Writing Elsewhere

I haven’t updated this blog since June last year, wow! I think it is only fair to my readers to know that blog has been and will continue to take a long hiatus which may or may not be marked by intermittent postings here and there (completely non-committal on that last point).  However, not posting on this blog doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. Here is a short non-exhaustive list (I’ll try to be chronological) of what I’ve been up to for the past 14 months:

  1.  I have worked with the Storymoja Hay Festival for the past three years covering events and posting on their blog.
  2. I wrote a review of Staceyann Chin’s performance in Nairobi early this year, possibly the biggest assembly of feminists and queers in Kenya in a long while.
  3. My article on representation of LGBTIQ rights struggles and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda appeared in the Queer African Reader under the heading The Media, The Tabloid and the The Uganda Homophobia Spectacle
  4. Collaborated on an article with the fabulous Okwiri Oduor about our decision not to vote during the last elections in on #KenyaRefuses, a special edition of The New Inquiry
  5. Also had some of my work appear on the brilliant Brainstorm
  6. Posted a lot of bullshit on my Twitter
  7. Running the Kenyans For Tax Justice campaign’s online presence (Twitter, Facebook and blog)
  8. Petitioned the Alliance Française to cancel the Israeli Film Festival (in line with the BDS call to boycott Israeli cultural products and institutions). Even though we were not successful, we ended up getting some media hype about it from The Star newspaper.

Saying “NO!” to US Imperialism: Part 2

Two months ago, I wrote about how it was exciting and liberating for me to attend IDAHOT 2012 and how I enjoyed it because it created a queer space that didn’t really have to rely on the main event taking place at the GoDown Arts Centre (though many people did attend the event to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and have a listen at the panels and speakers at the event). For me, because the people attending the event weren’t necessarily working at some NGO, it opened up new prospects where queer citizens would take control of their future without anyone negotiating on their behalf. I did, however, say that we needed legal and political safeguards against violence and discrimination to create these spaces, themselves not necessarily legal or embedded in current political discourse (and with good reason).

The US Embassy in Nairobi this morning held its first LGBT Pride event. It invited activists and representatives from various LGBTIQ/MSM organisations. On hearing the news, a group of “we” communicated with each other trying to stage a boycott or issue a statement against the event. Our reasoning was that LGBTIQ organisations and individuals should not be made to create links with the imperialist US which in its war on terror, economic initiatives and political alliances had created a lot of violence, killing and hardship for lots of LGBTIQ and non-LGBTIQ citizens in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, the Coast and North Eastern parts of Kenya. There is actually a statement to that effect which was drawn up by one of us but definitely inspired by the things we said about the event.

It is not the first time that a United States embassy has held a pride event. The event is an affirmative response by the embassy to President Obama’s announcement last year that June of every year would LGBT Pride month. It’s totally fine and OK for those working there to have and enjoy this event. The problem comes when the event, like in Islamabad last year, flies in the face of local sensitivities toward sexual and gender minorities. The Islamabad event had a major backlash from the public with demonstrations and denunciations taking place. As a result, the burgeoning local LGBTIQ/MSM NGO community went undercover, fearing violence from citizens and the government. The problem, also, is the detachment and alienation of such an event with the lived experiences of queers. Take the Iraq pride event of spring 2009 taking place in the Green Zone of Baghdad while dozens of gay and “effeminate” men were being slaughtered in the city outside. The same can be said of what took place this morning in Nairobi: though the embassy extended courtesy to activists and members of various organisations, the flexible band of space that composes an event like queer pride was not there, replaced as it were by the mediation of the state in cultural affairs and a few individuals to represent the rest.

But perhaps the most offensive thing about the event is the supplanting* of local queer initiatives towards affirming ourselves with ones that are, again, mediated by an imperial state and cool indifference of local LGBT organisations. I was going through my twitter this morning, shocked at how activists eased into calling this event #PrideInKenya, a pride event of national/Kenyan importance and recognisability, as if Kenyans or even Kenyan organisations participated in its planning, the composition of those attending or even the tenor of its message. How can a room filled with (I estimate) less than 100 people brought together by governmental policy and a search for recognition by the United States be queer pride?

