A Nigerian-American journalist in Kenya

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Scenes in Kenya: Finale October 14, 2010

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I left Kenya at the end of my residency program on Sept. 14. Kenya, I’ll be back…!

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The ground from whence I come (Goodbye Kenya)

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“One who is climbing a tree, must still come down.”

I am truly grateful for the opportunities before me, for the ability to tell the people’s stories and for the gift of words. Life’s joys can only be actualized by fulfillment and because of the goodness of others, I am reaching fulfillment.

Are you’re wondering what in the world I’m talking about?

“One who is climbing a tree, must still come down.”

I heard this proverb when watching a Nigerian movie one evening. An old Igbo man was talking to his son who had become rich and had forgotten his “roots.” The proverb stuck with me. (Africans are so eloquently expressive and such aphorisms are like ripe fruits in the mouth: sweet, wholesome and good for the soul.) Everyone’s goal in life is to progress, move forward, grow…climb a tree. But, the ground is still below and we mustn’t forget the ground from whence we came…and still come. We must come down, specifically to thank.

I write this for those who have helped me and as much as I can vocally express thanks, I believe nothing is more solid than the written word.

So, there is a man at the Medill School of Journalism named Bill. He is the one who coordinated this one-of-a-kind opportunity to report in Kenya. He worked hard to make it happen and while I crisscross from Nyerere Road to University Way to Harry Thuku Road to Kijabe Street and enter Longonot Place to take the elevator to the 3rd floor and walk into the K24 newsroom, I have to remember Bill. He’s not only a journalist and an instructor; he is a generous fellow whose eyes twinkle when he smiles. I’m serious guys, they twinkle!

Bobby, my longest- running friend; the quintessential, “good” buddy who listens and says exactly what you need to hear at the right time. Bobby, thank you for making me laugh, being my friend, encouraging me and never thinking that my goals are just “too big.” I can never, ever, never forget someone like Bobby; such a friend is hard to find in this life and I know this all too well.

And there’s Tope…. the slender, slim-eyed wonder of a friend whose soft, gentle voice leaves a lifelong impact. Tope has not only helped to guide my goals but has made me feel important. Said that… I’m not weird, but unique. Being the lofty, idealist, dreamer that I am, I’ve lived most of my life with my head in the clouds, and it can, indeed, get very lonely in those clouds. Tope sat next to me in the clouds. Good company. I thank him.

My other good friend is also a high-flying dreamer, but he is also like solid ground. And when he gets quiet, brings his palms together and raises them to his center of his face and just…watches, I know he’s thinking…deep thoughts. My thinking, dreaming, ever-solid friend told me not worry when Bill told me that some of the security concerns in Kenya may affect the university’s decision to approve of my trip. When Bill told me everything had went through and all the paperwork had been approved, my friend was no less excited as I was. The opportunities that he saw for me in Kenya were different, yet just as noble as the ones that I saw for myself. He believes I can do just about anything. Great friends come in divine packages like Uzoma.

And there are others, not a lot because I keep a small circle, but there are others. Shoulders I have mounted so I can grab the tree that I am climbing. Pastor Mike. Uncle Nche. Aunty Ngozi. Aunty Deborah. Uncle Ifeanyi. Dr. White, who exposed me to the beauty of anthropology. Mrs. Hobbs, who, when I was 11-years-old, told me that I must be a writer.

And the believers of God.

My younger siblings-three sisters and three brothers. Though I’m the oldest, I tell you, I’ve learned more from them than they’ve learned from me. We are a silly bunch and the hundreds of hours I’ve spent laughing with them are more valuable than gold. I wouldn’t trade my siblings for anything in this world.

