Monday, April 21, 2008


I write best when I am angry, but I angry in a different kind of way now; angry at myself. My penchant for self-censorship, these days, cannot allow me to write here this week. But I will write elsewhere. Catch me if you can...

...otherwise, see you next monday


Monday, April 14, 2008


Sunday afternoon.

I am at Peterson's (gwa bita) throwing jug- worth and mug-worth of Senator left, right and centre. This is Kiambu and before me, in various stages of inebriation, are its jobless youth, lowlifes, petty thieves; the dregs not only of a social system that does not brook penury but also an economic construct that allows for only two things: having and not having.

Njoro, my cousin on my mother's side, is re-introducing me to this space. He runs me through the basic rules, once again, as I throw scar-faced Muriuki a 1 litre jug. The rules: stay calm; pay cash; and do not buy too much too quick. These rules are premised on certain facts: if you look fidgety, you are either new here or carrying large amounts of money. If you buy too much too quick, it means that you have a large amount to blow. The guys you buy the drinks will be the ones that will relieve you of your change, eventually. And, finally, pay cash because a bill in these kind of places is just a piece of paper with numbers on it; it has no correlation with your consumption.

But I cannot be bothered about rules. Me I am always saying, any young bachelor in this country who has some kind of hustle going on needs to redistribute their income. If the big fish will not share, if they insist on running a capitalistic economy and refuse to put in place safety nets for the disadvantaged majorities such as a better access to income generating activities, health, education and alcohol, then someone else has to do it. Someone like, “Wakonyo, wape kitu!” If you want to inflate my bill, go ahead, how much can I possibly spend in a place where you can get totally wasted on 100 Kshs? Wee, kuzoo, pewa Napshizzle! I am only here for a week or two; these dudes haven't seen me in a dog's year, how will they know Potash lives?

The zero inches TV is on and a grainy John Dematthew VCD is playing. “I love this song!” I yell throwing my hands up like a Nairobi girl to the first riff of Linking Park's Numb. I wave my hands this and that way and hum incoherently. Of course I have never heard this song, but it is one of those John Dematthew 'Kikuyu Power' chants and I am seeking credibility. This, ladies and gentlemen, is Kikuyuland, and having been away for quite a bit, I need to prove that I haven't lost it. Especially seeing that, in the height of stupidity, I am wearing an orange shirt.

Scarface Muriuki's phone rings. It is one of those fancy phones that only a guy like Muriuki can answer in a bar like this. A bar where they will stab you for your last twenty bob. He has a text message. He reads it. He whispers, something, to the guy next to him and I see the other guy's face crinkle in a half-smile-half-scowl. Furtive glances are exchanged. Nodding heads and drinks being pushed away, thoughtfully. The room slowly begins to empty.

“Yo, P, take me I buy a joint.”
“But we got drinks cousin, niaje, niaje...?
“Okay, dude, I will see you later then, baadayes....”

I follow him outside wondering what happened to our drinker's creed that to leave an unfinished drink is like chewing on a goat's bone and throwing it away without breaking it; taboo.

“Tomorrow, cousin, it is going down.” he mutters and I am not even sure he is talking to me.
Kesho, aje, aje...?” My cousin doesn't respond. Outside the bar, we squint our eyes in pain as we transition from the dark and smoky den into the sun-splashed afternoon. No more words are exchanged and we end up walking our separate ways. I walk into a 'proper' bar, with beer in bottles, across the street and my cousin heads off to God-knows-where.

At the 'proper' bar, I find a clump of uncles, cousins and kinsfolk of various removes, join them and swallow several litres of beer. At 2.00 am, Monday morning we stagger home.


I get out of bed at 10.00 am. Today, I will go into the city and meet up, or at least try to, a couple of writing projects contacts, I decide.

I choose to skip a shower and jump into the clothes I wore on Sunday. At the matatu stop, things are others....

...Mungiki has taken over!

Monday, April 07, 2008


It has been many a month since I was in Kiambu. Kiambu, the land of my people; the motherland. So last week, finding the need to wean myself to reality; to set the pace for my re-engagement with the hoi polloi, I set out for Kiambu.

Kiambu, being the most affluent of the Kikuyu districts, is without a doubt Kenya's least poverty struck region. But therein lies an irony because Kiambu is easily one of the most unsafe places, in Kenya, to live in. Kiambu is the birthplace of the scum that runs Nairobi nights. Long before robbers graduate into gun-totting killers and take over Nairobi, they are schooled in blood-thirst and impunity; a callous approach to human life, in the dark village paths and muddy cattle tracks of Kiambu.

Kiambu the land of my birth. Let me take you there...

Imagine you were a made gangster. It is about mid-day and you are about to rob a bank or a Forex Bureau on Kenyatta Avenue. At this hour, you know that the exit routes towards a westerly direction are your best bet. The traffic is low and the roads are less pot-holed. But most importantly, they all lead towards home: Kiambu.

So, 1215hrs. Grab the money and shoot your way out of the banking hall. Saunter towards the white Toyota Corolla, it is your getaway car. (You idiot of course you didn't come here in it, but it is your GETAWAY car now, so shot the driver and get in). You are the one driving and you should concentrate on just that but at the back of your head you should be listening out for a single shot. That is one of your accomplices putting a bullet in the head of a random woman across the street. (Just in case people get the despicable notion that you are packing toy guns like village petty thieves.)

Step on the clutch and accelerator simultaneously. Good for effect. Then let go of the clutch and push the accelerator to the floor. Take a right at Kenyatta and Uhuru (fuck, isn't that a father and son from Kiambu, lucky bastards who robbed not just one bloody bank but a whole country without firing a single shot?) and brace yourself for aburst of rifle fire close by. It is the accomplice riding shot gun and he is either celebrating or nervous. Ignore him and keep driving.

This route out of Nairobi is on a dual carriageway and runs through the upmarket shopping centre of Westlands, and its leafy environs, on and on into the most affluent constituency in the country: Kikuyu. Government statistics say that only sixteen per cent of the population here lives below the poverty line. (Fuck, so how come all the people you grew up knowing were poor? But that gun, that posse... will change all that. Well, maybe you will just die trying to change that!)

'Welcome to Kiambu,' a billboard used to say. Urutaguo Mwiruti (It is taught to the self taught). Such is life.

As you drive past, your attention is drawn to a clutter of peeling paint and dust streaked shopping centres interspersed with incomplete yet fully occupied apartment blocks sharing the same gated and well manicured compound as posh bungalows, rows of one-roomed rental shacks made of corrugated iron sheets and small holder farms, (a successful one- with four fat cows lolling in a pen and hundreds of chickens fluttering about a storied run- nested against a desolate one with a mangy dog chasing a gangly and featherless-necked hen around a wooden cabin with a massive column of smoke pushing out of a window-shaped hole in the wall). This, as I said, is Kikuyu constituency of Kiambu District in the Central Province of Kenya.

I was born here. In one of the desolate farms. I was born here, not in an actual sense, but in the way that a Kenyan national ID puts it. I was born here because no one, as I grew up being told, is from Nairobi. I have lived in too many places; too many woe-begotten shacks, but this farm- this has the saddest memories. This place is real, the others are just dream places, spaces that I occupied in other lives that I cannot really return to. But this one, this one there will never be an escaping it. It feels so strange to be back.

Now if someone could just get that cow to shut up, I could finish this story....