This Man, Najib Balala
From those early days as a young man, he stood to be conspicuous wherever he went; even as a person he has a very pleasant personality. He is handsome (what the local community called a “natural attractiveness”). From the very beginning he has never been a fundamentalist – he is seen as a moderate, educated and westernised person. Even when other Arabs were being sent to local schools his family took him to Kakamega High School. He later went to Harvard University.
At Kakamega High School, Balala related well with the institution members that were not Muslim. This is not to say that he has not been loyal to his faith. He drives his inspiration from his beads. Balala speaks fluent Luhya and loves chicken. Although his favourite food is Biriani, he has had to go slow on the dish since it is quite fattening. The former Ag. Labour Minister has special praise, almost awe when he speaks about his old school. One cannot mistake his nostalgia. “Kakamega High School taught me to be an independent thinker. To appreciate different cultures and understand that there is no difference in humanity, in diversity.”
Najib Balala is a Monday child. He was born on an early Monday morning at Kikowani in Mombasa at the Mosque. This explains why he loves Mondays. His father died before he was born having suffered from Leukemia. He has always referred to his mother as a strong woman. “She was only 30 years and never remarried. She protected us (we were six siblings, four boys and two girls). She was a very poor woman. I am very proud of her. Her upbringing is very well cultured. Her honesty is the key to our upbringing,” he told the writer in a past interview. Balala is the last born of his mother. Being poor and fatherless always inspired him to work hard and change society. He is a down to earth person who drives himself around even though he has access to a driver.
Balala, 45 is a family man and rather proud of his family. “After work, I sit with my children. If I don’t give them time, they will lose personal touch. My timing is unpredictable due to the nature of my political work so I spend quality time with my family,” he said.
He first cut his teeth is politics as Mombasa mayor and later as Mvita Member of Parliament and Minister for Tourism. From the start, his family was against his joining politics and he struggled alone.
His mantra is the need to start developing leadership that is honest and trustworthy and to have a mechanism to block leaders who take advantage of communities because they are more vulnerable and who think they can buy people. His greatest achievement is in the tourism sector where he introduced tourism as part of Corporate Responsibility and turned the economic sector around. He has never ceased to be a darling of the media since he always gives interviews without a fuss and always picks his calls even in the middle of a meeting.
He is highly respected within the Muslim community and never misses a function at the Mosque. Balala is accepted among Muslims who are rich, poor and middle class and by non-Muslims who are also of the same status. He is also said to be a darling with women who are the majority voters at the Coast. Before his sacking a few days ago, he was a bossom buddy of Kenya’s Prime Minister, Raila Odinga until recently when they started following different political paths. He once described Raila as the only person who seemed to fight for the rights of Muslims.
Excerpt from a past interview. Copyright Omwa Ombara.
It is a Sunday morning and rather than sleep in and have a lazy restful day, WordPress.com deadlines are keeping me on my toes.
It all started when I got a message in my inbox saying someone had thought my post was awesome. Highly impressed by this I started clicking the ‘follow’ and ‘like’ buttons, not realising what a loadful I was piling in my mail.
Now I am late with reading all the blogs in my mail. There are posts that I have not opened since last week, there are comments to be moderated. There are some breathe-taking pictures that I had promised myself to go through again when I got time and I want to watch my favourite Soap Opera on TV. I have to check my stat mail urgently to see how many viewers have visited my blog. Of course this is the part I love the most!’Now where do I start? The Freshly Pressed posts look inviting. Do I read all of them or just click “like” on each one so that fellow bloggers think I did read their post. Oh I feel so guilty. I am overwhelmed I must confess. There are all my blogger friends with all these brilliant posts, how can I not read an interesting headline from with findinggravity who blogs on Ten Things I Learned From My Father. I am about to skip some mail but curiosity gets the better of me and soon I am reading Snotting black’s This One For All Bloggers Out There.
