Saturday, May 11, 2013

Dear Bonnie: Double Standards Beget Double Standards #OccupyParliament

Hello @bonifacemwangi. I’m a fan of your revolutionary spirit. I believe that if more Kenyans had the guts to stand up for their rights in much the same way you have in the past stood, fallen, been stoned and handcuffed for theirs, we would be talking of a Vision 2014. The next 16 years would be spent, instead, working towards hitting the elusive first class of world societies and economies alike. Notice how I put society before economy there, something Vision 2030 seems to have forgotten.

"There is no person so severely punished, as those who subject themselves to the whip of their own remorse. ~ Seneca"

I come from a long line of activists. There’s my paternal grandfather, an 85 year old man now, who was imprisoned and gulag’d by the Imperial Guard during the State of Mau Mau obliteration. He still, amazingly so, given his age, spends up to 4 hours nonstop on his feet grazing his goats. Even with his flailing eardrums and failing eyesight. Did I mention my paternal grandmother, who defied the Brits and fed the Mau Mau, much to her own chagrin when the guards caught up with her? An iron lady, my grandma. My maternal uncles, who seem to have the gift of both gab and quill, two having written for the Daily Nation, one having worked a long career in the legal scenes and the other currently running a Diaspora News agency based in Washington DC, for and about Kenya.

In the interests of trapping some more of your attention, I will allow myself one name drop. Al-Amin Kimathi, my mother’s brother, and one of the four brothers above. One of the two still left alive, illogically and unbelievably so. He should be dead. Like Dedan before him, Kimathi is a terrorist. A man who orchestrated the bombing of innocent football fans during the screening of a soccer match in 2010, over the World Cup. A man who had set up a sham operation in Westlands, claiming to be a Muslim Human Rights’ defender, but working his own Jihad against Kenya and the West in said disguise. A man who, after years as a Daily Nation writer, simply got fed up with reason, dropped his quill and decided to pick up the religion that nurtures and natures indiscriminate violence.

That’s if you’ll believe the three Musketeers of poor justice masquerading as pure – the American, Kenyan and Ugandan governments, in descending order of importance and soft power of justice.

Why else was a man on a mission to Uganda in defense of Kenyan Muslims extradited extrajudicially, himself extrajudicially bound and gagged for over a year in a Ugandan prison? Luzira – East Africa’s very own Château d’If. A Kenyan. His only fault being that he was a thorn in the Kenya government’s ribs, and since he wears a kanzu and has a bushy beard, he is without doubt Osama bin Laden’s cousin by camel exchange. A Kenyan. One who is yet to be compensated in whatsoever form for his wrongful mental and physical torture? Very nearly a wrongful death, I must add.

Renewed faith or peace, @imanmpya, he calls himself on Twitter, now that he’s finally seen the light of Kenyan suns for over a year since his return. Or perhaps it’s a short form of his surname, Imanene? A new Imanene? Yet, sadly, one who has become, in some eyes, the laughing stock of our society, or worse still, the terrorist that got away.

Would it, I wonder, have been better for the Kenyan activist scene if he had been martyred?
If I do not have your attention now, Boniface Mwangi, then perhaps you may be a lost cause tracing the wrong course already. If I do, however, then please wipe the discontent that little no so quippy quip above may have inspired, and for once, brother – listen!

"The masses are ignorant... They lost their voice and we want to help them discover that voice,"
                  - Boniface Mwangi.
I fear that you’re on a path of destruction, comrade in alms. Your own, and by extension, Kenya’s. You and your brethren have failed in some of the most fundamental aspects of any idea worth having, and in the long run, keeping. Here’s how.

Borrowed from the Kenya ni Kwetu (Kenya is our home) Facebook page
Having been a supporter of your work – madd love on the graffiti by the way – I quickly came to Pawa254, the creativity and artistry hub we were endowed for your effort as an activist. It remains, and always will be, my most at ease venue for anything. A testament to your own genius. I hope you will still allow me in tomorrow, after all’s said and done.

Genius and madness have been said to be like black and white, yet there exists a fine blurry grey line that symbolizes the tripwire you are currently treading on. For if crashing May Day celebrations, a function ‘chaired’ by a president indicted for crimes against humanity, so as to chide and deride a small – yet fat – man over a mundane yet bloody important issue is not madness, then we will never see madness. Kibaki at Madaraka was one thing, but Atwoli at Labour Day?

I attended the Love Protest last year, and I’ll be quick to say I marveled at the organization of the ‘event’.

There were the banners, the placards, the T-shirts, the coffins; all, as one might expect of a man who runs a creative hub, so tastefully done. The ideas expressed by this artistry in motion were pretty darn good.

