Archive for July, 2006

bear your soul

”my dear friend,
bear your soul
bleed the blood
root of your pain

you have nothing but to gain
a heart
that is whole..” 

So read the verse,
And so I did.


For the first time in my entire life,
I got up strolled to the great wall that surrounds my psyche
and unlocked the chains that bind the gates

I switched off the electric fences that I had built around that wall
and sent the Dobermans off to their kennels.

It was unplanned,

it was done on a whim.  

I opened the huge gates that keep my psyche safe from harm
and looked out at the world beyond.
The world of glaring truth and displays of weakness.
The world of showing need and want and deficiencies. 

I ventured into this world and I bore my soul.

As unplanned things go, it went quickly.

I started bearing my soul, unclothing it and exposing its delicate skin
to the glare of truth
in supplication.

Down to the very under garments of this exposition,
I went and before long, I stood there.  


And panting in the realisation of my actions,
I looked around to see whether my exposition has
wrought the freedom and liberation that the saying,
“the truth shall set you free”

All I saw were warts.
And developing blisters.

And soon, I moved back into my wall.

But I cannot close the gates, for I have been
And the weakness has been seen.
And my need.
And my want.

I have borne my soul and now,
Now my heart is filled with need all the greater and
My soul bleeds with despair and forlorn hope

I put no thought to it
And I know that if I had
the wisdom bourne of the past would have whispered,
whispered the lessons that only experience can teach

stay put,
stay quiet,
stay safe

had i put thought into it then my soul,
my soul would be whole and safe and wondering
yes, wondering
but it would be safe

Bear your soul, so said the verse
And I did.

What have I done?


Digital Essay
Nairobi, Kenya

“Remember, remember the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot, I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason be forgot. but what of the man? I know his name was Guy Fawkes and i know that in 1605 he intended to blow up the houses of Parliament, but who was he really? What was he like? We’re told to remember the idea not the man for the man can fail, he can be caught, he can be killed and forgoten, but 400 years later, the idea can still shape the world…”

So begins the movie, V for vendetta, one that I was reluctant to watch but that now has come to the fore of the MUST WATCH list of movies in my view. It is a movie about an idea, one that must be protected at all costs.

But some history first. From the Dictionary of Historical Allusions and Eponyms by Auchter I learn the following:

In English slang as we speak it today, the word GUY has been completely severed from its origins, which were somewhat sinister. It derives from Guy Fawkes (1570-1606), an English Catholic living in an age when being Catholic was hazardous to one’s health. Fawke’s religious zeal prompted him to leave England and seek adventure on the Continent, where he joined the Spanish army and fought against Protestants in the Netherlands.

Meanwhile in England, James I took the throne, amid hopes from English Catholics that he would rescind some of the more punitive anti-Catholic legislation. Parliament as a whole did not share the king’s interest in greater religious toleration. Since Parliament held the purse strings, James, who was always in desperate need of funds, was forced to compromise his ideals. The maxim that fanatic persecution breeds fanatic retaliation proved to be true, and in 1605 a group of militant Catholics devised a scheme to assassinate the king, the queen, and the entire Parliament. The conspirators felt that they needed a man with military training to mastermind the plan, and Guy Fawkes was persuaded to return to England to assist the plotters. The idea was to pack a tunnel underneath Parliament with gunpowder and ignite it on November 5 1605, when the king was scheduled to open Parliament. Most of the important Protestant leaders of the country would be present at this grand ceremony. On the eve of the scheduled day the tunnel was loaded with 36 barrels of gunpowder, with Fawkes standing guard.

One of the conspirators, Francis Tresham, had warned his brother-in-law, Lord Monteagle, not to attend Parliament on November 5, and Monteagle had relayed the information to the authorities. At 2:00 A.M., Fawkes was arrested. Under torture he revealed the names of his fellow conspirators, all of whom were arrested and sentenced to death. Public outrage over the attempt on the king’s life, combined with anti-Catholic hysteria, guaranteed that the execution of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators would draw huge crowds. Grotesque effigies of Guy Fawkes were paraded through the streets and ritualistically tortured and burned. The condemned suffered the traditional death of traitors: they were carried through the streets, hanged, cut down while still living, disemboweled, and quartered.