We are yet to know whether the event which, it is claimed, was open to the media, will have any major consequences for queer Kenyans but I hope it won’t. Because this “controversy” has been limited discursively to those who keenly follow news about LGBTI activism in Kenya, I could not finish my post without saying how sad it is that members of our “community” refuse to acknowledge US Imperialism. In the numerous posts that have been put up on the Identity Kenya website, none of them even dares mention “US Imperialism”.

I am, however, happy that I got to communicate with many other activists and individuals who are committed to LGBTIQ rights advocacy but are also aware of the shadow of imperialism and civilisation that hang over these discourses. I am happy that we got to talk about intersectionality, pinkwashing and the anti-terrorism bill that is being re-tabled in the Kenyan parliament. Thanks guys.

* Those who have been interacting with me over this issue will be annoyed by the repeated use of this word but what can I say, it struck a nerve with me.

Saying “NO!” to US Imperialism: Part 1

This is a statement against the LGBT Pride event, attended by local LGBT activists and organisations, that took place this morning at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. The statement was drafted by a group of we who wanted to create a dissenting opinion to linkages between US Imperialism and LGBTIQ/MSM initiatives in Kenya. A subsequent take down of the event and its implications here.

We, a collective of LGBTIQ Africans, recognising that we do not represent a singular voice of African  LGBTIQ people, but rather speak from the strength of our plurality, take a stand against imperialism and oppose the celebration of the proposed gay pride event, organised by the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.

While LGBTIQ and proud, we recognise that we continue to live under the oppression of imperialism imposed by the policies of the United States government.

We stand in solidarity with communities in Kenya and around Africa, who suffer directly from oppressive US policies including, but not limited to:

  • The Muslim communities of Coastal and North Eastern Kenya who are summarily persecuted on supposed Anti-Terrorism actions.
  • The sex worker communities who have been victims of US funding policy discrimination and remain affected by preventable and controllable diseases.
  • The economically marginalised communities that suffer from unfair trade agreements, ODS debt, and structural adjustment programmes that have crippled basic services.
  • The people of Libya and Somalia who are victims of USA militarism.
  • African farmers who are oppressed by market agricultural policies imposed to feed a greedy empire.
  • Mother Earth whose wealth and nourishment is depleted to sustain the insatiable hunger of super-capitalism.

We also stand in solidarity with those resisting US imperialism in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and everywhere around the world including the USA.

Towards an Africa free from all forms of oppression!

Thoughts on Queer Space and IDAHOT 2012

I attended the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia event in Nairobi, held at the GoDown Arts Centre and was there before it even started at 2 PM! On of the main reasons I was so excited about going was that I look forward to any opportunity where I might get the chance to be around queer people and I was very lucky: there must have been at least 200 people in attendance! Outside the main hall where the event was taking place, I heard people say time and time again, “so many kuchus/shogas/gays/lesbians/queers in one place” and I had to agree with them, this was the biggest assembly of queers I had ever been in.

All through the event, I had this feeling that the space I was in was a queer space and it is a feeling I still have after having so much fun there. The artistic expression in the form of music, dance, poetry, cat walks, jokes and witticisms by the MC melded well with the gendered and sexual (queer) expressions by both artists and audience. I enjoyed this more than I could have enjoyed the speeches or the panel that addressed human rights, non discrimination and religion. I stayed outside the main event hall when the panel was on and when the consulate from the American Embassy was giving his address (but I stayed around for Eric Maqc Gitau’s speech about his “coming to” in support of LGBTIQ rights). Outside in what could be called a “lobby” on your way into the main hall I had double vodkas served at the set up bar and had wide ranging conversation with the participants. I took some around the “Kenya Burning” photo exhibition that was taking place in an adjacent room and talked about the 2007/08 violence sometimes extending it to the culture of violence that constrains queers then as it does today.

