Celebrating East African Writing!

Beyond us my Ass! by Marvin Tumbo

I have been patiently waiting; even experimenting on how much longer I could go without flipping out, going ape, becoming manic, losing it or whatever else you call a man who has been pushed to the brink.

I am a young man who after a lot of thought, more thought and then research decided to throw myself onto this entrepreneurship ship despite the fact that many such ships have not sailed here in Kenya. Motivated by the good margins that in the industry I will be venturing into, I embarked on a thorough research of the industry and industry leaders. Then I started writing the business plan: determining entry points, working out angles, foreseeing potential roadblocks, researching the various modalities of the business, fishing out potential competitors and the works. After three intense weeks of working on this idea of mine, I already had a system that worked. This system comprised researching, reading, writing, researching, reading some more, rewriting, researching and so on. Having this system had given me a base for creating a schedule within which I could roll out the various phases of my entrepreneurial project including setting deadlines for each of the respective phases.

Then it started. I would be in my local cybercafe when the power would go off. I would then sit around for half an hour thinking that this was nothing more than a small hitch than would soon be resolved. It was nothing of the sort. Six hours later when all the thoughts that I had were long gone and very hard to retrieve from this head of mine was when the power would come back on. And if you are in any way like me, then you probably understand how important it is to work when your brain is operating on genius mode. Soon enough, when my head operates on normal, there is nothing special I can do other the routine stuff. This power blackout happened one more time and that was when I told my brother that the government had probably started power rationing. He said it was not the case and went ahead to say that the power sometimes acts up in this place. But the next time when I was busy typing up some of my write-ups, the power went off again and I threw my hands in the air and cursed out aloud, “what the ****!” I had not saved that work.

That evening, there was a feature in that news that finally called a spade a spade by declaring that we had water, food, and energy crises in the country. After this, I mentioned yet again to my brother that power rationing was well under way, unofficially. But my bro can be quite naïve sometimes. He said that the government would never do that without first running it by Kenyans. “They have to tell us first,” he said. My immediate retort was that they ****ing swore in the president without telling us so this was just mere child play to them. Some time later that week came the official announcement that the power rationing would commence that Thursday. I was fuming mad. There I was with a schedule for a roll out and then this.  But I figured I could work around the rationing. All I needed to do was redo each and every aspect of my plan. But that too would need a pilot plan to see how well I could maneuver around this power rationing.

It has been difficult. First there were the days when my head was in overdrive mode. These are those days when I start typing and don’t stop until I reach the very end of the given thought process. Whenever I feel like I have the mental capacity to do more that I more than I normally would do, I do what needs to be done and by the time I stop, it strikes me that I have typed over ten pages of incredible stuff, easily. So when such days just happen to be those days when there is no power in this neck of the woods, it feels like sitting on a needle and trying to ignore the pain. So I make due by writing up all that needs to be written on paper. But the problem is that when the power eventually comes back, I will need to now type it and that translates to double work. The second point was that I figured I could designate the days when there is no electricity to research. I would leave for the CBD and research on the still skeleton aspects of my business plan that needed the meat. But this also had its fair share of problems.

The problem with setting out to make something work is that one cannot allow oneself to be consumed with excuses why it won’t work. But it gets pretty frustrating when I am forced to spend those days when I have electricity reading the backlog of research documents that I have downloaded or retyping the tens of pages that I had earlier written on paper. This is doing double work and it has virtually killed all the momentum I had. I am going nowhere. The work that I have done after the rationing began is in no way close to the amount of work I did before the blackouts. I am yet to find another way to move forward. Then I read a facebook update by Juliet Maruru in which she asked people to submit stories on how their small businesses have been affected by this power blackout. At first I thought it was not my place since I do not own a business yet. But I am en-route to owning one and still I am greatly affected by these blackouts so I can imagine what those who are already in business must be feeling.

In one of those blackout days, I went to my local cyber which was now running on a generator. Combining the diesel fumes emanating from the cheap generator, the noise from all the generators in that line of small businesses, the ridiculously slow internet and the persistent power disruptions caused by the intermittent coughing of that beat-up generator; even saints would hit the roof. Angry after that particular experience, I wrote about it in my blog. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. Earlier on, the CEO of KPLC was on TV, smiling, giving high fives to people while launching yet another initiative. This time round, they created something that would make them respond to issues within 24 hours. I was not impressed at all because his timing was just pathetic. Honestly, what the hell were these guys doing? Why would they be up there launching an initiative that is directed to respond to the very thing that is in short supply.

And here is my logic.

If you are in the business of selling Bullshit, the first thing you need to have is a bull to provide you with the shit. For instance, the Kenyan Government is the bull, and their explanations (read excuses) as to why we are faced by food, water and energy crises is the shit. Dr. Alfred Mutua just happens to be the conduit through which that bullshit passes. He is what some of you call an ass. But here was KPLC launching something in the middle of a crippling power blackout. Just to mock the whole thing, I would urge people to test it by first demanding that they respond to the power shortage within 24 hours because that is the onus of the whole initiative. My take was simple. Give me the electricity first and then I will give you something to respond to. But that then begged another question. Why was it they are launching a response unit whereas a better strategy would be forethought? We all knew that the rains would fail. We all know that we are the second largest geothermal energy reserve in the world. Then why are we acting like this could not have been prevented? These are the questions I raised in my blog post.

