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Dear Chris Msando: Letters from His Wife and Children

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Mr Christopher Msando was the slain Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission ICT manager. Two years after his death, his wife and children pay a tribute to him.

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Dear Chris Msando: Letters from His Wife and Children
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Dear Osiepa,

It feels like yesterday, but it is 2 years to the rest of the world.

I really don’t know what to write or where to start on what has happened since you have been gone, my dear husband, friend, confidant and father to our beautiful children.

I have so much to write to you and tell you. I still keep you updated and I know you are watching so close and keen. I feel your presence daily in all that the children and I do.

As I pen my letter to you, I have my earphones on, the volume is high playing your favorite gospel song, Jemimah Thiongo’s “mipango ya Mungu niya ajabu”. I totally relate to that song, my darling.

I miss you so much. Not a single day passes without me thinking of you and wondering how life would be, if you were still with us.

Since you have been gone, my love, a lot has changed.

There is a tag that comes with the term widow. People who were so close to you—from family to friends –just disappear. My love, when they see me or our children, they appear shocked, wondering how the children have grown. There is so much I could tell you of what has happened with my new title “widow” but that is for another day.

Since you have been gone, the children have grown and they miss you. They always carry your wise counsel every day and look so much like you, they even sometimes act like you. I smile knowing you are watching over them.

Since you have been gone, you got recognized in Ghana for contributing selflessly, being a hero and standing up for electoral integrity. Our son Allan Hawii gave a beautiful speech and received the award on your behalf. He is growing to be a handsome and intelligent young man. When they killed you, the children kept asking each dignitary that visited us why they killed you. As you will read from Allan, Alvin, Alama and Allison, you will see how much they miss you but also how strong they have become.

Since you have been gone, the organization you worked for has been in so much confusion. Your Chairman checks on the children and myself from time to time, but has no answer to why you were killed.  The country has seen no peace, since they killed you.

Since you have been gone, I  cannot stop asking myself why you had to be killed. Why didn’t they choose another way to sort out the issues? Could they not have sought peace earlier and spared your life and those of others? Could they not have shaken hands before the election, made peace and spared your life and those of others?

Since you have been gone, it has been very challenging bringing up the children and playing the part of Mummy and Daddy. On most days, I cry myself to sleep. I cry when we have birthdays and you cannot be there to help our babies to blow out their candles. I cry when it is Christmas or any function that involved us. I have to plan and make decisions by myself. I cry so much knowing you are gone and will not come back. One thing I know for sure is that my tears will not roll down my cheeks in vain. Those behind your brutal torture and murder shall not find peace.

To the people who planned and executed my husband’s torture and murder, I still ask did you gain the world? Does it make you happy?

If you hurt other people in order to gain power, you are an extremely weak individual. My tears will not roll down my eyes in vain. God will wipe them. I know for sure that vengeance is for the Lord. There is nothing as hurtful as being expected to accept the murder of my husband and move on. Nothing annoys me more than when someone expects me to accept something that they wouldn’t wish to be done to them.

Chris my love, today I choose to celebrate you for the years that we had together and the beautiful memories that you left for our children and myself. When your favourite Rhumba song “Fatimata” by Sam Mangwana plays I smile and see you singing along.

I may be slightly broken, a little bruised and even permanently scarred. But I still wake up every day with a tremendous will to fight for our children and the ups and downs of life. I am a strong woman and mother who refuses to be defeated.

Death changes nothing. I still miss the sound of your voice, the wisdom of your advice, the stories you shared with us. Time changes nothing. I miss you just as much today as I did the day you were murdered.

I could go on and on. The gap you left is vast, I am standing on the Promises of God. Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still”

In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.I am missing you today. I know you are in heaven but I miss you so much.

Love today and forever,

Your wife Eva

***************************************************************

Dear Daddy,

It has been a short while since you have been gone.

I miss you so much. A lot has happened when you have been away.

I wish I could get a bench and sit down with you to tell you in person. But sadly the horrible people took you away from us.

God will punish them and one day we shall meet in heaven.

One thing I know is that you are watching down on me daily. I remember your smile and your love for cars.

Mummy managed to get the car back from the police and she fixed it. She is doing a good job at maintaining the car. She is doing a terrific job taking care of us.

She cries a lot sometimes and that makes me sad, but she is becoming very strong and God is with us.

I finally moved to the next stage of becoming a young man, I went through the initiation ceremony. Mummy took care of us as you were not there. I wish you were there to teach me how to be a young man.