Earlier in the week, I had been uncertain as to whether I should go to the event or not. I knew the media would be there and I didn’t want to be filmed not because I have a problem with that but, as I explained in my last post, if there is a relationship between the media and queers in this country, then that relationship is problematic and I do not want my image to be portrayed in such a manner as to cause more hate and misrecognition of queers as already is. Thankfully, the media came and went without getting the opportunity of filming queers without consent and that the organisers of the event warned those in attendance to take extra precautions while talking with the media.

On this last bit, I would like to explain how, for me, this concept of queer space unfolded itself in the event. With all the people I talked to, drank with, laughed with and chatted up, I felt a sense of pleasantness that is hard for queers to find in this country. We are sometimes very lonely, without friends we can talk to or people who know about what we go through and though we may have sex sometimes, there is always a yearning to occupy a public (or is it counterpublic?). That is why coming out is so valued within the LGB community though it is merely a marginal event informed by other superseding ones which are not as visible*. What I mean to say is that we sometimes come out to people in an effort to make known our existence. In coming out, as it is understood today, we not only come out to the straight community in which our family and some of our friends are part of but we are also entering into a LGBTIQ community. The queer space I was in yesterday did not need all of its participants to come out before coming in the main hall or the lobby or even the gate to the GoDown Arts Centre and because coming out is sometimes very distressing to queer people, I feel this was a powerful aspect that made the event so successful. A queer space is a space of possibility within which those who participate in it do not have to do so in relation to the mainstream largely heteronormative community (you don’t have to come out to come in). Though the queer space is elsewhere defined as “the cracks in the social system where new styles of dressing and living become possible”, I, like the author of the blog I just hyperlinked in this sentence believes in the “empowering” space that these cracks are, simply because interactions with violent forces that constrain queer bodies are virtually non existent. But in today’s world, to make these cracks and to sustain them in a way that ensures that we do not become extinct or unheard, we must also help sometimes in the remodelling of this social system. This means that we have to help in any way we can, in ensuring a stable and favourable legal and political environment for the existence of queers, in the least.

I am thankful to the people who organised the Kenya IDAHOT 2012, those who performed and expressed themselves artistically, those who discussed various issues regarding rights and entitlements and especially those who participated in it.

*Though I haven’t read it Samuel R. Delany’s “Coming/Out” makes a finer, well written and well thought out claim but with the same central claim as I have tried to elaborate in this and the following sentences.

Rant

This rant is about the airing of the NTV news feature #TheTrend last night during the 9 PM news. The “gay debate”, if you can call it that, was between Lawrence Mute who is a commissioner of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and Charles Kanjama who is Vice Chair of the Kenya  Christian Professional Association. The subject of the debate was a report by the KNHRC which proposed decriminalisation of homosexuality and prostitution as a means of enabling access to sexual and reproductive health by LGBTIQ identified Kenyans. The report also dealt with issues of sex education and other issues about access to health as per Section 43 of the Constitution (all this I got from Lawrence Mute because I haven’t got a copy of the report which isn’t available online in PDF form as yet). I first put up this rant earlier today on the QueerTalk mailing list and thought it would be great to channel my anger here also. Here we go:

Can we even call what went on yesterday evening “debate”? Can we say it contributed in any way to debate about sexual minorities? Can we claim that viewers were left with a sense of the kind of balanced conversation and articulation in which understanding of sexual orientation, gender identity and sex work has to take place? I think not! Kanjama went home with all the won talking points and with the homophobes/transphobes/anti-women of the religious associations having captured the willing minds of many Kenyans. And it is very unfortunate that this was not because Lawrence Mute didn’t say anything of importance in the show but because the terms set and enforced by the “moderator” clearly supported the views espoused by Kanjama the orator for family values and African traditions and the Christian god.

