Monday, May 16, 2016

WOMEN VS THE WORLD WIDE WEB: Thriller Writer Admits That Internet Culture is Hostile to Women

The Internet is becoming an increasingly dangerous environment – a place where your data is easily mined and your life can be destroyed at the click of a mouse. Your host: Alexander Nderitu

‘My block list on Twitter is really growing and it's simply because I don't like all the negativity. Many idle people, who have nothing good to say, are all over saying this or that about me on my pages. I just block them.’Avril Nyambura, Kenyan entertainer

‘…Kenyans online (mostly Twitter) begun probably the worst stint of cyber bullying I’ve EVER experienced…I was called a “Malaya” (prostitute) and told I look like after being raped, I got HIV – all this by strangers online.’ Adelle Onyango, radio presenter

First off, I am not a gender activist. Of course I believe in gender equality, but I am not an activist for it. I am not like, say, Prof. Austin Bukenya who is so committed to the cause of women  that in one of his articles, he proudly describes himself as an ‘African woman writer’. Prof. Bukenya, one of East Africa’s leading intellectuals, is a founding member of FEMRITE, the Uganda Women Writers Association, and supports AMKA, a pro-women writing group in Kenya.

So what would possess me to write a report/article like this one? Look at it this this way: when even a Pan-African 'humanist' is rushing to the defence of women (instead of focusing on his own causes) , then the situation must be dire! It’s panic stations. Blood on the leaves. Mayday. Privacy-conscious ladies might appreciate some ‘expert’ advice on how to navigate the technological minefield, kind of like the intelligence academy students in John Le Carré’s novel The Secret Pilgrim:

‘Oh, we wanted his opinion alright! Jack Arthur had spent three years dropping in and out of occupied Germany like a regular houseguest…When the Cold War came to replace the hot one, Jack hardly noticed the difference…If Jack Arthur said it was a dangerous planet, we believed him to the hilt!’


Even that sextape (featuring DJ Crème De La Crème) that is going around on social media, that guy will survive…some people are even calling him a “jogoo”. But if it was a woman, her career would be over…If it was Caroline Mutoko or Julie Gichuru, they would have been finished!’ – Maina Kageni, Classic 105 FM radio presenter (06/11/2015)

It is important to note that the World Wide Web doesn’t exist in a vacuum and the issues affecting women online stem from the offline culture. The online environment just makes it easier to carry out real-life prejudices.  The interwebs are biased against women because most cultures still view women as second-class citizens. A case in point: Not too long ago, Kiambu governor William Kabogo publicly stated that unmarried women should not seek elective posts (seen as a jibe at his political opponent, Thika MP Alice Ng’ang’a). I fail to see what Ms Ng'ang'a's marital status has to do with her political functions. (In fact, in my view, not having familial responsibilities makes her better able to perform her public duties!) Let us not forget that President Daniel Arap Moi ruled Kenya for 24 years without an official First Lady. And I don’t recall William Kabogo, or other male leaders, complaining about Moi’s dubious marital status. That’s bias.

The political arena can be a killing field for women. That’s why out of Africa’s 54 independent states only one (Liberia) is led by a woman. Out of Kenya’s 222 members of Parliament, only a handful are women (many of them nominated). Here are some words of wisdom from Kenya’s most famous woman, the late Nobel Peace Prize Winner Wangari Maathai, who never achieved much in politics despite her high profile:

‘They (male opponents) want to get personal. They want to debase your womanhood. So I said, “Now, don’t give me that. Just use the anatomy that matters right now, and that is from the neck up.” (From Unbowed: A Memoir)

And here’s a quote from the very first woman to ever be elected MP in Nairobi, veteran politician Beth Mugo:

‘During the single party rule, women did not have a chance to compete fairly for nominations. Nominations were marred by violence, those of us who joined politics came forward determined to change that culture and demonstrate that women leaders were as good as men.’ (Sunday Nation, 08/11/2015)

We will come back to the subject of ‘changing the culture’.

The negative aspects of the Internet are some of the biggest headaches for female leaders, and even though online bile spews both ways, articles like ‘Why Women Aren't Welcome on the Internet’ outnumber male-victimization stories by the dozen. Female leaders who have been destroyed via the Internet include Ukrainian politician Olga Lyulchak, Taiwanese politician Chu Mei-feng (sex tape scandal) and Spanish municipal councillor Olvido Hormigos.

As a female, you don’t even have to do anything wrong (post nude pics, make controversial comments on social media etc) to be attacked online. Anyone can create a parody account, harvest your online pictures, steal your identity and then proceed to assassinate your character – at the click of a button. A case in point is the arrest, in 2015, of one Ashnaam Mohammed, a 21-year-old Kenyan blogger, for ‘impersonating’ both Kobi Kihara and Victoria Rubadiri (TV personalities) via online parody accounts. You can view a brief video of the saga below:


‘A spy need not be a writer but a writer must surely be a spy.’ - Andrei Bitov, author of Pushkin House

When you write espionage fiction, like I do, you come across all kinds of interesting information during research – like how nations spy on each other - and where passwords came from (and how effective they are). But let’s take step back, and then we’ll return to the subject at hand:

When I was a teenager, I dreamt of writing the kind of Cold War thrillers that I enjoyed reading (KGB vs CIA kind of stuff) but by the time I grew up, the Cold War was over. After many years of deliberation, I invented my own fictional Cold War that takes place only in Africa (mostly northern countries vs. sub-Saharan countries) and I am now using it as a canvas to craft spy stories under the banner, ‘Kiss, Commander, Promise’. The spy series revolves around three childhood friends (Georgeanne, Ernest and Johnny) who now all work for the same intelligence agency. At one point, Ernest, who is married to Georgeanne, suspects that his wife is cheating on him while he is on out-of-the-country missions so he enlists the help of Johnny to spy on her. Applying their cloak-and-dagger craft to a domestic situation, they ‘shadow’ her in the streets of Nairobi, hack into both her phone and laptop, and retrieve her most sensitive data and photos. Admittedly, character Georgeanne is no saint. The drop-dead gorgeous go-getter’s office nick-name is ‘Commander’ (for her high-handedness) and she may or may not be having an affair with a colleague at work. But the point of the saga is how easily her husband, character Ernest, is able to unearth her private data and track her future (s)exploits. This is based on factual research information which indicates that that obtaining passwords, monitoring computer activity and retrieving photos and other data from phones and computer devices is child’s play.

‘Private investigators’ aka ‘spy guys’ used to place demure ads in the classifieds, promising to ‘track ur cheating partner’. If you’ve been reading the classifieds of late, a new dimension has been added: now they’re promising to ‘catch ur cheating spouse in the act’ or ‘send u real-time photos’. Other services include ‘Retrieving ur husband/wife’s SMSs’.



