Speculative Fiction: The Final List

It’s about that time of the year where we here at Will This Be A Problem present our annual anthology. This year, we tried something a little different from the usual. For the 2016 anthology, we opted to incorporate an open call for submissions. The theme was Speculative Fiction and we received stories from across the continent.

And so, I present the stories our judges picked for the anthology.

“The Mortuary Man” by Mark Lekan Lalude (Nigeria)
“What Happens When It Rains” by Michelle Angwenyi (Kenya)
“Future Long Since Passed” by Lausdeus Otito Chiegboka (Nigeria)
“The World is Mine” by Kris Kabiru (Kenya)
“The Real Deal” by James Kariuki (Kenya)

A bonus story from WTBAP:

“The Last History” by Kevin Rigathi

And the prize winning story –

“Rise of the Akafula” by Andrew Charles Dakalira (Malawi)

The 3rd issue of our anthology will be released in the coming days. For now, see this beautiful cover art by Peter Marco, based on the winning story.

final-cover-small

 

Speculative Fiction Call Out

This time, we’re doing something a little different for the Will This Be A Problem Anthology. A public call out.

The theme this year is Speculative Fiction set in African countries and we will be accepting short stories from any African citizen.

wtbap

Here are the submission guidelines.

  1. Your story can be Horror, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Magical Realism, Alternate History or an unholy mash of any them.
  2. While your story must be set in an an African country, feel free to place it in any timeline you please. You may also set it in alternate versions of these countries. i.e. A Kenya that was never colonized.
  3. Our target length is between 2000-5000 words. However this is just a baseline, if the story is strong enough it can be longer or shorter.
  4.  Send your work to submissions@willthisbeaproblem.co.ke in doc, docx, odt or rtf formats. Do not send it in the subject of the email.
  5. Send a small bio about yourself, what country you’re from and what name you would like the work to be published under.
  6. Only submit your original work.
  7. By submitting a story the author allows Will This Be A Problem to include it in the WTBAP Anthology should it be selected.
  8.  Submissions should primarily be in English though pieces of dialogue and the text may contain other languages.
  9. The submission should be previously unpublished.
  10. If your work is published somewhere else after the Anthology is released we request that you mention Will This Be A Problem as the first place of publication.
  11. Submissions close on the 1st of November, 2016.

The WTBAP anthology is provided for free. We do not make any money off it and thus we do not (as of yet) pay for submissions. However, this year, there will be prizes for our favourite story.

  1. If the winner is from Kenya, the prize will be:  Ksh 3,000 and the Imagine Africa 500 Anthology edited by Billy Kahora delivered from the Magunga Book Store
  2. If the winner is from any other country: 30$ paid via paypal and a kindle (or kindle app) book gift of A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar OR Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor.

We look forward to seeing what you come up with.

The Thieves In Uniform

Last night I went to see a movie with a friend (Star Trek Beyond if you’re curious). There was some weird mix up at IMAX and we ended up at a later showing than we had intended. When we left the theatre, it was around midnight.

When I think of scary places at night, the image that often comes to mind is full of darkness, shifty strangers and narrow alleyways. That’s not what this night was like. We were on a wide street, it was perfectly lit and while we didn’t know the people on the street, most of them were policemen on patrol; recognizable figures. Perhaps in some places in the world that means you’re safe — Nairobi is not one of those places.

We weren’t really panicked or anything. We only had one street to cross after all. A minute or so and we’d be on our way home. We just acted casual and walked. That’s the thing with situations like this, you see the police and you want to believe that these are the good ones. There’s always that little bit of hope that things will turn out well this time. You’re not doing anything wrong and so they won’t bother you, right?

One of them stepped right in front of us and asked to see our IDs.

When I was telling this story to my boss today, he stopped me before I got to that part to ask “Police? Did you have your IDs?” He asked because he knows what most of us know. There’s a kind of step by step to an encounter like this with the police and this is where it usually begins. They don’t want the ID to identify you, they’re just probing. They’re looking for a mistake, an error on your part. Your ID is a bit of a shield. Having it won’t protect you exactly, but it will likely determine how far they’re going to push you, how much they feel they can squeeze. If you don’t have it, you’re likely in for a long and terrible night.

