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Kibaki and Njonjo: Neighbours who don’t get along

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Watching Jonathan Moi’s funeral on TV two weeks ago took me back in time to when I attended the burial of his mother Lena Moi in Kabarak in July 2004.

On both solemn occasions, two men sat close to each other, but from their hostile body language they could as well have been on different planets.

At Jonathan’s funeral, it’s his younger brother Baringo Senator Gideon Moi and Deputy President William Ruto who sat only separated by Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, but you could tell there wasn’t much love lost between them.

From the cold handshake to avoiding eye contact, only protocol and the solemn circumstances ensured civility.

It was the same with the burial of Lena 15 years earlier. On arrival, President Mwai Kibaki and First Lady Lucy Kibaki seemingly ignored former Attorney General Charles Njonjo, though their sitting positions were only separated by their host retired, President Daniel arap Moi and the Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner.

Throughout the ceremony, Kibaki and Njonjo never looked in each other’s direction. The former AG later made a passing mention of the President only because he had to pass a vote of thanks on behalf of the Moi family.

Such is the mutual coldness between the two Muthaiga neighbours that when Lucy Kibaki passed on three years ago, Njonjo didn’t bother to send message of condolence — at least in public — let alone drop by next door to condole with the Kibakis.

Kibaki, 87, and Njonjo, 99, perhaps were never meant to coexist in the same compartment right from their opposite backgrounds.

One was born into royalty, the son of a colonial chief who rode horses to school. The other was born into peasantry, with a father who could barely manage to put food on the table from sale of raw tobacco.

Kibaki was an A-student, effortlessly passing school examinations with flying colours, and making his way to Makerere University and London School of Economics.

READ ALSO:   VIDEO: Raila did not withdraw from Oct 26th Presidential election - Supreme Court

On the other hand, Njonjo contemporaries say he was an average learner, but somehow made it to Alliance High School, South African’s Fort Hare University (he was a classmate of Robert Mugabe) and eventually Lincoln’s Inn in London.

Kibaki returned to teach economics at Makerere College while Njonjo got a job as a junior clerk at the Law offices in colonial Kenya.

That is where President Jomo Kenyatta found him at independence and gave him the exalted job of Attorney General, more on the basis of old Jomo’s friendship with his father, retired Senior Chief Josiah Njonjo.

Kibaki and Njonjo crossed swords right at independence. Njonjo didn’t bother to conceal whose interests he served – those of the old colonialists and the expatriate community.

He was an Englishman in black skin. As AG, he never liked or believed in Africans, and made it his business to ensure no black person came near gaining influence in the Kenyan Judiciary.

He also seized every opportunity to frustrate budding African lawyers whose mastery of the English language, let alone the law, he doubted.

In commerce and industry, Njonjo was chief promoter and protector of British conglomerates, as he sabotaged African enterprises.

One-time chairman of the Transport Licensing Board Joseph Gatuguta once related to me how Njonjo made difficult his efforts to Africanise lucrative aspects of the local transport sector.

Gatuguta would deny permit renewals to expatriates to pave the way for local investors, only for Njonjo to have a British expatriate judge overturn his decisions in favour of foreigners.

Gatuguta had to cunningly wait until Njonjo was out of the country to sneak to State House and explain to Mzee Kenyatta the challenges he was facing.

The President saw the point and Njonjo’s Mzungu was ordered out of the country and back to wherever he came from.

On the contrary, Kibaki, as minister for Commerce and later Finance and Economic Planning, was in the driver’s seat of the massive Africanisation programme in newly independent Kenya.

READ ALSO:   PHOTO: Raila celebrates his 74th birthday with President Uhuru

He was at the helm when several state corporations were established to expedite takeover by Africans in Kenya’s commercial, finance and industrial segments.

They included the Agricultural Finance Corporation, Agriculture Development Corporations, and Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation.

In terms of style, the two men were as incongruent as repellent poles. Njonjo believed in politics of blackmail and coercion.

Like the legendary American Federal Bureau of Investigation bulldog J. Edgar Hoover, he’d collect damning dossier on opponents and selectively use it to whip them into submission through blackmail.

Kibaki, on his part, believed in tolerance. A good illustration is when then Marxist-leaning author Ngugi wa Thiong’o wrote Petals of Blood (1977), which some saw as provocation to the Western-leaning Kenyatta government.

Surprisingly, Kibaki, then Finance minister, agreed to launch Ngugi’s book and made a speech that became subject of whispers in government circles.

He’d said: “It is true writers all over the world want to write and comment on what is going on in their own country. But one of the most terrible things about the modern world is how many writers have had to immigrate to another country in order to be able to write on what is going on in their country…

“It is a tragedy, because it means that societies are becoming intolerant… true freedom in any democratic system should be that those with a different view of the society we live in must be able to paint what picture they see so that we can have many, many pictures of the Kenya we are living in now.”