Nurturing. Lifting. Encouraging. Teaching. Correcting. Loving. Valuing. Listening. Learning. Feeding. That’s what my parents do for me. They are helping me to live a rich and full life. I believe that a dog can only be a dog. An eagle must live an eagle’s life. And an elephant must follow elephants. I thank my parents for allowing me to be who I am. They have truly fostered my skills. I do love to write, and I believe that they enjoy reading my words. I remember driving in the car with my dad one afternoon a couple years back and I was scribbling in a notebook. Feeling my dad’s gaze, I looked up and he asked what I was writing. I told him, “my book.” He didn’t say anything else with his voice. With his silence, he was saying he loves me.

I took after my mom; she, too, is a writer-in-spirit. I thank them for passing on their traits, the good ones of course. I have my father’s smile and my mother’s creativity. She gave me her intense personality and my dad passed on his patience. Throughout my years of finding myself, they already knew who I was and who I would become.

I laugh like my mom, and my mom and I enjoy talking “big” together in the living room. And I finally understand that she is the source of my fiery passion.

I’ve enjoyed all my years of sitting beside my dad in the car as he, tired from work, picked me up from school. And like my dad, I am inquisitive. He always told us, “Ask questions! Read! Read everything!”

There is nothing like having a great set of parents. The greatest blessing is having parents who respect you as a person, love you as their child and believe in the gift of your future.

And the beauty of this journalist’s life manifests in meeting more people, telling their stories and thanking them for sharing. I look forward to continuing my climb.

But may I never forget the ground from whence I came…and still come.


Kenya’s children: yes, it takes a village to raise them September 24, 2010

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If you never knew it, now you know- African children are beautiful.

Okay, before you raise your eyebrows, I want to clarify that I am not demeaning any other groups of people with this comment. I am simply making a note that despite poverty, hardship, and racial discrimination, African children still captivate and glow with innocent beauty. Kenyan’s children are no exception. Everywhere I went throughout the country, I looked out for children and they were not hard to miss. I saw them in kitchens, playing on the streets, washing clothes, crying, laughing, etc.

This collage shows kids that I met in Nairobi and Nyeri. Top, Left to right: 1) These two girls live in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa. It’s in the southwest corner of Nairobi’s outskirts. The shy girls watched as my K24 colleagues and I interviewed residents and took photos. 2) Here is another kid I saw in Kibera. Looking over his shoulder, he stood next to a river of filth. 3) These hyper kids went ballistic when they saw me and the K24 camera-guy shooting on the school campus. I was at a primary school in Dagoretti, Nairobi doing a story on dyslexia. Bottom row, left to right: 1) This dyslexic boy is another student from the primary school in Dagoretti. I thought he was so adorable and he spoke well during the interview. 2) This is a young girl in Nyeri who lives at a youth center because her family cannot afford to raise her. When I asked about her impoverished childhood, she couldn’t answer and began to cry. 3) More kids from Kibera

Top row, left to right: 1) These kids were watching as customers wandered through the Maasai Market at the Kenya International Conference Center in Nairobi’s Central Business District 2) I played peak-a-boo with the boy with the large head and enormous eyes. Whenever I would look at him, he’d laugh hysterically and hide. I met him in Central Province. He’s about 3 years old. 3) adolescent girls in Nyeri  Bottom row, left to right: 1) These adorable girls live in Central Province. I thought it was so cute how the girl in the plaid dress was hiding behind the taller girl when I stood before them 2) Most of these boys are orphans and they live at a youth center in Nyeri 3) This is Phyllis’ nephew. He’s a cute kid with lovely cocoa-skin and huge, almond-shaped eyes

Africa’s children have a lot on their shoulders. They are the future of this continent and as they grow, they will surely face more hardship. Many of them live in struggling communities and statistics say that most of them will not live past the age of 48. But they have already defied the odds by being born, surviving infancy and sleeping under a roof.

They will probably be told that they are not worthy of success, and they will surely see demeaning images of people with brown skin being maltreated, enduring hellish experiences. But these children have the ability to rise and as Africans tend to do, they will survive and let’s pray that they thrive.


