DOWN THE NARROW STREETS OF MOMBASA OLD TOWN 

The coast of Kenya harbours several beautiful islands, but of interest to me today is Mombasa. This serene island is neatly surrounded by turquoise blue salty waters of the Indian Ocean and sunny sandy beaches, that continue to be the country’s largest tourist attraction site. The old town of Mombasa is one of those pre-historic sites that is a must visit for any tourist, whether domestic or international.

A huge monument of a golden kettle and China cups warmly welcomes its guests to the ancient town located in Vasco Da Gama street in the South East side of the island, that was formally inhabited by the Arabs, Swahili, British and Portuguese. The monument was a symbol of hospitality among the former inhabitants of the town. This monument was built by Burhan Ali in 1988. However, today, the old town is majorly inhabited by the Swahili people.

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One unique feature  of the old town is its architectural designs. According to a tourguide of the old town, Mr. Hassan, the architectural desigs were mainly influenced by the trade culture in Mombasa, then. He further explains that, these designs resemble those in Zanzibar. The buildings exist in beautifully carved Omani/ Lamu doors as well as elegantly styled wooden balconies attached to their turn of the century facades overlooking narrow streets.

Omani door

Wooden balcony 

Omar Hassan, a resident of the town states that most the houses have been inherited by descendants of the original grand owners. He goes ahead to explain that , those that have been rented out, are outrageously expensive.

Walking through the narrow streets, there are distinct landmarks which have remained relatively the same throughout history, that ought to be recognized.

Fort Jesus, is a yellowish-brown building that was constructed In the shape of a man, by the Portuguese on a coral ridge at the entrance of the harbour in 1593. Anne, another tour guide at the Fort states that 70% of the fort was curved out of coral rock and 30% was built of stone. Fort Jesus has proved to be one of the most commonly visited sites in the area.

 Fort Jesus

Along the streets, first comes to sight an old but classy building. This is the Africa Hotel, built in 1901, making it the first hotel to be built in Kenya.Its 12 bedrooms were particularly appreciated for balconies with a lovely view of the sea, as there was no building opposite the hotel, facing the sea, thus giving unobstructed view of the sea.

Another site to behold is the Mandhry Mosque.” The mosque was built in 1507, by one of the families that came from Zanzibar,” says Mr.Hassan, a tour guide of the old town. This therefore makes the Mandhry mosque the oldest of its kind in Kenya. However, its elegant white walls may actually deceive the eye that it is not even a century old, and can only be betrayed by its old architectural style.

Mandhry mosque 

Old port of Mombasa

 The Old Port is also another vital piece of the Old town’s history. It was a major port of the Triangular dhow trade in the Indian Ocean and the Arabic Gulf. “Today, the old port is only used by small ships and boats and it only receives food items”, Says Mr.Hassan. He further explains that there  is a new port in Kilindini that harbours numerous ships that bring in cargo.

Just as one leaves the Old Port, a pungent smell of fish rents the air. This emanates from the Old fish market just around the bend. As we approach, a local fisherman cheerfully greets  and welcome as in fluent Kiswahili and introduces himself as Farouq. “ This is the old fish market, it has been used for about the one thousand years and was recently restored”, says he. The old fish market is currently used by local fisherman, who prepare and sell their fish from there.” Almost everyone in the old town purchases fish from the old fish market”, Farouq concludes.

Our final site is the leather factory. This is a local factory that manufactures leather sandals, a common Swahili footwear. The leather is mainly obtained from hides of cows, sheep, goats and carmels. The factory provides employment to majority of the youth around the area, who make and sell sandals. One shop owner near the factory (name withheld) says that, he sells sandals at  an affordable price of only 350 shillings. During such visits, he gets lots of local and international  customers. The sandals come in different shapes, sizes and designs.

Also, the old town is a secure place with lots of families residing in the area. This is characterized by lots of children shouting and giggling, while in hot pursuit of one another, along the narrow streets.. In the evenings, one will also notice that the residents gather in small groups to engage in small talk , to pass time.

The old town is an attraction to both domestic and international tourists.Other must visit sites include the Old post office, the government square and the Portuguese church. It is a great honour to be part of a truly beautiful and historic culture. 

