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Archive for December 15th, 2011

Great expectations: A Kenyan comic,Shujaaz, to tell the tale of a modern-day Oliver Twist

Posted by Administrator on December 15, 2011

Some parts of Kenya can justly be called Dickensian

AFRICAN cities have no Victorian poor laws or workhouses, yet their mix of cruelty and vibrancy smacks of Charles Dickens, 200 years after his birth. By some counts, Africa has 75m orphans, many of them exploited in ways described by Dickens. A Kenyan comic, called Shujaaz, is soon to tell the tale of a modern-day Oliver Twist. To be known as Titus Twist, he is an apprentice to a coffin-maker and survives against all odds in an urban jungle akin to the vast slums of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

How would Dickens’s Artful Dodger, the pickpocket friend of Oliver/Titus, handle the venality of Kenya’s modern politicians, the hypocrisy of its churchmen or the sanctimony of foreign charity-dispensing NGOs? If Titus stole as brazenly as Oliver did for Fagin, he might be stoned or “necklaced” with a burning tyre by a mob. “The Dodger would have a kiosk run by one of his girlfriends, be a rapper, go to church,” reckons a Shujaaz producer.

Since 2010, 11m copies of Shujaaz have been distributed free, making it Kenya’s highest-circulation publication. Its aim is to empower the young with fresh ideas. It puts the story of young Kenyans, some of them very poor, into monthly print, as Dickens did for down-at-heel Londoners. The characters include DJ Boyie, a lad who runs a pirate radio station from his bedroom, and a lively orphan girl who is raising her brother in a slum while studying and fending off pimps. The tale is told in Sheng, a new city language that mixes English, Swahili (the regional lingua franca) and a bunch of tribal tongues. Shujaaz regales its readers, mostly aged 16-25, with life in tin-shack alleys. It is also brought to life in radio shows, a medium Dickens would have appreciated.

AIDS is one of the issues the comic tackles. Its world looks like Rongai, a sprawling dormitory community near Nairobi. An AIDS clinic there treats 1,800 prostitutes in a population of less than 100,000. The settlement is a mix of tribes, with people drawn from the countryside by the lure of such money-spinners as work in call-centres. But getting the cash is a battle. The rent for a room in Rongai has risen from $5 to $50 a month since 2007. Like many of Dickens’s characters, Rongai’s people, living in fumes and squalor, often yearn for the countryside and its solid tribal values. Lacking a parish church, Rongai’s dead are carried back to their home villages to be buried among maize and cassava.

A group of Rongai youths cannot think of any classmates who have been successful, except thieves. It would be a success, modestly defined, to become a tout on one of the minibuses that stream into Nairobi, a supermarket cashier, a soldier or a policeman. Or a Titus Twist.

Source: http://www.economist.com/node/21541868

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Kenya: Rapists leave mentally ill woman with 4 kids

Posted by Administrator on December 15, 2011

Mwari who is mentally challenged bore 4 kids from rapes

Mwari who is mentally challenged bore 4 kids from rapes

On a hill above the miraa town of Maua in Meru County, the Capital News crew meets Hellen Mwari in a small remote village called Kibilaku.

Mwari is going on with her daily chores under the guidance of her mother.

She dresses up her two children and gets herself ready to meet her visitors.

Looking at Mwari from afar, one would suppose she is a young girl who just follows her mother around.

Only on a closer look will one tell of Mwari’s tragedies of her life as a mentally impaired woman since birth.

Mwari cannot speak for herself. Her mother who understands her best narrates the tribulations of her needy daughter and her children who one can best describe as products of rape.

“(Huyu mtoto akili yake sio mzuri…) this child is retarded, she does not remember things, you tell her something and she completely forgets the next minute,” she explains.

Despite being mentally ill, Mwari is a mother of three after she lost her second born son whom she dipped into a pot of hot tea when he was just weeks old.

“Mwari had four children, but one died when she dropped him in hot tea when she was sieving it, she now has Mose and these two,” she says as she points at Mwari’s 10 year old daughter and four year old son who from time to time giggles and smiles clearly demonstrating his joy and the innocence of a child.

Mwari’s first born son Mose who is now 17 years old is nowhere to be found.

