutes a member of the jury stands up in the audience indicating that they have reached a verdict.]


Members of the jury, have you reached a verdict?


Yes, your honour, we have.


What is your verdict?


Thursday, August 05, 2004

On Oloo, Raila and Rampant Luophobia

0.0. In Lieu of the Lord’s Prayer, I Offer Some Zen Koans

As many of you know by now, Onyango Oloo does not worship the Living God.

Nor does he bow down to Baal, or any of the frisky horny, multi-limbed Hindu gods and goddesses dotting the intricate facades of the erotic temples on that populous sub continent.

Truth be told:

I stopped searching for my non-existent soul eons ago.

But there is something to be said for meditation and personal reflection.

As I grow older, I become more and more attuned to various aspects of what makes up the core of my multi-layered inner and outer being.

There is a place in all of us, long claimed by organized religion that makes humanity to seek an essence higher than humdrum existence.

Some people call it a quest for the elusive, ethereal spirit; the religious among us are convinced they are deep mining for the deity within and above.

As a Marxist-Leninist, on the other hand, I recognize the very earthly and material origins of this life long journey.

For are revolutionaries not the greatest idealists and dreamers?

We visualize societies yet unbuilt and even when we are sitting in our solitary cells or tossing and turning in uncertain exile, we are already singing the victory songs and penning the pronunciamentos to be declared on the day REVOLUTION catches on like an unstoppable cleansing fire driving away vice, cant and political mice.

As a man I have seen how corrosive is the cancer of unbridled machismo; the reckless braggadocio that deludes chest-thumping alpha males that they are invincible even as they ignore the warning signs of the massive coronary or the sneak prostate attack that will fatally claim them suddenly a few years down the road.

When I was sixteen years old, I read a Reader’s Digest (is that what it was?) article that showed compelling evidence that women tend to outlive men in many parts of the world- excepting those communities where women die earlier because of gender based systemic poverty and marginalization.

But in societies where men and women have roughly the same access to opportunities, women it would appear, live longer.

One reason that has been put forward is the female mindset which is totally different from the male one, inspiring authors of this planet to transport men and women to different philosophical and psychological “heavenly” bodies.

Unlike the testosterone infested breed of the species, the bulk of the insiders of the female Homo sapiens are not driven by the same ME ME First and Screw Everybody Else mentality.

Women tend to be more honest and expressive about their inner turmoil; tend to ask for and reach out for help and generally are much more grounded psychologically for the long haul.

And yes women DID NOT stubbornly wait for the invention of the GPS gizmos to avoid the ordeal of screaming out for help when they are lost in the depths of some Idaho wheat fields (if farmers in fact grow that cereal there still, unbeknownst to Monsanto and its GMO alternatives).

That is one reason why women outnumber men among my immediate circle of friends.

And you CAVE MEN, go ahead and call me a SISSY while massaging your MICROSCOPIC peckers.

Apart from all the foregoing gender wisdom, I think EVERYBODY can learn from the Eastern philosophies, particularly the non theistic systems like Buddhism.

Zen Buddhism fascinates me particularly and the Koans are more than a bit intriguing to me at least…

Reflect on these as we rev up for yet another digital essay take off.

I select Koans # 97, 6, 28, 5, 18, 3, 28 and 21 but you can have your pick:

Bonyeza Hapa

1.0. Retracing a Fateful Train Journey on the Day I Was Arrested

On August 3, 1982, I boarded a Mombasa bound train from the Nairobi Railway station. It was sometimes after six in the evening.

This was only two days after the abortive coup by servicemen of the defunct Kenya Air Force.

That Sunday had started very strangely for me.

It was two days after I bid a steamy goodbye to my then Samia girlfriend Lois D who was leaving reluctantly for further studies in India.

I say reluctantly because I remember having to convince her to follow her father’s advice and go abroad for further studies- she had marched off on the Thursday before, abandoning her bewildered folks in town in the middle of some frantic last minute shopping to come and spend the night with me on campus, sharing my microscopic cot perched on the fifth floor of Hall 9 (Mboya) at the University of Nairobi- I lived in room # 513 with Henry Langat, a very amiable and soft spoken Commerce student- I wonder where he is these days…

Lois and I were two young Kenyans fiercely in love with each other back then and we had met through some mutual friends at the California Estate just three months previously.

We had been to movies together, shared Tandoori chicken and sumptuous chapati at that dainty little Indian Restaurant that used to be at the bottom of Koinange Street near Kenyatta Avenue.

Lois still lived at home and the one night she spent with me was an act of major defiance from an otherwise goody two shoes church going loyal daughter.

We always had to make sure that she did not miss the last matatu to her place- a couple of times I went all the way with her to make sure she got home safe.

I distinctly remember bumping into the late Titus Adungosi on State House Road near the hostels just before the St. Paul chapel and exchanging pleasantries with him.

Lois at that time lived in Kirong'othi Street in Eastleigh and on this Friday morning (July 30th, 1982) we walked leisurely along University Way, down Koinange Street to that place opposite the old Halian’s Night Club where you got the # 9 Mathree to akina Wood Street and other parts of Eastleigh.

I was a hopeless romantic even back then- shocking my teenage lover(she was 19) by kissing her hotly on the lips, in broad daylight in the gawking streets of Nairobbery.

I was not to see Lois again until July 1987 exactly five years later.