DEAR FUTURE HUSBAND… 

Have you ever asked any elderly person how they used to communicate over long distances, during their days? That is before the era of mobile phones? Apart from the fire and smoke and also messengers that I learnt from my history class back in high school, I did ask my father and found his tale intriguing.

When the white man brought us civilization, most people began to communicate via mail, in simpler terms, letter writing. Those are the days you would write to your uncle in the city informing him of academic day to be held in two weeks’ time and Posta Kenya would take its time and deliver it in 3 or 4 weeks. Those must have been tough days.

My father’s story reminded me of the outrageous love letters we would write each other in high school. Typical old school letters full of bombastic vocabulary and expressions like “Did it hurt? When you fell from heaven?” Seriously, what was with those letters? So it was in the same spirit that I thought I should write one more letter, not to an employer seeking employment but to my future husband.

Dear future husband,

It is with great heaviness of heart that I pen these thoughtful words for you. I must confess that of late, I have been having lots of fantasies about you, the kind that sail you yonder in a sea of barren tempest and leave me wondering if you are experiencing the same.

I therefore thought it fit to write to you early enough, my thoughts, plans, ambitions and setbacks, to wholly share with you. I hope you don’t mind.

I cannot help but wonder what you look like, physically , emotionally and even mentally, what you could be doing at the moment, how old you are, because I am still in school you know and also what your preferences may be. At this last thought, I cross my finger an only hope that they match mine.

Anyway, that aside, I hear they say that marriage is not a bed of roses and honestly that gives me chills but I won’t back out, in fact I am anxiously waiting for us to walk down the aisle. Never have I raised any child/ children of my own, nor have paid any major bills; actually I can’t even drive yet. I must admit that all these responsibilities to come are a little scary but that is the whole point of marriage, right? Doing it together, being there for one another. I hope I am not making it sound like a ‘happily ever after’, because, that my love, only exists in heaven.

I hope you are working hard for us, because I also am. In fact, I am looking forward to completing my studies so that I may experience the world in its true aggressive and competitive form. If you are already there, kindly save those captivating tales for me, when we finally meet.

My dear future husband, every night before I lay to rest, right beside my bed, I go down on my knees and pray for you for the Almighty to keep you in good health, to grant blessings and happiness your way, to lead the right friends into your life and to wholly mould you to his likeness.

 I have a uniquely strong intuition that when we finally meet, it will seem as if it is a deja vu, because in my heart we will already have met, and when we finally begin our family, it is my sincere hope that we will mould each other into the ideal husband and wife that we’ve always desired, till death do us part.

 I ask that you be patient and wait for me as I will for you. May the almighty keep and guide you.

Yours Love

Ellen

Mr. Sponsor… The family man 

Friday is here again…home sweet home*smiles*. I can’t wait to meet my joyous kids and more especially my queen…my lovely wife. She is always waiting with arms wide open, keeping safe and faithful for us. I admire how she lives by the vows we made to each other on our big day. “I really wish I could do the same my love, but these girls are too enticing. Those lips…goodness.. So sweet and tender, I cannot resist kissing them. I’m not saying yours are not my queen, you know you’re my favorite*wink*…I’m just trying a different flavor.”
Home at last, my kids are so elated to see their daddy, my queen cannot hide her smile either, the high spirits fill our house with a cacophony of Joy. My little boy has so much to tell and trust me I have all the time, I am now a family man, the best dad..the perfect husband. We share a wonderful meal, my little boy insists that I feed him.. Hahaha.. With my queen being the chief chef, I am treated to my favorite. This time a new recipe, for me..Mr. Wonderful..

Dusk falls, we cuddle in our matrimonial bed. I know how she likes it, so I whisper into her ear, how my love for her goes round the whole world and comes right back. Lots of sweet nothings follow..” So how was your week my love? Are you okay?” She asks…”I am fine, only that I missed you so much it hurts,” I answer reassuringly. “You know you’re  my one and only, my centre.” At this, she beams with joy. At the back of my head, images of those young young girls I have kissed, and told the exact words keep replaying in my mind simulteniously. 

