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Friday, 28 November 2014

PUBLIC UNDRESSING, EQUALITY AND THE FREEDOMS THAT LIE IN KENYA



 A few weeks ago, a woman was publicly stripped in Donholm, Nairobi by a mob. The decadent act has been repeated a number of times since then.

I have to be candid and state that the act is repulsive, debasing and inhumane.  

As the storm rages, I wanted to pause and answer a few questions that may ideally go to the root of this problem. And I believe it is a deep-sited problem manifesting itself.

The first question I wanted answered is about freedom? What is freedom and within that context what freedoms can a person be afforded.

Freedom is never absolute; we can never escape the control and influence of forces other than ourselves. Absolute freedom where you can do anything you want to do at any given time, in the context of society is a fallacy, there are always contesting bonds in any given society that demand we act in a certain way.

In the “I have a dream ” speech delivered by Martin Luther King in 1963; the resounding fact was that despite the Emancipation Proclamation , signed into being by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. And despite its abolition of slavery and the removal of the injustice of inequality, a hundred years later discrimination against blacks was prevalent.  For him freedom was a black man being equal to a white man with a guarantee of the "unalienable rights" of "life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Which brings me to the second dimension of freedom; to be free you need to possess knowledge, freedom without knowledge is a fallacy, and to be knowledgeable you have to have access to the truth. Many people walk around not knowing the truth about the world around them. Are you knowledgeable?

Another dimension of freedom also incorporates self-imposed discipline. For any society to exist and function it does so in the confines of rule and order. Rule to define function, order to define interaction. For a person to exist freely in a society conformance is required within the straights of such a society.  

From first account, by Dr. Livingstone  and Sir Henry Stanley , it is very evident that less than 150 years ago Africans roamed naked.

Was it gradualism that shifted our African mindset and beliefs, where we clothed all our naivety and gained knowledge according to western precocity?  Did we shift too quickly in embracing the norms of conquering rulers? And in the process discard cultures that took centuries to develop? Were we too quick in dressing up?


These are but ruminations of a conquered people, who have been treated for the longest time as a dark continent, as we begin to assert ourselves and define freedom based on a borrowed prescript.

All around the world there are varying clothing laws that define public decency and how to dress in public.  The bar scales from accepted nudity in Vanuatu and New Guinea, to the complete covering of women in Burqa in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
 I believe when you look at the legal systems in a country and its level of inclusivity towards the plight of women, then you begin to understand, the culture that defines women in that society.

You start to ask if equality and freedom needs to be sounded from every hill, every farm, every slope, every desert, every forlorn village across Kenya, and the rest of Africa.




Kenya is predominantly a Christian country. What this presupposes is an inkling of morality, a sense of moral backbone and a formidable sense of brotherhood and love that can be exhibited to the other 200+ countries that we share this world with. Instead what we find is a contradiction. Kenya has one of the highest levels of corruption in the world , and those yielding power are the most corrupt. We have few true leaders to look up to and no moral authority exists in the pulpits of our cathedrals that can sway a country that is considered a teenager in the global platform.


We have a Matatu Industry that has corrupted and incapacitated the police system. Held enough sway to manipulate government policy and refused to govern itself professionally, thus allowing young ‘unemployable’ men, with misgivings about equality, to run the system as touts and drivers, route managers and security detail.
These same people have dreams like the rest of Kenya, dreams to one day, get a good job, support their families, and lead a good life.

They look at the upward mobility of young ‘Millennials’ as they go to work every day in their suits and nice clothes, when they are forced to conform to a drab dress code that is only affirmed when the police requires a bribe.
They see young beautiful women doing better than them despite the fact that African culture dictates that they are supposed to be the breadwinner at home.
They see the unapproachability of these women, as mentally they feel denigrated and excluded from a society that they are the gatekeepers to.

What happens in the end is but evidence of simmering animosity, misplaced jealousy, unbridled misconception and the cycle continues.

There is nothing that sits in isolation; the undressing of innocent women, the violence meted out in Nairobi and the fringes of ungovernable Somalia, the repertoire of noise from quarters of power. All stem from the very DNA that defines us as a people.

Martin Luther King stated it best.

“But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force”.

 I believe if more Kenyans overcome a self-effacing quest to lampoon the people in power and instead focus on a personal journey of gaining unquestionable moral strength, then we will have a larger pool of quality leaders to elect from; Men and women of high moral caliber whose quest will be justice and freedom for all. Be it men, women, boy child and girl child.  

It only has to start with me.  Will you join me?


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