She was then working with a certain Ministry in a very well known tall building in the city which used to be green and near the sun…

After my release from Kamiti I had stayed with my family in Mombasa for a couple of months before coming to live with my auntie Joyce in Onyonka Estate (those sides of Langata Road and beyond) and I had made it my mission to seek Lois out. I therefore went to her parent’s home in Kirong’othi Street where one of her siblings told me that she was now a married woman who worked with Wizara Fulani around the corner from Garden Square.

When I finally tracked her down way up on the thirty second floor of that un-named building, she was pleasantly surprised to see me.

I chuckled and reassured her when she tried to mumble an “apology” for falling in love with a wonderful fellow Kenyan in India, told her not to worry and wished her happiness- she appeared to be in a very loving and successful marriage complete with rambunctious kids and great in laws.

She told me that she had only heard about my arrest via a letter which reached her weeks after she landed in India.

We made small talk and before you could say, “mshikaji wa zamani bado wapendeza sana”, her lunch time was over and she had to go looking for some files….

The thing I remember most about Lois is her warm, sincere smile and how her entire face lit up when she did that.

I cherish her brief entry into and exit from the ongoing soap opera that is my roller coaster existence on this turbulent planet…

When the Nation did a profile of me last year, they included a photo I took with Lois on the rooftop of Hall 9:

Where did the years go?

Like most university students I was woken upo n that fateful Sunday by with the sound of gunshots around the main campus just before dawn.

Peeking out of our windows we saw these smiling faces of these young men in blue uniform totting rifles and beckoning on us to come out and celebrate.

Given the unpopularity of the Moi-KANU regime among the Kenyan youth and students at that time, we did not need any prodding to start chanting Power! Power! Power! Pambana! Pambana! Pambana!

That sunny Sunday morning was surreal in many respects:

Knots of students gathered around the roundabout near St. Paul listening to one spontaneous student orator declaim how we students wanted a “government of intellectuals!”(observing the cruel charade of the present well educated NARC cabinet, we know Kenya needs more than eggheads to save her); a bizarre encounter on Harambee Avenue as naïve unarmed university students(I was among them) defied fully armed red beret donning GSU units to shoot them; Titus Adungosi pleading with over-excited students near the New Stanley Hotel not to loot; rich brats driving around in commandeered vehicles; later after the coup had been crushed, long, long faces at the CCU wondering worriedly about their fate; I remember having a very hushed conversation with this African- American post-graduate exchange female student I used to hang out with; remember a trip to “The Box” to check in with my fellow Mombasa residents Grace Waita, Flora Kamala and others; a restless Sunday night playing scrabble in Hall 9 as we fretted and fretted. The same night I was able to sneak out of campus to go to Hurlingham where my late uncle Walter Wandolo lived. He was quite stern with me and other students who had so rashly come out to celebrate the coup. Nevertheless, he was brave enough to drive me personally back to the university the very next day to retrieve my belongings- yes, everything including the newish blanket that tribalists and juveniles on the internet have manufactured an entire, envious myth about, claiming that a resident of humid Mombasa would be stupid enough to “loot” a THICK BLANKET to take to Mombasa- obviously these are ignorant upcountry rural folk who know nothing about the climatic conditions in the Coast Province.

Yes, where was I?

At the train station going to Mombasa.

The trip itself was uneventful, even though I was briefly arrested and then released in Nairobi by some jittery askaris, just because I was a university student boarding a train.

One of my uncles who worked at the station successfully intervened and I proceeded to board the train.

I remember traveling Third Class and moving from compartment to compartment in a train that was chock full with university students.

For most of the journey I was chatting with this Third Year BA student who was formerly at Allidina Visram.

And then we left Mtito Andei and were heading towards Voi.

Halfway to Voi, the Railway Police on board started with their inspections, demanding everyone’s ID and insisting that each passenger identify their luggage.

Their main preoccupation was to ferret out any “Air Force Rebels” traveling incognito.

Before I knew it, they were at our seat.

My friend fished out his national ID, saying nothing of his status as a student. Being more naïve I foolishly flashed my University of Nairobi ID and blurted out that I was a student traveling home to Mombasa.

That is when my world changed.

The cops became very hostile-demanding to see my luggage and asking sarcastically whether I was slated to be Foreign Minister if the coup had succeeded- in a way their stupid comments echoed the inane outbursts that I encounter daily on the www.rcbowen Kenya forum-same stupidity and stolidity.

What first got me in trouble were my two huge pieces of luggage.

I had this humungous suitcase full of my clothes and what not and this other gigantic carton box where I had hurriedly stuffed my text books, files, writing pads and magazines.

Covering the books and files was a bed sheet and the now infamous newish blanket that I had bought in MOMBASA when I first joined NAIROBI University.

Just like the freaks on RC Bowen the semi-literate cops asked me:

“Kumbe Uliiba Blanketi Nairobi?”

Now people who are familiar with my online jousts know that sometimes I can be slightly sarcastic and even a bit foul mouthed and this abrasiveness never fails to land me in hot soup.

I fired back:

“Afande, tafadhali tizama hii gari ya moshi yaelekea wapi? Mjinga gani ataiba blanketi kupeleka Mombasa? Watu wanalala uchi Mombasa kwa ajili ya joto!”


