My Response to Westgate Mall Attacks #WeMustDoSomething

“In the same way that many victims, journalists and security forces chose not to be afraid at Westgate Mall, I will put aside my small fear of looking ridiculous, of failing, of being uncomfortable, of doing something that is bigger than me, and I will begin with this little piece of earth that I stand on and see where I go after that.”

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RED DRESS: Part One

His stories are legendary…

thinjian

The jet black Audi Q7 pulled up in front of the tall glass building and everything happened like clockwork. Mbugua opened the door for his boss who stepped out of the vehicle swiftly. His boss had both his hands on his blackberry and his eyes fixated on the screen. He walked briskly and confidently toward the building. His body had already learned how to get to his office from the vehicle. He needed not look at the path. The security guard, with a firm grip on the handle, swung the glass door open and greeted the man walking through, “Good morning mister Langa.”

He did not get the response he was so used to, “I told you to call me Oliver, Ted.” Oliver just walked past paying no mind to the security guard who had become a close acquaintance. He then walked into the building lobby and headed straight for…

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Her

It had been long since she had been home. Home… if she could remember how it looked like. Vague memories of her mother waking her up the first hint of light in the horizon to go to school flooded her mind many nights. The graceful lines on her face courtesy of age gave mom a storybook face, like an angel lived within her…

250 KM

Another signboard whooshed by at the corner of her eye, head rested on the window, her eyelashes barely touching the glass every time she blinked. She smiled. Soon she would see her mother, the only person she knew she would be safe with in this fair but evil world as she had come to conclude. All the pretty things, and people, in this world had turned against her. They broke her, forced her to trade in her dignity from a day’s meal, eating from a bowl on the floor as her master and client changed notes with a man’s face on it, a man she had seen in nothing but his skin. Money.

 200 KM

 Closer, soon, mother. Happy thoughts. Drinking tea, not too hot and not warm, after watching mom pour the liquid from one cup into the other, distance increasing between the cups as the highest one emptied out its content into the other like a waterfall. Soon she would feel her mother’s soft lips on her forehead. She still remembered the look in her eyes when she kissed her those many years ago, like she knew something… she had seen that same look before in her master’s eyes the day life was forced from within her out into the world when she was still new in the trade. The look in her eyes spoke pity, pity as she cried over the lifeless male, barely formed to completion. Pity because the donor of the Y was an evil man and there she was crying over his evil spawn.

 150 KM

 She barely saw the sign this time as water played balance at the base of her eyelids. A quick wipe brought the scenery back into focus. Vast green grass scattered with huts, herds and their owners. She did not know where she was but she knew home was at the 50 kilometre mark, just before the rural town. She could get off and pray the strange yet familiar man staring at her did not get off at her stop. She was beautiful, a concept she detested. The men had all picked her first. The oldest and wealthiest she hated most. Wisdom and old age in men to her was a lie told in books she read when she was young. Their gold wedding rings mocked her.

100 KM

 Her thoughts were a mess. Her heart wanted to burst from within her. The anger, the pain, the years wasted. Yet she still chose to cling to life. Drug, alcohol, heck, even rat poison, were at her disposal. But she consumed none of them. So many girls had removed themselves from the closed and secret life they lived, none remembered, more to replace, you know, to keep the business going. But still she remained. Her mother’s face playing in her mind over and over again, a love filling her from her soul, not even the men could penetrate that far. And here she was. Free, but running. No one would ever find her.

 50 KM

She was at the door. The bus came to a stop. The man stood up too. She got off the bus. So did he. She began walking on the dirt road leading to her safe haven, looking back occasionally, the man keeping a distance, looking disinterested in her now. Suddenly, so though magically, the thatched roof came into view, smoke coming from the red brick chimney. She broke into a run, her breath hard and loud, too loud to hear the footsteps behind her. She ran into the compound, it’s memory rushing back. The granary behind the hut to the left, the chicken house right next to it, and the small vegetable garden to the right blooming with color, greens, oranges, reds…

10 steps

The man ran past her, knocking her to the ground, causing the red dust to rise in protest. She looked up just in time to see him ran into the opened door of the hut. Protest. A scream. That scream. That piercing scream. Then silence. That silence. The strange familiar man appeared at the door way. Looking into his eyes she saw her own.

‘Cruel world, isn’t it my love. No one runs away from the master.’

She now remembered him, and her mother’s warnings, ‘Don’t talk to strangers, especially men, my daughter!’ The man who stole her mother’s innocence came back to steal and sell hers to pay for his drug use. Seven years of her hope had been murdered. Purpose lost.

