Dear fellow Kenyan; the corruption joke is on you!

11 04 2016


It has been said many times that, before a plant sprouts out, the seed has to break. That, it is always darkest before dawn. Reading and watching the corruption news on Kenyan media, I keep asking if Kenya is at that period where by we have to totally break down as a country, before we rebuild ourselves to the Kenya that was our founding fathers dreamt of. Or maybe not what they dreamt of (since some have been at the helm of ruining Kenya) but rather what the spirit of an independent Kenya should have been all about.

Every day on news we hear of new cases of corruption. Of men and women who have abused their powers and stolen the resources they are meant to appropriate on behalf of the Kenyan citizens. Of Kenyans who are stealing directly from citizens through financial schemes that masquerade as banks and investment platforms. Last year alone, we were treated to a number of corruption cases that saw a string of cabinet secretaries go home. This year, news of corruption have become the main menu on our dinner tables. Yet, none of those corrupt government officials is in prison .In fact, a number of them are now getting ready to vie for political positions, come 2017.  This leaves me with a simple question; what happened to chapter 6 of our constitution? Why is there so much impunity revolving around cases of corruption? Which government department is not functioning, such that these white collars thieves are not being held accountable? For how long is the common mwananchi going to carry this burden?

Last week, I saw a woman crying outside Chase Bank, River Road branch. Reason being, she could not access her money after chase Bank had gone into receivership. She had containers of products that had arrived at the Mombasa port and was at loss on how she was going to clear her goods. All she could do was curse the person who convinced her to open an account at chase Bank. The poor women did not even realize that the Chase Bank sales person was as much of a victim as she was. You see, the person was just doing her job. Probably not knowing that a very greedy Bank directors were siphoning the very deposits that she had worked so hard to mobilize. The chain of victims in the chase bank case is endless. From customers, to staff and advertisers. Take for example, the retired Radio Queen Caroline Mutoko who has been at the centre of deposit mobilization for Chase Bank. Her smooth You Tube advertisements asking people to ‘click the link’ lured so many young Kenyans into opening Chase Bank accounts. She advertised oblivious of the fact that she was offering a service to people who did not deserve to be trusted with even a shilling of other people’s money. The receivership puts her social influencer role on the line too. Those who based their decision on her adverts may never again trust the stuff that she advertises. The worst part is that the Chase Bank debacle happened even before the tears shed from the Imperial Bank and Dubai Bank disasters have dried from the victims eyes.

I may continue with the examples but the bottom line is this; something has got to give. We cannot continue living like this. It is not reasonable that we Kenyans have left a few people to bleed our country dry and we are not putting up a fight. Why are we not fighting back? Are our laws too weak? Are the office holders in the accountability institution too corruptible and basically lack the kind of spine required to deliver effectively in their jobs? Have our collective voices of dissent been weakened by an alarmingly high level of complacency within us, such that instead of fighting back, we have also joined the corruption band wagon? Why is it that these well-known thieves are not only everywhere, but have also become bolder in their stealing? Why are we not protesting the interests that some have expressed in vying for political positions? Are we so abused that we do not envisage a better Kenya for ourselves? Do we honestly believe that these broad daylight thieves will change if we now give them legislative, representative and oversight mandates over our collective resources? Do we just take pleasure in electing the wrong leaders then complain for the next 5 years?

And why for Wanjiku’s sake, why do we think that what is happening is funny? Why do we join these thieves in making fun of how much they have messed us up? Don’t we realize that by sharing those corruption related memes and jokes that the joke is actually on us? Is it funny that the reason why your mother cannot access dialysis machine for her kidney condition is because the MCAs in your county over allocated themselves allowances, such that there was no enough money for health care? Is it funny that your brothers has to sell all his tomatoes to the middleman, and at a throw away price because transport along the only road to the market has shot up due to the bad condition of the road? Please tell me if it is funny that your niece won’t be going to form one since the tomatoes fetched a very small price, all because the road  construction money was divided between the county leadership and the unscrupulous road contractors who have been building a 30 km stretch since 2010?

