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 pay close attention to “othering” and how othering happens. In both these pieces, for different reasons, community fails as a security mechanism. When faced with our selves/ our privilege would we still hold ourselves to our principles? These are the questions demanded by intersectionality and, in many ways, these are the questions that these two short pieces ask.


by Nyambura Chege

My Uncle ‘Mucene’ (gossip) came to visit. He said he had news to tell us, so my father and I listened keenly while indulging in a cream tea. “I tell you, it’s been a long night for me and Mama watoto,” he started saying.

“Why, what happened?” my father, his brother-in-law, asked.

“Our neighbour’s house was burglarised, and I think some of them were beaten because all we could hear from our bedroom was Mama watoto screaming in pain.”

My father was astounded. “You did not go to help them?” “

Go where?! And expose ourselves voluntarily so that they can rob and beat us silly as well? Ah-no, be serious! No way. We waited quietly, and prayed for them…just hoping that the thugs would leave. It’s all we could do.”

“You think cowering away in your home while your neighbour was being terrorised is all-that-you-could-do for them, uncle Otieno?” I asked, incredulously.

Readjusting himself in his seat, he said, “You people just don’t want to understand what I’m saying, Nyambura.”

The matter was laid to rest.

Then two weeks later, my father got a call from Uncle Otieno in the middle of the night. He told me how their conversation went:

Uncle ‘Mucene’ was sobbing. “Peter! Please do something! They’re in the house asking us to come out!”

“What are you talking about? Who is in the house?”

“The thugs, they’re here! Please call for help. Please come and help us! We’re going to die!”

At this point, Uncle ‘Mucene’ was barely audible. “Otieno, call your neighbours! Meanwhile, I’ll be praying for you!” my father said, and terminated the call. It so happens that my Dad had relayed Uncle ‘Mucene’s’ philosophies to some of their shared friends, and they in turn had decided that he needed to be taught a lesson.

Security in our beloved Kenya has to begin from the grassroots. We have to change how we think and how we react to people being robbed, carjacked, kidnapped, raped, terrorised, and even murdered. Why don’t we start minding each other, it has to start somewhere, so why not there— mind each other. It is easier said than done, yes, but it is achievable.

Mind each other.

Still Unhuman

by Aisha Ali

The other day I was involved in a debate about street harassment when the man I was debating confidently proclaimed “Women get harassed on the streets because they allow it.”

This statement shut me up for a few seconds. As soon as I recovered, I inquired:

“What does this mean?”

“If women stood up against men who harass them, they wouldn’t harass them.”

“You do know that the average woman was no match to the average man, and standing up to men most of the time means physical violence. Women have even been killed.”

“If you believe in something, then you should be willing to face violence for it. Even if you have to die,” he said in a very matter-of-fact tone.

Since then, I have been thinking about the number of times I have been harassed by men simply for existing female. One day three men surrounded me in a bus at night, and harassed me to the point of tears in the presence of the bus conductor who didn’t do anything. Another, a man said hi to me and when I refused to respond, grabbed my arm and shook me, and followed this with insults.

It hit me that day that women are not human. When a person requires your death to believe that you are worthy of safety, you know that this person doesn’t consider you a human being who deserves to exist in a safe environment. Women are getting physically attacked by men who feel entitled to them. Women are being killed for not accommodating these men.

Yet this person could stand there and demand more harm towards women, more death of women, before he can admit that the problem is men. He would rather see women die, before he accepts that the fault of harassment of women lies firmly on men. Every time I leave the comfort of my home, I know that my body, my being female makes me a target. And that I am responsible for my own safety.

And I know that if anything were to happen to me, I’d be the one to blame. If I were to die, I’d be responsible for my own death.

The man I was talking to didn’t notice the shift in my body language. He didn’t notice me folding into myself a little, moving away from him. He didn’t notice me recognizing yet another man I can’t trust to keep me safe.

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.

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