A Day at Village Market August 27, 2010

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A couple weeks ago, Mrs. Shah invited me to join her and her family to Village Market, a mall in the Westlands area of Nairobi. I know Mrs. Shah because I had done a story on her daughter, Ashni, about the National Youth Orchestra of Kenya. Before and after that story, Mrs. Shah has been extremely kind to me. She enjoys showing me around Nairobi and always offers assistance. She told me to see her “home as my home.”

So, I went with her family to Village Market and met her husband for the first time.  Village Market is a large mall with a movie theatre, bowling alley, miniature golf field and small water park. It is more beautiful than most malls that I’ve seen in the States because it blends the outdoors with the indoors. Large trees are everywhere along with the sound of birds.


Weekend in the Nyeri Countyside: (Part 2)

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I’m not crazy or anything but I have a curious affection for older people and I haven’t figured out where those feelings come from. But they have to come from someplace, because whenever I meet someone who may be at least 30 years my senior, I can’t ignore the force within me that emerges. I first noticed this when a Nigerian family came to visit our home several years ago and my siblings and I came down from upstairs to greet the guest. When I saw the grandmother, I bent down to hug her and did not fail to notice the delight in her eyes.

From that moment, I noticed my ways around the elderly. In Nyeri, Phyllis’ parents were probably the most interesting part of the visit. Her father, 65-year-old Joseph Munyi, talks about the Bible almost nonstop. A retired civil servant, he now tends to his crops of potatoes, tomatoes, maize, and beans. He said he was excited to know that an American was coming to visit him and he asked for me to tell my parents that I had slept in a safe home in Nyeri.

Phyllis’ mother, Grace, is a vibrant woman. I found myself looking at her face for long periods of time, and I finally discovered what it was about her that I found so irresistible… her eyes. Chestnut brown skinned with a softly chiseled face of high-cheek bones, Grace might have been what my mom would call a “local woman” but, I’ve always fancied “the locals,” especially the women. Walking behind Grace through her field of maize, pumpkins and aro root, I watched Grace’s hips sway as her bare feet treaded the soil.

Grace is part of a local woman’s group and from what I understand, women’s groups are prevalent throughout Kenya and the mother is usually the one who keeps the family together. They meet to discuss domestic matters such as health and nutrition, farming, education and how to make more money. I asked Phyllis if fathers meet for such things. She said that men are difficult because when they get together, things go bad. Drinking, ulterior motives and big egos are too often involved. So, it is the mother who maintains the home and Grace was no exception.

Grace and her group of friends, some her age and some younger, are helping each other to construct energy efficient cooking stoves. Actually, it’s a fireplace. Traditionally, Kikuyu women cooked on a stone mantle placed on top of three stone structures. But, even in rural Africa, technology is rapidly changing. Grace and the group of mothers learned a new style of a cooking fireplace that involves less wood, so one can prepare more food with less energy.  One by one, the women in the group go to each other’s house to build the new fireplace. I believe Africa is standing today, simply because of the millions of mothers like these. But as we all know, they can’t do it alone…and that’s another story.

Khanga is the most common of fabric in Kenya. Worn by lower and middle-class women, khanga is easy to recognize because of the scarf-like pattern. I recognized the blue, black and white khanga that Phyllis wrapped around her waist as the exact one that I bought at Maasai Market last week. Phyllis said it is a popular pattern. I paid Ksh1,000 for that, and I HIGHLY doubt that these rural women paid that much for the same. I was ripped off!!!!!!


Tom Gitaa, A Kenyan based in Minnesota August 23, 2010

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In the first quarter of this year, I received an email from someone named Tom Gitaa. In the email, Gitaa said he wanted to post one of my video stories on his website. I responded positively and that is how our friendship began.

Tom Gitaa is the publisher of Mshale News, a website and monthly print publication for African immigrants in the United States. www.mshale.com With it headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Mshale also has offices in Houston, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia.