Did Denis, who spent the afternoon at Nation Centre prior to the “big debate”, just talk about the sexuality spectrum in a 5 second clip? I don’t know *exactly* what we should do about this, but I am sick and tired of seeing the same shit said over and over again about “homosexuality” and “prostitution” and the same Sheikh Khalifa saying the same things about “uchafu” and “ushoga” or the Karanja person from NCCK which is a shadow of its former self trying to earn points at the expense of real people with real problems. I mean, the “moderator” actually linked the report, prepared over the course of many months and released a week before, with Obama’s announcement of his “evolution” towards the support of same sex marriage and the had the nerve to ask about whether the report was informed by the American Agenda! Sick and tired.

We should reconfigure the terms of debate in which our names, our bodies, our choices and our lives are invoked. If this is what LGBTIQ persons have to deal with in order to be “passed” to the national limelight by Kenyan big media then I think we can do without it. We can choose to lend our voices to other spaces where our voice and how we articulate OUR problems are respected. There are many websites that deal with gender, sex and body in Kenya, run by queer people, sex workers and allies. We seriously don’t need this shit.

After Kato: A Year Later

Six months ago, to the day, my friend, Amil, and I did a convo over email where we tried to situate David Kato’s life in our individual thoughts, personal beliefs and our sense of activisms extending to the general activist culture in East Africa at the time of his death and a while after that. The convo remains a reference point for me in many ways, especially because I have found it difficult to write about anything over the past few months.

So, what has changed? For starters, we submitted our conversation to an ongoing compilation of perspectives by activists and academics on the life of David Kato to be published by the Makerere University, hopefully. There has also been set up a David Kato Vision & Voice Award which seeks to award “an individual who demonstrates courage and outstanding leadership in advocating for the sexual rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, particularly in environments where these individuals face continued rejection, marginalization, isolation and persecution.”  While I am inclined to see this as another way in which NGOs reward themselves, pat their back and hustle for more grants, one also has to deal with the structured ways in which commemoration and remembrance and hagiography take place within modern societies. This is to say that, to some, this a perfectly good way of mourning and reflecting on the life of the individual, in formalized ways where money flows and leadership and courage are conflated together. To many others, remembering Kato on a specific day in a specific way (though the award website doesn’t seem to have anything up about the importance of this day) provides an access point that is less taxing, possibly less taxing than a reflection on his life and work and death (here, I invoke a recent post by Keguro on ghosts).

The New York Times has a video about Kato for the one year anniversary of his death. I wanted to write a bigger post that would include the news that his alleged killer was sentenced to 30 years in jail for the murder, other stuff about a documetary about his life but I have to stop there. Sokari told me she didn’t have any plans for today, maybe stroll in the beach thinking about things, reflecting about Kato’s life, about revealing moments of character, about friendships and intimate attachments against the grain of hegemonic discourse.

UPDATE: Sokari actually ended up writing a very nice post about this anniversary, beautifully written, reflective and probably the best thing I have read so far concerning the one year anniversary about Kato’s death.

A new face to protest?

First we have this:

Kieni MP Nemesyus Warugongo has decided to go on hunger strike for a week after the ICC confirmed the charges of Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta. The MP who is a friend of Uhuru says the cases were politicized.

Before that, Esther Murugi threaten to strip naked if Uhuru Kenyatta was arrested on his arrival at The Hague (no links to this, unfortunately) and before that Wangari Maathai and a group of women activists stripped naked in protest at the Moi government’s plans to construct a skyscraper in what is now known as the Freedom Corner of Uhuru Park, before all this, Mau Mau women activists used stripping naked as a means of using their bodies in manifold ways during and as protest (something that may have also been codified in cultural practices of the women involved).

The problem isn’t that Warugongo is using protest as a method of voicing anger against an establishment which he deems unjust. Holding this assertion just goes to support what repressive governments have been doing all along – saying that they do everything on behalf of their citizens, even stuff like political action. No, the problem is in the ways in which these actions co-opt the culture of protest in Kenya.

