Only in Kenya could mini skirts spark such a maxi public debate By JOACHIM BUWEMBO | Monday, July 30 2012 at 14:21
Kenyans are the most collectively interesting people I have known. There may be a million boring individuals in Nairobi each relentlessly pursuing the shilling.
But put two or more Kenyans together and they can turn the most mundane topic into a hot debate. Yes, Kenyans are collectively a load of fun.
If, for example, you heard their pub discussions of the Kenya Defence Forces military intervention in Somalia and why it wasn’t executed with lightening speed, you feel like charging some people with sedition.
I also find Kenyans the most politically aware people in the world. A General Election that happens at five yearly intervals can field new political parties, entirely different from the ones that contested in the past election.
A top presidential contender’s party can remain unknown until a month before the election, but still people will know how to vote. They know their candidates and that is what matters. When prime time news comes on, life stops and everybody listens, then everyone debates the issues articulately. Only in Kenya.
But last week, Education Minister Mutula Kilonzo killed an interesting debate that had been ignited about schoolgirls’ uniform.
Some 400 girls in a secondary school in Murang'a which is situated in Central part of the country had started it when they boycotted class over the length of their skirts. They were demanding their right to wear their skirts as short as they want but the administration said no and showed them the exit.
Then the press apparently misquoted the minister as having supported the girls by allegedly saying that they are not nuns to be put in long dresses. The airwaves were jammed with debate over the minister’s alleged support until he came up on Monday to deny the remarks.
But the minister’s denial was also full of typical Kenyan verbal gems. He accused the press of confusing bishops and Muslims with their lies.
Religious leaders had called for his resignation and the minister advised that such calls were merely whistling in the wind. In any case, he observed, he has many nuns doing wonderful work in his constituency wearing their long habits.
But it was his legal threat to the journalists that I loved most. “I am watching you with very sharp lawyers,” he said. “I will sue you so hard you won’t know what hit you!”
Offering his opinion of those fanning the miniskirt debate and calling for his resignation, the Honourable Kilonzo said, “This sort of thing only happens in Kenya where you lynch people.”
It reminded me of a former electoral commission boss who was so shocked when people called for his resignation after a botched General Election, he asked, “Since when did Kenyans start resigning over such things?”
Before the minister closed the debate, some lively views had been aired on the radio stations. Some callers wanted the minister to be sacked outright. But other Kenyans took the matter more intellectually. I heard a few calling for a proper study to be conducted on the effect of a student’s dress on her academic performance.
Others were more practical and called for policy harmonisation so that only female teachers get posted to schools that allow miniskirts while the males teach in those where girls dress in long dresses.
The author is a Knight International fellow for development journalism. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Should Kenya spend $8.2 million to acquire an office for retired President Kibaki?speak out
Read Story: Should Kenya spend $8.2 million to acquire an office for retired President Kibaki?
- The girl who met Gaddafi 'in hell'
- Nigerian deportee demands pay for Kenyan officials' release
- Ethiopia secures $300m Indian rail loan
- 7 Kenyans held in Lagos over deported 'Nigerian'
- Kenyan call girls go high-tech
- Clinton to visit Senegal ahead of Obama
- Nile saga: Ethiopia and Egypt now favour dialogue
- Nairobi in pictures: Past and present
- Hospital quiet on Museveni birth records mystery
Beyond the ballot