“Officer: please observe the direction where this train is headed. What kind of an IDIOT will loot a blanket to take to Mombasa? People in that town sleep practically naked because of the heat and humidity!”

That youthful outburst sealed my fate.

"Kijana utakaa kando. Macho Nne, Mbona wewe ni Mjuaji hivyo?”


“Step aside. Mr Four Eyes, why are you such a Smart Ass?”

The 3rd Year student practically disavowed me-but not before nodding vigorously to my plea that he should head straight to our home in Mombasa and tell my Dad that I had been nabbed.

Long story short, when the train arrived at the next station Voi, I was ordered out together with my belongings and marched straight to the railways police cells where I found almost a dozen other students arrested- on flimsy excuses such as not having a RECEIPT to prove that the watches on their wrists were indeed their own…

I probably would have been released the very next day, had they not start rummaging through the big carton box.

Strangely, because of their semi-literacy, they did not find ANYTHING WRONG with the thick volume of Das Kapital by Marx, the thin manual, “What is to Be Done? “ by Lenin or the text book looking “Dialectics of Nature” by Engels or even Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth”.

As Kenyans, they were more scared on coming across Ngugi’s "Detained” and several position papers from the late Ooko Ombaka and the late Prof. Mkangi and the exiled Shadrack Gutto.

But even as politically dimwitted as they were, they knew that it was NOT illegal for a university student to be found in possession of legal position papers distributed publicly by well-known university lecturers-nor could they charge me with treason for buying Ngugi’s books.

It was when they were going through the contents of one of my three box files that they came across this draft of an essay that I had started in late June 1982 after the arrests of Willy Mutunga, Maina wa Kinyatti, Al Amin Mazrui, Edward Oyugi, Kamoji Wachiira and others.

Still a work in progress the essay (yes, ESSAYS have come to define Onyango Oloo’s political expressions) was tentatively titled “A Plea to Comrades.”

What caught their attention was my opening paragraph, which like many I have penned over the years usually has something catchy to ensnare my readers from the get go.

As far as I can recall, the first sentence went something like:

“On December 12, 1982, Kenyans will “celebrate” Jamhuri Day having successfully detained university lecturers and made our country a one party state...” or words to that effect.

Now did those askaris sit up and notice!

The rest of the essay talked about the role of students and youth in the struggle for democracy and freedom in Kenya.

My plea was to my fellow “comrades” (used in the sense of the slang we used on campus to refer to fellow students, not members of communist cells) not to turn a blind eye when our teachers were dragged from theatre halls to detention and to remain silent when people like Anyona and Jaramogi were hounded.

Bear in mind that I was still TWENTY ONE YEARS OLD, a university student in a very militant campus in Kenya at that time.

Would you be shocked if I told you that the cops REFUSED TO BELIEVE that this baby faced university kid could conjure and compose those incendiary words?

They immediately accused me of manually transcribing a passage from Pambana(that they had obviously NOT read) on the orders of one of my professors and PROMISED me a ten year sentence before rushing to radio Nairobi that they had just apprehended one of the chief suspects of the December 12 Movement!

As a self-respecting writer even back then, I took considerable umbrage at the allegations of plagiarism and vigorously insisted that it was I, Onyango Oloo who had authored that hand written draft and that as a university student enjoying academic freedom, this was perfectly legitimate.

By the time my father

(a former senior prisons officer)

arrived in Voi just before noon on August 4th, matters had progressed to the point where the Special Branch and CID folks in Nairobi were ordering that I be taken back to the Kenyan capital pronto.

My father’s parental pleas fell on deaf ears.

A day later I was back on the train, this time traveling Second Class with TWO ARMED police officers headed back to Nairobi…

The rest of my story has been told in the Kenyan press:

monday, november 1, 1982 around 10:30 am, after the sentencing, en route to kamiti to begin the five year jail term;

monday, may 11, 1987 at around 2:30 pm, about an a hour and a half after leaving kamiti, doing an interview in the newsroom of the old nation house on tom mboya street;

my paternal grandparents and my parents before they had any of us(my dad at 26 and my mom at 19)

mombasa, 1975; when my grandma doris awiti came to visit us;

mombasa, august 1975, as a 15 year old with my dad and other siblings;

my late kid bro john otieno oloo, a russo-kenyan friend, my late sis beatrice ombiro oloo and her daughter jacqueline; my late younger bro joseph ochieng oloo; beatrice with a friend; otieno living up to his reputation as coach for his kisumu soccer team; how i miss my three departed siblings!

my late father, richard achwal oloo and his younger brother wilfred at my sister janet's graduation ceremony, kenyatta university, 1986;onyango oloo(left,at the back of the picture) my sole surviving brother, washington oloo and my father's youngest brother wilfred oloo carry the casket containing my father's body out of our compound to the anglican church in luanda dudi for the final service on december 6, 1996, one hour and a half hours before he was finally laid to rest;

my little boy, sankie sankara, is now a teenager.

father and son at the caribana festival, toronto, summer 2001

And on at least one website:

Bonyeza Hapa

2.0. Why Do People Fear

Raila Odinga

So Much?

Two of the most VILIFIED names in Kenyan cyberspace circles are Onyango Oloo and Raila Odinga-for mostly TRIBAL and PAROCHIAL reasons.

It has been SHOCKING to contemplate and calibrate the depth of INSECURITIES that some GROWN MEN and WOMEN display when these two names are mentioned.