‘It is very hard to defend yourself on the Internet where the minute a conversation goes on Twitter, on Facebook, it has degenerated because you don’t know what any idiot is going to say.’ – Journalist Larry Madowo on TV’s The Trend

‘Media was invented to correct rumour. With New Media (eg. Twitter), we have brought back rumour into news.’ – Miguel Anjomaralda, Spanish writer, BBC World Service (30/03/2014)

With about 1.5 billion social network users worldwide, people are often unaware of the potential dangers.

To intelligence agencies, world gov’ts, marketing firms, and other mega data-mining organizations, Facebook and similar sites are little more than ‘registries of living persons’ which are invaluable in providing vital, wide-ranging data (name, friends, interests, affiliations, political and religious views, geographical location, personality type etc). Incidentally, this information can be used to help military forces ‘master the human domain’ (identify and neutralize supposed future enemies in sci-fi-movie fashion).

The following video discusses the risks associated with social media like Facebook as well as social media safety:

Paradoxically, there's nothing 'social' about social media. And when 'social media' is combined with mobile technology, then what you have is a societal phenomenon - unique to our age - that makes it perfectly OK to close yourself off even in the company of others. A family unit can go out to a restaurant for dinner and each member will spend the majority of time interacting with their own smartphone or iPad; nobody talking the other. Some of the worst people do go out on a date with are the ones who compulsively check their Whatsapp/Viber/Instagram pages every few minutes. How will we ever auto-correct this and get people to 'look up from their phones'?

Douglas Rushkoff is a Professor of Media Studies at Queens College (London). He is also an author and maker of  documentary films for 'FRONTLINE', the most recent of which is Generation Like, which deals with modern kids' obsession with the 'parallel universe' of so-called 'social media'. In an interview with podcast website, he says:

'You take the kids to a 5000-dollar trip, to the Rocky Mountains or some place, you know, and they're in front to the Rocky Mountains, or the desert, or the ocean and they're still on the device!...And you could say, "They're still being social, they're still being communicative", but in the end, they're not - WHAT THEY'RE DOING IS BEING ANTI-SOCIAL, they're not making the difficult effort of "Let me make friends with the other kids who are on this beach NOW", you know. "Let me make friends with all this other kids who are in Disney World, let me look at the other people who are in line"...Let's look, and see, and think and analyze...It's ultimately so much more rewarding."

In its few years of existence, 'anti-social media', for that is what is really is, has become the best platform for bragging, spreading propaganda, incitement, attacking people/communities/things you don't like etc. What heavy social media users may not be aware of is that the information they so gleefully upload about themselves is harvested, stored, mapped and analyzed by different categories of people, some of whom have already carried out successful experiments in 'mastering the human domain' ie. they know a group (even an entire country's population) so well that they can PREDICT the outbreak of such events as protests, strikes or war. This is bound to lead to more cases of 'pre-crime' or 'pre-emptive' arrests.

Here's a panel of medical doctors discussing some 'Social Media Dangers’:

And here is British author/actor Stephen Fry’s famous good-bye message to Twitter:


‘I have been buried by social media and trolled on newspapers simply for showing my real self. I posted a photo of myself without makeup. It showed my scars and everything but instead of being appreciated for showing the real me, I was bashed and called names.’ Avril Nyambura, Kenyan entertainer describes trolling as simply, ‘Being a prick on the internet because you can. Typically unleashing one or more cynical or sarcastic remarks on an innocent by-stander, because it's the internet and, hey, you can.’

In 2013, when Ms. Wangui Gitonga was crowned Miss World Kenya, a section of Kenyans on Twitter didn’t think she was optically nutritious. So, as hip-hoppers would say, they ‘went H.A.M.’ on the then 23-year-old university student, mostly targeting the size of her teeth. Sample Tweets:

@kipronoh_XA: Huyu Miss Kenya ako na tyranny of teeth hehehe

@DerylAduda: But Miss Kenya deserves her crown. She sunk her teeth into the competition and won it fairly without any teething problems

@masaku_ : I won't make fun of miss kenya for my safety i'm sure she's armed to teeth

@njiiru: Wildlife is a major tourist attraction in Kenya, Miss Kenya will be a good ambassador for that.

@masaku_: Miss Kenya is just a Madowo with a long hair.

@Dee_spicable: Miss Kenya should just 'miss' the whole event.

@masaku_ : Miss Kenya is quite hot especially if you haven't seen her yet.

@Digiriri: Miss kenya is not a beauty pageant,its a pungent it stinks.But kudos to miss kenya she fought for the crown tooth n nail

More recently, when popular Citizen TV anchor Janet Mbugua got married and some wedding photos were shared online, she was trolled by fellow Kenyans . Some of the disses:

Trizah Wanjiku: Congrats n all the best lakini on ua wedding day ungevaa bra my dea sista, the boobs letting us down.

Lucie Ir Njery: That dress is ugly and that hairdo ni ka imenyshewa. Congrats though, all the best

Joyce Munene: The wedding was too simple beyond my expectations you cannot always be perfect perfect even if she is expectant that gown is disappointment but most important it is the vow they took

Karen Muthoni Kangethe: Congrats... Na matiti zisha anguka na hujazaa This is not the Janet Mbugua wa citizen tv

She would be trolled again a few months later for continuing to anchor the evening news while visibly pregnant. Being a news person, Janet Mbugua of course came across the Tweets, such as this one: “Just wondering why Janet Mbugua must newscast in that condition. Never seen it before on Kenyan TV but me thinks it’s gross.” Her reaction:

“…At that time after a show, I was scrolling through social media to read what kind of discussion people were having about the program I had just hosted… I had sat in my car and was about to turn on the ignition but the tweet stopped me dead in my tracks. I usually pay no mind to people trolling me, that will always be there, but this was an insult to every expectant mother and I was deeply offended by his ignorance, bullying and insensitivity…” - From a blog post published Tuesday September 1, 2015.



‘Bullies are generally cowards.’
– English proverb

‘What I can say is that when you subject someone to the court of public opinion, that court is very rarely fair.’ – Ciku Muriuki, Nation FM presenter, on TV’s ‘The Trend’

'Keyboard ninjas’ are introverted or cowardly people who bravely attack others (politicians, celebrities etc)  online where they can’t be physically confronted. A good example of this is a Twitter spat a few years ago between former WWE wrestler Batista (a tattooed giant who recently switched to Mixed Martial Arts fighting) and a couple of ‘keyboard ninjas’ who questioned his toughness seeing as how pro wrestling is ‘fake’. Batista (a well-muscled former nightclub bouncer) tweeted the specific name and street address of the gym where he still works out regularly, and challenged the Twitterers to go there and repeat their comments to his face. No-one turned up at the gym.

The following fragment from my poem 'To Be the Man' is dedicated to 'keyboard ninjas':

'To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.
Instead of back-biting, why don’t you fight like a man?
Forget SMS, let’s go face to face...'