After posting that post, there was a comment by an angry reader that really shocked me. He started by saying that there I go with the “entitlement mentality” again. He then insulted me and even suggested that I use my urine to run the turbines (which was really funny). But I was quite sad at his ignorance which he probably sought to cover up by his plethora of diatribes. His take was that the blue skies above were no fault of the government and that people like me had nothing better to do than complain because of this entitlement mentality. I did not need to reply to that because there were five quick responses by other readers that put him in his place. One reader said that we pay taxes and that entitles us to demand for certain things. Another said that he had been given a bill of a million KES for a rural electrification project to his home. You can imagine coughing up such an amount of money only to be told that you still have to use that solar panel because of rationing. I said I would not respond to his attack but his accusing me of an entitlement mentality is something that I simply could not shake off. This is a whole debate in itself but one which I am forced to start here.

Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads in part that “Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.”

The problem in Kenya today is that things as far as public service goes have never worked and those that initially did have not worked in so long that people have forgotten that we are entitled to them. We have become so conditioned to expecting nothing from the government in this country. Article 21 also says that “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government…” What will? If anything, we have been reduced to begging the government and hence the now famous phrase across the whole country, “Tunaomba serikali….” It hurts me to hear that. Ideally, in the scheme of things, we are the masters and the government the servant. I refuse to beg and so I demand. At times I am forced to exaggerate in my writing just to force people out of their comfort zones. Instead of “Tunaomba serikali,” I demand because that is my democratic right. When Dr. Mutua insults me, I won’t lose sleep over it because that is his job description. But when it is by a fellow Kenyan mwananchi; the one sitting with me in that cyber inhaling diesel fumes because there is no electricity, the one whose salon is operating at half capacity because she can now only braid hair, the one who is like me in struggling to work around this rationing just to make enough buy water and food which are both subjects of another crises, it hurts.

And that is the point where I think reeducation is important. Going back to my bullshit anecdote, it is obvious that only governments that cannot get their shit together get into the business of peddling bullshit: it covers up their incompetence. And the rate at which the government’s spokesman spews out astonishing amounts of crap is the only indicator we need that this government ain’t doing shit. The sad part is that Kenyans have bought this shit since independence and still we wonder whey we are always in ancient logjams like food crises and energy shortage. Come on people, do the math. How the hell can you buy a line claiming that this is beyond us? Beyond us my ass!  If you cannot do the math, fcuking google it! We claim to be a country that is 70% dependent on agriculture and yet we cannot feed ourselves. There are virtually deserts out there that are now exporting food.  A power plant that takes over 2 decades to be completed – come on people! Need I mention geothermal. The point is that no explanation as to why we are not food and energy sufficient should fly. And until we are sufficient, don’t stop lighting fire on the leadership’s asses.

You see, the problem with eating shit is that you eventually become so accustomed to it that you start defending it like that guy who insulted me. Your rationale being that since eating shit did not kill you; it ain’t half as bad as people claim. Yeah! I also read the research that said shit has some nutrients (for roaches). It’s still shit. It is the excretion that is left after somebody ate the real food, the very food that we are entitled to. Just think of all those resources that have been lost to corruption since independence. Now try and translate that to the no of irrigation plants that could have been built, or the number of geothermal plans that would be in place, or the number of fertilizer bags that would have been bought, or acreage of land that would be under irrigation today etc. It is not wishful thinking. It is what could have been if our parents had refused the shit trade that began with the Kenyatta government and which has stayed with us to date.

And here is a sound byte for you:


And when it does, you get food, water, energy crises etc. So please! I am requesting you; do not buy any more shit from this or any other government. Demand more than what you are currently getting if anything. You are entitled to a better life. That is the only way to force accountability.

© Marvin Tumbo 2009

If you would like this piece to be the Story of the Week, please vote below on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being weak, and 10 being excellent. The numbers will be tallied on Friday and the story with the highest figure shall be Crowned Story of the Week. Be sure to fill in your name and verifiable email. You can include your critique/comment after the vote.


4 comments on “Beyond us my Ass! by Marvin Tumbo

  1. Mercy Ojwang'
    September 9, 2009

    Please give me the url to your blog. As a rule, I never comment on stories when i’v also submitted work, but I make an exception here. I loved this work! You ranted and raved without losing your point and you just blew me away with the simplicity of your dialogue. It felt like we were having a conversation. Awesome!


  2. stella22
    September 14, 2009

    This piece neatly sums up our problems as Kenyans.You have expressed everything I feel and condensed it-rage, curses and all-into one piece.I really like this article, well done Marvin.


  3. Marvin K. Tumbo
    September 25, 2009

    Thanks Mercy.


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