The State of Kenyan Education

Nyambura Mutanyi
2 July ,2013

Kenyan children are expectantly waiting for their laptops. Children across the republic sit for dinner and look askance at the parents who voted in a government that promised them laptops. This (looking forward to laptops) is, for me, symptomatic of what ails Kenyan education. An obsession with technology as the be-all and end-all. Show me […]

The State of Kenyan Education

Nyambura Mutanyi
2 July ,2013

Kenyan children are expectantly waiting for their laptops. Children across the republic sit for dinner and look askance at the parents who voted in a government that promised them laptops. This (looking forward to laptops) is, for me, symptomatic of what ails Kenyan education. An obsession with technology as the be-all and end-all. Show me […]

Silence is a Good Man

Michael Onsando
9 July ,2013

I should probably write this with a qualification. I am a man. I cannot say I understand what women go through every day. I can leave the house at 10pm without thinking of whether or not I will be raped. I can go into a night club, on my own, just because I want to […]

Don’t “Africa” Me

Brenda Wambui
16 July ,2013

“Just landed in the beautiful country of Africa..I can tell you that the world is excited for #TheGifted,” tweeted Rick Ross on June 24th 2013. In this era of globalization and the Internet, the man still thinks Africa is a country. We may point at our screens and laugh at him for displaying his ignorance, […]

A Young Bull Mounts From the Head

Guest Writer
23 July ,2013

by Linda Musita An African proverb implies that a young bull does not know the back of a cow from its front.  What the adolescent does when it is horny is try to get itself “in” through the face of its object of desire. I would like to assume it is because the young bull […]

An Alternative View Of Our Legal System

Nyambura Mutanyi
30 July ,2013

It’s not often that one finds a system that closely parallels the society one lives in. Every so often, however, an element of one’s environment seems to be a microcosm of something greater. The thing I perceive to be an organic representation of Kenyans and the constitution is this: BebaPay Google and Equity Bank partnered […]

Disposable Kenyans

Michael Onsando
6 August ,2013

“We must see killability as too high a price to pay for development, for peace” ~Keguro Macharia  Last week there were five suspected gangsters shot down in the Loresho area. The police said that they were suspected of committing several crimes, hence their deaths made things better in the long run, because it brought safety […]

The Politics of Beauty

Guest Writer
13 August ,2013

by Nkatha Obungu In the innocent space of childhood fantasy, I wanted to be a model when I grew up. This dream was so real and vivid to me that, for a while, I adopted a gait that must have seemed like a strange cross between a catwalk and limp. My idea of a model […]

Why Don’t You Want Me?

Brenda Wambui
20 August ,2013

One of the few things we can agree on about Kenya is that we are a deeply religious nation. Kenya is listed among the world’s top 10 religious countries, with 88% of its people ascribing to religious teachings. 47% are Protestants while 23.5% are Roman Catholics, meaning that 80% of Kenya’s religious population is Christian. […]

What Are You Reading?

Michael Onsando
27 August ,2013

Thin slicing, contrary to what the word may sound like, is not a way to come out with a crunchier and more fragile piece of bread.  Coined in 1992 by Nalini Amabady it is the ability to find a pattern based on small bits of information. In Blink, the power of thinking without thinking, Malcolm […]

God Will Save Us

Brenda Wambui
3 September ,2013

I was heading to Ngumo from South B sometime last month, and Route 33 matatus were charging Sh. 50, up from the usual Sh. 30. The makanga said it was because of the traffic jam on the South C route; they were going to have to use Mombasa Road. This is more expensive as they […]

by Kenne Mwikya The August school holiday is a month in which school-going kids can blow off steam after the longest school term of the year. It is a time of heightened apprehension among parents seeking to constantly monitor their children, parents who are suspicious of their kids or suspicious of the world in which […]

Forget your privileged self for a while

Nyambura Mutanyi
17 September ,2013

I recently wrote a blog post about my experience using a menstrual cup that spurred interesting conversations. They highlighted myriad cultural, economic, and social matters that rarely come to the fore in conversation. They opened dialogue about women’s bodies, access to sanitary services, and what it means to take these things for granted. The conversations […]

Thought Begets Thought

Michael Onsando
24 September ,2013

 Strangers are not simply those who are not known in this dwelling, but those who are, in their very proximity, already recognized as not belonging, as being out of place. –          Sara Ahmed, Strange Encounters (Embodied Others in Post Coloniality) At this time, in this country, many people are looking inwards. Trying to find themselves, […]

Death By VAT

Brenda Wambui
1 October ,2013

In 2013, the Value Added Tax (VAT) Act passed by parliament increased the number of taxable goods – by reducing the number of exempt and zero rated goods. The government hopes to raise an additional Sh. 10 billion per month in doing so. The standard rate of VAT remains 16%. In theory, this is what […]

Lead Us Not To The Test

Nyambura Mutanyi
8 October ,2013

On a Saturday afternoon, I find a friend’s nephew hard at work tackling fifty KCPE Kiswahili questions. This scene is repeated in a number of homes across the country. Most candidates are studying by doing tests. And often very many at a time. What do they and their parents think about this state of affairs? […]

Warning, Rape Ahead

Michael Onsando
15 October ,2013

This article in the Daily Nation tells the completely heart wrenching story of Liz, a girl in Busia who was brutally raped and then thrown in a pit latrine to die, something she refused to do. Alive now, but with a bad case of fistula and a broken back – she bays for some sort […]

The Revolution Will Be Written In HTML

Brenda Wambui
22 October ,2013

After the Westgate attack, an American friend who works as a freelance journalist based in Kenya tweeted that he was tired of listening to a government that spouts lies and a nation that was unwilling to question it. To which I responded that several questions were being asked daily, minute by minute even, especially online […]

We Don’t Need No Education

Nyambura Mutanyi
29 October ,2013

There’s no need to attend university. The world is a wondrous place awash with myriad opportunities, all one has to do is seek them. Or is it? Nairobi’s CBD, for example, feels like every second building houses a university campus. The place is veritably colonized by the campuses of far-flung universities. “It’s a brave new […]

Black is the New Black

Michael Onsando
5 November ,2013

Last week I went for a protest march. At the Inspector General’s office, everybody was scrambling to hear the response. Eager to listen, I made my way to the front as well. At some point I felt an arm on my shoulder – trying to shove me aside. Amidst standing my ground I turned and […]

Nyumba Kumi And Institutional Failure In Kenya

Brenda Wambui
12 November ,2013

After the Westgate attack of September 2013, Kenyans were forced to perform a post-mortem of the situation, and many questions came up. The one thing that was agreed upon was that the number of institutional failures that led up to the attack was jarring. The terrorists were said to have rented a shop in the […]

We Have To Live

Guest Writer
19 November ,2013

by Nduta Trigger Warning: This article contains accounts of sexual assault and may be triggering to some people. There is such violence in the demands to be okay, to live. Kweli Gee I wish to return to something for a bit. Just over two weeks ago, a friend of mine shared this video (re: anti-rape […]

Interrogating The Nyumba Kumi Initiative

Guest Writer
26 November ,2013

by Shitemi Khamadi Two weeks ago this essay was published on Brainstorm about the Nyumba Kumi initiative. This is a reply. The ambitious Nyumba Kumi plan in which people should know at least ten of their neighbours underlines how critically the government views security. It brings to the door step of individuals the mandate to […]

This is a Corruption Free Zone

Michael Onsando
3 December ,2013

In order to withstand the weather, we had to become stone –          Audre Lorde Anyone who has been in a government office has, without a doubt, seen this sing “This is a corruption free zone.” Usually it is stuck above a till window, or next to other casual signs like “no smoking” and “please put […]

But I’m a Good Homosexual Christian…

Guest Writer
10 December ,2013

by Innocent Gitoho* I am a Kenyan man and I am gay. Yes, to the uninitiated, I am attracted to men, on occasion I have had sex with those men and I have pursued love and intimacy just like any heterosexual man and woman. But this is not the ‘Be all! End all!’ of who […]

Cut The Scrap!

Guest Writer
17 December ,2013

by Owaahh Scrap metal is an unattractive topic because its name implies rust and junk. That is its camouflage and strength. Scrap metal in Kenya is actually a multi-billion shilling sector built on theft, vandalism, economic sabotage, and pure avarice. The scrap metal industry in Kenya is unregulated save for a few policies that are […]

The EAC Conundrum

Brenda Wambui
24 December ,2013

The East African Community (EAC), a regional intergovernmental organization, was re-formed in 1999 by the Republic of Kenya, the United Republic of Tanzania and the Republic of Uganda after the collapse of the original EAC in 1977. The Republic of Rwanda and the Republic of Burundi became member states in 2007, and South Sudan has […]

On Important Writing And New Years

Michael Onsando
31 December ,2013

It is important to keep talking, keep discussing, keep creating and keep imagining. It is also important that we dwell, that we refuse to move when all around the world insists that we move forward. A perfect time for this sort of reflection is when the year comes to an end. This week, instead of […]

I don’t like this expression ‘First World problems.’ It is false and it is condescending. – Teju Cole An article in Al Jazeera talks about how the Western media is always getting the story wrong. It is, more importantly, asking why we instinctively turn to Western Media outlets – as if the rest of the media […]

All Animals Are Equal

Brenda Wambui
14 January ,2014

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. George Orwell, Animal Farm Animal Farm satirizes human beings and the nations of the world, specifically the Russian Communist state, using animals. The main message of the book comes out clearly by the end: that power cannot be divided equally – that once […]

Lupita Goes To Hollywood

Michael Onsando
21 January ,2014

Like Lupita was good in Shuga but up until the United States approves her that’s when we accept that hey she is good Daidey A few years ago, Lupita Nyong’o was the star of a show called Shuga. Twitter then was not what it is now. There were fewer people on it, fewer trending topics […]

Dear Africa: Don’t Let Them Take The Internet

Brenda Wambui
28 January ,2014

By July 2014 or January 2015, the African Union (AU) is expected to ratify the African Union Convention on Confidence and Security in Cyberspace (AUCC). The AU is having its 22nd assembly in Addis Ababa currently, running until 1st February, and the ratification was to take place at this meeting until it was postponed. Such […]

The Fallacy of Public Participation

Guest Writer
4 February ,2014

by Shitemi Khamadi Recurrent protests in counties on increased levies and taxes by county governments need to ignite discourses on what public participation entails. At face value, the protesters, including traders and boda boda operators among others, have a genuine concern.However, when one delves deeper, counties have limited sources of revenue and if development is […]

I Am Not a Brand

Michael Onsando
11 February ,2014

Identity, I have been told, is impossible. And it is increasingly getting harder with the globalization of life. It is interesting to see the language(s) that emerge to define exactly what is going on in this place we call home. I, however, find it hard to accept the personal brand. No matter how impossible identity […]

I Have Seen The Devil

Brenda Wambui
18 February ,2014

This is what he looks like. At least that is what some people in Kisumu think he looks like. The Sikh community in the area put up the monument, depicting a praying person (I fail to understand art many times, but this time the meaning of this piece failed to escape me), to commemorate 100 […]