We pulled out our IDs and he didn’t even pretend to look at them. When an ID is only interesting in its absence, you know what kind of story this is going to be. What happened next might as well be part of a script or a handbook.

There was the leading question: “What are you doing walking around at this time of night?”

The false incredulity: “A movie!? What kind of movie shows at this time? No no no. I don’t believe it. Let me see the receipt.”

The first hint: “Oh, I see, you have a lot of money to be spending on movies.”

The handcuffs on my wrists followed by the threat: “Lorry yetu iko pale. Mtalala cell.”

The I’m-doing-this-to-teach-you-a-lesson speech: “You people make our work very hard, you know that? Your friend here, if she were to be walking at this time and she got raped, you know we will be blamed? When you report, will you say you were coming from a movie, eh?”

A mix of threats and meandering speeches suggesting that some great crime was committed, though never specifying exactly what it is, all leading to the finale. The ask for a bribe. “If you want to go…you have to pay a fine.”

At this point I started getting angry. Not because we were getting robbed by police but how familiar it all was. I knew this, all of it. I’ve heard of and seen and gone through so many variations of this scene that I know the steps. I’ve been robbed more times like this by policemen than I have by what we normally call thieves. It’s just how it is. And surely, how can that be normal? How can that possibly be so normal that I was getting impatient for him to get to the punch? To just ask for his bribe and then leave us alone?

So, I thought about calling his bluff. Seeing what happens if you don’t capitulate. I wanted to fight, to push back, to do something other than the usual song and dance. But a quick look around told me to do none of that. First, there were a lot of them. I think there were 10 on that street alone, and we had seen others walking around. There was almost no one else. Second, they were in military garb with no identifying number or anything I could see. I don’t know what that means and I didn’t want to find out just then. Third, My friend was somewhere to the side surrounded by about 4 of them. I don’t know what they were telling her but I figured maybe today was not the day to be testing boundaries. Best to end this as quickly as possible and leave.

I paid, he gave me a stern warning about this vague crime I should never repeat and uncuffed me.

I’ve heard people say that the police get a bad rap. That people only report the negative, never the good they do. This is probably true. But I know that my image of the police is not just from the media, it’s from experience. It’s from how I, and the people I know, have interacted with them. Because, when you think about it, what happened last night was a robbery wasn’t it? It was a shake down … and it was business as usual. Even as we talked with the policeman, he knew I knew what this was and he expected me to act accordingly. It was a role he was familiar with and he accepted it easily.

Just this Friday, a friend’s workmate was stopped by the police in Westlands. He and his friends were leaving a club going to look for some food. It was pretty much the same story but he didn’t pay up and so they locked him up for being drunk and disorderly. He doesn’t drink.

One of my friends has been in the same situation twice recently. Once he got arrested for running to the police because he was being chased by thieves.

None of this is new. We have all heard and seen things like this. But for some reason, last night actually got me thinking. Not of solutions, I have none. It made me wonder the last time I didn’t at least in the back of my mind think of the police as some kind of danger to be avoided. When it became so commonplace that I stopped noticing how crazy all of this is. And most of all, it made me wonder if I can even imagine this country when the police not only feel safe, but like they’re the people protecting us. Wouldn’t that be something.

Of Schools and Students

This year has seen quite a number of fires in schools and it appears the students are the ones setting them. I’ve kept up with the questions asked and the solutions discussed but I don’t intend to throw my hat into that particular ring today. I will only say that, as many have already suggested, if you actually want to get to the why of the fires, you must involve students in that conversation. What I do want to discuss is a spin off topic that’s grown from all of this; the relationship between schools and their students.

There is something very wrong with how Kenyan schools view their students. I am of the opinion that many don’t see students as people. At least, not really. They see them as potential, as expectations, as blank slates in need of shaping and direction. More often than not, they are ‘almost people’ with no wants and desires of their own. Any frustrations and grievances they may have, so long as no law has been grossly violated, are irrelevant. When their futures are being determined, they don’t get a seat at the table. When they are accused of something, they rarely get the opportunity to even state their own motive; that too is decided for them. Any attempt to protest any of this is filed under the catch all phrase– disrespect of one’s elders.