Can we pause for a minute from sharing those self-disrespecting memes on Whats-app and ask ourselves if we deserve what we are getting from our taxes? We wake every day to work hard and build the nation in our small and big way; why are we not demanding of the same from the individuals that we have socially contracted to represent us in the appropriation of our collective social-economic resources? Should we be buying justice from our courts? Should we be going to India to get the kind of medical care that we can easily invest in locally? Should be bribing policemen to protect us? Why in 21st century are we still discussing how rape and defilement offenders should be handled? Aren’t we ashamed to even consider such people as anything less than enemies of the human society, equal to terrorist who deserves no avenue for negotiation? Please help me understand why we are paying our legislators huge allowances to do jobs that they are already getting salaries for? And why we are paying the media to cover stories they should be covering anyway? Why have we created demi-gods in the parliaments, county governments, courts, state departments, government parastatals, hospitals, financial sectors, non-profit organizations, media, Churches, local chiefs? Why do we continue watering their deluded believes that leadership calls them to be unopposed masters rather than servants of the people?

Fellow Kenyans, why isn’t there already a mass driven revolution against corruption? Or do we need to break some more, hurt some more, lose a few more relatives to treatable diseases, have a few more road accidents, and lose more development money in our ministries, and parastatals before we can actively take back the reins of our country?

We need to seriously think about where we are headed as a country and actually do something about it. We owe it to the future generations to fight for the rightful position of each one off us. We need to, and we have no choice than to raise our collective voices and say enough is enough. We have no business letting thieves step into our collectively owned offices. We need to start a “padlock revolution”. If you steal from us, we make sure that you never step back into that office, or any other office on Kenyan soil. That will teach you a lesson and act as a deterrent to any other aspiring thief out there. But of course all this depends on how angry you are and how determined you are to detach yourself from the present #StateOfTheNation which is not citizen friendly.  Only you and i can push for a new Kenyan dawn, where those who are in positions of leadership will apply their powers responsibly. Am I speaking to someone?



25 02 2016


Today, while I was waiting for a bus along Waiyaki way, a young man who was walking to the opposite direction stopped by where I was standing said hi to me. Then in the same breath, told me that I looked familiar. Instinctively, I remained mum and dashed to the opposite direction of the road. I am still not sure if I know him but that was a risk I wasn’t willing to take. May be he remembered me from somewhere, or maybe not. The amount of crime in Nairobi has reduced most of us to paranoid individuals who won’t offer help to needy people for the fear that they could just be con people waiting for an opportunity to steal from us. You see, early this month I almost succumbed to a mugging by a woman who tried to drug me.


I had just alighted a bus at Kenyatta bus stop and was walking by Daystar University towards Hurlingham. A woman wearing a long colourful dress and a hijab was walking towards me from the opposite direction. Just when we were about to pass each other, she flashed her hand before my face. Her palm facing her. All over sudden I felt so dizzy and weak and I immediately knew that she had done something to me. I was carrying a laptop in my back pack and I was determined not to lose it to her. I want to believe that my adrenaline shot up immediately and I started screaming. Though my throat felt terribly dry, I was hysterically pointing at the woman and telling everyone who cared to listen that I thought that she had drugged me and that they should not let her steal from me.

imagesMeanwhile I could not walk straight and was staggering from one side of the road to the other. Holding on to any passers-by who came my way. My target was to reach the taxis that pack by Total petrol station. I was saved by a crowd that gathered around me. They assured me that they won’t let her do anything to me. Meanwhile, the woman had walked on and stood by the University gate and was watching everything unfold from there. The crowd called her back so that she could explain herself. She had the audacity to pretend to be my friend and started mentioning people I have not heard of before and places I have never visited. The funny thing is that it did not hit me until four days later that I should have reported this incident at the police station.


