Thursday, October 31, 2013
Posted by ME at 4:41 AM
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Monday, October 28, 2013
Posted by ME at 3:41 AM
Posted by ME at 3:40 AM
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Posted by ME at 10:33 PM
Ordinarily, such meetings, which are regular fixtures, would just be for sharing an evening together and catching up. But the gathering on this particular Sunday has greater significance.
The previous evening, some members of this group had hosted one of the most successful and well-attended meetings in recent memory: the first annual Mashujaa Awards ceremony.
The event was held a day before the October 20 Mashujaa Day fete in Kenya and the US-based Kenyans are meeting to toast to the success.
Among the arriving guests at the home of Mr Wale Mutambo, a Kenyan resident of Houston, is Mr Robert Simiyu and his wife Lucy — who were part of the Mahujaa event organisers.
“The Mashujaa meeting was one of a kind. We have never seen such a large crowd here in Houston, Texas. I’m proud to have been part of a team that made that happen,” Mr Simiyu told Lifestyle.
He is a Kenyan living the American dream. And he owes all that to the game of chance known as the Green Card lottery or the Diversity Visa Programme.
“Yeah, the Green Card works man, and it has worked for me. I have no regrets for having played the lottery,” he says.
Since 1992 when he graduated from the University of Nairobi with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Mr Simiyu wanted to further his studies in the US. The chance came in 2000 when he won the Green Card lottery.
Mr Robert Simiyu having dinner with his wife Lucy in Houston, Texas. Photo/CHRIS WAMALWA
“I had a job in Kenya after graduation but my dream was always to come to the US, especially to pursue further studies,” he says.
A father of three boys and a girl, Mr Simiyu remembers how expensive it was when it came to processing the Green Card for five people.
“It can be a slippery slope for somebody to process the Green Card, especially if it is a family of more than two. That is why many families prefer one partner, mostly the husband, to come over first as an advance party to prepare the ground for the rest to join later,” he says.
HAPPY ABOUT HIS JOB
Thirteen years later, Mr Simiyu is happy in his job as a Licensed Vocational Nurse/Home Health Nurse (an equivalent of a medical doctor in Kenya) at Regency Home Health. His wife is a hospice nurse while their children have excelled in school.
“If you set clear goals and focus on them, the sky is the limit. If you work hard in school, for instance, you will get scholarships. If you hold many jobs and put in more hours, you will get money and, therefore, get rich. It’s your bed; you play a part in making it,” he says.
While Mr Simiyu is living the American dream, the same can’t be said for Ms Sarah Kimani (name changed to protect identity) a resident of Ridley Park, Pennsylvania.
This writer met her last Monday morning after she got back home from a double shift as a nursing assistant. Ms Kimani, originally from Thika, is so tired and exhausted that we have to reschedule the interview.
All she wants, as she kicks off her shoes, is to go bed and sleep.
Ms Kimani’s family moved to the US on a Green Card in 2003 and it wasn’t long before things started falling apart.
“In Kenya, my husband was a lecturer and I was a primary school teacher. We were not rich but we had enough to sustain our family of four — and we were happy,” she says when we finally settle for the interview.
“If I knew what I know now, I’d not have played that lottery thing”.
Her story is all too familiar within families that immigrated to the US without first finding out about what to expect upon arrival.
“Even though he had a PhD from the University of Nairobi, the only job my husband could get when we got here was either as a watchman (security guard) or in a nursing home. He did some of these jobs and he hated them with a passion. Before long, he started drinking heavily and became violent,” she says with tears welling in her eyes.
ACCUSED OF HAVING AN AFFAIR
Ms Kimani says that one day, after they had been in the US for only four months, her husband came home accusing her of having an affair at work and beat her so badly that the neighbours had to call 911 (emergency services).
“They took him away and detained him for three days. When they interviewed the children, they said he always behaved like that when he came home.
They added that he was always drunk so the police gave him a restraining order and ordered him to stay away from us and only visit over the weekend during the day,” she says.
Things have never been the same again since then. Indeed, her husband became even more bitter and disillusioned.
“In 2006, he was arrested for drunk driving and he was given a court date. He bought a one way air ticket to Kenya and we hardly hear of him since,” she says.
This meant Ms Kimani was left with the responsibility of raising three boys aged 15, 12 and seven, alone. To make ends meet, she has to take two full-time jobs.
“It is tough. It’s even tougher to the boys because they don’t understand what happened to us as a family. I’m hardly at home to supervise their homework and they are always complaining how nice it was when we were still at home in Kenya. That is what the Green Card has done for us,” she says.
