Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Salute to my Country Men and Women

One of the best and most memorable experience for any Kenyan living abroad, i imagine, is to hear their national anthem being played (even out of tune) and see their national flag (which all Kenyans think is the best looking in the world) being hoisted on foreign soil.
For years, Kenyan athletes, men and women, kings and queens of the world's track and field have consistently dominated international races-breaking records, setting new ones and breaking them again when no one else could; effectively guaranteeing and providing those special 'Kenyan-anthem-and-flag-moments' abroad.
In fact, Kenyans have been so successful that my favourite columnist, Charles Onyango-Obbo, writing in the East African, once proposed that they should now allow Ugandans to win- 'in the spirit of East African cooperation'.
Meanwhile, Utrecht Marathon organizers were busy plotting how to lock out Kenyans from their event this year. A point-blank ban would be illegal and was not an option. So they decided they would instead 'offer' 100euro prize money to any non-Dutch passport holder (code name for Kenyan) who won the race, and 10000euros for a Dutch citizen achieving the same feat. Being the clever fellows they think they are, they explained away the whole scenario as a way of 'encouraging' Dutch citizens to 'do well'. What a lame, short-sighted strategy. And an even lamer and blind excuse.
As if to prove just how banal the Utrecht strategy is, Geoffrey Mutai went on to not only win the 115th edition of the Boston marathon, but set a new record, running the fastest marathon ever!
Geoffrey Mutai, world's fastest marathon runner
Caroline Kilel did the honours in the women's race. A week earlier, Kenya had swept the podium at the London marathon.The Paris marathon before that.The World Cross Country Championships in Palmeria, get the drift by now.
Another Kenyan, Caroline Kilel, won the women's race
So the IAAF built a high altitude international training camp in Kenya.Foreign athletes flocked to 'acclimatize' and learn the 'Kenyan secret to success'. Years later, they are still learning.Going by recent and not too recent results, it seems to me that they are either learning the wrong stuff....or...Kenyans were 'built' for this business and are in a class of their won. I am more inclined to the latter possibility.

Rudisha: Its a world record!
Last year, a 21 year-old by the name David Rudisha, showed up on the world stage to set a new 800-meter world record...and proceeded to break it after one week. IAAF had no option other than to name him the male athlete of the year 2010. In Nairobi, we joked how Rudisha was 'rudisha-ing' medals back home.Rudisha is also a Kiswahili word that means 'return'.

I can only salute these outstanding men and women, who never disappoint and forever make me proud to be Kenyan!!


You are living abroad and get invited to give a 30-minute presentation about your country to a high school class. Whatever you think is most important. What would you say? Perhaps some history? Geography? Culture? Economics? How much detail is necessary? Statistics or analysis or opinions?

In a world where information is now readily available on the internet, whether you are talking about Kathmandu or Pago Pago or Kamchatka, what new perspectives would you give, that technology would be deficient of?
I have decided that i have done enough consultations and held numerous committee meetings in my head about these concerns and more, and now its time to simply relax and look forward to interacting with the students of a 'Gimnazjum' in the town of Ciechocinek the location of what will for them be lessons in 'Kenyalogy'-which i hope will be interesting.The results will be here, regardless of the outcome.

A spa park in Ciechocinek
Meanwhile, i have decided to use technology and see what i can find about Ciechocinek on the internet.The town has a website in several languages: Polish, English, German, French and Czech. Fascinating! Most of what i have heard so far is about the town's saline springs that go back as far as the 13th Century. The town is described as an important hub for natural curative resources and 'one of the most popular health resort towns in Poland'.For the citizens of East Africa, i can assure you that it is not another Loliondo, just incase you were wondering!
To read more about 'The Pearl of Polish Health Resorts' check out: Hopefully i will find time to see the town and bring you my first hand experiences of it.
Do następnego razu!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Foreign Exchange

Its one of those days when i woke up wondering why there are never enough days in the weekend. Especially as i had been planning and looking forward to that weekend-as eagerly as Kenyan farmers wait for the rainy season in March.So it was all in the past now, huh?! And i'm all high and dry now.
Its the kind of day you want to forget quickly. Consolation is that when the week starts on Tuesday, the period between Monday and Friday is considerably reduced. Before you know it, its mid-week. Thursday drags itself.But then again Friday shows up.
To ease myself through this post-holiday-end-of-the-first-day-back-to-work, i decide to sign into my blog.Like a well laid out conspiracy, i can't find or get the control panel to display in English-it all comes up in Polish-needless to say that my vocabulary hasn't expanded enough to decipher what the Polish words mean.I have to guess. Guess work can be tiring. Then i find my way through.
Seemingly, only a good dose of neo soul ('neo soul?!what's neo soul?') can get me unnerved and relaxed and chilled out.'Blog-surfing' for good neo soul music yields interesting results.
The Foreign Exchange.Its that kind of day.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Poland Remembers...