He ran away from home after he could not take the insults and discrimination from neighbours and age mates who kept telling him that he was the son of a rapist.

About five years after Mose was born, Mwari was pregnant again.

Time dragged on until Mwari got her 4th born son.

During the interview it is noticeable that Mwari is completely disoriented. She seems to be seeing what her mother whom she is sitting with cannot see. From time to time, Mwari stares in all directions clueless of her surroundings.

Her mother describes Mwari as a miracle baby.

When she was pregnant with Mwari, she thought she had three miscarriages after heavy bleeding within intervals of three months.

Although she thought her pregnancy was no more, little Mwari was still miraculously growing until she delivered her in 1975 but realised she was mentally ill.

“I was bleeding a lot when I was pregnant… I thought this baby was actually out of my womb, because the bleeding was heavy with a lot of cramps and I was convinced she was out, but she was still there, I bled for many months again I thought she was dead, but still she lived on,” she recalls that together with her husband they were happy that they had received God’s gift of a firstborn child despite her condition.

Her hopes that Mwari would one day grow up to be a normal child faded away when she stayed in one class for three years forcing her out of school. “She stayed in standard one for three years, her younger brother even passed her and when I realised Mwari did not learn anything I got her out of school.”

Like any other woman, Mwari started her monthly periods and it was up to her mother to help her handle them from the age of 14 since she has no idea of what it was.

“When I saw she was getting her periods, I started giving her cotton wool and small cloths and I had to do it myself since she could not. All along I have always monitored her menstrual cycle,” she asserts.

Her biggest blow in her struggle of caring for her mentally ill daughter started in 1994.

She was barely 18 when her mother realised that she had missed her periods for two months.

Least in her mind was the thought that her mentally challenged daughter could be pregnant.

One thing she knew about Mwari was that she was not sexually active.

Worst of all, Mwari did not know who and how to ask her as she barely understood what even sex is.

“I know Mwari is not a loose child, she does not even understand these things of sleeping with men. I was very surprised when I discovered she was vomiting and she had no periods, I knew she was pregnant,” she recounts.

Mwari’s mum explains that rapists accost her when she sends her to the river to fetch water or firewood.

Other times, they sneak into her house and rape Mwari when she is busy in the farm or out in the market.

“When I send Mwari somewhere, the men get her on the way and ask her to follow them. Then they give her tea and rape her, other times when I leave the house they sneak in and do it in our house,” she regrets.

Her mum says Mwari has somehow identified all her rapists. Only one of them accepted responsibility. Unfortunately that is the father of the boy who passed on.

The rest of the men Mwari identified to her mother have denied having ever raped her. But she insists Mwari cannot be lying even if she is mentally ill.

“These children completely resemble their alleged fathers, but they have all refused. I know Mwari cannot be lying because I ask her to show me the person who beat her, and she shows me with time though she takes a long time to identify them,” she explains.

After coming to terms with the reality that her daughter is an easy target for rapists, she took Mwari to a hospital where she had her fallopian tubes blocked to prevent her from conceiving again.

Since pregnancy was the only proof that Mwari had been raped, her mother is worried that she will probably be raped again and she may not even find out.

Struggling in poverty where Mwari’s mother is the main bread winner of her family of five and three grandchildren, she only wishes she has the capability to have a DNA test done to establish who fathered her grandchildren and who raped her daughter.

Mwari lost her father to gastric cancer about 20 years ago and since then, her mum has been the only person to depend on for upkeep and protection.

“I don’t have the capability… if I did I would take action. I just need to have the fathers of these children to at least support them. It is very hard for me and you can see Mwari cannot be able to support them. If I get help I will thank God,” she appeals.

As we bid Mwari and her family farewell, many questions are left unanswered.

Did Mwari have to get four children for her to access family planning services?

Is there follow up on mentally challenged girls and their reproductive health needs?

But that is just to prevent her from getting children that she never planned for or probably she does not even know if she has.

Mwari has three surviving children all out of rape, will she ever get justice? Will they even stop raping her?