Since Onyango Oloo is NOT a billionaire, a tenured Ivy League Don or even a notorious POLYGAMIST like Okuku Danger, it is often perplexing to see the obsessive craze he has inspired among the bevy of GROUPIES who follow him anonymously from website to website flinging their freshly generated excrement at him.

Onyango Oloo is CLONED on an almost hourly basis.

Every TEN MINUTES on the forum, there is SOMETHING DERANGED posted by a nitwit about him; it appears(although it could be a technical hitch) that some INTOLERANT forces at have finally succeeded in BANISHING him from a forum where he has contributed since December 2000; on Africa-Oped and Kenya Online two of his detractors are unabashed tribal nincompoops who think they are way too CLEVER and too CUTE calling Onyango Oloo with the juvenile sobriquet “olow” or the racist epithet “kavirondo”.

Raila Odinga is of course LARGELY FEARED because he is the MOST EFFECTIVE POLITICIAN operating in Kenya at the moment.

He is also without a doubt one of the most POPULAR in the country.

A few weeks ago, the country’s media BLACKED OUT a story when he and Kalonzo Musyoka received a TUMULTOUS WELCOME by THOUSANDS of people in the Meru region, the home turf of Kiraitu, Muthaura and Mwiraria.

Two things connect Oloo to Raila-they are both LUOS who became EVEN MORE RADICAL after SPENDING YEARS BEHIND BARS AT KAMITI.

We each sought different paths to practice our politics-Raila immersed himself in the MAINSTREAM LEGAL and ABOVE GROUND National political organizing, while Oloo continued his long apprenticeship in the Kenyan socialist underground.

In many other respects, our ideological leanings are like night and day- Oloo is a Marxist-Leninist while Raila Odinga is a Liberal-Democrat; Raila sold his company to a Canadian multinational while Oloo is busy DENOUNCING Canadian multinationals…

But has that stopped the TRIBALISTS who FEAR LUOS more than they fear a bite from a tarantula or a vicious Indian cobra?

Of course not.

Oloo according to them is the LDP’s Chief Whip.

Raila according to these idiots CONTROLS the mind of every single Luo.

According to these jack asses, every time Oloo or Adongo writes something, it is on the express instructions of Agwambo Tinga Tinga-something that would surely startle the Langata MP who was so busy the last time I was in Kenya that I was UNABLE to see him DESPITE at LEAST THREE ATTEMPTS by Mwandawiro Mghanga who took me to Raila’s office to see the Roads and Public Works minister.

It appears as if it is a CRIME to rise to Railas’ defence if you happen to be a Luo- and especially if your name is Onyango Oloo.

In early 2003, I was kicked out of the Safari Lady web site, PARTLY because of this posting:

Bonyeza Hapa

That is when I discovered that tribal IDIOCY is not confined to the male of the homo sapiens sapiens species.

At the very same time the same TWISTED tribal logic would INSIST that Only LUOs and especially Oloo should write about a MANUFACTURED CORRUPTION SCANDAL conjured up by a TRIBAL WAR LORD called Maina Kamanda.

I commented on this matter elsewhere and suggested that these tribal attacks were part of a bigger, stinkier RED HERRING to DIVERT attention from getting the crooked cabinet ministers fingered in the Anglo-Leasing scandal to resign.

In any case, I did not see WHY these chauvinists were targeting Luos to go after Raila Odinga when the same tribalists consider it anathema for ANY Luo to say ANYTHING positive about Raila Odinga.

I will comment more on this presently because I want to lay bare the machinations of these characters, having tolerated their attacks on various Kenyans forums for quite some time.

But before that, as expected Raila Odinga promptly responded to his critics within hours of his arrival back in the country.

Here are links from the three Kenyan dailies:

Bonyeza Hapa

Bonyeza Hapa

Bonyeza Hapa

And this is what I was telling my critics:

Raila Odinga and Dr Oburu and the rest of the Jaramogi family are quite capable of responding to questions related to their business interests and certainly do not need a Kenyan living in Quebec to “defend” them.

And the “sketchy” agenda of anonymous hounds who are themselves INCAPABLE of “exposing” Raila Odinga but would insist that only Onyango Oloo is up to that task is quickly revealed when they yelp and yelp and yelp from the shadows of forums infested with bigots throwing turd, mud and vomited curd while keeping their apparently explosive dossiers on the so called “Molassesberg Scandal” a closely guarded secret accessible to select members of this or that tribe.

The way people like Maina Kamanda and his associates on rcbowen, mashada, kca-main, Kenyaonline, Africa-Oped and other forums have approached the question of alleged graft clearly demonstrates the difference between a genuine campaign against corruption and a vendetta driven side show.

Let me illustrate by talking about the Anglo Leasing scandal.

Away from the public discussion forums, I stay in touch with several key people in the Kenyan civil society sector.

At the forefront of these individuals is ONE PARTICULAR person whose real name I will not mention because I do not want to compromise this person who remains a valuable Nairobi based source with his ear very close to the ground.

Suffice to say that this individual is a leading executive of a very prominent graft fighting outfit.

And no, my friends, he is not a Luo, he is not a Luhyia and he is certainly not a Mswahili so stop jumping to your ethnic conclusions.