Shouts, screams, hoarse voice, a slap, silver blade, struggle, steel on skin.

She watched her father dust shoes retreated from her view, leaving her to share her mother’s fate, her heart beating frantically, almost.

He had to pay for the blood of her mother that now spilled from the severed throat, quenching the dry earth floor in the hut. She had found new purpose, the earth could not have her just yet.

 

 

I published this last year on my old blog and thought it would be nice to bring it here. I still can’t believe I wrote that. 

 

PR lessons from the Kidero-Shebesh incident

I seek to not poke fun at the alleged incident, but rather to enlighten you in the dynamics at play as a Public Relations practitioner. Before I proceed, let me state that this is in no way a feminist piece and that my thoughts about the Kidero-Shebesh incident will be withheld. All I will say to my non-Kenyan readers is… Welcome to Kenyan politics.

 

The alleged slap; in spite of the physical evidence, whether or not the slap took place is surprisingly unclear to some. My dear reader, this is not a joke. Your eyes just MIGHT be deceiving you. Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero went on record after the incident claiming that he did not slap anyone.

This here is what we call Crisis Management, or in simple terms, damage control.

There are three elements to any crisis:

1. Threat to organization (Kidero)

2. Surprise (sudden reaction toward Shebesh)

3. A short time frame for decision making (talking to the media needs adequate planning and preparation)

Kidero was right to talk to the journalists and make his position clear, but his message was not well received. Denying that he slapped Women Representative Rachael Shebesh was the one thing he should not have done. Avoiding the question would have been more acceptable. Maybe even call attention to World Peace as being more important, but not out rightly deny what has been labelled obvious. But then again, that seems to be on the employment contract of many (read all) politicians.

From Politician Employment Contract, Pg 8, Section 4.

Thou shalt in no way admit to wrong doing, evidence notwithstanding.

From the comments made on social media, mainly twitter with its #KideroMeltdown, #Slapthemlikekidero and #Shebeshslapped trends, the public opinion is the same; Kidero slapped Shebesh. Denying the allegation is calling all those who watched the clip incapable of deducing the events correctly. In short he is endorsing eye specialists in Kenya.

The media can make you or break you. I will not sugar-coat this: don’t lie to the media. They could make you look ‘foolish’ and damage your relations with them. To the organization that seeks out to misinform the media: fire your PR manager (if you have one). Ethics should be a principle in the PR profession. It in itself seeks to create right relationships between the organization, the public and stakeholders.

Shebesh, on the other hand, will need what we call Branding. Here is a post by CORD Kenya 2013 on Facebook

FODDER for the weekend – Shebesh! As the list of her “slappers” grows; men and women; Elizabeth Ongoro; Sonko; Waititu; Mama Ngina…and now Kidero! If I were Racheal I would think long and hard! What leaves this woman’s mouth?? Meanwhile #if she’s been slapped so many times…why was she acting suprised? #

When I say branding, I do not mean reputation. The fact is she says things to warrant this number of slaps. PR’s job is to manage a brand, not create one. She should therefore work on her image, that is, brand Shebesh. A loose example is Safaricom. They have always been expensive in comparison to other networks, and Kenyans do complain a lot about them, but we still use this service provider. Why? They have done a great job branding themselves.

So what Shebesh needs to do is write a book. That way we fall in love with her all over again and look at her with understanding eyes. Any more advice for the Women’s Rep will require a meeting to discuss my rates.

The way in which the incident unravelled brought about this space in which I currently stand called the Gray Area. The way forward for this Kidero-Shebesh incident to avoid court battles and wastage of police time ‘investigating’ the incident, Kidero, like any penitent organization, should call a press conference and apologize to the Women’s Rep, preferably asking the media to excuse his earlier statement citing work pressure as a reason for his memory lapse. But this is Kenya. Kidero suddenly remembered that he was being groped and hence the slap, which was apparently not a slap. Kidero should however get comfortable in the growing list of Shebesh Slappers. As for Shebesh? Research first needs to be done to find out what she actually tells her ‘attackers’.

Walking

Now.

In Philipians 4:11 Paul talks about being content in all circumstances. In her book Ending Your Day Right Joyce Meyer states that spiritual and emotionally stability is a sign of maturity.

A friend of mine stared at each other from across the table during bible study last night, quickly falling into a sudden gloom. Tea and Fanta had lost their appeal.

We were off the mark.

