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Why we need to tell stories that tame the climate of fear

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By TOM ODHIAMBO
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Many philosophers argue that today the world is besieged by a ‘climate of fear.’ These thinkers contend that humanity has reached a point, in its evolution, when the possibility of self-destruction is so close, so pervasive and so real. Indeed, millions of people live these days in fear of harm, hunger, but most significantly of being killed.

This is the ultimate fear, simply because in death we are finally destroyed. Terrorists, or individuals whose tool of trade is terror, know this aspect of our being, and tend to exploit it to the maximum. The attack on the Dusit Hotel in Nairobi is the public performance of what is otherwise a very private narrative of fear.

In a lecture series published as ‘Climate of Fear: The Quest for Dignity in a Dehumanised World,’ Wole Soyinka says this of fear: “A notable aspect of all-pervasive fear is that it induces a degree of loss of self-apprehension: a part of one’s self has been appropriated, a level of consciousness, and this may even lead to a reduction in one’s self-esteem — in short, a loss of inner dignity.”

In essence, the kind of fear that the terrorists seek to induce in the larger population, beyond those immediately harmed by their actions, causes a ripple effect with the consequence that it has the capacity to immobilise us.”

Such fear, although it first affects adults, it equally affects the young as well. When parents are fearful of walking in their own neighbourhood, when they are reluctant to venture out at night, when they have to buy expensive vehicles because public service vehicles are supposedly insecure, when they advise their children to avoid strangers and not to venture out on their own, the whole society becomes one large prison.

It isn’t just a physical penitentiary; it is most significantly a psychological cage. It becomes the story that guides daily life.

Violence is a story. Its language and style — the gun, the bomb or the machete — is both implied and real, as violation, destruction or death. It inscribes the body of the victim with injury or death, which become ‘living’ images of the hate, vengeance and destruction that the terrorist first sought to display or execute.

These create a cycle of suffering and further victimhood for those related to the victim or even the whole society, which has to live with the suffering or memories of the victims.

Which is why we need to not just confront the terror that fear has spawned or seeks to cultivate in our country with physical and human defences. Walls, cameras, electric fences, guns, guard dogs, human guards etc. can and often do stop individuals seeking to harm others. But it is stories that best confront terror and fear. Fear is a psychological reality. It is the mind that needs changing; that of the potential terrorist or villain as well as that of the victim. We need to urgently create stories that deconstruct the narratives of fear.

How do we create, tell and live stories that help to contest and challenge fear? It is not an easy task but it is doable. In many societies, children were or are still taught that there is some creature out there that would eat them if they ventured into the darkness or far from home. Children grow up believing these stories but progressively figure out that there is no ogre out there.

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However, they also learn that darkness often has dark forces. The fear of being eaten may be banished but the individual acquires the skills and knowledge for self-preservation against the elements that the night may hold or that one may encounter if they venture too far from known and safe grounds of the house.

Part of the moral of the story of being wary of the unknown is to learn to trust the known, to seek to know your neighbours better, to invest faith in friends, to cultivate defences against strangers, as well as to be on eternal vigilance. Eternal vigilance was a warning delivered in many oral stories — the hare was eternally alert to the trickery of the hyena (who sought to eat her); the tortoise needed to be trickier than the hare by calling on her extended family in order to win a race against the latter; the frog needed to always outsmart the snake, lest she ends up as the latter’s supper.

Yet these stories weren’t just about survival of the strongest and cleverest. No, they were also about restoring social equilibrium. The point they sought to make was that the likely victim needed to be far ahead of the villain in guarding against the rogue’s machinations.

Thus, even the villain understood that they could win a battle once in a while but they had a wilier and committed opponent that they may not win the war against. The weaker — and therefore upright character — relied on non-violence to endure. Thus, nonviolence is a language of eternal vigilance, intelligent response to evil and perpetual commitment to peace and restoration of humanity — because unending war is destructive and erodes the human spirit.

Anti-violence narratives have to be told, performed and lived from the earliest possible time for the growing child to be able to tell, perform and grow with them. If the child listens to tales that reject violence — in all its forms — she will most likely appreciate the peace and human coexistence. Such a child will grow up knowing that people are different socially, culturally, spiritually, economically, politically, but they share human essence. They will better understand human diversity and begin to see the world from multiple perspectives.

Understandably we are living in a world that appears to be rejecting multiculturalism; a world in which economic inequality has consigned millions of people to perpetual poverty; a supposedly globalising world in which religious difference has become the basis of destructive hatred.

However, human encounters have been made easier than before because of faster modes of travelling and internet connectivity. Consequently, different world views meet today more often than they did just about 30 years ago. These world views come as stories. Some of these stories are the basis of terror and fear that is visited on individuals and communities that are innocent. Innocent because they may never have heard the stories of the other — the villain.

As we reform the education system, we need to banish the narratives of prejudice that Kenyans casually use to define others, and which is the source of much pain and hatred.

We need to invite, listen to and share stories from other Kenyans — our neighbours, those from different tribes and regions, those of different religions etc. — in order to create an inclusive Kenyan story. That Kenyan story would be the antidote to fear.



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General

Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’

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Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Monitor water pumps remotely via your phone

Tracking and monitoring motor vehicles is not new to Kenyans. Competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce but essential for fleet managers who receive reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desk.

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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –

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Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

Read: Ministry of Agriculture Apologizes After Sending Out Tweets Portraying the President in bad light

Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

Read Also: Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme To Undergo Viability Test Before Being Privatised

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

Read Also: DP Ruto Wants NCPB And Other Agricultural Bodies Merged For Efficiency

Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

Email your news TIPS to [email protected] or WhatsApp +254708677607. You can also find us on Telegram through www.t.me/kahawatungu

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard

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Deputy President William Ruto will next month take his ‘hustler nation’ campaigns to his main rival, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard, in an escalation of the 2022 General Election competition.

Acrimonious fall-out

Development agenda

Won’t bear fruit

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