Every Father’s day I celebrate you. We celebrate mummy twice, as she is really trying to fit into your shoes.

I went to Ghana together with mummy to pick an award on your behalf. There were very many people there. They said so many nice things about you. I am very proud to be called my father’s son.

I love computers and technology just like you.

I promise to make you extra proud, to take care of all of us and mummy.

Daddy, I know you are up in heaven and God is taking care of you.

I am using the pain of your killing as fuel. Fuel that will drive me straight to a better future.

Love always,

My father’s son,

Allan Hawii Msando

***************************************************************

Dear Daddy,

I wonder how it is up there in heaven.

I miss you so much and the many rides you would take me for.

I miss you on my birthdays.

The toys you would buy me.

I am being a good boy and taking care of mummy and my sisters.

I have grown big and doing well in school.

I have interest in music. It is sad that you will not be here to buy me the musical instruments and DJ -machine you promised.

The people who did whatever they did to you, will pay one day. I pray that God punishes them.

I know one day we shall meet in heaven and I promise to be a good boy and make you and mummy proud.

I love you always,

Your son

Alvin Mich Amani Msando

***********************************************************************

Dear Daddy.

How are you up there?

I miss you carrying me from the car to the house on your shoulders.

God will punish the people who took you away from us.

I have grown big and beautiful mummy says.

I am dancing more and may become a ballerina as you said.

I will make you very proud and mummy will be fine. I am taking care of her.

I miss you so much but I know God will wipe away my tears.

I love you forever.

Your daughter

Alama Neema Msando

**********************************************************************

Daddy dearest,

How are you? How is it up there in heaven? How does God look like? When are you coming back?

When you left, mummy and you were still carrying me around. I was a baby. Guess what? I am now in school and I can write and read as well as sing.

I sing a lot for mummy, especially when she Is sad. But she keeps saying that you are in heaven. I always ask her to tell you to come back. She hugs me and says you are not coming, so I keep your picture next to my bed to watch over me.

Mummy says that you are an angel like the ones I see in my storybooks. I still have my 1st birthday doll and the Christmas gift you bought me. I will keep and treasure them.

I will carry your love in my heart.

Daddy’s little girl forever,

Alison Zawadi Mariah Msando

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Family of the late Chris Msando, former ICT Manager at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Election, slain in July 2017.

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SAPs – Season Two: Why Kenyans Fear Another IMF Loan

The Jubilee government would have us believe that the country is economically healthy but the reality is that the IMF has come in precisely because Kenya is in a financial crisis.

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SAPs – Season Two: Why Kenyans Fear Another IMF Loan
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Never did I imagine that opposing an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan to Kenya would be viewed by the Kenyan authorities as a criminal act. But that is exactly what transpired last week when activist Mutemi Kiama was arrested and charged with “abuse of digital gadgets”, “hurting the presidency”, “creating public disorder” and other vaguely-worded offences. Mutemi’s arrest was prompted by his Twitter post of an image of President Uhuru Kenyatta with the following caption: “This is to notify the world . . . that the person whose photograph and names appear above is not authorised to act or transact on behalf of the citizens of the Republic of Kenya and that the nation and future generations shall not be held liable for any penalties of bad loans negotiated and/or borrowed by him.” He was released on a cash bail of KSh.500,000 with an order prohibiting him from using his social media accounts or speaking about COVID-19-related loans.

Mutemi is one among more than 200,000 Kenyans who have signed a petition to the IMF to halt a KSh257 billion (US$2.3 billion) loan to Kenya, which was ostensibly obtained to cushion the country against the negative economic impact of COVID-19.  Kenya is not the only country whose citizens have opposed an IMF loan. Protests against IMF loans have been taking place in many countries, including Argentina, where people took to the streets in 2018 when the country took a US$50 billion loan from the IMF. In 2016, Eqyptian authorities were forced to lower fuel prices following demonstrations against an IMF-backed decision to eliminate fuel subsidies. Similar protests have also taken place in Jordan, Lebanon and Ecuador in recent years.

Why would a country’s citizens be against a loan given by an international financial institution such as the IMF? Well, for those Kenyans who survived (or barely survived) the IMF-World Bank Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) of the 1980s and 90s, the answer is obvious. SAPs came with stringent conditions attached, which led to many layoffs in the civil service and removal of subsidies for essential services, such as health and education, which led to increasing levels of hardship and precarity, especially among middle- and low-income groups. African countries undergoing SAPs experienced what is often referred to as “a lost development decade” as belt-tightening measures stalled development programmes and stunted economic opportunities.