“There’s a word for people our age. They call us children and they treat us like mice”

–          Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card.

This does not always start at the schools mind you. The older generation would have their children believe that they were all first in their class, that they wasted no time on frivolous entertainment and that their school lives were spent studying at all times except when they absolutely had to do something else. While the ubiquity of this story among Kenyan parents is actually kind of funny, the hilarity tends to fade when it presents very real expectations. Impossible levels of focus and dedication to school work are often demanded without regard for how ridiculous they actually are. No one, let alone people of school going age, can possibly sustain that kind of thing. Yet, it is treated as failure if they don’t.

If you sit kids down, hour after hour, doing low grade clerical work, don’t be surprised if they start to fidget.

–       Sir Ken Robinson

The school system is founded upon impossible expectations towards a group of people that we don’t acknowledge are in fact, just that, ordinary people. It’s why so often we subject students to conditions that we would not willingly agree to endure. Parallels have been drawn between some schools and jails. The leadership systems that many schools employ lean heavily towards fascist ideals (Strong leaders who must be harsh to the point of violence and resort to rule through fear in order to maintain social order).  It is a mess.

But how is this the case? How has this system not only endured for so long but actually been defended as right? I suppose it comes down to the fact that most of it is not malicious but is actually well intended. Children are complicated and not renowned for their fine decision making, this is no secret. They are a challenge. Those charged with the responsibility of educating and taking care of them often see the difficulty of the task, want to do the job well but there is just no clear path there. And, it would be so easy if there was one, wouldn’t it? A one size fits all set of solutions that could be reached for any time. A profile of the student mind that could be referred to whenever necessary. Simple motives that could be attributed in any situation. This would all make every school’s, and even parent’s, work so much easier. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist. Even more unfortunately, we like to pretend that it does.

If we do not do these things, we will get undisciplined, lazy brats who do not respect their elders. There is no other way that works. Spare the rod, spoil the child. That is often the root of the reasoning. It’s a good story, a safe one. Safe because it gives control. It simplifies the matter into actions and consequences that make for easy decisions. It becomes the only easy thing in a complicated, high stakes matter. It makes the responsibility bite sized and more palatable, especially if you are in charge of other people’s children. Tempting as it is, the story is flawed and must be rejected.

But if we are to dismiss this story, then what is the alternative? What has to be done? Well, first one has to accept that students are individuals. To listen to them. To treat everything on a case by case basis and find the answers that are most helpful to the people involved. I don’t say that lightly by the way, I understand just how complex that would be. The workload alone would be near impossible, not to say anything of how to do it right. And because they are young, and don’t make the finest of decisions, the students would no doubt try and take advantage of such a system. I acknowledge all of that. But this matter will never be easy. And if anyone is to accept responsibility for educating and raising children, shouldn’t they aim for the very best regardless of the difficulty?

The truth is, the easier way is clearly not the best. Worse, it encourages behaviour from teachers and figures of authority in schools that tend to create new problems. An example that holds in most schools is that If a teacher punishes someone for something they didn’t do, they are not allowed to protest. If they think they were wronged, they can only bring it up after they’ve done the punishment – if they dare.

I’ve always found it somewhat amusing that many teachers who subscribe to this principle will also turn around and complain about similar aspects in the politics of the country. As if they are not spending years demonstrating that truth and justice must come second to authority and power to their students. And this is not a one off. Many of the problems that we face in this country not only exist in the school system but are actively reinforced there. It is where we start to learn that accountability only goes down the chain and respect only goes up. Where we see that things that are otherwise wrong somehow become right if you have enough power.

All of that being said, my intention is not to slander teachers and schools; they do important work. Many Kenyans spend a great deal of their younger years in boarding schools and in truth are brought up by these people. But this is precisely why it is important to acknowledge the problem and it cannot be denied that there is one. The interaction between students and their schools is so often characterized by hostility and enmity that one wonders how much damage is caused by enduring such things for so long. It is a problem. A whole host of problems.Something has to give.