One would be forgiven for believing that the month of April is jinxed.17 years ago on April 6th, the genocide in Rwanda started.One year ago tomorrow, Poland marks the 1st anniversary of the tragic plane crash that killed all 96 passengers aboard the aircraft, including President Lech Kaczyński, his wife and many high ranking officials of the Polish government and society.They were on their way to Katyn, to observe the 70th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of Polish officers and intellectuals by the Soviet secret police, between April and May, 1940.

A memorial commemorating the victims of the Smolensk plane crash, at the military cemetery in Warsaw. Photograph: Grzegorz Jakubowski/EPA (Source:

The events that sparked the genocide involved the shooting down of the plane that was carrying then Presidents Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi. What followed would stun the world forever.Over 1 million people massacred in 100 days.
So what is it with April? Hard to tell.This year i have had the pleasure of experiencing winter and now spring for the first time ever, in Poland. I was struck by how gradually everything seemingly 'springs back to life'. Everyone is in better mood, it is much warmer, but not as hot as the summer months.It is hard to miss the transformation. Still, there are the occassional grey and rainy days, and this time, strong winds.The best days of spring are still ahead.
That for me, best explains the resilience of the Rwandan and Polish spirit.The ability to remain strong and to look forward to better days ahead.

For now, Poland remembers...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

In Memoriam...

Wherever in the world you are, please light a candle and spare a thought/prayer for all who died in the genocide in Rwanda...and the many people-children, women and men-who lost their lives in conflicts all across Africa...more recently in Cote d'Ivoire, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Sudan.

     'If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other' -- Mother Teresa

Monday, April 4, 2011

17 years later....

I have been obsessed with the Ivorian situation right from the time elections were held until now. The United Nations 'managed' (or were supposed to oversee) the elections. Their verdict-Alassane Ouattara won the elections. The incumbent Laurent Gbagbo cried foul and alleged massive rigging by his political rival.Several weeks and months later, characterised by all manner of African Union sponsored delegations, Heads of State, threats from Presidents Sarkozy, Obama, sanctions from the European Union; we find ourselves staring at a massacre with conflicting reports that over 1000 people have been killed in the Western town of Duekoue. Shocking!

Residents of Abidjan are living in panic and terror

The body count in Abidjan could be even higher, now that both sides are at this time assembling their ammo and troops, in what the international press has billed 'the final push'.It is a deadly warzone. Besides the fact that my friends Watson and Harris are living in Abidjan, my intense interest in the unfolding events in what was once nick-named the 'Paris of Africa', is spurred by what i think is a damning verdict on African and global leadership thus far.The African Union had the opportunity to arrest the situation at its early stages.It didn't.Instead, African leaders fiddled around and played poker, allowing the stalemate to drag on, until some other crises in the world-the Japanese tsunami-cum-nuclear disaster, the 'Arab Revolt' and the 'Operation Odyssey' unfolded and overshadowed everything else.Effectively making sure that the international community conveniently 'forgot' that Cote d'Ivoire was on fire. Now its too late.

Côte d'Ivoire: Les massacres de Ouattara à Duekoue przez Nzwamba

Exactly 17 years ago this week, August 6th 1994, the genocide in Rwanda broke out. Over 800,000 lives were lost in a space of one month. The world had its hands in its pockets and watched, only to lament later and vow, "never again!" Never again, indeed!My best friend, Emmanuel is now starting his third month and new life in Australia along with his parents and siblings, after enduring several years as a refugee in Tanzania and Kenya, having fled Rwanda. Lives have been changed.
In Kenya, 6 Kenyans-Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, two Members of Parliament and former cabinet ministers, the head of the Civil Service, the Post-Master General and former Police Commissioner and the head of a local radio station- are getting ready to board their Amsterdam bound flights. The 6 have been named by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) based at the Hague, Mr. Louis Moreno-Ocampo, as bearing greatest criminal responsibility for the post-election violence that engulfed Kenya, after presidential elections in December of 2007. Over 1350 people lost their lives.Many more lost their homes.Peace was shattered.
The 6 Kenyans headed to the ICC at the Hague

Whether or not the judges of the pre-trial chamber at the ICC eventually confirms the charges against some or all 6 persons, Kenya's political landscape is set to change. My hope is that, that change will be for the better.
However, my pre-occupation with the events witnessed in Ivory Coast, and those about to take place at the Hague and in Kigali, will certainly persist this week.
What are the lessons for Africa? Have we learnt anything? Will the younger generation change Africa's course?These and many more questions will resonate over and over again.Only time will tell what the answers will be.17 years later...