In contrast, five months later, Njonjo, in the company of an Anglican cleric from Kiambu, flew to State House, Mombasa, and read to President Kenyatta passages from Petals of Blood, and from Ngugi’s vernacular play Ngaahika Ndenda (I will marry when I want).

They used that to convince the President how “dangerous” the author was and needed to be detained without trial, which was done in a matter of hours!

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Ironically, it is Njonjo who recommended to President Moi that he appoint Kibaki vice president in 1978.

However, the two soon fell out when it turned out Njonjo merely wanted Kibaki to warm the seat for him, as he (Njonjo) was on his way to State House.

To angle himself for takeover, Njonjo resigned as a civil servant and joined electoral politics.

In the ensuing battle of nerves with the vice president, Kibaki, completely out of character, made a scathing attack on Njonjo whom he accused of allocating himself role of a “Nyayo-meter” to measure who was more “nyayo” (loyal) to the President than the other.

Long after Njonjo was eased from mainstream politics after falling out with President Moi, his hostility towards Kibaki continued, and has remained intact.

At the dawn of multiparty politics in 1992, Njonjo, in a surprise about-turn, threw his lot with presidential candidate Jaramogi Oginga Odinga (Ford Kenya), largely because of his loathing for Kibaki (Democratic Party), who appeared set for victory before Kenneth Matiba (Ford Asili) appeared at the last minute to upset the apple-cart.

And in the 2007 election, Njonjo openly backed Raila Odinga and perhaps keen to see Kibaki make history as a one-term president!

The mutual dislike between the two Muthaiga neighbours apparently extends to their favourite pastimes. Njonjo loves swimming and does mandatory three laps daily even in his old age.

Not so for Kibaki, who has never worn swimming gear in his life and believes swimming was meant for fish and other amphibians.

His cup of tea is golf, and though age no longer allows him to tee off, he still goes to the golf club just to enjoy the scenery and catch up with old buddies.

In contrast, Njonjo has never understood how grown-up men and women should spend a whole day keeping eye on and clubbing some little ball!

source:nation.co.ke

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Diaspora

VIDEO: Kenyan actor who came to US through Green Card lottery is making heads turn in Hollywood

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In a land where the film industry makes at least Sh1.1 trillion in sales a year, where Sh41 billion was once invested into making a single movie, a young Kenyan-American is trying hard to make an impression.

Raymond Watanga, 26, left Kenya in 2006 at the age of 12 with his mother and elder brother.

This was after his mother won the Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery (Green Card) to live and work in the United States.

Now a US citizen, Watanga has since studied up to university level, tried and failed to make a mark in sports, and has now fully taken up acting.

His dream is to soar higher than Lupita Nyong’o, daughter of Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o who won an Oscar in 2014 for the best supporting actress in the film 12 Years a Slave.

“My biggest aspiration is to become the first Kenyan-born male actor to win a best actor Oscar,” a resolute Watanga tells Lifestyle. “That’s my biggest goal in doing all this.”

That determination can be seen in one of Watanga’s recent roles, which he took in one episode of the action series S.W.A.T. that airs on CBS Television.

In the episode aired in December 2019, Watanga played a Somali man in a team of kidnappers. “I was one of the villains in the show,” he says.

FIRST ROLE

He had to address the other characters in a Somali accent. Accents, says Watanga, are one of his specialities.

“That’s one of my biggest things; my go-to. I’m very good with the accents, languages and things like that,” he notes.

In the S.W.A.T. appearance, his character was a man who was party to the abduction of a woman and her son, but who was reluctant to follow orders to kill the two captives.

In one scene, he says: “Kidnapping them, threatening Zayeed, yes. But killing these two …”

Before he finishes the sentence, a pistol is shoved to his neck, and the steely look on the character Watanga plays provides proof of the talent packed in the budding actor.

“Don’t tell me you are weak,” he is told. “You know how the weak end up.”

Before the captives’ blood is spilt, officers from the S.W.A.T. team (an imitation of the “Special Weapons and Tactics” contingent in the US law enforcement machinery) storm in, floor all the captors, including Watanga’s character, and rescue the abductees.

“It was my first role. It was really an amazing experience. A very professional set and everything. I had a three-day shoot. It aired in December and we got positive feedback from friends and everybody,” he says.

SEVERE INJURY

Finding himself in the S.W.A.T. cast was a crucial chapter in his Kenya-US story. After leaving Kenya with his family, they settled in Texas, a state in the south central region of the US.

“Texas has all kinds of people, and it’s one of the biggest states with a huge Kenyan community. It is, I would say, the second in terms of the states that have some of the biggest Kenyan communities,” he says.

