Archive for the ‘Kenya Society’ Category

Kenya and IMF: Here We Go Again!   Leave a comment

In order to fight inflation, Kenya has solicited the help of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and they, in turn, have prescribed the painful medicine of raising interest rates to combat inflation. This is typical approach of IMF: if you want help, we will prescribe a bitter pill as a cure. Below, I will briefly explore the ramifications of this prescription with reference to what is likely to happen in the housing sector in Kenya.

One of the consequences of the  imposition of conditions that will lead to high interest rates in Kenya, will be the devastation of the housing market. Just yesterday, as it were, there was a state of euphoria celebrating the housing market boom in Kenya. To be sure, this rosy picture was laced with a hefty dose of “salt”, but nevertheless the housing sector was doing reasonably well. With the rise in interests rates the housing “burble” will soon be replaced by a housing “burst”!

Kenyans living abroad who are waiting to buy their “dream” homes in Kenya, will have their wish fulfilled by this turn of events. They will be able to buy expensive homes on the “cheap”.

Unfortunately the above state of affairs will push home ownership beyond many aspiring Kenyan home owners. For many of them, renting will be their only option. But then this will trigger a price hike in rental properties, forcing many of them to spend a large portion of their incomes on housing. If high food and energy costs were already eroding their incomes, the high cost of housing will further aggravate their situation.

In this scenario, there is a class of “speculators” who are going to have a field day in reaping the benefits of the housing crisis in Kenya. These are people who will be able to pay cash to purchase houses and apartment units for very low prices. They will then be able to rent the housing units at rather hefty prices, thanks to the increased demand for rental units.

The effects of this unfolding drama will be registered in the increase in income inequality and the concentration of incomes. The rich will become richer and the poor will become poorer. Many others who were hanging on at the threshold of poverty will be driven into poverty.

How will all this play into the upcoming 2012 elections? You tell me! But the time to think about what is to come, is now!

Ronald S. Edari

Associate Professor of Sociology and Urban Studies (Emeritus)

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


Posted November 2, 2011 by edari1 in Economic Issues, Kenya Politics, Kenya Society

The Wave of Crimes and Increasing Insecurity in Kajiado, Kenya   Leave a comment

The wave of crimes and insecurity that is sweeping the semi-rural areas of Kenya is partly a reflection of the of the growth and development that is transforming the lives of the people in these areas. Unfortunately, these positive changes also attract the “parasitic layer” of criminals who take advantage of the fact that people in these areas are still governed by a traditional system of trust that renders them exposed to seasoned criminals coming from adjoining areas such as Nairobi.

That an old man can be put in charge of guarding a petrol station at night, with hardly any “effective” weapons to defend himself with, is testimony to the scenario that I have painted above. What type of criminals was such an old man supposed to watch for? Certainly no one expected the old man to be savagely hacked to death with pangas, by criminals who then proceeded to rob the petrol station.

What is even more disconcerting is the fact that this was not the first of such cases of violent forms of robbery that left the victims dead in Kajiado!

What is to be done

The Maasai residents of Kajiado are quite justified in expressing their anger and going to the extent of even organizing a vigilante group of Maasai youth! If the police cannot do their job, then it is up to the wananchi to take matters into their own hands! Pure and simple! Unfortunately, such are the drastic measures that are frequently needed in order to get the authorities to mount operations that deal with criminals decisively!

My suggestions

1. Kenya needs to develop new methods of dealing with crimes that reflect the changing circumstances of communities such as Kajiado. In order to do this, they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are many “templates” out there that have been tried and implemented in other countries.

2. Police methods have to be more proactive in areas that are experiencing crime waves. Undercover agents, sting operations, police ambushes, etc are what I have in mind. Put an old man out there to guard a petrol station, but hidden from view would be one or two police officers, who will be armed with deadly weapons that can be used to shoot to kill!