Source: Capital FM

Posted in Kenya | 10 Comments »

Meet Martin Mbugua, Ivy League’s Princeton University’s Spokesman

Posted by Administrator on December 15, 2011

In May 2011, Princeton University named Kenyan-American spokesperson of the New Jersey Ivy League university. Martin Mbugua, who has an undergraduate in Journalism from St. John’s University, has more than 17 years of professional experience in mass media and university communications.

Martin Mbugua a former freelance journalist with the Daily Nation and The Standard is the spokeman for Princeton University.

Martin Mbugua a former freelance journalist with the Daily Nation and The Standard is the spokesman for Princeton University.

Mbugua, who has an undergraduate in Journalism from St. John’s University, has more than 17 years of professional experience in mass media and university communications. In his role at Princeton, Mbugua will liaise between the New Jersey Ivy League institution and media outlets around the world.

“Martin brings with him deep expertise working in media in this country and abroad,” said Director of News and Editorial Services Cass Cliatt. “Building on an accomplished career as a newspaper reporter in Kenya and New York City, he developed a proven track record in higher education for effective strategic communications, cultivating strong relationships and creative problem-solving. Martin’s contributions will be a true asset to the University community.”

Before joining Princeton earlier this month, Mbugua was the communications and marketing manager for the Murphy Institute at the City University of New York.

Before that, he served as senior news editor for the University of Delaware, where he was a media spokesperson and was part of the news planning and management team for UDaily, an online university news site for students.

From 1998 to 2004, Mbugua worked at the New York Daily News. He managed crime and New York City Police Department news reporting, handling a steady flow of breaking news stories. While in that role, he was part of a reporting team nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in recognition of superior first-day reporting of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and the events that followed.

Mbugua holds an MBA from the University of Delaware and another Masters in Government from St. Johns University. He also served as a U.S. based freelance correspondent for Kenyan newspapers – the Daily Nation and the Standard in Nairobi.

Source: AFRICAN IMMIGRANT JOURNAL

Posted in Diaspora News | 3 Comments »

Foster family of Kenyan boy who drowned in Australia pay tribute

Posted by Administrator on December 15, 2011

Samuel Macharia's foster parents tell of their grief.

Samuel Macharia's foster parents tell of their grief.

THE family of Kenyan teenager Samuel Macharia said a heartbreaking public goodbye to their “beautiful son” with the “infectious smile” this morning.

Samuel, who would have turned 17 this week, is believed to have drowned off Cabarita Beach after a swim on Sunday.

His body was found by surf lifesavers on the beach at Salt after a four-day land and ocean search.

The talented soccer player came to Australia in 2006, sponsored by the Tweed Shire Council as an off-shoot from a council program in Kenya.

Council employees Bernie and Sandra Zietlow and their sons Ricky, Kurt and Ryan took Samuel into their family and the Tweed community where he touched the hearts of everyone he met.

“Words can’t express our grief,” Mr Zietlow said.

“Sam’s infectious smile, gentle nature and massive capacity to give love were impossible to resist and captivated all who came into contact with him.

“A small boy from Kenya, Samuel Mwangi Macharia Zietlow came into our lives and touched the hearts of everyone he met forever.

“We love you Sammy.”

Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School, where Samuel had just completed his Year 10 school certificate, is providing ongoing prayer time and support for friends and family of the popular teenager.

Principal Chris Duncan said support would be provided for as long as it was needed.

Mayor Barry Longland has also expressed his sadness on behalf of the Tweed Shire Council.

“On behalf of council and my councillor colleagues I extend my deepest condolences to Sam’s family here in Tweed and in Kenya,” Cr Longland said.

“We share the grief of the organisation on the loss of Sam and trust his legacy will continue.”

Council general manager Mike Rayner said Sam’s life story was one of hope, inspiration and courage with his personality touching many people.

Source: http://www.coolum-news.com.au/story/2011/12/09/foster-parents-pay-tribute-to-sam/

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The forgotten shifts: The Kenyan Diaspora you never hear from is awakening

Posted by Administrator on December 15, 2011

“Just how deep is your access to the Kenyan community in the USA? Do you think you really know? Are you sure? 100% sure?” That is a serious question the Kenyan embassy to the US should be asked. I feel tempted to accuse the Kenyan embassy in theUSAof negligence in reaching out to and serving Kenyans in this country, but then I refrain and ask myself, “Maybe they just do not know how to really get to majority of the Diaspora out here?” Well….no. There is no letting them off the hook. The Kenyan Embassy has way less outreach to and even influence over the Kenyan community in the US than they believe and/or are leading Kenyan government officials and politicians to believe and I will share with you my opinion why this is so, as well as why it may be a ticking time bomb.