He was in Class Six when he left Kenya. And to his relief, he was allowed to continue learning from Grade Seven in the US.

READ ALSO:   US billionaire investor exits Kenya, sells 3,700 acre farm in Siaya County

As he progressed to high school, he developed a passion for sport. He would later gain admission at Midwestern State University, where he became a student basketball assistant.

“I was actually going to try play basketball for them. Till I got injured,” he says.

The injury, which he sustained in 2015, was to do with a sprained ankle. “I rolled my ankle really bad. That’s the first time I rolled it really, really badly. So I took some time off basketball,” he narrates.

This injury-imposed absence turned out to be a blessing in disguise. His burning ambition for basketball glory had to be shelved and that is when he reconnected with acting, an art he liked when he was in Kenya.

CAREER CHANGE

He ended up enrolling in an acting class, where he met a lecturer who is a movie director based in New York.

In the acting classes, Watanga had a rebirth of sorts. “I was enjoying what I was doing for the first time in like 12 or 15 years,” he recalls.

The New-York based lecturer convinced Watanga to change his university major. The young man was then pursuing exercise physiology, and he shoved it aside to take up theatre.

That is how he ended up changing base to the University of North Texas, an alma mater of former World Wrestling Entertainment professional Steven Anderson, alias Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Fox Sports presenter Dave Barnett, among others.

At the North Texas institution, Watanga fully immersed himself into theatre. He graduated in May 2018. A year before his graduation, he secured himself an acting agent.

In the US, actors usually have agents that look out for available roles for auditioning. “I started auditioning for the serious stuff: commercials, TV shows, movies …,” he says.

The Texas agent connected Watanga to another agent based in Los Angeles (LA). To sign up with the LA agent, he had to attend an audition, where there were 60 contestants.

“Out of those, I was one of the three that were picked to be signed by the LA agent,” he says, adding that he signed with that agent in April 2018.

LA is home to the famed Hollywood, where numerous films are produced each year, and where the film industry is among the most advanced in the world.

EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCE

In June 2018, Watanga was on his way from Texas to LA. Due to financial constraints and given the financial stature of LA neighbourhoods — most of them inhabited by wealthy persons — he could not rent a house straight away.

His first house was a subleased apartment. He later grouped with three other young men to rent a house, where they have been splitting rental expense and other costs.

In his early days in LA, and with the help of his agents, he participated in a number of auditions, but no opportunities were coming up.

“I was auditioning, but unfortunately I wasn’t getting anything,” he recalls. His first engagement there was a play that was staged from September to December 2018.

The play was about the history and the people of the Californian city of Boyle Heights, and Watanga was impressed by the feedback received.

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“There were a lot of elderly locals who grew up in Boyle Heights. They were coming to us and were like, ‘you guys reminded me of my childhood’. That was really fun to see. Especially for me, being from a completely different world — Nairobi, Kenya — and putting a show for people who were born and raised there and telling me that I remind them of when they were young. It was a really fun experience, and I really enjoyed it,” he says.

MAJOR ROLE

The year 2019 had a mixed bag for Watanga. It was until October when the S.W.A.T. role registered on the radar.

His agent sent him information about auditions for S.W.A.T, and he was intrigued, not least because he is a huge fan of the series.

“I finished watching Season Two in September and then out of the blue, my agent sends me the audition for S.W.A.T. and I’m like, ‘Wow, this is my favourite show; I have to get this.’ So, thankfully, I ended up auditioning and got the role. That was my first breakout role,” narrates Watanga.

His engagement with S.W.A.T. ended with the episode he took part in, but he has been told it is possible to return later.

“I just talked to one of the writers and was told that they can bring me back in for a different role. That’s the good thing about TV. They can bring me in for a completely different role if they want to bring me back.

They said that if you’re not as recognisable, if it’s not easy for people to recognise you, they can bring you in for a different role. Which is really cool,” he says.

Watanga is a big fan of action movies. Besides S.W.A.T., he also dreams of having a role in Chicago PD or Mandalorian — all that pack action drama.

“I like those type of shows,” he says about his love for drama and thrillers. “I really like those cop shows.”

INSPIRATION

One of his latest projects is a film where he played a detective. It will be out later this month.

On the side, Watanga has trained on handling guns, even though actual firearms are hardly used when shooting films.

“I’ve been to the shooting range by myself,” he says. “I know how to handle a gun.”

He dreams of a day he will reach the heights of Don Cheadle, his role model. Cheadle, an American aged 55, was the star of the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda, and has also played a role in at least 14 movies, some of which have won awards.

“Don Cheadle is my inspiration because, first of all, people tell me every time that I look like him,” says Watanga with a chuckle.