What I like about this person is the way he regularly provides me with concrete 411 from a variety of very hard to locate pay dirt that even the most intrepid investigative journalist would kill for.

And whenever he does this it is not about, “Oloo let us go after politician from Tribe X or Faith Community W or Race J or Region S or Political Faction Q because if that was the criteria he would not have shared some information linking individuals with whom he may or may not share some of the above attributes. It is without malice.

This morning, when I opened my email I found that he had responded to my inquiry about the Molasses plant by directing me to an objective, non- Kenyan source chock full of data that I am studying as we speak.

It is a professional joy to work with individuals like these who do not care how my first or last name is spelt and do not look at the ethnicity of the crooks they expose before they expose them.

There are at least a dozen people like that back home.

It is sincere and honest compatriots like those who spur me on- genuine democrats, genuine reformers, and genuine anti-corruption campaigners-people who will expose you in a heartbeat even if you are their first cousin.

Sad to say, very few of the so called leaders of the Kenyans in the Diaspora can live up to this benchmark.

Sad to say, Kenyans abroad seemed to be MORE CONSUMED with TRIBAL affiliations than the Kenyans at home.

While it is true that at home there is no shortage of chauvinists FROM EACH AND EVERY ETHNIC COMMUNITY AND REGION IN Kenya and in a sense since some of these bigots actually wield power they are more odious- but by and large, the Kenyan elite abroad are far more POLITICALLY BACKWARD compared to the villagers of Mwatate, Sagana, Kilgoris, Nyamira, Shimba Hills, Katse, Mazeras, Kibiciku, Karatina, Kajiado, Kabarak, Wajir, Isiolo, Lodwar, Migori, Ugunja, Lunga Lunga, Bura, Garsen, Makueni or Runyenjes.

3.0. Tracking Luophobia Among Kenyan Professionals Abroad

As someone who comes from a dual ethnic heritage, was born in the Rift Valley and grew up literally all over the republic among Kenyans of diverse backgrounds, and especially as a true son of cosmopolitan Mombasa, it has been very difficult for me to understand the tenacity, for instance, of Gikuyuphobia among some rabid Luos doing the post graduate studies in San Francisco-especially when said tribal bigots are in their mid to late twenties and live in , of all places, libera, open minded California on the outskirts of a city famous for its tradition of tolerance.

Nor can I understand the rationale behind the blind hatred for Kenyans of South Asian heritage among Kenyans who have been victims of racial profiling in Texas, New York, Toronto, Vancouver and other North American cities.

Equally, I am perplexed when I witness a fairly well adjusted Kenyan woman with above average intelligence living in the Washington DC area expressing what amounts to strident anti-Muslim rants-knowing how her own bi-racial background may have made her a target-as it did some of my own first cousins with a similar heritage.

Likewise when a Kenyan of South Asian descent repeats KKK lines when his own father in Edmonton was called a Paki in the late seventies and early eighties, then I just shake my head in bewilderment.

Last December, I referred to this phenomenon as the Inner Villager Syndrome- referring to the survival of parochial and simplistic ethnic reductionisms among Kenyan middle class transplants in places like New Hampshire, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Toronto, Leeds and elsewhere.

In retrospect I have realized I was wrong-but only because I was unduly harsh on the VILLAGERS.

As I have tried to argue above, Kenyan villagers are not this dense, backward, myopic and tribal. In 2002 when young Kenyans abroad were killing each other digitally to line up behind their respective ethnic chieftains, rural Kenyans all over Kenya had grasped the democratic imperative of uniting nationally behind the candidacy of Mwai Kibaki to defeat the Uhuru Project.

Initially when I was confronted by deranged tribal attacks from anonymous strangers, I used to assume that these were some ignorant kids who were raised by tribal wolves in the jungles of Ukabilaland.

Can you imagine my shock when I finally realized that these were not some gibbering primitive cave dwellers who thought that people who lived in the next mbari were their sworn enemies, but rather, HIGHLY EDUCATED KENYANS, some armed with four or five degrees; some, actual PROFESSORS with a mandate to PROMOTE ethnic and racial DIVERSITY in their respective campuses?

Can you imagine my disgust when I realized that some of these closeted tribalists were the VERY SAME individuals who would call me at home asking me to assist their friend so and so with their immigration matters by writing a support letter?

Can you imagine my disappointment when I realized that some of these ethnic hounds were two faced hypocrites who posed as Born Again Christians in public while practicing their ukabila in private?

Can you imagine my surprise when I found out that some of these individuals were former political prisoners and former exiles like me?

Can you imagine my amazement when I found out that some of these creeps used to be in the same underground Marxist oriented revolutionary movements like myself?

Can you imagine my disillusionment when I discovered that some of these closeted faceless tribalists on the rcbowen forum for instance ARE AMONG THE CURRENT LEADERSHIP of the KCA?

After recovering from my shock, disgust, disappointment, surprise, amazement and disillusionment, my immediate task was to FIND OUT WHY IT WAS NECESSARY FOR THESE BIGOTS TO HIDE THEIR HATEFUL TRIBAL FEARS, MYTHS, OBSESSIONS AND AGENDAS.

That task was made easier because I am now a “Canadian” in the sense that I have lived in this country for long enough (close to twenty years) to know how your average Canadian practices their bigotry.

Unlike their Uncle Sam relatives south of this border, Canadian racists and bigots are rarely overt and the few who are, quickly find themselves isolated.

