Interview with Njoki Ngumi

You may have seen her featured on the Kuweni Serious! video titled “Blood Will Not Clean Bloodstains.” She says she likes music, friends, cooking and theatre but she also has a lot to say about Kenyan society. Her sometimes humorous, honest and always interesting blogs [Read here and here] have been doing the rounds on Kenyan blogs and getting positive feedback. Her words and way of expression seem to have resonated with those who have read them. So why did she decide to write these articles (she says they’re just Facebook notes), and why are they getting such a positive reaction?
::KenyaChristian:: decided to catch up with Njoki Ngumi, a recent graduate in medicine currently doing an internship in Naivasha. In Part 1 of this interview we discuss her “blogs,” Kenyan corruption, and why she would like to become the first black Swiss milkmaid.



::KenyaChristian:: Your blogs have been getting great feedback from people. When did you start writing your socio-political blogs and why?

Njoki Ngumi: I'm just amazed that anyone would describe my random thoughts as a blog...I'm not nearly that organized and purposeful. The couple of articles being referred to are actually just Facebook notes, and still are. I've been the person I describe as the middle class, unconcerned Kenyan, who wants to be able to buy credit and milk even when the world is burning down. It's not an easy thing to confess. But I have a very socially conscious family and friends. They want to talk about these things. They want to care even when it's hurting them to and they'd be more profited (if that's a word) by giving their energies to something else. I think they've been contagious. So even if I sneer at newspaper headlines, for instance, it’s better a million times than not reading them at all, from losing every connection to what's happening. Let's be pissed about dead fish in Lake Naivasha. We may not be able to do something about it, but let's be pissed. It keeps us human enough to wish or hope for something better. And if you can hope, you can work towards something better, I guess.

Why are they socio-political? I didn't know they were. I don't know. I think what matters, always, at the end of the day, is people. People are a mixture of clay and spirit that had the ability to build a tower up that threatened the heavens. That's how much power they have. So maybe the socio- is me trying to remind myself how much they and their thoughts and feelings matter, when all is said and done. Political...maybe because people go where their leaders are going. And I don't like how our leaders are screwing us with their selfish decisions.

::KC:: Is the problem really our so-called leaders, or is it us ordinary Kenyans?

NN: It's all of us. Our leaders are bad for making selfish decisions and having immorally high salaries while the people who teach their constituents, the people who protect their constituents and keep their roads safe, the people who run public hospitals and schools and sweep their offices are earning peanuts and are told to survive on that as some disgusting proof of patriotism. While we still have internally displaced people 3 years after the madness. We as Kenyans enable them by asking for handouts from them, and by taking their crap when they come to our weddings and funerals and harambees to push personal agendas. We're all wrong for not looking out first for Kenya. We're all looking out for ourselves. So we can't blame anyone for what's happening here.

::KC:: Kenya is not the only corrupt country in the world. (There was the massive Enron scandal in U.S; Anglo-Leasing companies were based in U.K). Are we too hard on ourselves sometimes as Kenyans?

NN: If two people cut themselves and were bleeding to death, one kind of oozing out slow and the other spurting out in jets, should the one who's oozing say they're better off? Aren't they both dying?

::KC:: In your blog “Your Country is NOT going to the Dogs” you talked in jest about moving to Switzerland to become the first black milkmaid with a Bachelor’s Degree. Did you have a period where you had given up on Kenya, and just wanted to escape it all?

NN: I still do. I think people should be world citizens, in their minds. Misled patriotism and a sense of ownership over land and resources is the reason behind most wars today. I'm tired of tribalism, or the fact that if my boyfriend was from another tribe now people would get edgy about it instead of celebrate that someone cares enough to love someone else in this day and age when life is so hard. But the tribal/racist/segregationist thing is so deeply ingrained in the human condition that I don't think there's anywhere anyone can run to get away from it. I picked Switzerland because I think the only reason they don't get involved in wars is the very correct realization that they have too much to lose if they do. My heart gets that.
However, we can't run from being who we are and having ties to where we come from. I'd ache for home, even if the cows were doing well and the owner of the farm gave me a raise and I had all the chocolate I could eat and all the shallow beautiful things I want. Or even the deep ones. If my home is burning won't I feel sad, even if I'm safe at that moment?

So I'm working on caring enough to want to stay and starting to care for Africa as a whole. We are now, not even the future. And Kenya can't do this alone. And we can't rely on donor support. We have to work together from the ground up.

Look out for Part 2 of our interview with Njoki Ngumi next week!

Bonus: Noam Chomsky interview on Haiti & NGO's (must read)

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