“And in terms of somebody to emulate, he is the perfect person for me because we’re almost the same height, and we do almost all the same things. He is good with accents and languages,” he adds.

Watanga has been studying Cheadle a lot and has watched almost all of the movies involving the creative, who is an actor and also a film writer and director.

READ ALSO:   PHOTO: Raila celebrates his 74th birthday with President Uhuru

LIVING EXPENSES

Watanga has also been drawing lessons from Lupita and Edi Gathegi — another Kenyan-American actor, who has been making moves in Hollywood.

“I love Lupita. If you don’t like Lupita, something’s wrong with you. She is a good example to look at,” he says.

“I love Lupita’s work. I love what she does for charity and other things because, obviously, when I get to that point, those are the types of things I want to focus on too.”

From Gathegi, a 40-year-old who has had roles in at least 18 American films, Watanga draws inspiration to improve his craft each day.

“I pay attention to those guys who are ahead of me and try to draw inspiration from them,” says Watanga.

In between waiting for auditions, Watanga takes up studies or gets busy with the jobs he has to do to sustain himself.

“Unless you’re a superstar, you have to do something else. So I’ve been hustling since I came here (Los Angeles). I’ve got many different jobs but obviously I can’t keep every job because they require you to stay, and sometimes I have an audition during the day and I have to leave. So I’ve had to quit a lot of jobs because of that,” he says.

He credits the support he has been receiving from his family for helping him stay afloat in LA, a place he says is very expensive.

“People end up becoming homeless. There are a lot of people on the streets; a lot of people are living in their cars,” he says.

BEST SHOT

He goes on: “Their (mother’s and brother’s) support has been very huge. It would have been 10 times harder if I didn’t have their support: financial and whenever sometimes I’m feeling down, whenever I’m frustrated, my mum and my brother are there.”

It can be frustrating, he says, because sometimes an actor can go for a month or longer without even an audition call.

“It is very unpredictable,” he says. “Some days are better than others; some months are better than others. It’s just very hard to tell. But obviously, once you get that audition, you try your best to make sure you get that one because you don’t know when the next one is coming.”

This period between February and May, he said, is the busiest for actors, and he is gearing up for any opportunities that may arise. “A lot of important auditions should be coming in between now and May.”

REVENUE BASE

Watanga has chosen an industry that churns out superstars and operates in big money.

According to a December 2019 article by London’s Telegraph, the earnings from film in North America for 2019 were projected to hit $11.4 billion (Sh 1.1 trillion). The 2018 figure stood at $11.8 billion.

“Here, people see it as a job. It’s not something that’s seen as just a hobby or whatever,” says Watanga.

“When you say you want to become an actor or a director, actually people take it seriously, because it is a career,” he adds.

-Nation.co.ke

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Entertainment

Former Auntie Boss actress Nyce Wanjeri finds love again

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As many shared their lovers during the hyped Valentine’s Day, the mother of one was not left behind.

An excited Wanjeri posted a photo on her Instagram page posing with a man in a very sensual way captioning it ” happy Valentine’s”.

Wanjeri and her man were clad in similar caps that looked so nice on them as the man of the day gave her a peck on her cheek.

Nyce Wanjeri

From the pose displayed on the photo, it is clear that the two have been together for quite some time.

In the photo, the sassy actress was grinning like a teenager getting love for the first time.

The lucky guy identified as Leting254 was not left behind as he also shared a photo on his gram page posing with the TV queen.

He also wished her a happy Valentine’s as he closely-held her tight to himself a sign of protection.

Wanjeri parted ways with Wagithomo after their marriage failed to work shifting the blame on the actress’s success.

The unexpected breakup was first made public by Wagithomo who took to social media to share the same with his fans.

Taking to Facebook on Thursday, November 1, 2018, the musician revealed their marriage suffered thanks to his wife who had become an absentee in the union.

READ ALSO:   Fena Gitu thrilled after meet up with Raila

According to Wagithomo, things started going south following Nyce’s success in the TV world.

Because of her absenteeism, the union lost its spark since there was no bonding and family time.

Wanjeri’s marriage came to an end just months after she opted out of Auntie Boss over contractual differences.

The couple has a daughter together and had been enjoying their happily ever after until the breakup.

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Entertainment

NPR News: Why Men boycotted Valentine’s Day In Kenya [AUDIO]

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Valentine’s Day would seem a strange date for men-only events, but, in Kenya, relations between the sexes are so fraught the males are running to the safe spaces of men’s empowerment conferences.

In Kenya today, some men are boycotting Valentine’s Day and going instead to men’s empowerment conferences. NPR’s Eyder Peralta joined me earlier from Nairobi with some of the attendees.

LISTEN TO the Audio:

READ ALSO:   PHOTO: Raila celebrates his 74th birthday with President Uhuru
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