Parliament subsequently declared November 5 “a holiday forever in thankfulness to God for our deliverance and detestation of the Papists.” It is still celebrated in England, and grotesquely garbed effigies are burned in conjunction with a huge fireworks display. Other effigies of unpopular persons have been traditionally displayed during Guy Fawkes Day, and by extension they were also called ‘guys.’ In England, the word ‘guy’ gradually came to mean any man of gaudy, obnoxious appearance. By the 1840s the word had crossed the Atlantic to the United States, but it then lost its negative association.

According to wikipedia, Papists is a term that is today used to refer to Roman Catholics. It was coined during the English Reformation to indicate one who believed in Papal primacy over all Christians and was popular Anglican slur.

That notion made me sit up.

Is this to say that to date, children go up and down streets for days before November the fifth, asking for money for them to buy fireworks, so that the Nation of England can celebrate a day on which their Parliament was delivered from destruction by Papists, who seeked religious tolerance, and that they commemorate every year their detestation of Roman Catholics?

Are the English people aware of this?

Well, back to the movie at hand – V for Vendetta. The movie is based in England and it seems to be about some important perspectives. Here’s a quote that for me the whole movie is about:

“…while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning and for those who will listen the enunciation of truth…”

Then the speaker, V, remembers the guy, the original guy, Guy Fawkes.

“More than four hundred years ago, a great citizen seeked to embed the fifth of November forever in out memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice and freedom are more than words. They are perspectives.”

Can more be said?

Watch the movie. Lets talk. Remember the original reason for November 5th in England everytime you say the word Guy, though. Religious Tolerance and Fairness and Justice are not mere notions to be discussed on blogs and television and political podiums. They are necessities to life.

Nimekua nikiwaza kwamba hii lugha yetu pengine imedidimia kiasi kwamba hakuna atakae ijibu blogi hii. Aghalabu ni kwamba kiswahili sanifu hakizungumzwi tena humu nchini na hata nadra zaidi huko ulaya.

Nivipi hivi sisi wana-nyayo tumekipuuza kiswahili kama ambae hatukukisoma? Katika kazi yangu nimeona biashara kadhaa ambazo nina maono kwamba ni biashara za kesho. Kunazo zile za kusukumiza kazi, yaani outsourcing. Ukiwatafuta warembo wakuzungumza kimombo kutokea puani wapo wengi humu nchini na bila shaka biashara yako ya kusukumiza itafana hasaa ikiwa ni ya simu kutoka marekani na uingereza.

kiswahili twakiweza tena au tumekitupa?

nakumbuka nikiwa mchanga kulikua na wimbo kwenye runinga, ulioanzisha kipindi fulani cha watoto wa shule za msingi. wimbo wenyewe ulikua “kiswahili kitukuzwe, kwani lugha ya taifa…”

je, tufutilie mbali lugha hii au tuijenge?

Amenipa Juju!

Ah, who would have thought that I would have to face these issues, today? After all these years of being decidedly single and unwilling to mingle that way. All these years of being the the third leg, who would have thought that the predominant thought in my my mind would so often be about a “she” or “her”?

Maajabu haya! Amenipa juju, huyu! Mimi mganga na yeye amenigangua! But perhaps I’d better begin at the starting – er… start at the beginning so that you follow what this tirade is all about.

When I saw her, it had been one of those days, kazi mingi, siasa mbaya and I was dog tired. I had just come from an eight hour flight straight into an eight hour day at the office without gracing my residence and I was bushed. I decided to pass by the supermarket near my office to buy the everyday things that I would need for dinner – gingernut crackers or something, milk or something just stuff to nibble on before i fell asleep.

Ah, yes, I also needed some batteries or something of the sort. the supermarket didn’t seem to have them so i decided to top by the customer service counter. Guess who’s there? Ya. She’s decked out in a white top under a crotcheted sweater that flows to mid-thigh and a maroon – well, it might have been burgandy or some other funny shade of red, ask her. I’m a guy – we have limited technicolor. Lime is light green, keep it simple.

Now the thing about it is that I knew her from a long time ago when we were kids. And those days, I would never have said one word to her. i would have walked over to that counter saw her and after opening my mouth like a fish a couple of times, ran away quickly into the loo to kick myself for having ran.

“I know you!” I exclaimed and it took her a moment – I now look like a middle aged Morgan Freeman, only a little bulgy in some places, no airport thank heavens – but she eventually placed me. “We went to school together, right?”

I don’t blame her. Those days I was a timid, lonely kid who was not part of the cool crowd that she was. I’d only watch from a far and drool. she was the debate queen, I was the dweeb. Well, yalopita si ndwele.

