Tuesday, July 7, 2009


This week has been a great one for Truthspeak. We have been allowed the opportunity to spread the word on how to get to a better Kenya, a better Africa by being interviewed on the Obama Administration's foreign policy with regard to ethnic violence and genocide in Africa. The interview was done for a piece to be featured on SCOOP 44- "http://www.scoop44.com" which is an online national outlet covering the Obama administration, national politics, and a new generation of Americans and is produced, edited, and written by young people across the nation and abroad. The interviewer, Olivia Ikilezi is a buding journalist who shows great zest and passion for a better Africa.

Below is the interview transcript. I believe you will find it engaging, thought provoking, and I dare say a tad controversial. Please feel free to leave your comments and any questions you may have at the bottom of the post.

Olivia: so let me begin by reiterating that this is on record, so would you like me to use your full name?
Truthspeak: I think I’m good with it being my full name
Olivia: what is your occupation/ what do you do?
Truthspeak: well, I'm currently a graduate student but I am also an author of a blog on Kenyan Affairs
Olivia: would you like to have your blog featured?
Truthspeak: is that an option? If so, I would love to have it featured.
Olivia: oh yes I want this to be a platform for my movers & shakers. By the way, I very much like your blog
Truthspeak: thank you!
Olivia: for this piece I’ll have the address included - what is it called? as you would like for it to appear
Truthspeak: The name of the blog is TRUTHSPEAK, and the web address is www.truthspeak-gigee.blogspot.com
Olivia: I thought so! What are your aspirations Gigee, what do you want to do with your life career/ work wise?
Truthspeak: I have short term and long term goals. For my long term goals I have plan A and plan B. Plan A is to be at the top of the UN chain as secretary general while plan B is to be in the political scene in Kenya...at a big enough capacity to enforce and implement change. Short term goals are to finish up my grad school (one more class to go), move to Africa (central or east preferably), and work my way up to my long term goals be it in the UN or one of the country governments
Olivia: and what is your cultural background?
Truthspeak: I am proudly Kenyan!
Olivia: :) now on to my first question :)
Truthspeak: bring it! :-)
Olivia: Unfortunately, a few months ago Kenya shocked both itself and the rest of the world, esp. Africa, where the country has not been associated with this kind of tragedy, when violence erupted very decisively along ethnic lines...what do you think was the root of this violence and what similarities - if any - do you think it shares w/ other instances of ethnic violence in Africa?
Truthspeak: Just like the Rwanda genocide, and just like the Sudan genocide (it is genocide), it all goes back to ethnic ties. Whether it be masqueraded as "ethnic cleansing" in the case of Sudan or "election rigging" in the case of Kenya, the bottom line for Kenya is that there are 42 ethnicities/tribes vying for their own special interests and power.
Olivia: power for what?
Truthspeak: government, land ownership, acknowledgement of being the better tribe/ethnicity, leadership, recognition…the list is endless. You see Olivia, since I was a child, I have seen many elections come and go. For Kenya, the violence we witnessed was not only anger based on the present, but the past as well. It was suppressed anger that rooted way back to the Moi regime and the Kenyatta regime as well, and I think this is something that many outsiders do not understand.
Olivia: please expound for me...considering this is suppressed anger rooted in past decades, why has it resurfaced so intensely this time around?
Truthspeak: Very simple. Kenya has been independent since 1963. For 46 years now, we have only had 3 presidents. During the Kenyatta regime (1963-1978), disputes over more land being shared amongst his tribe versus others began rising and there were internal disputes within his government, but nothing detrimental came from it. Now of course there are rumors here and there about how he dealt with discrepancies and trouble makers but lets not dwell on rumors. After Kenyatta's death, in came Moi, who ruled over our land for 24 years, up until 2002. As a president, Moi was many things that cannot be automatically boxed. Many feuds brewed in his time but they somehow always found a silencer and he was re-elected every time he ran for presidency. Rigged or not, is not really the issue. The point here is that there was not really a channel for the Kenyan people to air their discrepancies or to criticize the government or its officials. So in comes President Kibaki, in 2002. That election was dubbed the "change election". All the opposition parties with a few exceptions got together to fight against the ruling political party at the time (KANU), and Kenyans found a way out of the Moi regime. They voted in president Kibaki with the support of others like Raila Odinga. Things ran smoothly for a few months, but like I stated before, we are dealing with 42 ethnicities each vying for the top spot. Again, discrepancies and scrutiny from within the government's coalition erupted, and the public began taking sides. So this violence we speak of really started brewing with the 2002-2007 government. In comes the 2007 election. Now the coalition that once joined forces to get Kenyan's out of the Moi regime are suddenly split up. Campaign smears are all over the place and once again, Kenyans choose sides and head to the polls. Now, the projected polls had shown one candidate at the leading spot over the other but the election outcome proved different.