When robbers spring into action, ask them to surrender or else! I am sure those who are in this business would know the specific mechanics of implementing the correct and safer way of handling the situation. Many police departments in the United States do have a special unit that is usually designated as a “SWAT” team. SWAT stands for “special weapons and tactics”. While SWAT units are usually deployed in “emergency” situations, I would submit that the wave of robberies in Kijiado in which people were killed would require exactly such type of police tactics!

3. Better and more effective methods of investigating crimes are badly needed. Such techniques would hopefully trace the “panya” routes that connect the dots between crime investigation scenes and where the “deadly” rats (aka criminals) came from! As it is in Kenya, people are often treated to a public spectacle and posturing by the police whose energies are devoted to the efforts of diffusing the situation by indulging in generalities and theatrics that lead to very little of consequence.

4. Police must work closely with the public on a continuous basis, not just when violent crimes have been committed. The whole idea of “community policing” must constantly be re-examined and reconstituted in the light of new information and developments. Young people in particular, should be encourage to participate effectively in policing their own communities and sharing information. Support groups should be formed to ensure that no single person will be isolated by the thugs, in order to intimidate or eliminate such a “proven foot soldier”. Some of these initiatives are nothing short of an exercise in the construction of new “community norms” that will come to supersede traditional norms that were constructed on the basis of ethnic homogeneity of a given area.

The influx of people from different ethnic groups in Kajiado is a development that may well have provided cover for the thugs who could have come from as far as Nairobi and “case” a place that they were going to rob at night. Thus while people of different ethnic affiliation have contributed to the development of Kajiado, the heterogeneity that they have introduced in this area has an “underside” of enhancing the “anonymity” that criminals often exploit in assuming the posture of being just another one of the community residents!

The victims of crimes in an area like Kajiado consist of not just those who are violated at a personal level, but members of the different communities. In the latter case, ethnic relations become strained with suspicions and recriminations. This often leads to inter-ethnic conflicts and violence–precisely what we have witnessed in Kajiado.

It is for this reason that the police and the Kenya government has to appreciate the enormity of what is at stake by placing crime waves in the larger context of viewing crimes as an assault of the very social fabric that binds us together as Kenyans.

Posted October 7, 2010 by edari1 in Kenya Society

In the Service of the “Devil”!   Leave a comment

American Christian University Confers Degrees Upon Kenyans!

These types of institutions that dish out university honorary degrees like hot cakes, are simply defecating (kunya!) on the legitimate degrees that are conferred upon women and men all over the world, after they have spent years of rigorous conditioning and subjection to the rights of passage from elementary schools to the institutions of higher learning!

The fact that the institution in question goes by the label of “American Christian University”, says it all! These cynical “ungodly” people have a religious cum political agenda that they are trying to push by curling out political favors among people who can influence decision-making at different levels, different spheres of life and different countries!

We as Kenyans owe a deep debt of gratitude to reporters Samuel Otieno and Jibril Adan for writing such an informative article which I will reproduce in part below.
US varsity floods Kenya with PhDs
Updated 1 hr(s) 46 min(s) ago


The generosity and frequency with which an American Christian university is dishing out honorary doctorate degrees and professorships to prominent Kenyans is raising eyebrows.

At least 25 Kenyans were issued with the degrees by the United Graduate College and Seminary within the last two years.

These academic distinctions, like the ones President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga were bestowed upon by University of Nairobi for Kenya’s peace deal in 2008, are given for the sake of honour for achievements determined by university management, and exempt the recipients from residence, study, esearch and examinations. Officials from the university, led by the Chief Chancellor Prof Clyde Rivers, who are in Nairobi, had a busy day yesterday issuing an honorary doctorate degree to the Chief Executive of a local Non-Governmental Organisation, Computers for Kenya, Mr Tom Musili.

Musili received an honorary Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Humanities at his office on Mombasa Road.

Interestingly, Prof Clyde Rivers is also listed as the International Commissioner of the Latin University of Theology based in Inglewood, California, and was also appointed Burundi’s Honarary Counsel for the US state of California by the Burundi president.