And yet Canada is a DEEPLY RACIST COUNTRY.

How then does one explain the official veneer of tolerance and the actual lived reality of systemic racist oppression that people from the communities of colour undergo everyday?

I have one word for it:


Yes, the racists, sexists, homophobes, classists and ageists, lookists and ableists of Canada have their own abracadabra glossary of code words that they use to hide their prejudice and discrimination.

When they want to attack gays and lesbians for instance, they do not use crude words like “faggots” and “dykes”(those words have been reclaimed anyways). Rather they talk of “family values” and a “traditional definition of marriage”.

When they are rich people looking down on the poor, they do not call them “bums” and “losers”- rather they would borrow Bill Cosby’s term about “people from the lower income community”.

When they want to denounce people with disabilities fighting for accessibility to public buildings they will not call them “ungrateful cripples and stupid deaf mutes”; rather they will talk of the “unrealistic demands of special interest groups who have an unreasonable feeling of entitlement”.

When they want to call on the police to crackdown on INNOCENT Jamaican youth in Toronto or their Haitian counterparts in Montreal, they do not say “go after those ganja smoking coons of Jane and Finch or the Creole spitting niggers of St. Michel”; rather, they say something like, “we feel it is important to support the efforts of police chief Julian Fantino in his campaign to eradicate drug dealers, pimps and petty criminals from our inner cities”.

And I do need to unlock the passwords to the code words for human beings that are labelled "ugly" because they do not fit the Barbie and Brad Pitt profile or people who society consider to be “too old” or conversely, “too young” to matter.

Similar code words are employed by the sophisticated Kenyan tribalists abroad.

In a sense I actually prefer the raw, crude and foul mouthed tribal hecklers like “jmburus” “mboya rusinga”, “public eye” and “mûriraikihia” who will speak out candidly and honestly about their hatred for Luos and Gikuyus respectively. At least with them, you know what time it is. However I did catch one of these four individuals posing as a member of the ethnic community they detested in order to create a backlash against that community by their outlandish remarks. For a long time I was taken by that character until a dead giveaway made me nab this chameleonic miscreant. About a week after this minor detective feat, that particular tribal handle was “retired” from that particular forum. Online tribalism can be a very sophisticated digital hall of smoking mirrors to the unsuspecting internet newbies.

The truly detestable, slimy tribal lowlifes are the two faced hypocrites who pretend to be Wazalendo in public while organizing the equivalent of tribal oathing ceremonies in private.

For instance, you will find Mr So and So, Official of the KCA, to take a HYPOTHETICAL example. During the KCA Conference he will be out there, rallying the NATIONAL troops, speaking as a sincere patriot. But what some people may not know is that behind the scenes, he is up to his neck with the offspring of the hogs in the Kibaki cabinet scheming for ways to hop on to that overcrowded gravy train.

Another HYPOTHETICAL example. Ms. Nyamriambo Wang’etek helps in a very earnest fundraising appeal to deal with a community issue, say in Quebec. But then she calls Onyango Oloo kando and says something in Dholuo about not trusting all these Gikuyus.

A third example- THIS ONE A REAL ONE. Assistant Professor Fulani wa Fulani is FLUENT in a certain language and in fact has part of his heritage in Community X. Yet, like a JAJUOK, he remains a FIXTURE on Discussion Board P where 123% of his postings consist of tribal rants, raves, gossip and innuendo.

A fourth example. FREQUENT POSTER 45XT lives in Nairobi and makes a point of touting his cosmopolitan credentials. In fact, he goes out of his way to berate the notorious overt tribalists from his own ethnic community. Yet, if you carefully study his postings, you will notice one consistent pattern. He acts as a volunteer spin doctor for certain top ranking politicians back home who come from a certain region and range of communities in the country and will always pose apparently neutral probing maswali about certain prominent politicians from a community that is perceived to be hankering to undermine the other community.

Most, if not all of the above examples come from members of the so called BIG TRIBES who are the BIGGEST CULPRITS when it comes to online ethnic chauvinism.

But there is also the bigotry, borne of resentment that is exhibited by members of the ethnic minorities largely targeting this or that BIG TRIBE. I have referred to two members of a certain community and I do not wish to belabour the point.

What drives the tribalism of Kenyans abroad?

Surely it cannot be anything like the gunfights in the semi-arid regions of Kenya where pastoral communities come into conflict over scarce resources, cattle rustling and other age old feuds.

Many of these tribalists have never and will never meet their online ethnic adversaries. They are not lacking in material resources and frequently these are individuals who are relatively well off and are definitely not driven by economic desperation. In a couple of bizarre cases, they may even be married to spouses from the communities they detest. A few years ago, one Kenyan woman shared with me her shock to find out that the “cosmopolitan” boyfriend she was dating from community dash dash was the very same deranged idiot who was attacking her cousin on the other side of the Atlantic on a daily basis! This is not the place to go into details of what happened next.

So what drives these Kenyan Tribalist Abroad in their diurnal and nocturnal acts of ethnic vindictiveness and small mindedness?

I think the answer can be gleaned by looking at the desperate contestations for political territory going on furiously as we speak among different sections of the Kenyan comprador and petit-bourgeois elite.