Mine is a story that had a better ending. But most of similar incidents end in tragedy. Cases of people being drugged just by talking or saying hi to strangers have become so common in Kenya and specifically in Nairobi. My baby sister shook hand with someone who looked familiar and 30 minutes later, she could not explain how she give the guy her phone, money and bags. A friend was asked for direction by a group of four bible carrying women and the next thing she remembers was waking up at home with a strange head ache. All her electronics were gone. Another friend cannot explain how her mum lost all her money and phone and found herself in a town 10 kilometers away from the building she had visited in town. A shopkeeper in my neighborhood was requested for loose money by a shopper she had never seen before. An hour later, she realized that she had given the young money all the money she had in her cash box. A few years ago, a manager to one of the top local banks was drugged at bar in Rongai and had to spend days in hospital. He had only had one drink with a friend. Next thing he was foaming on the floor and had to be resuscitated due the high amount of a dangerous drug in his blood stream. There is also a growing number of pictures of young drugged men doing rounds on the social media. At first you will confuse them for day time drunkards when you see them lying along the streets of Nairobi. But on closer inspection, you realize that they are victim of drugging through date rape drugs commonly known in the streets as ‘mchele’. Excessive use of this drug can be fatal.
All the cases above have one thing in common. No one remembers how they got deceived by the perpetrators of these crimes. I also have a feeling that the person who drugs you does not work along. While I was accusing the woman, a man I had not seen during the incident started insisting that he saw me talking to the woman and that we looked so friendly. I now suspect that he was her accomplice.
I am still traumatized by the whole experience. So, if you happened to say hi to me in town and I do not answer back, blame it on this drug wielding thug. While our leaders are using white collar tricks to fleece the citizens, the street thugs have also upped their game. The objective here seems common. Thou shalt steal without getting caught. Cameras that have been installed across Nairobi seem to not have gained effective utility in identifying criminals along our highways. One thing I keep asking myself is this, how do the security personnel apprehend this kind of criminals? What happens after you have reported that someone said hi to you in Donholm and the next thing you remember is finding yourself in Kiambu without all your belonging, including your shoes? Are there any proactive measures that have been taken in dealing with these crimes? For example, increased surveillance and patrol by police officers?
In September 2015, the Global community endorsed 17 sustainable development goals(SDGs) that need to be reached by 2030. Goal number 11 looks towards “making cities and human settlement inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. It has eleven targets and the 7th target is the “provision of universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities”. This goal touches at the interest of every Kenyan walking in the streets and not feeling safe.
Mine is a challenge to the government and other stakeholders involved in the implementation of goal number 11. Kenyans are tired of walking on eggshells within their own countries. As we work towards protecting our public coffers, let’s also work towards having safe cities, where I can walk any time of the day without worrying about being mugged by violence or drugging.



And to my fellow Kenyans, be very vigilant when walking in the streets of Nairobi. Don’t shake hands with people you do not know. If someone needs directions point to the nearest security guard. Always make sure that there are other people walking near you along the road.Minimize talking to strangers in public transport. No matter how sexually starved you are, do not take strangers to your house.Beware of your surrounding when walking in the streets.And finally please join me in demanding for safe and sustainable spaces for ourselves and the future generations at the ward, constituency, county and national level.Next time someone asks for your vote, be sure to ask for their plan for SDG number 11.


Ps. I am still unable to revisit the scene of my incident. Although it is the shortest route to my work place, I have resigned myself to using the long way. Pro Bono counseling service, or pepper spray….anyone?

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Do not help a man; unless you’re his mother

16 02 2016

From A Man's Diary

You have probably heard the saying that “it is not a woman’s job to help a man, unless you are his mother”. Women may like this quote, probably out of experience, but I am sure many men resent it and wonder why it’s even brought up. I personally like it.