Despite being paper tigers, 'Keyboard ninjas’ CAN hurt one's feelings and have even been known to cause people, especially ladies, to delete their social media accounts.

According to a K24 TV report, 6 out of 10 women are bullied online every day, most of them between age 18 and 32. Female journalists are especially vulnerable to such attacks. One Kenyan celebrity who has been viciously attacked online but continues to remain unbowed is radio presenter Adelle Onyango. One attack on her emanated from an tiff she had with controversial male gospel artist, and another attack followed the release of a meme that compared her to a gorilla, based on the shape of her teeth:

Here's Adelle Onyango’s response to the cyber bully who compared her to a gorilla: 

‘Ever since my first stint with cyber bullying and being involved in the INUA DADA CAMPAIGN handling bullying and its effects, I have done alot of reading on it. Seeing the number of suicides linked to bullying broke my heart. Your memes/tweets etc could be the last nail in someone's ready to live with that?

And #TeamADELLE y'all are young people some of whom are being bullied is NOT a reflection of YOUR character or YOUR beauty-NO. But a reflection of the bully's DAMAGED character!’

‘Keyboard ninjas’ are a symptom of a sick society. And those who don’t believe, or are too blind to see, that ours is a society in dire need of self-correction should heed the words of the Indian philosopher J. Krishna Mijriti who wisely said: ‘To be profoundly adjusted to a sick society is no measure of health.’


‘It’s not Big Brother any more, it’s Little Snitch!’ – Comedian Robin Williams, ‘Weapons of Self-Destruction’ (comedy special)

With the kind of technology we have now, hi-tech snooping is child’s play. And it’s only gonna get worse. Now, your smartphone, TV, car, laptop and other ultra-modern electronics have features that can seriously erode your privacy and help other people monitor your movements, activities, and habits (For more on this, see: Samsung hacking scandal, Intel motherboard backdoors, smartphone backdoors, identity theft, mobile Stingray systems, false mobile transmitters, Orwellian legislation like CISPA and CISA, military programs like Jade Helm 15, Uber taxis, et al). The song 'Spies' by Coldplay is chillingly apt for the Internet age.


‘In less than a month, my phone text messages and calls were being loudly discussed by the Kenyan-Arab neighbours and their house help downstairs. Then came indications of computer-hacking: my bank statements, personal information, etc., were loudly discussed, I got security alerts from yahoo of hacking attempts they caught.’Temo Buliro, author

‘The greatest threat to the world today is a keyboard. In the past, it may have been nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction. Today, we see that same level of capability being exercised by lone individuals using keyboards as opposed to bombs.’ – Sean McGurk, IT expert at Verizon, ‘Hackers – How They Steal Money’ (documentary)

On August 31, 2014, a collection of hundreds of private pictures of various celebrities, almost all of them women, and most containing nudity, were posted on the imageboard 4chan, and later disseminated by other users on websites like TheFappening and social networks such as Imgur and Reddit. The images were believed to have been obtained via phishing of Apple's cloud services suite cloud . The celebrities adversely affected by the phone-hacking scandal included my celebrity crush, Sarah Michelle Gellar (TV’s The Crazy Ones), who had this to say about the fiasco:
‘I just don’t know how they (the hackers) can go home and look in the mirror and think they’ve done something good today. That’s the part I don’t understand, I don’t care if they are just leaking someone’s vacation pictures, or any pictures, it does not matter - it is not yours. We wouldn’t be applauding someone who went into a store and stole something. I just don’t understand it at all.’

Other victims included actress Kaley Cuoco (TV’s Big Bang Theory), actress Kirstubrey Plaza, Avril Lavigne, Farrah Abraham, Selena Gomez, Mary Kate Olsen, Meagan Good, and Hillary Duff.

News of the World was a British tabloid newspaper that closed in 2011 - after 168 years of publication - amid a hacking scandal. Employees of the newspaper were accused of engaging in phone hacking and obtaining illicit information by bribing police officers and exercising improper influence on politicians and the police. The results of investigations conducted from 2005-2007 reached the verdict that the practice of phone hacking was limited to celebrities, politicians and members of the British Royal Family. However, it was revealed that the tabloid may have illegally accessed the phones of victims of the 7/7 London terrorist bombings, relatives of deceased British soldiers, and a murdered schoolgirl.

Kenya is no stranger to hacking incidents:

In 2012, according the the Business Daily, 103 Kenya government websites were taken down by an Indonesian hacker going by the name 'Direxer'.

In 2013, according to K24 TV, the Central Bank of Kenya website was hacked.

In 2014, Kenyan police discovered a nest of suspected Chinese hackers holed up in a posh Nairobi suburb. They were believed to be part of a cross-border telecommunications fraud group:

In April 2016, announced that the infamous 'hacktivist' group known as Anonymous had stolen 1 terabyte of data from Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and leaked some of it to the Dark Web (a more secretive part of the World Wide Web that can be be accessed via the Tor Onion browser). According to news website, the ICT Cabinet Secretary, Joe Mucheru, admitted that some Foreign Ministry officers were tricked into giving away their passwords through a 'phishing' scam:

“The said hackers were able to send the email to the ministry, and some of the people in the ministry actually responded. They clicked and changed their credentials. And some of the ones who were affected then sent emails to everybody else as spam,” Mr Mucheru said in an interview in Nairobi. “As a result then, they were able to access some of the documents. But most of the documents are classified open. They never got any classified documents.” (Full article here:

The Nation also had an interesting story, in 2015, of a planned Kenya gov't acquisition of monitoring/surveillance technology from Italy but the deal fell through:

Elsewhere, the Ugandan Ministry of Finance, a Rwandan government-owned IT company , a Tanzanian telecom firm and a South African job portal were all recently hacked into. According to, Kenya loses about USD $23 million annually through cyber crime.

Individual Kenyans who have been affected by hacking include author Temo Buliro (You can read her story here:

And if news organizations and even private citizens can hack into other people’s private data so easily, then imagine what the ‘alphabet agencies’ (CIA, NSA, FBI, GCHQ etc) are capable of! Futurist George Orwell may have been an optimist.


‘It wasn’t a woman who betrayed Jesus with a kiss.’ -  Catherine Canswell

For anyone interested in semantics, terms like ‘revenge porn’ trigger alarm bells because we suspect that they are being used to justify (or ‘whitewash’) atrocities. Other deceptive terms used in the past include ‘ethnic cleansing’ (instead of ‘genocide’), 'corrective rape’ (used in SA to justify the rape of suspected lesbians) and  ‘spreading democracy’ (attacking weaker nations in order to depose their leaders).

The term 'revenge porn' is currently being used to make the release of the naked pictures and videos of one's ex's acceptable. Blogs that publish such pics will sometimes begin with a heading the in the vein, 'Guy Leaks Girlfriend's Nudes After She Cheated on Him' or 'Dumped Man Releases Ex's Nudes in Revenge'. As if being dumped gives you the right to destroy somebody else's life.

