Monday, 21 November 2011


A poco più di un anno dalle elezioni presidenziali che avranno luogo a dicembre 2012, il Kenya si trova coinvolto ora in una delicata operazione militare in Somalia, più semplicemente il Kenya è in guerra.  Il governo Keniota giustifica questa invasione adducendo a motivi di sicurezza, dopo il rapimento di alcuni turisti stranieri e il massiccio flusso di richiedenti asilo che passano il confine. Ma le ragioni vanno cercate altrove. Non è un caso che l'invasione sia avvenuta immediatamente dopo l'invio di truppe americane in Uganda. Gli Stati Uniti negano qualsiasi compartecipazione a questa operazione in Somalia, ciononostante la appoggiano incondizionatamente.
Personalmente ricordo che già tredici anni fa quando vivevo in Kenya il rischio di atti di banditismo e rapimento ai danni di turisti era una realtà di fatto. Ho percorso una infinità di volte il tratto di strada Mombasa/Motondoni-Lamu sulle linee bus Tawfiq, Akamba, Coast Line, e a bordo viaggiavamo sempre con uno o due soldati armati di AK47. Gli attacchi ai bus di turisti erano una minaccia possibile, reale allora come oggi senza troppe differenze.Il fatto che il Kenya abbia intrapreso una operazione bellica in nome della sicurezza sa tanto di americano....Al shabaab promette di rafforzarsi e vendicarsi. Una delle voci che condannano fermamente l'invasione è la scrittrice, potessa e attivista keniota Philo IKonya che oltre a proporci uno spaccato del Kenya oggi, ci invita a condividere la sua complessa vicenda umana di artista e attivista impegnata nella difesa della libertà di espressione, oggi in esilio in Norvegia.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA - When did you start writing and what does it mean writing for you?
PHILO IKONYA - It was early in school. I loved reading during hot afternoons. I loved to hand in my compositions and wait for the teacher’s reaction. It was always great! Something happened later. I discovered that there were more ‘universes’in writing . That writing did not just happen. I was then in my late teens and early twenties that I felt a serious urge to make writing a habit. I told a friend. She happened to tell another friend. It was interesting because then an old lady who used to come to the school where I was teaching brought me a little pamphlet. It was about acquiring the ‘Habit of Writing’. The little pamphlet is still with me. It is brown and very thin in pages but so helpful. The giver has moved on to another life and the mediator friend would not talk much to me now because I left the stage on which we were acting together then. I am putting it metaphorically there... I wanted to change the world and I gave my life to a church cause for 15 years including the days just after my ‘A’ Levels when the world of freedom as many knew it then threw open its doors. I was looking for something and I still am. Writing to me then means searching and discovering myself ... and learning. But then since I sat in a village and dreamed of changing the world.. writing means to me an occasional loud shout about the beauty I see and the struggle to keep seeing it. It also means living in a very secure and special place where I breathe dreams. Writing means life.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA - A part of being a writer you are also a blogger and a non violent activist. In the past and still nowadays in many parts of the world writing has been the cradle of non violent movements to fight for human rights, today how is considered writing as an instrument of fight, by young Kenyans?
PHILO IKONYA- You are right. Young Kenyans are speaking for themselves in their own spoken words and writing. I shared a day on which we remembered poet Mahmoud Darwish of Palestine in Nairobi as PEN Kenya following an ardent call by poet Shailja Patel of Kenya. Shailja Patel motivated me and gave much time and thought to the revival of PEN Kenya in 2008. She does not like me to say that. Wangui Wa Goro living in exile for many years since the Moi era contributed to this fire and growth. Khainga O’kwemba and poet Jacob Oketch worked on that too. At the Mahmoud Darwish memorial which we did as part of a global commemoration by the Berlin Arts Festival, it was amazing to hear young women from hardship areas of Nairobi read Martin Luther King Jr’s speech ‘I have a dream’ in their mother tongues. On that day, an unwritten book was read in Nairobi. It was written in the ink of justice and in our hearts it was published. Here I quote poet and storyteller Jacob Oketch with his poetic licence respected... for see Nairobi is a land... : “Nairobi is a land of opportunities. But Kenyan society doesn’t believe in art and artists are used to shying away. They should sensitize themselves to the fact that they are key decision makers.Jacob taught me to say and to write ‘Nyasaye nyakalaga!’ which means God of the universe or close to that in a Kenyan language we now share! I like it. Kenya’s literary fire was lit early and it burned bright in the language of resistance right from colonial times the songs that Harry Thuku and others such as Mekatilili Wa Menza sang in resistance to colonial rule to songs for freedom during the Mau Mau struggle in the sixties. Resistance is not hidden in poetry. It blazes. It can do to society what Mohammed Bouazizi did to his body. Set us on a fire you cannot put out. We know that Sauti ya Dhiki by Abdulatif Abdalla gave Kenyatta sleepless nights. It was a book of poems. This struggle is alive today in slam poetry. We must never forget the power of poetry to bring us to see so many dimensions and move us to action.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA - You have been away from Kenya exiled because threatened, imprisoned and persecuted for your non violent actions and your writing. Can we say that Kenya is still a “police state” which persecute and ban its own intellectuals and limit freedom of expression?
PHILO IKONYA - I cannot tell you about Kenya tomorrow. The taste of the pudding is in the eating. Today I can tell you that our collective consciousness needs a knock. I know that in the recent past, strange things happened. We go on as if nothing has happened. People disappeared. We carry on. A media Bill was signed and now is not law since the new constitution but we have never climbed the mountain of free press full heartedly. It has always been with a nostalgic turning of the head to lack of freedom even when it was not in street battles with police swooping publications in the 90s. We must learn to be free and to enjoy freedom.
In the recent past which my senses have not forgotten, I was persecuted for my voice, action and writing, a certain kind of continuation and ceaseless moving that people in power did not like. Someone very close to me did not like it either but I was not made to be loved by all nor for each of my actions or thoughts to be comfortable for me and others. They disliked the sack am wearing in the photo attached. Why dislike a sack? I started wearing it in protest on Kenyan streets when Kenya was burning after Mwai Kibaki claimed election victory in Dec. 2007. By the way, you need to tell Expression Today, a Kenyan ‘freedom’publication that I still wear it. Indeed one day I met the Crown Prince of Norway when I was in it. It was unexpected. When I read in public gatherings too I sometimes wear it. I do so whenever I feel I need strength and to sit in my memories for sometime. To sink in them. Believe me it gives me strength. This is my material memory and that is it. It is something peaceful and humble, good to my touch and feel. Good to my eyes. It does speak resistance. I tell you to tell them because I am no stranger to them. They have my online contacts as does the Daily Nation. I worked with them all in the past. They can reach me when they want to write about me not write about me and then reach me. When I see the red berrets of the Kenyan military on the other hand, the police and some politicians, I feel sick… I feel sick. Look what they did. I am not exaggerating. Last time I had to escort some young one to the police here and the police changed their uniforms which are also blue.. notice the policeman dragging me was in blue in 2009. I simply could not relate that this is a different country and these are very different people. I hardly want to see uniformed adults now. This is so since this happened...
PEN Kenya did not cow from stating that it was wrong that Kenyans could not easily buy Michela Wrong’s book, It is our turn to eat, in Kenyan bookshops. It was a natural reaction of strong resistance to signs of the return of fear. I guess this was unfavorable for those who had intimidated bookshops not to buy the book. Stemming from this note.... we got copies of the book. We read it in public audiences which we unlike other groups advertised and made a big fuss about in Kisumu, Mombasa and Nairobi. We were not going to play their game of silencing voices where they are needed most – in anti corruption!