As we have argued elsewhere, our dependence on imperialism has made it virtually impossible to develop a viable national economy that is self-sustaining. From the daily scandals which come to the fore, the ticket to the Comprador Paradise Bonanza in Kenya is purchased at the Grand Graft Box Office and you have to TKK the overfed ticket sellers and TKK the gate-keepers and TKK the ushers and TKK the concession cashiers and sometimes TKK the relatives, the ndogo ndogos, nyumba ndogos, mahawara, boy toys, cooks and messengers of the real gate-keepers.

Since there is only so much one can loot in the course of the life of one elected government, there is a feeding frenzy, a veritable Corruption Olympics that kicks off virtually from the second a new Kenyan comprador/petit-bourgeois gang assumes office.

It should be appreciated that that these fat cats are NOT THEMSELVES parochial nor do they HATE other tribal communities. Oh no. These are genuine Kenyan urbanites who will play copulate across tribal lines and golf with anyone ready to offer or receive a bribe.

But you see, the Bonanza is circumscribed by cronyism, by nepotism, by who know.

Over the course of the last 40 years, the most “efficient” conduit of cronyism and nepotism is tribalism.

And mark you:

While it may be NECESSARY to belong to the “right” ethnic community, that ALONE is NOT SUFFICIENT to grant you access and looting privileges. You must in addition, KNOW THE RIGHT PEOPLE IN THE RIGHT TRIBE- and that rarely comes free of charge.

For instance as we speak, there are TWO SEPARATE ethnic based band of organized poliitcal criminals around Kibaki who are, behind the scenes, fighting each other as VICIOUSLY as they would keep out any perceived hostile ethnic strangers. One group is coalesced around the likes of Wanjui and other old buddies of Kibaki from the DP days. And they are affiliated with one of the two First Ladies. Then there are the upstart back room boys, a younger, hungrier and greedier bunch who want to grab it all before Kibaki drops dead. Their linchpin is Chris Murungaru. And just to complicate matters a little bit, there is a semi-autonomous Meru cartel connected to Kiraitu who seem to be having the upper hand when it comes to certain public appointments.

Around these three contingents of the elitist group that has been dubbed the Mount Kenya Mafia(note that this does not refer to entire members of the Gikuyu, Embu, Meru, Chuka, Tharaka and other ethnic communities from "The Slopes” but rather, to those privileged members who coalesce around the above named elite forces. For instance, despite being a bona fide Mgikuyu, neither Uhuru Kenyatta nor Joseph Nyagah nor JJ Kamotho is part of the Mount Kenya Mafia. I do not think that Prof. Wangari Maathai belongs in this exclusive male dominated club either. And the other, equally prominent professors like Ngugi, Micere and others would be ARRESTED ON SIGHT and charged with TRESSPASS if they ever APPROACHED the entrance of the Mount Kenya Mafia Club. It is important to emphasize the class, ideological and partisan nature of this elitist club.

And let us not underestimate the so called Rift Valley Mafia. They are the LONGEST RULING CLIQUE in the country and they are entrenched in certain sections of the state where they will not be dislodged. At the moment the RVM still cannot really reconcile itself fully with the “Raila Betrayal” that is why you see William Ruto cozying up to Kiraitu. And they do not know how to handle Uhuru Kenyatta’s growing national stature. Things will be clearer once the contest for the Chairperson has been resolved.

And just outside this KANU INA WENYEWE club there are at least two similar clubs in Luo Nyanza who would immediately comprise the Lake Victoria Cartel if they were in the same position as the MKM. One camp, the larger one, is coalesced around Raila Odinga and his LDP associates and its members are well known.

Then there is another wing that has no discernible leader but whose chief exponent would be Raphael Tuju. These are fairly well educated and well to do Luo professionals, businessmen and politicians who were locked out of LDP because they were in KANU, Ford People or some of the NAK affiliated formations. Currently they their mantra is “Luos are tired of the politics of confrontation, we want some development. Let us give Mwai Kibaki a chance”- even as they inch their snouts closer and closer to the feeding troughs where other pigs are gorging. Being pragmatists, you will never see the Tujuites publicly attacking Raila. They are more interested in cultivating business and professional ties with other sections of the NAK elite.

There are two other clubs in Ukambani-one connected to Ngilu and Kivutha on the one hand and the other one definitely led by Kalonzo Musyoka. The Kalonzo gang needs the Raila forces in Luo Nyanza, but they have their own ambitions centred on a Kalonzo Presidency. It would appear as if the Ngilu/Kivutha forces have hitched their wagon directly to the NAK camp which they are a part of. Do not be surprised if Kivutha Kibwana makes a bid to be the Kamba card to thwart a Kalonzo run for State House come 2007.

Among the Abaluhyia elite, confusion reigns. Common sense would have suggested that the Luhyia elite unite around Moody Awori while working out an Intra-Ingo MOU about who would be who in the whole Machiavellian machinations of which Luhyia should go after the number two slot. From the look of things, the ambitious Mukhisa Kituyi is still smarting after being outsmarted by the thoroughly spineless Musikari Kombo in the recent Ford-K sweepstakes. Kituyi’s trump card may be to wean the Biwott faction away from KANU to bolster his standing in NAK proper before making his own move which may be more like the Kingmaker role of Raila in 2002 rather than embarrassing himself in an electoral contest where victory is precluded because of his widespread ill reputation as an arrogant son of a gun. Kombo like I said, is a Dereva Kombo who is going kombo kombo and will land fatally in a ditch together with his co-driver Dr. Bonny Khalwale within the course of the next eighteen months. Martin Shikuku’s attempt to cobble Katiba Watch into a negotiating vehicle to re-enter the Kenyan political mainstream will be thwarted by his own myopia. I predict that the next political superstar in Luhyia land is not even in mainstream politics yet-I am talking about the youthful Ababu Namwamba. He is the person to watch and one of the most likely to emerge as a NATIONAL political figure over the next four years. He is principled, gutsy, patriotic and from the look of things, above ethnic parochialism. Another person to watch is Professor Oniango.

