Letter from Nairobi (1)
Every so often a single event reminds me of why I like this city so much. Negotiating the 5pm traffic 'jahm' on Kenyatta Ave in downtown Nairobi I saw, out of the corner of my eye a wretched man, hobbling between the cars on one wooden stick and a half a metal crutch. His body was twisted and his face had the look of havng been on the edge forever. Most the lane darters have things to sell, huge plastic maps of the world, bunches of cell chargers, crazy cloth dolls and multitools. This guy just thrust his hand into my face and locked his eyes on me. "Sorry, I have no coins", I said in a knee jerk response. He tilted his head, half smiled, half grimaced and said, "Karibu! (welcome)....tomorrow is another day....". Then off he shuffled.
By the next intersection I had caught up with him and found 30 shillings. He half smiled, half grimaced and said, "Thank you, brother."
I have spent a load of energy chirping about the crimelessness of Nairobi. Well, it is changing. It's not going to give SA a run for its money in a hurry but talk these days is of whether the Kenyan military should cruise into neighbouring Somalia and moer the local hard core Islamic Youth militia, fondly known as Al-Shahaab. This motley but volatile crew of Ishmaelites are the radical resurgance of the defeated Islamic Courts Union who came off second best against Ethiopean helicopters from late 2006 onwards. Now that the Ethiopeans and the odd US special forces boytjie have apparently gone home for the summer vacs the tablecloth boys are having a field day and the 'good' guys, the TFG (Transitional Federal Gov.) are now in control of a piece of Mogadishu about the size of Pinetown or lower Putney.
Every columnist in Sunday's Nation raged on about the pros and cons, the ifs and buts and capabilities of the local army boys in KE. The checkcloth lads replied that they will use suicide attacks to blow up the 'tall glass buildings in Nairobi'. Now this is hectic as my girlfriend's new office is in the tallest glass building in town and I am yet to see someone stick his head under our car when we park downstairs.
My fave quote is from columnist Mutua Mathiu: "When the village madman stands on your fence and insults your wife you can do 2 things. One, you can quite resonably explain to everyone what they already know, that he is mad. Or you can wait for him at the village path in the dark with your rungu and take out his kneecap. You will be surprized at how in future, his madness will exclude disrespect to your lady wife.
Gitau Warigi ('Sunday View' Column) has another plan, possibly a little more sensible. He clearly has read all about Vietnam and Afghanistan and suggests that we should rather turn off the financial taps to the bad okes and hope that they all simply get bored and hungry and go home. Personally I ain't betting on either plan. What is clear (from the rest of Sunday's news) is that Aks are flooding into Kenya and being used to pay for petrol and koshering out whoever happens to be filling up at the same time...and if the cops aren't getting shot at they're shooting at each other...all very confusing.
As if this isn't enough, Kofi Annan, got up this morning and decided he had had enough of the Kenyan leaders humming and harring about how to set up their own Criminal Tribunal to try the post election violence baddies. He's had this large envelope full of names next to his bed for a year now and as I write it is being opened by, no doubt, some keen prosecutors in the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
I am sure that there will be a lot of sleepless politicians tonight, but judging from the letters to the paper, far more happy citizens.....quote from letters page, Nation 2nd July 09:
"I am one of the millions of kenyans suffering due to immence curruption in all dpartments in kenya. Mr Kofi, please help us turn the page by scraping impunity and making it LAW for all from president to goat thief.please,please,please."
In October 2006, soon after arriving in Kenya I wrote a blog about the disappearing Flamingoes of Lake Nakuru (see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/5405468.stm).
Well, it seems that the normal has happened....nothing. So I thought I would say no more but just give you lot a glimpse of how things looked at Lake Naivasha last week. According to current predictions my trip to Naivasha in 20 year's time will be like a week without without underpants and beer - crusty and dry. Lake Kamnarok, once home to the second biggest population of crocs in Africa is now dry...fully dry and going nowhere. The Baringo townspeople, who have been resisting all efforts to quell their decimation of the forests for charcoal, now have no water for the their moo cows.
Now, all this ultimately doesn't affect me as there are lots of other lakes on the planet and I don't have cows....and anyway I have discovered the coffee bars of downtown Nairobi. These are ultra cool especially in the blue after 5 cocktail evenings. Close your eyes and draw in the fresh Dormans roast and you are in some exotic laid back Euro city ... or maybe Guatamala, but with the taste of Ethiopean heaven.....
Whatever happened to the 3 Monkeys Coffee bar in Durban? Maybe 50 or so years after democracy we will see the rise of the SA coffee culture spurred on by the threat of Khoisan sucide bombers from Leshoto.
On the arts scene, alive and verrrry well, as usual here in buzzing Nairobes, we are building up to the opening of the Internews Male Circumcision photo exhibition at the French Cultural Centre next month. To get a taste of the mood we hit the current photo exi - Eat your heart out Durban! Nairobi rocks!
Click to see short video
That's it...and remember, anything can happen and it usually does.
Next time...Indian Town and Crushed Sugar Cane Juice!
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