I have spent the better part of this night literally tossing and turning with anxiety. Actions I had taken the previous night dominated my dreams and no matter how many times I woke up to say ‘this is stupid!’ then fall back asleep, the same dream kept reoccurring.

Nothing about this shows stability. Anxiety shows lack of contentment and brings about so many ‘what ifs’ that humans should, or rather, are incapable of answering. It’s amazing how you think you are doing so well in your walk with God then just one verse puts you in your place on the map to eternity.

In light of my anxiety based dreams, I choose to admit my flaws and ask God for strength to push through what is honestly mental stress brought about by… well, foolishness. Isn’t that what not following the Word is called?

This too shall pass.

Cheers.

Owl is well

This is no research paper, rather an interest that developed after I found out that we have three owls residing in the trees within our compound. My mother saw them for the first time in her life this month, while my grandmother only ever saw them in Mombasa, at a private museum, while she was there on holiday about a decade back.

That is how rare spotting one of these creatures is.

I have seen them three times in the past two or three months and this had, of course, been at night. Twice, I saw one of the owls fly off (there is always one in flight; it is so strange) with its huge brownish wings. The other I saw this week chilling on the branches at balcony level. I had just walked in through the gate and was discussing with my brother this update he posted on Facebook:

you don’t know creepy until you have had an owl watch you smoke. The thing was facing the other way, slowly turned its head all the way round (for dramatic effect I suppose) and just quietly watched me…Probably the most unsettling thing I have seen so far

 He pointed to where it was and as I walked toward the tree, I first saw a large white mass that clearly didn’t belong. I walked closer only to find out it was an owl. Later, I joked with a friend that it looked as though it could hold a more intelligent conversation than some people I know. Bad joke, but it looked distinguished, authoritative and brilliant with a scholarly sense of humour.

There are 200 existing species of owls but the one I saw looks like this one but three times bigger:

 owl

What you may not have known…

Owls tend to be active at dusk and dawn and usually hang out in pairs or in a parliament during breeding season. They are quite human in that they stretch, yawn, preen then comb their head using claws. They also bob and weave their head as though listening to a Bob Marley song but they actually usually do this to improve the 3D of something they are viewing. When relaxed, they look loose and fluffy but immediately become slim when alarmed. The little ones will jump up and down if excited or alarmed.

We have all been taught in preschool that owls hoot, but they do more than that. They whistle, screech, snort, scream, chitter and hiss. Hooting often happens during courting or when they are being territorial.

Owls are feared by many birds and for this reason they are either harassed or attacked by a group of smaller birds. Being the common enemy, birds of other species usually join in the attack.  Ironically, no owls have been injured in such mobbing. They also rarely respond. The most they will do is fly off to another location, in which they are often pursued.

What has been said…

Now, if you grew up in a typical African household, you must think me mad.

‘’Among the Kikuyu of Kenya it was believed that owls were harbingers of death. If one saw an owl or heard its hoot, someone was going to die. In general, owls are viewed as harbingers of bad luck, ill health, or death. The belief is widespread even today.’’- Wikipedia

This is the case in a lot of cultures around the world. The Aztec and Maya cultures associate the owl with sorcery and as a symbol of death and destruction. There is even an old Mexican saying that goes ‘When the owl cries/sings, the Indian dies’. This creature in many tribes is an owl- sorry- all round bad omen.

My mother is not amused by their presence.

Then enter modern Western culture. Trust these people to make everything look good and acceptable; they associate the owl with wisdom. This is however borrowed from the Athena, Athens’ patron goddess in Ancient Greece. She was also known as the goddess of wisdom, with the owl as her symbol of choice. Pre-dating the Indo-European cultures, the owl itself was considered a goddess. This creature is also mentioned in Folk-lore of Shakespeare… Not that it matters. In Belgium, France and Netherlands there is somewhat of a balance; eared owls offer wisdom while earless owls spell doom.

My take?

I choose to look at this positively. Though I had not noticed them earlier, there must be a lot less rodents in the area. These creatures do make a lot of noise, sort of like a screeching sound, though that could be a smaller bird pleading for dear life- I speculate- but I am glad to announce no one has died.

These creatures are beautiful, and I will keep telling God what an amazing Creative He is every time I spot an owl. I am not going to live in fear, casting out said demons in the owls… if God looked at it and said ‘it is very good’, then I believe Him.

I mean, people eat owls.

PS: These creatures had made a nest somewhere in our roof and would make quite a racket at night. Father dearest hired men to come remove the nest. Three owls were able to fly away but one was not so lucky. I guess the African culture prevailed on this one.

However, owl is well.