A Shot in the Dark

Michael Onsando
25 February ,2014

No one else seems to worry, as I do, that the money demanded by someone whose finger nurses the trigger of an AK – 47 is less a tip than a ransom. – Teju Cole, Every Day is for The Thief Fact: Between March and August 2013 the police in Kenya shot, and killed, at […]

Systemic Begging

Guest Writer
4 March ,2014

by Caroline Maina Since Form 1 placements started, there have been several articles in the Daily Nation featuring students risking illiteracy due to poverty. Were I an outsider reading this paper, I would conclude that Kenyans are poor, their politicians are greedy and that Machakos is the capital city based on its development. These articles […]

Discovering Women

Brenda Wambui
11 March ,2014

I used to be a boys’ girl. The type of girl who said things like “I have more guy pals than girl pals. In fact, over 90% of my pals are guys. I prefer guys to girls cause guys don’t have drama. They don’t waste time discussing non-issues like nail polish, shopping and guys. They […]

Memory Serves You Wrong

Michael Onsando
18 March ,2014

Take back your memories.  – Witness #115 There is something about remembering that is completely anti-establishment. Memories are fragile things, and because we continue to experience things collectively as individuals, they are also very subjective. It’s easy to say “I remember…” and be saying something that is completely false. This has been on my mind as […]

Footnotes On Death

Brenda Wambui
25 March ,2014

In our sometimes unfortunate journey through this planet, we must experience death. We experience the death of loved ones, unloved ones, and ultimately, our own deaths. I rarely meditate on the meaning of many of life’s phenomena – I like to joke that I have the emotional depth of a banana – but this week, […]

Even The Streets Aren’t Safe

Guest Writer
1 April ,2014

by Sheila Maingi A few weeks ago, I shared an incident on Twitter that happened to me on my way from work. It was a normal weekday evening and, having wrapped up at the office, I set out for home. I had hardly walked a few metres from the office when I saw three young […]

My Day With Al Gore

Guest Writer
8 April ,2014

by Kristin Muthui One thing that is becoming very clear, as people continue to argue about climate change and its impact on society, is that if we want to change the situation, we need to address inequality before it threatens our way of life. On a global level, this manifests itself in the strange mechanisms […]

Kitu Kidogo May Not Be The Problem

Michael Onsando
15 April ,2014

A few days ago I saw a tweet. I can’t remember who tweeted it, but what it asked, many Kenyans have been asking  for a long time. “Imagine how much corruption would reduce if we just stopped giving bribes?” This has been the predominant thinking in the country about how to handle corruption for the […]

The Division of Revenue Bill (DoRB), 2014 is at the top of the agenda for parliament in their next couple of sittings, and as such, it is in form to explore its implications. This bill is the first step in our annual budgeting cycle, and is particularly important as it should work to ensure the […]

Between Hope and a Hard Place

Michael Onsando
29 April ,2014

On many occasions when talking about Brainstorm, the journal, the future and the work that we believe that this journal should do, I’ve been asked about hope. This question comes up again with people who read my blog. And it’s not just me, it’s like the message that is being passed across by many writers, […]

The Rape Issue

Guest Writer
6 May ,2014

[Trigger Warning: This piece may be traumatising to victims of rape or sexual abuse] by K. A. ALI A court sentenced an 80 year old woman to seven years imprisonment for circumcising a young girl without her parent’s consent. The Daily Nation reported that when she was offered mitigation she responded that “the court could […]

Something Somewhere Didn’t Click

Michael Onsando
13 May ,2014

Dear Mr President. It has been 6 months since our performance at Kenya@50! Please pay us our dues. @UKenyatta #kenyaat50 Sauti Sol There is something oddly symbolic about that tweet and, more particularly, the reactions to that tweet. It now comes to light that the Kenya at 50 celebrations were rife with corruption, dodgy bookkeeping […]

– Dick, the Butcher in Shakespeare’s Henry VI by Awuor Anyango On attending the Centre for Intellectual property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) World Intellectual Property day at the Strathmore Law School, I was a bit shocked at the turn out. Lawyers easily outnumbered the visual artists, despite the session being based on the film […]

“Once poverty is gone, we’ll need to build museums to display its horrors to future generations. They’ll wonder why poverty continued so long in human society – how a few people could live in luxury while billions dwelt in misery, deprivation and despair.” Mohammed Yunus It is easy to think of poverty as a thing […]

by Samira Sawlani “The Country chose its prey. Seduced them, made them believe they owned it and then gobbled them down, often in the most tender of ways—like a python.” “Kenya is treacherous.” The above are excerpts from Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s novel “Dust”. Though they form part of a fictional story, for many in Kenya, […]

Here, Have Your Safety.

Michael Onsando
10 June ,2014

The President made an infomercial for security. This seems to be something we need to think about. What does it mean when safety is packaged and given to us in a 1 minute 45 seconds long clip? Morgan Bassichis writes: “… we internalize and embody this understanding—“you make me feel unsafe, that’s an unsafe neighborhood, […]

This essay was written before the occurrence of the Mpeketoni Attack. We as Brainstorm extend our deepest condolences to all those affected by the attack, and to Kenya as a whole. Outrage Pornography: Memes, news articles, TV segments, email forwards, or other forms of media that are designed to invoke outrage. This is especially true […]

What’s In a Name? Everything

Michael Onsando
24 June ,2014

“…Say their names: Kiptoo, Onyango, Achieng’, Nyambura, Cheruiyot Say their names: missing, burned, raped, decapitated, insane Say their names: scared, criminalized, hated, feared, intimidated.” – Witness 95 One can only imagine what Darius Mwanzi was doing that evening. Maybe he had just had a beer with his friends, maybe he didn’t drink, maybe he was with […]

The Makings Of A Sex Addict

Guest Writer
1 July ,2014

This essay is taken from Brainstorm’s second e-book, (In)Sanity: What “Crazy” Looks Like, which is on mental health in Kenya and is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays. by Anonymous What can I tell you about myself?  I’m a single mother of two wonderful children, I’m half Kenyan but grew up […]

Kenya: A State Of Perpetual Fear And Chaos

Brenda Wambui
8 July ,2014

From Wednesday 18th June to Friday 20th June 2014, I got to experience life in Kakuma, at the refugee camp. A couple of bloggers and I went there courtesy of UNHCR to commemorate World Refugee Day, and each day, we had opportunities to interact with the host community, the Turkana, and the refugees, who are of […]


Michael Onsando
15 July ,2014

Things that are dead make the most noise. I realise this as I try to walk through a garden. It’s the live things that you will step on with no sound, or minimal sounds. Dead things creak, bend, protest, demand to be heard, acknowledged. Perhaps it is because, being dead, there is nothing to fear. […]

My Land Is Not Kenya: The Folly Of Patriotism

Brenda Wambui
22 July ,2014

You only got one mama You only got one pa You only got one life to live No matter who you are You can go the whole world over Every city has its dawn But everybody liveth has one place where he was born And mine is Kenya, so warm and wild and free You’ll […]

24 Hours Of The Day

Guest Writer
29 July ,2014

This essay is taken from Brainstorm’s second e-book, (In)Sanity: What “Crazy” Looks Like, which is on mental health in Kenya and is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays. by Anne Moraa This is true – if creatively so, if only emotively so, if only my truth. I can only write it now, […]

That’s So Gay!

Michael Onsando
5 August ,2014

“Oh,” the man said. “Oh, yeah— starry-eyed coon with way, way too much money, who thinks there ain’t nothin’ more important than the lives of some crazy black faggots.” He grunted. Though he was surprised, Eric laughed. “If you are one— a black faggot, I mean— that can seem pretty important to you, actually.” Black […]

This past weekend, I was fortunate to attend the second Atieno Project Unconference and learn about how the law affects women, especially bills and acts written with women in mind, such as The Protection against Domestic Violence Bill (2013) and The Reproductive Health Care Bill (2014). The discussion was lively and informative, and there were […]

Disappearing Bodies

Michael Onsando
19 August ,2014

The man who sharpens knives  in my neighbourhood is a middle aged Kenyan man. He can’t be more than 38 years old, although the wrinkles on his forehead beg to differ. His hands don’t look like they were made for delicate work. They have a large awkwardness that comes with the life of a casual […]

Asking For Stories

Guest Writer
26 August ,2014

by Wanjiku Mungai This is what terrifies me: one day, we’ll wake up and find that all of the stories are gone. Let me explain. I find myself thinking more about endings as I grow older. Of late, I’ve been thinking specifically about what comes after the end. Not in the sense of what comes […]

Misogyny: From The Boardroom To The Bedroom

Guest Writer
2 September ,2014

by Samira Sawlani In every nation, archived away are unaired episodes on subjects which are either conveniently ignored or so internalised by society that they cease to be seen as injustices and thus retain a sense of banality. One such issue is that of misogyny, the negative attitude we hold towards females which men, women, […]

How To Be A Kenyan

Brenda Wambui
9 September ,2014

There comes a time when one is called to great things. One of those things is being Kenyan. How does one become Kenyan, you ask? You have come to the right place. Religion: Praise God? Amen! It does not matter where you are, who you are with, or what their religious beliefs are, discussions about […]

And Then They Came For Me

Guest Writer
16 September ,2014

by Asha Jaffar “I have been living in Kibera for 34 years. I’m now moved to an 8×8 room with my family.” Victim of the demolition It has always been happening. I can’t remember when it started but it’s been going on for very long and I’m tired of it. It gets tiring having your homes destroyed […]

The Development Agenda in Africa

Guest Writer
23 September ,2014

by Shillah Memusi For as long as I can remember, there has always been conversation about development on the African continent, where the terms “African Development” and “Development in Africa” were used interchangeably, as though they mean the same thing. I believe that the two are completely different concepts, distinguished mainly by their drivers, and […]

Every Death Should Matter

Guest Writer
30 September ,2014

This essay is taken from Brainstorm’s third e-book, Ha!Kuna Matata: Security in Kenya, which is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays. by Morris Kiruga In the dead of the night, two groups methodically approached the small serene police station. The outer wall of the station had seen better, cleaner days. Its […]

Did You Report It?

Guest Writer
7 October ,2014

by Aisha Ali Trigger Warning: Sexual assault, rape Two weeks ago, I switched on my phone after having it off all night and a series of text messages immediately came through. One was notification that my friend had tried to call me several times. Then frantic texts. “Are you awake? I need to talk to […]

Where Can Women Be At Home?