    First, let me begin by defining the process in which the embassy has been seen to reach out to the Kenyans in the US. The Kenya Embassy has established contacts with different Diaspora Kenyan Organizations and Churches spread across the US. It is these organizations they contact when they want to initiate meetings in the respective cities, or whenever a politician is in town. I will call these (Church and Kenyan Orgs) the first shift. Some of these organizations are old and some are new. These organizations’ leadership consists of mostly older Kenyans. To give them props, they do indeed have quite some clout but mostly among the church goers and family Kenyans.

The downside of the first shift is that many of these organizations, and even churches might have began with good intent but have been turned into fronts for political and tribal alliances. It doesn’t take that long of being a member of one to realize that this is an ODM leaning organization or a PNU leaning organization. Some organizations’ members are very brazen about this and do not hide it. Many of them are also currently embroiled in internal disputes as their board members, whom I mentioned to be older Kenyans, try to run the organizations with an old school Autocratic style of leadership. It is also not hard to notice that despite having women on their boards, there are barely any of these organizations with a Kenyan lady as head of the board. Before I am accused of witch-hunting, let me clarify that this does not apply to all Diaspora based Kenyan organizations, just majority of them.These are the go-to folks of the embassy. Most of these senescent relationships were built in pre-dot com societies, and have continued to live along.

There are two forgotten shifts in the Kenyan Diaspora that represent majority of Kenyans in the USA. 2nd shift is the social media shift and 3rd shift is the nightlife shift. I have chosen to list 2nd and 3rd shift together because they usually share the same folks. Despite consisting of majority of the Kenyan Diaspora, most of the 2nd and 3rd shift folks barely know of any existence of the Kenyan Embassy save for what they read in the newspaper. When I say ‘barely know of’, what I mean is that the embassy plays almost no role in their life, and this is not by choice. As I mentioned above, the Kenyan embassy has been so traditional in its methodology of reaching out to the Kenyan Diaspora that they have a false sense of how many Diasporans they have access to. 2nd shift Diaspora Kenyans also tend to include majority of the students, most of whom flew to the US straight from home and enrolled in a local college in either a small or large town.

For most, their only connection with other Kenyans is through facebook and/or twitter. 2nd shifters are extremely aware of the happenings back in Kenya and usually tend to be very active in online forums that not only discuss current affairs, but also politics. They have been vocal for years online with limited effect however based on the global tide of social media activism, this 2nd shift is beginning to group up and formalize their interactions with the hope of having more impact. The conveners in the 2nd shift tend to be bloggers, scholars, and the ever growing popular online radio stations. If you speak to the 2nd and 3rd shift Diaspora Kenyans and ask them about decisions being made on their behalf by people claiming to be spokespersons for them, they will not hide their disgust at the mis-representation because they are fully aware of current shortcomings. I personally attended a meeting between a large Kenyan delegation that included President Kibaki during the annual United Nations general assembly, and I actually was not aware of the event until a 1st shift Diaspora acquaintance notified me.

I was mortified when at the end of the meeting, the lady chosen to speak on behalf of the Diaspora broke out into worship and praise for president Kibaki and the ministers, telling them how much we love them and all the wonderful things they are doing for us. She raised no concerns or recommendations on our behalf. I was to later find out that diasporans chosen to speak at these events are thoroughly vetted so they can prevent someone from telling them how we really feel, and this doesn’t necessarily have to be negative, but just that they’d prefer to let someone ready to kiss major behind. Worship sans criticism 

The big question then is, “Why the 2nd and 3rd shift diasporans do not join the 1st shift diasporans so as to keep abreast of community happenings?” Well many of them will reply and tell you that they keep off because they have attended some meetings and felt unwelcome. “I would definitely love to go to a church mainly frequented by Kenyans in my city but how will I feel welcome if during and after the service they only speak in vernacular language? I only speak English and Swahili”, told me one young lady. Her sentiments were echoed by almost five other random Kenyans I asked and they felt the same about Diaspora organizations, though for the most part many of them had never heard of any Diaspora Kenyan organizations.

