By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
When they are not caught on television cameras cutting each other down, the way a skilled harvester slashes stems of sugarcane, their menfolk are seen harassing their own-business-minding womenfolk. On several occasions, the country has tottered on the brink of civil strife. Once, Ghana’s former United Nations’ Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, had to rush in to stanch the sort of obscene bloody messs widely associated with the country’s liberation struggle against British colonial domination in the 1940s and 50s, in what became globally known as the Mau Mau War.
The British have been gone for at least a half-century now, and yet peace has not settled the lush green fields of this vast and fecund East African nation of some 42 million people. As of this writing, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, son of the country’s first postcolonial leader, was facing criminal charges at The Hague, over the massacre of tens of armless civilians in the aftermath of the country’s last general election. The then-Candidate Kenyatta was accused of having ordered the brutal “pacification” of many of the victims.
Mr. Kenyatta vehemently denies the charges and vows to appear in court to vigorously defend himself against the charges, as well as clear his name and his reputation and, one logically presumes, those of the Kenyatta family. Not quite long ago, Mr. Kenyatta’s physical presence at The Hague was widely reported by the press. Interestingly, the court has also issued a statement to the effect that it was indefinitely suspending all proceedings against the Kenyan leader, because it did not have enough evidence yet to proceed with the same.
Whatever the real reasons behind the judicial discontinuance, when it comes to the subject of inter-ethnic relations, Kenya is nearly as volatile as the United States. But, of course, there is far more to Kenya than seasonal inter-ethnic strife, often laced with political differences. A son of the coffee-rich soils of Kenya has produced the first Black President of the United States of America by an Anglo-Irish descended woman. And, by the way, DNA technology has recently revealed that at least one lineage of President Obama’s mother’s family has a male Ghanaian ancestor. And so I was not wrong, after all, when in 1988 I predicted that if any American of direct African descent or heritage were to accede to the presidency, that African-American leader was likely to have a Ghanaian ancestor.
Kenya has also produced a remarkable percentage of the world’s best long-distance runners, at both the Olympic and World Championship-meet levels. And so practically speaking, Kenya has an enviable cartographical presence around the globe. Still, just when everybody thought lasting peace had arrived on the shores of Nairobi and Mombasa, here we are, once more, with disturbing reports of the rampant harassment and humiliation of that country’s womenfolk by the same caddish men who have arrogated unto themselves the right to determine what constitutes decent and indecent dressing among that country’s womenfolk.
On November 17, hundreds of Kenyans of both genders swarmed, as well swamped, the streets of Nairobi and other principal cities in vehemet protest against the primitive practice of some self-appointed fashion policemen who have resorted to stripping naked women deemed to be indecently dressed. Largely, the latter refers to women found to be wearing mini-skirts and near-transparent dresses. A remarkable number of such incidents has reportedly been broadcast on social media; and it was the latter which reportedly sparked the anti-fashion-police protests.
In the twenty-first century world of pan-African collective self-consciousness, this sort of barbarism has absolutely no place on the primeval continent. It comes as good news to learn that the Chairman of the Law Society of Kenya, or the Kenya Bar Association, has reportedly called on that country’s director of public prosecutions to start rounding up any group of male thugs caught stripping women naked in the street, simply because these self-appointed fashion policemen deem the dressing, or attires, of their victims to be indecent.
Maybe these clearly unenlightened rascals ought to be reminded that the right to dress as many a Kenyan woman pleases, is one of the fundamental and inalienable tenets of that country’s democratic and constitutional culture. In other words, the definition of sartorial decency is one that exclusively belongs to the statutorily sworn law-enforcement agents and the law courts.