Guest Writer
14 October ,2014

by Wambui Mwangi Breathe me clear Breathe me safe Breathe me home –Shailja Patel, Screaming I am a political scientist. I have been studying the forms of power in the world for many years. Many very brilliant professors have taught me, but most of what I consider important was taught to me by my mother. She […]

Fence Culture

Guest Writer
21 October ,2014

This essay is taken from Brainstorm’s third e-book, Ha!Kuna Matata: Security in Kenya, which is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays. by Otieno Sumba The first thing I learnt to climb was a fence, a rickety wooden fence. My friends and I would climb up and jump down all day, and […]

by Anonymous “My government will be able to cut the cost of power by 30%” President Uhuru Kenyatta The statement above captions the overarching sentiment at the launch of the 140 MW Olkaria IV Geothermal Power Plant in Kenya’s Rift Valley. The event was dubbed as the first tangible step towards the Jubilee government’s ambitious […]


Michael Onsando
4 November ,2014

“The burden of identity is upon the identified” – Chuma Nwokolo “I say ‘I am a God’ and you go around saying ‘who the hell does that guy think he is?’ I just told you – I am a god” – Kanye West “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into […]

The Militarization Of Kenya

Brenda Wambui
11 November ,2014

On September 5th 2014, Uhuru Kenyatta caused a social media (and traditional media) standstill when he wore army fatigues for the first time in his presidency. All kinds of things were said: he looked “devilishly handsome”, “presidential”, “they fit him much better than his usual suits, he should get this tailor to make his suits”, […]

Victim On Trial

Guest Writer
18 November ,2014

by Samira Sawlani “To my daughter I will say, when men come, set yourself on fire” -Warsan Shire We are very subjective when it comes to defending human rights – it baffles me. We weep for the police officers on duty killed in Kapedo yet we were indifferent for so long to the death and […]

But It’s My Body

Michael Onsando
25 November ,2014

I return to Saul Williams,   “What is the price of freedom, how is it paid?”   At the protest march for #MyDressMyChoice, we marched past another group of people at Dedan Kimathi’s statue on Kimathi Street, Nairobi. They couldn’t have been more than 10. As we walked, by they watched silently, holding their placards: […]

Let’s Talk About Uhuru

Brenda Wambui
2 December ,2014

I like to think that I learn something from all the reading I choose to indulge in – and in the past five years, I have read/learnt a bit about microexpressions. These are brief facial expressions that occur when a person conceals an emotion, either consciously or unconsciously. Seven of these facial expressions are universal, […]

The More Things Seem to Change

Michael Onsando
9 December ,2014

“We asked ten years ago. We was asking with the panthers. We was asking with them – the civil rights movement. We was asking. Those people that were asking, they’re all dead or in jail. So what do you think we’re going to do? Ask?” – Tupac Moments only exist within context. To imagine about […]

The Security Laws (Amendment) Bill 2014

Brenda Wambui
16 December ,2014

In Kenya, we have a knack for knee jerk reactions to our problems and over reliance on legislation whenever things go wrong, especially with regards to our security. We have experienced several terror attacks from Al-Shabaab in the past four years, since our entry into Somalia, which have culminated in terror attacks in Mandera, Wajir, […]

This Will, That Will and the Other Will

Michael Onsando
23 December ,2014

“They say I’m going crazy, but I’ve been here before” – Kanye West   “…a few hours later it was passed into law.” I write this from a time when the sentence above doesn’t need to be explained. Our government has just fast tracked the Security Bill into law. We are confused. What do the […]

The Year In Literature

Brenda Wambui
30 December ,2014

“and when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive” Audre Lorde These are the works that spoke to us the most in 2014. [Click the title, in […]

Mum’s New Place

Guest Writer
6 January ,2015

This essay is taken from Brainstorm’s new e-book, – Thoughts on Home, which is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays. by Cornell Ngare I am an IDP. If you’ve lived in Kenya for any reasonable length of time, you don’t need me to define that acronym. My first stop when […]

The River And The Source

Guest Writer
13 January ,2015

This essay is taken from Brainstorm’s new e-book, – Thoughts on Home, which is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays. by Gragory Nyauchi A Greek friend once shared with me the difference between Ancient and Modern Greek; in ancient Greek, words weren’t just words – they carried weight and concepts and […]

Injustice. Everywhere.

Brenda Wambui
20 January ,2015

The phrase “new year, new me” cannot be said to apply to the year 2015 – for it appears that it will be a continuation, and perhaps a crescendo, of the gross inhumanity we experienced in 2014. Nigeria has suffered yet another onslaught from the terror group Boko Haram, who have killed an upward of […]

Watching Our Own Backs

Michael Onsando
27 January ,2015

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” – Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.   It’s something else when we begin to imagine the amount of damage that has been done to humankind in defense of names. Names are an extension of authority. Saying a name […]

On 22nd December 2014, Nancy Mbindalah wrote that Ishiara Level Four Hospital had been closed due to lack of water, which had been disconnected over an unpaid bill, and asked what the county government was doing about the issue. This was not the first comment she had made on the government. Before this she had […]

Real Men Don’t Cry

Michael Onsando
10 February ,2015

I remember this in isolation, without context. I must have been at that age where time is only counted in a series of nows. Again something had happened. Again I was in tears. My aunt gave me a book titled “Real Men Don’t Cry.” The book was way above my age grade – she didn’t […]

The Media Which Cried Wolf

Brenda Wambui
17 February ,2015

No street protests in support of KTN, NTV and Citizen TV, who collectively, have served Kenyans with dedication & passion over 25 years? Saddique Shaban The human mind is capable of amazing things, one of which is selective amnesia. In March 2013, Uhuru Kenyatta was declared Kenya’s fourth president, and barring his supporters, no one […]

Say you saw a painting…

Michael Onsando
24 February ,2015

“support local artists” – Anything, anyone, anywhere I remember writing an essay about my experience around the bomb blast in 1998. My teacher then, Mrs Dhanji, made a comment to my mother about my writing. “It’s vivid.” I’m not sure if either my mother or my teacher remember this moment. I do. I remember it now […]

by Anonymous I’ve always been the type of person to claim that “weed does nothing for me, really, which is why I don’t smoke it.” On Saturday, I found myself defending my position again to a friend at his house. We had just left a function, and I needed some downtime before I headed to […]

Emails on Depression

Michael Onsando
9 March ,2015

I’ve been asked often what depression really feels like. The defiant part of me refuses to answer these questions. To dwell on a violence is sometimes inflicting a violence on the self. To be forced into repeatedly justifying  your humanity can cause you to doubt it. (if everyone says I’m not here, am I?) Another […]

Fighting the Disease

Brenda Wambui
17 March ,2015

It is my belief that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Our lives are made possible by those who birthed us, and those who fought so that people who look like us can live, and we must always remember this. I was recently asked why I am no longer as […]

Finding Here

Michael Onsando
24 March ,2015

“you can’t live  the songs of people who don’t know your name.” – Yvonne Adhiambo, Dust. (aside: I was more sure about how to spell Yvonne than I was about Adhiambo as I wrote that quote) and even when they know the names of their ancestors they still can’t remember them, On Twitter a while […]

Having Given it Little Thought

Michael Onsando
31 March ,2015

We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are – Anais Nin. It was 1961 when Anais Nin gave us these words. ‘The Seduction of the Minotaur’ shows a strong sense of psychoanalysis. It talks about how Lillian studies herself and her actions “I don’t think about it, I just […]

I Just Wanted To Go Home

Brenda Wambui
7 April ,2015

On Saturday, the 14th of March, my friends and I had had a great evening catching up over drinks, after which we decided to check out a 50% off offer on burgers at a local coffee chain. They did not have the buns we wanted, though, so we decided to go home. I decided to […]


Michael Onsando
14 April ,2015

The road to Garissa gives a detailed history of the things that brought us to this space. This place where a spark ignites a stampede. But focusing on the fear feels selfish. Like ignoring the 147 students who were killed on 2nd April 2015, their families and their friends.   something of the soul is […]

Why Kenya’s Real War Is Within Its Borders

Guest Writer
21 April ,2015

by Owaahh As the flowers begin to wilt on the graves of the 147 people who were killed in the Garissa University attack, it is essential for Kenyans to reflect on the journey that brought us here. This journey has been one of many mistakes and very few legitimate successes. The story of how the […]

What About Nerea?

Brenda Wambui
28 April ,2015

“Please listen to Sauti Sol’s latest song Nerea. So done with it.” A close friend sent this message to me on Tuesday morning last week. Later in the evening, I watched the video with yet another friend. We were both irritated, and it has taken me a week to decide why. The song is from […]

Talking Walls

Michael Onsando
5 May ,2015

We make each other angry because it’s the only time we’re alive. Not nearly closer than we can get without asking the questions that we want to ask because we are not quite sure we want to know the answer to them. We make each other angry because we want to see something, we want […]

Made in Kenya: Forensic Files

Guest Writer
12 May ,2015

This essay is taken from Brainstorm’s third e-book, Ha!Kuna Matata: Security in Kenya, which is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays. by Sophie Gitonga I’d never met a murderer before – and it never featured on my to do list. Pete (not his real name) was a guest at the Kamiti […]

Why #TeamPositivity Is Wrong

Brenda Wambui
19 May ,2015

There is a belief that has been around in Kenya since the advent of the prosperity gospel and the flood of self-help books in the market: that the key to the change we so desperately require in Kenya, be it solving our flooding problem or ending corruption, is positive thinking. Recently, we have faced successive […]

This is Kenya

Guest Writer
26 May ,2015

This essay is taken from Brainstorm’s third e-book, (In)Sanity, What Crazy Looks Like: Security in Kenya, which is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays. Editor’s note: I’m thinking about what it is to read this essay and think of the several iterations of violence that have happened since Westgate. What does it […]

Did You Mean Beatification?

Guest Writer
2 June ,2015

by Otieno Sumba The newly beatified Sister Irene Nyaatha Stefani may hold a Gikuyu name dearly given to her by the community she lived and worked in, but she is not Gikuyu, Kenyan, African or Black. This holds true for many of the other Catholic saints, blesseds, and venerables that earned their halos by the […]

Reading Akello

Michael Onsando
9 June ,2015

Akello is a book of love poems. That’s the short version. But I’m wondering what it means to say the words “love poems” anymore. To explore the ideas of feeling and being a space that is decidedly against these same ideas. Love slowly moves to being a radical act (still, I hear echoes of ‘the […]

Conversations With Our Mothers

Guest Writer
16 June ,2015

by Wairimu Muriithi “Mr Speaker, if you do not slap a woman, you will note that her behaviours will not appeal to you. Just slap her and she will know you love her. This is when she will you call her darling.” Kitale West MP Wafula Wabuge, July 1976 There are things that are said every day. […]

The Many Faces of Insecurity in Nairobi

Guest Writer
23 June ,2015

This essay is taken from Brainstorm’s third e-book, Ha!Kuna Matata: Security in Kenya, which is available for free.DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays. by Constance Smith At around 10am on Thursday 28th August 2014, gunfire burst out across Kaloleni, one of Nairobi’s decaying public housing estates in Eastlands. With bullets raining down, residents fled into their […]

Overview Kenya has yet again tabled East Africa’s largest budget statement, targeting revenue collection of KES 1.358 trillion (20.8% of GDP) and overall expenditure and net lending of KES 2.002 trillion (30.7% of GDP), leading to a budget deficit. Of this, 1.28 trillion would be recurrent, while 721 billion would be development expenditure. The government […]

What Does Feminism Mean to Me?

