Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Violence threats must not derail wheels of justice

Sunday Nation 19 December 2010

As I finished writing this piece, I was watching the long-awaited announcement from The Hague on television at a public venue in Eldoret.

Some of those in the audience expressed fears that violence may break out following the naming of some high-ranking politicians.

A few minutes earlier, I had just read a report purporting to reveal plans for further ethnic cleansing in case some prominent politicians were named in the Ocampo List.

Just the previous day, I had had a conversation with some friends about the possible outcomes of the indictments, and the majority were also of the opinion that fresh hostilities were likely to break out if certain politicians were named.

This, therefore, appears to be the popular line -- that violence is inevitable if certain politicians are indicted over our so-called ‘‘political violence’’.

Indeed, this is not just a position held on the Kenyan street. On Monday last week, which was a public holiday, the President and Prime Minister called an urgent Cabinet meeting to discuss what to do about the Ocampo announcement.

They came out with a lame statement indicating that they will support a local tribunal to deal with the perpetrators of post-election violence.

Suddenly all sorts of busy-bodies started crawling out of the woodwork, as ‘‘elders’’ called on Ocampo to go easy on ‘‘our’’ suspects and let a ‘‘homegrown’’ solution deal with them.

A neglected ‘‘Tribunal Bill’’ drafted by Gitobu Imanyara was dusted and prepared for presentation to Parliament, with a promise of speedy passage to forestall the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutions.

Sovereignty and patriotism became buzzwords once again in this fight against the international criminal justice system.
In all this, the whole point of the ICC indictments was lost.

The memory of the hundreds of victims who perished, and hundreds of thousands who lost their homes and livelihoods, has been seriously desecrated as we rush to protect our own political ‘‘sons’’.

Many are ready to pour into the streets in defence of their indicted political leaders without thinking about the implication of such actions for the future generations.

The fact that our own government is reacting like a flock of panicked chicken to threats of violence indicates that the state does not have full and exclusive control over the instruments of violence.

This is one of the reasons that led to the cases being referred to The Hague in the first place and, despite passage of the new Constitution, the situation has not changed much.

More frighteningly, however, suspects in these trials have had the audacity to threaten Kenyans with dire consequences, and to cajole the government to acquiesce to their whims with regard to initiating a local tribunal.

It seems that the government is captive to these suspects and, therefore, Ocampo’s indictments must be regarded as an indictment of the entire political class.

In a civilised society, and ours is far from becoming one, William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta, Henry Kosgey, Francis Muthaura, Hussein Ali and Joshua arap Sang would quietly organise their legal defences and confront the ICC with strong exculpatory evidence, leading to their speedy acquittals.

In Kenya, however, threats, bribery and old-boy networks always work to frustrate the justice system to such an extent that the eventual outcome is often meaningless to the victims.

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer, Moi University School of Medicine. www.lukoyeatwoli.com

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A psychoanalyst’s view of Kenya at 47

Sunday Nation 12 December 2010

According to the celebrated psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, a human being goes through eight ‘‘ages’’ before finally confronting the grave.

Characterised as stages of psychosocial development, Erikson described key dilemmas and tasks that an individual must navigate at each stage in order to successfully move to the next stage of development.

He described issues ranging from an infant’s struggle between trust and mistrust to the older person’s musings on ego integrity versus anguish and despair.

What applies to individuals may at times also apply to communities and nations. Within this model, Kenya would be an individual in middle adulthood, between the ages of 41 and 65.

The pre-requisite for a healthy transition into this stage is the successful navigation of the challenges of early adulthood (ages 21 to 40), including forming lasting relationships and ‘‘settling down’’ on the home front, establishing oneself in an occupation and initiating some process of giving back to society.

At this point, one may wonder if Kenya has really ‘‘settled down’’, or is still grappling with challenges she should have resolved several years ago. Are we really ready for middle adulthood?

In middle adulthood, the key task is referred to as generativity, a process by which persons guide the oncoming generation, or make efforts to improve society in one way or another.

Failure to achieve generativity results in a state of rudderless stagnation. Many individuals who have difficulties in this stage of development end up with what is popularly referred to as a ‘‘mid-life crisis’’, a period of intense emotional turmoil due to perceived and real failures in an individual’s life.