On March 20, Prof Rivers issued “honorary professorships and doctorate degrees” to 17 personalities at a function at Charter Hall in Nairobi. Among the beneficiaries then were Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, industrialist Manu Chandaria and two former Nairobi Mayors, Mr Joe Aketch and Mr Nathan Kahara.

The Chief guest at the function was the Speaker of the National Assembly, Kenneth Marende, who interestingly was given an honorary PhD by the university last Sunday at a church he attends, while in Nairobi.

The Speaker, who has ably steered a divided and potentially explosive House, was selected for a doctorate degree in Humanities by the same university. This means Kalonzo and Marende are free to have the venerable title ‘Dr’ before their names, just like Kibaki and Raila.

Kalonzo also has another honorary degree to his name awarded by Kenyatta University alongside the one given to Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete. Both sprung from their role in reuniting and restoring peace in Kenya after the post-election violence — and like the rest, for their individual achievements and contribution to the welfare of humanity.

Bless you all and bless Kenya and East Africa.

Mw. Edari

Posted July 14, 2010 by edari1 in Kenya Society

There is more to Mungiki than Mungiki   Leave a comment

This is a re-posting of a message that I posted to our Kenyan Community Abroad (KCA) discussion forum years ago. But it would seem that it is still cogent in the light of the events that we continue to witness today! Just read the blog below this one, concerning the psychological problems afflicting our youths, particularly in the Central Province of Kenya!

Agikuyu should not feel singled out by highlighting what is going on in their backyard. The issues highlighted simply testify to the fact that problems of Kenya are most acute among a group that is most advanced in the process of moving away from our traditional political, economic and social structures. The critical problem arises when this protracted process takes its course, yet its reflection in “consciousness” lags behind. Then you get caught in the dangerous contradictions of entertaining myths such as “GEMA” that have been outmoded by the objective reality! How can any one peddle this hegemonic myth in the face of the migrations of Agikuyu to other parts of Kenya? You should never peddle this form of tribal chauvinism in Kenya. This is what seeds of ethnic cleansing are made of!

The moral here is that the multi-layered problems of marginalized youths are be most acute among the Agikuyu, the Abaluhyas, Adholuo, Abagusii, Akamba, and so on! I leave to you with a multiple test as a teacher of telling me why! Hint: what is the distribution of these groups relative to their “ancestral lands”, and how come they are at the forefront of disputing ownership of land in other areas?

Peace and Bless all you and Kenya.

Mw. Edari

There is more to Mungiki than Mungiki: A Sermon for this Sunday!
By Ronald S. Edari


The existence of Mungiki is a reflection of a deeper structural problem that plagues developing countries like Kenya. These alienated youths are a part of the vast “surplus population” that cannot be simply absorbed into the conventional structures of the society–the labor market, the family structure, the educational system, etc.

That the problem of Mungiki is most acute for the Agikuyu youths testifies to the fact that it is precisely in the Central Province that the scarcity of land, the densities of population the individualism of accumulation of private wealth, the transformation of the traditional social structure, etc etc etc, are most advanced!

Other areas that are prone to the same type of tendencies and have an existence of “gang-like” youths who terrorize the people are Western Kenya (Luhya alienated youths) and Nyanza (among the Abagusii).

In Akamba land, there are pockets of these young thugs who terrorize certain stretches of the public road between Mombasa and Nairobi. The only thing that mitigates this problem is the harsh environment! Simply incredible!

The moral here is that there are “Mungikis” all over Kenya. And that cannot go away any more than you can abolish poverty in these impoverished countries. This is a structural problem of all capitalist societies. And in the weaker capitalist formations it is magnified several fold.