Guest Writer
7 July ,2015

by Kennedy Kanyali When I spoke to a friend of mine about Brainstorm’s decision to do an issue on “(Re)defining Kenyan Feminisms”, she raised the question (or I raised it, I don’t remember) of what exactly about Kenyan feminism needed to be redefined. Certainly, there is a lot about Kenya’s history of women’s activism – […]

On Building People Up

Michael Onsando
13 July ,2015

A lot of the people I find myself in discussions with are often of the “break you down” mentality. They see the value is tracking and actively curbing a perception of the self that sees ability/a certain kind of ability. A lot of this breaking down is often hidden in “truth.” While truth can, and […]

The Unbearably Slippery Nature of Reality

Guest Writer
21 July ,2015

This essay is taken from Brainstorm’s second e-book, (In)Sanity: What “Crazy” Looks Like, which is on mental health in Kenya and is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays. by Aleya Kassam A heart attack is supposed to loudly announce its arrival. Bark orders with a gruff voice. Stomp into the room and […]

Colour Me Light

Guest Writer
28 July ,2015

by Mumbi Kanyogo I wonder if before the phrase “You’re pretty for a dark girl”, the words, “You’re pretty for a light girl” existed. There are so many “isms”. Racism, sexism, extremism, tribalism, nationalism vs activism, womanism, feminism, patriotism. A thousand different solutions to a hundred different problems. And so it would seem that we’re […]

Five Meditations On Movement

Guest Writer
4 August ,2015

This essay is taken from Brainstorm’s new e-book, – Thoughts on Home, which is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays. by Renee Akitelek Mboya You will call home. One. They will read you the poem for the census and the forecast. Aunty so and so is very well though […]

In Wolves’ Clothing

Guest Writer
11 August ,2015

Notes on Class and Gender Oppression by Nkatha Obungu Watching the Wolf of Wall Street was a chilling experience; not so much for its raunchy quality (or lack thereof) but because of the exultation of greed as something to aspire for. Jordan Belfort is first portrayed as a young Wall Street stock broker, working at […]

Two weeks ago, an audio surfaced on WhatsApp, and later on Soundcloud/Twitter/Facebook of a man named Morris (pronounced Mollis by the woman in the clip due to the influence of mother tongue) having sex with a woman despite her repeated pleas for him to stop in two languages, and her saying she was tired and […]

My Funk

Guest Writer
25 August ,2015

This essay is taken from Brainstorm’s second e-book, (In)Sanity: What “Crazy” Looks Like, which is on mental health in Kenya and is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays. by Maryanne Nderitu The simplicity of my 12 years of age ensures my first suicide attempt does not work. I dare myself, in […]

A Note on Disappeared Persons

Michael Onsando
1 September ,2015

“For the purposes of this Convention, “enforced disappearance” is considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of […]

Meditations On The Kenya Police

Guest Writer
8 September ,2015

These essays were taken from Brainstorm’s third e-book, Ha!Kuna Matata, which is on security in Kenya and is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays. Mariamu by Martin Maitha Maybe, it’s 9 p.m. The guys are chilling at “Base” trading random talk and idle chatter to pass time. Maybe, it’s 10 p.m. An […]

Not Your Meat

Guest Writer
15 September ,2015

by Marziya Mohammedali   In October 2006, Taj El-Din Hilaly, the Imam (spiritual leader) of the Lakemba Mosque in Sydney, made the following statement in his Ramadan sermon: “If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a […]

What Is The Value Of A Kenyan Life?

Brenda Wambui
22 September ,2015

Mythology has it that human life is priceless – this sentiment has been reinforced as long as I can remember and is taken as a basic human truth. It is echoed in the Bible when King Solomon had to determine the mother of a child and did so by ordering that the child be split […]

Listening to Anger

Michael Onsando
29 September ,2015

Anger is unsettling. There are ways in which anger moves that upends a space. Further, anger is often unpredictable. You never know what could happen when an angry person isn’t served un-angered. With all this in mind it makes sense that it is often with an urgency or an immediacy that we struggle to un-anger. […]

Jail? That’s a Feminist Issue Too

Guest Writer
6 October ,2015

by Orem Ochiel In the fifty years following Kenya’s independence, successive governments have managed to entrench what is both a continuation and a perfection of the colonial penal system: The varieties of colonial incarceration – labour camps, torture camps, detention centres, prisons – seem to have been maintained, essentially, as they were. We might also […]

The Anatomy of a Lootocracy

Brenda Wambui
13 October ,2015

In light of the ongoing NYS/IFMIS scandal in which amounts ranging from KES 695 million to KES 791 million are said to have been stolen by alleged relatives of top NYS officials hiding behind a few companies, it is important that we as a nation take pause to appreciate the extent of the mess we […]

Whose Revolution Is It Anyway?

Michael Onsando
20 October ,2015

“plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr I wonder if Jean Baptiste knew that these words would later shape themselves into a phrase that would be echoed across the world and be widely relevant almost 200 years later. Although perhaps, the phrase itself would show that it was here to stay, […]

by Wanjeri Gakuru I must have been seven when I first handled a condom. I’d found the packet in a drawer at home. I didn’t know what it was, but it felt dangerous and important and likely to impress my friends. Instead, it inspired a wild chorus of laughter and scurrying away when I held […]

The Presence of a Woman is Not Consent

Guest Writer
3 November ,2015

by Aisha Ali A man asks a woman out on a dinner date. She says yes. They meet up and have a pleasant enough evening. The man is a foreigner, in Nairobi for work and they meet at their office building. The evening ends, and the man asks to drop the girl, but she came […]

I Quit!

Guest Writer
10 November ,2015

by Patrick Gathara Editor’s note: this following piece was first published in 2011. Still, it continues. On my way to work today, I had an epiphany. As I sat in one of the unending traffic jams that have become part of the daily ritual of trying to get to work, fuming as matatus “overlapped” the […]

Some Dance to Forget

Michael Onsando
17 November ,2015

Last week I found myself in of a conversation where a friend talked about how artists failed the country post the 2002 election (not that everything was perfect before that though). Gidi gidi maji maji had just released their song unbwogable and it had captured the emotion of a nation fighting to put an ugly […]

My Day at Industrial Area Police Station

Guest Writer
24 November ,2015

by Dennis Ochieng On Friday the 30th of October, in the morning, I was driving through the traffic from Syokimau headed towards Mukuru via Mombasa road and turning to join Enterprise Road. On a normal day, it would have taken 15-20 minutes. On this day, however, it took me 45 minutes to arrive at the […]

A Madness Foretold

Guest Writer
1 December ,2015

This essay is taken from Brainstorm’s second e-book, (In)Sanity: What “Crazy” Looks Like, which is on mental health in Kenya and is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays. by Awuor Onyango Part 2 Location: Nairobi, Kenya. April 2013 and beyond Dad picks me up from the airport. I am sure to apologize […]

Loud Man With An Opinion

Guest Writer
8 December ,2015

This essay is taken from Brainstorm’s first e-book, #WhenWomenSpeak – (Re)Defining Kenyan Feminisms, which is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays. by Muthoni Maingi Sometimes we can speak, and when and where we can we must. I went on a rant sometime back, and you can check out my words and […]

Kenya At 52

Brenda Wambui
15 December ,2015

On Saturday, 12th December 2015, Kenya celebrated 52 years of being a republic. We had our usual annual celebration where Uhuru Kenyatta addressed the nation and expressed a sense of optimism that is becoming more and more scarce as we continue to awaken to just how badly we are doing as a nation – socially, […]

Hand me a Spanner

Michael Onsando
22 December ,2015

Feminist discussions with many friends often lead to “so why do you think you’re better than me?” And, no matter how many times I’m asked this I’m always surprised. There’s this idea that, because I’m speaking and thinking around patriarchy and about ways to dismantle a damaging societal structure, I consider myself better. As if […]

2015: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, Or Death

Brenda Wambui
29 December ,2015

“Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; – the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!” Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities This is Dickens’ take on the slogan of the French Revolution, “The Republic One and Indivisible of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death,” and I do not think there is a better statement to describe […]

by Wangui Kamonji Where are those songs my mother and yours always sang fitting rhythms to the whole vast span of life? … What song was it? … What do you remember? ~ Micere Githae Mugo ‘Where are those Songs’ 1972 I just rinsed my nixtamalized maize out in the sink, and as I did […]

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus Christ tells his followers the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho is attacked by robbers who strip him and beat him. Both a priest and a Levite (respected members of society from whom a higher moral standard is expected) pass him by without […]

It’s all in Your Mind

Guest Writer
19 January ,2016

This essay is taken from Brainstorm’s second e-book, (In)Sanity: What “Crazy” Looks Like, which is on mental health in Kenya and is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays. by Kevin Rigathi In Kenya, we want the best for the mentally ill. It’s not a debate. It’s not controversial. We all agree that […]

Will Sing For Food

Michael Onsando
26 January ,2016

Many musicians would rightfully be millionaires if they got paid what they are worth. They should be getting six figure cheques from MCSK every month. KAZ 2007 “am[sic] one of the pioneers of youth rap music yet I have not even been paid for close to 3 years now” Sokoro, 2010 “Many musicians are not […]

The Predictable Nature Of Corruption in Kenya

Brenda Wambui
2 February ,2016

Corruption scandals have become a “fact of life” for many Kenyans, who have come to regard them as just another facet of Kenyan life, alongside high taxes, poor service delivery, our “cult of personality” approach to politics and religion, and the misfortunes occasioned to us by terrorism. These burdens seem to be ours for the […]

Caregiving for Ghosts

Michael Onsando
9 February ,2016

My memory is again in the way of your history. Agha Shahid Ali, Farewell. I’ve been wondering about the role of apathy. We read about it and talk about it often. Even as we try and figure out how to best present a story we ask ourselves “why should I care?” This question has been […]

Police Brutality in Kenya

Brenda Wambui
16 February ,2016

Kenyans have long accepted the torrid nature of the police service, with the 2014 Transparency International (Kenya) East Africa Bribery Index Report ranking them as first in Kenya on a composite index (resulting from five different indicators of the survey: likelihood of bribery, prevalence of bribery, average size of bribe, share of national bribe and […]

The Mind of a City

Michael Onsando
23 February ,2016

“A city adopts a certain shape, an arrangement that can be seen even in its absence.” Ndinda Kioko, The City as a Photograph I’d like to think with the city as a photograph. In the essay (read it here) Ndinda Kioko talks about Nairobi and the history of Nairobi as a symbol of power, as […]

What is 1.66 Billion?

Brenda Wambui
1 March ,2016

It has emerged that the amount of money lost in the NYS scandal (according to a report seen by The Nation) could be as much as KES 1.66 billion, up from the previously reported KES 791 million. The extra amount, as much as KES 869,000,000, is thought to have been paid to an additional 15 […]

On the Shoulders of Broken Men

Michael Onsando
8 March ,2016

Bothered by my constant crying my aunt shows me a book “real men don’t cry,” I want to be a real man. I stop crying. I don’t understand why real men didn’t cry. I’m just told they don’t. The only thing worse than not being able to be a real man is being a girl. […]

Edgelands: A New Reading of the City

Guest Writer
15 March ,2016

by Kahira Ngige “…one such concept is that of “urban metabolism”, which refers to the metabolic processes by which cities transform raw materials, energy and water into the built environment, human biomass and waste. The adoption of this concept has fostered new imaginations of what the city is and how material and immaterial flows – […]

What About The Girl Child?