Kenyan singer Karen Lucas aka 'Kaz' was probably the first Kenyan public figure - 'Patient Zero' - to have her privacy and career destroyed via the Internet. When a slew of images of her naked body surfaced, online 'social media' was in embryo so the photos were widely circulated via e-mail. A newspaper wag joked that he was sure Kaz wished her music was in as high circulation as her nudes. A letter allegedly from Kaz appeared in the media, asking people to delete, not forward, the pics. Although it didn't identify the culprit, it did contain the words 'karma is a bitch', supposedly lampooning the person who leaked the images. (By calling a halt to the distribution of the pics, Kaz unwittingly became a victim of 'The Streisand Effect' which is described later on in this article). Kaz tried to move on with her life and music career, but when was the last time you heard her music on radio or saw her name on the charts? For someone so talented and who had so brilliantly represented Kenya in the continental 'Project Fame' contest, I seriously doubt that hosting 'karaoke nites' at K1 Klubhouse was her ultimate dream. In an interview with TV's short-lived The Woman Show, Kaz admitted that the release of the pics was devastating and she had cloistered herself in the house. Luckily, a friend of hers went over and comforted in order to keep her from entertaining dark thoughts.

There is parallel between Kaz and once-popular Hong Kong singer Gillian Chung (one half of a band called 'Twins') who was one of the many - and I do mean many - girls who were exposed by the infamous - and I do mean infamous - Edison Chen Sex Scandal. Although she publicly apologized, Gillian Chung's career and character suffered greatly: she was dropped from performing at the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, edited out of two movies, and had her promotional events cancelled. Her subsequent television appearance on TV's Jade Solid Gold triggered over 1,200 complaints to the Hong Kong Broadcasting Authority. She withdrew from public life for more than a year and later confessed to having contemplated suicide.

Another early victim of Internet-based malice was a beauty queen who was simply referred to as 'Miss USIU' on the blogosphere. Her nudes were even more explicit than those of Kaz. According to one TV magazine show, the girl had left her flash disk - containing nudes taken by her boyfriend - in a computer lab, and somebody else found it and giddily shared the loot (Incidentally, Edison Chen's nude pics were discovered when he took his laptop to for repairs. The scandal that resulted was so massive that the Chinese gov't threatened to arrest anyone caught distributing the pics, thus triggering The Streisand Effect). I once saw the so-called 'Miss USIU' on a TV youth-targeted show where she talked about her projects as a beauty pageant winner. After the scandal, I never saw her anywhere, in any form of media, and I doubt that she even lives in the country any more. I call it this ‘Death by Internet’ – the inability to function normally in the physical world following online assassination of your character.

Locally famous victims of nude / slut shaming include:

-    Singer/actress Kaz (Kenya)
-    Socialite Risper Faith (Kenya)
-    Singer Desire Luzinda (Uganda)
-    Singer Cindy Sanyu of Blu3 (Uganda)
-    Socialite Vanessa Chettle (Kenya)
-    TV presenter Anita Fabiola (Uganda)
-    TV presenter Kleith Kyatuhaire (Uganda)
-    Businesswoman/socialite Zari “The boss lady” (Uganda)
-    Sportswoman Janet Wanja (Kenya)

Ruth Komuntale, a ravishing beauty, is a princess from the Tooro Kingdom of Uganda. A few years ago, she married an African-American man called Christopher Thomas in a storybook wedding fit for royals. (Her husband was given the title of 'Duke'). In 2013, things fell apart: the marriage ended and semi-nude selfies Ruth Komuntale (allegedly for an illicit lover) hit the Ugandan blogosphere. It was widely believed that Thomas leaked the scandalous photos but he never claimed responsibility for it. According to one Ugandan blog, 'Princess Komuntale brought embarrassment to the Tooro kingdom and they had to issue an apology on the matter.'

Also in Uganda, Anita Fabiola, who hosted the popular Be My Date show on NTV Uganda, lost her glamorous media job after her sexy nude selfies leaked online. The photos were leaked by a blackmailer who demanded about Ksh 1.5 million in order to delete them. Her sentiments (posted on social media):

‘The last week hasn’t been easy; no woman would like to show her body to complete strangers. Much as I am a victim, I feel like I have let you down.’ 

Cindy Sanyu is a lanky Ugandan singer and former member of the popular all-girl band, Blu3. She made headlines when her nude pictures, for which she had posed for her then boyfriend, were published by the tabloid Red Pepper and later distributed online. She reportedly fainted when she first heard of the leak. In an interview with Kenya's SDE entertainment website, Cindy said:  

'...before they leaked, I had lost my camera and I didn’t report it to the police because I didn’t think much about it and I think whoever got the camera leaked them. A week before they were published, one of the writers from Ugandan tabloid Red Pepper called me asking for money or else they would publish the photos. I wouldn’t pay them so they went ahead and published them.'

History would repeat itself some years later when the nude pics of curvaceous Ugandan singer Desire Luzinda hit the interwebs and went viral on the Whatsapp mobile platform. Uganda police pursued her under a law that forbids the 'distribution of pornographic material' (even though she was clearly the victim, not the perpetrator!). She alleged that a former boyfriend circulated her nude pictures for 'revenge' purposes.


In 2014, Thabiso Phiri, won the title of Miss World-Zimbabwe. Barely a month later, her nude pics were leaked online, making her drop from the limelight (This is believed to be the shortest reign by a beauty queen EVER). Believe it or not, the exact same thing happened in the exact same country the next year: beauty queen Emily Kachote was sworn in as Miss World-Zimbabwe, nude pictures were released online (allegedly by 'a bitter former lover'), shame followed. The girl was 'dethroned' by the pageant owners. Death by Internet.

Elsewhere in the world, phenomenally popular Mixed Martial Arts champion, Ronda Rousey, recently surprised (and tantalised) MMA fans worldwide when she posed nude for ESPN magazine. Since Ronda was at the top of her game (and virtually on top of the world), the sudden decision to pose nude for a magazine seemed odd (fading or unknown entertainers/sportswomen have been known to turn to nudes or even porn in order to get back into the spotlight). Ronda would later reveal the backstory, which was that - unbeknownst to her - her ex-boyfriend had a habit of taking pictures of her when she was nude (lying on the bed, brushing her teeth etc). He especially had a fetish for her butt. One day, she was using his laptop to access Facebook and she discovered the images for the first time. They had a fight and later broke up. She then feared that he would leak the nude pics so she beat him to the punch, so to speak, by finding a way to release her own nudes in a manner that she could control and benefit from. She talks about her decision in this video:

Elsewhere, Kaitlyn Bristowe, the centerpiece of Season 11 of TV's The Bachelorette reality show, was viciously slut-shamed on Twitter for having sex with just ONE of the bachelors she was considering for marriage:


‘Newsflash / They tryin’ to get all up in yo ass / Pornography  done with no class' - Us3, 'Lie, Cheat & Steal' (rap song)

There are many ways for women to meet marriageable men, and a large number of Kenyan women in search of mzungu lovers/husbands appear to think that the best way is via dating sites like Since they are so geographically distanced, the online daters will often exchange photos and other information via e-mail. Some women even send nude or semi-nude images to these strangers. As inevitably as hot air rises, those photos are now turning up on the x-rated parts of the blogosphere.Not only is it risky to send indecent images of yourself to strangers online, it is risky to give them any kind of private information (where you live, where you work, your family members etc). Some of these people could be posers (using a false identity) and could use your information/details to blackmail you (eg. if you're married) or provide content for x-rated blogs. And even if the other daters on the website are normal people genuinely interested in relationships that could stand the test of time, let the Ashley Madison hack be a warning that the information you place on dating sites cannot be protected - even by the website owners.