*Interview went more in depth into this issue, but for public interest, Truthspeak wishes to put up a huge disclaimer and say this: The Kibaki leadership is one Kenya has never before had. A technocratic leadership. Many of us may or may not know how to deal with it, or what to make of it, but this is an opinion made by each individual and for this reason, Truthspeak chooses to respect the opinions of my readers/followers by not speaking for everybody about the matters that led up to the post election violence*
Olivia: It’s interesting because there are many similarities with Congo in the sense that Mobutu was famously quoted as saying "after me, chaos" because as a dictator he kept the lid on festering ethnic tensions. Heavy handed and brutal as he was: but I’m interested to know what the role of the youth - young people who are not old enough to know Kenyatta's regime and lived through the Moi regime who hushed ethnic dissention - is in this, and how they became involved? Do you think they had a big role in the violence and if so, why?
Truthspeak: Oh yes! Great question! This is what I talk about mostly in my blog. Here's the thing with the Kenyan youth that really really tears me apart. Fact is that the Kenyan youth played a HUGE role in the Kenyan massacre. For me to answer your question effectively, let me start by saying this. Kenya is a great country, full of wonderful opportunities that up till now are mostly tapped by those that are well off.
The youth I wish to speak about are those who's hopes have been shot down, those living in shanties, barely having a meal a day, those who roam the streets in search of survival, those that are boxed in the "you are nothing" category. Those are the youth I wish to speak about. These are the youth that our beloved politicians and heavy hitters love to visit whenever they feel the need to spark violence/public nuisance.
So what happened in this election as far as the youth was simple.
The politicians bought them. You simply get a congregation gathered around you, give them false promise, give them a few hundreds to share amongst themselves, and these youth that are "outcast" and honestly have nothing better to do, since they do not have the means to attend school, are out rioting and killing.
That's honestly how easy it is for these politicians to get us, impressionable young men and women to do their dirty work for them.
Olivia: so would you say that w/ better economic and education opportunities youth are less susceptible to join in the violent rhetoric of politicized ethnicity? Or do you need more?
Truthspeak: Well, a better economy and education opportunities are definitely helpful. There are many young men and women who are university graduates roaming the streets because they cannot find jobs. There are so many children that are dying for the chance to get an education but the chance does not happen for them. If such opportunities were open to them, I am sure a vast majority of these young people would grab them because the bottom line is that these are people with hopes and dreams just like any one of us. BUT that is just one aspect. LEADERSHIP is key! We can talk a big game all we want but if we do not have people in leadership roles, both in the government and the private sector that are disciplined and passionate enough to implement the policies that need to be in place, then we will see no change. For Kenya, I believe that this leadership has not yet come. It is not in the front runners now that are vying to be leaders in the next election. How can it be when the same people have been running since Moi's time and other’s since Kenyatta’s time with the same ideals that those administrations had? The real leadership...the change we want to see...it lies in us, our generation! We are it.
Olivia: That bridges to the next questions quite nicely what you said. The Obama campaign is widely touted to have been made a success because of the youth movement in this country, (The United States). Do you think it has set an example in any way or affected perspectives in Kenya amongst youth especially regarding their role and power in society, or is it too far from their realities to mean much?
Truthspeak: I think it would be very inaccurate to state that Obama's election had no effect on any country out there. For Kenya, Obama is a son (he is after all partly Kenyan) and for this reason amongst others, Kenyans followed the election process very closely. The reason I say that is because we had many great lessons from his campaign journey, the number one being that nothing is out of reach. For the Kenyan youth, the mere fact that Obama is a "young turk" himself, is evidence enough that to be a leader of great influence has no "over 60"unwritten rule pinned against it. The youth everywhere I believe got a huge wake up call from Obama and his campaign team, which as you mentioned, was mostly a youth movement. This reminds me of a conversation I was having with some Kenyan leaders and commoners of the baby boomer generation in Kenya. I said to them, we keep complaining about what has gone wrong but we never have the conversation about how to make it right. And they said that we are the generation that will set things right. Now the problem is that once a young person runs for presidency, they are vilified for being young. We witnessed this with President Obama who was referred to as "inexperienced and too young". But the youth do have a say. With the vast majority of the youth voting Obama, he managed to come in as president. So the same concept applies for us, as Africa. Young people have a say! How do we solve our problems in Africa, without necessarily relying on foreign aid? Simple! The young people will use their voice and their vote and we will turn Africa around.
Olivia: Do you think the U.S has a role in this Kenyan change vis-à-vis its ethnic issues? Or is it strictly an internal problem that needs to be addressed internally?