If only she knew the number of times I have betrayed her,the number of times I have lied of my marital status to different ladies…the countless number of them I have promised to marry…she would devorce me right this moment…Poor thing.. But until then, the hunter must keep hunting.

I watch her fall asleep, with a wave of satisfaction on her face. She’s probably dreaming of our happy ever after on the moon. As for me, this is the chance to come up with new catch phrases, for that stubborn girl.. Whoever said multi-tasking is only for women must have been a woman *hahaha *… They don’t call me Mr. Wonderful for nothing..

Mr. Wonderful?… Mr. Sponsor… 

I will take you to heights you have never been. You’ve been to Mt. Kenya? I will then take to Mt. Everest.” I say with a wide satisfactory grin on my face. A grin that bears more than the superficial eyes can see. She won’t take any of it. She is still not convinced. Why is she not like other girls her age? Most of them would be all over me just for winking at them. Jeez!!! She’s so difficult!! I ask her out for lunch, to the poshest hotel around and she turns me down with so much sass, just for her mama’s food. She is always pushing me away so hard, yet I want to grab her tight and not let go, at least until I am done with her.

I decide to make my intentions plain, clean on the table. She stares at me , all the while that I feel so foolish, but a man got to do what he ought to do. “Baby, I love you, I promise I really do. I will take you places, I will help you establish your career, just say you love me back.” I await eagerly for her answer… “That should come straight from my heart, uncompelled, you should not ask me to say it.” Her level of maturity is surprising but I’m disappointed, yet again.

She knows how bad I want her, yet she subjects me to all this torture. I send for her, and as she walks in, I cannot help but admire, the kind of admiration that wakes my soldier from his slumber. My body is dying to taste these waters. I can taste the sweetness straight from my imagination. She makes my blood boil and she knows it. “ Playing hard to get, uuhhh? Am sorry Miss, you’re not the first.”

Yesterday I told her that if she grants me the chance, I wll hump her so sweet she will not let go of me, and she got offended. I don’t understand this lady, most ladies would kill just to hear that from a man. But I must play the gentleman, lest I lose her before I empty the cookie jar. So I apologize and sweetly explain that I meant no offense. I am a lawyer, defending myself is my daily cup of tea, or rather coffee, dark roast for that matter…hehe

 I notice she is always awed by my watch, she loves it..a loophole for Mr. Wonderful…me of course… I promise to buy her a beautiful and expensive one..and as expected she turns me down, yet again. I plead and act all hurt, she loosens up, a bit, and tries to politely explain. She has a heart of gold, I’m  not interested in that though, but that naivety… jeez, I love it!!

That reminded me of the first time I lay my eyes on her. My body went wild with goose bumps. A true definition of beauty she was, still is. Everything about her seemed perfect. Her smile was striking, her body enticing, her confidence yet surprising. My ideal woman. I felt this sudden longing for her, I barely knew her name but I was determined to find out. To know her on a more personal level.

She says all men are the same, they only want to taste a variety and later chose one, which is no lie for my case only that I already chose my one and I’m now tasting the rest of the variety left. I love my wife and kids but it is no harm having fun while away from her. This one is giving me a hard time…I’ll buy her gifts, I’ll soften her heart and the moment I have her all I want, I will go home to my loving wife and build our future, she is the mother of my kids after all. Call me Mr. Wonderful…no I think Mr. sponsor suits me best.

How Gambling Has Affected The Youth Today

Gambling is a past time favorite of many, not only in Kenya but the world at large. This is a practice that many engage in for various reasons.
The practice of gambling can therefore be described as staking something of value on the outcome of an event that involves chance, in hope of gaining objects of value that have been staked on the events of others.

Apart from financial gain, many others engage in it as a form of leisure, relaxation. This practice is wholly dependent on one’s luck and level of wit.

Gambling therefore comes in numerous forms namely:

1. Betting on sports or games of skill such as horse races, football, basketball and hockey. 

2. Card games e.g poker and black jack played in casino’s and private homes.

3. Dice games e.g Craps

4. Lotteries

5. Mechanical betting e.g electronic slots machines

6. Casino games e.g roulette, big six and Keno 
One only has to choose where they fit best.

In the past, gambling was an activity that was heavily dominated by the male specie although, times have changed and that is not the case today. They say what a man can do, a woman can do better, today even women gamble.

