More articles

Kenya, the land of impunity, refuses to accept and move on


on  Thursday, September 7   2017 at  11:13

The man in the crisp blue shirt sat on a wooden bench in the middle of the crowded courtroom.

He leant forward, whispering conspiratorially to the woman next to him.

The woman, her head weighed down by an unruly mass of black mass-produced hair, occasionally cast furtive glances in my direction, her jaundiced eyes darting away every time I caught her looking at me.

I had never seen the woman before. But she had, at least, seen a photograph of me.

She had also been to my flat and in my bedroom, where she had rummaged through my drawers, strolled into the sitting room, past the pictures of my kids on the walls and the books on my shelves.

Then she, and an accomplice, had calmly walked out, through the door they had opened with a large bunch of master keys, carrying away money, a laptop, hard drives, a keepsake watch and the TV remote controller.

The TV itself they abandoned in the corridor; why break their artificial nails when they could order one online and have it delivered?

With the help of a keen-eyed neighbour, who spotted the licence plate of their getaway car, the two women had been arrested soon after with the laptop, then released on bail. Fingerprints and phone records put them at the scene. Open, shut.

Some money

Several months later, the trial was about to start. But the man in the crisp blue shirt, the detective in the Kenya Police Service in charge of investigating the case, had a message for me from the suspect as he retook his seat next to me: She was willing to save me the bother of endless and fruitless court appearances if I accepted some money – less than 10 per cent of what she and her accomplice stole – and the laptop.

“It’s a good deal, bwana,” the detective told me quietly.

“I’d take it if I was you.” I looked up at him. He had a fatherly look in his eyes, like he had just done me a great favour. Then he recited the anthem of impunity in Kenya: “You just accept and move on.”

To understand the significance of last week’s Supreme Court annulment of the presidential election result in Kenya, one must understand how widespread and entrenched impunity is.
Kenya is a product and a producer of impunity.

The seeds were sown by the land-grabbing colonial white settlers, watered by the native land-grabbers who replaced them and is tended by a predatory political and business elite.

Its fantastic political history is written in the blood of assassins-at-large, including infamously, a foreign minister, who tortured himself to death, then drove his car into a field and set it on fire. Genius.

Land grievances

When long-standing ethnic and land grievances erupted after the 2007 election, leaders of the warring sides buried their hatchets atop their victims, and shared the spoils of war.

Witnesses with something to tell the International Criminal Court somehow seemed to suffer unfortunate personal misfortunes that invariably led to their deaths. Anyone, from tenderpreneurs to IT experts, who refused to accept and move on, was ‘discovered’ a few days later.

In Kenya, you accept and move on, lie low like an envelope, or literally lose your head (or arm).

But every political system determines the opposition to it and a history of impunity in Kenya has given rise to a tenacious civil society as well as grassroots and middle class activism. Small acts of courage, such as Wangari Mathaai’s resistance, and others, snowballed into a new constitution in 2010 that fundamentally attempted to redistribute power from the centre to the grassroots.

The Supreme Court ruling is a child of that constitutionalism and represents a refusal to accept and move on.

The mediocrity

It speaks of a Kenya that refuses to accept the mediocrity of ‘good-enoughism’, and of Kenyans who believe in better.

Incidentally, I declined the dirty deal offered to me by the detective.

Outside the courtroom, after the case had been adjourned, I watched as he high-fived the suspect and her lawyer – probably hired using my money – and remembered why Kenya is one of those countries where you have to worry about criminals. And the police.

I knew, deep down, that the dirty deal was my best chance to cut my losses and run, but also that it is better to fail at the right thing than to succeed at the wrong one.

Regardless of the outcome of the fresh election, Kenyan democracy will emerge stronger. Progress in society comes not from acquiescence to safe and convenient arrangements, but from individuals and institutions refusing to accept and move on from impunity. Who would have thought that this lesson would come out of Kenya?

*Article first published in the Daily Monitor

Mr Kalinaki is a journalist and a poor man’s freedom fighter.

Twitter: @Kalinaki.

More articles

Undermining journalistic integrity in the name of peace


on  Monday, August 21   2017 at  16:01

It is reported that business is getting back to normal in Kenya after last week’s election, which incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta officially won.

I am not sure business will get back to normal for most of the mainstream media in Kenya. It appears that in their attempt to foster peace and deny voice and space to any forces that could easily trigger violence, the Kenyan media have once again gone overboard.

