Tag Archives: elections

Death and burnt-out areas after the re-run elections: Kate Copstick in Nairobi

Following on from my last blog, a further (edited) diary entry from Kate Copstick in Kenya, where she is working with her Mama Biashara charity.

Friday 4th November

It is interesting that, because there are no crowds of angry young men burning tyres in the streets, there is no great media interest in the Kenya re-election. But everywhere there are people of the ‘wrong’ tribe in the ‘wrong’ place being killed, beaten, thrown out and having their homes, businesses and personal property burned. All over.

But because they are just ridiculously poor, black people, no-one really bothers. It is as if none of that is happening.

President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, during a dinner at the White House in 2014. (Official White House Photograph by Amanda Lucidon)

President Uhuru smiles fatly from the front of newspapers here, claiming that, having won a goodly percentage of the votes from the laughably low percentage of the population who turned out, it proves he won ‘fair and square’ in August. He seems to have an excellent command of English, but his grasp of the correct usage of ‘fair and square’ is – how can I put this – wrong.

But as of today, he is safe.

Because today, a bill he put in the works has become law.

It effectively renders the Supreme Court helpless to do anything in the face of an obviously corrupt election. It was the Supreme Court who annulled the August vote for obvious corruption. That will never be able to happen again. The Jubilee Party can buy and corrupt their way to eternal power. Uhuru is above the law. Kenya is more or less a dictatorship now.

David and I make a fruitless trip to Toi Market to buy blankets for the refugees in Kisii, via the Forex Bureau where, it seems, the pound sterling briefly rose, like Violetta in the last act of Traviata, from its financial sickbed only to crumple again. My lovely Somali ladies give me an extra 50p in the pound. We have to be grateful for small mercies. It definitely seems we will be better buying new blankets than haggling with bad tempered stall holders for old ones. I remember an old Indian bloke who sells in the crazy, torrid maze of wholesalers around River Road. We will go there.

No longer crispy but black and soggy although still smoking.

It is raining heavily as we reach the crispy bits of Kawangware 56. Or, to be more precise, Congo West. No – no longer crispy but black and soggy although, amazingly, still smoking.

Here were 20 businesses and 33 houses. But they were set on fire by an angry mob. Several of the people who had homes and businesses here are wandering around forlornly, picking at the charred rubble.

I ask if they are the ex-tenants and they say Yes. They show me the tiny pile of things rescued from the fire. Some of the people are staying with friends, some are sleeping at the police station. I collect the ladies together and we repair to drink tea and talk about what I can do to help. They are very suspicious. White people taking photos they understand. Actually helping is something new for them.

I talk and try to explain what I can do to help. There is the usual great excitement as people envisage opening supermarkets and bowling alleys. I explain again about starting small. They are markedly less enthusiastic.

There is one woman called Lillian with whom I mainly chat. She understands about starting small. She will get everyone together for a chat and we will meet again on Monday. I get some bar soap and sanitary products for the Kisii refugee community at the supermarket and we set off to get me some functional WiFi.

Life has to continue in Nairobi amid the post-election reality

Doris has been in a queue to collect her sons’ report cards since silly o’clock this morning. Now she calls.

According to her, the head teacher of her boys’ school has told parents that, starting in January, no more hard copy books will be bought for students. Set texts, notes etc must all be downloaded from the government website. I cannot believe this. It would effectively exclude all slum and rural kids from education.

Lovely Jayne in Awendo teaches her abandoned and orphaned kids in a mud hut. There is no electricity, much less internet at downloadable speeds.

I tell Doris not to panic. She sends me a link to the government website. It is bubbling with twatspeak about bollocks couched in jargon. It is (given the state of Kenyan education for the poor) rearranging the fleas on the deckchairs on the Titanic. And certainly looks to be trying to get more and more power (and power is money) in the hands of the government.

She calls again asking if I have read about the NHIF cards. This is a pseudo National Insurance card. Pay to join the scheme, pay a fiver each month and you get doctor’s consultations free. You still have to pay for your meds, most tests and whatnot, but you get to go to A&E free of charge.

Today’s newspapers reveal (in a small column) that the government have decided that too many people are using the service and they are restricting each cardholder to four visits per year. So you can get sick once every three months. “Uhuru has eaten the money” says David, gloomily.

Doris eventually gets her report cards and we meet at the Mali cafe to discuss:

a) NHIF and the way forward.

b) the downloadable syllabus.

c) the latest updates on the Kisii refugees. It seems that someone has told the local people that help is coming for the refugees and the local people have made it known that, if help comes, all hell will break loose.