Gambling in Kenya has been a national pastime. Today, the society’s view on gambling has gone through an amazing metamorphosis. Before, the society viewed gambling as a manifestation of the devil. Most people perceived gamblers to be the risk taking breed of the rich willing to wager big money, and casinos opulent buildings in plush addresses. The practice of gambling carried a sense of dishonor and was considered a vice. This is not the case anymore.

Today gambling is for anyone with the means to do so. Sports betting are the most common among the youth and have therefore become an all time favorite for the youth in campus, as it is a quick means to earn easy money.

Kerry Imbukwa, a student of Maasai Imara University, states that he is a sports gambler. He gambles both as a leisure activity and most importantly for financial gain. When asked to compare how much he has gained to that which he has lost, he freely says that he has lost more compared to the number of times he has won.

This is the same situation for most youth, who bet, but they never stop, despite these down falls.

Kevin  Ocharo alias Voke HCL, a model and a student of Maasai Imara University, explains that the reason behind this is that gambling is a lifestyle, since they need to achieve goals, easy money is the best option, one only needs to keep hoping. 

The fact that they win once in a while and also witness those around them win large sums of money, inspires them to keep betting.

Due to all these, and the love for quick money, most Kenyans especially the youth are immersed in this practice. They have become so addicted that very few have considered quitting and instead earning money they have genuinely worked for.

Most students therefore, out of greed for more, end up using their school fees and rent money, to place bets, most of which is lost. This forces such students to either miss examinations or borrow money from fellow students and relatives.

Manywele Mirina, another student and safaricom agent, explains that some students end up committing suicide, out of the fear of being unable to face their parents/gurdians after losing large sums of money to betting companies. This however is not new in Kenya, as it has made headlines in the news before.
Kerry once again explains that, people who result to committing suicide after losing bets, are those who use gambling as an investment platform, that losing such large sums of money is a hard blow on their faces, which should not be the case. He further adds that losing a bet is not worth a comrade’s life.

One Dr. Philomena Ndambuki, a psychologist quoted that “Money is a persuasive force, for people who have never gambled, what is stopping them from trying is because in their mind they know that the chances of losing their money are more than the chances of winning more cash.”

Adds; but once you try and especially if you win after very few times of trying or you know someone who has won, you get a psychological impetus that if you try even after losing so much money, there is a chance that you will still win.

Since the emergence of the issue of gender equity, women have not been left behind either. Beatrice Njoki who sells groceries in ODM market in Narok, reveals that she gambles, through lotto that requires a minimum of only fifty shillings, to participate. When she sees fellow women winning large amounts of money, it gives her hope to continue. She explains that most people live below poverty line yet they have the responsibility to provide for their families and meet certain expectations.  Just as the famous saying goes, money is never enough, she gambles to add on the little she acquires from her business.

Boniface, another student who also gambles, has a contradictory view on the issue of women gambling. In as much as it now seems normal, he stills finds it a little odd for a woman to participate in this activity.

However, the church has a different view on gambling. This is explained by Dominic Gudu, a church leader in Narok, who condemns gambling in the strongest terms possible. He makes his reference from Ellen G. White’s teachings that state that gambling is incompatible with Christian principles as it is not an appropriate form of entertainment or a legitimate means of raising funds.

He continues to explain that gambling violates Christian principles of stewardship, as God only identifies work as the appropriate method for gaining material benefit, and not the playing of a game of chance, while dreaming to win at the expense of others.

Mr. Dominic therefore reveals that he has never and will never gamble in his life. According to his church’s teachings on gambling, it violates the Christian sense of responsibility, creates false hope and is very addictive, all clearly incompatible with Christian lifestyle.

Most gamblers are therefore un aware of the Christian teachings on gambling. Gambling like any other income generating activity has its pros and cons, as stated by Kevin. Since sports betting is the most common form of gambling among the youth, there has been a tremendous growth of companies that allow betting using mobile phones and redeem prizes through mobile money transfer. Some of these companies are not legitimate and therefore end up stealing from the gamblers, most of who depend on gambling as a source of income.