I have not followed the coverage as closely as I did when I had just arrived in Kenya in December 2007 (for what turned out to be a two-year stint at the headquarters of Nation Media Group, East Africa’s biggest media conglomeration), but it appears this year’s coverage pretty much mirrors what the mainstream media gave their audiences in the run-up to and after the 2013 elections.

The coverage has tended to give a lot of prominence to announcements by officialdom, especially the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), police and, after he was declared winner, President Kenyatta.

Opposition candidate Raila Odinga and his chief agents have received coverage too, but the media appears to have gotten tired of their narrative quite early. (Of course, it hasn’t helped matters that Mr Odinga’s NASA has not, according to the media, produced the EVIDENCE to support his claims of electoral fraud).

Interrogates claims

Critical reporting that investigates or interrogates claims by officials, explains and offers context and perspective or connects the dots has been limited or muted.

So, on the night of the elections and the following two days, the media reported the official provisional results released by the IEBC without showing where (constituencies) these results were coming from.

This can be misleading as new results from one candidate’s stronghold can easily change the numbers (In Kenya, as in Uganda last year, the difference between the two main contenders remained almost constant; this issue also required explanation and analysis, but attracted little of both in the mainstream media).

As the days went on, there were reports that Kenya police were using excessive force against protesters. But it is unlikely that those who have relied on mainstream media for their news have a good sense of the extent of the violence and post-election killings by police and others.

Civil society groups

In more recent days, the wrath of the establishment has been turned on civil society groups, the most prominent of which are the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and Africog.

I read in horror a mainstream newspaper story that reported on the purported deregistration of KHRC by the Kenya NGO Coordination Board. It did not mention the fact that the organisation had made several critical statements on the electoral process.

Was it paying the price for its activism around the elections or was the timing just a coincidence? Those are legitimate questions that journalists MUST ask.

In another story on August 16, it was reported that an IEBC Commissioner, Dr Roselyne Akombe, had been taken off a Nairobi flight to New York on orders of State security although she was later allowed to board another plane.

Why was she taken off the plane?

Why is this an issue? A leading Kenyan newspaper said that “sources” had told its reporters that some “State operatives feared that Dr Akombe, who reportedly holds both Kenyan and US passports, was fleeing from Kenya”.

Why would she be fleeing? Has this got anything to do with the election results? We do not know. The newspaper did not ask those questions.

Reckless reporting

Make no mistake; we are aware of the dangers of reckless reporting. How the media report on a claim of violence in a certain part of the country can easily incite more violence.

How the media report on claims of electoral fraud can equally incite supporters of the ‘losing’ candidate.

But the solution is not to avoid these claims and the ugly facts. Good journalism would report accurately on what is going on. It would interrogate the claims and report the ugly facts in a manner that helps the reader or listener or viewer understand what is happening.

It would provide the kind of context that would help hold back those who would otherwise quickly want to take to the streets to make trouble.

To steer clear of controversial claims by legitimate actors in the name of peace is a disservice to the people in the long run.

Not only does it easily undermine the integrity and credibility of journalism, it also undercuts the strengthening of institutions of State such as the electoral authority.

This article was first published on the ACME online resource centre.

Dr Mwesige is co-founder and executive director of African Centre for Media Excellence.
Twitter: @pmwesige

*This article was first published on the ACME online resource centre and the Daily Monitor.

More articles

African leaders must protect women and girls from sex trafficking


on  Wednesday, July 19   2017 at  16:17

Across Africa, governments have made legally binding commitments to protect and promote the rights of women and girls. They include protecting them from being trafficked for sexual exploitation.

Tragically, many throughout the continent remain trapped in sexual slavery and were being trafficked both within and across borders, with little being done to help them.

Last week marked the 14th anniversary of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, also known as the Maputo Protocol. This is the main legal instrument for the protection of the rights of women and girls in Africa and has been adopted by most members of the African Union. It includes specific provisions that compel member states to put in place measures that eliminate trafficking and protect women from violence and exploitation.

Despite this, the barriers to ending sex trafficking and sexual exploitation remain. Whilst many African countries have recognised the significance of ratifying the Maputo Protocol, implementation was still weak.

In many ways, it was a classic example of a sound legal framework coupled with extremely problematic implementation structures – African countries have adopted elements into their national legislation but implementation was frequently weak.