Then Blogger Maryanne Pale stops me dead on my tracks with My First Guest Blogger Brian Misinale, her cousin who does a rather moving piece, My Heart and Soul. I sympathise with the twins who had cancer and the fact that one of them passed away. Misinale’s new family, he has twins too, brings a smile to both my face and my heart. There’s the Blurred Line and Guitarmonk, Creative Splurges and Photobotos. Defining my dash with Boldness shares how you can face head on whatever stands in your way and In My Opinion reveals her childhood and how mothers’ comments can really bring one down. Then I meet know the sphere with zero? raising pertinent issues on how some people use arguments while taking absolutist positions and Grumpy comments with People Person. Then monicahm‘s wonderful photos of an African sunset makes me nostalgic. It is a beautiful and positive image of Africa away from the wars and starving children. It is already lunchtime so I take a break and quickly serve myself bits of chicken, ugali (maize flour gruel) and cabbage and back to work.
I watch ooamerica: ooa’s cute video on taxis and I absolutely enjoy the ride and the dance. I check the mail and the list is still rather long. I have about 50 posts on unedited politics. When I subscribed to unedited politics, little did I know that I would be reading President Kennedy’s Speeches on Religion. Rick Santorum Speech at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, Gringich, Romney and Obama and all other famous American persons.
My eyes are tired and soon I am fast asleep with so much knowledge in my head and lots of company. I may not be able to read all of them today. But now I fully understand if there are no comments on my post. I have truly come to appreciate when someone takes their time and reads through my blog. Anyway, the WordPress.com to do items have to be done no matter how late inthe night. A Blogger’s got to do what a Blogger’s got to do.
For donkey years, Kenyans waited for names of those involved in the Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg corruption scandals with bated breath in the same manner they waited for Ocampo’s list of ten suspects. But while Ocampo made true his promise by producing at least six names, the Government is yet to come clean on corruption and other pre-election promises.
With the appointment of KACC chairman Dr Patrick Lumumba, Kenyans thought the two corruption ghosts would be laid to rest. But very soon it became apparent that this would not be so. Instead of parading the suspects Ocampo style, a communication breakdown circus happened between KACC and the Attorney General’s office. And then something similar to a soap opera popped out of the blues.
The coalition partners took sides in defending and protecting their suspected colleagues and turned the whole excercise into a political charade.
For reasons best known to them, KACC called for amnesty by inviting suspects to return whatever they had stolen in exchange for freedom. One of the suspects, even had the audacity to give the Government conditions on which he could return whatever was in his possession. To date nothing has happened! It seems that some suspects in the Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg scandals are untouchable and very close to the Government’s heart.
Then came the drugs scandals in which names of legislators came up in Parliament. The comedy was such that legislators discussed themselves and even went out of their way to ensure their names were expunged from the report. Today, nothing has happened. At one point, former US ambassador Michael Ranneberger had a case in court for allegedly defaming some of our legislators.Yet in Coast Province most of the youth have turned into zombies right under the wings of the police, chiefs and MPS. The community lives in fear and can do nothing about it. Their security is at stake.
During the 2007 general election, political parties presented competing strategic directions and outlines of structures and policies they would put in place once they came to power.The key word during the election campaigns was “Manifesto”.
The Presidential candidates made key promises that sent Kenyans wild with hope and great expectations of a bright future.
The ODM manifesto was quite exciting. ODM pledged to address rampant corruption, which had bedevilled Kenya since independence and which the Kibaki government had failed to tackle inspite of the numerous promises it has made to do so.
“Of all the sins committed by our current political leaders, one that trancends all is their appetite for corruption,” noted the ODM Manifesto.
In governance, ODM promised to give the country a new constitution within six months of assuming power and of course the popular devolution. ODM would among other things, introduce parliamentary system of government, “where power will be shared and not concentrated in one person or office”. An ODM government would entrench the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, increase its funding and make provision for the domestication of all international treaties, which Kenya has ratified.
For thousands of wananchi attending rallies, salvation had come home to Kenya. They sang themselves hoarse and danced themselves lame from the sweet words flowing from the manifesto.”Kazi ianze” was the punchline.
“Wakenya msilale bado mapambano,” Otieno Kajwang led the choir in his symbolic flywhisk!
