I love to talk to strangers. Especially the down and out and ordinary Kenyan folk. In fact the reason why so many important people and even the media look to this blog to get a feel of what is happening on the ground is because of the track record of we seem to have in that area.
Admittedly it has not always been like this. I will forever remember with deep regret the serious blunder I made over the 2005 referendum. The blog was new in those days and I was yet to learn a number of things and build the impressive range of informant and contacts that I have today. At the time I talked to a lot of people about their views and I was sure I had it right. There was only one problem—I had talked to the wrong guys. And indeed you would be making the same mistake gauging things on the ground from the comments you read here from our readers. Mostly our commentators are rich privileged kids who have never gone hungry for a single day.
Over the last few days I have been doing a lot of talking to people (the right people that is, in Mathare, Kawangware and places like that) and a fascinating trend seems to be emerging.
Clearly there is sharp divide between the rich and the poor in Kenya that has widened into a chasm that is impossible to cross and too wide to build a bridge across. One of the perfect ways to illustrate this is by the widely differing views on Prof Alston’s damning report on police brutality and extra-judicial killings.
The rich mostly feel that police commissioner Maj General Ali has been very effective in cutting down serious crime and have no problem looking the other way concerning the methods used to achieve this. To them, the end justifies the means. Most of them point to the fact that there is no serious evidence to suggest that their was any killer squad formed within the Kenya police, never mind what the truth is.
Kumekucha titbits: Avoid sitting for hours in a traffic jam or trying to get into chaotic Nairobi after a long flight. Simply book into a nice budget hotel in the outskirts of Nairobi 5 minutes from the airport and completely avoiding the traffic into the city.
The poor have very different views on police brutality. Many of them having experienced police brutality first hand are looking forward to Ali’s exit. Police will never go to Muthaiga or Runda to harass the Kenyans who live there. Those thieves they wil mostly salute and respect. However they are always in Mathare and Kawangware and some middle class estates arresting people outside their houses for no reason. Even with groceries that they have just purchased in their hands to prove that they were not upto no good.
The biggest horror for the rich is being shot by some carjacker for handing over their car keys too slowly.
The biggest horror for the poor are the usual police operations ordered when something goes wrong where policemen go from house to house harassing, beating up and raping poor Kenyans whose only crime is to be poor.
It seems that already the serious fault lines that will trigger the anticipated poor versus rich troubles in Kenya are already beginning to show very clearly. The gap is too wide and more privileged Kenyans have absolutely no idea what it feels like being without lots of money in Kenya. It hardly matters how you earned it in the first place…