Archive for March, 2007

This is a call out for entries into the fourth part of The Quarterly Colour Series of Poetry, Green Piece. The Quarterly Colour Series of poetry are a series of free ebooks, published by Al Kags every three months. The ebooks are distributed for free, organically via email.

The first three ebooks of the series are Gray Spots, Blue Smudges  and Red Streaks each of which was read by over 25,000 people worldwide. Red Streaks was distributed to a whopping 120,000 people. The ebooks are spread virally over email as well as posted on different blogs and web sites for Download.

Green Piece is an ebook about all things Green – Green money (dollars?), Green envy, Green nature, Green emotions…. While General in nature, it is recommended that the poets try as much as possible to tie their poetry to the theme to increase their chances of publications – but no need to worry, if its not suitable for this book, it is bound to be suitable for a future book so it is not wasted. 

All entries need to be in by April 05 2007. The editor reserves all discretion with regard to what poems are placed within the book.

To submit, please send your poetry in a word document to qcspoetry@gmail.com

 Thanks for all the support.

I yesterday had the priviledge of attending a discussion forum organised by Kwani? during the Caine Prize for African Writing Workshop that is ongoing. The discussion basically revolved around African Writing.

From the onset, and all through, I have a serious opposition with the label African writer being attached as an identity upon my writing or that of any other writer, in addition. Why can’t the African writer just be a writer and so identified, bought and read?

These in a nutshell are my reasons:

First, from a socio-economic perspective, the perception that African literature has had in the minds of readers  (both African and International) is that African literature is mediocre. We therefore buy African literature to “support” our writers. Also, the “Africanna” section (as dileanated by the bookshops) is inundated with two kinds of books: factual books and fantastic books about Wildlife, Culture and some writer’s romantic view of an aspect of the traditional Africans.

Therefore, when an writer comes up with a comedy, or a thriller, or a whodunnit sort of book, the genre it invarably gets into is “African” and it is slotted among Kuki Gallman’s I dream of Africa and the Autobiographies of some African statesman.

Thats all very well, but when you know that people go into the shop looking for comedy or thriller or whatever other category, and that when they do go specifically looking for a particular kind of book, they will miss yours because it is misplaced in the Africanna section.

When you ask why the bookshops do this, you realise that its a matter of perception. The same perception that the readership has is the self-same perception that the seller has.

Secondly, when you apply yourself to the label “African” writer, you discover that the designs of the books are decidedly “African” in the sense that they are largely wildlife photographic covers or illustrations and such.

By Contemporary standards mostly the layout is not unique, the quality of paper largely chosen is of bad quality and all round presentation is not competitive. The writer’s defence is that its the publisher’s fault and they have no control. My position is that some marketing prowess should be tied to the publishing process – and I’m not talking about sales only but also building a relationship with the buyer.

The presentation has everything to do with managing the perceptive receptions of the book or work.

I warn you: don’t call me an African writer. For African I am and writer I am. But my writing is just that. How come you don’t hear African Doctors vs international doctors? Because a doctor is a doctor and so is a writer just a writer regardless of location or affiliation.

Shoot To Kill, I vote.

When an individual is able to congratulate himself on the attainment of enlightenment- or when such an individual reaches his Nirvana on a subject, it is a great day. When that enlightenment causes him to convert his belief and thinking, the day is brighter still.

I have had an epiphany that caused me to reach Nirvana on the subject of National Security – and indeed the enhancement of my own.

It is this circumstance that has led me to join the majority of officers of the Kenya Police Service and the section of wananchi that has directly suffered to “Shoot to Kill”as the most effective strategy to combat crime. This would be for me a controversy from the campaign that I have long held for the right of the individual and in truth, I have not diverted from this campaign, I have simply refined my approach to it. The end game is the same: reduce crime especially violent crime to the lowest possible levels – immediately.

The event of my epiphany occurred on the evening of last Thursday as I trudged up the hill to my little apartment in a leafy quiet area of Nairobi – an area that one would think to be highly secure and that is so, except for a few pockets here and there. Anyway, as I was walking, I met with a young man who made out to be timid about his gait and who tried to stop me with a “Habari”. Naturally i responded as I walked past him but when I saw the gun up in the air – a small enough pistol and i heard the click of it being cocked, well, i stopped and reached for the stars.

Another young man came upon the scene and a speedy ransacking was done of my person to find and retrieve any weapons and valuables as I might have had in my pocket. This incidentally was just next to the Railways Golf Course on Bunyala Road. I was then encouraged to cross the road to the darkened golf course by way of a fence that had been torn apart.

On the lush green, very nicely trimmed grass on one of the outer tees, I was asked to lie down upon my stomach, a command that I executed with alacrity. It was in this position that I watched as the young men painstakingly went through my bag and my person to take the things that they felt were due to them. I tried to negotiate with them, not to take the laptop, saying that I would lose my job and their answer was simple: “utapata ingine”

Presently, I was instructed back on my feet and I was told to quickly go. You can be sure I showed a clean pair of heels as I sped to the world bank and got help. A huge search was mounted even though it was fruitless. They were long gone.

I have to say Officer Mutiso and his mates as well as the Securex guards in upper hill showed prowess and they were lively in their pursuit. As we stood around after the search on the green, one of the officers asked me some penetrating questions:

Now that you have been robbed, how do you feel?” he asked. “if Maina wa Kiai came to you and said tutafute hao polepole and arrest them take them to court and prosecute for months before they are acquitted, what would you say?”

Hakuna dawa ingine, mzee.” Another interjected, “ni kumwaga wao tu”

The other cop explained that the public as personified by Maina wa Kiai, has a skewed perspective on the security problem. They get robbed violently (getting robbed is bad enough, being hurt or killed is much worse), the police are inundated and outnumbered by the villains, who many times have better artillery. In addition, the neighboring countries are violently running themselves wild and the borders are completely open apart from where the gate is.

In these circumstances, the police are having to wage war – and it is war. The robbers are leaving bodies in their wake and the police can’t keep up with procedure hampering the best of their efforts. At some point, they have to stand up and wage war.

A shoot to Kill policy has its merits. Yes, many will be killed – some innocent – but such is the situation in war. Uganda, Rwanda, and some Asiatic countries have implicitly had this policy and they are among the safest havens – Ask anyone who goes there or lives there. The cities in which human rights are upheld fanatically, are among the worst in terms of violent crime records – South Africa, New York…

By the way, in old Africa – and old America and old Europe – violent crime; indeed crime in general was rare because it was dealt with viciously and swiftly. A chicken thief was flogged in public, a violent man lost his property and in many cases the punishment was capital – flogged, killed etc. Barbaric, maybe but effective.

I say, lets deal with this issue in a barbaric way and do away with such nonesense. But I also say, we must look at the issue of the economic disparity and the optimism and hope that goes with that as well as – for God’s sake, Close those borders conclusively.

I have recently become a proponent of the Shoot to Kill as the policy to control crime in Kenya. This was after I had an encounter with violent robbers who releaved me of my possessions – including laptop, phone and some money – all at gun point. I have had an epiphany. I shall share it soon.