There was a short chat and I took her number, called her a number of times, then she moved on up jobwise, as one would expect. She was still sharp as a nimble fiddle and she went on to become a mkubwa in a local bank..

I called her out for a drink a number of times and she surprised me by coming.  Everytime that happened was like opium, i wanted more. soon it became a fix that I needed to speak to her if only for a few minutes before I can function at my usual 110%.

Its not that I am not busy. It’s not that my jua kali business doesn’t need me. But I have even cancelled a flight somewhere because that was the day I could see her.

What is that? Love? I hesitate. It’s been too long for me, to say. I know this. I never have conversations with anyone else the way I do with her. I don’t feel the way I do when I’m with her with anyone else.

And so, this dishevelled kajamaa you are meeting here. Stroling aimlessly about town, listlessly selling to you the products of my jua kali business or absent mindedly typing away at my laptop, this hopeless looking dude is just in need of yet another fix. Then you’ll see me move.

What to do eh? There are all these power plays that one must go through. don’t say it too early you might scare her away; take it too slow and some faster dude will whisk her away and she’ll say to you, “Let’s just be friends.”

And that’s not to say that she can’t say that and that you can’t accept it. You have to. It’s all you can take. And yet you feel her complete you everytime you hear her speak. You feel her polish you everytime she gives you advice.

You know. She’s the one.

How do you tell her? Is she ready to hear it?

Aiiii!!!! Caramba!! Amenipa juju! Namtafuta mama mmoja anayeitwa Anti doti, naskia ana tiba. Je, wamjua unipige introdakshen?

Author Dr. Myles Monroe 

Eagles fly alone at a high altitude and not with sparrows or mix with other smaller birds.

Birds of a feather flock together. No other bird goes to the height of the eagle. Eagles fly with eagles. Never in a flock.  Even when Moses (Old Testament Bible) went to commune with God on the mountain, he left the crowd at the foothills.  Stay away from sparrows and ravens. Eagles fly with eagles. 

Eagles have strong vision, which focuses up to 5 kilometers from the air.

When  an  eagle sites prey- even a rodent from this distance, he narrows  his  focus  on  it  and  sets  out  to  get it. No matter the obstacle, the eagle will not move his focus from the prey until he grabs it.   Have a vision and remain focused no matter what the obstacle and you will succeed. 

Eagles do not eat dead things.

They feed on fresh prey. Vultures eat dead animals but not eagles.  Steer clear of outdated and old information. Do your research well always. 

The Eagle is the only bird that loves the storm.

When clouds gather, the eagles get excited. The eagle uses the wings of the storm to rise and is pushed up higher.  Once it finds the wing of the storm, the eagle stops flapping and uses the pressure of the raging storm to soar the clouds and glide.  This gives the eagle an opportunity to rest its wings.  In the meantime all the other birds hide in the leaves and branches of the trees. We can use the storms of our lives (obstacles, trouble, etc) to rise to greater heights. Achievers relish challenges and use them profitably.

The Eagle tests before it trusts.

When a female eagle meets a male and they want to mate, she flies down to earth with the male pursing her and she picks a twig.  She flies back into the air with the male pursuing her. 

Once she has reached a height high enough for her, she lets the twig fall to the ground and watches it as it falls. The male chases after the twig.  The faster it falls, the faster he chases until he reaches it  and  has  to catch it before it falls to the ground, then bring it back to the female eagle. The female eagle grabs the twig and flies to a much higher altitude pursued by the male until she perceives it high enough, and then drops the twig for the male to chase. This goes on for hours, with the height increasing until the female eagle is assured that the male eagle has mastered the art of picking the twig which shows commitment, then and only then, will she allow him to mate with her!   Whether in private life or in business, one should test commitment of people intended for partnership. 

Eagles prepare for training.

When about to lay eggs, the female and male  eagle  identify  a place very high on a cliff where no predators can  reach;  the male flies to earth and picks thorns and lays them on the  crevice  of the cliff, then flies to earth again to collect twigs which  he  lays  in  the  intended  nest. He flies back to earth picks thorns and lays them on top of the twigs. He flies back to earth and picks soft grass to cover the thorns, and then flies back to pick rugs to put on the grass.  When this first layering is complete the male eagle runs back to earth and picks more thorns, lays them on the nest;      runs  back  to  get grass and rugs and lays them on top of the thorns, then  plucks  his  feathers  to  complete  the nest. The thorns on the outside of the nest protect it from possible intruders. Both male and female eagles participate in raising the eagle family. She lays the eggs and protects them; he builds the nest and hunts. During the time of training the young ones to fly, the mother eagle throws the eaglets out of the nest and because they are scared, they jump into the nest again. 