Time for plan D. Which I have not thought of yet.

No Supercharged Rennies tonight… maybe beer is the cure…


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Filed under Kenya, Politics

Canada: a screw in a foot, an election and a man who will set himself on fire

The latest dispatch from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith has arrived.

Her early-morning report from Vancouver goes like this…

Don Bradman holds a cricket bat

Australian Don Bradman holds a cricket bat

I am not usually up at this hour without having attempted to go to sleep. But I was on the phone for almost three hours with a lady named Cricket. I have known her off and on since I was eleven. She has always been a fantastic story teller and my life seems watery and pale by comparison. She lived in Willesden Green in London as a child, with her grandmother who was a lesbian nun from Slave Lake.

It has been a very long and confusing day. I thought the Koreans in the coffee shop were asking me to dress up a dolphin and punish them.

Sorry, that should read  “dress up as A dolphin”. I hope that clears things up.

Coffee is a dangerous drug when combined with a sleeping disorder. The building manager is in the hallway now. He is from Heathrow in West London, but he doles out dire Cockney-toned nuggets to the neighbours like: “WELL, THEY BETTER GET USED TO IT!”

Anna retouched her nose in this 30-year-old picture

Anna Smith retouched her nose

I attach a thirty-year-old photo of myself taken during my black bottom serving maiden era, when I was trying to be a serious actress.

I retouched myself.

That is just correction fluid on my nose to conceal a brown stain on the photocopy; nothing to do with the police, drugs or the French… The original is long lost like my original aorta. I am pleased to report that my fake aorta is made of Dacron. When the surgeon told me he was going to put in a Dacron hose I was elated. The only thing I knew about Dacron was that they make sails out of it, so I knew it was strong and could prove to be invaluable in case of a marine emergency.

None of me is insured for anything, not even the  stainless steel screws (with washers) which I have in my arm. I want everyone to know that in case I am dead. They are in my right humerus. They could save your life.

One time, I was carrying something heavy and I stepped on a large screw. It screwed my cheap basketball shoe on to my heel bone. When I got to emergency at St.Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver again – where I have been revived countless times – the nurses joked: “Now you really ARE wearing spiked heels”.

A rather fuzzy photo of Anna’s foot

Out-of-focus photo of Anna’s feet: she is not sure which was screwed

When the doctor saw my foot, he was not sure what to do. He had not dealt with this exact problem before. So he sent me to X-ray.  They had to call the maintenance department, who sent up a man with a screwdriver. The doctor grimaced a bit but managed to unscrew me. I do not remember which foot that was.

I went to vote in the municipal election yesterday. There was a plethora of trans gender women to choose from on the ballot paper, but I only chose two – one for mayor and one for the Parks Board.

Elections can be interesting.

Just north of Vancouver on the Sea-to-Sky Highway is the district municipality of Squamish. Stunt man Peter Kent lives there. He has vowed to set himself on fire if the voter turnout is higher in this election than it was in the last. He says that Squamish has been good to him and he wants to give back to the city and encourage young people to vote.  He won a seat on the council yesterday, but the turnout has not yet been totaled so the CBC has not yet decided whether to send a camera crew to film him.

He said that setting himself on fire is no big deal as he does it all the time.

Socially responsible citizens line up in a Vancouver gym to vote in yesterday’s election. Anna says: "I was told by a polite, pregnant officer that I was not allowed to take this photo."

Socially responsible citizens line up in a Vancouver gym to vote in yesterday’s election. Anna says: “I was told by a polite, pregnant officer that I was not allowed to take this photo.”

Once I spent a long time on Vancouver Island.

When I returned to the mainland there was a civic election and I did not have a clue who to vote for.

So I asked my neighbour Tom, a retired librarian draft dodger anarchist hippie from Detroit, who HE was going to vote for. Tom reads a lot and is really politically informed. I agree with him on most  issues.

He said he was voting for one guy because he wanted to put in more bicycle paths. He named another man he was voting for because the guy would ban genetically modified seeds from local farms. Then he named a woman. He said she was the first woman to fuck him when he had arrived in Canada during the Vietnam War. So he was voting for her.

I did not – still don’t – know what the lady looks like. But Tom looks fine. He dresses a bit strangely – black leggings, a pink toque – but he has agile movement, sharp eyes and lives on a sailboat in the shipyard.

I thought to myself: Anyone who fucked Tom definitely deserves my vote.

So I voted as Tom recommended.

It seemed the right thing to do.

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Filed under Canada, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Surreal