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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Playing With Fire: Rich And Poor On Collision Course

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…


Anonymous said...

What is wrong with this old dude called Moi. He yaps to every issue under the sun like he is the new govt. spokesman. How low have we sank as a country to allow thugs like moi the time and space to give us lectures on good governance. Kibaki has really done kenya a diservice , now every tom dick and harry is coming to kenya to lecture us on this and that just falling short to say what they really have in the back of their minds. A failed state.
We need to salvage the state and the time is now!.

Anonymous said...

Poverty is a curse even the bible says so!

Anonymous said...


Who told you everybody here is rich? Just because I can blog does no mean I have a computer at home! I normally walk 10 km to look for the nearest internet cafe just to leave a comment here.
So wacha huyo upuzi!

Anonymous said...


Since my dear friend Kwale is not here anymore (relocated), I will be giving you some of the things you don't normally see in Kenya.

Here are some of the things you need to know about Mungiki as we watched it in Europe:

I also have inside information on how Kenya received a special fund from previous American administration in order to fight insecurities in the country.

Kenya must NOT compromise with criminals. These criminals MUST be eradicated once and for all, whatever that takes!

Anonymous said...

The rich will probably then never understand, but I dont think all rich people believe commissioner Ali has cut down serious crime and therefore he is doing his job.

You would be surprised at how many wealthy people have been gunned down by police or faced brutality.

Obviously nowhere near as bad as the poor, but it is definetly the rich who can start changing things, the poor need a voice, and thats where the rich can come in, at least.

Anonymous said...

joe the choma man said...

"Chriso" aka Chris
I told you before that in Kenya there never is any so called "serious evidence" about anything (corruption, scandals, scams, killings)-in fact in Kenya if you die its your fault who told you to be poor?
Sober minded people in this country e.g. whistleblowers, etc who seek the truth really have a hard time and just give up-their reward is end up being branded as witch hunters for daring to upset the status quo.

As for us "rich priviledged kids" who comment here in KK from our fridge-stocked homes abroad please stop blaming us for having been born with silver spoons in our mouths. its not our fault that our parents were rich and life is our playground why do you want us to go hungry?hata ofal ni nyama au sio

kalamari said...

Chris said:
The biggest horror for the rich is being shot by some carjacker for handing over their car keys too slowly.

I say:
The biggest horror for the poor/middle class is being shot and gang raped during a harrowing matatu/bus carjacking episode.

When it comes to violent crime, the rich and poor are all in the same sinking boat.

Chris, the Mungiki menace and death-by-carjacking type of crimes affect both the rich and poor in the same relative proportions. You yourself posted a prominent post here about a murderous ordeal on a bus along the Mombasa-Nairobi road. The rich usually fly to coast….but as you should have pointed out in your post, the poor/middle classes are the ones who were caught up in that rapacious experience. Are you now trying to tell us that they travel along our potholed roads in peaceful bliss because they are poor? The thugs in your story did not ask whether the occupants in the bus were rich or poor before they repeatedly raped and clobbered them.

My point is, we should not get into the habit of widening class divisions unnecessarily. High crime is one thing we can all unite against.

I do not argue the realities of police brutality. Yes, they are a bunch of murderous folk but mainly because they are extremely poorly trained, unprofessional and exceptionally underpaid. You must study military books to understand that their term of service is in fact a genuine excuse for them to plunder. I know that sounds nasty but it is the sad truth. It is a universal truth that if you legally give someone a gun, you must also restrain them from using it illegally.

In the end you will have to appreciate that the police and their brutalities are a product of our failed institutions. These folks will not change until the entire system is revolutionized and disinfected in all areas. Until then, we must cling onto the survival mode as we cheer Maj. Ali to continue killing all Mungiki folk, rapists and violent criminals. It is our only hope.

We should accept that we are living in a banana republic. Only then can we adjust accordingly and lower our expectations from all institutions.