As Kenya celebrates her 47th birthday, what diagnosis would the psychoanalyst give her? Would our psychoanalyst be satisfied that Kenya is fulfilling her role in generativity, or would the final diagnosis be one of hopeless stagnation or an even more destructive ‘‘mid-life crisis’’?

Has Kenya raised her children well, sheltering them from the vagaries of this world while allowing them to pick up useful lessons for their own journey in life?

An honest appraisal of our country’s development would lead to only one answer: A resounding No! Kenya has failed to successfully deal with most of the developmental tasks Erikson set for an individual of her age.

At 47, she is still emotionally immature, throwing violent tantrums whenever her childish demands are not met.

Her latest tantrum resulted in the death of over 1,000 of her own children, and the intervention of her neighbours to try and minimise the damage was received with singular equivocation.

At 47, Kenya has not been able to develop a cogent set of values for her children, many of whom are now starting their own families with little guidance.

In fact, as she contemplates her past, one would forgive her if she fell into a period of prolonged ‘‘mid-life crisis’’.
However, all is not lost. Our neighbours’ intervention after the latest tantrum resulted in stricter rules of conduct, complete with a set of enforcers called Moreno-Ocampo and Kofi Annan.

They have helped us to craft a set of internal rules that are based on the consensus that certain human rights are universal and inalienable.

Hopefully, our mother can be compelled to live by those rules, for the sake of future generations. Happy birthday, Kenya.

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer, Moi University School of Medicine. www.lukoyeatwoli.com

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Homophobia only serves to spread homosexuality

Sunday Nation 05 December 2010

For a long time now, Kenyan religious organisations have used a significant amount of their time demonising and ostracising homosexuals.

Last weekend, Prime Minister Raila Odinga joined the fray with a particularly vitriolic outburst against male and female youth who ‘‘ignore members of the opposite sex and choose same-sex partners for relationships’’.

The Prime Minister even went as far as suggesting that these people must have a mental illness to behave like this!

It is not clear if this was meant as an insult to the mentally ill or to the homosexuals, but it must be stated unequivocally that the PM’s choice of words (or even topic) was completely inappropriate.

Firstly, people with mental illness deserve to be treated with dignity and respect like other citizens.

They also have varied sexual preferences, and identifying them with Kenyans of any one sexual orientation is wrong and insulting, not least when it comes from one of the principals of our government.

Secondly, and perhaps more pertinently, homosexuality is not recognised as a mental illness in any system of classification of mental disorders known to mental health workers.

It is a sexual orientation, and health workers do not busy themselves trying to unravel their clients’ private sexual behaviours unless they cause some sort of distress or dysfunction.

Homosexuals, therefore, do not need treatment for their sexual orientation, but for the same problems that afflict all human beings.

The only time their sexual orientation becomes a subject of concern in a therapeutic environment would be when they have problems with their sexuality.

In such a case, the role of a therapist is to help them practise their sexuality in a way that is safe and gratifying to them and their chosen, consenting partners.

Another point that needs to be made is that many scientists now believe that sexual orientation, including homosexuality, is at least partly genetically determined.

As research gradually moves in this direction, it may eventually turn out that the most virulent critics of homosexuality are actually the greatest promoters of its spread.

By encouraging homosexuals to engage in liaisons with members of the opposite sex, the gene that supports the development of this behaviour continues to be forcefully propagated, and homosexuality continues to thrive as a result.

Additionally, it is generally accepted that behaviour and personality are often shaped by the home environment and upbringing, and people increasingly tend to adopt the behaviour they have observed in their same-sex parent.

Homosexual parents are, therefore, more likely to have, and pass on to their biological offspring, a largely liberal attitude towards sexuality and the concept of morality!

By opposing homosexual relationships and literally railroading homosexuals to conceive and raise children with opposite-sex partners, our clerics and political leaders, including the PM, appear to be the foremost supporters of the spread of homosexuality.

Finally, all those involved in this homo-bashing should know that the Constitution of Kenya outlaws discrimination on most grounds, and further discourages hate speech and expression of hatred that constitutes, among other things, ‘‘vilification of others or incitement to cause harm’’.

Having chosen the path of civilisation and dignity with the passage of the new Constitution, we must not unnecessarily delay the realisation of its dreams through prejudicial rhetoric, even if it is politically expedient.

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer at Moi University School of Medicine. www.lukoyeatwoli.com