'Amateur porn' differs from porn proper in that the people involved are not professional pornographers. Often they are young girls who are lured into making a sextape (usually one-off) by the offer of money or other means of persuasion, or are unaware that the sex act is being filmed (especially for an audience).

The best-known brand in amateur porn is probably 'Girls Gone Wild', a video franchise created by American Joe Francis. Joe's film crew traverses the US in branded trailers, looking for nubile young women who would be willing to 'go wild' (usually to flash their boobs). Interacting with college-age girls (the first name Joe dreamt up was actually 'College Girls Gone Wild') at parties, clubs, or other events, the film crew urge revelers to take off their clothes, engage in sexual activities (inside the trailer), or participate in wet T-shirt contests. They later sign 'releases' that allow the resulting films to be commercially distributed.

From the start, the videos caught on like wildfire and Joe Francis (b 1973) gained the image of an ultra-successful young 'entrepreneur'. He lived in a swanky mansion and owned a fleet of luxury cars. Estimates of his net worth varied greatly (especially after he lost much of his fortune due to legal troubles) but at one time most punters pegged his wealth at around 150 million dollars. He was arrested and spent several months in jail for casting an under-age girl in one of his videos. On his release, he appeared on TV's The Tyra Banks Show. The host asked him whether he considers what he does an exploitation of naive girls, since he makes millions while 'all they get is a ('Girls Gone Wild') t-shirt'. Joe denied any wrongdoing and has continued with his video empire (One website calls him 'the king of soft core porn'). He is currently embroiled in legal tussles that include tax evasion and disobeying a court order.

I will concede that many girls who end up on amateur porn sites are 'consenting adults' but I believe that their actions are taken before careful thought (or when they are in a vulnerable state eg. broke). An elderly lady on the Oprah Winfrey Show once narrated how, in a spur-of-the-moment decision to do something crazy, she had a professional photographer take x-rated pictures of her. She later regretted the decision and tried to get the pictures back but the camera man refused, saying that she had already consented to their exploitation and he owned the copyright to them.

For the 'pretty young things' just out of high school, sure the freedom following prison-like high-school life can tempt you try some 'wild' stuff, like video-recorded sexcapades, but can you imagine the ribbing your children will get, 10 or so years down the line, when their fellow school kids discover that their classmates’ mom has a sex tape online? Imagine how the other parents will regard you during parents-teachers meetings!


'The thing that's got it all f**ked up now is camera-phones. How the hell am I supposed to be able to do a line in front of complete strangers, when I know they've all got cameras?' - The Streets, ‘When You Wasn't Famous’ (rap song)

With the Internet awash with pornography, it's hard to see why there would be a market for upskirts (low angle shots of the underwear of women in skirts/dresses) and other non-nude but compromising or undignified photos, but there are always perverts afloat. Female celebrities are especially vulnerable to this 'panty cameramen' eg. when stepping out of vehicles. What exacerbates the issue of unsanctioned shots (or secret video/audio-recordings) is that, due to the proliferation of mobile phones, there is camera in every room nowadays.

A recent Tweet I came across on Twitter:

Ancilla ‏@ncilla: I just saw a girl falling off her bike really hard. Her boyfriend - I kid you not - pulls out his phone and starts taking pics.


First, a definition of 'keyloggers', from

'A keylogger is a piece of software — or, even scarier, a hardware device — that logs every key you press on your keyboard. It can capture personal messages, passwords, credit card numbers, and everything else you type. Keyloggers are generally installed by malware, but they may also be installed by protective parents, jealous spouses, or employers who want to monitor their employees. Hardware keyloggers are perfect for corporate espionage.'

Keyloggers must be the Devil’s own software. This 'shadowing' software records every key you type (including non-characters like hitting Enter, Backspace, Delete, or the Space Bar) and can send the 'logs' to a remote computer via e-mail, FTP or other network protocol. Some of them will even take secret screenshots of your monitor as you work. Keyloggers can be installed in both computers and smartphones and are used by some private detectives to retrieve SMS's, chats and other keyed-in data from smartphones (Once the software is installed in a computer or phone, the spy can just sit back and wait for scheduled reports of everything you do on that device to come to him, wherever he might be.)

More about keyloggers from Kaspersky Lab:

'Additionally, any legitimate keylogging program can still be used with malicious or criminal intent. Today, keyloggers are mainly used to steal user data relating to various online payment systems, and virus writers are constantly writing new keylogger Trojans for this very purpose...Unlike other types of malicious program, keyloggers present no threat to the system itself. Nevertheless, they can pose a serious threat to users, as they can be used to intercept passwords and other confidential information entered via the keyboard. As a result, cyber criminals can get PIN codes and account numbers for e-payment systems, passwords to online gaming accounts, email addresses, user names, email passwords etc.' - Nikolay Grebennikov, 

When most people are installing software on their mobile phones or computers, they don't bother to read the 'Terms and Conditions' contained in the End User License Agreements (EULAs) that appear at the beginning of the installation process. EULAs can contain fine print that seriously compromises your privacy or otherwise takes advantage of you. Sneaky/dangerous terms include:
- The app can read/harvest all your data
- The app can manipulate your data or phone features (like the microphone or camera)
- We own/co-own the content you share on our service/platform
- You may not sue the app makers/owners via a class action suit
- Terms and Conditions can change at any time and without notice
- You may not criticize this product publicly

Free software is especially suspicious. The reality is that you always pay - either with your money or with your privacy/data. A software product I have always been suspicious of is TrueCaller - a mobile phone app that identifies people who call your cellphone, even if they're not in your contact list. It's too good to be free. So I did a bit of research and just, as I thought, it's dangerous to personal privacy. Here are some insights from an article entitled, 'Don't install Truecaller app on you mobile handsets':

'What the app doesn’t tell you, unless you read the detailed terms of service, is that these numbers then become part of a publicly searchable database. So every time a user downloads the app, his entire phone book becomes part of a public database without the consent of the people who own those numbers. The app’s database, essentially, is a giant, collective phone book...This practice of harvesting phone books is dubious.'