In addition, borrowing African countries lost their independence in matters related to economic policy. Since lenders, such as the World Bank and the IMF, decide national economic policy – for instance, by determining things like budget management, exchange rates and public sector involvement in the economy – they became the de facto policy and decision-making authorities in the countries that took their loans. This is why, in much of the 1980s and 1990s, the arrival of a World Bank or IMF delegation to Nairobi often got Kenyans very worried.

In those days (in the aftermath of a hike in oil prices in 1979 that saw most African countries experience a rise in import bills and a decline in export earnings), leaders of these international financial institutions were feared as much as the authoritarian Kenyan president, Daniel arap Moi, because with the stroke of a pen they could devalue the Kenyan currency overnight and get large chunks of the civil service fired. As Kenyan economist David Ndii pointed out recently at a press conference organised by the Linda Katiba campaign, when the IMF comes knocking, it essentially means the country is “under receivership”. It can no longer claim to determine its own economic policies. Countries essentially lose their sovereignty, a fact that seems to have eluded the technocrats who rushed to get this particular loan.

When he took office in 2002, President Mwai Kibaki kept the World Bank and the IMF at arm’s length, preferring to take no-strings-attached infrastructure loans from China. Kibaki’s “Look East” economic policy alarmed the Bretton Woods institutions and Western donors who had until then had a huge say in the country’s development trajectory, but it instilled a sense of pride and autonomy in Kenyans, which sadly, has been eroded by Uhuru and his inept cronies who have gone on loan fishing expeditions, including massive Eurobonds worth Sh692 billion (nearly $7 billion), which means that every Kenyan today has a debt of Sh137,000, more than three times what it was eight years ago when the Jubilee government came to power. By the end of last year, Kenya’s debt stood at nearly 70 per cent of GDP, up from 50 per cent at the end of 2015. This high level of debt can prove deadly for a country like Kenya that borrows in foreign currencies.

When the IMF comes knocking, it essentially means the country is “under receivership”.

The Jubilee government would have us believe that the fact that the IMF agreed to this loan is a sign that the country is economically healthy, but as Ndii noted, quite often the opposite is true: the IMF comes in precisely because a country is in a financial crisis. In Kenya’s case, this crisis has been precipitated by reckless borrowing by the Jubilee administration that has seen Kenya’s debt rise from KSh630 billion (about $6 billion at today’s exchange rate) when Kibaki took office in 2002, to a staggering KSh7.2 trillion (about US$70 billion) today, with not much to show for it, except a standard gauge railway (SGR) funded by Chinese loans that appears unable to pay for itself. As an article in a local daily pointed out, this is enough money to build 17 SGRs from Mombasa to Nairobi or 154 superhighways like the one from Nairobi to Thika. The tragedy is that many of these loans are unaccounted for; in fact, many Kenyans believe they are taken to line individual pockets. Uhuru Kenyatta has himself admitted that Kenya loses KSh2 billion a day to corruption in government. Some of these lost billions could actually be loans.

IMF loans with stringent conditions attached have often been presented as being the solution to a country’s economic woes – a belt-tightening measure that will instil fiscal discipline in a country’s economy by increasing revenue and decreasing expenditure. However, the real purpose of these loans, some argue, is to bring about major and fundamental policy changes at the national level – changes that reflect the neoliberal ethos of our time, complete with privatisation, free markets and deregulation.

The first ominous sign that the Kenyan government was about to embark on a perilous economic path was when the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, made an official visit to Kenya shortly after President Uhuru was elected in 2013. At that time, I remember tweeting that this was not a good omen; it indicated that the IMF was preparing to bring Kenya back into the IMF fold.

Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine, shows how what she calls “disaster capitalism” has allowed the IMF, in particular, to administer “shock therapy” on nations reeling from natural or man-made disasters or high levels of external debt. This has led to unnecessary privatisation of state assets, government deregulation, massive layoffs of civil servants and reduction or elimination of subsidies, all of which can and do lead to increasing poverty and inequality. Klein is particularly critical of what is known as the Chicago School of Economics that she claims justifies greed, corruption, theft of public resources and personal enrichment as long as they advance the cause of free markets and neoliberalism. She shows how in nearly every country where the IMF “medicine” has been administered, inequality levels have escalated and poverty has become systemic.