A couple of days ago, I was talking with a friend and she asked me when I consider the perfect time to settle down with a woman. I thought about it for a couple of seconds, -of course I have thought about it before, severally- then told her that settling was more a matter of finding someone I can make the one, rather than timing. But there was a small ‘but’! There is always a but with me. I further explained to her that to settle down with someone, I would have to be economically stable, otherwise I don’t want…

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3 02 2016

IMG_2706When the post-election violence broke out in Kenya in 2007, I was at my rural home in Subukia. Subukia is a small rural town along the Nakuru-Nyahururu Highway. Politically, it is one of the constituencies within the Nakuru County. When the 2007 post-election violence happened, it was not such big a deal to the people of Subukia. You see, just like Molo Constituency, we had experienced election related violence (but in a small scale) during the 1992, 1997, and 2002 elections. These violence was usually ethnically motivated and for Subukia, it was always a war between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin Communities. The most polarised areas would always be the lower parts of Subukia, which border Baringo County. Baringo County is dominantly habited by the Kalenjin Community. Upper Subukia, where my home is situated, is bordered by the Nyandarua County which is dominantly habited by the Kikuyu Ethnic group.

IMG_2694Every election year, we would have friends from the lower part of Subukia temporarily moving in with us. In addition, my primary school would have an influx of children from the displaced families. I remember this one incident that rang very close home. My mother used to work as a nurse at the Subukia Health Centre. One of her colleague and a family friend was a young man called Soi. Soi was a soft spoken, short and petit guy with a baby face. Although he was in his 20s he looked like someone who was still navigating through his teenage years. If you lived in Subukia during the 1990s, you were borne to regularly visit Nakuru town, which is about 40 kilometres away, to run official errands like banking. So its 1992, just towards the election when Soi decided to dash to Nakuru to run an errand. Just when he was about to arrive in Nakuru, his bus was stopped by gun brandishing fellows and everyone was asked to alight. Someone stood at the door and commanded everyone to remove their identity Card. In Kenya, your names betrays you. Everyone from Soi’s ethnic group was not allowed back into the bus. When it came to Soi’s turn, he innocently looked at the mean looked guys and lied that he did not have an identity card because he was still in High school. He was admitted back into the bus. His tribes’ men on the other hand were not so lucky.

Fast forward to 2007. I had traveled home to play my civic role as an election official. The rest of my family was voting from elsewhere. Immediately after the election, my sister joined me, so that she could prepare to go back to college. I was also getting ready to go back to school. Then the violence started. And we could not move out of Subukia because the situation on the roads was too volatile. The Nakuru route out of Subukia was the aisle of Carnage. The other outlet was the Nyahururu route. But the Mungiki sect members had taken reign there. They were attacking anyone at will. In Subukia there were whispers of the emergence of very active Mungiki members whose plan was to collect protection money from all households. Landlords started evicting ethnically unwanted tenants. My parents advised us to pack a small bag with a few necessities and always go to bed fully dressed. We needed to be ready for anything. The young boys we used to date were pointed at and referred to as enemies. Yet we had shared lunch boxes, way before we had even mastered the art of blowing our noses. With our parent so many miles away, we felt like we were tugging on very thin strings. We had nowhere to escape to. I had to be a parent to my sister and pretend that everything was okay. The situation was suffocating. It was as if the walls were closing in on us.


Violence of any kind is suffocating. Violence undresses your dignity and leaves you totally naked. It makes you hopeless, desperate, insecure and totally vulnerable. Whether you are directly or indirectly affected, violence is something you do not want to wish on your worst enemy. That is why I am so disappointed with the African Union Peace and Security Council, for not handling the Burundi issue with the seriousness it deserves. You see, despite what the Burundian government has been saying, the truth is things are not peaceful in Burundi. The truth is innocent Burundians have become daily victims of human rights atrocities, some of which are being perpetrated by the state agencies. Burundians have been detained without trial. Some have disappeared without a trace. Hell, a young Burundian gentleman, called Jean De Dieu Kabura was killed in Kenya at the dawn of 2016, yet he thought that Kenya was his safe haven. His friends, are getting death threats every day.