Threats, imprisonment and persecution? What is the matter with you? Kenya has moved up from all that kind of thing you know. It is an island of peace. Do you now know that all these things do not happen to people like Philo? A saying in my mother tongue...”Women’s words are believed after a night” (read a century). What did she write, some ask? So it is that women writers who go into exile even Prof. Martha Kuwee Kumsa of Ethiopia, Micere Mugo and Wangui Wa Goro of Kenya, and many of Zimbabwe are not heard of as much as the male writers. It was only last month that a gentleman told me how they ‘made Kumsa into someone’. She was a journalist at home n the seventies before ‘Red Terror’ began! The poem, I was referring to... . The day we held up those words for about ten minutes ready to read them to the Board of the Kenya Anti Corruption Office urging that they be firm and put down the Mwai Kibaki’s insistence to re-hire Ringera, the boss of Anti corruption then, we slept in the cells. It was a busy night in the cells. It was also the day that ex Commissioner of Police Hussein Ali (A military general) was given a new job as Post Master General. That by the way meant that many innocent women and Kenyans were arrested that night, just in case. That night every now and then a lorry brought them in. I remember the woman form Kibera who came in and after overcoming the initial shock said to us “ I was only going to buy cooked maize and beans to eat in the morning for breakfast. I turned the corner and I saw someone take my hand and I was soon up on the lorry. “ I feel pity even today. This is the colonial mentality at work.. Kenyan police is an old relic not until the police force changes but until Kenyans change and refuse to take certain things as a nation. Your earlier question was is Kenyaa police state? In the lives of many Kenyans, today in any town and village, there is a police state. Ask them in Kiambu where I come from.
The charges preferred against me and Odipo were defective and nonsensical... and the magistrate after the intervention of the brave lawyer for human rights activists Mbugua Mureithi, indeed agreed that there could be no illegal assembly formed by two people. It was the second time I was being arrested with one person and being charged with illegal assembly. At least the first time we were nine.. but two? The law of Kenya said then they should be at least three people and above..
If you ask Kenya and many in Kenya they will say Kenya is a free country. Many will say that it is not a police state. One night I did answer the phone at about 3am and I was well armed with words as a poet should be.. I really told them off.. . they were in the habit of calling me during the wee hours of the morning and at the time I went to school to drop my child and odd hours here and there. This went on for months, from April 2008. Many people I consulted told me weird things like that am beautiful as if my father never told me that.. they thought it was news? This should have alarmed anybody but we in civil society had been hard pressed to take it as normal almost. This is part of what a police state is especially in electronic times. This is not normal. The disappeared of Kenya during Mwai Kibaki’s tenure must be answered for too! You cannot dent freedom and justice like that and then stretch out your hand and boast economic growth. We must right our wrongs before we can say stability is here in Kenya.
We have a new constitution since 2010 August and it guarantees our various rights. Some forget that to write and to pass a constitution means the beginning of implementation and its completion too. What we also need to remember is that there was a very dark eclipse between 2007 and 2010. The arrests especially the one of 18. 2. 2009 no doubt left me traumatized. That was in the public domain. Why did the Police Commissioner summon someone known to our family who then came directly for my neck? What was privately done to some of us is what many will never know. It changed my life completely. A wedge was driven right through me. Today when I thought about it earlier for another reason, I had to find a way of stemming my anger and pain. It was not my choice to be in a Nordic country and it will never be accepted by me as mine. I am in exile because things got more bitter than bile for me. I remember my distinct feeling that I was being thrown up or down..,like bad food that does not sit in the stomach. I find it hard to believe that a senior person in the police (someone related to us) could have been used so callously but that is the way it is. What horrifies me is the way this person made me a subject of mockery and ridicule and never stopped to date. That engagement which included writing and visibility of a real face of conviction was a threat. So let those who would engage in their pettiness. Am I not a failed politician? Failed? I set out to move young Kenyans in 2001 in a by election and the consequent election of 2002 to go out and take positions in local councils governance before many did. It was the end of a millennium, the return of multi-party and it was time for women and youth to take a political stand. I inspired many to take part in governance rather than sit aside and criticize. I succeeded. Why can I not go home right now and test my own safety in practice? I want to go there but there are two warrants of arrest.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA- To your experience in exile how does the concept of identity change being away from home?
PHILO IKONYA - Identity of the person maybe threatened. A sense of alienation and meaninglessness can hit one hard. It depends on each individual. However, those who know this, like some writers whom I will not mention talk to me and write. One needs a voice that calls into one’s own depth. That is not always easy to find. I reach to some when I need to. They are there for me. It is a time of so much on the mind. One needs to take care. People do not realize what loss of land and family … and a deep sense of betrayal could breed in one and it does not leave behind its contrast.. that others gave even their lives and so one should not be protected for too long. This morning I read some notes I talk about Thomas Mann in one discussion about exile. For many writers it has ended in suicide. But everyday I paint an orange sunrise into my sky.. . sometimes literally so with my little brushes and paints. It is necessary. We live in our memory. I carry all that Afrika within me like a mother with a womb of life. When memory bears pain, one can escape in many ways. But mine is to keep focused on the struggle for human rights everywhere I am. I and others I meet here in the same experience are dissidents. The mind remains alert. We say what we see. We are not here to pay courtesy calls or fundraise. Many writers are hosted in Norway. Mine is to embrace Ubuntu even more and keep telling people that Afrika sends her light to the world. This excites me.. all of a sudden, regardless. Many still see only darkness and we have to tell them there is more.
VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA - In 2005 Binyavanga Wainaina wrote an interesting article on How to write about Africa, which was ironically focusing on all the kind of stereotypes on Africa and Africans still alive outside the Continent and more recently writer Tsitsi Dangbarenga said she had decided to return to Zimbabwe cause she was tired to be considered in Europe as a second class person. Being travelling out of Africa and living now in Norway, did you percept these stereotypes and how can Africa and Africans get rid of them?
PHILO IKONYA- The world is in real danger of keeping on talking about stereotypes where these have actually become credos. It is a strange thing that so many years on we are not learning. Recently Jimmy Carter on Intelligence 2 BBC spoke about racism. Obama unveiled the next day, the huge sculpture.. of Martin Luther King JR. it says The Stone of HOPE. We are being forced to live in hope when the world should have realized long ago that the urgency of saying no to racism is greater than that of saving the Euro in this economic crisis now on. It is greater than revamping an economy. Europe today makes one remember all the time that Afrika is full of light. The light of humane ways. I will not idealise as happens to many when far away… Right now we are also stereotyping in Kenya. There is a real want of leadership in this direction.
What can Africans do about negative stereotyping? Not do it themselves. Be alert and know their history. I heard in a workshop on diversity here last week that the majority of people who are discriminated against are never even aware that they are discriminated. Here people say racism is not direct. I find it very direct. It cannot be coincidence so often that five or six people are walking up a path and am jogging down.. or walking where I can and none of them move to make way. Well, it might be just their way but who is not aware that body language communicates and we cannot take things for granted. It cannot be by chance that they stand around a money machine and not move when one comes. This should be as private as a loo my goodness! This acting as if one is not there until summer comes again (then maybe) is just allowing oneself to be crude and this is in the eyes of another race as it will hardly happen with others is discrimination. People need to be reminded daily that just like in the days of Rosa Parks racism is seen very clearly in means of transport and in language. I have enough to write my first article in Norwegian on that. The burden of getting rid of racism should not be on the one who feels they are discriminated. No. It is the perpetuator no matter what color that must act to right things. But if you ask me as an African what I do.. is that I do not allow that space to function. I do it peacefully most of the times but assertively if I must when faced with what I feel is improper, I say it and if I have facts I report it. All should do that. Wherever we are, we are all taxpayers. Have discussions with authorities about where you are. Blog. Put incidents on facebook. Tell persons what discrimination you endure. Demonstrate. Don’t try to hit back in the same language. It does not work that way. But really I dislike this topic.. I thought my ancestors did enough for this. I have no time to waste and never thought I would be discussing racism with my son. All those who discriminate against the other are backward!