In similar rallies ODM-Kenya had an overriding theme. The ODM-K manifesto, launched at the Kamukunji grounds in November 2007 after its dramatic breakaway from ODM, was social welfare guided by the party’s five principles of Social Democracy: Government obligation to provide support for increase investment and productivity, High Returns, Equitable Distribution of Benefits, Rising Standards of Living and Free and Full exercise of civil rights and individual freedoms. Implementation of the outlined policies would result to a socio-political and economic “miracle”.
“We will put in place structures where our people have food on the table, savings in banks and investments,” said the ODM-K presidential candidate.
The main highlight of the manifesto was corruption and wastage of public resources which was underscored as the main cause of economic stagnation. Free primary school education and subsidised secondary school education would make education accessible.
Decentralisation and devolution would ensure autonomy of public structures thus curtailing the abuse of authority.
The punchline was “A 24-hour hour working nation and servant leadership”.
A subsequent mammoth “miracle” rally at Uhuru Park, Nairobi promised Kenyans the party leader would “pita katikati” of President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Then came PNU manifesto with “Hope for the Country”. The slogan led by the incumbent president was “Kazi Iendelee” or “Let the Work Continue!”The manifesto highlighted the Government achievements. Kibaki’s vision for second term was to enhance democracy and an equitable economy.
Based on the five-year performance by the Government, PNU believed it had fulfilled most of the pledges it had made to the electorate in 2002 campaign trail.
The 2007 PNU manifesto, a continuation of the Narc manifesto launched on November 10, 2006 was, “let us join hands and build on what we have achieved instead of experimenting with what you and I do not know”.
The manifesto emphasised the steady economic recovery and growth rate during the Narc reign headed by Kibaki and the adoption of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). It promised to continue what it had already stated – free secondary education after the implementation of free primary education immediately after assuming power in 2002.In 2002 Narc campaigns had run on the slogan – “zero tolerance to corruption”.
PNU manifesto pegged its devolution on the distribution of CDF and how to boost security in the country. Although the three manifestos had the common grounds of trying to meet the needs of Kenyans but through different methods, the bungled elections seems to have changed the destiny of the nation.The “come we stay” or Kofi Anan’s Coalition Government has been an uncomfortable marriage of broken promises in which the offended partner threatens to walk out inspite of the children. Although the coalition arrangement brought a semblance of peace, deep down are such deep grudges between the politicians that only few months to the next elections broken promises have taken over from pledges.
So the children have been born out of the union but all the parents can do is fight over the names – which child should be named after the maternal grandmother, aunt, sister, brother!
We have a new constitution but who will jumpstart it? We have a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission but who will listen to its recommendations?
The Coalition teams are using their privileged platforms to revenge on one another at the expense of peace and unity of purpose. Leaders have become experts at throwing tantrums as the children watch. Our leaders have become the terrible twos and threes – listening to nobody, fussing over nothing and selfishly demanding more and more…
According to an audit report released by the Africa Peace Forum and sponsored by International Development Research Centre, the Coalition Government continues to lack cohesion and is still perceived as two governments in one. Agenda 4 Item, considered the more critical to the future of Kenya is not getting the attention it deserves.The slow pace of reform is worrying. The quick pace of squabbles is impressive.
The greatest threat to reforms and to future is the lack of unity in the Coalition. Despite a new constitution, those who led the no campaigns have grouped in Parliament to ensure the reforms do not take place. Although when releasing the peace forum report NCIC commissioner Halakhe Waqio describes the Coalition Government as a unique event that occured in unexpected circumstances in a haven of peace, the deep rooted long term issues that were recognised as the cause of PEV violence remain largely unaddressed.
They promised us free education for Primary and Secondary schools. Are all our children in school? Our youth failed to make it in the “Kazi kwa Vijana” interviews because most had dropped out of school and did not meet the basic requirements. What about the donor money for education that was reportedly squandered according to IMF reports? Were our IDPs resettled or dumped in areas where they were rejected? They promised us better health only to recommend that the sick be locked up in isolation camps. Others flew abroad for treatment as Kenyans died in Government hospitals unattended, some frustrated by hostile and incompetent medics.