After all we live in country where economic villains like Paul Pattni sit on the presidential dais and are hosted on Churchill Live….. and we expect the police to help us change a flat tire along Uhuru Highway.

Anonymous said...

"I start with the premise that the function of leadership is
to produce more leaders, not more followers."

-- Ralph Nader

Mwarang'ethe said...

Naked have I seen both of them,
the greatest man and the smallest man,
All-too-similar are they still to each other.
Verily, even the greatest found I all-too-human.

--Thus Spake Zarathustra

kalamari said...

Just to throw this out there:

In my observation, the KNCHR chooses to follow the ACLU model; that of defending the indefensible. In many cases it is in the best interest of such organizations to embrace noxious high profile cases in efforts to highlight their relevance in society.

Clearly, the families of innocently suspected Mungiki folk have a bone to pick with the police. However, those whose husbands, wives, sons and daughters were bona fide Mungiki members should not feign ignorance in their disappearance. They should expect that if they allow their families to thrive by violence, they will be taken out violently. It is after all what the fairness doctrine dictates.

I’m not saying the KNCHR is irrelevant. It is in fact an important facet in our attempts to display civility. The danger is that it risks being rendered inconsequential and ineffective if it continues the path of partiality.

Maina Kiai should camp outside the nearest police camp and go on hunger strike until their term of service is brought up to date with international standards. Hoping to clean the system by condemning police brutality is like killing a gecko by cutting its tail.

Anonymous said...

True. Finally an article that got it right.

Anonymous said...

The world owner, the poor are treated like vermin, the middle-class like they are not there, and the rich like they are superhuman. At least in kenya once in a while you'll see a rich man arrested and beaten etc - hardly ever in foreign countries where money is their god.

Anonymous said...

The world owner, the poor are treated like vermin, the middle-class like they are not there, and the rich like they are superhuman. At least in kenya once in a while you'll see a rich man arrested and beaten etc - hardly ever in foreign countries where money is their god.

Anonymous said...

It's not my fault that I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth and was a top student. The result is a great job, a nice flat in a nice hood, and of course a trophy wife. Isn't life unfair? To quote Matthew 25:29, "For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath."

While some rich people made their money through corruption, others got lucky selling to the mass middle class through businesses that were seeded by salo savings and co-op loans. 2^10=1024 so if you double your money 10 times, you end up with 1,024 times your initial capital. By somewhere along the way, most people hata. Remember that gava spending is only 1/5 of the economy so you're better off betting on the mass middle class. By mass middle class, I mean people who pay rent of 6-60k a month or own homes that can be rented out for 6-60k a month. If you don't have what it takes to succeed in businesses, then tough. Live with it. Do you see me bitching coz Jelimo won $1m at 18?

If the poor stopped breeding like rats, then they'd have money to fund their businesses and kids' education. Just look at the pathetic poverty reports they bring on telly. Ati a 28-year-old mother of 8 in a 1 room Kibera shack. Gimme a break. Whatever happened to personal responsiblity. I got deflowered at 27 for crying out loud. No African wishes to say, "It's my fault". Poor jungus in SA and the States, and poor Japs in Japan blame themselves for their situation. An African will never blame himself. It's always the government's fault, even if he's sowing his seeds with abandon.

For Kenya to eradicate wretchedness, apart from personal responsibility, billions need to be invested by the private sector so that the economy can grow at double-digit rates like Singapore did between 1960-2007. This needs investor protection and that where people like the great Brig Ali come in. Of course there will be some collateral damage which is regrettable but that's life. There's no need for Chris to incite people to violence because if the rich flee, they'll just go to the estates that they own in the nice parts of Jo'burg and Cape Town and watch Kenya turn in Sierra Leone on telly while sipping iced tea prepared by their Zulu mboch.

Dude so lucky it's not fair

Anonymous said...