In Kenya, for instance, women and girls were trafficked and sexually exploited in prostitution linked to sex tourism along the coast. According to a study on sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism, minors were particularly exploited in the commercial sex industry by both overseas tourists and Kenyan nationals, the majority of who were from affluent neighbourhoods.

Minimum standards

In addition, a growing number of development projects around the country have lured women and girls in search of work but end up being sexually exploited.

Kenya ranks in tier two according to the United States Trafficking in Persons Report, an annual report released by the department that monitors and combats human trafficking. This means that the country has made significant efforts to address human trafficking but is not fully compliant with the minimum standards to address the issue.

A main challenge is the lack of inter-agency coordination.

There also needs to be greater understanding that prostitution was a manifestation of gender inequality and in order to affectively address the problem, there must be laws that criminalise the buying of sex, and that these laws were effectively implemented.

The trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world.

The International Labour Organisation estimates that roughly 4.5 million people worldwide were trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and UNODC reports that 71 per cent of those trafficked worldwide were women and girls - 51 per cent and 20 per cent respectively. Of those, 79 per cent were trafficked for sexual exploitation.

Coercion or deception

Sex trafficking involves recruiting, transporting or holding a person by use of threats, coercion or deception in order to sexually exploit them. Frequently, the end destination was the commercial sex industry, which continues to expand and was closely linked to other organised criminal activity such as immigration crime, violence, drug abuse and money laundering.

Trapped in poverty and debt bondage, many women and girls remained in the sex trade to pay off “debts” accumulated by the pimps, purportedly to pay off their transportation or recruitment.

The commercial sex trade operates on the market principles of supply and demand. The demand is created by men who ensure that sexual exploitation and trafficking continue. Traffickers, pimps and facilitators profit from this demand by supplying the predominantly women and girls who were brutally exploited on a daily basis.

Like many other African countries, Kenya‘s laws fully criminalise prostitution. This means that both buyers and sellers of sex were liable to prosecution, although the reality was that only the women faced prosecution. Authorities usually turn a blind eye to those who buy sex.

Buying and selling

International human rights organisation Equality Now is advocating a move away from total criminalisation - in which both the buying and selling of sex are criminalised - and for the adoption of the Equality Model (otherwise known as the Nordic Model), which involves the decriminalisation of selling sex.

This proposal recognises that prostitution was both a cause and a consequence of the disadvantaged and exploited position that women and girls often found themselves in, especially those living in poverty. The majority of those working in Africa’s commercial sex trade were there because of dire circumstances. They were from impoverished backgrounds, lacked education and did not have alternative economic opportunities and resources to help them survive.

Many have also experienced other forms of sexual or physical abuse, leaving them particularly vulnerable.

The Equality Model challenges the idea that it was acceptable to buy women’s and girls’ bodies as long as a buyer could pay for it. It tries to redress the inequalities by promoting women and girls’ right to safety, health and non-discrimination, and by challenging men’s perceived “right” to buy women’s bodies for sex.

It also calls on governments to do more to address the issues that push women and girls into the commercial sex industry, and for better support and exit services to be made available.

The buying and selling of sex is intrinsically linked to sex trafficking. By focusing on demand as a route to curtailing both prostitution and trafficking, African governments can become more effective in finally achieving the commitments they have made to women and girls by signing up the Maputo Protocol. Their time to act is now.

Ms Nyanjong’ is the End Sex Trafficking programme officer for Africa at Equality Now.


Twitter @equalitynow

More articles

How foreign firms profit from Africa's wealth


on  Monday, July 10   2017 at  18:54

A report released about a month ago, but which for some reason did not make headlines in the African media, shows that while African countries receive $161 billion in loans, aid, grants and remittances every year, the continent pays out $203 billion in debt repayments, multinational company profits, illicit financial flows and illegal fishing, among other costs.

The report, Honest Accounts 2017: How the World Profits from Africa’s Wealth, published by a consortium of civil society organisations, including Jubilee Debt Campaign and Global Justice Now, shows that Africa is a net creditor to the rest of the world to the tune of $41 billion a year, which is more than double what it receives in official aid.

Some more shocking statistics: African countries receive around $19 billion in grants, but over three times this amount ($68 billion or six per cent of the entire continent’s GDP) leaves Africa through illicit financial flows, mainly through multinational companies that deliberately misreport the value of their imports or exports to evade or reduce tax.