The site features news about Africans in the diaspora and Africans back home. While in Chicago, I did a story on a Liberian-American soldier who was killed in Afghanistan. The story was picked up by several publications, including Mshale.  View the story here: http://www.mshale.com/article/Features/Features/Remembering_a_fallen_LiberianAmerican_Soldier/18465

In April, Mshale picked up another one of my stories- one about Nigeria’s then Acting-President, Goodluck Jonathan, as he made his first visit to America to attend the nuclear summit in Washington, D.C. I researched Mshale News and learned that Tom is from Kenya, though he has been based in Minnesota for more than 20 years.

Later, I told Tom that I was planning to go to Kenya, but security warnings may prevent my school from allowing me to go. Immediately, Tom offered assistance, saying Kenya is safe. He even offered to talk with someone from my school to assuage their concerns.

Since I’ve been in Kenya, Tom and I have been in communication via email and two weeks ago, he said he was coming to Kenya for a family emergency.

I finally met Tom for the first time, last week, Tuesday. Upon seeing him, I immediately thought he looked Nigerian and when I told him this he laughed, saying that may be why he gets along with Nigerians and has so many Nigerian friends. We had a pleasant lunch at Java House on Koinange Street. After he finished his Swahili curry chicken meal and I had satisfied myself with a veggie samosa and a plate of rice, I pulled out my camera and audio recorder. I wanted to hear about Tom’s experience as a Kenyan in the Diaspora.

*                                    *                                    *                                    *

Tom: I’m Tom Gitaa and I live in Minneapolis Minnesota. I’ve spent half of my life in the states now because I left Kenya pretty much immediately after high school. I left college, started working after college, got married, started a family. I’ve always been in the U.S. I come as often as I can, at the minimum, every couple of years. I think in the last five years, I’ve been here everywhere for a month or so. Some of it for business, some family visits.

There have been a lot of changes in Kenya. To be honest with you, I think in the last five or six years, it has actually been more fun to come to Kenya in the last five or six years than in previous years. A lot of things seem to work. Actually, it has been really nice to drive. I try not drive in Nairobi traffic, but when I’m going to Mombasa, the road is like driving from Minneapolis to Chicago because there are no potholes! (laughs) So it’s fun.

Chika: Is it safe to drive from city to city? What about bandits along the road?

Tom: This is the thing, since I’ve not been a victim myself, I’d say it’s pretty safe. Nothing has happened to me. I’ve always gotten from point A to B. I’ve heard things. Nairobi Mombasa road, especially as you approached Nairobi, near the airport from the Mombasa side, I know that used to be a really bad stretch. Of late I hear things have gotten better.  They’re very open and happy that things are getting better. I don’t think we have what might be called the ideal government yet, but there have been strides to something better than what we had previously. I tend to find there’s a sense from a lot of people in government that things need to be better. Which is a big change from before.

The one thing I love is the internet. That has been a big change. I can normally do a lot of my business between here and Minnesota. At least I know when I’m in Nairobi or Mombasa, I can get high speed internet.

Chika: When did that come about?

Tom: Actually in the last three of four years. When I was here back in 2004, that’s kind of when the cellphone explosion was taking place. You could come here and I could not meet anyone who didn’t have a cellphone. When I came back in 2006, for unfortunate circumstances…that’s when we came back for my wife’s funeral. My wife died in 2006, so we were here in December again. So it wasn’t quite high speed yet, but you could do what you wanted to do. Go to a cyber café. And you’d find different classes of cyber cafes.

Fast forward now, I can come with my laptop and go to what I call a top-tier cyber café. I think the locals consider it expensive, but since I’m only here for a short while, I can pay for the high speed and the nicer, cleaner environment and conduct some business. Those have been fun developments.

Now, we just came for my father-in-law’s funeral and I’ve been able to keep up with my colleagues on the other side. I know what it going on in the office and what my writers are doing. You know I do a newspaper.

Chika: What do you think of the passing of the draft constitution?