Next, she throws them out and then takes off the soft layers of         the nest, leaving the thorns bare. When the scared eaglets jump into the nest again, they are pricked by thorns. Shrieking and bleeding they jump out again this time wondering why the mother and father who love them so much are torturing them. Next, mother eagle pushes them off the cliff into the air. 

As they shriek in fear, father eagle flies out and picks them up on his back before they fall, and brings them back to the cliff. This goes on for sometime until they start flapping their wings. They get excited at this newfound knowledge that they can fly and not fall at such a fast rate. 

The father and mother eagle supports them with their wings. 

The preparation of the nest teaches us to prepare for changes; 

The preparation for the family teaches us that active participation of both partners leads to success; 

The being pricked by the thorns tells us that sometimes being too comfortable where we are may result into our not experiencing life, not progressing and not learning at all. The thorns of life come to teach us that we need to grow, get out of the nest and love on. We may not know it but the seemingly comfortable and safe haven may have thorns; 

The people who love us do not let us languish in sloth but push us hard to grow and prosper.  Even in their seemingly bad actions they have good intentions for us. 

Eagles rejuvenate.

When the Eagle grows old, his feathers become weak and cannot take him as fast as he should. When he feels weak and about to die, he retires to a place far away in the rocks. While there, he plucks out every feather on his body until he is completely bare. He stays in this hiding place until he has grown new feathers, then he can come out.  We occasionally need to shed off old habits & items that burden us without adding to our lives…

”As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:” -Deuteronomy 32:11 


By Al Kags

The World Economic Forum in conjunction with the INSEAD institute every year compiles a ranking of countries that measures “the degree of preparedness of a nation of community to participate in and benefit from ICT developments.”

This year’s ranking was published in The African Report, a thoroughly insightful quarterly magazine. Tanzania was ranked 10th, Uganda was ranked 9th and Kenya was not listed among the top ten of that listing. What the ranking was looking at was mainly teledensity (number of telephone – both mobile and fixed – lines per thousand people), internet usage per thousand people. Other key issues included the price baskets of a mobile phone and the internet.

My initial reaction was emotional. I was indignant at the “slight” on Kenya – a country that many of us perceive as clearly more superior to the smaller (size wise) Uganda and the more backward, Tanzania. I was further vexed by the fact that a country like Botswana was to feature in the ranking – considering that they have not much more than the 1.2 million people that their 2001 census revealed. It would be so much easier to attain the 85% of the population covered b y mobile telephone because you are basically talking about 1 million people in a relatively small area.

The mobile teledensity which according to the Communication Commission of Kenya stands at 14.4% – about 144 per one thousand people in 2004 (meaning that if the ranking was based on this point alone, we would have been sixth on the ranking, but who is checking?). According to, the latest information indicates that 4.4% of the Kenyan population – 44 people per every thousand – uses the internet (which would rank Kenya fifth in the rankings if this fact alone was the basis of the ranking that was published).

Then again, once one examines the development of the Information and Communication Technologies ion Kenya, one realises that while the challenge is a major one, we can achieve a higher speed in terms of ICT growth and we are not yet doing it.

4.4% (1.5 million people) of our population being online is hardly enough – especially if a majority of them have to share not many more than the approximately 500,000 computers that Kenya is rumoured to have and especially when they cannot afford to spend quality time because the cost is high and because connectivity is concentrated in the urban and peri-urban areas.

Is it a lack of creativity on the part of Kenyans or a lack of the entrepreneurial spirit that has stifled this fast growth that Kenya is capable of? I submit that that is only true at very high levels. At the fundamental level, there are Kenyans who are demonstrating that they can do a lot more with the internet given the chance.

Tom Ogutu is one such entrepreneur in Malindi on the north coast of Kenya. He is not highly educated and as is the norm in the coast of Kenya, is not the most coherent of English speakers. An average Malindi born and bred man, he did not grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth and for a living, he occupies himself with businesses in the informal sector.

But Tom has understood and in his own small way taken advantage of the one fundamental truth that Africa must embrace – and fast. As President Paul Kagame of Rwanda put it, “in the same way the growth of the 19th and 20th Century was driven by the network of railways and highways, the growth of the 21st Century must be driven by a network of digital highways and value added services.”