While Kenyans have had much to complain about during the post-independent, Moi and “post Moi” (but still rigged with Moism) Kenya, the establishment has spent a lot of resources in curbing dissent, crushing protest, jailing citizens and killing activists. Thus, fewer people appreciate the “point” of protest in a democracy. It has also resulted in the delegation of this crucial form of participation to the civil society (in the forms of small scale protests or press briefings by civil society organisations).

Threats by Warugongo and earlier ones by Murugi embed themselves with current problems that affect citizen participation in democratic establishments today. Part of why they choose to engage in this specific forms of protests (other than the usual conscripting of young people to participate in demonstrations) is that they can and that it is very easy for them to do so: they are protected and have nothing to lose and they seek to entrench a new way of seeing protest in Kenya, as something personal which some people with the right endowments can participate in.

Actions by the likes of Murugi or Warugongo have legitimating powers in that they seek to make valid whatever they are trying to convey through protest. They have various kinds of resources (social capital, money) at their disposal which enable them to protest “safely” but still carry some message across (i.e. that the decision by the ICC to confirm the charges is outrageous enough to warrant forms of protest that seek to excoriate the ICC for coming to this decision and on the other hand, legitimate Kenya’s political establishment including the Ocampo 4).

The kinds of protest and solidarity formations among the so-called “political class” are such that they do not entirely speak to the rest of Kenya’s citizenry. They certainly have no vocabulary to respond to various claims set by the internally displaced or people who want to see IDPs, survivors of the violence and persons killed during the violence feature more in conversations about the violence period and various mechanisms that have been initiated to ensure that this never happens to Kenya again. This isn’t Warugongo speaking to or for Kenyans, this is a politician codifying his political beliefs (some which run contrary to the aspirations of some Kenyans, some which are agreeable with some Kenyans) to a culture of protest that is not well explored by most Kenyans but which a substantial number of Kenyans recognise as part of a functioning democracy.

Murugi threatened to strip naked at a time when she was the Minister in charge of special programmes in which resettlement and compensation of internally displaced persons are the ministry’s chief concerns. For me, the scariest thing about this new turn is that it not only seeks to have people talking about what the political establishment wants us to talk about but that it also seeks to muffle certain voices that would show the huge farce that lies in these very forms of protest.

Israel and Kenya and the incurson

I want to write about this morning’s article by Macharia Gaitho. We are warned about giving into the seduction of Israeli involvement into the military incursion even the practical involvement of Israeli anti-terror squads as some of the justification of the war (protecting our interior by fighting outside it) would suggest.  Kenya has had a long standing relationship with Israel, and the kind of Zionism that can be found in the US, can also be found, in less apparent degrees, within Kenyans who have read too much Bible and not enough world news.

The power relations that surround the incursion, those exacerbated by Israel’s offer for help are described in the first paragraphs of the article:

From further afield, expressions of support from the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and various countries and regional blocs, must go beyond tepid words and “put their money where their mouths are”.

To be meaningful, support must translate into actual resources. The campaign needs money, bullets and soldiers on the battlefront.

Money will not be coming to Kenya in this war, I think a huge flaw in Gaitho’s thinking above is that it fails to address the possibility that there are readings to this incursion that other countries within the ‘international community” or the power paradigms where US is lord. We are “the man” in getting in there and doing the necessary work. Not every other country is down with this. I am even surprised that Gaitho added the US to that list of participants in an international community especially after the initial comments by the US Ambassador to Kenya in the early days of the incursion.

A friend of mine was very excited about the war because the US and Ethiopia and others had failed and the death toll of the first attack (75 people dead) promised that the Kenyan military’s prospects there would be more fruitful. This is why money is being asked for here: we need cash to buy bullets but foreign soldiers, not so much. And I think people should get to know about the intricacy of the stability pursuit in Somalia by the US (and possibly others, haven’t read much on that). In the classic US intelligence-thrown-money-at clusterfuck, one finishes Jeremy Scahill’s “Blowback in Somalia” with the feeling that, tens or hundreds of millions of dollars later, no one knows if what was done was right or worth it.