Among the Abagusii, we saw Simeon Nyachae cut his own throat by agreeing to join the Kibaki cabinet on terms not of his own choosing. If I had been the FORD-People head honcho, I would have insisted on a formal MOU and would have been more sensitive to include the Non-Kisiis (apart from traditional sidekick Kones) like Mwandawiro and Rai in a package deal and I would have used this MOU to position myself for a more powerful bid for the Presidency after watching the self-destruction of NARC. As matters stand, Nyachae has joined and become an active supporter of the most criticized wing of the Kenyan government-at a time when he has been named by Pattni. We know that there are more than a few also rans in Kisii Nyanza who were not part of the FORD-P juggernaut-these were either DP, Ford-K or KANU heavyweights who are slowly rebuilding their political bases. And do not dismiss the children of the icons of yesteryear- the junior Onyonkas, Nyamweyas and the like. They too are plotting their moves.

The Kenyan Coast is pretty fluid. There are the NAK attack dogs like Mungatana, Maitha, Mwakwere, Rai and the like, And then you have the Balalas, Khamisis and their associates in addition to a third force that would be linked to the unregistered IPK and a fourth independent force that may or may not develop around my buddy Mwandawiro.

The North Eastern, South Asian, Maasai and other elite from the other Kenyan communities will chart their own paths in relation to the wider power plays in NAK, LDP and KANU...

Those of us who are on the Kenyan Left are the WEAKEST and LEAST ORGANIZED, but watch out: if we DO GET OUR COLLECTIVE ACT together, there WILLL BE A NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION in Kenya within the next SIX YEARS. For a simple reason: the WANANCHI are far, far ahead of ALL OF THESE ELITIST groupings, and if a credible SOCIALIST LEADERSHIP emerges, Kenya is MARWA. And you can quote me on that.

To come back to my point about Kenyans abroad:

They take their tribal cues from moves the above gangs make.

That is the key to understanding their deranged yelps from sun up to sundown and throughout the night.

Let us take, as a case study, the current needling, wheezing, whining and gnashing of teeth around Raila Odinga and the moribund Molasses Plant.

NONE of these JOKERS in Boston, Minneapolis, Chicago, New Hampshire, New Jersey or Nairobi are the LEAST BIT INTERESTED in FIGHTING GRAFT. Some of them are up to their gills in it, especially if one takes a closer look at the ECONOSNOGATE.

Their yelps and brays that Onyango Oloo should compose a “digital” denouncing Raila Odinga is powered by a twin motive-divert attention from the HARD QUESTIONS people have been asking about Anglo Fleecing and the telephone scandals and Two, use the old Bogey Man Raila Odinga to rally the Bantu troops to wage another USELESS tribal skirmish punctuated by a two faced Luophobia.

Fortunately, Kenyans are NOT IDIOTS and this so called Molassesberg is going to collapse like the house of cards that it is.

It is actually sickening to log on to certain Kenyan forums and WITNESS some people who were busy picketing Moi barely three years ago defending that INSENSITIVE JACKASS Mwakwere who has refused to apologize to fellow Muslims for blatantly misleading them. The Kenyan Foreign Minister has NO IDEA about the coming anti- imperialist upheaval that is SIMMERING all over the Coast Province and he may as well enjoy his stint in the cabinet now while looking for a productive goat to milk after 2007.

Many of these KBAs (short for Kenyan Bigots Abroad) are dreaming of big pay days ahead. They are just making up their minds about whose MATAKO they should be SLURPING.

I mean, just contemplate this phenomenon:


Have you heard ONE EEK or ONE SQUEEK from the KCA, the KCO or any of the organizations that presumably speak for Kenyans abroad DO ANYTHING CONCRETE to TRY AND SAVE these compatriots from the swords of the Iraqi kidnappers?

Not a chance.

Some of the leading members of these organizations are the VERY SAME NEOCONS who log on anonymously to praise Bush for INVADING IRAQ!

Kenyan Muslims do not matter!

Some of these leaders were among the earliest SUPPORTERS of Bush’s’ War on Terrorism and many of them quite frankly see Kenyan Muslims as the enemy within-along with those pesky Luos.

Of course they are now going to pee on themselves as they make a bee line for my neck.

Well, sharpen your poisoned arrows and do some target practice because Onyango Oloo is going nowhere.

Onyango Oloo
Montreal, Quebec
8:22 PM EST
Wednesday, August 04, 2004

ps: for the umpteenth time someone asked me to justify why i think Raila Odinga is the most EFFECTIVE politician in the Kenyan mainstream today. i already told them elsewhere that i answered this question at precisely 3:26 am on Xmas Eve 2003:

Bonyeza Hapa