Additionally, they asked why one would have to join an organization in order to have their voice or opinions heard. Why not offer different channels which are more aligned with newer technology as a means to get out to the masses? An 18 year old college freshman in Washington DC is an adult Kenyan just as the 52 year old Kenyan businessman. You cannot tell this 18yr old young adult that in order for their voice to be heard, they have to align themselves with a local organization and have to attend their meetings in order to chip in. It’s like telling Justin Beiber that for his music to be heard, he has to sing Frank Sinatra-esque music. This 18yr old would rather have a line of communication within a preferred medium of his or her choice, probably facebook in this case.

The 3rd shift hands down is the one shift that contains the greatest access the Kenyan Diaspora. The 3rd shifters go to school, they work, they live their separate lives, and many are church goers too (simply attend service and leave), but the strongest way they keep up with Kenyan tradition is through partying and nightlife activity. Unless you have been living under a rock, partying is tied into Kenyan culture. It is no secret that we enjoy getting our groove on and socializing. Kenyans are even known to make big business deals over a few cold ones at preferred locals. In the same way you could call on the embassy to embrace new technology and social media as a means of reaching the masses, they should have already by now embraced our affinity for social gatherings to get to the masses.

As an example, former Kenyan Ambassador to the UN, Hon. Zachary Muita, was a well loved man by tri-state residents. Realizing that social gatherings were embodied into Kenyan culture, he often threw social gathering events at ‘Kenya House’ in New York and the result was very solid relations with the community as well as him being well informed on what was happening on the ground all the way from the street level up. The numbers that the third shift can pull out to an event are staggering. A first shift congregation can bring out about 100 folks while a 3rd shift gathering in the same city brings out about 400 Kenyans. How do you get to the 3rd shift? Very simple….the DJs and the promoters.

I could easily provide a list of 30 ‘must have’ names of Kenyan Diaspora DJs and Promoters whom if were to all send out an e-mail or text, you are guaranteed to have reached almost 90% of the Kenyans in the US. These Djs and promoters aggressively hustle for their events and to that extent, have a foot in each shift. They know the 1st shifters, the 2nd shifters, and the 3rd shifters. They throw events on a weekly basis and know the well being of hundreds of Kenyans within a certain radius of the cities they live in.

The 3rd shift have major outreach  to masses locked down, as evident by pulling together 20,000 Kenyans during the Las Vegas rugby sevens even,  and thousands the Dallas Memorial reunion, Jersey and Kansas July 4th events, Washington DC and West Coast Labor Day events, name it. Tell me when, if ever a US Kenya embassy event has brought out more than 1,000 Kenyans. The role that the 3rd shift coordinators i.e. Djs & Promoters play is so large that their role usually expands beyond leisure. Many times there is an emergency or bad situation in the community, they have also had to step in as facilitators to bail some out, arrange funerals for others, and even work on looking for family connections.

If there is to be effective outreach to the Kenyan Diaspora, the Kenyan government must have a system in place to reach all organs of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd shifts of the global Kenyan Diaspora. These shifts exist all over the world. The whole talk of ‘We have a facebook page’ will not suffice. Many corporations and organizations create facebook pages to save face and act like they are adapting to social media but what good is the facebook page or twitter account if you do not know how to use it? Such social media mechanisms have to be managed professionally. Communications and interactions should be documented and feedback sought. It is the embassy’s responsibility to step out of the box to reach out and try to find out where Kenyans are, how they are living, where they socialize and network.

When asked this question, too many embassy officials respond saying that it is the people not reaching out to them. What they forget is that they are being paid to reach out to, serve, and represent the Kenyan Diaspora. It is very important that this message get out sooner than later, because as we approach a year in which the Diaspora will be able to vote for the first time ever, we now receiving crucial visits like from bodies like the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, and they are making their city to city visits probably based off feedback given by the embassy, whom as pointed out, have less outreach than they are aware of.