The rise of these betting companies has also led to the rise of scammers, who claim to be professionals in giving betting tips in return for a certain amount of money.” Most of this tips however backfire,” says Kerry.

One problem with easy money is that it is consumed mostly as soon as it is acquired. Most youth gamblers are usually unable to account for this money. For instance,  Manywele Mirina, a student, who once won thirty thousand Kenya shillings cannot even recall how he spent the money.

The biggest challenge, according to most youth, is match fixing. Every opportunity is a business opportunity, therefore fixing agencies have also come to existence. Boniface gave an example of a certain match between Jordan and Australia, that ended at 5:1, just as it was stated it would by a certain fixing agency. This therefore is to the disadvantage of those who cannot access this fixing agencies, and the amount of fee they demand in return.

Gambling therefore is all about luck, and wit. Only the fittest can survive in this witty game. Taking risks is the most important slogan of this game of chance. The anticipated expected earning of this game surpasses the amount placed to bet, therefore making it unrealistic. 

Our youth should learn to work for their money, and not use gambling as an employment opportunity. The world has numerous job opportunities for our youth, all they need to do is be creative and aggressive.

DISPLAYING OF PRESIDENTIAL PORTRAITS IN GOVERNMENT OFFICES 

​Narok county, Monday 4th, June, 2016, KNA by Harmon Ellen O.  

Displaying of Presidenential portraits in public offices and business premises is a practice  that dates  a long way back. If you walk into most public offices and business premises, one will almost never fail to notice a huge ceremonial portrait of the current head of state, neatly hanging on one of the walls.

 Just like many other traditions, this practice began during the pre-colonial period when the Queen of England was the head of state of all her colonies. Then, the portraits of the queen were mostly displayed in government offices .After Kenya attained its  independence, the practice was then borrowed by the colonial regime and administrations of former presidents Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Arap Moi. It passively continued with most Kenyans replacing the portraits, every time a new head of state came into power. Others go as far as displaying all the portraits, from that of the founding President to that of the current one.
During Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Arap Moi’s rergimes, displaying of a head of states portrait was mandatory.

The first president of the Republic of Kenya, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta 

Photo by Rex Cole an for Baron studies 

 Those who were found without, often faced the law. The reason behind this practice was that the portraits not only helped reinforce national unity, but also depicted the pride and respect a citizen had in his leader. Anyone who did not display this portrait was therefore against the head of state’s leadership.

However, there is no law that governs the displaying of a head of state’s portrait in government offices and various business premises. One lawyer in Narok town argues that the practice is just an old tradition that has been carried forward to the current generation. Article 9 in chapter 2 of the constitution identifies Kenya’s national symbols as the national flag, the national anthem, the coat of arms and the public seal”, says the lawyer. He also goes ahead to clarify that the national flag, emblems and Names Act also does not list the president’s portraits as a national symbol of unity and does not require its display. He adds that, currently displaying the president’s portrait is not mandatory, it is only a silent rule, that has no constitutional basis.

 On visiting most business premises in Narok town, I observed that 70% of them had the president’s portrait displayed while 30% did not. Those who were ready to share, had reasons for displaying and not displaying the president’s portrait in their business premises. 

Roseline who runs a stationery and computer services, has only displayed her business permit and has no portrait of the current president. She says that this is because the portrait does not add any monetary value to her business nor does it make any outstanding impact. She also adds that it is just a mere decoration that she certainly does not need as, the image of a true leader resides in people’s hearts.

Patrick, sells grains in a large store in ODM market. He has the current president’s portrait displayed on one of his walls. He explained that he had no particular reason for displaying the portrait, he is only following the trend that was set back in the day. He adds that he has had all the portraits of preceding presidents hanged on the walls of his business premises and has replaced them every time there’s a new government.

Mr. Nyamwaro, runs a poshomill in near the main stage in Narok town . When asked why he had the portrait and whether it was of any importance to Him? He linked his answer to a biblical reference, Romans 13 :1,2, that commands us to respect authority as it is given by God. He continues to say that displaying of the president’s portrait shows that he pledges allegiance to whoever is in the leadership position of the country. According to him, it also identifies the president to those who may not be permanent residents of the country. Mr. Nyamwaro also explains that unlike today, during Moi’s regime, those who did not display their business license and presidential portraits would always be arrested for further questioning, though he never witnessed it himself.