Brenda Wambui
22 March ,2016

Two weeks ago in Bungoma County, twenty girls from Chelebei Secondary Schoolgirls in Mt Elgon were confirmed pregnant after a routine check by the school when they returned from the December holidays. Their deputy principal, David Emachar, blamed the girls’ parents for not closely monitoring their children’s activities and whereabouts during the holidays, saying “we […]

Voice of Kenya(tta)

Michael Onsando
29 March ,2016

“If this can happen to GADO, who can’t they go after?” Patrick Gathara as quoted in No Country for Cartoonists I’m worried. So we’re going to talk about media freedom again. Now, I understand that, given digital media and the many changing ways news travels it is harder to keep track of what is true […]

And Then There Were None

Brenda Wambui
5 April ,2016

The evolution of man has seen us explore various ways of existing – from hunting and gathering to feudalism, to capitalism as supported by democracy, which is where we currently linger, wondering what comes next, because this no longer seems to be working. According to Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan, we are first and foremost concerned […]

Listen to the Students

Michael Onsando
12 April ,2016

Imagine a country. This country has an election. During the election it becomes clear to the voters that the processes that are being followed are flawed and that the result might be neither free nor fair. They stay silent. Eventually the electoral body makes an election. The elections, they say, were free and fair and […]

Of Men In Checked Shirts and Little Children

Guest Writer
19 April ,2016

  This essay was taken from Brainstorm’s third e-book, Ha!Kuna Matata, which is on security in Kenya and is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays. by Murugi Kagotho I met him the other day, this man. He was dressed in his characteristic faded yellow checked shirt that now looked overly worn, […]

Divided We Fall

Guest Writer
26 April ,2016

by Gragory Nyauchi The Kenya Sevens team recently won the Singapore Sevens title. In Kenya only 3 sports have ever taken an international stage and as a result captured the national imagination. Cricket, rugby and athletics. Cricket has been slowly creaking off it, in fact the glory days of this sport are so far back […]

by Laila Le Guen Curriculum reform is a hot button topic in any part of the world but the stakes are particularly high in Kenya, where the 8-4-4 system has been so consistently criticised since its implementation. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics – known as STEM subjects – have been identified as a priority and […]

Creating Others: A Two Story Dialogue

Michael Onsando
10 May ,2016

This essay was taken from Brainstorm’s third e-book, Ha!Kuna Matata, which is on security in Kenya and is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays. Ed: Today we are running two essays. Both of these essays are from the same book and circle around insecurity. In reading these essays I’d like us too […]

The Wrath of the Gods

Brenda Wambui
17 May ,2016

“You could hear women lamenting, children crying, men shouting. Some were calling for parents, others for children or spouses; they could only recognize them by their voices. Some bemoaned their own lot, others that of their near and dear. There were some so afraid of death that they prayed for death. Many raised their hands […]

The Language-in-Education Policy Conundrum

Guest Writer
24 May ,2016

Ed: This essay is part of a series of essays on education policy in the country. Find part one here. by Laila Le Guen The gap between language policy and actual implementation across educational institutions isn’t given the attention it deserves, and children’s learning is taking a toll as a result. If Kenya is committed […]

Kenya: The Indigenous Homeland

Guest Writer
31 May ,2016

by Ngala Chome According to my national registration document, I ‘come’ from a sub-location called Murimani, in a location called Kayafungo, in a division called Kaloleni, which is in a district called Kilifi. I have never lived in all these places. However, in Kenya, home is not necessarily where one lives, where one learns how […]

Entrepreneurship is Not for Everyone

Guest Writer
7 June ,2016

by Alan Ong’ang’a Many young Kenyans today yearn to be entrepreneurs. They long to attain financial freedom. They want to influence things and attract fame. They want to make lots of money. With money comes the easy life and social recognition. How we so hate living in obscurity! Yet so, many often have the wrong objectives for wanting […]

Masilahi ya Nyasi

Michael Onsando
14 June ,2016

It’s been 4 hours. Since all the research was done and I was ready to put this piece together. Four hours of staring at the computer – looking for an angle. Is there a new way to put old truths together so that they hit us with fresh apparence? A new form of relevance? Is […]

(Class)Room For All

Guest Writer
21 June ,2016

Ed: This essay is part of a series of essays on education policy in the country. Read part one and part two. by Nyambura Mutanyi We have made some progress in making education available to all Kenyan children. In the years since Free Primary Education was instituted in Kenya, we have seen millions of children get to […]

The Dangers of Speech

Brenda Wambui
28 June ,2016

In the aftermath of the 2007 general election that ended in violence and the death of over 1,000 Kenyans, we decided “never again” and set up the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), to promote ethnic harmony and investigate complaints of ethnic or racial discrimination or any issue affecting ethnic and racial relations. The National […]

Notes from the Shadows

Michael Onsando
5 July ,2016

People can only see you as you appear to be. Which, if you think about it, is not really their fault. And you, as a person, can only see people as they appear to be. The outside will always be a projection. So we are really thinking about those who are best at projecting here. […]

Even in the Churches

Guest Writer
12 July ,2016

by Aisha I do not want to write this. I do not want to open myself to criticism, my church to criticism; I am, thankfully, not worried about my God – He can take care of himself. I do not want to write this because I am always so scared of having imagined it, of […]

The Silent Forgotten

Guest Writer
19 July ,2016

by Gragory Nyauchi On June 23rd 2016 Josephat Mwenda left a courtroom in Mavoko. He had been in court defending himself against criminal charges . He was with his lawyer Willie Kimani, who dealt in human rights cases. There was a concurrent case, a civil matter in which he had sued a police officer for […]

Why the World is on Fire

Brenda Wambui
26 July ,2016

“When the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income, as it did in the nineteenth century and seems quite likely to do again in the twenty-first, capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.” Thomas Piketty Few […]

From the Roof Down

Michael Onsando
2 August ,2016

Only once we place human dignity at the centre as opposed to capital can we fight this disease. Why the World is on Fire Previously, on Brainstorm, Brenda Wambui closed her article with a note on human dignity. To place the idea that hall human beings are “worthy of honour and respect” (dignity). It seems […]

What About the Men?

Michael Onsando
9 August ,2016

It feels like somewhere along the creation of metaphors the truth was lost. Which is to say that the truth can be hidden in plain sight. What’s right in front of you may actually be what is happening. Occam, a philisohpist by nature but, I believe, a poet at heart, had a theory: when presented […]

Kenya is Burning

Brenda Wambui
16 August ,2016

The fight against oppression – in all its manifestations – is especially tricky because the rules of challenging the status quo are set by your oppressor. When fighting racism, sexism, classism and most importantly government, the people who stand to benefit from the maintenance of the prevailing system will state how they want you to […]

It Continues not to End, Years Later

Guest Writer
23 August ,2016

Ed: A version of this essay was initially published on The New Inquiry. We republish it here to remember. Editors notes will be interspersed in the essay in italics. by Aaron Bady The ICC Witness Project  is an archive of poems written and posted to the internet starting  March 2013; there are over 151 of […]

Back to Basics: The Value of History

Guest Writer
30 August ,2016

by Robert Munuku Often, while growing up in primary school, we challenged each other to name the capital cities of African countries, and it was a thing of pride to be the child who could name the most. There was one boy called Kieven Yu, of Chinese origin but born and raised in Mombasa town […]

Centering Ourselves

Michael Onsando
6 September ,2016

I’d like to begin where we all are. Consider the images of Mark Zuckerberg at Mama Oliech restaurant and how they have travelled. Think of this one in particular. I won’t focus on how his whiteness permeated through how we treated him. We have, for a long time, held white people who do something “African” […]

A Pound Of Flesh

Brenda Wambui
13 September ,2016

English literature classes were one of the few things I liked about the Kenyan high school experience. In my year, we studied William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, a play about many things, but central to which was the plot about the Venetian moneylender Shylock (who was Jewish), who lends the Christian shipper Antonio money. […]

Do Dreams Adult?

Michael Onsando
20 September ,2016

What happens to a dream deferred? Langston Hughes Dare to dream -Overused phrase But surely we have one life and we must go after our dreams. anonymous   In many ways we grew up on a steady diet of dreams. Or, at least, on the availability. That someday we could dream our way out of […]

My Land, Your Land, Our Land

Brenda Wambui
27 September ,2016

As far back as our collective memory as a species goes, land has played, and continues to play, an important role as both an economic resource and the basis on which we organize ourselves, be it in ethnic groups, nations, continents and so on. In economics, land comprises all natural occurring resources whose supply is […]

A Question on Community

Michael Onsando
4 October ,2016

There is community everywhere. You have your social media community, work community, school community et cetera. And these communal areas have certain codes. Some rules are spoken, most are unspoken but generally people know what to do (which is, needless to say, also organized by all kinds of problems like race, class and gender). And […]

The Northern Collector Tunnel

Brenda Wambui
11 October ,2016

For lovers of drama, Kenya’s politics never seem to disappoint, and yesterday was no different. On 10th October 2016, Raila Odinga, Kenya’s former Prime Minister, held a press conference to reveal the details of a project he says the current government has been hiding from Kenyans. Mr. Odinga said that just above the Murang’a region, […]

Commune Again

Michael Onsando
18 October ,2016

It’s difficult to be angered anew by the world every day. It’s not that there is nothing that is happening to generate anger. Rather, it’s more that there are things happening constantly. Thus, constantly triggered, we find ourselves in a cycle of rage that eventually numbs us. Eventually all those deaths, those rapes, those thefts […]

Free Speech vs Hate Speech

Guest Writer
25 October ,2016

by Dr. Sakulen A. Hargura “In a free state, tongues too should be free.” Erasmus Freedom of speech is a fundamental and an inalienable part of all constitutions penned in post-agrarian revolution era. So ingrained is the concept of free speech that to violate it is tantamount to dictatorship. All totalitarian regimes in the past […]

Dear Uhuru Kenyatta

Brenda Wambui
1 November ,2016

I hope this finds you in good health. It has been a while since I addressed you directly, but I have been busy with work, and life, you know how these things are. I saw you in the news recently, looking visibly frustrated and complaining about corruption, as you like to do. I must say, […]

Open Letter to an African Writer

Michael Onsando
8 November ,2016

Dear Friend, I know this letter may come as a surprise to you. And I do not blame you. I have been largely absent. However, I think that I need to talk to you about this thing you call identity, with particular respect to how you insist that it is founded within culture. It is […]

The Rise and Rise of Nationalism

Brenda Wambui
15 November ,2016

Depending on your school of thought, you may believe that globalization has its roots in the modern era due to international commodity trade, which experienced an uptick in the 1750s. Or, like Adam Smith, you may attach huge significance to Vasco Da Gama’s and Christopher Colombus’ campaigns around the world in the 1490s, and even […]

Choosing Ourselves

Guest Writer
22 November ,2016

by Brenda Wakiagi In the year 1989, American professor and civil rights advocate, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality. Intersectionality has since grown to take center-stage in feminist discourse, laying focus on the fact that the fight to rid the world of structural forms of oppression cannot be undertaken if we do not first recognize the layered ways […]

Reading Migritude

Michael Onsando
29 November ,2016

“It began as a teardrop in Babylon” How Ambi Became Paisley, Migritude, Shailja Patel. Dagoretti corner was the great corner. Tenwek is so named because it took ten weeks to walk there. We know these stories. We have told them to each other many times. What is apparent from them is the way in which […]

To Africanize, Decolonize Or Both?