It is for this very lack of outreach that the Kenyan embassy to the USA is largely unaware that a large number of diasporans are unhappy about their service shortcomings (most notoriously being simple things like lack of courtesy and effective response from the embassy when contact is made seeking information or help) and there are tremors in the e-world about potential mass action, which would be shameful to them. For a very long time now, some of us have been getting by using the traditional ‘brother looks out for brother’ help support system whereby we look out for each other even in matters that should be handled by the consulate, but the masses are growing restless. With hot issues such as the probability of the Kenyan Diaspora voting, the diasporans are getting more vigilant and are growing restless about lack of proper communication because many, especially from the 2nd shift feel left out.

It is for this reason that we have formed a new facebook group in the last few days called “Kenya Diaspora Vote” which has over 1000 members and growing, to once again fill in the void by doing work which someone somewhere is being paid a salary for, and give the forgotten diasporans a location to attain information related to the Diaspora voting process in 2012. It is essential for the Kenyan government, represented by the embassy officials out here to tap into these three shifts to strengthen the derelict ties to the greater Diaspora community and address several ongoing concerns including Diaspora-embassy relations as well as concerns on our interests back inKenya. Don’t forget that these very Diaspora are the largest source of revenue for the country at this moment through remittances, and if they feel they are not being adequately represented, they could ignite mass action that would have drastic effects ranging from small protests all the way up to regime change, after all the Arab spring was born off facebook. I conclude by applauding all individuals, organizations, churches, and entities that nevertheless are doing the best they can to unite and keep the Kenyan Diaspora informed on affairs that relate to them. Kudos!

Follow the new aKtive Advocacy Group page on FB today : http://facebook.com/aktive254

 

Author Peter“Dj Xpect”Kerre is a DJ/Activist/Scholar based in New York City, USA. He is the 2011 recipient of the ‘Peace Initiative” Jamhuri Award as well as the 2011 recipient of the “Spirit of the Moran” African Award. DJ Xpect is also a member of the Reverend Al. Sharpton’s National Action Network. He also heads  aKtive, a global Kenya Advocacy Group 

Twitter: @djxpect

Facebook: Xpect Peter

Web: www.djxpect.com

Blog: www.ohhpete.com

Posted in Diaspora News, Kenya | 6 Comments »

Video: Kenya Army Officer stabs wife to death

Posted by Administrator on December 15, 2011

Posted in Kenya | 2 Comments »

Immigration Q&A with Attorney Uhuru Ndirangu: Applying for Citizenship for my family

Posted by Administrator on December 15, 2011

Question:  I  came to the U.S. with my three children.  My children and I are now permanent residents.  All my children are under the age of 18 years old.  I want to apply for my whole family to become U.S. citizens.  I do not have enough money to apply for citizenship for myself and all my children at this time.  Can I apply for my own citizenship and later apply for my children to become U.S. citizens?

Answer: In general once a parent becomes a citizen all children under the age of 18 years, lawfully admitted for permanent residence and not yet married, and in the legal and physical custody of the citizen parent automatically derive U.S. citizenship.

There are a few exceptions to this rule.  Once you, the parent become a citizen, the children can get U.S. passports or complete form N-600 (Application for certificate of citizenship).  These documents will serve as evidence of citizenship for your children.  It is important that the parent become a citizen as soon as they are eligible so as to ensure their children will acquire citizenship.  This is important because noncitizens are subject to removal proceeding for various reasons.

Teenage years, especially in this country, are hard times and acquiring citizenship may protect these children from threats of having to face removal in immigration proceeding for actions that teenagers sometimes engage in.

Did you know?

That the law requires that all non-U.S. citizens, except for holders of A or G visas, report a change of address within 10 days of moving by completing a USCIS Form AR-11, Change of Address.

That  whether represented or not, aliens in proceedings before the Immigration Court must notify the Immigration Court within 5 days of any change in address or telephone number, using the Alien’s Change of Address Form (Form EOIR-33/IC). See 8 C.F.R. § 1003.15(d)(2).

Uhuru Ndirangu is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas. He is based in Houston, Texas.

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