We often forget that as time passes, we know more. Students grow up knowing more than we did at their age and as a result they see the world differently. Our past is not truly their present. We do not know them; we do not know their experience and we cannot unless we listen.To ignore them is to invite consequences for all of us. Because, when you deny somebody a voice, ignore them unless you want to put them to work or to punish them, it cannot possibly end well. Eventually, they will find a way to make themselves heard. A way that you cannot continue to ignore. I cannot say that this is why we have been seeing these fires but we’re all paying attention now, aren’t we? It would not surprise me that if we keep ignoring the words of students, we might have to contend with learning to read smoke signals.

A Time For Heroes

My dear friends, for the longest time, I have said that the age of heroes is long past. Alas, the 21st century is no place for vigilant groups of the righteous. King Arthur and his knights of the round table are no longer with us. Jesus and the 12 disciples are more than 2000 years gone. It appears that the virtuous no longer come together to fight the good fight. The forces of evil that corrupt the minds of men have been given free reign upon our world. And so it is with tears of unrestrained joy that I write these words, dear friends. I was wrong. The heroes are not gone. In one place, in my very own nation, they have returned.

I need not tell the virtuous among you that I can be referring to none other than the Kenya Film Classification Board or KFCB as they have styled themselves. These individuals have taken upon themselves a responsibility that many would shy away from. They have appointed themselves the thankless task of not only safeguarding the national, cultural and moral values of Kenya, but also determining what they are.

I remember the first time I saw the now infamous coca-cola advertisement. A man and a woman, kissing in broad daylight on my television before 10pm. I nearly had a heart attack. The onslaught of urges to sin and fall into temptation almost consumed me. For hours I was in a panic imagining how much worse it would be have been, had I been a child possessed with none of the mental armour of an adult. I remember how I wailed at the fall of this great nation’s morals. Which would we be if this was allowed to continue? Sodom, or Gomorrah?

Imagine my relief when I heard that someone was looking out for us defenseless Kenyans. Someone wanted to protect our feeble minds from this filth. They would watch these things and weather the storm of temptation so that we would not have to. A last line of defense. I salute and acknowledge your sacrifice great ladies and gentlemen of KFCB. Well Done. You could have been satisfied with rating films and handing out licenses, but no, that is not the path of the hero. You aspire to be more as all those meant for greatness should.

The public however, have not been kind to you despite all you have done for them. They have questioned you at every corner. Criticized all of your great work. But did you let the pressure break you? Did you relent? No you did not. You know better. You know that Kenyan citizens cannot be allowed to determine their own national values. Someone must tell them what they are. Someone wiser than they.

Their utter lack of wisdom has been shown in how some have said the horror and offensiveness we witnessed in that advertisement was just a kiss. What is harmful in a kiss on television, they have asked. The answer, dear readers, is everything. Everything about it is harmful. These things are all connected you see. A kiss on television can lead to hug in real life (yes, a hug! One with real contact between the unmarried sexes. Perish the thought). And a hug can lead to a real kiss and a real kiss can lead to things virtuous people do not speak of. If you do not believe me, look to our history, my dear Africans. Do you know how Shaka Zulu was born?

Wikipedia tells us that:

Shaka was conceived during an act of what began as ukuhlobonga, a form of sexual foreplay without penetration allowed to unmarried couples, also known as “the fun of the roads” (ama hlay endlela), during which the lovers were “carried away”

You see how so called “harmless” behaviour can escalate? And, worse, what did this Shaka do after being born? He went and fought the coming of Christianity. CHRISTIANITY! And so you see my fellow Kenyans how these TV kisses will lead to our young producing Shaka Zulus who will in turn erode our long held and cherished christian values. That is the danger, KFCB in their infinite wisdom, have seen and diligently strive to avoid.

But now that I have spoken of your good work KFCB, I need to make some suggestions. Do not take this the wrong way, I do not mean to criticize you brave souls, but there is still more to be done. There is still more evil lurking in our televisions waiting to pounce upon and corrupt our young.