Illegal logging

African governments received $33 billion in loans in 2015, but paid $18 billion in debt interest and principal payments.

Further, an estimated $29 billion a year is being stolen from the continent through illegal logging, fishing and trade in wildlife and plants.

“The figures show that the rest of the world is profiting from the continent’s wealth — more so than most African citizens.

"Yet rich country governments simply tell their public that their aid programmes are helping Africa.

"This is a distraction, and misleading,” say the authors of the report.

Africa is not poor. It is estimated that the untapped mineral reserves in the Democratic Republic of Congo — where the average citizen wallows in poverty and where civil conflict has raged for decades — is worth $24 trillion (yes, trillion!).

People still live

In 2015, African countries exported $232 billion worth of minerals and oil to the rest of the world.

Yet, about two-thirds of the continent’ people still live on less than $3 a day.

Why is this so? There are two main reasons. One, when multinational companies export commodities such as minerals from Africa, these countries benefit only marginally.

In key sectors such as mining, oil and gas, foreign companies tend to pay low taxes or are given tax incentives that reduce these taxes even further.

African governments have a very tiny shareholding in these companies (between five and 20 per cent), which means that Africa’s wealth is largely owned and exploited by foreign companies.

Remains poor

One report found that 101 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange control $1 trillion worth of resources in Africa in just five commodities – oil, gold, diamonds, coal and platinum; more than half of these companies are British.

The second reason Africa remains poor is because these companies and the African elite who benefit from this wealth, are able to avoid paying tax altogether because they use tax havens in places such as the Channel Islands, Switzerland and the UK.

Super-rich Africans ensure that their wealth remains outside the continent.

It is estimated that Africa’s richest people hold a total of $500 billion offshore.

What is to be done to reverse this situation? The report offers solutions that may not be palatable to neoliberals and their free-trade mantra.

One is that African governments should adopt protectionist policies that favour domestic companies over foreign investors.

Use tax havens

This means nurturing local companies and industries until they are in a position to compete in the international market.

Another is to ensure that stock exchanges do no permit companies to be listed unless they can show that they do not use tax havens and that they pay taxes wherever they are located.

African governments must also stop putting their faith in the extractive sector to avoid the “resource curse” that has plagued so many countries, such as the DRC and Nigeria.

Instead, governments should focus on promoting other economic activities, such as agriculture and manufacturing, that foster sustainable growth.

The media and NGOs must also dispel the myth that Western countries are playing a leadership role in Africa’s development when, in fact, these countries are benefiting the most from Africa’s wealth.


More articles

Here is my manifesto, but I have no intention of actually acting on it


on  Thursday, July 6   2017 at  18:07

Oh dear, the season of manifestos is here in Kenya. By the time you read this article, both Jubilee and Nasa will have unveiled their manifestos.

Both manifestos will promise utopia. But most of the promises will come to naught, no matter who takes power on August 8. Anyone with an average education can write a manifesto, and any average politician can stand in front of a cheering crowd and recite the promises therein.

In our part of the Third World, manifestos, just like the dancing, the flywhisks, fimbos, wild knee-jerk cheering, ostentatious billboards, endless convoys of branded cars, helicopters gulping Ksh100,000 ($1,000) an hour, dress codes, etc, are props to cynical political theatre.

In countries where politicians do not politick with the lives of their citizens as we do in Africa, manifestos are a serious matter. First, they are underpinned by a policy framework that fits into a strategic national development plan.

The policy framework details such things as the source and size of budgetary support. And, as importantly, the people given the responsibility to implement the manifesto proposals understand very clearly that their careers and, sometimes, their freedom depend on conscientious performance of their duty.

Regular updates

Then there are review teams to ensure benchmarks are met, and find solutions to challenges.

In these countries, the highest members of government, quite often the president, demand regular updates of progress. A manifesto in these countries is regarded as a sacred contract between the governed and the governor.

The prestige, sense of personal triumph and career advancement of both the governors and those directly responsible for the implementation of the projects are tied to the success of these projects. Failure, for both the governors and those in charge of the projects, is a terrifying prospect.

In 2013, Jubilee, with much fanfare, unveiled a manifesto that promised a number of things.