They promised to address historical injustices regarding land occupation? Are our squatters satisfied? They promised us security. But the Turkanas have been slaughtered like cows at a slaughterhouse. Is Isiolo in Kenya? Fishermen in Migingo and Ugingo islands have been murdered, locked up and beaten. Meanwhile the two presidents are eating together.
Oh! How I cry for my beloved country!
Through its ICT platform, the media fraternity has effectively used radio, television, print, mobile phones, internet and billboards to continually create awareness among the public. Just as the media was instrumental in huge voter turnout especially among the youth, they remain the only credible watchdog that will free this country from impunity. Only 28 per cent of Kenyans know about Agenda 4. But as the politicians go out of their way to ensure that the public remain ignorant of their rights, the media continues to regularly inform them of the fact that they can change their own future.
Over 90 per cent of Kenyans own radio. The media must team up to access the public through vernacular and mainstream stations.
According to a report, Media and National Accord, produced by People For Peace, we have the majority of ignorant Kenyans the media must reach.
Only then, shall we force the politicians to keep the promise. Only then shall Kenyans realise their dreams.
Talk of jiggers, lice, bedbugs and leeches but a virus called Impunity is in town, infesting Kenyans in their millions at an alarming rate. This virus is the most dangerous of them all, turning Kenyans into walking corpses. Nobody knows its sex or gender or even when it got into town, who brought it, through which international Airport or Sea?
The Impunity virus has no respect for anybody, its conscience died many years before it was born. It is everywhere in the country, ready to wipe out the whole Kenyan generation. There it goes aggresively finding its place among the politicians, doctors, priests, teachers…name them all.
Impunity, this master of pride, pretence and self importance, with not a care in the world for anybody or about anybody or to anybody. Who cares? That is Impunity’s favourite language.
Impunity is wanting to stand up for elections when 600,000 people have been forcefully displaced from their homes under your good leadership and four years later, they cannot return to their homes to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.
Impunity is seeking political leadership when 1300 Kenyans died in violent circumstances under your good leadership and you did nothing about it. Still, impunity virus is in your blood when you called for Mass Action that resulted in deaths, physical and psychological injuries and you refused to step down as a matter of principle. But why do I forget that that the word principle does not exist in Impunity’s dictionary.
The Impunity virus is so painful to behold. It hires youth to commit crime during and calls the same youth to their political prayer rallies to cheer them up on completing their dirty tasks. Impunity is seeking power through unorthodox means, acting with an air of self importance and lack of humility, as if you are the only one entitled to lead the country or else everyone goes to war. Impunity, you have wasted our youth, you have killed the future of this country, you lack direction.
Impunity is the mother of falsehoods. Impunity with its lack of conscience and without batting an eyelid accuses people of sending their names to one Louis Moreno Ocampo to try them for Rape, Murder and Forceful evictions of persons…our brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. Impunity, you make me so sick. You master of propaganda, who will clear you from the face of the earth? Impunity is being in one Party while championing the rights of a rival one.
Impunity, you have nothing to stand for…it is wealth, wealth and more wealth and then power, power and more power. Greedy virus. If you have to kill to get what you want, so be it. Who cares, you keep repeating. You have grabbed land from the poor, all along the Coastal strip of Kenya. The children of poverty and abuse of power cry out in your name.”Give us back our ancestral land. We live in the streets as squatters? What happened to integrity?” Impunity, you have eaten the Internal Displaced People’s money and you go laughing as if nothing is wrong. The IDPs are rained on, depressed, frustrated as you go driving your powerful cars and attending rallies. Impunity, which vaccine will outsmart you?
Impunity has arrived at the Church, holding prayers for suspects and not victims. Their hands anointed with dirty oil like the Pharisees of old, preaching water and drinking wine. Impunity, you virus, run in the blood of our priests. Raping and sodomising our children as they pretend to rally behind the call to celibacy. Impunity virus, where priests grab tithes and buy empires as their poor flock starve to death.