The scramble for the Green Card is on and this time the interest seems to be so intense that Kenya’s Foreign Affairs ministry has been forced to warn those who apply for the Green Card that there is no guarantee of winning.
And it is not only successful applicants like Ms Kimani who are of concern. In an unusual step, Foreign Affairs Political and Diplomatic Secretary Robert Ngesu says that many Kenyans are getting into “both mental and financial distress” after failing to win the lottery for the Green Card, which allows one to be a permanent US resident.
“Granting of a visa is a prerogative of the receiving state and the government (of Kenya) cannot compel such a state to grant a visa or refund the monies paid if the visa is not granted,” he says.
Mr Ngesu explains that many Kenyans have in the past been contacting his office for help after “incurring heavy expenses” on non-refundable visa and medical examination fees.
It was not immediately clear why a warning was necessary about a programme that has been going on for more than two decades, but whose future now looks uncertain.
However, it is thought many Kenyans are rushing to beat the one-month window during which one is allowed to apply between October 1 and November 1.
This could be the last chance for anybody to move to the US on a Green Card as US lawmakers are considering an immigration law to abolish the programme.
An official of the US embassy in Nairobi told Lifestyle that the status of the Diversity Visa programme in any final legislation is not yet known as the US Congress has not passed a Bill in the current session that would affect the programme.
If congress passes the law, it will be a blow to thousands of people who dream of a better life in America. Africa has been a major beneficiary since the programme started with at least 5,000 Kenyans thought to qualify annually.
The diversity programme makes 55,000 visas available every year to countries with low immigration rates to the US.
Those awarded the visas are chosen by a lottery, with about half typically going to African immigrants.
Republican lawmakers have in the past targeted the programme for elimination, arguing that the lottery system can lead to fraud and undermine national security.
The Green Card may be replaced by a competitive “merit-based” visa programme, which awards visas based on a point system that measures education and employment, among other criteria.
“This would pit us (Kenyans) against the rest of the world in terms of competitiveness. We will be competing with other advanced economies and preference will be for those with PhDs and masters, particularly those who have lived here in America and those immigrants who have their masters and PhDs from American universities,” says Regina Njogu, a US-based Kenyan immigration lawyer.
Ms Njogu says that, if approved, the new merit-based visa will not be in effect until after five years of the Bill being passed into law. However, the Green Card lottery is likely to be eliminated starting next year, depending on the decision of Congress.
“We are at a disadvantage since there won’t be favourable means for continued immigration from Africa,” she says.
But the million-dollar question remains: has the Green card programme been good for Kenya in particular and Africa in general?
“This is part of the grand old scheme by the US government to acquire cheap skilled labour from underdeveloped or developing countries.
This so-called lottery programme is nothing but modern day slavery without chains,” says Prof Mark Rogers of Neumann University in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
The costs of processing the lottery visa are also considered high, with medical examination rates alone estimated to be at least Sh24,000. This, however, may go up depending on the tests one is expected to undergo.
The green card visa fee is $330 (Sh28,380) while United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) immigrant fee is $165 (Sh13,860). Since February 1, 2013, all individuals issued immigrant visas overseas have to pay the USCIS immigrant fee before travelling to the US.
The US embassy in Nairobi says the “medical exam fees is generally about Sh20,000, but can fluctuate based on medical condition, required vaccinations for immigration to the US, and other exam factors.
“Considering that one is never assisted in any other way other than to be given a mere permit to live and work in America, these costs are very high. Many people have sold everything they own, including pieces of land, only to come here (US) and realise it’s completely different from what they had expected,” said Mr Johnson Kinyua, a resident of Houston, Texas.
LAND OF DREAMS
Cases of domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse and suicides among Kenyans living abroad have exposed the myth that all is rosy in the land of dreams.
“It takes very long to adjust to life in the US. Men especially find it very hard to adjust to the changing gender roles at home and doing jobs considered to be of less prestige,” says Jane Rurigi, adding that these are usually the key causes of separations.
However, there have also been numerous success stories.
However, there have also been numerous success stories.
“There is no limit to the horizons one can set for oneself because America is still a place where hard work, dedication and vision can transform dreams into reality. It can also lead to lost dreams, broken promises and a miserable existence,” says Mr Simiyu, who, however, warns that the dream can also easily turn into a nightmare.-nation
Posted by ME at 9:22 PM
BY NICHOLAS ANYUOR
|Kisumu Town West MP OLAGO ALUOCH|
‘‘My jaw was shattered. My face, head and chest had severe cuts. I felt I was already dead. It hurt my self-esteem severely and I lost the will to work.”