And here's a user complaining about the product, on a personal blog:

'I wonder how many people have been using this application and losing all their personal contact database. Well on a serious note Truecaller is very dangerous app, because all the data of your mobile is easily accessible by the app makers, that could even include your saved passwords, emails, etc'

For more information on this subject, here's a PDF document entitled, 'Software License Agreements: Ignore at Your Own Risk':



‘Yeah, she’s alright, just going through her day
People speak so much trash, throwing words around,
There’s so much she could say
That’s not her way
…No, people, that’s not her way’
EELS, ‘That’s Not Her Way’ (song)

'The Streisand Effect' is a situation where you try to censor or suppress something (photos, a rumour, an article etc) but your efforts actually achieve the exact opposite effect (especially online). This usually happens if you're more famous, powerful or media-worthy than your adversary.

The 'Streisand Effect' is named after American singer/actress Barbra Streisand. A super-rich and ultra-famous celebrity, Ms.Streisand is also notorious for her reclusiveness. In 2003, an environmental group that was taking aerial photos of the Malibu, California, coastline (to document coastal erosion) happened to take a picture of her sprawling mansion. The thousands of images they took were then placed on a website. Streisand sued the photographer for a whooping $50 million, saying that the aerial shot of her residence compromised her security and privacy. Before she kicked up a fuss, the photo had been downloaded only six times, and two of those times were by her own lawyers. But when she pointed it out to the judge, the picture was downloaded an additional 400,000 times, picked up by the Associated Press and reprinted by countless newspapers. And she lost the lawsuit. Sometimes it's better to leave things alone.

A good example of 'The Streisand Effect' was seen in the recent attempt by Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) to censor a YouTube video entitled, 'Same Love' which depicts mild homosexual situations. Until KFCB's CEO Ezekiel Mutua made a stringent call for Google to delete the video, few people (myself included) were even aware of its existence. KFCB's controversial, media-centric campaign against the music video helped it garner mainstream media attention, enviable blogosphere coverage and over 250,000 YouTube views. According to entertainment website Ghafla!: 'Kenya Film Classification Board’s (KFCB) ban on ‘Same Love (Remix)’ has turned out to be more of a blessing than a curse.'

Other victims of 'The Streisand Effect' include:
- Entertainer Kaz (for calling for an end to the distribution of her nude pics)
- DJ Crème De La Crème (for apologizing for his sextape with one Halima Nassir, hence verifying the clip's authenticity)

Those who have wisely avoided 'The Streisand Effect' include:

- Singer Amani (Not commenting on her alleged Ugandan upskirt)
- Former BBA contestant Ann Mbaru (Denying, not to convincingly, that her supposed nude photos/video were genuine)

The Raya Wambui case is an example of a cyber-based character assassination. Circa 2014, a blog juxtaposed images of the light-skinned Raya with nude images of a plus-size model and alleged that the Spoken Word artist had released nude pics in search of fame. A few other blogs repeated the fake news and pics. The thing is that the alleged nudes bear the name of the photographer and Googling  it, reveals that he is a foreign photographer who had undertaken a nude pic project with willing plus-size models. Because, I didn't know Raya back when the first blog articles appeared, I thought they were true, which means that there are others who believed it, too. I don't know WHY anyone would want to defame someone they don't even know (What has she ever done to YOU?). She's a beauteous, talented and popular Nairobi artiste. If she was desperate for fame, she could have released better nudes than those and set the blogosphere on fire. But, clearly, that's not her way.


‘In this time of immense difficulty, I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to those who have stood by me in this trying time. My family, friends, Ntv and my loving fans. I guarantee that it was not my intention that those pictures be circulated and that my privacy be poured out for whoever cares to see. I have been blackmailed before for having nude photos and relentlessly pursued the blackmailers sure I had never posed for any. Unknown to me, photos that I took years ago, alone, in private, with no intention of sharing somehow got into the hands of those that published them...’ - Kleith Kyatuhaire,  Style Project presenter on NTV (Uganda), after her nude pics leaked online

To IT experts, one of the most amusing things that laymen do with computers is 'delete' files by sending them to the Recycle Bin, and then assume that that particular file is gone for good. Some users go the extra mile of 'Emptying the Recycle Bin', but that is also a joke. Generally speaking, computer data is never deleted. Even if your Hard Disk is 'formatted', the previous data (photos, documents and even viruses) can still be brought back. What work do you think 'data recovery' companies do? If there is no physical damage to the hard disk, deleted data should be 100% per cent recoverable.

Data is written on your computer hard disk drive (HDD) using magnetic principles. Think of the HDD as a giant spread sheet. When data is added to a cell, it is given a name and that name is added to an index, along with a link to the particular cell. When data is 'deleted', the index entry is removed and the related cell is marked as 'available space' BUT THE DATA IS NOT ACTUALLY ERASED. Photo/data recovery software - and there is plenty of it out there, free and commercial - simply reads what is on the cells, ignoring what is in the current index. If you handle sensitive data (eg. you are a gov't department, bank, insurance/financia/medical/security company) or you have confidential information. Never sell or dispose of old computers while the HDDs are still in them. Remove the HDD, install a brand new one and then sell or give away the machine.

There are some software products that make data recovery difficult by 'shredding' it (splicing it and scattering the pieces all over the magnetic surface) or by overwritting user data with hundreds of layers of automatically-generated 'garbage' data (like someone painting over a wall many times so that you won't be able to figure out its original colour). Such 'eraser' software is ultimatley more secure than pressing 'Delete' on your keyboard but to trully get rid of the data, you would have to destroy the disk, eg. by crushing it to bits or throwing it into an inferno.

The Internet makes things harder to delete - by design. The interwebs are supposed to secure data. One of the earliest adopters of the Internet was the Pentagon (the US Department of Defence). During the Cold War, there was a very real threat of nuclear war. The Pentagon loved the idea of this large network that could keep data safe. Even if you nuked a Pentagon facility in one town, all the data it contained could still be available at another location (eg. in another building, town, state or even country). On some social media networks, if you delete data, it becomes invisible to you but is retained on their servers. Some retain your data, legally, even if you delete your entire account.

We are living in an age where ‘everything is your CV’ – your old texts, calls, online posts, videos, photos, comments, speeches etc can came back to haunt you. Some potential employers (and staffing agencies)  now scan job applicants’ social media accounts for a glimpse into their real personalities. So, if you have sex tapes, scandals, a rap sheet or nude pics online, the future might not  be very bright for you.

Some advice from entertainment website

‘Many people rush to pull down their Social Media Accounts like Ethel Nabyeya but this does not reduce the effect as the damage is at most times already done. Once these pictures are out there, they are on the internet forever so think twice before sharing anything with your “so called close friends”.