In response to their conditions, the marginalized youths respond by creating other forms of generating income for their survival. These include both conventional and unconventional (illegal) activities. Quite often the two are conflated, particularly in view of the need to maintain a “front” in the pursuit of illegal activity

Added to this mix are an assortment of characters who take advantage of this situation and position themselves as the “leaders” of the groups. The extreme rituals that are employed during initiation are simply effective mechanisms of guaranteeing loyalty at the risk of very extreme sanctions for the transgressors. The rituals that Mungiki engage in are to some extent functionally equivalent to the gang initiation methods employed right here in the United States among the African American and Latino gangs. Gang rape, drive-by shootings, murder, distribution of illegal substances, etc, are among the rituals of initiation in the United States.

The invocation of Gikuyu cultural traditions is a powerful mechanism of initiation that has an ideological twist of mystifying the pervasion of traditional beliefs and practices. The “emptiness” of this is exposed when Mungiki don’t get their way and go on a rampage terrorizing the locals in the Central Province!

It is also extremely foolish for some ruthless leaders in Central Province to think that they can use these youths for their political agendas! What you have here is a Frankenstein monster that was not created by the leaders as “Dr. Frankensteins” ! The creature has its own life that is embedded in the political economy of the situation I have describe above.

Once you understand the phenomenon of the “Mungiki” along the lines I have spelled out, the negotiation with the Mungiki may not be as “crazy” as it sounds. The trick is to develop strategies of channeling their energies into more conventional pursuits, while addressing the larger problem of integrating our youth into conventional structures– schools, the labor market, family structures, etc, throughout Kenya!

Enough said for now!

A Parting Note (or shot?) This narrative is part of my background as a student of social problems and critical criminology! For years I taught courses on social problems and my approach was informed by the “political economy” perspective! Counterpoised to this approach is the “neo-classical” stuff of Gary Becker et al.–economics of crime, the family, language, etc! Yak!

Mw. Edari

Prof. Ronald S. Edari
Department of Sociology and Urban Studies
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

Posted June 21, 2010 by edari1 in Kenya Society

Understanding and Dealing with Youths Purportedly Possessed with Evil Spirits in Kenya   Leave a comment

The recently reported instances of young men who were behaving so strangely as to invite the “diagnosis” of being possessed with “evil spirits”, requires a deeper analysis that is grounded on our knowledge of such phenomena on a global scale and across time and space. Localized forms of exorcism carried out by either the clergy or traditional “healers” will not help matters! If anything, they will help perpetuate the underlying myths, thereby reproducing the very forms of esoteric behaviors that they are supposed to cure!

What do we know about what is going on? That is the critical question that we should begin with. In order to address this question, we need to solicit the help of the international community that has dealt with this very same problem across cultures, time and space.

Throughout history people have sought to explain behaviors that departed from the conventional norms in varying degrees. At the dawn of human civilizations, the most commonly accepted explanation was the of attribution of “extreme aberrant behavior” to being possessed by “evil spirits”. The individual afflicted “will be fine if we drive away the demon who has taken possession of his or her body”. And how would you do that! This is where there were incredible cultural variations in forms of “exorcism”. The practice of “trephination” was one of the ancient arts in which a hole was drilled into a person’s skull in order to access the demons lurking deep into his/her brains! Simply incredible!

In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church had a field day in the art of exorcism. A manual was written by two Catholic priests and spelled out in graphic details on how to treat those who had been adjudicated as being possessed by the “Devil” by the Inquisitors. Dumping human beings into a barrel of boiling water was one of the punishments that were deemed to be appropriate, given the gravity of the “sins” committed under the clutches of the “Devil”! Simply incredible!

In all fairness, I would not fault any Catholic priest or any clergy for that matter for trying to “exorcise” the demons that are alleged to have taken possession of a given individual or their home!

But I beg to differ with any single-cause explanation of “abnormal human behavior”. For one thing, even if a religiously grounded explanation is your forte, how do you know that what you are doing is the most effective “methodology'” of exorcism, given the variance attributable to the existence of other religious denominations and dogmas?