This is how Kisumu Town West MP Olago Aluoch recalls the grisly accident he was involved in more than a decade ago.
Two fighting donkeys suddenly dashed onto the road, and Olago’s driver, Vincent Omwala Oloo, could not brake in time. The car hit the two animals before rolling several times. “Terrible” is how the MP describes the crash.
“We were travelling from the Kisii High Court, where I had gone to represent a client, to Kisumu. The accident occurred along the Oyugis-Sondu road,” he says.
This was on a Monday morning in February 2001, just a year after Olago’s wife, Pamela Aluoch, died in another road accident near Ahero Town in Kisumu County. She was driving from Kericho to Kisumu.
“Pamela was a high school principal and was driving from work. An oncoming bus pushed her car off the road and she died on the spot,” he recalls.
Olago and his driver were lucky enough to survive their car crash, but they lay on the roadside for almost an hour. Passers-by and villagers refused to take them to any nearby health facility for fear that police officers would engage them in recording lengthy statements about the incident. However, all was not lost.
“Coincidentally, the previous day, I had attended the burial of a relative in the area where we were stranded. So, when the area chief heard that there had been an accident and came to the scene, he identified me,” Olago recalls.
Oloo, the driver, only sustained slight injuries. (Sadly, he was killed by hooligans a few years later, in January 2008, as Kenya was undergoing post-election violence following the December 2007 polls.)
The Oyugis chief organised villagers to stop the first car that came by so that the injured men could be taken to hospital.
“Luckily, the first car to arrive was that of fellow lawyers I had left in Kisii. They took us to Agha Khan Hospital in Kisumu, where I received treatment,” the legislator says.
But it was not a simple dash into the emergency room for some painkillers and bandages. Olago had extensive injuries, especially in his head and chest, and he had to remain in the Intensive Care Unit for seven days.
“My jaws were locked for 30 days. During this time, I was only fed on liquid foods,” he recalls.
The accident, and its aftermath, affected Olago’s perception of life and affected his career. Coping was difficult, especially after having lost his wife only a year earlier.
His discharge from hospital marked neither the end of his treatment, nor the cessation of physical and mental anguish. For starters, his face embarrassed him and he had to consult a number of friends for advice.
“What remained of my face was seriously deformed. It hurt my self-esteem in the worst possible way, and I lost the desire to engage in litigation. At one point, I told Justice (John) Mwera that I was leaving the profession, but he encouraged me to hang on,” Olago remarks.
What Justice Mwera told him still lingers in his mind and has made him remain steadfast in his career as a lawyer: “What you will be saying in the courts is more important than your face.”
From experience, Olago advises that when one has been in an accident, the importance of love, care and encouragement from friends and family members cannot be overstated.
“My current wife, Susan Aluoch, and my children have stood by me. Susan has been supportive, caring and loving, regardless of the state of my face, for more than a decade,” he says.
Ten months after the accident, Olago returned to Aga Khan Hospital for reconstructive surgery to stop the twitching of one of his eyes and prevent the possibility of loss of sight.
He went for two more surgeries in Switzerland in 2008 and 2009, after he had clinched the Kisumu Town West seat. The treatment cost more than Sh7 million, and he is grateful that he had insurance cover.
“I was to go back to Switzerland for a fourth surgery, but Susan refused. My wife said I was now looking okay and she would live with me the way I looked. When someone is in the operating room for hours, you can’t tell whether he will come back alive, and that scares her,” he says.
And how have his children reacted to these ups and downs?
Olago tells a story of his last-born daughter, Audrey, who was by then in kindergarten. The three-year-old accompanied family members to Nairobi to see her father in hospital when he went for one of his surgeries. Back in Kisumu, her teachers had a programme where, every Monday, pupils would tell the rest of the class their experiences over the weekend.
“When she went back to school and was asked about her weekend, she told the teachers that she went to see her sick father in Nairobi,” Olago says.
“When asked what was ailing me, my daughter had a funny answer: He has gone to hospital so that he can look like us. The shocked teachers contacted me, and helped the other children understand what Audrey was trying to say.”
Not every experience has been so amusing though. When travelling outside the country, the MP admits that many dignitaries look alarmed the first time they meet him.
“They don’t believe I am the person they have heard about. But when they ask what happened to my face, and I tell them about the accident, they sympathise with me, and we move on to the matters that brought us together,” he remarks.