According to, Kleith Kyatuhaire lost her TV job following the leak of her nudes. ‘The former T-Nation presenter was in line for a new contract but the station has opted not renew it because of the nude photo scandal. She has also had her station’s ID deactivated,’ the entertainment news website reported.


-    Don’t use the same password across platforms
-    Cannot be your phone number, nick-name, QWERTY, numbers 1 to 6, or common words like 'Jesus' etc

- Use the mouse whenever you can (keylogger software doesn't record mouse-clicks).
-    Give the keylogger garbage. For example, if you password is  FoxyLady, start by typing some random stuff like 2343546Jim823Mary and then highlight that with the mouse, and type the correct password over it. even if someone uses a keylogger, they are unlikey to figure out which part ofthe data string (2343546Jim823MaryFoxyLady) is the password!


‘We know that cyber security is an important concern for every organisation. Daily occurrences demonstrate the risk posed by cyber attackers – from individual hackers to professional cyber criminals. The management of any organisation face the task of ensuring that their organisations understand the threat and set the right priorities. This is no easy task in light of the technical jargon involved and the pace of change. Non-specialists can find it difficult to know where to start, to focus on what is important.’– ‘The Five Most Common Cybersecurity Mistakes: Management’s Perspective on Cyber Security’ by KPMG

Forewarned is forearmed, so learn as much as possible about the possible dangers of your information systems and how they can be countered. Below are some online resources:

-    Mozilla vs Mass Surveillance:

-    Mozilla on how online tracking works:

-    The five most common cyber security mistakes (PDF) by KPMG Advisory N.V (free download)

-    How journalists can use encryption to protect their sources and themselves (video):

-    The importance of online privacy (video):

-    Watch security documentaries/lectures online (

-    Read software terms and conditions for Web and Mobile phone apps


‘This is a Kodak moment / Let me get my camera’
– Ray J, ‘Sexy Can I?’ (rap song)

A couple of years ago, a brief sex tape of a Kenyan vernacular station employee having a bedroom romp with a curvy (but less-than-enthusiastic) intern from the same station surfaced online and briefly went viral (as you can guess from the foregoing paragraphs, the video is still floating in cyberspace).  At the end of the action, evidently filmed using a laptop, the intern is allegedly heard telling the man, ‘Now, delete (the video) as I see’. Either, the man didn’t delete the video or he simply sent it into the Recycle Bin and retrieved it later, because it still leaked online and - to their eternal embarrassment - both participants’ faces are reportedly clearly visible.

Let this be a lesson to ladies out there: If your boyfriend insists on making a ‘home movie’ of the pornographic kind, offer to direct and produce – he can be the solo star. The reason I say that is because once the recording is done, it is very hard to protect it. Deletion is a myth, just like online security is an illusion. Before Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian made the scene, Canadian actress and global sex symbol Pamela Anderson was the undisputed queen of sex tapes. What most people don’t know is that the first sex tape of her (featuring sex sessions with husband Tommy Lee) was actually stolen following a break-in at their home (the couple had shot the footage while on their honeymoon). Her own words:

‘I've never seen it (the world-famous sex tape). I made not one dollar. It was stolen property. We made a deal to stop all the shenanigans…I was seven months pregnant with (my son) Dylan and thinking it was affecting the pregnancy with the stress and said, 'I'm not going to court

The lesson we must learn from this is that even if your lover doesn’t leak your confidential photos/videos, they could still end up in the wrong hands via accident, theft or misfortune. The only sure-fire way to avoid nude leaks is not to take ‘nudies’, EVER!

According to McAfee Security software founder, eccentric millionaire John McAfee, ‘Online security is an illusion’:



‘Keep your eyes awake and don’t make that mistake / For it begins with love then turns into hate / And ends in the hands of the magistrate.’Lord Kitchener, ’Magistrate’ (Calypso)

According to Privacy International, 'Kenya is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 17 of the ICCPR, which reinforces Article 12 of the UDHR, provides that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation”.

But according to the Kenyan Constitution, there are situations under which your privacy may be compromised by the gov't. Privacy International:

'However, several recent legal developments have eroded protections against surveillance and expanded the intelligence and law enforcement agencies' interception powers...These acts (The 2012 National Intelligence Service Act, The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2012 and The Security Laws Amendment Act 2014) have been presented as a positive tool to tackle threats to national security in view of the 2013 terrorist attack on the Westgate shopping mall, and Al Shabaab attacks in Mandera in 2014 and Garissa University in 2015.'

Liz Lenjo is an advocate of the high court and partner at Kikao Law firm who specializes in Intellectual Property law, Entertainment, Sports and Media Law. Below is an excerpt from a Bloggers Association of Kenya article on one of her talks:

“Most bloggers and users of social media do not know the kind of defamation suits that they may get from what they publish”, she said. “Slander results from oral untruths. Libel entails published untruths or harmful statements to one’s reputation”, she explained.

“It does not matter whether your source was another blog or a publication. If you publish damaging statements, you are liable for a defamation suit”, she informed us. “The best thing to do is to verify sources of your information, to make sure you are libel free”, she concluded

(Full article available here:

If you are a victim of cyber crime, reporting to the police is of course an option but it is also wise to consult IT professionals in order to get a grip on the nature of the crime (Were you hacked remotely? Does your computer contain spyware? Were you a victim of 'phishing'? etc) In the case of Kobi Kihara's online parody account, Kobi consulted both an IT expert and the police. the perpetrator was then nabbed following a 'sting' operation. Cyber laws in Kenya are not very comprehensive and certain cases might be difficult to prosecute. Also, some cyber-crimes (like hacking) can be conducted across borders, further complicating the investigation and litigation process.

Journalist John Walubengo, writing in The Nation

'Additionally, security training, and more training, is necessary. It does not matter how sophisticated or expensive your security system is if your staff keep falling for common and emerging social engineering (phishing) tricks.

Training should also be extended to the Judiciary and law enforcement. Without an up-to-date judicial system, enacting the pending Data Protection and Cybercrime Acts would be futile, since most hackers would be acquitted for ‘lack of digital evidence’


‘The Internet is the world’s biggest spying machine.’ – Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder

People are easily scared. Fear is a great motivator because it is tied to your survival INSTINCTS. So very long ago, manipulators and propagandists discovered that you can make people give up anything (their money, privacy, rights, freedoms etc) if you scare them sufficiently. This has led to the rise of media-driven fear-mongering, 'false flag' operations, religious extremism, random terrorist strikes and other fear-inducing acts as a means of persuasion. The current bogeyman is 'terrorism', especially by Islamic fundamentalists. But, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics, you are more likely to be killed by a cow or a bolt of lightning than by 'Islamic terror'.