Tom: You know I’m a diaspora guy, right?  I don’t know any Kenyan diaspora guy that was a ‘no vote.’ All of us, well many of us, at least those that I know where in favor. You have to know where this is coming from. Some of this was in self-interest, obviously. One of the things in there is dual citizenship is finally being recognized. There used to be a thing called the Kenya Community Abroad which was sort of a lobby group of Kenyans in the U.S., Canada, but used to encompass a lot of Kenyans in the diaspora. You know, this is actually something for a long time they’ve been pushing for- the implementation of dual citizenship. So when it was passed, it was a realization for a dream of many. Because a lot of Kenyans [abroad] where forced to give up there citizenship. I know some Kenyans, for example, who have not taken up the citizenship of other countries. Because they say they are not comfortable giving up their [Kenyan] citizenship. So, it was a big, psychological thing, to tell somebody, ‘give up your citizenship.’ So, even from that perspective, I know there are other things, accountability to the people and the like, which we all love, but for a lot of diaspora people, that was like a key thing.

Chika: What are some of the myths and false perceptions that Kenyans have of those in the diaspora?

Tom: There are two things actually. One of the biggest things is they tend to think people in the U.S. have  lot of money; that we are not struggling like everybody else; that we have a bottomless pit of resources that we can type into. I think of late, more and more Kenyans have been getting a correct perspective of what happens in the U.S. But there are still a lot of people, most people that you pull on the streets of Kenya will tell you they don’t mind going to the U.S. I have a few friends, they try to give advice to a parent to save their money they say to send their child to a Kenyan university. The parent will say, ‘you, you have already gone so that is why don’t want my child to have the same benefit.’ So that is what they still say.

Of late, especially in the last 10 years of so, Kenya has been considered an emerging market. A lot of people have come back. Business has been booming. A lot of people say, ‘You people in America…’ It’s kind of  dual thing. Some people think America is glamorous, but some have dimmed view. They say ‘all you guys do is odd jobs,’ so there is also that perspective. But over the years, I think the local people have realized that the diapsora plays an important role in the society.

Especially since the Kibaki administration came into office, there has been an aggressive pushing of Kenyans in the diaspora. They have sent ministers. I remember a few years ago they sent a minister to a conference we were having in Atlanta. They were encouraging Kenyans in the diaspora to invest. Especially in real estate. When you exclude the Somalis that have been investing a lot here, the other biggest investor in real estate in Kenya is actually diaspora Kenyans. So there has been that perception. There has been a slow evolution to say diaspora people are very important in the economy. We send a lot of money and there has been a question of if that money has been used properly. But lots of progress has been made. There’s this big project that is being done in northeastern Kenya. It’s a big project. It is the biggest project that the diaspora community has ever been involved in.  And part of those efforts actually came when the government started attending our conferences.

Chika: What are some of the misconceptions Westerners have of Kenya?

Tom: Oh, it’s a lot, a lot. You know Westerners, not all, but a good lot, there perception of Kenya and Africa in general is that, nothing works in Africa. They have heard the stories of you know, if there mind is not still in the stone age then, you’d be eaten by lions and whatever, it’s either ‘oh you know Africa man,’ ‘will I be robbed? Will I come back in one piece? Corruption?’ Yes, there’s corruption but there’s also a lot of Westerners making a lot of money here as you might have seen. I think that is the biggest misconception.

I’ve met some people who do not know there are big cities in Africa. But you have a choice. You can choose to say you want to see the old Africa, which is still there. If you want to get attacked by lions, we can arrange to go somewhere and they can eat you. (laughs) Or if you want to stay in the urban environment and experience the modern life, then all the conveniences are there. What you can get in America, London, Lagos, Cairo, Johannesburg, all of that is there. A lot of people don’t know such big cities exist in Africa.

Chika: My last question, in Nigeria there is something called ‘colo-mentality.’ Do they have such here, where you praise white people? I’ve noticed that where I live here in Nairobi, the guards don’t greet me, but they will greet the white person behind me. Is that mentality prevalent here? Preference for lighter skin and that sort of thing?