In setting up his web site, <a href=””></a&gt;, that sells locally made beaded sandals, beaded key holders, kikois and other artifacts, Tom not only has opened up for himself a significant revenue stream but also, he is supporting a whole community of coastal residents who spend their days making the same items as he orders and sells wholesale the sandals abroad.
He works out of a cyber café, where he spends about Kshs120 an hour for internet usage that is not fast because he cannot afford to have internet in his house, and he services his customers over his two cell phones. What more can he do if costs were down and the connectivity of better quality?

Yet the wireless local loop operators who have been licensed and the other service providers concentrate on Nairobi and relegate the other town to secondary areas – ostensibly because rural folk do not have the money. It turns out that they are very likely wrong – and they may be able to stimulate more business if they moved away from the cesspit of cutthroat competition that is Nairobi.

Alvin Toffler wrote a book called the third wave that suggests that the world is going into a completely new age – one that scholars have called the information revolution. Africa was left behind on two revolutions that shaped the world as we know it today – the agrarian revolution and the industrial revolution. There is absolutely no excuse for Africa to be left behind on the information revolution. Kenya has to be firmly at the front of that crusade.

Hon. Mutahi Kagwe, the Minister for Information and Communication has been reported to have voiced his frustration that while the government has gone a long way in the ICT policy front, the private sector has not moved fast enough to pick up from policy and run with the opportunities. As it emerged at the monthly forum last month, industry players did not know what is happening.

The key reason for this is that the private sector in ICT is not speaking within the industry and without – to communicate the progress that the industry is making. One hopes that that will change come Saturday at the ICT industry symposium, where the minister is expected to update the industry on the progress of the ICT strategy and the opportunities therein.

The writer is the convener of, an ICT industry business lobby and online portal.

Preferably white, old, part of old boy’s clubs in the UK (an Ol’ chappy) and the US (an Ol’ Boy), male (duh!?) and ready to try out a new “exotic” writer’s market.

Or so I was told at the last Kwani? writer’s forum that I attended. It was a great time and I got to meet a number of very interesting people not to mention the writer’s buddha in Kenya, Binyawanga Wainaina and Kairo (whose sporting a new wedding ring!).

I got to read a couple of my writings and I was gratified when I was not looked at with that “hmm.. nice try but get a day job” look. I got to listen to a couple of really good writings especially one that was called spec’s and telephone poles – check out Kwani? 2007

It was in this literary mood that I inquired what one has to do to get published – I have this anthology that is in progress called Vertical Horizons ( and I have been wondering these couple of years what I need to do to get me published.

I was told that there are no literary publishing agents in Kenya and that the publishing market is still too small and undeveloped to support them. The guys in the UK and the US are hard to get simply because, they have many writers in their stables and they usually take on only a couple of writers every year.

The difficulty is that even when your stuff is publishable enough to be a best seller, the writer has to think marketing (niching, branding and all those other Kotler-ish principles), be strategic and know someone who knows someone who knows someone who know someone ad infinitum to be published. In a sense the idea is to network heavily before your work can be published.

It is a sad situation and I reserve all views on the situation for now: they currently go against my own editorial policy.

There’s an oppotunity though.

The Kenyan Tenses

For a long time, I have said away from the netter’s scene. There was a time when like clockwork, everyday I would deposit some ramblings of some sort online on the issues of the day in Kenya. Eventually, I got too busy and I gave myself an excuse that the responses I was getting online were so inane in many cases that it did not make sense to continue to do digital essays online.

After confining myself to writing in the papers for a while, I almost stopped wiriting all together.  I wanted to get on with it. Moi was out and now there was work to be done. Today, I look at things and I realise i shouldn’t have stopped writing. So many things need to be addressed and even as we move on so many things require dialogue.

Welcome to the Kenyan Tenses, home of the Al Kags digital essays. I shall update this site at least three times a week with a new digital essay or so. I shall appreciate some well reasoned responses and others even when they disagree with me, but i will not tolerate any vitriol against myself or anyone else. Let’s keep those within the netter’s marketplaces, shall we? This space is reasoning space.

If you wish to have your own digital essay on Kenyan matter posted here, please email it to me at I may post it, but that’s my prerogative.

Don’t forget to check out penyenye, the kenyan opportunities blog. I shall maintain a vigil of the nairobi business and development scene and update you on the developments in business and development that I hear of. That’s