Let me direct you to an advertisement that has evaded your sharp eyes (through no fault of your own I’m sure. The wicked are indeed cunning). It is the JTL Faiba ad. The one that contains this man.

faiba-jtl-5548cc-h900

Look at him. A man strutting around in a dress and carrying a handbag. And it’s not just any dress, it is an indecent one. Baring the chest and leaving the thighs almost entirely exposed. In the Same Love video incident, you told us what we should think about the unspeakable breach of our values being carried out here. Yet, this animated miscreant has been allowed to run amok on our televisions (DURING THE PRECIOUS WATERSHED HOURS) with impunity. What is this fellow encouraging our youth to look for on this internet he is peddling? Just imagine it (but do not imagine too much lest you fall into temptation and require the services of KFCB to censor your thoughts).

The next figure is even more disturbing than the last. This man has been hosted on television several times even appearing on the news.

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I have asked about him and some people have made the truly shocking accusation that he is not only part of KFCB but is the CEO. I refused to believe these rumours. You would surely not fraternize with such a man as this. Surely not the great KFCB. Imagine my horror at finding out that this accusation was nothing but pure truth. I will not lie to you KFCB, it broke my heart. I felt betrayed. How could you?

Now, many of you may be too virtuous to know his crime, for this I commend you. But those of us with darker pasts know what this man is doing. How he must be taking advantage of the ignorance of the devout and moral people at KFCB. Direct your attention to this man’s face dear readers. Do you see it? Just above his his lips. You see it don’t you? That thing is something the seedier parts of world call, a 70s pornstache.

Yes, a pornstache. I know, it is shocking to speak of such things, but sometimes we need to learn of what the forces of evil are up to. That mustache this man sports was for a long time a loud and proud indicator for those men who took part in the pornographic industry. It could perhaps even be called, a badge of honour.

See google:
pornstache

Now we have spoken of how small things can lead up to Shaka Zulu fighting Christianity. Imagine oh dear readers, a thing as great as the leader of Kenya’s greatest heroes, the KFCB, flashing such a thing on our televisions on all hours of the day. Imagine it’s power. The message it sends. I fear the KFCB have been infiltrated and a subliminal message is being passed on to our youths. A message that may serve to undermine all the good work KFCB has strived for.

So, KFCB, I come before you with my humble appeal. If you care, if you stand for what you claim you do. Please, I beg you, get this man off of our televisions and, if possible, away from a place anyone can see or hear from him and thus be taken down the path of darkness. In the name of all that is holy, do not allow the fibres of this wicked man’s pornstache to corrupt and entangle the moral fibre of the Kenyan people. Do your duty KFCB. Let no one ever hear from this man ever again.

Silence, A Book & A Vote

We’ve been silent for a long time. Again. And (again) it’s been a busy silence.

Last year, around this time period, we dropped our first anthology. I’m still proud of it and I’m still surprised by the response it received. I met a lot of new people because they recognized my name from it and we talked (in fact, one of them is featured in what I’m about to cover). And, I don’t know if what we said actually made it into the book but we had an interesting discussion with Helen Young the author of “Race and Popular Fantasy Literature: Habits of Whiteness” while she was writing it. It was an interesting time.

Now, a year later, we’re back with another anthology.

Our first anthology “Kenyan Fantasy” was internally code named: Beyoncé because we basically dropped it out of nowhere with no warning whatsoever.
This new one is code named: Adele because we’re gonna give you a couple of warning shots before we actually release it.
(Side Note: Zendaya better do something really interesting next year so we can keep going backwards in the alphabet.)

So, some time, very very soon, we’re dropping Issue 2 of the Will This Be A Problem Anthology. Officially Named: The Economy of Spoons and other stories.

Post

This time we left it open genre. We let the writers go wild but we did have something of a plan in mind. We wanted an anthology that had its tendrils everywhere or at least, everywhere interesting. This anthology is something of a journey. You really don’t know where you’re going to end up from story to story. You will meet audacious conmen, strangely important spoons, colours in a way you’ve never seen before, college love, a new Geppetto and Pinocchio and much more.

I’m really excited for it. It’s going to be brilliant.