Key among these were five modern stadia, laptops for primary schoolchildren, a million jobs every year for the next five years, a double-digit economic growth rate, food security and cheaper power.

With the possible exception of cheap and accessible power, the Jubilee administration has failed to deliver on all the other promises.

Stole uniforms

Instead of the stadiums, the ministry of sports was rocked by a scandal that humiliated the nation when its officials stole uniforms meant for the athletes and organised joy rides for themselves and their girlfriends to the Rio Games at the expense of the athletes.

The economic growth rate has remained anaemic, oscillating between 4.5 and 5 per cent. As a result, the promised jobs have remained a mockery to the millions of unemployed youth. The laptops initiative, criticised by educationists right from the onset, never took off.

And this year, the government had to be reminded by Catholic clergy to declare a national disaster in drought-hit areas of the country where livestock and people were dying from ensuing famine.

Bizarrely, the minister of agriculture came on TV and argued that that the fact that fewer people had died this year as opposed to the last drought in 2011 was a mark of progress.

But what perhaps characterised the Jubilee administration’s five years in power was the return of Kanu-era scorched-earth thievery. We were tormented by visions of money meant for our nation’s youth being carted off in sacks from banks at night.

Handled failure

There were land scandals, symbolised most callously by the grabbing of a school field in Nairobi, where protesting pupils, some as young as seven, were tear-gassed to unconsciousness by police.

There were billions of shillings meant for aid programmes allegedly stolen from the Ministry of Health and from the Interior ministry, and millions diverted from the youth fund, etc.

What really confirms that all these promises were mere political theatre is the way government has handled failure. What does it say about the government’s commitment to fulfilment of its manifesto when all the people – ministers and principal secretaries – who failed so miserably are simply reshuffled?

Next time our leaders travel to China seeking a handout, they could do worse than to ask their Chinese counterparts how they would have dealt with such people!

I doubt, however, that a Nasa (opposition) administration would have performed any better.

This is because it would be a recycling of the same players, and more crucially, it would be the recycling of the same mentality.

Kenya desperately needs a new thinking, a new political culture. But for the foreseeable future, we will continue to lament corruption and inefficiency, land grabbing, failed promises, death from hunger, unemployment, violence, no matter which coalition of tribes is in power.

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political and social commentator. E-mail: teengugi@gmail.com

More articles

Zambia police must shun graft to reduce road carnage


on  Thursday, July 6   2017 at  12:49

Most Zambians have little contact with law enforcement authorities. Indeed for many motorists and passengers, their only frequent interface with law enforcement will be with a traffic officer.

Every day mini-bus or taxi passengers bear close witness to their vehicle being pulled up, often for no discernible reason, by a traffic officer, the driver getting out of his vehicle, walking over and handing over the bribe.

The impact that this has upon ordinary citizens is immeasurable. On the basis of their daily experience, they conclude that the vast majority of police officers are ‘for sale’. And the impact on the rule of law is incalculable.

Many motorists would argue that there is no point in obeying the rules because, whether or not they obey them, they will be harassed and held up by traffic officers who know only too well that the simple expedient of reducing the driver’s number of trips by one eliminates his margins for the day. This is what happens when the law is put up for sale.

Does this mean that we should scrap and transfer the traffic police into the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA)?

In my opinion, the answer is No.

Fear of crime

Many criminals use the road network in the planning and commission of their crimes. Proactive road policing can deny criminals the unchallenged use of the roads, and is an effective measure for preventing and detecting crime and it is only the police that can do that.

A visible police presence is invaluable in reducing the fear of crime and reassuring the law abiding public. Road policing is well positioned to deliver these outcomes, as the road network is essential for the movement of criminals. It impacts on all critical areas of police business – reducing road casualties, disrupting criminality, countering terrorism, anti-social driving, and patrolling the roads.

The roadside encounter presents essential intelligence gathering opportunities and the potential for stopping and disrupting criminal activity by road policing officers.

The roads are an integral part of our public space populated with its own transient community. Patrolling is vital for public reassurance. Visible patrols signify to the public that compliance with traffic law is being monitored and that potential and actual offenders are being deterred and detected.

Effective policing of the roads is therefore an important and visible element of the police service’s commitment to protect the public and provide them with assistance. Well ordered roads are central to the social and economic wellbeing of our country.

Safety of others

However, the police should direct their focus at those high harm offenders who pose the greatest risks to the safety of others.