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA- How is the socio political situation of Kenya one year before elections?
PHILO IKONYA- We are in the eve of our election 2012. The fabric of the nation is weak. Kenya says she is fighting Al Shabaab. The possibility of real conflict in the country is not to be overlooked. Only today, I drafted a statement in which PEN Kenya is warning that the language of violence… calling those we perceive as different cockroaches, rats, and snakes is rampant against the Somalis today. Tomorrow it will be against anyone we do not like. I am not being pessimistic but I would like us to be proactive. I saw people casting huge stones at a politician whom they would not like to support. It made me shudder to see this. 2007 post stealing of the votes violence came back to me. I want us to be more rational in spite of everything. We must decide to stand up for peace. It appears that the ICC may send summonses to the people we call the Ocampo Six.. we need mature leadership and voices that are not speaking about peace and the poor only because they want top offices! I am not very sure we are stepping in the right direction and this is not what I would have hoped to be saying at this time. We hope the winds change! Kenya must follow the 2010 constitution for peace to prevail. The ethnic card is still very strong. We have not made use of Agenda Four completely. We are in need of a leadership that unites us and is wise and prudent regarding our neighbours.
"Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor, is planning to ask the judges at The Hague to issue a summons, not an arrest warrant. That would allow the accused to turn themselves in and spare Kenya, at least initially, the awkwardness of having to hand over its political elite. Mr. Moreno-Ocampo has also implicated leaders from both sides, the government and the opposition, a decision many Kenyan observers say could be crucial in influencing what happens next — peace or more bloodshed."

