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Book Review: Dance of the Jakaranda

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When you see the ‘k’ in Jakaranda, you really want to correct it. Who writes ‘Jacaranda’ that way? Well, Peter Kimani does, and it is the name he chose for his fictional nightclub. (Ha! Had to spoil it for you this early! Perhaps I should not have mentioned that. Sorry Peter, and Bola, I just couldn’t resist!).

The book is not about dancing.

Yes, there’s plenty of that vividly described, you can feel the party mood, smell the sweat of the revellers, the aroma of the nyamachoma and even the stench of the urinal, and trigger whatever sense is triggered when you see, smell, and drink alcohol.

The reason I loved the book, is the meticulous research that went into it. All great works of historical fiction need thorough research. In Kenya, with the political identities defined or determined by ethnic identities, and the question of identity being pretty much the determinant of everything in an individual’s life, more so in political participation and public service, such research was an inva…

Book Review: My Nigeria-Five Decades of Independence (by Peter Cunliffe-Jones)

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Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan First published: 2010
I have the rare privilege of knowing a few authors personally, and realizing that not everybody has a daily access to these patient hardworking minds that sit down for hours, thinking about words, and writing them down to tell beautiful unforgettable stories. One of those authors is Peter Cunliffe-Jones. We have sat down with him for lunch a few times. The first time we met, it was over drinks in some Nairobi hotel. We spoke about fact-checking. But that is another story, for another time.
I knew he wrote a book and when he speaks, in passing, about the experience, you get the impression that it was one of those works where he spent hours doing research, combing through his notes, talking to people, asking uncomfortable questions, making conclusions and then doing the brave thing: stringing a readable story and putting it out there.
His book My Nigeria: Five Decades of Independence is one of those books that I read and could not put down…

Four things Kenya’s ex-CJ Willy Mutunga told the BBC about Kenya’s politics

Kenya’s former Chief Justice, Dr Willy Mutunga is one of those guys you can listen to for a long time without getting bored – that is, if you like those debates about Kenya’s struggle for democracy, political freedoms, and if you want to make sense of the political razzmatazz. He has been there, done that.  And when he came out on the other side, he concluded that Kenya is a bandit economy.
That view hasn’t really changed, and he still thinks the country’s elite is playing a “very very dangerous game”. He actually says that Kenyan leaders are captives of imperialist and neoliberal forces.
Four things Kenya’s ex-CJ told the BBC about Kenya’s politics
     1)It is a 'class problem' ‘We are in an environment of gossip, fake news, great great polarization that I have avoided being partisan about these issues. The position that I have taken very clearly and publicly myself is that, I blame the Kenyan elite, and I don’t buy the argument that either of the factions is the lesser of the t…

The David Ndii Christmas Interview on KTN/KTN News

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One of Kenya’s foremost public intellectuals, Dr David Ndii had a very interesting interview with KTN News’ Sophia Wanuna. I enjoyed it! Immensely. In it, he had surprises and thought-provoking views, about the country’s politics and policies. Let me put some of the quotes to whet your appetite to view the whole interview. Yes, if you like cats, there are two beautiful cats playing in the background. You’d love those.

One surprise: Anne Waiguru, the former devolution secretary and now Kirinyaga Governor was Ndii’s “research assistant: when they produced a report on harambees for Transparency International in 2001. Githongo was TI’s boss. “Anne Waiguru was my research assistant at the time,” he told Sophia. I looked it up. Let me leave this excerpt here:

About Mutahi Ngunyi, well, well, well…. “I don’t think people like Mutahi Ngunyi are intellectually qualified to label me. “Most of the things I say and do are written. I have been part of the political opposition all the way from the form…

Let Mwende Gatabaki Speak!

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Wow! That’s all I can say. So, in summary, Mwende Gatabaki, is an accomplished IT professional . She had a great job in Tunisia. She worked at the Africa Development Bank. One day in 2014, her boss at the AfDB walked in and told her that President Uhuru Kenyatta wanted her to return to Kenya and do some work on digital transformation.
“I actually have a letter with my name on it signed by the President” she says.
She left a great job. To come back build her country. The President explained, he wanted her to create a ‘single source of truth’. She requested him to table the issue at Cabinet for ‘buy in’.
The idea was to have an identity infrastructure. Think of it this way, she says, when you are born and they process your birth certificate, by the time you get to 18, the government should call you and tell you, ‘come for your ID’, so you show up, surrender your biometrics, and the ID is processed. What she had in mind, was an integrated solution to show data about people, land, companies …

Music Review: Hayawani by Nyashinski

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You want to dance ‘helicopter’. It just fits. You want to shake your shoulders, just a bit (not the way they do in ‘kutalang’i). A little shoulder-shaking-arms-apart kind of dance, with your legs doing whatever they want to do. The head can nod, mbele-nyuma, or left- right, like you just took a sniff (Haa!) Yes, it is Nyanshinski’s song.
The solo guitar that introduces the song and stays with you – disappearing to let Nyashinski relay his message and resuming as a signal that he’s done with his verse— is unforgettable. It reminded me of that guitar in ‘Kasuku’ by Maroon Commandos or the one in Sukuma bin Ongaro’s ‘Jirani Kuno’. And the way the bass guitar checks in at 00.09, eish, that combined sound of “vroom and uuhhmm” boooosss! Where’s Clint the Drunk? The bass man doesn’t have to play anything! I’d heard something like the rhythm guitar earlier on, not intrusive, but it is there, pacing the song, (it’s perhaps somebody getting creative on the keyboard and it works.) And the drums a…

President Kenyatta, wife, Catholic Bishops curtain-raise Pope’s youth meet with ‘Mukangala’ dance.

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When you have a Cardinal, dozens of Bishops, hundreds of priests and nuns in one place, you expect all things secular to go through the window. When you have politicians, as we have seen in the so-called prayer rallies, politics usually takes over. But Friday, at the Moi International Sports Centre, in Kasarani, we had His Holiness Pope Francis – and neither politics nor prayers took over, but song, dance and deep self-reflection. The thousands of the young people who had heeded the call of the Catholic bishops in the country turned up at the stadium to have their date with Pope Francis on his maiden tour in the country. They sat on the terraces singing, cheering, and dancing. As they awaited the Pope, a party mood engulfed the stadium.
"...the Bishops, in their black cassocks with pink band cinctures on their waists had no option but to dance away. And that they did, not simply swaying from side to side, but actually doing that shoulder-shaking dance, hands raised and stomping thei…