The number of road deaths on Zambian roads increased from 1,858 in 2014 to 2,206 in 2016, representing an increase of 18 per cent rise. Therefore, there is much work to be done to save lives on our roads. These statistics are only available from the police.

The police service plays an important role providing collision detail and through the highlight of trends and issues found at accident sites, through the monitoring and enforcing of poor driver behaviour and difficulties found at sites.

The highest possible reductions in road casualties cannot be achieved by enforcement and education of offenders alone. The police should be working in partnership with the many other valuable partners who share the same objectives or have a stake in reducing road casualties, in particular and most importantly RTSA, corporate like Puma Energy Zambia and the civil societies such as the Zambia Road Safety Trust.

Working with partners and stakeholders can help shift public attitude and behaviour to one of habitual compliance with the laws and conventions of the road.

Greater reliance

To engage better with ALL road users will require the Zambia police to find the appropriate balance between education, engineering and enforcement.

The police should be encouraged to place greater reliance on the discretion and professional judgement of their individual officers. This will enhance both public satisfaction and confidence – in short their purpose is to save lives and reduce (road) crime.

Indeed effective enforcement by the police that is supported by the improvements in road engineering and education will help reduce the number of people killed on our roads.

The remedial education that works in tandem with enforcement will achieve improved road safety outcomes. The police must focus on road users who pose the highest threat of harm whilst responding appropriately to those who have shown a momentary lapse of judgement or care.

In short, the police must focus on relationship with road users in which they work together to fulfil the vision of a “safe and secure environment for all road users”. They should be a greater emphasis on enforcement based on professional discretion and judgement, increasing the number of potential enforcement interactions that result in education.

Seriously injured

Each casualty on the road represents an avoidable personal tragedy and if fatal, costs the Zambian public purse K5 billion per year. The principle causation factors of road death and injury involve alcohol or excess speed singularly or in combination.

Pedestrians still continue to represent a disproportionate number of the overall killed and seriously injured (KSI) rates, amounting to almost 50 per cent of all fatalities. Most of these deaths have been attributed to a lack of road safety sense by pedestrians, according to a survey carried out by RTSA in 2016.

The police must work with the government to help inform the legislative framework and must find better ways of engaging with those identified as most at risk of harm caused by others. The police need to work with partners to adopt a balanced approach between enforcement and education.

They need to continue to develop alternative disposals so that police officers, where appropriate, can use their discretion to tackle errant driver behaviour such as careless and aggressive driving, the use of mobile phones, careless driving, seatbelt offences, and excess speed.

Mr Mwamba is Chairman for the Zambia Road Safety Trust; a research, education and advocacy organisation. (daniel.mwamba@zambianroadsafety.org)

More articles

Teen mothers deserve a second chance


on  Wednesday, July 5   2017 at  16:04

Last month’s remarks by Tanzanian President John Magufuli that schoolgirls who become pregnant will not be allowed back in public schools after giving birth, was most unfortunate. Many people have called on the government to rescind the decision.

In recent months, the Tanzanian government has been under pressure from a cross section of the country and the international community to let teen mothers resume their studies since banning them from schools pushes them to a deeper hole of stigma and poverty.

In one session in Parliament, former First Lady Salma Kikwete, now a nominated MP, vehemently opposed a suggestion by another legislator that teen mothers should be allowed back to school.

Sexual violence

Mrs Kikwete, a former teacher, stated that the teen mothers would be a bad influence to other students, thus encourage promiscuity.

Well, let’s get back to reality; these teen mothers are most of the times victims of sexual violence, coercion and neglect.

Often times, they are not mature enough to even know what the consequences are, let alone understand sex; when their innocence is robbed.

Their babies

It is really disturbing when leaders say that such girls routinely “enjoy sex”.

When most of them are sent away from their homes, they face ridicule and even poor nutrition during their pregnancy.

Some die during childbirth and those who make it are not mature enough to raise their babies.

With no skills on their hands, they resort to begging or hawking by the roadside.

Not being allowed back to school means the poverty cycle continues and it becomes really hard to break. Their dreams are crushed, thus they fail to reach their full potential.

A 2015 report by HakiElimu, a civil society group in Tanzania, indicates that 3,690 primary schoolgirls fell pregnant.

