KCK’s sons of coincidences enter politics

Slide1The sons of coincidences?  It depends, credibly, on how well you know them. Or about them. They were born and raised in Kenya, resided in Korea for a decade and more, fell for foreign girls, begot sons—pointies, I guess.

They both served in Kenya Community in Korea chairpersons. If your guess is as good as mine, their political expedition was either incubated or beaten into shape by the realities of Korea’s politico-economic domains embedded in its near miraculous economic growth dynamics. Oh, the duo love suits— the Caraceni style gentlemen.

The morning is somberly chilly. But of course. It is July in Enkare Nyrobi, Nairobi’s original name in Maasai vernacular. At the table is Raphael Omala. Peers still call him Raph. He sips his last mouthful of milk tea with an expression of finality on his face. You can tell by his smile that the man is contented by the taste of Kericho Gold. I guess the love for tea exposes his heritage

On his left hand, the day’s meet-the-people diary rests between the index finger and the thumb. It’s been several weeks of crisscrossing Nairobi’s western lands (Westlands). A strategic routine. Raph knows quite well that a few more souls need some convincing to ponder on his leadership dogma and vision.

He rises on his feet before glancing at the diary one more time. Just then, his phone vibrates aggressively almost tipping off the table where his tea mug sits empty as if to appeal for a “saucer”. Raph picks the call. “Mkubwa!” It is the campaign volunteer lead on the other end. “Time to hit the road”. The first son of coincidence and the founding chair of KCK, is running to be Westland’s Member of Parliament (MP). Elections are on August 8. The last time we checked. No Kidding.

About 270 kilometers away in Meruland Patrick Ntonja glimpses at the mirror for the second time.  The red necktie is now perfectly in its place. Just like all his formal suits, the creamy-kakhish suit he is in today fits well in his miraba minne body frame. The thin stripes on the suit makes Daktari a towering figure—a look of a fitting groundbreaker leader. Do not be mistaken, nonetheless. This is one of the humblest sons of Meru you’ll ever meet..

Daktari, as his contemporaries call him, scans at the last text message he received: “Polite reminder…television interview on Baite TV still on.” Brother Doc, as I fondly refer to him, was the second chairperson of KCK and my ‘boss’ at the time. His conviction for a better Igembe North has seen him stop by the market places, churches and homes of the locals for they too need to hear and consider the call to arise. Come morning after, on August 9th,  this son of coincidence hopes to be in the August House.

We celebrate Raph and Daktari because they represent the bold and the brave of a generation rising to the occasion. In my persuaded opinion, these two sons of Kenya characterize the coming of age. The duo, I am convinced, grasps a unique ‘diasporic worldview’ on matters leadership and confidence to localize their experience from the East. They have dared to take a leap into the so-called murkiness of politics with an optimism of a rising sun. In Africa, the sunrise licks away the gloominess of the fog. We hear them say, “servant leadership is no longer a wishful thinking”. I wish them well.

But we must support them. With ‘dime’ or cheer, lets send them forth at least for their boldness. That is how the would-be legislators will arise. This, I must add for the sake of beloved motherland.  If we must use social media, ‘politically speaking’, remember that respect is earned. Patriotism is an honor. Tolerance is noble. Someones tribe is sacred and cannot be wished away. Hurling negative, vitriolic or bashing posts and comments online is a distasteful ‘digital diarrhea’. Forgive my language. The country must move on in the morning after the elections.

To Raph and Daktari, we care more, because you are brothers with whom we ate from the same bowl, or toasted a glass together. We keep our anticipation high riding on the hope that a decade in diaspora, especially in South Korea, was a time long enough to acquire a development model our motherland has been waiting.

The road ahead is of course tough. As young vibrant people, we don’t promise heaven because we’ve never set our feet therein, yet. Resilient is a virtue we must embrace.

I close with a line or two from Desiderata, my all-time favorite poem: Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

On August 9th, whether you make it to the August House or not, remember that you’ve charted the way. The candle of transformative surge has been lit. And for that we are inspired. Your success is our desire.

NB: *Paragraphs 2-5 based on the writer’s imagination.

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The writer, Benson Kamary, is the immediate former chair of KCK.

Outgoing KCK Executive Appreciates Kenyans

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Dear Kenyans in Korea and friends of Kenya,

The outgoing KCK Executive board wishes to thank you for your trust and support during its term.

From February 2015, we worked together and made strides in a number of things, which we can all celebrate as part of our achievement.

We would like emphasize that KCK is a family and we all have been building it in one way or another. Although we may not have been perfect, we assure you that we tried our best to deliver our team’s manifesto and also to expand/realize the ideas of the previous teams.

We will forever remain humbled and grateful for your confidence and cooperation.

Below is a list of what our team helped to achieve Read the rest of this entry »

Media’s perspective of foreigners can be better

Edited version published in Joongang Daily, December 10th, 2013. http://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/news/article/Article.aspx?aid=2981768

I have lived in Korea for seven years now. Despite firsthand experience and research on media and education, I still do not claim to be an expert in Korean media culture. No doubt that media are powerful tools that orient us to reality particularly in societies like Korea where the media are a near ubiquitous. The significance of new media in contemporary Korea lies in its proximity; smartphones have become our closest consultants. In the words of Marshall McLuhan four decades ago that “the media work us over completely” couldn’t be truer today. McLuhan is considered the father of modern communications.

