Shailja Patel. patterned sari border
 About/Press KitWorkMigritudeBlogNews/AwardsCalendar ShopContact Shailja
decorative pattern

Be a part of Migritude's journey.
No contribution is too small - or too large. $2 buys coffee for a volunteer. $15 rents a rehearsal studio for an hour. $100 covers 2 hours of lighting / tech / set design. $500 helps fly Shailja to international festivals!!

You can also make a tax-deductible donation by check. Please email for details.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Don't give in to fear

says L. Muthoni Wanyeki, Executive Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, in her latest column in The East African.

That statement has particular power coming from her. In the past weeks, she has received death threats, along with other Kenyan human rights defenders. Please sign the Amnesty Petition for their safety.

Wanyeki continues:

Lives have been lost and continue to be lost. Women have been raped — and now find themselves forced into transactional sex to obtain basic goods and services within the internally displaced camps all over the country. Livelihoods have been destroyed. And fear is growing. Day by day.

We held our breath as the mediation process was launched. We are still holding it. A new form of violence has emerged. We whisper the question: were the murders of two Orange Democratic Movement parliamentarians political assassinations? The propaganda war intensifies.

Part of the propaganda war has to do with naming the violence. The term “genocide” is invoked — ignoring the fact that genocide includes elements of state complicity. The term “ethnic cleansing” is thrown around loosely. Both terms heighten the fear.

Yes, there are historical grievances that need to be addressed. Yes, there are contemporary experiences of exclusion, and persistent inequalities that also need to be addressed. And, most importantly, yes, the victims — and survivors — of the current violence have experienced and understand that violence to be the result of their ethnicity. But the violence is politically-instigated. It finds ethnic expression or manifests itself ethnically because our politics are organised ethnically.

There are now four forms of violence in the country. First, the violence resulting from disorganised and spontaneous protests at the announcement of the disputed presidential result. This form of violence has largely died down (or been suppressed).

Second, and most critically, violence resulting from organised militia activity — beginning most horrendously in the Rift Valley, but now spreading out from Nairobi and Central.

Third, violence by the police force and the General Service Unit’s extraordinary use of force, including extrajudicial killings, primarily in Nyanza.

And fourth, the violence of communal vigilantism — catalysed by the perceived need for self-defence and security, but also by the receipt of IDPs by families and communities in Nairobi and Central.

All forms of violence are completely, utterly unacceptable. All forms of violence must be condemned. And, importantly, accountability must be sought for all forms of violence. There can be no impunity.

But seeking accountability requires the painstaking work of investigation, documentation and evidence collection — particularly with respect to the organised militia activity. We all have initial findings and preliminary information. But that is not enough. Which is why the propaganda war must stop.

Calling for peace is not enough.
We will only slide into civil war if we cannot see through this. We must resist the fear, name the problem accurately and desist from the build up to the declaration of a state of emergency, the deployment of the military or, worse, the usurpation of civilian governance by military governance.

We must demand that the organised militia activity stop.

We must demand that the police and the General Service Unit focus on ensuring that it does, as well as protecting the IDPs.

The mediation process has too much at stake for us all to be compromised now. We have lost too much as it is.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

To subscribe to this blog's RSS Feed

click right here.

Kiai's statement to US House of Representatives

Maina Kiai is the Chair of the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights. In the past two weeks, he's received death threats for his public stance for truth and justice for all Kenyans.

Yesterday, he spoke before the US House of Representatives on the crisis in Kenya. You can read his full statement at the excellent Kenyan Emergency Blog. Some quotes:

Kenya is at a cross-road that will mean either the complete disintegration of Kenya or the beginning of a new, more democratic, sustainable nation suited to the needs and aspirations of the Kenyan people.

What is going on in Kenya is a political crisis with ethnic manifestation because politics in Kenya is organized ethnically.

Part of the reason why militia—on both sides—have been so potent and dangerous is that they arose from the earlier violence of the 1990s and were never de-mobilized. Nor was there a process to deal with the root causes of that violence, with the Kibaki government choosing to sweep the matter under the carpet, despite campaign promises to the contrary. With grievances bubbling and fermenting close to the surface, it was relatively easy to reactivate the militia using methods similar to those of the 1990s. Most important, the paymasters and planners of the 1990s clashes were never held accountable.