Coming soon.

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In other news, you may or may not know this but there’s voting going on.

This blog has been nominated in UP Nairobi’s Best of 2015 under the best blog category.

promo version

And I, to my genuine surprise, have been nominated for best local author. Your votes would be much appreciated.

Will This Be A Problem under best blog
Kevin Rigathi under best local author

The link is below.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/11oTH03eeZXgCnOh1H10uSs-5Wnx2FlzanWXdYv0ho6U/formResponse

You’ll be hearing from me soon.

The New Gospel

Excuse me sisters, would you hold on a moment. If you would allow me just a minute, I wish to tell you about the gospel of “real feminism.”

In the beginning some men (not all men) got together and decided to fix feminism. They saw there was clearly a problem and came up with definitions and priorities for feminists to adopt. They even suggested legitimate mediums “serious feminists” should use (not twitter). When they were done, they looked upon their work and they were pleased. They called it, real feminism. This is how our gospel was born.

Unable to contain their excitement they brought their creation to other feminists but they were often rejected. Prophets are after all not welcomed in their own homes (or even the homes they move into uninvited and try to renovate). And so it was decided that the old feminists were heretics and heathens to the cause. They were given many names to mark them; new feminists, twitter feminists, militant feminists, lazy feminists and so on. The prefix did not really matter so long as one remembered to include a dismissive tone when they said it (for example, Beyoncé feminists.)

The old feminists accused our prophets of being anti feminist. Our prophets laughed (intellectually) and said, “No. We have no problem with feminism. Look at the feminism there, we like that. And feminism in the past, it was serious, we loved that. This feminism of yours is the problem.”

“So the feminism that’s here and now, the one in spaces that you occupy…that one’s a problem?” Asked the feminists (bitterly).

“No no no…we don’t mind feminism. It just has to be real feminism. You know, the real one.”

“It seems to us,” said the feminists (emotionally), “that the further feminism is from affecting you, the more likely it is to be ‘real feminism’.”

“That is not it at all.”

And that is how the first great debate of feminism was won.

The old feminists went away more bitter, more man-hating and pretending even more to know where Ukraine was on the map. Unfortunately, their rebellion would not end there. Say what you will about them but they were a tenacious lot. They would not be gone for long. They popped up again as the prophets spoke the truth of how old feminists did nothing for men, the boy child and their issues.

“But we do! All the time,” interjected the old feminists (rudely).

“Lies!”

“We do! And even if we didn’t…why don’t you do it? Why don’t men come together and try help each other instead of spending all their time attacking us?”

“Go back to the kitchen!”

“Right…When in doubt- misogyny.”

“Listen to them,” said the Prophets, “so emotional. It was JUST a joke. Calm down.”

“You know why you don’t know what we do? Because YOU don’t pay attention to those issues. If you care for men’s issues so much why do you never talk about them? Why is it that the only context you discuss them in is as a weapon to wield against feminists?”

“Coz” they said.

And thus the second great debate of feminism was won.

On it went. The “real feminist” proponents showed the old feminists all the things they weren’t doing. The old feminist claimed to have done them by presenting evidence among other underhanded sneaky tactics. The proponents told them the flaws of old feminism schools of thought and the old feminists asked if they had even bothered to read or research those works as if this had anything to do with it.
And somewhere along this path the old feminists for whatever reason, started to get angry. By doing so what the prophets had been saying was proved true, old feminism just made women unreasonable which was bad for everyone.

This is the foundation of our church. It is true sisters, you must embrace feminism, no one is saying otherwise. But it must be real feminism. You can’t just go and be a feminist, it is a process. There are rules and directions and you have to listen to the people who know things. I know it seems weird and counter-intuitive that men should be telling women about the female experience and such but hey…man is the head of the family, even the global family. And where do ideas come from? Yeah. Exactly. The head. Sticking to outdated feminism has already brought so much grief. It destroyed our morals, it destroyed the family unit and remember all those times it destroyed society? I’m sure you read about it in papers and blogs everywhere.