A number of non-Burundian East Africans calling on the Burundi government to protect their citizens have also been threatened. And yet, it was business as usual for AU. How did Burundi, a country that does not have either the qualification or the capacity to discharge peace and security solutions vie for a position and even managed to be elected as a member of AUPSC? Did the rules change somewhere along the way and Africans across the content failed to the get the memo? But more importantly, why was the issue of sending peace keeping troops to Burundi feature as some sort of a by the way in the recent discussions by the African Union?

Families have lost children, fathers, and mothers. Others are living like wild animals in refugee camps. Burundi is losing a generation of young people, who are being killed every day. Others have been reduced to wanderers, without a specific destination because someone somewhere is baying for their blood and will not rest until they are 6 feet below the ground. Until when will our leaders continue to turn a blind eye on the reality on the ground? When will they for once, think about the common citizen and serve them as they should? Is AU just a toothless bull dog, with a ridiculously loud bark but no substantial bite when it comes to peace and security issues? Are there no more African leaders with the balls to stand up to the nonsense that is governance in Africa? What about President Nkurunziza’s peers within the East Africa? Are they too politically invested in their specific interests to stand up for what is right? What is fair?

I write this with a lot of anger. Angry for the separated families; angry for the orphaned children; angry for the widowed husbands and wives; angry for the innocent Burundians in Prison; angry for the inability of African to get its sh** together; for the utter selfishness of our leaders and the lives they have destroyed in search for power. Angry for my Burundian brothers and sisters who have to walk on egg shells every day because their voices have made a few people uncomfortable. Angry that someone somewhere is playing God with the lives of Burundians. Angry for the ethnically targeted victims of violence in Burundi. Angry that even us the citizens have become complacent with the status quo. Yes, I am angry for all those people who have been pulled into unnecessary violence and wars. It at this point of boiling anger that i appeal to our leaders to please do their damn job! We are too heavily taxed to just sit back and watch you mess us up. I am out!!



5 01 2016

twistWe live in a world of total hypocrisy. Where most of us would rather suffer in silence than speak out and be labelled as trouble makers. This attitude is even worse among the women. You see, when growing up, we are taught that good girls behave in a certain way. That good girls speak softly. That good girls sit in a certain way, walk in a certain way. Heck my High school even had a rule that, “ladies (read good girls) do not run, they walk fast”. Yes, my secret is out! I always walk so fast because of conditioning *Steph. If Pavlov saw me today, he would be so proud of me.

From an early age, our socialization dictates that good girls must stay put in times of trouble; simply because that’s the quality that defines there strength. It’s the quality that hides their shame. Ultimately, we end up suffering, just because we do not want to be labelled “bad”. A girl gets raped and she is conditioned not to speak out because if she does, she might just be accused of having provoked her rapist. So she stays silent and bears the pain with “dignity”. Meanwhile, the same man eyes her daughter as his next target. Another woman is battered by the husband, but she would rather be killed that bear the shame of a divorce. After all, hers was a church wedding. And are you the person with the best leadership quality in your family? Sorry dear! You cannot vie for that political position. You must step down for your brother. Since when did women become the leaders of a community? “Abomination! Abomination!” The tribal elders will say.

Unfortunately, we grow up seeing ‘bad girls’ get everything. In primary school, bad girls get the best desks. They don’t do the worst manual jobs. And if it’s in a boarding school, good girls sleep on the top bunk, regardless of whether they wet the bed (there is a special place in hell for all those top bunk girls who peed on their innocent bed mates). And finally bad girls in primary school speak out against teachers who pinch their tender thighs.

In high school, bad girls get the best drama Club spots. They get letters from favorite boys’ high school (total esteem booster). Heck! They even get featured in the Insyder Magazine, which is basically the Vanity Fair…the Cosmopolitan…the Elle magazine for students in High schools in Kenya. You get featured in it and your high school life is never the same. And in matters stomach, bad high school girls know how to coax top layer and extra meat out of the school cooks. Yummy!

