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The East African : Nov 24th 2014
16 The EastAfrican OPINION NOVEMBER 22-28,2014 PUBLISHED WEEKLY BY THE NATION MEDIA GROUP Fi≥st baby step towa≥ds a political union Later this week, five presidents are expected to kick off the making of a constitution for a political federation of East Africa. During the EAC Heads of State Summit set for next weekend, the leaders will also draw up timelines towards a political union, historically the most ambitious merging of territories not motivated by war or imperial aspirations. While the baby step needs to be celebrated, there is a palpable desire for caution, especially because the monetary union and the political federation were, in that order, bound to be the most tricky, possibly deal-breaking, proposals when the East African Community was revived 15 years ago. The drafters of the blueprint for the new in- tegration sought to avoid the pitfalls of the forerunner that had collapsed 22 years earlier, pulled apart by conflict over shared resources, irreconcilable political ideologies and personal differences among the leaders of the then threemember economic bloc. Now expanded into a membership of five and with two candidates for admission knocking on the door, the Community has grown from a Common Market to a Customs Union, with uniform policies on taxation of goods coming from outside the region and ideally no fiscal barriers on those moving about within it. We are not there yet but no one can fault the resolve. What has slowed the journey so far have been misgivings that one member may progress faster than the others, leading to erection of administrative barriers at the operational level and hesitation in decision making. This has left realisation of shared goals subject to each member’s goodwill. The road to a political federation, however, is paved with more daunting obstacles that explain why the European Union opted not go beyond a monetary union — itself a divisive subject that saw Britain opt out of the euro. Among them is ensuring equitable representation of the people, an ideal that even a collegiate system or a rotation cycle based on consensus as proposed by Arusha technocrats can hardly satisfy. In the European Union where the president serves for a once renewable term of two-and-a half years, the unwritten rule is that the job oscillates between a bigger and a lesser power. Add to this politically unstable countries like Somalia and South Sudan that could be future members of the federation and you get a powder keg that can explode anytime. Will EAF have the financial muscle and the legitimacy to contain conflicts in member countries? These fears, however, should not distract from a move that promises to give the region more clout in global political and economic forums. What is clear is that a lot of education will be required for citizens of member countries to embrace the idea, since for all that they know it could turn out to be just another layer of bureaucracy to keep politicians happy. After that national referenda will be necessary, unlike now when EAC decisions are endorsed by the national Cabinets and parliaments. A PUBLICATION OF THE NATION MEDIA GROUP LINUS GITAHI: Chief Executive Officer TOM MSHINDI: Acting Editorial Director PAMELLA SITTONI: Managing Editor Nation Centre, Kimathi Street, P.O. Box 49010-00100 G.P.O. Nairobi. Tel. 3288000, 2221222, 337710, Fax 214531, 213946. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org © Nation Media Group Our great grandparents, who lived and died ages ago, would recognise this digital universe” Cha≥les Onyango-Obbo U gandan musician Desire Luzinda has easily been the most miserable woman in East Africa the past few weeks. Luzinda fell out with her Nigerian boyfriend, and in a burst of revenge porn fury, he released naked photos of her on the net. Now there are two types of nude photos — the “embarrassing” ones, taken for example when you are innocently walking naked out of your shower, and the “scandalous” Cheating couples don’t discuss the morality of what they are doing. Their main concern is not getting caught version, the type you don’t want your parents and favourite aunt to see, but which delight your enemies. Luzinda’s were the scandalous type. The photos set Ugandan cyberspace on fire. There are issues of privacy here, yes, but beyond Luzinda’s personal misfortune, there are other intriguing matters this episode throws up. The combination of the Internet and mobile digital devices, critics ar- Nude pics: How sma≥t phones can save ou≥ souls gue, is creating a sometimes-terrifying new world. Maybe not. Our great grandparents, who lived and died ages ago, would recognise this digital universe. The notions of privacy that came with doors, windows, curtains, and fences were alien to our fore fathers. Everything in the village happened in plain sight of everyone. You could, of course, sneak off to the forest for a bit of hanky panky or to conspire, but someone in the village was likely to follow you, hide in the bushes, and spy on what you were doing. One of the things that the modern infrastructure and instruments of privacy (like