Sisters, the brotherhood of real feminism is here for you. Do not be scared of us. We want the same thing as you, equality in all things, even feminism. All we suggest is a just division of labour. You can be the feminists and we will tell you how to do it. It’s only fair.

Bless you.

Shhh: A Step by Step Guide to Silence

Sometimes, you can almost admire the skill with which our rights are being stripped from us. There is a kind of finesse to it, a mastery that you don’t see very often. It would be impressive if it wasn’t so goddamn terrifying.

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If you’re a government that wants to arrest people for speaking against it, and you’re unfortunate enough to be in a democracy, you’ve got to pick your words very carefully. You cannot say that you were insulted, that would seem petty – you call it undermining authority. That has weight. It sounds important, dangerous even.

He’s in prison for insulting the president. No. That just screams dictator.

He’s in prison for undermining the president’s authority. Yes. Now you’re onto something.

How a slight can undermine the authority of the most powerful man in the country is, as these things always go, something that need not, and will not, be explained.

Once you have the right words, you now have to pick the right targets. You can’t just round up any old critic. You’re trying to send a message and set some precedent. If you choose badly you won’t accomplish either. For example, take Gado. It is unlikely that you will find anyone who has depicted the president in an insulting manner more often than Gado. If an insult can undermine authority, then Gado is public enemy number one. In the face of Gado, the president is very nearly out of authority to be undermined. But you cannot arrest Gado. At least, not at first.

You really cannot justify arresting a popular satirist without turning everyone against you. He’s too easy to defend. He’s too well liked. Charging him with anything, even something as important sounding as undermining the president’s authority, is just too clearly wrong. You cannot sell it. So you need another kind of target.

You need someone not very sympathetic. Someone guilty of something else, preferably something they said. Someone difficult to defend because no one really wants to be associated with them. You need to find yourself a Wadi Okengo.

Once you find and arrest a person like Wadi, you’ve already won the first battle. Dissenters will find that they cannot defend the right they think is important without defending Wadi as well. He is someone an injustice is being carried out against and they have to defend him, it’s all part of the responsibility. But, the very moment they do, his hate speech will come up. The disgusting tribalist things he said will inevitably become linked to the whole case and it will all seem like part of the same issue. His defenders will find themselves in the untenable position of both defending and distancing themselves from him. Predictably, this is not a very effective way to convince people you’re right. They’re in a fight and they don’t have sufficient ammunition. You win.

But you can’t stop there. The message needs to stick. If you really want them to watch what they say you need to show them that no one is safe. That no fish is too big to fry. That’s where someone like Robert Alai comes in. Extremely popular but not very sympathetic. A man with such an even distribution of allies and enemies that any debate involving him will quickly descend into noise. And should anyone be willing to put aside their loathing of the man to defend him, what of it? He is the man who prays for women to be raped. Who said he would strip scantily clad women himself? Etcetera etcetera. Defending him is just as difficult as defending Wadi if not more. Again, you have them fighting an uphill battle to get anyone to even care about the issue at hand.

Lastly, the smaller players need to get in on it. Maybe a Governor somewhere should have someone pulled in and level the same kind of accusations. Let that kind of thing crop up and spread about for a while. And when you’re done, one will have to ask whether what they want to say about you is really worth going through what Alai did. What every other person you go after will. Because it’s not about insults, it’s about undermining authority. And because no one truly knows what that actually means, they’ll have to watch themselves.

People are going to ask if they can afford to have hundreds of thousands (or any significant amount) held up for months during court proceedings. They’re going to wonder if they can stay employed if they’re accused of undermining a public official’s authority. All of that risk? Just to make a criticism? They’re going to look at the effect of one person talking versus the potential cost it could bring and do the math. They’re going to ask the kind of questions that make people afraid to talk.

When you finally start going for the people you really want to get, you wont need tricks anymore. You’ll have legal precedent on your side and the entire process will be normalized by then. It’ll be like police taking bribes, just another ugly facet of Kenyan life they accept as unavoidable. The way of things. Blasé. You can even let them talk a little then. It won’t matter because those who complain will not meet a willing audience. They will meet the face of defeat. They will hear those three little words that both excuse and explain away everything. They will be told…this is Kenya.