I am glad you finally have it right; the problem of kenya is a problem of economic class...the only way out is socialism...african socialism...

increase tax to the rich, very rich and use the funds to provide security to the poor, free health care, minimum income, do this you have to create an environment where businesses thrive (and then pay their fair share of taxes)...for this to happen you need:
1. disband the police; bring in the armed forces into Nbi to ensure security
2. create new police
3. to stop brain drain/wealth leaving the country:
-allow dual citizenship
-reduce corruption from govt workers by increasing income 3-5 times
-improve govt services: roads, security

-limit mp salaries
-mp term reduced to 1 term

Anonymous said...

you have to create an environment where the rich businessmen/scientists who can create suceessful global business do this in Kenya (and than pay fair heavy taxes)... instead of them taking their money out of Kenya because they are worried about, security, violence from police, car jackings, civil unrest, coups

Anonymous said...

Kenya was more of a success under Moi - he has every right to talk; Moi was on the right path - peace love and unity meant people could live in peace and security; he woke up at 4-5am read the newspapers and started working by 7am and spent the whole day in Kenya's service; I have followed every thing that moi has uttered and his ideas; he rarely makes inflammatory statements; he talks of peace and people of all tribes working/living together. Had he been president in Dec 2007 he would have settled with Odinga in 1
week instead of 2 months thus avoiding ethnic strife....

Anonymous said...

Obama is increasing taxes for the rich.

Anonymous said...

Rich man above please stops the arrogance.

Can someone explain to me why a 28 year old woman can have 8 children? Are condoms expensive? Is it lack of family planning education? Is it lack of financial planning? Is it lack of leisure....therefore leading to sex all the time? Is it insurance from infantile death? If one dies I still have others to take care of me in my retirement. Is it matrimonial rape? Is it just plain ignorance on the part of the father and mother? Is it culture?

What is it?

Mai Ma Nguku said...


Me, I am rich and do not have apologises for my wealth! I worked hard for my money. I studied abroad, got a menial jobs there and invested here in kenya. When Kibaki was elected in 2002, I returned to Kenya in 2003, since then heavens opened for me.
There is plenty here if you know how to invest, the only problem you cannot drive your ferrari in kenyan roads or wear Rolex watch in town.

Hakuna shida hapa nyumbani all we need is criminals lock-up and leave us alone to enjoy our hard earned money bira chaka.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2:20 p.m.

I am also asking, what is it?

Can somebody out there tell us?

Anonymous said...

I can't believe the ignorance running amok in this blog.
Look at this "If the poor stopped breeding like rats, then they'd have money to fund their businesses and kids' education"- Well only the rich can talk so arrogantly- pse make this simple decision for me. I have Ksh. 50 today, Do I buy Unga or condoms/ pills? The only thing that makes me human and that which equates me to the rich is that I can also indulge in that which is free - sex. The rest can take care of themselves. After all this children who are accidental by products of my partaking in my basic need/ human right becomes an investment in my social capital.
It should be the moral reponsibility of all of us to be our brothers keepers. It is only in Kenya that we glorify and worship the primitive accumulation of wealth. Trust me, for as long as the gap between the poor and the rich continues to grow, you will never be at peace to enjoy your so called wealth.It is unbelievable that we have become a society bereft of any empathy> So help us God!

Anonymous said...

baffles me how one can drive a mercedes when so many are poor; unless the very high tax on the mercedes is being put to good use...and not to things like big mp pay...

Sue said...

Hi Chris,

Long time but you are still the same funny Chris. Interesting comment "Mostly our commentators are rich privileged kids who have never gone hungry for a single day."

Its true the rich and the poor view police killings differently, the rich feel relieved when a poor person is arrested because it would mean less trouble. So they will not take Prof. Alston's report seriously. Its very sad how people view the poor, some are poor because of fate.

Many are poor because of greed and corruption in our country.

Anonymous said...

Come back Kwale. We need your insight. Where are you?

Mwarang'ethe said...