In University, bad girls find jobs with the local radio Station …. Make You tube Video detailing their class room fashion for everyday (And actually get 1 million views which simply translates to ad revenues), simply because they have a lifestyle to maintain. And it costs money. Bad girls find a smart way to blackmail the flirtatious male lecturer so that he won’t deny them their hard earned marks (Instead of failing a course 5 times just because the lecturer believes in an extra-curricular mode of qualification). Bad girls wear Kitenge (What Kenyan women are now calling Ankara …haha!), complete with a head scarf. Then she fakes a Nigerian accent, attends a high profile African Union meeting and sit in the front row marked ‘Delegates’, simply because she recognizes a unique opportunity to network and a get job equal to the International relations degree her parents sold a ‘kaploti’ for.

Later as Career women, “bad girls” know how to negotiate for promotions without batting an eye. Famously known as bitches, they speak out what everyone else is thinking but not saying. They do not suck up to their bosses to get what is rightfully theirs and no, brother! She won’t be vying for the deputy position of the Board. She will be going for the chairmanship…simply because she is equally qualified.

As a working woman in the civil society, and a good-girl-turn-bad to boost, I find it hard to stand hypocritical hero worshiping of people in power for favours. Especially if I am qualified for the job. Because deep down, I know that I would make the worst candidate for a cultist recruitment. And looking at the women I have described above, you notice how our socialization has successful substituted the phrase “go getters” for “bad girls”.

Oh, well! As we start 2016, this article is a celebration of all the “bad girls” out there. Keep on doing what you do best! And while at it, inspire the “good girls” around you to turn “bad”. We must not rest until we change the hypocritical world definition of a woman who goes for what she wants. Like Beyoncé says, “We have to teach our boys the rules of equality and respect, so that as they grow up gender equality becomes a natural way of life. And we have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible.” I am out!

Wishing all of you an awesome 2016!


26 08 2015

EAC-flagsMutoni is sited at a local sports bar in Arusha, Tanzania. Enjoying her glass of wine. It’s a lazy Saturday afternoon. Arsenal is playing Manchester United later in the evening. That’s when her friends will join her to watch the game and may be go out dancing later in the night. Sited across her, two tables away is a nice looking gentleman. He looks very cultured. She can smell his cologne from her table. She can’t really place the scent. But she feels like it’s discreetly beckoning at her.
She can’t help stealing glances of him. She even manages to take his picture discreetly and sends it to her best friend Charlene. Thank God for WhatsApp! Charlene is from Kenya and the two have known each other since their High school days at a Boarding school in Uganda. Both them are now colleagues at the East African Community secretariat.
Hamisi has long finished his drink and he is ready to join his friends at the country club when a very pretty girl struts into the sport bar. She has legs from London to Texas and there is something very mysterious about her eyes. All the heads turn to look at her. But she seems oblivious to the open stares. Hamisi exchanges a look with the bar man. Before he know it, he has ordered a drink. There is no way he is leaving the bar without the lady’s number. He decides to down 4 doubles of Jack Daniels for courage.30 minutes later he walks to her table.
“Mambo Dada” (Hi lady) He starts. “Aisee unapendeza sana” (You are so pretty!).
“Poa”. (I am good) Mutoni answers. She has a wide smile on her face. This is God sent! She is itching to WhatsApp Charlene about it.
“Naomba nikununulie kinywaji” (May I buy you a drink?) He feels encouraged by her warm response.
Mutoni continues to smile. Unfortunately, her understanding of Swahili does not go beyond the greetings.
The gentleman is confused. Why isn’t she responding? He decides to ask again. But this time round he introduces himself first. “Dada, jina langu ni Hamisi.Naomba nikununulia kinywaji chochote unachotaka.”(Lady, my name is Hamisi. May I buy you a drink? Whatever you want.
Mutoni. “I am sorry, I don’t understand what you are saying. Do you speak English?”
Oh no! Though he understands what she has just asked him, Hamisi cannot express himself in English. You see, being a Tanzanian where Swahili is the commonly spoken Language, Hamisi has had very little use for English, which he last used in High school. Worst still, he has no college Education. He studied up to O-Level and soon after went into family business.
Mutoni is equally confused. She decides to try French. “Tu Parle Francais?”
“Excuse me” Hamisi Exits. He is too embarrassed to keep up with that conversation. How does he even ask for her number if they don’t speak any common language?
Mutoni whatsapps Charlene. As she watches Hamisi drive away in his Sleek Mercedes Benz. What to do? It’s not her fault that she is from Rwanda and only fluent in French and English. May be she should have tried Kinyarwanda too. She chuckles but deep down she is so disappointed. She really needs to get serious with her Swahili classes.