I see impunity everywhere and it makes me weep. Doctors and nurses letting patients die in casulaty under their very able medical skills because they had no money to foot the bills. A mother dies on the waiting bench at a hospital clinic because she had no money to pay the greedy impunity infested medics. Your cruel inhuman soul will not allow her a chance to live.
Impunity, where lawyers transfer clients property to their names and hold on to clients’ money. Where lawyers who have been deregistered for criminal activities continue practising without a care.
Impunity, where you hate a leader because of their tribe and support a monster because he or she is from your tribe. The impunity virus is deep in our offices where everyone speaks the same language because people with other languages are not human beings and do not deserve a chance in life. Impunity, you make me weep.
Oh how I hate you, you miserable virus. You keep laughing and smiling on television news without a care of the feelings of others. Impunity, the word apology or regret means nothing to you. You dwell in the world of me, I and myself, a world that locks out everybody else except your selfish you.
How I weep for my country because of you! How I pray and hope that we shall find a vaccine to rid ourselves of you!
An incident outside Kibuye Catholic Church in Kisumu last Sunday made me realise just how deeply Al-Shabaab controls our lives. I had just stopped to take a picture of the old lovely Church to add to my portrait collections when a huge crowd from the opposite market started screaming and shouting that I was Al-Shabaab. I narrowly escaped lynching and almost lost my camera to a hawker. It was only my Press Card that saved me. “That is the media. She is media!” They exclaimed, letting me live another day to tell my story, but not before roughling me up!
Telling them that was my hometown and my local Church made matters worse. The unreasonable crowd, now baying for my blood informed me that the police had alerted everyone to note that locals who had been away from home for a long time were the greatest suspects. I must have gone for training in Somalia, they alleged unfairly, pretending that they were not aware I worked in the city, 399 km away. They did not want to hear this and warned me about bragging that I had a job in Nairobi. “We don’t have jobs and we don’t care. We want Al-Shabaab and we got one!” They chanted.
As KDF soldiers fight it out in the war zones of Somalia and young soldiers risk their lives at the battlefront, Al Shabaab continues ruling our lives. Things are no longer the same. You cannot stop at a beautiful spot and take a lovely picture, no memories of your travels. Just taking photo shoots causes suspicion and may land you in a terrorist’s cell. You may then be taken to court and accused of plotting to bomb the place. Before you know it, you may be branded a terrorist.
The Al-Shabaab have made our lives uncomfortable. We are all suspicious of one another, of our friends and colleagues at the office. According to terror alerts issued by the Government Police Spokesman, Al Shabaab could be the innocent looking housemaid or shamba boy you have employed in your home, it could be the neighbour next door, it could even be your pastor at the Church or your doctor at the hospital. It could be your best friend or brother. Our Wednesday night out with my group of friends has died a natural death as we avoid public places where Al-Shabaab could bomb. We all go home early and prefer to stay indoors as a security measure. You cannot get into any building without being frisked and contents of your bag emptied.
Al-Shabaab has invaded our privacy. A woman’s handbag once a very personal and private item has become privy to every Tom, Dick and Harry guard in town. Everywhere you walk into, women guards have the authority to go aprowling into your handbag…just in case you are Al-Shabaab carrying a bomb instead of a lipstick and sanitary pads. At the Kencom Bus Stage, you can no longer jump into your bus. The guards must peep into your handbag and search your body in case you have hidden a bomb under your armpit. And some of those searches, especially by homosexual or lesbian guards can be quite dehumanising, especially when you are not one. Traveling by public means, buses or trains is a total scare. Our privacy has been invaded and all because of Al-Shabaab.
Important people who refuse to be frisked risk losing their jobs. The most important woman in the country risks losing her job because of Al-Shabaab induced security frisks at the Village Market. We are terrified…so terrified of this Al-Shabaab business.
Al-Shabaab, whoever you are and whatever your business, why make innocent people suffer just because you are fighting for your cause? With Al-Shabaab around, it is no longer business as usual. This is no longer the Kenya I knew!