Dear Kalamari et al:

From what we have read from you, extra - judicial killings of Mungiki and others like that, is justified as a means of fighting crime.

You and others who think this way, are starting the issue from the wrong side. This is so because, you forget that the state is supposed to be the embodiment of the society and should reflect the best of that society.

We do not protest such killings because we love criminals. No, it is because, we are just defending their HUMAN DIGNITY, and, in the process, defending the HUMAN DIGNITY of ALL KENYANS.

It is easy to wonder how that can be. We will explain it this way. Freedom, just like human dignity is indivisible. We cannot have bad criminal laws that allow extra - judicial killing because, such laws apply to "criminals."

What you forget is this, such laws or any other laws are not for criminals. They are meant for all of us.

Thus, it is fundamental that any criminal rule/law must be JUST, FAIR and TOLERABLE, so that, when our day comes to be a State guest, we can live under them. This is because we are all, as long as we are alive potential suspects.

That being the case then, none of us, including Kalamari, would want to be regarded as guilty before we are tried in a court of law, and, even if guilty, we retain the right to be treated humanely.

In the liberal moral philosophy, human dignity is regarded as what gives a person their intrinsic worth. Consequently, in the words of Kant, it is “above all price and so admits of no equivalent”. It is therefore; the foundation of our inmate’s rights to freedom and to physical integrity from which all other rights flow.

Finally, we leave you with what the South African Constitutional Court held in one case in regard to:
- Human dignity and its relationship to a FREE, CIVILIZED, and DEMOCTRATIC society, especially in reference to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment in general:

It said that:

"Measures that assail the dignity and self-esteem of an individual will have to be justified; there is no place for brutal and dehumanizing treatment and punishment. The constitution has allocated to the state and its organs a role as the protectors and guarantors of those rights to ensure that they are available to all.

In the process, it sets the State up as a MODEL for society as it endeavors to move away from a violent past. It is therefore reasonable to expect that the state must be foremost in upholding those values, which are the guiding light of civilized societies.

Respect for human dignity is one such value; acknowledging it includes an acceptance by society… even the vilest criminal remains a human being possessed of common human dignity."

In other words, your support for extra - judicial killings can only remind us of one of decree of Pope Innocentius III in 1198, of whose cornerstone was founded on, inter alia:
- the compulsory interrogation of the accused;
- the abolition of the right to silence (which is the privilege against self-incrimination); and
- the legitimization and institutionalization of torture.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:04 PM
unfortunately Kwale will not be back until summer (July & August)- currently busy working on a project in Kuwait City.

Anonymous said...

Sue you are right “Many are poor because of greed and corruption in our country”

It is said the mother of all problems in our country is CORRUPTION and the grandma (the mother of corruption ) is GREED, the daughter of corruption is POVERTY.

We are hearing now the daughter of corruption (poverty) is pregnant and will give birth very soon, my guess is that the toto( the new born) of the daughter (poverty) will be VIOLENCE.

Mwarang'ethe said...

Mai Ma Nguku said...

Me, I am rich and do not have apologises for my wealth! I worked hard for my money. I studied abroad, got a menial jobs there and invested here in kenya. When Kibaki was elected in 2002, I returned to Kenya in 2003, since then heavens opened for me.
There is plenty here if you know how to invest, the only problem you cannot drive your ferrari in kenyan roads or wear Rolex watch in town.

Our comment:

We are told by an ancient wise man that:

He is a blessed man who has both property and intellect, for he will use them well in such things as are proper.

We have read about your property. Unfortunately, like many rich Kenyans, we have not read/seen your intellect.

Anonymous said...

there is poverty in kenya because of 70 years of inadequate policies, poor implementation, lack of political will and corruption by the government and the rich economic class....this is a prescription for civil unrest....

rich kids are insensitive to the plight of the poor...the way out is cumpolsory 1 yr military service/peace corp type service

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