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Toastmasters Speech number 1: Freedom Will Come Extended Version

Freedom Will Come 

Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters, invited guests;

Have you been to prison? Like me, have you been to jail?

I was born during the freedom struggle and at that time my parents and my older siblings lived in a concentration camp – a prison per excellence. Luckily, after a fierce seven yr struggle, Kenya attained freedom from Britain and thus ending my short stint in that prison.

However that was not my last time in prison.

   The second time I found myself in a dungeon was the year Tom Mboya was short. I was six. I accepted to go to school. What a prisoners life it was attending six hours of primary school every day crammed in those mud walled classrooms, that we would smoothen with cow dung, jam-packed 3 to a desk, while my young mind yearned the freedom to roam the thick bushes that doted the country side of the adulating slopes east of Mt.Kenya, to savour the succulent wild fruits, and berries and other delicacies abounding there in.

In between being taught English in our vernacular,
                                               Teacher: ĩno ĩtagwa mbotoro.
                                                              Ugani mbotoro!          
                                                Pupils: Mbotorooo
freedom meant playing in the rain, pulling jaw-dropping stunts while sliding downhill on our bare backsides. And for our effort, we would be handsomely repaid with the smothering kisses of a bamboo stick to the very backsides.  There were promises though that life would be freer in secondary school.

But was it?

In secondary school my very first English vocabulary to learn was out-of-bounds. Getting to within 30 paces of the school’s perimeter fence could turn a boy, not much taller than the slasher he wielded into a loan mower for an entire Saturday, An outing Saturday at that! By then the most treasured freedom was the day out. The occasional dance was good yes, but nothing could beat a day out. A whole day without the ubiquitous eye of our dreaded headmaster who perpetually lamented that we had nicknamed him ID Amin, while according to him, his nickname while in Alliance had been Carey Francis!

Just us I was preparing for my forth form exams the soldiers of the Kenya Air Force staged Coup de tat and rendered jobless for half a day the man from Sacho, also referred to as M-O-one. On that Sunday morning to get home from school, I had to criss-cross the City centre of Nairobi that had suddenly turned into killing fields not much different from Mai-Lai of South Vietnam of 1968 effectively rekindling the memory of sporadic machine gun staccato that pervaded the villages, and gun powder smells that suffused the cold nights during the freedom struggle days. On that day, indeed the entire August of that year, the only freedom that mattered was an end to the six-to-six curfew.

First forward to a decade later, and as a fresh graduate, the ink still wet on my Physics degree certificate, the quest for multiparty politics – christened second liberation – had reached fever pitch! Freedom, to the agitators, meant more political parties. But for me, prison break would have been freedom from the forced KANU party membership. Well, that was before the police, and the G.S.U, a.k.a Fanya fujo uone (cause trouble and get it) descended on us the demonstrators with their gun buts, giant buttons, lashes and teargas on that fateful Saba-Saba day. Just hours, hours and the word freedom took a sudden new meaning! I will never forget Kisamkasa, a fellow demonstrator who was cornered outside Burma market and lynched like a deadly animal, the jungle fatigue clad law keepers continuing to kill him long after he was dead until what remained of him looked considerably worse than your average dead body. At that moment as we watched helplessly from our unlikely hideout, neck deep in muck, while the pungent smell of burning tires and the obnoxious stench of human waste merrily fused with tear gas to to effectively camouflage any tinge of gunpowder, freedom meant getting out of that sewer manhole in one piece.

And I did.
But a different rebellion was fomenting in my head. A rebellion that drifted me into another jail.
Jail? Hell was more like it because I saw the devil. You are impeccably in hell when you reach career burn out at thirty-one – the devil is your boss! Poor me I had been hired by the Directorate of Civil Aviation (the precursor of KCAA) as an Air worthiness Officer and posted to the apron side of JKIA. Watching everyday those aluminium birds at the airport with their noisy take offs and landings was getting into my nerves. I had to free myself to pursue my electronics carrier. Oh yes! Electronics! Diodes, transistors, thyristors, neon, lights amplifiers… that would be life.
My break came years later as the country was gearing up to the second multiparty elections. At a time when to access the internet one required a dial-up modem and a telephone line from the dinosaur-KP&T. At a time when a mobile phone had to be insured because it cost 10 times a prime plot in Kitengela, I changed jobs to my current employer.
At around the same period I married, ostensibly to free myself from the tedious domestic chores. Little did I see the booby trap of a family of three dependants that consider me as their alpha and omega. Me! I wouldn’t recognise myself if I saw my image in a mirror, yet am the coxswain at the rudder of my family boat, steering way to freedom. No jumping ship, come storm, rain, or high water. No sir! You are the captain. You sink with your ship. If that is freedom, what is incarceration?
Second millennium, the year 2011, Kenya has been free for close to half a century. Multiparty democracy is reality. Hell! We even have a new constitution! All and Sundry can afford a data enabled mobile phone-the Internet it’s cannon fonder (never mind the please call me). ‘Freedom struggle’ is an Internet blog. The world wide web provides unlimited freedom to data and information – Inspiring some while entrapping others and forcing them into dungeons of waking up between their sleep at night to tweet and facebook.
What Irony that we now have a productivity software named Freedom that blocks a computer user from the Internet.
And you ask me whether I have been to prison. Yes I am still there trying to break out. The yoke now is being tongue tied every time I am called upon to “say something“ to a group – anything more than one person to me is crowd. Fortunately with you toastmasters in general and my mentor in particular I am convinced and convicted that freedom will come.
Aluta continua! the struggle continues!
Toastmasters in Kenya