The violence is neither genocide nor ethnic cleansing: The root of the problem is not that different ethnic groups decided they could no longer live together. The root of the problem is the inability of peaceful means to address grievances.

It is clear that the flagrant effort to steal the presidential election was the immediate trigger for the violence. All independent observers have said that the tallying process was so flawed that it is impossible to tell who won the presidential election.

This is the time for Kenya to end the impunity that has been a feature of our history since independence, and also to end the “winner take all” “first past the post” system.

Finally, it is important that U.S. military and security assistance be frozen immediately. All US assistance to Kenya should be channelled through non-governmental sources.

Rwandan men protest mass rape in Kenya

Rwanda Men's Resource Centre

Global Call to action for Men and Male leaders

Speak out Against Gender Based Violence In Kenya!

Add your Voice. Sign and Share this Pledge!

Today, Kenya is experiencing an unprecedented wave of sexual violence, directed at thousands of Kenyan women, girls, and a number of men and boys.

As men, we recognize that violence against women and the girl child affects men as well as women, those we care for, the family, you & me, the community and the nation.

Men and male leaders have an important role to play in stopping Gender-based violence, and acting as Role Models for other men.

Today, we join our voices to denounce gender-based violence in Kenya. We publicly commit ourselves to active solidarity with women and NGOs working to end ongoing gender-based violence in the conflict that has gripped Kenya.

As men, we call upon other men and male leaders to publicly speak out, and to join in this global call to:

a) protect Kenyan women and children,
b) demand that the government act to protect citizens against sexual assaults,
c) stop sexual attacks that are linked to police and armed militias.

As men, we affirm that Positive Masculinity is about you and me and what we do to bring about Positive Change in Humanity.

By signing this pledge form you commit yourself to be a role model for positive masculinity and to promote gender equality and equity beginning with your environment; family, work place and community.

Be Part of the Solution!

This petition pledge action is globally circulated and sent to Kenyan authorities and NGOs working on Gender-Based Violence. After adding your name, please send it back to

Yes, I am adding my name to the Global Pledge of Men Against Gender-Based Violence in Kenya:

1) Fidel RUTAYISIRE, Rwanda Men's Resource Centre

(Over 100 other signatories so far)

My interview on Africa Today

with host, Walter Turner, discussing the Kenyan election, the current crisis in Kenya, the roadmap to peace, and what Americans can do.

Click here to download and listen.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

so much blood has filled the river

I come to offer my heart.

From Salvadorean poet, Fito Paez. Full verse, in Spanish and English, posted here on this blog.

The lines rose in my head when I read this morning about how a network called Pyramid of Peace engaged the Mungiki in dialogue last week. It made me cry. I think I'm afraid to have hope anymore.

for Italian readers of this blog

who continue to humble me with your willingness to meet my work across language,
an Italian translation of my Letter to Kivuitu has just been posted at Mediconadir, progressive internationalist medical journal.

Pina, e Daniele, mille grazie.

Monday, February 04, 2008

my friends have received death threats

Please sign the Amnesty Petition for their safety.

These are people I grew up with, went to school with, worked with in the past weeks following the election. People I respect and admire tremendously, for their passionate commitment to truth and justice in Kenya. The brilliant, principled, brave, resilient Kenyans I refer to in my Letter to Kivuitu.

What have they done?

They are Kikuyu. Of a generation (mine) that places the good of the country above ethnic loyalty. They have spoken out against the destruction of Kenya by the small group of Kikuyu political elite who have held the country in a hegemonic grip for the past 4 decades. They have named and condemned human rights abuses imposed by the Kibaki regime.

So now, they are on lists that denounce them as "traitors who should be killed." They receive threats by phone, email, text message. They continue to work 16 hours a day to address the crisis in Kenya, knowing they are vulnerable targets.

Please sign the Amnesty Petition for their safety.
Shailja Patel. patterned sari border
©Shailja Patel