Brenda Wambui
6 December ,2016

This conversation on what it means to be African has been happening since the days of the independence struggles in many African countries, and has been a major part of African post-colonial discourse. The conversation has mostly focused on knowledge, since knowledge is the beginning of identity formation, with some commentators saying that we need […]

Against Memory

Michael Onsando
13 December ,2016

It is the dignity of the patient that underscores all this. Tabu Robert In case you missed it, doctors are on strike. It’s possible you may have missed it because *your* doctor is not on strike – but doctors are on strike. And it’s not the first time they have done it either. They have […]

by Wendy Okolo The African Human Development Report indicates that African countries make up four out of the top 10 countries with high levels of women representation in parliament. These four countries are Rwanda, Seychelles, Senegal, and South Africa. It comes as no surprise that Kenya is not part of this progressive narrative (if the […]

The Year of Finding New Paths to our Freedom(s)

Michael Onsando
27 December ,2016

We close the year to a doctor’s strike that has no end in sight and a call from the opposition that there will be civil action early in 2017. In many ways, the world seems grim. Our president himself told us this year that there is nothing that can be done about corruption in a kind […]

Justice On Trial

Guest Writer
3 January ,2017

by Robert Munuku “We were bundled together in military trucks and taken straight to Naivasha Maximum Security Prison. On arrival, I was locked up in solitary confinement for two months without any communication or reason as to why I was locked up,” retired Airforce Captain, Frank Mũnũku, recounting the 1982 attempted coup d’état in Kenya. […]

What About The Children?

Brenda Wambui
10 January ,2017

I remember sitting my Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams vividly, mostly because it was a period I wanted to be over and done with as fast as possible. My first paper was English (Paper 1), and my exams went on for almost three weeks. I sat my final paper, Business Studies (Paper 2) […]

This Might be a Problem: A Review

Michael Onsando
17 January ,2017

When a journal makes a call for speculative fiction they are rarely expecting a single type of story.  This is to say if you ask minds to wander they are often going to wander in different directions from each other – even when they seem to be on similar paths. In short, a speculative fiction […]

On Voting

Brenda Wambui
24 January ,2017

Every four to five years, we suffer campaigns by people vying to win seats and represent us after the general election, many of whom harp on and on about how it is our civic duty to vote. That if we don’t vote, we must not complain about “poor leadership” and the thieves that will get […]

Now What?

Michael Onsando
31 January ,2017

State (noun): a nation or territory considered as an organized political community under one government. Kenya is a state. It has geographical territory of 581,309.881 square kilometres and a population of approximately 44 million people. These people are organized under a central government with functions increasingly devolving to the counties. This is particularly important because […]

Unravelling the African Union Elections

Brenda Wambui
7 February ,2017

We have been treated to weeks of intrigue following Kenya’s failed campaign for its current foreign affairs cabinet secretary, Amina Mohammed, to become the next chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC). The AUC is the executive arm of the African Union (AU). The election was instead won by Chad’s foreign minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat. […]

What Exactly are you Voting For?

Michael Onsando
14 February ,2017

A fortnight ago we talked about apathy – and what it means to be asked to vote. Especially in Kenya now, as doctors are being jailed for asking for better health. And, as Gathara eloquently puts it, that is the least of our problems. Still, the IEBC are holding fast to the fact that, come […]

The #LipaKamaTender Movement

Guest Writer
21 February ,2017

by Dr. Judy Karagania Kenyan doctors have been on strike since 5 December 2016. That is 79 days. This strike has historical parallels to what is considered the longest strike by medical practitioners in 1994 that lasted 105 days. Three thousand doctors were sacked fighting for the registration of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and […]

First, Do No Harm

Brenda Wambui
28 February ,2017

Though widely thought to be taken from the Hippocratic Oath, the phrase as we know it does not appear in the historic document. The Oath instead says “I will utterly reject harm and mischief.” However, this phrase remains a key guideline for medical professionals – when faced with a problem, it is better to do […]

Staying Soft

Michael Onsando
7 March ,2017

“In effect, this means that speaking one’s truth becomes an action of laying one bare. An action of putting the self on the line. Putting the self in the line of possible violence.” On truths Something about vulnerability and safe spaces keeps coming back to me. What kind of thinking is produced by and within […]

On Resistance

Brenda Wambui
14 March ,2017

On March 7th, Uhuru Kenyatta pulled his worst bad faith move yet. After the government and the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) failed to reach an agreement on a return-to-work formula to end the seemingly never-ending doctors’ strike, he took his best offer off the table, stopped negotiations, and instead threatened doctors to […]

Hearing Questions

Michael Onsando
21 March ,2017

When is a question valid? Or, more directly, when are which questions valid? And how do we navigate (in)valid questions? This then turns into a question on community. And because different communities have different assumed forms of knowledge – then some questions become violent in one spaces and welcomed in another. In this way, one […]

The Art of the Con

Brenda Wambui
28 March ,2017

Like many other Kenyans, I find myself constantly wondering about the hold our political class has on us, and why they continue to hoodwink and oppress us with impunity and consistency. We have analyzed our systems, institutions and approach to governance for close to four years on this website – yet somehow I still find […]

See Yourself

Michael Onsando
4 April ,2017

At the end of the day othering happens in many invisible ways. And its performance doesn’t necessarily translate to intent. Which is why the intended ‘clarification’ “I wasn’t being racist, I was just trying to say…”becomes a violence. It does not only deny that the act could be racist but leaves no room to see […]

Political Party Nominations

Brenda Wambui
11 April ,2017

2017 is an election year, and right before the election, we have this spectacle called political party nominations. It usually looks (to outsiders like me) like a trainwreck – messy and destructive. I’ve seen pictures of all manner of campaign tactics – there’s an MP aspirant for Bureti called Kibet Komingoi who has his face […]

Do you know how to milk a cow?

Michael Onsando
18 April ,2017

In essence, the working assumption with decolonization is the idea of reviving and analyzing lost (or fallen from view) forms of knowledge. In bringing these ideas to the forefront we begin to imagine different worlds, and see different possibilities and ways of being. The threat of course, then lies to those ideas that have already, […]

On Censorship

Brenda Wambui
25 April ,2017

Ezekiel Mutua’s recent attempt at seeking relevance involved an attempt at regulating social media. Something that social media sites like Twitter and Facebook themselves struggle with, he believes he can do with ease. The Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) CEO wants to stop people from people from using fake names on social media, saying: To […]

Waving at Trains

Michael Onsando
2 May ,2017

People wave at trains. This is the only form of transportation that people wave at. Not just children, adults as well. People stare at the train as it passes by always scanning as if looking for something, and with a particular curiosity.  Part of it must be the novelty of a train, that a train […]

The Babylon System

Brenda Wambui
9 May ,2017

We refuse to be what you wanted us to be We are what we are That’s the way it’s going to be. You don’t know You can’t educate I for no equal opportunity: Talking ’bout my freedom, people freedom and liberty Yeah, we’ve been trodding on the winepress much too long Rebel, rebel! Yes, we’ve been […]

Hiding in the Nuance

Michael Onsando
16 May ,2017

Humanity exists in the nuance. Perhaps this is what Chimamanda Adichie tries to talk about when she speaks of the danger of a single story. Or what Teju Cole is trying to say when he talks about the problem with first world problems. Simple explanations, while necessary, often erase the people blanketed by the explanation. […]

Kenya and Its Maize Scandals

Brenda Wambui
23 May ,2017

Kenya may be in the middle of yet another maize scandal. How did we get here? We are still experiencing food inflation, and part of the reason for this is the drought we’ve had since 2016. We have a scarcity of sugar, and a 2kg packet is currently retailing for KES 400, up from KES […]


Michael Onsando
30 May ,2017

“Unpacking is heavy. Unpacking is always heavy. And when the things we have carried around lay themselves bare on the ground to be watched one of two things happen. Either we are made by them and begin the path of leaving them behind or, embarrassed, (they might be too big or too small, too fragile, […]

An Overview of the 2017 General Election

Brenda Wambui
6 June ,2017

We have 62 more days before our election on August 8th 2017. We are in the middle of campaign season, which started on 28th May and is set to end on 5th August 2017. It’s a great time to discuss the players in this election. Kenya is always in-between elections. Unless something changes, the next […]

Why Coal? Why Now?

Michael Onsando
13 June ,2017

There’s a story somewhere about about a child who was watching their mum cook. “Mum,” the child asked, “Why do we always throw out the liver?” The mother had not really given it much thought. Only when asked did she realise that she only did it because she had seen her mother do it. Next […]

On the night of Monday, 12th June 2017, a seven storey building collapsed in Kware Pipeline in Embakasi. This building had been condemned by the National Construction Authority (NCA), and marked with an X on the outside to indicate this. The tenants in the building had been warned of its collapse, and most of them […]

Towards Survival

Michael Onsando
27 June ,2017

Now this is the Law of the Jungle as old and as true as the sky; And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die. As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back For the strength of the Pack is the […]

Why Do You Pay Tax?

Brenda Wambui
4 July ,2017

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) deadline for filing individual tax returns came and went on the 30th of June 2017, and with it came much whingeing and wringing of hands by Kenyans, both online and on mainstream media. It was understandable, because this time, the penalty for non-compliance was KES 20,000, twenty times what it […]

Revolutionary Type Love

Michael Onsando
11 July ,2017

“The world is changing and they say it’s time to be free But you live with the fear of just being me Living in the shadow feels like the safe place to be No harm for them, no harm for me But life is short, and it’s time to be free Love who you love, […]

Why Are Kenyan Elections So Expensive?