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA - In your several articles you analyze the connection between poverty and violence, corruption and abuses, how to eradicate these cancers out of the Kenyan society?
PHILO IKONYA- We need something very simple. People in leadership and that is not only political but media included and other sectors revere truth and justice and do what they say. Greed is still killing Kenya as JM Kariuki told Kenyatta in the 70s. Eradication of these vices is not impossible. Nyerere lived in our neighbourhood in our days. True that Tanzanians are still working to be financially outstanding but we rely much on trade with the region.. and they are not begging for values. It is possible for the people to lead the elected leaders in this direction by checking their excesses and refusing to tolerate them. In many ways we just plunder and steal from our own who starve and die. We do not exact justice in our delivery of services. Large amounts of money have been paid form taxpayers money to the World Bank in recent days to make up for money that was just simply stolen. People need not call themselves all sorts of names and religions but should first just stand up and be counted as humans who stand for truth and justice.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA - How is Kenyan Youth nowadays related to human right awareness and what is its potential in changing the country for the better? In terms of practical actions, what does it mean to “take our own personal responsibility” in driving the change needed in Kenya?
PHILO IKONYA- Kenyan youth is alert especially in places where injustice stares at them daily.. but then again human rights have been belittled from the top. There are key people who are unwilling to understand these are human rights, inalienable and indivisible. That eternal vigilance is the price we must pay for freedom. I fully believe in consciousness. People must realize deep in them that this is their cause and it is their duty. That they cannot give in to oppression. That freedom goes with responsibility and it is like a tree planted in our intestines and whose branches and leaves are what we say and do. We must listen ... listening is like watering that tree.. it is easily a tree of life, not death. To take responsibility means to answer to the situation each one with a burning passion. To know why we are voting and for who and with reasons. It means to lead the people who see themselves as leaders by telling them the truth. The times for sitting around powerful people and scratching their backs for appointments is over. State House is not anybody’s traditional hut.. or thingira.. it is Kenya’s. I am not sure that we have curbed presidential powers enough.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA- You say individuals can drive the change, do you think people in Kenya now have the power to drive this change through voting in the next elections? How to “cancel“tribalism and corruption?
PHILO IKONYA- Oops.. where did I say this? I think you have read Kenya, will you marry me? and Leading the Night? Yes they do. Tribalism is something one can have power over as an individual. However, during elections money is used to make certain that people think in a different way. But yes, this is not trivia. Look at what one Mohammed Bouazizi who never even had a chance to go school properly (contrary to what media reported) look at what his consciousness did forTunisia. I do not like it that he died but sometimes it is only such pain that speaks.
VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA - You have been president of Kenyan PEN, can you figure out how is the literary scene in Kenya , which are the most talented authors you feel to suggest?
PHILO IKONYA - I am not qualified to do this here. This is because I have not read everything that has been published. I was once a judge for the Jomo Kenyatta Literary Prize and we worked through differences on who should have won. I think rather that the lesson for writers should be that there are many who do wonderful work and are unknown. That as long as they beat their own targets they are doing well. That hierarchy over who is good and not so good is being beaten by changes in technology. That does not mean shoddy work is published but that it is possible to be out there by dint of hard work and direct investment like the one a film maker parts with. In suggesting good writers we would have to be looking at different writers as groups. Allow me to be sloppy here then? You will find some people who will answer that question very fast internationally because they have read this or that the other day.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA - In Kenya as well as in South Africa there are now several spoken word artists, new voices of the slums and townships , what do you think about their performances and their commitment in socio political issues?
PHILO IKONYA - Great. Great. Great. Afrika’s (remember the K for me) power of oracy should be considered seriously... and there ought to be more of these doing it in their mother tongues and getting published. We have allowed some languages to be channels of only expressing basic things. I long for the time each existing group of speakers of a languages we do not understand.. say like Kuhane of Zambia and Yoruba of Nigeria ( and it could be any language) discuss the ideas of Diawara Manthia author of In Search of Africa and of Wole Soyinka in their mother tongues! I wonder what the speakers of Giriama for example would say if they read “How to write about Africa” by Binyavanga Wainana in their mother tongue. We writers discuss Afrika and that is welcome. But there is the question of whether we discuss it in a language and in concepts that our local tongues can deal with. I mean once I tried to explain a metaphysical concept to my mother as she tended to beans in our farm. It was in our language and it was about form and substance. My Mother who is a very intelligent woman and my first teacher told me not to be thinking so hard because if I did that I would probably go mad! Haaaaa hahahah! for all our seriousness.. .but of course my son could ask the opposite question. .. like, ‘Why are you trying to tell me something that is sounding so like Greek or Latin.. just listen to my rap.. or the other way.. .. how on earth do you not know the root of the word Xenophobia and its suffix and meaning?’
He could demand that I explain ‘substance’ and ‘form’ quickly in Sheng or Kiswahili. Of course I could in English... but waaaa, should he ask for it in Kiswahili? I have a little essay book am writing in Kiswahili called Xeno na nduguye Phobia. It has been on my mind for a while now.