Tom: A lot of Africans are brainwashed. It’s a legacy that continues to haunt our people, especially people who have not left this country.  For example, I was at Safaricom. When I landed here, I landed on Thursday night and the funeral was Friday. I went to one of the Safaricom outlets to get a sim card for my phone. So, you know me, I don’t jump the queue. I go line up and this other person comes. A black person comes, attempts to jump the queue and ask the clerk a question. You are not supposed to jump the queue. You are supposed to ask the guard if you have a question and he will direct you. I know the procedure so I lined up. Two three black Africans came and they intended to go straight to the clerk. I think they had a quick question but you are not supposed to do that. The guard stopped them right there  and said, ‘hey hey hey, you need to line up.’ This white person, light skin, I think he was half and half. You know a mixed person. He comes and does the same thing the other guys were trying to do. He tries to go to the clerk, straight without lining. And the guard hesitated. He’s not as aggressive with this person as he was with his brothers. You see? So he hesitates until even the mixed person asked the guard and that’s when he realized he should be equal to everybody.

When I come, sometimes I stay at the hotels. When I go to Mombasa, you know that’s the tourism capital for Kenya because of all the beach hotels and the like. So when you go to the beach hotels, that is when you will see the brainwashing in full force.  I’ll approach the gate. You know they try to make these beach properties very exclusive. They see me, they automatically think I am not staying at the beach hotel. You see? When I’ve already maybe paid full fare. And I even have white people working for me. (laughs) See our people don’t know this. They try to stop me. They have to go the extra step to verify, ‘are you really staying here?’ So you will experience the blatant brainwashing, colonial mentality. You’ll normally experience them in the service industries: hotels, airports. You know you have some people in the airport who try to help with luggage. I come with my children and you sometimes see the helpers falling over themselves trying to help the white people that we just rode on the plane with.  You know things like that, it’s very unfortunate. But, we are hoping that our people will realize that this is our country. We are not saying that you should treat blacks better than whites. Treat all people the same. If a black person approaches, you don’t know what it there. For all I know, he could be the one owning the beach property or could be your boss. I could be the one owning 50% of that property. You never know.

Chika: Are white women highly prized?

Tom: I think they are, especially older white women. We have what they call, I don’t know what they call them now, but back then, we called them white sugar mommies who come here for what we call, sex tourism. At the coast it’s very prevalent. At the coast they are highly prized. In fact, in some of the newspapers even here, if you look at the personals section, you will see people directly, plainly stating, ‘white man’ or ‘white woman.’ Sometimes  you can just read between the lines.

I came back, for a sad occasion, but it’s always good to be home.

Tom’s sister, Moraa, later joined us. His sister is a writer, a nominee for the Penguin Books Awards in the fiction category, and featured in the July issue of the East African women and lifestyle magazine, True Love. I’d been trying to interview her, so it was great to finally meet her face to face.


I have a date! August 6, 2010

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Every cool journalist is “supposed” to be able to say something like, “I was in Berlin the night the Wall fell on November 9, 1989,” or “I was there in South Africa on February 11, 1990 when Nelson Mandela was released from 27 years of imprisonment” or “I was on the steps of the Capitol when Barack Obama was inaugurated on January 20, 2009.”

So…I finally have my first date and hopefully, it will be the first of many great ones.

On Thursday, August 5, 2010, I was in the midst of hundreds of Kenyans in Nairobi’s city center as they celebrated the victory of the constitutional referendum–Kenya will adopt the proposed constitution!

Surely, Kenyans have spoken. With more than 6 million votes in support of the draft constitution, the “yes” team has prevailed. Officials and other talking heads have declared that from this point on, there is no more a “no” team or a “yes” team. Let all Kenyans join the Kenya team!

Throughout the streets of the nation, in Mombasa, Nairobi, Kisumu, Eldoret, Nakuru, Kenyans have been celebrating. And I’m so honored to have witnessed this beautiful and historic moment.