Sometimes the IMF will create a pseudo-crisis in a country to force it to obtain an IMF bailout loan. Or, through carefully manipulated data, it will make the country look economically healthy so that it feels secure about applying for more loans. When that country can’t pay back the loans, which often happens, the IMF inflicts even more austerity measures (also known as “conditionalities”) on it, which lead to even more poverty and inequality.

IMF and World Bank loans for infrastructure projects also benefit Western corporations. Private companies hire experts to ensure that these companies secure government contracts for big infrastructure projects funded by these international financial institutions. Companies in rich countries like the United States often hire people who will do the bidding on their behalf. In his international “word-of-mouth bestseller”, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, John Perkins explains how in the 1970s when he worked for an international consulting firm, he was told that his job was to “funnel money from the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development and other foreign aid organisations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s resources”.

Sometimes the IMF will create a pseudo-crisis in a country to force it to obtain an IMF bailout loan.

The tools to carry out this goal, his employer admitted unashamedly, could include “fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex and murder”. Perkins showed how in the 1970s, he became instrumental in brokering deals with countries ranging from Panama to Saudi Arabia where he convinced leaders to accept projects that were detrimental to their own people but which enormously benefitted US corporate interests.

“In the end, those leaders become ensnared in a web of debt that ensures their loyalty. We can draw on them whenever we desire – to satisfy our political, economic or military needs. In turn, they bolster their political positions by bringing industrial parks, power plants, and airports to their people. The owners of US engineering/construction companies become fabulously wealthy,” a colleague told him when he asked why his job was so important.

Kenyans, who are already suffering financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic which saw nearly 2 million jobs in the formal sector disappear last year, will now be confronted with austerity measures at precisely the time when they need government subsidies and social safety nets. Season Two of SAPs is likely to make life for Kenyans even more miserable in the short and medium term.

We will have to wait and see whether overall dissatisfaction with the government will influence the outcome of the 2022 elections. However, whoever wins that election will still have to contend with rising debt and unsustainable repayments that have become President Uhuru Kenyatta’s most enduring legacy.

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Haiti: The Struggle for Democracy, Justice, Reparations and the Black Soul

Only the Haitian people can decide their own future. The dictatorship imposed by former president Jovenel Moïse and its imperialist enablers need to go – and make space for a people’s transition government.

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Haiti: The Struggle for Democracy, Justice, Reparations and the Black Soul
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Haiti is once again going through a profound crisis. Central to this is the struggle against the dictatorship imposed by former president Jovenel Moïse. Since last year Mr. Moise, after decreeing the dismissal of Parliament, has been ruling through decrees, permanently violating Haiti’s constitution. He has refused to leave power after his mandate ended on February 7, 2021, claiming that it ends on February 7 of next year, without any legal basis.

This disregard of the constitution is taking place despite multiple statements by the country’s main judicial bodies, such as the CSPJ (Superior Council of Judicial Power) and the Association of Haitian Lawyers. Numerous religious groups and numerous institutions that are representative of society have also spoken. At this time, there is a strike by the judiciary, which leaves the country without any public body of political power.

At the same time, this institutional crisis is framed in the insecurity that affects practically all sectors of Haitian society. An insecurity expressed through savage repressions of popular mobilizations by the PNH (Haitian National Police), which at the service of the executive power. They have attacked journalists and committed various massacres in poor neighborhoods. Throughout the country, there have been assassinations and arbitrary arrests of opponents.

Most recently, a judge of the High Court was detained under the pretext of promoting an alleged plot against the security of the State and to assassinate the president leading to the illegal and arbitrary revocation of three judges of this Court. This last period has also seen the creation of hundreds of armed groups that spread terror over the entire country and that respond to power, transforming kidnapping into a fairly prosperous industry for these criminals.

The 13 years of military occupation by United Nations troops through MINUSTAH and the operations of prolongation of guardianship through MINUJUSTH and BINUH have aggravated the Haitian crisis. They supported retrograde and undemocratic sectors who, along with gangsters, committed serious crimes against the Haitian people and their fundamental rights.

For this, the people of Haiti deserve a process of justice and reparations. They have paid dearly for the intervention of MINUSTAH: 30 THOUSAND DEAD from cholera transmitted by the soldiers, thousands of women raped, who now raise orphaned children. Nothing has changed in 13 years, more social inequality, poverty, more difficulties for the people. The absence of democracy stays the same.

