Monday, July 26, 2010


Just back from the lovely coast of Kenya, a relaxing place where beach boys serenade and then..ask for money. Lindi and I met a few interesting characters on our trip.

We took the train from Nairobi to Mombasa, a 15 hours trip, indeed polo pole. No high speed trains in Kenya. In fact we spotted a matatu passing us on the road beside the tracks. Life on the train passed quickly as we made friends in the dining carraige, ordering wine and Tuskers. A remant from the past, there were little tables with greyish tableclothes and service where you wish you brought your own cork screw as it does take quite a while to open a bottle of wine...

After a bumpty sleep on the top bunk, we arose to the warm winter sun of the coast and the pine tree vistas. Children waved by the train tracks and many begged

We watched the world cup with a fellow expatriot from Ireland. I had my Spanish jersey from Spain, 3 sizes too big. It read 'Espana' on the back so I was pleased to be on the winning side for a change. We sat in an open square and paid a few shillings for chairs. We hugged and celebrated Spain's win despite losing electricty along the way, we just about managed to watch the world cup in its entirety

Another night, we stumbled across a muslim wedding. I heard beautiful music coming from the stairs above a restuarant and slipped upstairs only to be invited to take off my shoes and sit with other muslim women as we waited for the bride to arrive

'Just wait', they said, 'She will be here soon'

Always an alarming reponse in Kenya as 'just wait' could mean one hour or several. I was wearing a mini dress and my hair was uncovered, very risky attire given the situation

The brides mother inisted we cover our hair with our head scarves

'I dont have one', I responded, getting ready to leave
Suddenly, brightly coloured scarves were hurled in our direction

'Take a seat' which mtranslates 'squat on the floor'
Great, its not easy aquatting in a mini dress
My legs were gangly and bare, so I knelt down as the pins and kneedles ached

The bride never during one of the many dances and songs, I bolted to the door with Lindi, lmy head scarf flying off my head, landing beside our muslim sisters

'Take some deserts with you', one girl i did

Then off to a night club, the brothel known as 'florida'
And as you might imagine, we were the only women paying for our drinks. The rest had to work for them

I was trying to watch the Germany vs Uruguay match but kept getting distracted by prostitutes in Sharon Stone costumes, legs uncrossed

Another quick exit

Then off to the lovely Lamu

We stayed on Shella beach, and spent our days sun bathing and chatting with locals including...
The Masai warriors of the coast, friendly chaps who wanted us to buy their jewellery
and beach boys who wanted us to pay for Dhow trips

Life on the beach is relaxing but the night life is interesting. You have to take a boat to the night club or a donkey, a little different from home

There we met Satan, the manager of Petleys and friends from other places

Several drinks later, myself and Lindi boarded a Dhow boat bound for Shella

The fuel had ran out so we drifted in the ocean several minutes with 3 drunken men from Petleys. Then after picking up some fuel from another boat, the engine broke down

Thanks to the whiskeys, we found the situation quite amusing. Eventually, the engine was given a kick start, and off we went, with one the beach boys singing 'Maria Maria' in my honour

I had told him I was married. He asked if my husband was still alive

'Yes', I replied. 'He is a young man'

Then he actually pretended to jump off the boat at the thought of my husband still living..

Eventually , we made our way to Shella, in one piece

Kwaheri Lamu

Life is more serious in Nairobi, with talk of upcoming constitution on August 4th. I'll write again soon with tales of constitution mayhem. Its bound to be dramatic..

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Mob justice

Last Wednesday,I was delivering a training program in Malaba, near Uganda, to parents of children with disabilities.I was encouraging parents to interact with their children with speech and language problems in order to further stimulate the children's language skills

I was on my way to the bathroom in the compound, when I turned the corner and confronted an angry group of young men, whipping a younger boy on the back with car tyres. An older man was laughing in the corner at the spectacle. I found out later that the boy had apparently stolen some roofing from a nearby shop. The owner of the hotel where I was was staying, paid local youths to kill him and they decided to carry out the torture in the grounds of the hotel where I was staying

The boy appeared intellectually disabled. Gripped by panic and fear, he was wailing loudly and unable to articulate at the thought of his imminent death.
The crowd was getting more and more animated. When I returned from the bathroom, the situation was getting out of control. One man was charging at the boy with a shovel.

This is when I decided to intervene.

I could not let them beat a man with a disability to death in front of me when I was giving a lecture next door on valuing people with disabilities.

I ran towards the man with the shovel, pleading and shouting at him to stop.
A woman crept up toward me, giggling quietly, and whispered in my ear. She explained to me that the boy was a thief and this was how Kenyans dealt with petty theft- by handing down a death sentence and dealing with it themselves

The police were not called.There was no need. They would deal with this themselves.

The owner protested that the policeman would ask him why he had not killed him.

The mob were getting more fired up and took off towards the back of the hotel.The boy was bleeding on his head as one man had hurled the shovel at him and hit him on the head. He was also bleeding inside his shirt from the public whipping

I continued to follow them, with my bosses looking on in silence and complacence. This is the system here, they said, despite it being illegal.

Mob justice

I continued to plead with the owner to take him to the police so they could investigate the matter. Eventually the owner agreed to take him to the police

I screamed at the owner saying that he himself should be charged with attempted murder..the boy after all was disabled and had stolen a small amount of roofing material, hardly deserving of death by blow to the head with a blunt instrument

He replied that the man was not disabled. He was caught stealing and must be punished. He was simply teaching him a lesson and ordered the mob to stop

'I am saving his life', he protested

I insisted that he in fact was trying to kill him. I was the one trying to save his life

All this time, my boss was laughing, proclaiming that this is Kenya and Marie, you are like an Afican woman, fearless

The crowd simply did not see the benefit of taking him to the police..he would not learn his lesson, he would steal again. Besides the police would beat him also

So there... a day in the life of Marie Fahy in Kenya

And all I wanted to do was go to the toilet!

Kenya is a harsh place and sometimes very barbaric

but then why are there so many Christians heading off to mass every Sunday if, when the whim takes them, they beat a man to death with a shovel for stealing so little

Where is the compassion? It's not very Christian

Innocent people are being lynched not only in Malaba but also in Nairobi. Mob justice is absolutely unethical in African society so why does it continue?

Change can only come when the administrators adhere to and respect the law..Kenya has a long way to go in this repect

The judiciary system, just as other government departments, are riddled with corruption and it is not surprising that people have taken the law in their own hands

Having witnessed firsthand "mob justice" in Kenya, I absolutely condemn this barbaric act which is due to the incapability of the Kenya Police and high level of corruption which sees many criminals walk free after small handouts forcing the public to take the law in their own hands.

I don't believe that Kenyans are bloodthirsty and enjoy killing their compatriots but the justice system here just doesn't seem to work, leaving people with no other option but to take the law into their own hands.

Many law enforcers have failed to deliver and people have to live with the fear that they are not well protected. In other cases law enforcers have forged alliances with criminals and this has reduced the confidence that people have in them. It's time kenyans reviewed the way their law enforcers work, and maybe give them enough resources.

Otherwise many more people will get killed on mere suspicion of having committed a crime.