Thursday, I was home recovering from a throat infection, but I was continuously watching the referendum coverage on television. When I saw Higher Education Minister, William Ruto of the “no” camp conceding defeat, my heart raced. “So this constitution will really pass!” And Kenyans throughout the nation rejoiced yesterday, though prematurely because the results that showed the “yes” vote clearly in the lead were still provisional, according to the Interim Independent Electoral Commission.

Nonetheless, President Kibaki, Prime Minister Odinga and Vice President Musyoka addressed the public at the Kenya International Convention Center (KICC) to declare victory. The address was to start around 4PM. I jumped out of the bed sheets, still shivering with cold shills and with painful throbs in my head, and called my trusty driver, Godfrey to tell him to take me to KICC immediately.I grabbed my audio recorder, reporter’s notebook, Canon Rebel camera and Kodak Zi8.

Godfrey arrived in 3 minutes and told me he had just seen Kibaki’s motorcade headed to the KICC. I was as giddy as….as….as a lady named Chika reporting in Kenya!

From everywhere, Kenyans made there way to see their president, many coming straight from their places of work. Jumping out the car, I made my way into the crowd and started snapping photos and asking folks questions:

“Why are you here?”

“Did you support the draft constitution? Why?”

“How will the new constitution help you as an individual?”

“What does this mean for Kenya?”

I truly had a blast. When Kibaki and Odinga presented themselves at the podium, the crowd went wild! I met a young lady name Sheila and she ended up following me. She was cool, but the brightly-dressed, 19-year-old had no idea what was going on. She has just left school and saw everyone headed toward the KICC.

I ran into a K24 colleague, a very kind camera guy named Galgallo. Galgallo was shooting for a K24 reporter named Kagoe. Galgallo and I were pleased to see each other at the event.

Words truly can’t express my glee about this victory. The entire process was simply beautiful. Watching the daily public service announcements on the referendum on television; listening to IIEC chairman, Isaack Hassan, confirming the fairness of the referendum; watching Kenyans standing in the lines at the polling stations for hours; seeing taxi drivers reading the informative handouts on the details of the draft constitution; listening to people singing and chanting “Uhuru!” (freedom) and “Kura!” (vote) and “Haki yetu!” (our rights) throughout downtown Nairobi. This victory is not just for Kenya, but it is for Africa.

Katiba Mpya, Kenya Moja (New constitution, one Kenya)

Kofi Annan stated: “We commend the two Principals [Kibaki and Odinga] for their stewardship… and congratulate the Government and the people of Kenya for this momentous step.”

Barack Obama: “This was a significant step forward for Kenya’s democracy and the peaceful nature of the election was a testament to the character of the Kenyan people.”

Mwai Kibaki: “The historic journey that begun more than 20 years ago is coming to a historic end. Let us now hold hands together as brother and sister…The successful and peaceful conclusion of this referendum shows that our democratic institutions have come of age.”

Raila Odinga: “This constitution is actually for the liberalization of this country.”

But, the victory wasn’t final until declared by the Interim Independent Electoral Commission. Today, IIEC chairman, Isaack Hassan stated:

“Pursuant to the Constitution of Kenya Review Act, 2008 and the Referendum Regulations, 2010, I do declare that the Proposed New Constitution is hereby ratified. Thank you.”

Some provisions of the new constitution:

  • Two levels of government: national and regional (47 counties will be created)
  • Removal of the Prime Minister position
  • free secondary education
  • a Bill of Rights for all Kenyans,; these are rights that people are born with and are protected by this constitution
  • Kenyan citizens by birth may also be citizens of another country (dual citizenship)
  • The creation of two houses in Parliament
  • Limitation of Presidential powers
  • The creation of a Supreme Court which will have the final word on judicial matters
  • The creation of a Senate, to check the President
  • The establishment of a single National Police Service which consists of the Kenya Police Service and the Administration Police Service
  • The establishment of a National Land Commission to manage all public land
  • Requires all people to have access to public land
  • Creates a land policy that allows people to have equitable access to land and secure land rights
  • Foreigners cannot own land but can rent (lease) land for less than 99 years