Brenda Wambui
18 July ,2017

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has placed the cost of the upcoming general election on 8th August 2017 at KES 49,981,666,599 (quoted as KES 49.9 billion in the rest of the essay). We have 19,611,423 registered voters, bringing the average cost per voter to KES 2,396 (USD 23.05). Considering that not all registered […]

Getting Ours

Michael Onsando
25 July ,2017

“How can you lay claim to something that isn’t yours?” the question is posed to me with a whimsical smile. The conversation began with a question about the kiondo, how it ended up with a Japanese patent from 1984. There are many ways that the colonial conquest disrupted already existing ways of living, but perhaps […]

Now More Than Ever, Your Vote Counts

Brenda Wambui
1 August ,2017

“On Sunday the 30th July, 2017 a missing person report was made at Embakassi Police Station at 08:00 hours by one Eva Buyu under OB No 15 of 30th July 2017 that her husband Christopher Musando, who was the Deputy Director of ICT at IEBC, had not returned home since Friday, 28th July, 2017. Today […]

  In part 1 of this two part series Alexander Ikawah takes us through campaign music and what it says about us, who we are and where we are. Look out for part 2 next week.  Each political season campaign trucks drive around town blaring music as frenzied youth dressed in campaign merchandise dance in, on, […]

Against Hope: An Electoral Story

Michael Onsando
15 August ,2017

A man in Kisumu is wailing. He will have to be my proxy as it’s easier to write about someone else’s tears. He is not wailing because Raila Odinga lost this election. That is what a cynical, narrow view of Kenyan politics would say. He is crying because, along with all the other Kenyans who […]

In part 2 of this two part series Alexander Ikawah takes us through campaign music and what it says about us, who we are and where we are. Part 1 here.  This is the second part of a series of essays discussing and explaining the songs that have come to dominate this year’s political season. The first […]

If a painting is worth a thousand words then it would take a novel about the length of Atlas Shrugged to even begin to write a review of Visual Voices. Put together by Footprints press the collection covers over 400 pieces of work from over 57 artists in a variety of contemporary method. I don’t […]

Kenya’s Ban On Plastic Bags

Brenda Wambui
5 September ,2017

After three previous unsuccessful attempts to ban the use, sale, manufacture and import of plastic bags in 2005, 2007 and 2011, we finally managed to do it on 28th August 2017 when the ban came into effect. It was gazetted by the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Professor Judy Wakhungu, on 28th February 2017 and Kenyans […]

Opening Up

Michael Onsando
12 September ,2017

If there is a way I have failed my masculinity, it has been by way of omission. I keep returning to this idea of toxic masculinity. I keep returning to the correlation between toxicity and survival – this still remains too complicated a strand for me to begin to understand, let alone write about. But […]

This is a transcript of a talk I gave at the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA) on the topic “The F-Word”: What is the Place of Feminism in Contemporary Kenya? “Patriarchy, in many ways, is the primary form of oppression. Its victims comprise half of the world (there are 102 men for every 100 […]

Making Room

Michael Onsando
26 September ,2017

When we force ourselves to fit within frames as defined by someone else there will always be spaces that we fail to fill. There will always be ways that we aren’t. Ways that we don’t measure up to the defined space – and others that we will be too much. It is with this knowledge. […]

In The Name Of Freedom

Brenda Wambui
3 October ,2017

On 1st September 2017, Kenya’s Supreme Court made history by annulling the August 8th presidential election. In a 4-2 decision, they determined that the recently concluded presidential election was not conducted in accordance with the Constitution and was invalid, null and void. The election was not transparent, and could not be said to be free, […]

A Supermarket Fell in the Forest

Michael Onsando
10 October ,2017

Somewhere between the rise of Carrefour, the fall of Nakumatt and the scramble for space there is an interesting narrative of politics and resource. This narrative that really sells itself hard given recent reports of racism at Carrefour (they have since promised to look into the matter) – and Naivas seems to understand what is […]

What Happens Now?

Brenda Wambui
17 October ,2017

It has been 137 days since Kenyan nurses went on strike demanding better pay and better working conditions. In this time, the Kenyan central government, county governments and the Salaries Commission have engaged in brinkmanship when it comes to resolving their issues, as if to see who can agitate them and endanger Kenyans’ lives the […]

Towards Freedom

Michael Onsando
24 October ,2017

You know that you carry their history. But you also know you don’t carry their scars. And that, you hope, will make all the difference. Burns   On Thursday the 26th of October – according to the Kenya Gazette – there will be a fresh presidential election. A lot has been said about this election […]

The Election Boycott Of 2017

Brenda Wambui
31 October ,2017

On October 10th 2017, Raila Odinga stated that he was withdrawing from the presidential election redo set for October 26th. He cited fears that it would be marred by the same irregularities and illegalities that got the August 8th election result annulled. In doing so, he seemed to grant Uhuru Kenyatta’s wish from the day […]

Over a Common Pain

Michael Onsando
7 November ,2017

As I write this piece I mourn with the Kenya rugby family the deaths of Mike Okombe and Peter Wekesa. May their families find some form of peace in this trying time. It’s been a sad year for Kenya rugby. This weekend, Mike Okombe was allegedly stabbed to death by his girlfriend during a party. […]

Kati Kati – Somewhere Between Death and Freedom

Michael Onsando
14 November ,2017

Spoiler – they all die in the beginning. Actually, no. By the time the movie starts they’re all dead. We set in on Kaleche, who finds herself in the middle of the wilderness. It is through the eyes of Kaleche that the world of Kati Kati is revealed to us and it is through her […]

Breaking Bread in Eastleigh

Guest Writer
21 November ,2017

by Bethuel Muthee Food is a personal thing.  We have individual preferences to what we eat, where we at, and even with whom. The smell of a food we like engages our memory, we can even taste it on tongues, we think of good times, of people we have not seen in years. In most […]

The Citizen vs The Taxpayer

Brenda Wambui
28 November ,2017

Every election year, a sentiment arises that goes something like this: “Kenyans don’t know what’s good for them. They always vote for bad “leaders” who then proceed to loot and plunder our country. This is because many Kenyans don’t really have a stake in our economy because they don’t pay tax. They are not well […]

Beyond Chants and Slogans

Michael Onsando
5 December ,2017

It’s been less than a week since Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in as president and already we can see the questions slipping slowly into the past. The NSE has been steadily gaining the shilling growing stronger and the political discussion is shrinking. Even the arrest and release of David Ndii didn’t seem to get as […]

The Master’s House

Brenda Wambui
12 December ,2017

“Your Excellencies Gov. @MikeSonko & Dep. Gov @IgathePolycarp, when we moved to Karen, we thought we were climbing up Maslow Hierarchy … But what are kiosks, matatus & mitumba clothes doing here? Where is our Masterplan? Kenya is a Capitalist State. Let Karen be Karen.” Donald B. Kipkorir Those words were exhausting to read, mostly […]

Where is Kenya? A Review

Michael Onsando
19 December ,2017

“Today we commemorate our 54th Birthday as an independent nation.  On this day, 54 years ago, the Union Jack came down and the Kenyan flag went up.” Uhuru Kenyatta, 12th December 2017 (full speech) With these words, a week ago, the president began his speech to mark our 54th year of independence. It was in […]

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Brenda Wambui
26 December ,2017

As the year ends, I am reminded of the highs and lows we have been through as Kenyans – two presidential elections (one which happened during the 2017 general election), an election annulment, an election boycott. a doctors’ strike, a nurses’ strike, the election of Kenya’s first women governors, the refusal of parliament to pass […]

Kenya’s Killer Roads

Brenda Wambui
2 January ,2018

In December 2017, over 330 Kenyans lost their lives in road accidents while traveling for the holidays. Over 40 people died in road accidents within 24 hours at Sachang’wan and Bungoma. 36 people lost their lives at Migaa on the 31st of December 2017. For purposes of comparison, 148 people died in the Garissa University […]

Something is Happening

Michael Onsando
9 January ,2018

The thing about saying something is happening is that change comes to everyone in its own time. And so to say that something is happening is to forget the millions that it is yet to happen to. It is to forget those who will die before that thing happens. And if the thing that was […]

What Next For Nairobi?

Brenda Wambui
16 January ,2018

On January 12th 2018, just a day after he had spirited battles with Nairobians online, and just after he impounded cows and asked us what to do with them on Twitter, Polycarp Igathe resigned. He had served as Nairobi’s Deputy Governor for less than six months. He said, once again on Twitter, “Dear Nairobians, it […]

How is This Even a Discussion?

Michael Onsando
23 January ,2018

“Disposability is a long word. It speaks about the value of an object within a certain space. Say, for example, the wrapper of the chewing gum that you just had. That is very disposable. Unless  you collect chewing gum wrappers. The idea of disposability of people within a community works the same way. How can […]

Devolution and The Shisha Ban

Guest Writer
30 January ,2018

by Elizabeth Kabari On 28th December 2017, the Public Health (Control of Shisha Smoking) Rules were gazetted and came into force. These rules effectively banned the manufacture, importation, sale, and use of shisha by criminalising these acts. Anyone found doing any of the above shall, upon conviction, be liable to pay a fine of not […]

The Makings of a Fascist State

Brenda Wambui
6 February ,2018

Kenya is now in the unique position of having two “presidents” – Uhuru Kenyatta, the current head of state, and Raila Odinga, the self-declared people’s president. Raila Odinga was sworn in at Uhuru Park on 30th January 2018 in the presence of massive crowds. It was an an oddly peaceful event because the police were […]

Remembering Freedom

Michael Onsando
13 February ,2018

“We will need writers who can remember freedom.” Ursula le Guin It’s hard to hold today’s Kenya in isolation. As the world continues to shape itself, we seem to continue to grasp towards our place within it. As the winds of decolonization, identity and freedom sweep across, so we find ourselves poised to grow. And […]

The Elephant in Kenya’s Room

Brenda Wambui
20 February ,2018

We, the people of Kenya, claim to recognize the aspirations of all Kenyans for a government based on the essential values of human rights, equality, freedom, democracy, social justice and the rule of law. We also claim to promote the values that underlie an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality, equity and […]

Under the Same Light

Michael Onsando
27 February ,2018

And, as the winds of change continue sweeping across the continent, we continue to push ourselves to find more spaces within which we can look at ourselves critically. The more we go into the act of realizing our own freedoms, the more important the question of creating space for each other becomes. And, as this […]

Let Them Play Golf

Brenda Wambui
6 March ,2018

While handing the flag to the Kenyan national boys and girls golf team, which was heading to Casablanca for the All Africa Junior Golf Championship, Uhuru Kenyatta said he wanted golf introduced in public schools as a way of developing the sport. He urged the ministries of Sports and Heritage, Education and Interior to finalize […]

The Future is a Handshake Away

Michael Onsando
13 March ,2018

Having the perfect handshake is one of those things we are taught to obsess about. How we shake hands reveals who we are. Handshakes are very political. Hands themselves are not. Hands simply carry out the will of the mind, express what has been felt. Perhaps this why handshakes are seen this way – hands, […]

Why We Should #Repeal162

Guest Writer
20 March ,2018

by Elizabeth Kabari You may have seen the hashtag #Repeal162 on your social media feeds recently. Some of you are sure that it concerns you; others are sure that it doesn’t. However, it should concern everyone because it is a human rights issue, and the denial of rights for one is a denial of rights […]

Facebook has recently found itself in hot water after a whistle-blower came out to talk about how Cambridge Analytica, a firm associated with both Uhuru Kenyatta’s and Donald Trump’s elections, mined the data of about 50 million users of the platform and used it to target them with often divisive political messaging. This is far […]

In Pursuit of Power

Michael Onsando
3 April ,2018

What is power? I ask because we need to look closely at this thing that we spend a lot of time assuming we all understand. We say that people have power of others and what do we mean? One could say power is the ability to allocate resources (financial, emotional, opportunities). Perhaps it is the […]