According to a 2015/16 study conducted by the Tanzania Bureau of Statistics, 21 per cent of girls aged 15 to 19 have given birth, meaning the country has one of the highest adolescent pregnancies.

Imagine hindering 3,690 or more girls from achieving their educational objectives, thus trapping them in the poverty cycle?

A sad reality

What would happen to them and their children if they failed go to school is a sad reality. When teen girls get pregnant; the society and even their immediate family members often treat them as outcasts, leading to many unsafe abortions.

The children of the teen mothers would also suffer the same predicament in the hands of this hypocritical society, thus exposing them to more sexual violence and overdependence.

Condemning them to further isolation would make it even worse.

While I do not encourage premarital sex, let us give teen mothers some hope and dignity by allowing them back to school to attain their full potential.

Not a privilege

Education makes women an integral part of any country’s development, thus bettering the economy.

Taking education away from girls will be very devastating.

We should also remember that education is a right and not a privilege.

Twitter: @JanetOtieno

More articles

Denying education to schoolgirls who get pregnant is barbaric and backward


on  Sunday, June 25   2017 at  13:05

The moralists are back among us, and this time they are, once again, riding the usual high horse of virginity and the imperative for maidens to stay pure and chaste until they are allowed to go out and eat the forbidden fruit.

The girl child is told that to engage in sex before the knot is tied is sinful, and that if she is in school and is lecherous enough to be tempted by the snake, her school career is finished. Mothers cannot be learners, she is told.

But of course mothers can be learners, she could answer; mothers have been learners since forever, as her mother and her grandmother can attest.

What makes a young woman lose her ability to learn simply because she is “in the family way,” to employ a silly old expression?

But that is what Tanzanian legislators and members of civil society are grappling with, some of them taking such emotional positions as will brook no attempt to reason with them.

The terrible act

Such girls as “allow themselves” to engage in sex while still in school are “immoral” and should be sent down immediately they are discovered to have done the terrible act.

Problem is, no one has a litmus test to ascertain whether the young woman has “done it,” till she begins to show the wrong bulges in the wrong places.

Aha! You’ve done it and it shows, so out you go! Thing is, not all who “do it” end up bulging, so they don’t get caught. These are the “smart” ones.

A civil society body dedicated to education rights has launched a five-year campaign to raise awareness among the people of this extremely conservative country, and all I can see is a hard road ahead for them, and us.

To suggest that a pregnant schoolgirl should go back to school after childbirth sounds to some of our people like telling all the schoolgirls that it’s okay to just sleep with whoever comes along.

Hormonal changes

But we know that this is not the case. Some youngsters will be more sexually active than others as they go through a period of extreme hormonal changes, putting them in an endangered cluster of scholars unless they have been tutored in ways of being “smart.”

Those who get “smart” can then go on and entertain a battalion without the slightest worry over pregnancy, and their kin and friends will hold them up as if they were Mother Theresa. It is the innocent ones, the ones who do not know how to cheat the system, who get caught.

To state that the girl child has been disadvantaged in our societies would be a culpable understatement.

Home chores

Our family arrangements are rigged against her, even her mother takes position among her enemies. Societal norms, assigned roles and socialising agents militate against her.

Apart from her schoolwork, she must do home chores while her brothers learn or play; the school environment is unfriendly and often humiliating, especially as her femininity wreaks havoc on her self-esteem without supportive interventions.

She is also the target of all sorts of lecherous advances by the men around her, some of them people in a fiduciary relationship to her, such as her teachers.

Sometimes, as protection from these unwanted attentions, she will accept the seemingly selfless shelter of a “caring cousin,” who turns out be the one that does the ultimate damage after all.

Make it worse

It is unfair to punish the girl alone, as that is tantamount to punishing the victim. The responsible man has proved elusive, one because he does not bulge, two because he has a whole lot of tricks to help him dance out of any such situation, and, three, the girl is always the daughter of Eve, guilty from Creation. She is left alone holding the…tummy.

We should never exacerbate an already bad situation. Enrolment in school has improved considerably, and both sexes are well represented. However, females drop off at higher levels of education. We should not make it worse than it is.

That is why I think President John Pombe Magufuli should mitigate the statement he made this past week in which he castigated the poor girls whose fault it is not that they got into what they got into. Magufuli should listen to his vice-president and health minister, both of them women who should know better about the matter.

Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: ulimwengu@jenerali.com