passwords) and travel (enabling you to travel far away from village and do naughty things that no one back home knows) had done is to offer us the delightful possibility of living double lives. What ubiquitous mobile technology has done in the process, is to make the walls between public and private porous. Soon, they will collapse. These “leaks” of nude photos have, in Kenya and other places, destroyed the credibility of pastors who harangue their flock daily about the virtues of family and fidelity, until photos emerge of them shirtless with a follower’s wife. Some of these leaks are unhelpful, but to the extent that they are making it harder and harder to live a dou- Raped by police, st≥ipped by touts... What the hell? T wo weeks ago, the Sta≥ carried the shocking story of a woman who went to report an assault at Kikuyu police station and was made to wait from 9 am to 2 pm. Then an officer took her to his house, in the police lines at the station, and locked her inside. He returned at 1 am and raped her three times. He released her at 6 am the following morning. She returned home to find her baby dead. She went back to the station to report the death, the rape and the illegal detention. The Officer Commanding Station refused to record the illegal detention and rape in the Occurrence Book, ordering the rapist to accompany her and the dead baby to the mortuary. It was left to another officer in an- other station to anonymously tip off the Sta≥. The story was published and trended on Twitter under the hashtag #RapeatKikuyuPoliceLines. Only then did the Officer Commanding Police Division admit he had “heard” of the story, but only “informally.” He had, astonishingly, done nothing about it. This officer is not the proverbial “rotten apple.” He did it because he thought he could get away with it. He would have too because his commanding officers apparently thought nothing of it. We can only thank our respective gods that a whistleblower thought the story unacceptable enough to report it. If that is the signal sent out by our supposed protectors, what followed is unsurprising. The series of incidents in which women merely going about their daily business were stripped naked by members of the public. No rational reasons given for the incidents. Because there are no rational reasons. Just claims that one woman rejected the advance of a male passer-by and that all should have been dressed differently. This lethargy and abuse of office makes a mockery of the supposed gains of the Kenyan women’s movement The police yet again failed to take the initiative, claiming none of the incidents had been reported. Yet again, the public (largely) responded appropriately. The incidents trended on Twitter under #MyDressMyChoice. The Kilimani Mums organised a demonstration to assert our individual and collective right to dress as we please and expect to be safe. The Director of Public Prosecutions forwarded the videotape that some- ble life, there is something to be said for them. Of course, we are well into an Or- wellian world where everywhere you go Big Brotherhood is watching. But it is intriguing, staying with the theme of photos taken of us when we are not fully dressed, to see where else this could end in the old-fashioned moral sense. Cheating couples probably don’t discuss the morality of what they are doing. Their main concern is contraception and protection, and not getting caught. But not getting caught is today partly an issue of technology. A sensible cheat would want to be sure that the other party has switched off their phone. Also, that there is no hidden camera in the room. Which, ultimately, would be a con- versation about two other important things that our societies are not talking enough about — the morality of their actions, and trust. One may well understand why people cheat. The worse thing, though, is to be hypocritical about it. So, those smartphones with their 13-megapixel cameras may just save our souls too, after all. Cha≥les Onyango-Obbo is edito≥ of Mail & Gua≥dian Af≥ica (mgaf≥ica.com) Twitte≥: @cobbo3 The Kikuyu station officer did it because he thought he could get away with it.” L. Muthoni Wanyeki body had recorded and circulated of one of the incidents to the Director of Criminal Investigations, demanding identification and charging of those involved. The vice-president demanded arrests. Finally — only then — did the police arrest over 100 persons allegedly involved in the incident in Kayole. This sort of abuse of office and lethargy is unacceptable. It makes a mockery of the supposed gains of the Kenyan women’s movement with respect to the handling of violence against women. What happened to the training conducted for the police on women’s human rights? What happened to the gender desks meant to have been set up in every station to facilitate reporting? What happened to the administrative arrangements meant to ease reporting — such as women no longer having to obtain P3 forms solely from stations? What the hell happened? Ending the patriarchy will not be done in our lifetime. Achieving accountability from those who are meant to protect us can and must be, however.
Nov 17th 2014
Dec 1st 2014