Kenya’s Perpetual Drought

Brenda Wambui
10 April ,2018

We suffer from a range of disasters as a country: flooding, fire tragedies, terrorism, corruption, diseases and epidemics, and drought – these reduce our quality of life, destroy our infrastructure, disrupt our economy, and cause a diversion of resources intended for other things. They also ensure that we remain underdeveloped. Our country is particularly drought […]

Writing Sunsets

Michael Onsando
17 April ,2018

Suppose I wanted to write about a sunset. How would I do that? Would I begin by describing the colours? The smell? The sounds? I ask because I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to start this essay and the most apparent way was to write about a sunset. But how would one […]

Bridging The Gap

Brenda Wambui
24 April ,2018

Human beings struggle with confirmation bias – we easily accept information that confirms our already existent beliefs while rejecting that which does not. This is why no amount of throwing facts at someone who you think or know is wrong will change their minds. They just tend to reject the information you gave them, give […]

Finding your Power

Michael Onsando
1 May ,2018

“Perhaps now it becomes clearer that when we speak of “reclaiming our power” we are not necessarily talking about moving in opposition to something, rather than moving towards actualization of our own will.” In pursuit of power But power is an intangible thing. To try to see it/touch it/discover it is to watch it dissolve. […]

The Kenyan Middle Class

Brenda Wambui
8 May ,2018

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) recently announced that it would begin licensing cooking gas firms to operate piped gas systems in residential areas. This would mostly make business sense in gated communities and flats, where Kenya’s middle class tends to reside. This led me to think about our middle class. The middle class is the […]

Situating Ourselves

Michael Onsando
15 May ,2018

“By saying, this is how the world sees me. This is what is expected of me” Finding your power “When bodies break it is not a moment but a culmination. Bodies that break tend to have been pulled, stretched twisted and torn. Bodies that break do not just break.” What’s in a name   We […]

Towards a Democratic Internet

Brenda Wambui
22 May ,2018

The web (and the rest of the internet) has become a space where citizens come to chat, share ideas, critique the government and explore ways in which Kenya can function better for its citizens. It is a space where one is sure to find the most robust discussions about what it means to be a […]

Down came the market

Michael Onsando
29 May ,2018

“The curio shops near the Sarit Centre in Westlands will be demolished next week.” Curio shops in westlands to be demolished, The Star, Feb 1 2016 It was not until May 10th2018 that the curio shops in Westlands were demolished. On the day of the demolition roads were closed and the internet was abuzz with […]

A Health Agenda in Jeopardy

Guest Writer
5 June ,2018

by Dr. Sakulen A. Hargura Universal health care is a noble idea that is long overdue. For it to bear fruits and build a permanent home in our system, certain fundamental pillars that must be erected. The most important are sound healthcare policies, and adequate expertise to execute the plan contained in those policies. Kenya […]

The Dynamics of Corruption in Kenya

Guest Writer
12 June ,2018

by Robert Munuku It is expected for governments to be corrupt. This is a reality, not a vindication – of course corruption is wrong. But at the very least no one gets a heart-attack from surprise upon hearing that government is corrupt. The most injurious things are those that are an unexpected, because they go unseen […]

by Wangari Kibanya Conversations around the word millennial make me wonder, why would we need to contextualize our social and economic shifts from a very US American lens yet our nation is only 53 years old and did not undergo some of the shifts that mark the demographic markers on that end? What happens when […]

The Problem With Lifestyle Audits

Brenda Wambui
26 June ,2018

Uhuru Kenyatta recently announced that all government officials and their families would undergo a lifestyle audit as part of his war on corruption, starting in July 2018. This would include him and his deputy, William Ruto. Those found guilty of corruption would be sent to jail regardless of their status, and he would not intervene, […]

by Jeff Kinuthia A blockchain is a digital database or ledger distributed across a network of computers which is protected by coding the data to prevent editing and removal, and blockchain technology is the underlying application that enables all of this. Importantly, a blockchain records and stores all the transactions that occur within the network, […]

Finding the unsaid

Michael Onsando
10 July ,2018

“Things aren’t all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsayable than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life” Rainer Maria Rilke, […]

Are Kenyans Over-represented?

Brenda Wambui
17 July ,2018

Before we passed the 2010 constitution, we voted for the president, and members of parliament for our respective constituencies. After 2010, a Kenyan voter now has to elect the president and their deputy (on one ticket), the governor and the senator for their county, the woman representative for their county, the Member of Parliament for their […]

When something has to give (or, towards hope)

Michael Onsando
24 July ,2018

“The system adopted in Kenya is African Socialism, but the characteristics of the system and the economic mechanisms it implies have never been spelled out fully in an agreed form.” Sessional Paper No 10 of 1965, Part I, 6 “There are two African traditions which form an essential basis for African Socialism—political democracy and mutual […]

Extrajudicial Killings

Brenda Wambui
31 July ,2018

On 7th July 2018, the Social Justice Centres Working Group, which consists groups from Mathare, Dandora, Kayole, Mukuru, Kibra, Kamukunji and Githurai, held the Saba Saba March for Our Lives. The demand? An end to extrajudicial killings, investigations into the ones that have occurred, and most importantly, justice for those killed. According to the Who […]

Loving in mono – dreaming in stereo

Michael Onsando
7 August ,2018

“I surrender this isn’t love it’s torture”  Hold me down Love, or ideas of what love can be, has the ability to bring us to our knees. With our backs against the wall and confronted by the harsh truth that no one is subject to your will – that illusions of control are just that. […]

Kenya’s Media Problem

Guest Writer
14 August ,2018

by Robert Munuku When I turn on the television, I am not sure whether I am watching the news or a travesty of the same in the name of a glorified show of beautiful men and women dressed up in dashing tunics and layers of make-up smiling before our screens telling us what we should […]

Democracy and Development

Brenda Wambui
21 August ,2018

The simplest definition of democracy is one given by Abraham Lincoln, a former president of the USA: democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people. It is all about the people. It sounds better than other forms of government, such as monarchy, in which a single family rules from generation […]

Changing Landscapes

Michael Onsando
28 August ,2018

“The thing about saying something is happening is that change comes to everyone in its own time. And so to say that something is happening is to forget the millions that it is yet to happen to. It is to forget those who will die before that thing happens. And if the thing that was […]

The Devil is in the Data

Michael Onsando
4 September ,2018

by Robert Munuku Africa has been the hub of a rich cocktail of resources from potent extractive mineral deposits to diverse tourism-attracting flora and fauna coupled with tropical climate that supports agriculture – the backbone of many Sub-Saharan African economies. Many of these economies are making major gains in growth bolstered by substantial development in […]

Odds on Stocks

Michael Onsando
11 September ,2018

“We are doing these things because, if you look at the budget for this year, revenue- in the best scenario is going to be about 1.3 trillion shillings… on your budget, the first claim to budget interest – 400 billion, salaries close to 500 billion, pensions 100 billion – that’s a trillion. You now have […]

When survival is the only option

Guest Writer
18 September ,2018

Ed’s note: On the eve of publishing this piece the governor of Nairobi found 12 bodies of infants hidden in boxes in Pumwani hospital.  Rationally, I think it’s more profitable for this country if I stay breathing. I was – until recently – gainfully employed. A large chunk of that salary went to various government […]

Falling Stories

Michael Onsando
25 September ,2018

You cannot see it but the jacaranda trees are flowering each blossom an insurgent against the sameness of life Soon the streets will be a revolution of colour suffused with a tangible tenderness Fight, grandma, fight It’s worth the struggle to witness next season’s lilac uprising.   Phyllis Muthoni   It’s September and the Jacarandas […]

Rafiki – A Kenyan Love Story

Guest Writer
2 October ,2018

by Sheena M I arrived about 20 minutes early, and already there was a large gathering waiting to see Rafiki. The moment I walked into the waiting area at Prestige Plaza cinemas, I felt the stares. We were all sizing each other up. Who are you? Do I know you? Are you a threat? Do […]

Creating hope (or, when rage becomes the norm)

Michael Onsando
9 October ,2018

“You will begin to forgive when you understand the many ways in which the world has killed those who try to survive it.” Where it hurts “We’re not evolving emotional filters fast enough to deal with the efficiency with which bad news now reaches us” Teju cole It’s easy to lose hope these days. Especially […]

Protecting our Labour

Michael Onsando
16 October ,2018

At the end of the day a country is build on the backs of labour. Policy and governance are tools towards the creation of a labour enabling environment from which the people can find a way to maximize the fruit of their labour. In this way, the organisation of labour cannot be divorced from organized […]

Why private prisons are not the answer

Michael Onsando
23 October ,2018

“It establishes the Kenya Prisons Enterprise Corporation, a State Corporation, which is mandated to expand the scope of the prisons work programs with the aim of unlocking the revenue potential of the prisons industry and ultimately turn it into a reformative and financially self-sustaining entity.”  New corporation to unlock revenue potential of Prisons You don’t […]

Towards Realising Affordable Housing in Kenya

Guest Writer
30 October ,2018

by Mukami Githagui Housing is a fundamental human need. With the rising cost of inflation and other economic drivers making life very expensive, President Uhuru’s focus in affordable housing is a much welcome reprieve. In 2017 the President launched “The Big Four” agenda for economic development in Kenya, focusing onfood and nutrition security, manufacturing, affordable healthcare […]

And we continue to Kenya

Michael Onsando
6 November ,2018

“In this room I was born. And I knew I was in the wrong place” Spaces, Arkaye Kierulf  It hit me yesterday that I have been, for a long time, uncomfortable with my identity as a Kikuyu man and what comes with it. Because that identity has been translated to me as an abuser, as […]

by anonymous As a Kenyan citizen, only two or three generations removed from independence, the memories of colonialism are far deeper than the pages on history books. The stories of heroes, traitors, the heroes who became traitors and the trauma that the colonizers wantonly imposed on a free people are very much alive in what […]

Trusting that Kenya will Kenya

Michael Onsando
20 November ,2018

“Fresh produce growers are expected to be the main beneficiaries of trade deals that President Uhuru Kenyatta will sign on his visit to China next month.”  Farmers set to reap big from China trade deals  “Juzi mheshimiwa rais ameenda China amefungua soko, sasa tukona mkatgaba maalum ya soko ya kuuza mali yetu China. Na sisis […]

Foreign Cities, Local Talent

Michael Onsando
27 November ,2018

“The European Union, or a body like the World Bank, should build and run cities in Africa in order to boost job creation and development on the continent, Germany’s Minister for Africa, Gunter Nooke, told the BBC in an interview in which he outlined his thinking on how to stem migration to Europe.  This will […]

Government now, questions later

Michael Onsando
4 December ,2018

“Kenya’s ban on plastic bags went into effect on August 28, with offenders subject to serious fines or jail time. The ban covers the use, importation, or manufacture of plastic bags. Although it was passed in February, the new ban didn’t go into effect until this month so that Kenyan consumers would have the chance […]

Liberty and Demagoguery for all

Michael Onsando
11 December ,2018

“People should stop panicking about my traversing the country saying it is 2022 campaigns, I’m yet to start my campaigns because when I start they will be in for a rude shock” William S. Ruto, Vice President “Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka now says he will be Kenya’s next president after Uhuru Kenyatta.” I’ll be the […]

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