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA - I had the chance living in Kenya to live in the slums, Jericho, Uhuru, Kiambio, Kibera and to meet lots of talented people and brilliant young minds. When I go in Europe to meet readers and students, they all think that slums are just the cradle of crimes, poverty, desperation and loss while there is a lot to discover under the surface. What will be the best way for these talents to raise their voice and open other people’s mind?
PHILO IKONYA - Our use of words is important. We (the world) created the image of a slum and called it so. Last week I was on skype with a young man Ben Ooko who runs Amani Kibera from a library here in Lambertsetter. It was marvelous. We spoke about peace in his area and how girls and boys were using his little library called Amani Kibera. NO stereotypes of course but one could see the extreme poverty of kids playing in open gutters... but how beautiful the library there. And who said brilliance is found in rich suburbs only? On the contrary people who live in challenged regions of our cities or other cities must be very creative just to get by a day. I remember the garbage heap at Dandora however. And it is a shame that come election time so many people cheat that they will clean the garbage up and shine the place like a golden trophy only to vanish after elections. I also remember visiting Nicholas You, a Japanese man at Habitat in 2001 and he told me that Habitat received little support to change these areas. I remember as if it were yesterday that in an office at UN there were little poems and lines written by children from Kibera. It was very subtle. It was about how she saw what we called their shack as a home. It was complex human thinking which you find everywhere like among Americans who are told to relocate because typhoon Irene is sweeping in and they refuse and stay put or go and hide in the basement. Come on youth of the world.. redefine things! Challenge the world. Do not take everything you hear like a cold potato and eat it! Provide hot stuff! Do the unexpected. Old people who do this remain young!

