Thursday, February 19, 2009


A very good friend of mine, Philo Okonya was arrested yesterday outside parliament. Last Sunday, Philo spent the afternoon with is reading in Uhuru Park from her latest book, "The Kenyan Boy Who Became President of America.". She mentors Kenyan girls raped in the post-election violence, protests government corruption, wields her pen with fierce, lyrical intelligence in the global media. Philo organizes, campaigns, writes, sings, publishes and raises her son single-handedly. Yesterday, along with other activists, she stood outside Kenya's Parliament, holding a 2-kilogram bag of maize flour in silent protest at the government corruption that has led to mass hunger in Kenya. She and two other activists, Chrispus Fwamba and Patrick Kamotho, were grabbed and manhandled by the police, and are now being held, without charges, in Nairobi police stations.

An email from the PEN Kenya treasurer, Khainga Ookwemba, says:
Philo has been physically brutalized by a police officer, who pulled her chest as she demanded the police give her a phone, which had been taken away. Lawyers Elisha Ongoya and Anne Njogu are demanding her release so that she can receive medical treatment. By the time of writing this note, they had denied her bond and release.

A press release from the Mars Kenya Group says:
Philo Ikonya's clothes were ripped off and the police have refused her access to clothing.
Please ACT TODAY, to have Philo Ikonya, and the others arrested with her, released. Take the steps below. Post this call to your networks, websites, listserves.

1. Send a text message TODAY, to Kenya's President and Prime Minister. Use the one below, or craft your own.
To President Mwai Kibaki (via his spokesperson, Alfred Mutua):
Cellphone number + 254 721 240 443
To Prime Minister Raila Odinga
Cellphone + 254 733 620 736
Attorney General:
Amos Wako + 254 722 772 453

Mr. Kibaki / Mr. Odinga - we hold u accountable 4 police violence and illegal arrests of Philo Ikonya n other civil society activists. Release them NOW and fire Police Commissioner Ali!

2. Send an email
To President Mwai Kibaki
To Prime Minister Raila Odinga

Suggested Message:
Mr Kibaki / Mr. Odinga, I urge you to act immediately to release Philo Ikonya, Fwamba Chrispus, and Patrick Kamotho from illegal police custody. Police Commissioner Ali must be fired for presiding over escalating police violations of civil and human rights in Kenya.
Signed: Name, Organization / Affiliation (if any), City, Country

3) If you are a Kenyan repeat steps 1) and 2) with your own MP and other parliamentarians.
Contact details for Kenyan MPs here or here

4) If you live outside Kenya, repeat steps 1) and 2), directing the texts and emails to the Kenyan Ambassador or High Commissioner in your country.

5) If you are a foreign national living in Kenya, repeat steps 1) and 2) with the Ambassador or High Commissioner of your country in Kenya.

6) Copy to the Feedback Form on the site of the Kenyan Police Force:

7) Copy Kofi Annan, in his capacity as the head of the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation Process, through his spokesman:

And they asked him:
Why do you sing?
And he answered, as they seized him:
I sing because I sing

And they searched his chest
But could only find his heart
And they searched his heart
But could only find his people
And they searched his voice
But could only find his grief
And they searched his grief
But could only find his prison
And they searched his prison
But could only see themselves in chains

From Poem Of The Land, by Mahmoud Darwish

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Jungle Playground

After a failed and somewhat disturbing attempt to visit this interesting art project in Kibera, we decided to go instead to the Jungle Gym Playground on Limuru Road.

Maisha ni Matamu has to take a break for a couple of weeks, but we'll be back on March 15th. And we will see the art project in Kibera!

Levi ponders the futility of it all:
There's nothing these kids love more than chips and soda.
Levi and Karanja take a break before busting out the ice cream:
Sylvester and Kennedy took home all the "silliest beans" awards:

Mungai and Gitau:

Gitau sandwiched between the Karanja's:

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Uhuru Park Book Reading

Uhuru Park was buzzing when we got there. There were preachers, musicians, families, horses, boats and an endless supply of vendors trying to entice the kids into buying balloons and toys.

We were so lucky to have Philo Ikonya with us. She is the author of the children's book "The Boy Who Became President of America."

Before she arrived, we begun our picnic with ham sandwiches, crisps and juice:

Maisha ni Matamu purchased a copy of Philo's book for each of the children:

Although all the children knew of Barack Obama, they were inspired and amazed by the stories about him and his family.

Philo and her protege, Rene (left) began reading:

All the children had a turn:

After the reading, they all had their books signed by the author:

A big thank you to Philo and Rene for their time and kind words.