When privacy advocates oppose unfettered surveillance, they are usually told: 'If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear (from the loss of privacy)'. That line was actually conceived by none other than Joseph Goebbels - Adolf Hitler's infamous Minister for Propaganda. (Another Goebbels classic is 'A lie repeated a thousand times becomes the truth.') Those if-you-having-nothing-to-hide people are adopting Nazi propaganda techniques. If someone tells you that they don't mind Big Brother surveillance, then ask them to give you their e-mail address and password, mobile phone number and pin number and, Credit/Debit Card number and password. If they decline, then tell them: 'I thought you had NOTHING TO HIDE'. Requiring a modicum of privacy doesn't make you a potential terrorist, it makes you normal. Taking a crap, peeing and making love are all natural things. But if you were to crap on your desk at work, pee in the middle of the street or make love on a park bench, you'd be arrested or sent to a lunatic asylum. Privacy is - or should be - a fundamental human right. As US President Benjamin Franklin once said: 'Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.'

In the famous video below, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden ‘drops a dime’ on massive, state-sponsored surveillance:

And here’s the link a great TED talk (Mikko Hypponen in Belgium) on the ‘surveillance state’:

In December 2013, more than 500 of the world's leading authors, including five Nobel Prize winners, signed a petition condemning the massive state surveillance practices revealed by NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden. They warned that spy agencies are undermining democracy and must be curbed by a new international charter.

Along those lines, here's a message from Privacy International, a human rights 'watchdog' organization that focuses on privacy intrusions by government and businesses: 'Are you a lawyer? An activist? A journalist? A doctor, teacher, parent, student, researcher, politician, or citizen? Communications surveillance affects you. This video is a high level overview of communications surveillance':


‘Women I love and honour, for they are the life carrier
Hail Empress Omega, the mother of Rastafari's culture
Give Ises to the King and his Empress Menen
Who showed us the right and the true way of living’

‘We really need the men in Hip Hop culture…Particularly those who are revolutionary in mind, and the pioneers of the culture, and the elders. We need the men to say enough is enough…We now need men, real men, to stand up and say No to violence against women; say No to rape culture; say No to rape. And that’s how we begin to particularly influence the young people…Let’s have a conversation about it, but let’s do something about it, and let’s end this violence-against-women culture.’Rosa Clemente, Hip Hop Activist and Journalist

Kenyan-born singer and Chocolate City artiste, Victoria Kimani recently went on a rant on social media concerning the manner in which female artistes are perceived by the masses. I believe there’s some merit to her sentiments, especially where entertainers are concerned. Here’s part of what she posted:
‘People need to start respecting female entertainers, presenters, actors, artists, models, dancers, business women, PR, managers, PAs, singers, stylists, DJs, designers…and generally all positions in the entertainment field in Africa… It’s complicated. Just because I am singing to you in a cute outfit on stage and on your TV does not make me a prostitute.’ (Full article:

When criminal events such as the ones described in this analysis occur, the knee-jerk reaction is always: 'We need more/tighter laws!' I am vehemently opposed to this. I don't believe that it is laws that keep people in line. For example, we have very strict laws against murder, theft, corruption and rape, but have you ever opened a newspaper that did not contain those crimes? It's not about 'more laws', it about getting to the root of the matter and preventing the circumstances that foster criminal activity, that make it inevitable.

The father of sociology, Emile Durkheim, famously said, 'When mores are sufficient, laws are unnecessary; when mores are insufficient, laws are unenforceable.' ('Mores' are the cultural values and customs of a community). We don't NEED more laws, or, God forbid, more surveillance, we need to change our culture; to return to our core moral values. There's nothing moral about posting a girl's nude photos online, destroying her life via the Internet, just because you happened to stumble upon her lost phone or flash disk. We, Kenyans, need to have conversations - all across the country - about the kind of society we want to live in. I don't have all the answers, but I have seen enough to convince me that we are a culture in decline, not in ascent. The technology that could have brought us closer - Internet/social media - is the number one weapon of hate speech and divisive tribal propaganda.

But we can change the culture, starting with where we live and work. For example, HR managers and staffers often talk of an 'office culture' ie. work environments often differ from one organization to another - some employees might dress very formally and maintain library-like silence while others have a loose dress code and are rowdy at work. I have been to offices where smartphones, handbags and even cash are left unattended on desktops with no resultant complaints, and I have been to office premises downtown where if you place your phone a desktop, it will immediately vanish. Along the same lines, there are estates IN NAIROBI  where people don't lock their doors when they leave the house (I've seen this with my own eyes) but in most Nairobi estates, that would be unthinkable! Sure, the crime-free estates are gated but that's beside the point. When I lived in Lang'ata, for example (Onyonka Estate), you had to keep your personal gate padlocked and your front door shut at all times. The crime rate was alarmingly high. I opened a video game centre nearby and it was soon robbed, along with two neighbouring shops (One at gunpoint). Another time, a family in the nearby Southlands Estate was having a party when two armed men stormed in, robbed the guests, herded them into one bedroom, and then sat in the living room - waiting for more guests to arrive! (And both Onyonka and Southlands are gated estates).

It's not even a matter of 'class' or wealth. A lot of people have been attacked, robbed or murdered in posh areas like Nyari, Kitisuru and Runda. It's about the 'culture' that exists, either on a small scale or at a national level. To illustrate, there is an interesting sequence of scenes in Michael Moore's Academy Award-winning documentary Bowling for Columbine, where the US filmmaker is in neighbouring Canada (Ontario in particular) when he is told that people there 'leave their doors unlocked'. Unbelieving, Moore goes from house to house testing the doors and finding them unlocked! Canada also has an extremely low rate of gun crime despite a very high gun ownership rate. To them, guns are for hunting, not for shooting each other (Unlike in next door America where gun crime is damn near a national pastime). It's about culture.  

Finally, I have an example of a 'culture' that is uniquely Kenyan, that we created - 'Matatu Culture' aka 'Matatu Madness'. Other countries don't have our colourful brand of public transport vehicles, with the combined elements of graffiti, urban slang, thug-like conductors, machismo, a disregard of traffic rules, and thumping music. WE CREATED THIS CULTURE. Other countries are fascinated by 'matatu culture'. One BBC report described a Kenyan 'matatu' as 'a cross between a sports car and a disco'. External news organizations like  SABC, CCTV and BBC have aired features about our 'mathrees' - they are unique to us. And just like there are elements of 'matatu culture' that much of the population now wants to change (misogyny, ear-splitting decibel levels, vehicle and crew hygiene etc), there are elements of our 'Internet culture' that we will have to address, before we all become victims of the World Wide Web.

I leave you with this great quote that I recently came across:



Alexander Nderitu is Kenyan e-book pioneer and the Deputy-Secretary General of PEN Kenya Centre. Website:

Legal notice: Lyrics and blog/book excerpts are sampled here in accordance with Kenyan ‘Fair Dealing’ laws (Category: ‘Research’)

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