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA- Thomas Sankara said that “There is no true social revolution without the liberation of women” Kenya has recently lost two great women, W. Maathai and Wambui Otieno, but there are still lots of women committed in kenyan socio political life. This year nobel peace prize was given to two African women. By the way when are women going to be fully accepted in power seats, in a patriarchal society like Kenya?
PHILO IKONYA - The loss was devastating. It still is. But there are signs that these powerful women have left a legacy of their spirit and woman young and old and men still drink of their wisdom. When the men do this more. .. the boys too, we shall say goodbye to patriarchy. That is easier said than done. Men like Sankara are few.. women have to liberate themselves... there is no father Christmas coming.. and all that whilst often taking ridicule and being rubbished ... but never stopping. Even these so called advanced nations are still not settled on these issues. One thing, we all need to sit up and think about is that it is about all of us. If we dare -and you told me this before about racism and our writer Tsisi ... remember that question of stereotype- discriminate at any level all the other discriminations will remain firmer. In other words if you are racist do not even talk about the status of women. Do humanity a favour, stop hypocrisy. If you believe and or show arrogance or make others perceive you as superior be sure that your children in the future will suffer oppression somehow ... We are in this together. Be sure that the oppressed will find someone to oppress it is like that with children of all races. They copy what they find we do no matter how smart and different they say their generation is . ‘Monkey see, monkey do.’