The ideas expressed by the mob you and your brethren managed to bring together, however, leave a whole fucking lot to be desired. I considered writing a rebuttal to your protest right after it was over, and aired my discontent with some of it right at the preparations to the Love march at Freedom Corner. A lady who was part of the gathered few, listened, and when I said I was not going to blog about my reservations, she was quick to ask me to desist from self-censorship. A year later, I heed her call, having thought better of my pussyfooting around the way you do things simply because you are Boniface Mwangi.

To an Associated Press reporter in the crowd with him, he said: "There is fire in my belly, but my feet are trembling."
While I have kept away from all street protest initiatives you, the Unga Revolution and Wanjiku Revolution have organized, I intend to come for the Occupation of Parliament. Makes it sound like the August House is a job, doesn’t it, despite the fact that we all know how truly it is not?

Anyway, since I am coming, and you – like it or not – have the capacity to chart a course for Kenya, answering the ‘where to?’ that emerges with our ‘accept and move on’ situation, I feel duty-bound to nitpick on the Love Protest.

I left before the protestors left Freedom Corner, and here is why:

a)      Simply banking on numbers is a mistake. Rather, it's the quality of the protestors that should matter i.e. ‘do they understand and believe in the cause?’ As a Social Media strategist, I can attest to the fact that for Social Media to have a Return on Investment, focus on how many followers or Facebook friends we have should not be what Corporate Social Media eyes, but rather the relationships and shared values created. Which is where your flawed presumption, expressed last year at the Poets and Writers’ Online (POWO)in June, springs from. Just because you have them thousands of followers does not imply that when you tweet about your being arrested will spring a riot. 
Expecting the reenactment of a scene from The Illusionist where Edward Norton’s Eisenheim is arrested and the Viennese Wanjiku come to his rescue, dear brother, requires a better Kenya first and better idea from you. @itsBuddhaBlaze, for instance, came because he believs in your cause, and is your friend. How, perhaps you should be thinking, can you make more Buddha fires of ordinary wananchi?
Lotsa idlers at Freedom Corner joined the protest last year, mainly for the free merchandise, and it's no wonder violence ensued at Parliament. The irony in that photo of you reeling in the dogs that your ill-considered mass action unleashed was not lost on me either. 

b)      The focus on merchandise, I felt, was also appalling, particularly given the distribution. People queued for T-shirts, and like Omtatah once said, if people queue, they do so only because they believe there'll be something at the end of that queue, otherwise chaos ensues. Ironically, you were seated right next to him while he said these words, at the same POWO meeting I referenced earlier. Last year June at the love protest, T-shirts ishad. 
Boniface Mwangi and Ndanu
Panelists (L to R): Room Thinker, Okoiti Omtata, Maddo and Muki Garang.

c)       Let's also not be the architects of the very same crap status quo dishes out. I remember watching as my dear brother Boni came to the front of the line, picking T-shirts for his friends, who couldn't be bothered to queue, while protesters who'd arrived earlier queued. Double standards reap double standards. I understand, as was pointed out to me by one of the organizers when I asked how much you were selling the T-shirts upon my arrival, that ‘you do not need my money’. 
Because of course this was your money, your funds raised, spent to buy this merchandise. But when you put on such a show, then bitch loudly – as do I – when the parliamentarians go easy on their cronies, it belies belief in your sincerity as a change agent, and beggars questions about your own integrity. That is not the way, dear brother, we are going to take down Crown Prince Leopold. I know it’s hard to ignore our friends, but we cannot eat our integrity and still have it.
I do hope, sincerely so, that you or some of your inner circle of friends gets to read this, and pass the message on to you. I fear that the photo-activist empery walks naked amongst us mere mortals, and his court remains silent; or is else totally ignored and overruled whence it raises objections to his Uchi Revolution!

I so hope that my tyranny of words will suppress your tyranny of the wrong numbers. I honestly believe you capable of so much better. Not more. Just better; so as you change Kenya, I hope to change you.

The dude in between Lorna and the other lady? With the head turned away? That's me. I turned away on purpose, not to be associated with this protest. Yule Mbois Mndialala of Facebook, and @French_Freddy on Twitter


All credit to Bonnie, and in the true fashion of one so used to courting controversy in pursuit for his cause, he responded to this post immediately after I put it up. Here's what he had to say:

Further, on 18th May at Pawa254, he went on to explain in person that when I saw him getting a T-shirt, it was one he had promised to keep for Lorna Irungu, as she had contributed money for the printing of T-shirts. While this response drew a 'you should really have kept it aside from the pile for her' shrug from me, it's an acceptable rebuttal to this piece, given it was premised primarily on the one assumption that Bonnie went hypocrite on the cause. 

My apologies for the misrepresentation of a not too tactful picture I misread for more than it was. Meanwhile, see my new post on the explosive Occupy Parliament 'revolution' here. I was one of the thousand or so strong protestors on the day (14th May, 2013). 

Here's a sneak preview to how it ended...

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