However, Olago confesses that the accident has changed his way of looking at the society. He has become more aware, and understanding, of people with disabilities: “I have a soft spot for them. I understand that this is something that can happen to anyone at any time. We should not look down on anybody because of their physical limitations.”
This father of six also has something to say about the many cases of road accidents in Kenya: “People should work together in road maintenance, everyone must obey traffic rules and drivers must be trained properly if we want to prevent these unnecessary crashes, injuries and deaths.
“It is not about police officers only. It should involve everybody. Trauma centres should be created along the major highways and night driving should be introduced in our driving schools.”
His parting shot: “ I am still strong. What matters is my brain, not my face.”
Posted by ME at 4:34 PM
More by this Author
Apart from Deputy President William Ruto’s immediate family, Kericho Senator Charles Keter stands out for having been in The Hague the longest.
Every week or two, a new set of MPs arrive to replace their colleagues but they all find Mr Keter there. Sometimes, even when the hearings go into private sessions, he remains in the public gallery alongside Mrs Rachel Ruto and June Ruto as others take a rest.
He has braved the sometimes chilly weather to be at the ICC buildings ahead of Mr Ruto and to join him in a prayer outside the court before the deputy president goes in for the trials.
Mr Ruto’s and Mr Joshua Sang’s trials began on September 10 and will be ending on November 1 before resuming after a break.
According to Mr Keter, being with Mr Ruto has made him learn a virtue of patience the deputy president has.
“We have come a long way. But what I have learnt is that he is a patient man because you can imagine being seated in court and listening to all those lies and still afford a smile which many people would not,” Mr Keter said in an interview.
Cotu boss Francis Atwoli had said he would not himself stand it when he made a stop-over in The Hague on his way to Geneva for an International Labour Organisation meeting.
To Mr Keter, the deputy president has shown extraordinary patience.
“In the evening he gets time to discuss the case with the lawyers including the weekends when he does not travel. What I have learnt is he is patient enough and he wants this thing out of his mind,” Mr Keter said of the deputy president.
According to the senator, their closeness thousands of miles from home has helped create a bond that transcends politics.
“In our free time, we discuss issues affecting our country. We discuss what is going on at home. At least we have had ample opportunity to discuss or get acquainted with what is happening at home and that is it,” he said.
During his free time, Mr Keter said he connects with his Kericho County, thanks to the Internet or goes sightseeing.
“Thanks to technology, I get into my laptop and I keep tabs with what is happening at my county or the constituency. In one way or another, I can say it has also provided me with the opportunity to relax because, after leaving the court, I return to my room or go sit with the deputy president, or to the gym or, when the weather permits, I go jogging,” he said.
This weekend, he too has travelled to Nairobi.
Mr Ruto was granted excusal from the trials until Thursday when he will be back in the courtroom, just two days before the session takes a break to pave way for the start of the trial of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Speaking to the Sunday Nation, Mr Keter, however, said the experience is not one he enjoys, especially given that there are fewer engagements with his constituents.
He has also been missing crucial debates in the Senate where, he says, his contributions would have been beneficial.
“It is not an experience one is happy to be in, in the sense that you spend most of the day listening to stories. So it is really a waste of time for one to be here all that period,” he said of the witness testimonies.
The experience, according to the senator, becomes even worse when the court has to listen to the testimonies of the witnesses in private or closed sessions as the case may be.
During the private sessions, the people in the public gallery can see inside the courtroom but cannot hear what is being said.
On the other hand, during closed sessions, the blinds are drawn and the public can neither hear nor see inside the courtroom.
“It is a horrifying experience being here for a whole a month, very boring. Sometimes you wish it could be an open thing because, as it is, witnesses are given more protection than the accused, yet the law demands they both receive equal treatment,” he said.
According to Mr Sang, when former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo first named the suspects to be charged with the post-election violence, he chose to do so in public.
“On the other hand, a witness who comes and lies is given maximum protection. That, to me, is really annoying,” he said.
But he says he has learnt to be patient from Mr Ruto who, he adds, encourages him to have faith and be patient.
“He has told me it’s good to have faith, and to be strong and patient,” said Mr Keter.
Posted by ME at 4:26 PM
Posted by ME at 4:21 PM
Posted by ME at 4:01 PM
Posted by ME at 3:53 PM
Posted by ME at 1:50 AM
Saturday, October 26, 2013
Posted by ME at 10:17 PM
Posted by ME at 10:14 PM
Posted by ME at 10:08 PM
Posted by ME at 7:38 PM