And it only turns out that Israel cannot join in the fun because they have their own issues with Palestine and Lebanon and that this could turn out to be a major PR disaster. Gaitho, in an articulation that is rare for a pro-war paper like DN gesticulates:

In any case, the ambassador was totally wrong in seeing similarities between the Kenyan operation in Somalia and Israeli experiences against hostile neighbours.

Kenya’s campaign is not one of occupation. It is not an invasion of Somalia and nor is it a land-grab.

The really huge problem I’m having is why Gaitho is so resistant to Israel helping in this war. Granted, we now share a thirst for blood, one which is not as well articulated or justifiable in Kenya as it is in the right leaning sections of the Israeli population. The article, for me, reveals the masculinist side of this war, the need to prove to the rest of East Africa and the world that this is a war in which the only privity to participate is support for the aspirations of the Kenyan state and nations. That is why, for instance, there is a lot of excitement when poorer nations (poorer than the US or France) declare their support for the war or when Museveni supports the war or when AMISOM troops start collaborating with the Kenyan military in fighting al-Shabaab. The ideological bases for the war are still very much policed, one gets a feeling of this when reading the article: we must keep watch, we must make sure this war is as sexy as possible. And from the comments as well, the latest one when I was typing this out: “Mr. Macharia, we also need patriotism in media reporting. Let media houses stop reporting for the sake of reporting. Is it possible to give black out to some aspects of international politics”.

Statement Against Kenya’s Military Incursion Into Somalia

STATEMENT FROM KENYAN WRITERS AND PUBLIC INTELLECTUALS

We, the undersigned, register, in the strongest terms, our opposition to Kenya’s military incursion into Somalia.

We note that several months at minimum is required to plan a military operation that involves crossing borders. Therefore the reasons put forward by the Kenyan government for this operation are demonstrably false.

Statements from the French Government (see link below) and Medicins Sans Frontieres contradict the Kenyan Government’s allegation that Al-Shabaab is responsible for the kidnapping of Marie Dedieu and two other foreigners.

We will kill Somalis and call them Al-Shabaab. We will all feel very Kenyan indeed.

They die, so we can create a national amnesia about 350,000 internally displaced Kenyans, missing World Bank monies, missing Education Ministry funds, the ICC-Kenya trials, 2012 elections, the implementation of our new constitution.

The army will claim, as invading armies always do, that they have courageously engaged the enemy, when they have really killed innocent civilians.

Kenyans are paying already for this bout of blood-thirst. We will go on paying, for many years to come. We will pay with our taxes, our un-built schools and hospitals, our unpaid teachers, our still-jobless youth, our rapidly deteriorating security situation, our shattered relationship with our neighbours.

We do not require the death of Somalis to know who and where we are.

SIGNED: (in alphabetical order)

Nguru Karugu

Keguro Macharia

Paul Mwangi Maina

Tom Maliti

Dr. Firoze Manji

Abdulrahman Mirimo

Dr. Wambui Mwangi

Kenne Mwikya

Benjamin Wambua Ndolo

Onyango Oloo

Odhiambo Oyoko

Shailja Patel

REFERENCES:

France’s statement on the death of Dedieu:

http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/pays-zones-geo_833/somalie_383/franc.

With thanks to Shailja Patel, Wambui Mwangi and others whose thinking appears here.

Operation Linda Nchi

Sorry for the belatedness of this post, and that it doesn’t have any links.

The word “nchi” operates diversely in the current discourses on the army operation in Somalia which is ostensibly aimed at counteracting the security threat of Al-Shabab to not only Kenya’s coastline, a hub for tourism which contributes much to Kenya’s annual overall revenue but also Kenya’s interior territory. We are continually hearing about the presence of Al-Shabab members and “sympathisers” in refugee camps like Dadaab and in areas on Nairobi like Eastleigh, areas where members of various ethnic communities of Somalia and Northern Kenya are found.

