A few days ago, our beloved President Uhuru was in London for the celebration of the “Seventieth Year of The Commonwealth”, whereby Kenya has been a member for a long time. Well, if you are wondering what this “The Common Wealth” is just like I did, it is a convergent of former British colonies organized into an association of some sort or “Chama” 😀 whose objective is and I quote … “We are committed to democracy, good governance, human rights, gender equality, and a more equitable sharing of the benefits of globalization”. So basically,that is why we had several heads of African states among others gather together in the United Kingdom not only to meet and greet “Her Majesty The Queen”👑 but also to have multilateral talks on the shared ” vision and mission” of the organization with their former “colonial master”. As such several statements and declarations were made such as the blue charter,cyber declaration and a host of others. For more details feel free to visit their website and see what it is “The Common Wealth” does at http://www.thecommonwealth.org. Actually it is quite a resourceful site and as they say we learn something new everyday,I just did. 🙂
But that is far from what this piece is all about. Rather it is what happened on the sidelines of this “The Commonwealth” Celebrations. One of the things that you will never miss out on such high powered government delegations is “the media”. As such, Uhunye as we call him back here at home,had a a chance to be interviewed by one of the most world’s renown journalist Christiane Amanpour of the unrivaled media giant CNN. I am a news person. In another life I might end up being a journalist now that in this my lifetime this seems to be nothing but a “far fetched dream”. 😀 Anyway,such is life whereby “not all dreams are really valid”. Prior to the interview being aired on our local television channels that day, it had been given “much hype” by the Presidential Media Team on Social Media. That is how I got wind of it and waited in anticipation to hear what the president had to say on various issues. Particularly, last year’s hotly contentious elections which almost seemed to threaten our coexistence as Kenyans and temporarily paralyzed the economy. The ethnic tension and animosity was palpable especially between Okuyus and Jang’os and to an extent those who were on and for the opposition side . During that time last year,I really prayed literally to God that we would not end up going the road we had been on before about almost the same time for the same reason a decade ago. And in deed it came up as a matter of discussion. One of the things I love about Uhuru, is that he is a good communicator. He comes off as a good orator,firm, very articulate and eloquent when it comes to expressing himself.
However, it is the response to the “LGBT rights” questions that has had me unsettled. In the past, Uhunye when probed about the same is on record saying it is a “non-issue”. A position he again retaliated when on set with Christiane. One of the many statements I’ve heard after this interview is that, “it is the politically correct statement he could have made” given the circumstances. Hold on a moment though,he also said he had a “personal opinion” about the same and would be free to discuss it once he is out of office. I am as curious as everyone else to know what your “personal opinion” is Mr.President when that time comes. 🙂
So why am I unsettled about this?
Let us begin with what are LGBT rights for you to understand why this did not sit in well with me. In brief, these are fundamental basic human rights for people who identify under a different gender or sexual orientation whose goal is to protect and preserve their dignity and freedom.
Therefore,for my president to say that my “human rights” are a “non issue” on such a global media platform is underwhelming to say the least. Either he is not acquainted with the challenges that LGBT people are facing here in Kenya or he is simply giving a “blind eye” to the whole subject matter. It is true there are far more important “issues” to address that beleaguer this country,but to trivialize “LGBT rights” is simply put,sad. 😥 This is because LGBT issues affect all of us whether rich or poor, employed or unemployed, young or old, big or small. We have LGBT people all around us i.e in the market place,in government organizations, in the private sector, in schools,in churches and I would not be surprised to find a few at the “State House”. 😀 They are: the matatu drivers and conductors,the bank managers,the university lecturers,the reverends,the bodaboda riders,the hawkers,the government officials,politicians,lawyers,engineers ,economists, musicians ,businessmen and women,entrepreneurs, the doctors and nurses, authors,activists, acclaimed journalists, and the list goes on and on and on.Of course all of these people …. “wako chini ya maji“.
The question then is, how do the LGBT rights affect a Country like Kenya?
Mr.President, you may or not may be aware that out of the forty nine million Kenyans whom you are the leader, unconfirmed research reports approximately estimates five million are said to be lesbians,gay,bisexual and transgender. In the city of Nairobi alone,it is estimated that there are about half a million LGBT citizens. Ponder that for a minute. But owing to the repressive laws and given that it is a taboo subject that we have refused to have a conversation around as a nation,in our schools,in our churches,in our homes the reports and research cannot be quantified. So how does that affect the well being of this Country? According to research, people who are not “free to be who they are” do not give or exploit their potential fully. They hold back from showcasing their talents and gifts for fear of isolation, discrimination, harassment,abuse among other human rights violations. In turn this affects their out put.
Sir,allow me submit to you that most of the LGBT citizens in Kenya are the youth who form a greater portion of the population. A group that you are so passionate about in helping them overcome challenges such as unemployment. What happens when their “human rights” are violated,they refuse to engage in meaningful sources of generating income. For instance,very few men are into the world of beauty and cosmetology for fear of being labelled as “gay”. As we all know,beauty is a huge industry raking in billions of shillings world wide. Ask those who are in this industry the odds they have had to surmount to at least be able to fed for their families. Why do we have fewer women matatu drivers? The prejudice towards such kind of jobs especially for women makes them shy away. It takes courage for a woman to stand up and ride a matatu or bus especially in this City without attracting unnecessary attention. I am yet to see a young woman who is a carpenter? You know what they are told if they venture into such trade, “……hizo ni biz za wasee. Hio sio story za madame“. The same goes for men who do women’s hair in salons, “…….. I think huyo chali ni shoga“.
If it is matters health, we have more and more people contracting HIV and STIs. It is not necessarily that these diseases and sicknesses have to come from the opposite sex, but there is a rise in cases of more Kenyan women and men sleeping around with people of the same sex without using protection. Hence we are in a vicious cycle of sexually transmitted infections and reinfections that is killing people quietly. What that means is, we have a sick nation. A sick nation is a poor nation.
If it is matters corruption,one of the unnecessary evils ailing Kenya,due to denial of fundamental rights for the LGBT people they end up perpetuating this evil. How? If a person is caught engaging in “gay activities” they are more likely to bribe the police as a way out. Stories are their in the public domain in this regard.
I could go on and on about how LGBT issues affect us as Kenyans. I just scratched the surface. But for now,let me leave it there.
“Good health services provision and Employment for the Youth ” are some of the key deliverables that your administration seeks to achieve in this your last remaining term. But how do you achieve that without addressing the issues that affect the people involved who partly also include LGBT citizens.
As such Mr. President, are these matters “a non-issue“!
A story is told of an ostrich who was feeding in the forest. Suddenly, a fire broke out and all other animals started running helter skelter looking for a place of refuge. The ostrich looked up,saw the fire and smoke,asked the others what was going on. But instead of running he decided to hide his head in the sad with a hope that the fire would not burn her up. Instead she was burned to death.The more ” LGBT Rights” keep being pushed and shoved away as matters of “no importance”, sooner than later we will have no one to blame than ourselves.It is just a matter of time.
Consequently,what was my expectation of my president in respect to that question as posed by Christiane. I appreciate that he is well informed on history, culture and religion and the role they play in shaping opinions,habits and lifestyles of a people. But that does not negate his responsibility as a leader of a fast developing country of protecting and promoting the human rights of an LGBT person. In as much as it is a thorny issue to discuss at such a level and at this time, I honestly think he could have done better as a leader and as person in broaching the subject matter.
Gay rights are human rights and they are very IMPORTANT.