VALENTINA ACAVA MMAKA - What do you think about the role on NGO’s and Associations acting in Kenya?
PHILO IKONYA - All I can say is whoever comes together to serve, let it be to really serve and be the voice of ordinary people. NGOS. Deal with many things. Education, microfinance... I say sharpen your focus, take things in your stride and go on despite criticism if you are not stealing from the people. Do your work. Associations and NGOs should respect freedom and human rights. They are not to be pocketed. There is a bitter pil to swallow. Before our country fell back into incredible tribalism, our universities did ... women associations and NGOS were tribally split. Let us agree to be honest for healing. We are divided whenever there is money and the possibility of resources coming in... even when they are so little. Sometimes donors are not innocent. With a better distribution of resources many of our problems would be over.
You cannot steal form Afrika and then introduce all manner of helpers out of poverty that is why many people question aid to Afrika, and sometimes provocatively, and that is in order for it makes us think more, and hopefully that will bring change too!

It loosens tangles of injustice with questions,
My freedom comb takes each year and wombs out details,
It caresses my long hair and keeps my memory.
My Freedom comb, combs out dry pains in my sinews.
This comb of grace and tunes and power.

My freedom comb is mine, it knows me woman.
It sings my hair all day long, it tells me to keep it natural.
It plays my music in my breasts and in my heart it keeps watch.
My freedom comb is strong and long and lean at the same time.
It does not worry about my shape and fashion magazines,
this freedom comb is a black rainbow spectacular like yours.
It gives me another palm plus my own I have a trio.
You know I work from dawn, hair is only so grown.

My freedom comb fits in my hair and head and heart and purse.
It brings me air and hair and flair and is not a liar.
My freedom comb is hope in the distance of exile,
Hope in the continuity of ancestry, my crown of wisdom.
It will shine, this freedom comb of mine.
This comb of grace and tunes and power,
in a woman’s hand this comb of the shape of Africa.
this comb will comb our humanity, this comb!

It combs my afro hair and respects my lovelocks,
It calms my nerves massaging my roots, it is firm.
In the hands of a wombman my comb is strength,
In the hands of a woman a machete makes food.
In the hands of a woman wood is kind and
incenses when it burns.
This comb in the shape of the body of a woman.
Visceral matters and mucous give life to the earth.
Comb beyond the pain of bombs,
look at it as it tombs out sin news!

And it never stops asking questions as it parts the hair,
you know the maps of massage it makes there are sighing,
what happened at Gleneagles? How long will debt kill my hair?
What happens in G8 and other meetings, how often can Afrikans
live to window dance?
How long, the cry and promises that never
come true?
hEy U,
how can your best friends in Afrika,
be human rights abusing dic tators?
America, your interests always with Interest?


You ask me why my canoe is so narrow
And why my oar of a revolution is
Shaped like a bat and long like a story.
I remind you i made it from a little pencil
And the oars from the parts that remained,
after you burned my house in flames.

It takes me far. It takes me far. It takes me..
I row, I row, I row, I row,
row, row , row , row and bat. Here it is:
My boat of abc?deÑ@?fghij??!*?
æ&£öð®?¿???!kal and finally å and ø©
The seas of alpha bets are many
but they are one in deep meaning, free.

I will be back in a tiny pencil canoe
I know I will, with a song so long for an oar,
and a roar that hoars till the rain falls.
I will be back with wider blocks
A Push kin movement smiling and still raving
back in search of the free word, hurrah!
No group, no border, no familiar threats
no class can hold me.
No, river.
No tribu tary,
Unstoppable I am.
Hurrah again!
You will be heard saying hipp! hipp!
and us, Hurrah! Hurrah, hurrah, hurraaaa!


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