Kabla ya kuendelea, ingekuwa vyema kujaribu kupeleleza maana ya neno “nchi” inavyotumiwa “nchini” katika maandishi na mazungumzo ya rejesta mbalimbali. Neno “nchi” lina maana gani, linatumiwa vipi na kwa njia gani? Katika kupa operesheni ya jeshi jina la “Linda Nchi”, serikali inataka tuchukulie operesheni hii vipi?

Whereas the definition of the Kiswahili word “taifa” is clearly, “nation” or “state” or an interplay of both, the word “nchi” has an ambiguity, I think, that enables it to be defined in a diverse set of ways, ways in which one cannot exactly, most of the time, point out. When thinking about Operation “Linda Nchi”, I find myself asking if it is really Kenya that is being protected and what this “protection” really means. “Nchi” can mean country but the ideological frameworks set up denote a mixing on territorial being and identifying and shared nationhood, a uniform nationalism in “supporting our boys” (though, I have heard, the troops sent to Somalia include both men and women but the phantasm of masculinity and the phallus in war and blood and violence and the sexual virility of men in uniform persists).

“Nchi” becomes a nation-space but, ingeniously, the whole logic of entering one’s other “nchi” to protects one’s own “nchi” does not pay attention to what meaning of “nchi” Somalis within and outside the Somali nation-space have. A while back, I came across a Somali LGBTI blog that covered issues of rights, the compatibility of homosexuality and religion and supporting each other as second generation immigrants within a foreign country. In an issue of The Hayly Telegraph, a daily literary magazine that ran during the Storymoja Hay Festival, Ellah Allfrey introduces us to Diriye Osman who brings in a queer side to Somali occupation of non-nation-spaces from a lesbian in south east London to a queer pre-adolescent in a refugee camp. Keguro writes, “I am surrounded by the dailyness of Islam. It feels nice, comforting” when he was recently in Nairobi. Visionary thinking and imagining abound in every direction.

All this is to say that I do not support militarism, it is sometimes a convenient sidestep of diplomatic channels, intellectual and public influences on thinking about security and ideologies with a certain space that impede peace and secure coexistence within another. For instance, I am continually shocked by the fact that while American and European weapons fuel Africa’s bloodiest wars and clashes, there exists strict weapon possession laws within America and Europe.

Which leads me to:

Kama sisi kweli ni “wananchi”, watu wanaoishi na wanaojenga na ambao ni nchi, ni njia zipi ambazo twaweza kutumia u-anainchi wetu katika kuimarisha hali ya nchi yetu?

Because I do not really believe in the project of defending nation-spaces without the input of those within these nation spaces and I want to think about how we can expand this input to thinking and acting. In fact, I think this operation is merely a ploy, a coercion on the part of Kenya to “do something” about the Al-Shabab threat and I continually question my role as a citizen when my right to “protection” which dangles between the nation-space I occupy and the nation-spaces that must be occupied for my “protection”. How does my identification with a singular nation-space, implied or not, function in a unilateral decision to carry out operations in another country without my express thinking or permission?

I get to finish up on this post on a day that has seen two explosions and the nerves of the nation has been deadened with paranoia, that liminal space before full swing patriotism and the unrepentant blood letting that comes soon after.

Even as the initial reasons for the military intervention unravel and we are left with a sense of raw and unsubstantiated patriotism and thirst for the Other’s blood, we have a choice on which way we can take. We can continue the military intervention, fighting a mysterious and not fully known entity that can disappear now and there only to re-emerge in the future here or we can pull out now and ensure that we have a working internal security mechanism that is sensitive to refugees (not what Rasnah Warah has been saying) and the “wananchi”, constantly bringing to the fore the humanity of all of us.

I hope not a lot of people will die as we make this choice.

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