The poor’s living conditions have worsened dramatically as a result of more than 30 years of neoliberal policies imposed by the International Financial Institutions (IFIs), a severe exchange rate crisis, the freezing of the minimum wage, and inflation above 20% during the last three years.

It should be emphasized that, despite this dramatic situation, the Haitian people remain firm and are constantly mobilizing to prevent the consolidation of a dictatorship by demanding the immediate leave of office by former President Jovenel Moïse.

Taking into account the importance of this struggle and that this dictatorial regime still has the support of imperialist governments such as the United States of America, Canada, France, and international organizations such as the UN, the OAS, and the EU, the IPA calls its members to contribute their full and active solidarity to the struggle of the Haitian people, and to sign this Petition that demands the end of the dictatorship as well as respect for the sovereignty and self-determination of the Haitian people, the establishment of a transition government led by Haitians to launch a process of authentic national reconstruction.

In addition to expressing our solidarity with the Haitian people’s resistance, we call for our organisations to demonstrate in front of the embassies of the imperialist countries and before the United Nations. Only the Haitian people can decide their future. Down with Moise and yes to a people’s transition government, until a constituent is democratically elected.

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Deconstructing the Whiteness of Christ

While many African Christians can only imagine a white Jesus, others have actively promoted a vision of a brown or black Jesus, both in art and in ideology.

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When images of a white preacher and actor going around Kenya playing Jesus turned up on social media in July 2019, people were rightly stunned by the white supremacist undertone of the images. They suggested that Africans were prone to seeing Jesus as white, promoting the white saviour narrative in the process. While it is true that the idea of a white Jesus has been prevalent in African Christianity even without a white actor, and many African Christians and churches still entertain images of Jesus as white because of the missionary legacy, many others have actively promoted a vision of Jesus as brown or black both in art an in ideology.

Images of a brown or black Jesus is as old as Christianity in Africa, especially finding a prominent place in Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which has been in existence for over sixteen hundred years. Eyob Derillo, a librarian at the British Library, recently brought up a steady diet of these images on Twitter. The image of Jesus as black has also been popularised through the artistic project known as Vie de Jesus Mafa (Life of Jesus Mafa) that was conducted in Cameroon.

The most radical expression of Jesus as a black person was however put forth by a young Kongolese woman called Kimpa Vita, who lived in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Through the missionary work of the Portuguese, Kimpa Vita, who was a nganga or medicine woman, became a Christian. She taught that Jesus and his apostles were black and were in fact born in São Salvador, which was the capital of the Kongo at the time. Not only was Jesus transposed from Palestine to São Salvador, Jerusalem, which is a holy site for Christians, was also transposed to São Salvador, so that São Salvador became a holy site. Kimpa Vita was accused of preaching heresy by Portuguese missionaries and burnt at the stake in 1706.

It was not until the 20th century that another movement similar to Vita’s emerged in the Kongo. This younger movement was led by Simon Kimbangu, a preacher who went about healing and raising the dead, portraying himself as an emissary of Jesus. His followers sometimes see him as the Holy Spirit who was to come after Jesus, as prophesied in John 14:16. Just as Kimpa Vita saw São Salvador as the new Jerusalem, Kimbangu’s village of Nkamba became, and still is known as, the new Jerusalem. His followers still flock there for pilgrimage. Kimbangu was accused of threatening Belgian colonial rule and thrown in jail, where he died. Some have complained that Kimbangu seems to have eclipsed Jesus in the imagination of his followers for he is said to have been resurrected from the dead, like Jesus.

Kimbangu’s status among his followers is however similar to that of some of the leaders of what has been described as African Independent Churches or African Initiated Churches (AICs). These churches include the Zionist churches of Southern Africa, among which is the amaNazaretha of Isaiah Shembe. Shembe’s followers see him as a divine figure, similar to Jesus, and rather than going to Jerusalem for pilgrimage, his followers go to the holy city of Ekuphakameni in South Africa. The Cameroonian theologian, Fabien Eboussi Boulaga, in his Christianity Without Fetish, see leaders like Kimbangu and Shembe as doing for their people in our own time what Jesus did for his people in their own time—providing means of healing and deliverance in contexts of grinding oppression. Thus, rather than replacing Jesus, as they are often accused of doing, they are making Jesus relevant to their people. For many Christians in Africa, therefore, Jesus is already brown or black. Other Christians still need to catch up with this development if we are to avoid painful spectacles like the one that took place Kenya.

This post is from a partnership between Africa Is a Country and The Elephant. We will be publishing a series of posts from their site once a week.

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