Truthspeak: To be quite honest with you, I have a huge problem with outsiders looking to fix internal issues especially when they are not willing to take the time to understand what these internal issues are and where they stem from. That’s number one. Number two, I also have a huge problem with us (Africa) having the need to be aided by foreign forces as though we have no capacity to deal with it ourselves. By capacity I mean intellect, monetary value, human capacity etc. This is what I see for Africa. We are a brain child really. So many of our people have been educated, be it within Africa or outside. So why can we not take this education, this intellect and apply it to our own home? Does America need aid in fixing her problems? Does the UK need aid? So why can't we put Africa on this "exclusive" map as well? Again, it all comes down to leadership, doesn't it?
Olivia: Absolutely. So do you think the U.S has a role in fostering that leadership? For example: many people in Kenya, and especially in Obama's ancestral home, feel he has a duty to Kenya as the land of his father....do you think so? Sorry, kind of a two in one question.
Truthspeak: No problem. To answer your first question, I cannot in good conscience say that the U.S plays no role in forming/fostering leadership in Kenya or Africa. If nothing else, you and I are American educated...and so are thousands of Africans. If we went back to our various countries, and made lasting changes, we can attribute those changes partly if not largely to our American education. Now, that's not to say that those educated elsewhere in Africa or other nations are not just as qualified as you or I. I am just putting a point across that to say the U.S has no role in fostering leadership in Africa, is to rob it of a "thank you for the opportunities you have presented me with". Now, for part two of your question! NO NO NO I do not think that President Obama has any obligation that is tied to his ancestral roots to show favor upon Kenya than he would any other place.
It is unfair to him to put so much pressure on him because of "ancestral" ties and it is also a disservice to Kenya to rely so much on the "other" instead of on ourselves. You know, many people say that Obama's foreign policies with regard to Africa are no different than the former Bush administration's policies on the same.
Olivia: yes
Truthspeak: I am one of those people. But to me, this is not even an issue. To me, it’s a challenge really. The U.S Bureau of African Affairs goal is conflict resolution in Africa. Yet, the policies put in place are not really policies that can foster conflict resolution. Why? Well, it’s that disease again...the outsider looking in disease. So this is my challenge to Africa. Instead of mopping around, criticizing the outsider’s policies put in place for all issues "African", why not resolve our own conflicts?
How? Better education from the grassroots up! Vote wisely. Vote in accordance to your needs, your vision for your country...as opposed to voting in accordance to ethnicity, peer influence or reasons that are just not good enough. It’s time for us to stop fooling around by making uninformed decisions about matters that are determinant of how we live our lives. Let us learn how to ask questions and not take things at surface value. That's how the young generation will change Africa.
Olivia: Now off the record: I loved your thoughts, your passion. There is one little question that has just popped up burning to be asked regarding your last comment....what tools can we use to spread that very message as youth?
Access to internet and information has grown exponentially, but still far-reach for less privileged youth
Truthspeak: yes, internet and technology in general can only go so far. We have a whole lot of rebuilding to do and very limiting channels to do it by. So I think we will have to work harder than most. Like I said...it has to be from the grassroots-up, so we'll need to put on our hiking boots or whatever we need and go out there and reach the people. There is no better way I can think of. We also need to learn the people's language. We need to understand the value in catering to different audiences. So I say go in, train one or two people in various rural regions and use them to spread the word in far reaching areas. What’s better than someone with the same experiences as you telling you how to change your situation? Though I have a vision, a mission and an outline of how to get to where I want us to be, I don’t have all the answers so im constantly seeking others opinions as well. It’s a conundrum this our Africa.
Olivia: The most important thing is that we seek. As long as we seek, we are moving forward, I truly believe that
Olivia: Thank you so much for your time, you have made me even more excited about this piece, I didn’t know that was possible. I’m so happy to feature you and your site, keep doing what you do and keep focused on your aspirations and goals you will manifest your dreams and when you do I’ll hopefully get to interview you again...all sweaty and nervous and call you Madame Nyaga...or UN Secretary General Nyaga...it fits very nicely :)
Truthspeak: Thank you so much Olivia.


Anonymous said...

Dear Olivia,

Nice one from you. I am very proud of people like you. Just to hint that we have the same plans A and B. I am an African like you working on my postgrad. I am toiling through the UN system with the intention of making it to the top one day. Hope we'll be able to compare notes in some 10, 15 years. Don't forget to add French and/or Portuguese to your intellectual baggage. It is a door opener. I am talking from experience to another sister. Once again, keep it up. By the way, I read your treatise on microfinance. De la classe! As the French would say.

Anonymous said...

I found this interview very thought provoking and in many ways true. I totally agree with Truthspeaks on all the issues, concern, and solutions presented on Kenya's problems. I am a fellow Kenyan who has the same dreams & hopes to see a changed Kenya and I believe it starts with the leadership.
Even though I do not have a plan A or B set in place yet, I am sure I will make an impact in Kenya one way or another. I look forward to working with you Truthspeaks in the near future!