East_African_Community _HDQSLater in the Evening, Florida and her friends are in the sports club for a girl’s night out. Now, Florida is the kind of girl who doesn’t believe in sitting down when a club is playing good music. She can dance for six straight hours without any apology.
Evariste and his boys are also in the same club for a game of pool. He sports Florida whose moves seem different from the rest of the girls in the club. She really knows her music this one. An avid dancer himself, he wonders if Florida will allow him a dance. His boys encourage him to make a move. He walks slows to her table, hoping that Florida is not one of this very rude girls that enjoy embarrassing a man in front of everyone.
“Mambo dada, Naomba kudansi na wewe” (Hi lady, may I dance with you?)
“Okay” answers Florida.
The two of them bring the bar to a stop. They have undeniable chemistry on the dance floor. Everyone is cheering and the two do not disappoint. Three songs down the line, Florida asks to step outside for some air. Evariste follows her excitedly.
“So, are you from here” Florida asks.
Silence. Followed by a smile from Evariste.
Is that a Tanzania thing? She wonders. But decides to try again. “Are you from here in Tanzania?”
Same reaction. But they spoke before! So he can’t be deaf.
“Jana langu ni Evariste” (My name is Evariste).
“Jina langu ni Florida” (My name is Florida).
“Hivi wewe unatokezea wapi?” (Where are you from?). Continues Evariste.
“Sorry, I don’t speak Swahili. I am from Uganda”
Evariste doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t speak English either. He is from Burundi. And very fluent in Swahili and French.

East_African_Community.jpg mapThe two scenarios above are a real example of what is happening to East Africans every day. As we move towards integration we continue to face the challenge of the harmonization of the regional languages of doing business. If you relate the above scenes to the business world,  you can just imagine the number of people who might be missing out on business opportunities in other East African Countries due to the language barrier? How do we ensure that these individuals are not left behind?

Art. 137 of The Treaty for the Establishment of East African Community recognises English as the official language for the East African community (1) and Swahili as the EAC Lingua Franca, with future prospects for its development (2).

In Uganda, English is the official language. Although the parliament voted for Swahili to be included as the second language, the policy is yet to be constitutionalised. In Kenya, English and Swahili are the official languages. In Tanzania, which is the most multi-lingual East African Country, English and Swahili are the official languages. Swahili is used in the parliament, lower courts and as a language of instruction in Primary schools, while English is used in foreign trade, Diplomacy, Higher Courts and as a language of instruction in Secondary schools and tertiary institutions. The Tanzanian government plans to ultimately drop English as an official language of instruction in schools.
In Burundi, Kirundi and French are the official languages. Swahili though not official is also spoken here. There is also a law in pipeline towards the adoption of English, French and Kirundi as the official languages in Burundi. In Rwanda, Kinyarwanda, French and English are the official languages. Swahili is also spoken by a number of people. In summary, English is a common official language in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and soon Burundi while Swahili is official in Tanzania and Kenya. French in Official in Rwanda and Burundi.

Moving forward, and in order to optimise on the benefits of the East African Community Integration, the partner states need to adopt assertive language policies that will enable their citizens to do business across the five countries. While some individuals might be advantaged enough to pay for extra language classes, others, especially those at the grassroots may require concerted effort from the policymakers in ensuring that they acquire the right linguistic tools required for doing business across the East African region. The harmonization of regional official languages will enable citizens across the community to reap the full benefits of the economic, social and political integration without serious cases of linguistic marginalization.

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