Second president of the Republic of Kenya, Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi. 

The issue of displaying presidential portraits on walls of business premises and public offices has aroused different contradictory opinions, even in the government. The Governor for Siaya county, Cornel Rasanga ordered the 24 CORD governors to pull down the president’s portrait in their offices and replace them with those of the opposition leader, Mr. Raila Odinga. In response to that order, the interior ministry, ordered all Kakamega traders to display the president’s portrait in their premises or else one would be heavily fined. However, the president through Mr, Esipisu the state house spokesman said, It is absolutely no requirement, neither in the constitution nor the laws of Kenya for mandatory display of the presidential portrait. He went ahead to urge Kenyans to pull them down if they wanted to.

The issue of displaying presidential portraits not only affects Kenya, but also almost African countries. Whereas most African presidents demand their photos displayed in government offices and business premises, only few bold presidents give their citizens an option of choosing whether or not to diplay those portraits. Examples are, the newly elected Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo who banned photos of himself in airports and hotels, and our very own, His excellency, Uhuru Kenyatta.

THE PLIGHT OF A CHILD.

There is a biblical saying that goes, the righteous will always suffer. I would rephrase it and ask, “ Why should the innocent always suffer? Why should they always get caught up in cruelty they know nothing about?’ I am referring to children, such innocent beings. They mostly suffer the consequences of deals they were never part of, they pay for their parents’ misdoings, for those who are or were lucky enough to even know their parents.

Being a third world country, war poverty, disease and ignorance have been part and parcel of our lives. The internet is filled with photos of the various disasters that have struck our country and continent at large. As I was going through them, I literary shed tears, when I saw victims who were children. I saw a picture of a malnutritioned child his head lowered to the ground, in a village there seemed to be no life. One metre from the child is a vulture, waiting to devour. The child is innocent, probably wondering where mummy and every one else is.
image
Death is staring mercilessly at his face. Nature is yet to take its course. Fate is yet to decide whether the hungry child will live or form part of the soil. The vulture is impatiently waiting for its meal, the child is silently hoping for redemption, the journalist is doing his/her job. I hope his conscience killed him/her. This world is truly not our home.

In another country, a beautiful baby girl is orphaned as a result of war. Her mummy is gone, she now lives and wanders in the streets, with so much hope of seeing her mummy again. She misses her mother’s warmth, love and care. She’s all alone in this cruel and cold world. So what does she do? She gets a piece of chalk, draws a huge mother figure and curls up right at the centre of her mama’s heart. At least she gets the illusion of her mummy’s presence, love and care.
image
Does this child really deserve that? Just a drawing of a mother on a cold floor? So innocent yet subjected to so much cruelty. She’s too young to bear this burden, yet all the world can do is sit back and watch. We really are a cursed generation.

I scrolled to a third one, war again. This time there was a soldier in the picture, a man who has sworn to protect and serve his nation. The irony is that he is protecting a wounded child probably from his enemy’s side, he walks through gunshots to take the little child to safety. He risks his life for the child’s sake. Knowing too well that this child is suffering consequences of a deal gone sour. I wish we could stand up for our children at whatever cost and protect them from harm we cause. They are innocent beings. Animals are doing a better job of protecting our children as we should. That is so much irony, we’re said to be the most intelligent of beings but I feel soon animals are soon beating us at it. How many tales have we heard of dogs rescuing abandoned children? Why don’t we ever take responsibility for our actions? No child has ever asked to be born and they therefore should not be thrown.

I could take it no more, tears were freely flowing down my face. Those pictures had sparked so much emotion in me. A source of motivation, they now were. I have a dream, to create a safe haven for children, where all will be welcome regardless of race or religion. I want to travel round the world in search of such cases. I pray that I get enough support. Charity begins at home, this is where I plan to use my journalistic skills not just to travel, take pictures and walk away but to travel and save children, letting the whole world know of their plight, be a source of redemption for them. I yearn to live this dream sooner. I plan to be my own ambassador for children, kindly let s join hands for this worthy course.