That is not all! There is the universe of diversity that is attributable to the genetics of human variation, individual differences in cognitive development and socialization, cultural variations, spatial contexts, etc. The sum total of these factors point to the fact that a complex model of “multi-causality” of individual aberrations are always needed in crisis moments such as the one we are facing in Kenya. I am a long time student of social change. And from that vantage point, I know that societies in transition are always prone to the increase in “aberrant behaviors” that can easily be subsumed under the label of “devil worshipers”, as well as the emergence of social movements that are collectively organized to fend for themselves using all sorts of “survival strategies” that go beyond acceptable norms. Way back I posted an article on the “Mungiki movement”. I would like to ask some of you to revisit that article. May be it will shed some light on the problems that we face as a nation.

Mw. Edari

Posted June 21, 2010 by edari1 in Kenya Society

An Inquiry into the Mind of a Serial Killer in Kenya   Leave a comment

The Devil or God Told Me So, or What?
An Inquiry into the Mind of a Serial Killer in Kenya

Quite often when human beings engage in extreme behaviors that go beyond the boundaries of conventional norms of a given society, we invariably tend to resort to the invocation of either:
a. transcendental forces–God or the Devil; or
b. some mental condition–psychotic delusions, etc. , as part of our explanatory schemata!

The question that I want to pose here is what can we make of the self-confessed serial killer in Kenya–one Philip Ondara Onyancha. He is described in the Standard (June 10, 2010), as a “humble man who would labor to hurt even an insect”. Further more, “He says a woman he met eleven years ago introduced him to a satanic cult.”

As implausible as the story of a “satanic cult” being involved was on the first take, we now learn from the media that there are yet other cast of characters who may be involved in this unholy covenant with the devil!

Now, here is my dilemma as a person who pretends to be rational in the sense of being bound by rules of “scientific” inference in examining the logic in use when people claim that they did this or that because God or the devil told them so! Did Philip Onyancha do what he did because he was adhering to a regimen of the destruction of human life in accordance to a prescription of some satanic cult?

How come he also stated, among other things, that he actually “enjoyed” the act of taking the lives of his victims. Would not this point to the existence of some psychopathological condition that is buried in his “sicko psyche”, and that would explain his actions?

While the “satanic cult” explanation is unacceptable for killing, from the perspective of many Kenyans, it is still understandable from a cultural perspective! After all people may be called upon to take human lives as part of the rituals that are prescribed by their beliefs in witchcraft (uchawi) and satanic cults! If you have made yourself so much of a nuisance to me, why should not I kill you through “uchawi”–“kumroga mtu”!

But then there is the universe of psychopathology: the Atlanta child murders, Theodore Bundy, etc, is this universe alien to Kenyans or Africans in general, for that matter?

Historically, Africans have never accorded much explanatory power to psychological explanations of extreme human behaviours. Everything tends to be accounted for within the knowable world defined by our cultural universes. When behaviour strays beyond that, it is still accounted for from the perspective of the culturally knowable universe of “satanic cults” or “uchawi”!

Culture and Individual Psychodynamics
Today many African societies have undergone profound transformations that have been accompanied by individual psychodynamics that cannot any longer be contained nor explained by what “used to be”! Issues such as reproduction rights, gender inequality, homosexuality, etc, have entered into the lexicon of our public discourses, triggering spirited discussions as well as violent encounters.

The transformations alluded to above have also brought about changes in individual behaviours that we need to reckon with, using new tools drawn from a variety of disciplines that use data drawn from observations and experiences that are far removed from the continent of Africa. Are there commonalities in serial killers across cultures and continents? How should a society codify laws governing such human conduct?

The Letter of the Law Based on Individual Culpability and Justice
There are more befuddling questions when it comes to the application of the law. What should a serial killer in Kenya be charged with, if he, hypothetically, argued that he was merely acting out the prescriptions of his “satanic beliefs”? How come he “enjoyed” the killings? To what extent would the other members of this cult be charge with–accessory after the fact? And what exactly would they be charged with–conspiracy to commit murder? Is a person who enjoys killing “criminally insane”?

Let me know what you think

Mw. Edari

Posted June 10, 2010 by edari1 in Kenya Society


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