It is also common knowledge that the media largely influence our choices: what we buy, what we eat, how we dress and sometimes invokes our thinking on topical issues. Beyond the traditional functions of media to inform, educate, persuade, entertain and set agenda for deliberations, the media too form deep-seating cultural perspectives or worldviews. In fact, McLuhan asserted that all media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values. His claim that the media are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, or unaltered is quite evident in modern life.

In the recent days, there has been a series of publications focusing on multicultural aspect of the Korean Read the rest of this entry »

I Remember the Philippines

33725_431899352722_5292772_nI remember the Philippines. I have been there, not once but twice. I could return to the islands tomorrow should an opportunity avail itself. The Philippines with its collection of 7,107 islands is spectacularly beautiful. My travels from Mindanao in the south to Luzon in the north, was enlivening. The memories remain vivid as if I were there yesterday.

I remember last Friday.  Typhoon Haiyan, I don’t know why it is named after a bird (petrel), hit the Philippines so badly. Its brunt has claimed over 1, 400 lives this far. Many have been left hungry, homeless and shocked.  It is distressing to see the images of Tacloban, Bohol, Iloilo and Cebu, places I felt at home once. As I flip through CNN, BBC and Aljazeera picture galleries and raw video clips, my eyes wet in disbelief. The images weigh down the heart, and heavily so. Every sight of the dead, a traumatized toddler or a shaken grandmother is a contrast of what I saw during my trips not so long ago. I remember the Pinoys (Filipinos) I met. A people of warm embrace – full of life, wittiness and tranquility. Even those who seemingly struggled to make ends meet portrayed an enduring spirit not seen in many cultures. They shared generously with visitors, always entertaining. On the days of their festivals their songs often stirred deep emotions – stunning. Many Pinoys pray religiously. It’s a way of life.

I remember Bohol. The last place I savored during my first trip. White sand beaches stretching wide to reflect a conspicuous sunset every evening.  It is in Bohol that I rode a tricycle uphill to glimpse scenic ‘sprouts’ of chocolate hills – brown and yummy to the eyes. Where I stood, a wooden beam extended vertically about 2 meters from the ground. On each Read the rest of this entry »

They came to maim Kenyans but instead heroes emerged

Edited version published in Joongang Daily  http://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/news/article/Article.aspx?aid=2978229

The Somalia-based Al-shabab militia group and Somalia pirates are not new to Korea and certainly familiar to any country that has borne the pains of abductions, loss of life and property, or disrupted trade routes. It was just last December when Somali pirates released four Korean seamen they had held for 19 months; mind you a ransom had to be paid. In our archives we have some indescribable stories about terrorism but those are for another day.

The recent terror attack in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in which about 70 people died and more than a hundred injured is still fresh in our thoughts. Yes, agonizingly vivid. May the bereaved families will find immediate solace at this time of grief.

Without a shred of doubt, the Westgate attack was one of the most brutal acts against a population. Read the rest of this entry »

Madam President you won’t snub Africa, will you?

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President Park Geun-hye.

  1. * Edited version published by The Seoul Times on February 8th, 2013.

Dear Madam President. Receive my heartfelt felicitations for seollal, the lunar new year. If it is in order, allow me to commend you on your election.

Now to my point. Madam President, it seems to me that you’re commencing your executive journey on the right footing. I mean you are now the safeguarding vital links with your key political and trade allies globally. Indeed Beijing and Washington remain dominant in the contemporary geopolitical realm. Others like Tokyo, Pyongyang and EU’s main office (Brussels) are undeniably significant depending on the attitude they bear toward you and your country.

But Madam President, I wish to plead for Africa. This time, let’s forget the ‘begging bowl’ images of 80s and 90s. I want to proclaim to you that Africa is rising, and seriously so.

Admittedly, the West tried doling out aid for decades but look where Africa stood – stuck in a socio-political and economic quagmire. But that was then. So what has changed? I say the attitude; purely the attitude, Madam Read the rest of this entry »

World Bank presidency and the moral aspiration

[Edited version published by  Joongang Daily – April 9th, http://koreajoongangdaily.joinsmsn.com/news/article/Article.aspx?aid=2951130]

Dr. Kim and Ms. Ngozi

When the US president Barack Obama recently nominated Jim Yong Kim to head the World Bank, debate arose regarding who among the other formidable candidates was best qualified for the top job.

Ms Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s finance minister and former Colombian finance minister José Antonio Ocampo are other frontline candidates. Jeffrey Sachs, with massive experience in development and poverty eradication programs would have made a decent entrant. Well, that’s life, isn’t it?

I have no doubt that Dr. Kim, a Korean-American public-health expert, can make an exceptional head of the World Bank having led World Health Organization’s global body on AIDS/HIV, an significant public health body. I also have no doubt that Ngozi, a World Bank savvy insider, can bring in her experience and development perspective which is an important ingredient to regions yearning for crucial development.

And of course, Mr. Ocampo can also inject his expertise of international finance and perhaps a fresher cog to the South-South cooperation which is getting attention in its role in the global economy.

Admittedly, debate still lingers over the candidates and their merit on proficiency in global economic development which is seemingly what the World Bank is about. The debates may continue but what matters at the end of the day is whether the new president Read the rest of this entry »

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