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Inside story of the jackfruit


           
REMEMBERING THE EXOTIC JACKFRUIT

BY ARMAND RODRIGUES

Next to the mango, the jackfruit may be one of the more exotic fruits in Goa.    In weight, it is only second to the giant coco-de-mer of Seychelles, for a tree-borne fruit.  It originated in the forests of South India, but, over the centuries, it has migrated to all of South-East Asia, where it appeals to the taste-buds of all and sundry.  In Latin the jackfruit is called Artocarpus heterophyllus, in Konkani ponos or borkoi, in Swahili finisi, in Portuguese jaca, in Thailand khanum, in the Philippines’ nangka.

In Goa, the fruit may be soft and mushy or firm and crunchy.  The flesh of the soft type can be used to produce a type of alcohol after a fermentation process. It can also be used in curries, jams and chutneys.  Rolled flat, the soft pulp is dried between layers of banyan tree leaves and becomes a tasty snack.  Other than yellow, the firm variety also comes with a distinct orangey colour.  Both types may also contain a little nectar.  The firm variety is the kind sold in cans. 

The fruit is unique in the sense that it grows on the trunk of the tree.  The tree can live up to a hundred years.  The outer casing of the fruit is like a prickly rasp.  It turns greenish-yellow when ripe and ready for harvesting.  At this stage the smell becomes somewhat revolting but is a far cry from that of its cousin the Durian fruit.  The latter is the bane of hotels and aircraft everywhere.  When sliced open, one finds conical yellow pods like bulbs, clinging to the inside of a jackfruit.  Trying to extricate a pod results in having to do battle with a sticky, messy, white latex that oozes from everywhere and encrusts one’s fingers and knives, with a vengeance.  Cooking oil has to be used to free the fingers and clean the knives.  The silver lining to the latex is that it can be used on branches to snare singing birds that alight above a bird feeder or sprinkled seed. The birds make good pets.

Jackfruit seeds can be saved to be roasted, boiled or ground into flour.  Even the leathery leaves of the tree serve a special purpose in Goa.  They are shaped into a cone held in place by dried broomsticks from palm tree leaves.  A mix of desiccated coconut and jaggery is then encased in rice flour and placed in the cone.  Steaming completes the cooking process.  These cones are served, as per tradition, after friends and neighbours join in singing the litany of the saints.  If a ripened jackfruit happens to fall to the ground, it becomes a feast for the pigs.  Whereas flying foxes are frugivorous, it is believed that they avoid the jackfruit because the nasty latex could stick to their wing membranes and make flying impossible.  Lastly, believe it or not, in Goa if a tree is not yielding fruit at regular intervals, it may be shamed by old shoes, rusty tin cans and broken clay pots tied to its trunk!  There is no scientific evidence for why this works – if at all – but it is not an old wives’ tale.

Enjoy the fruit if and when you can.

Moi, the other face of the Giraffe






Wednesday, 5 February 2020



MOI AS I KNEW HIM

By Oduor Ong'wen


There has been an outpouring of love, adoration and canonisation of former President Daniel arap Moi since the announcement of his death yesterday. I don’t begrudge those trying to sanitise the departed former president and portray him as a saint. They have every right to do so because that is how they knew him. In their tributes, many have described Moi as “the best leader this country ever produced.” The Moi I knew doesn’t fit this description. In African traditions, it is unacceptable to talk ill of the dead – more so if the deceased was an elder.  So, I will seek to not to condemn him but to describe the man as I knew him and let history do the judgement. Those who have acknowledged that the departed former president was not a paragon of virtue have averred Moi was a good man and a democrat until the abortive coup of August 1982 and his oppressive mien emerged as a reaction to the putsch. That is the narrative I seek to debunk. 
Those without memory lapses will recall that even before ascending to presidency, Moi was part of political assassinations and/or cover-ups of the same. In March 1975 when JM Kariuki was reported missing and before his body was discovered disfigured and dumped at the City Mortuary, the then-Vice President Moi without batting an eyelid told Parliament that JM was alive and on a business trip to Zambia. It later transpired that very senior people in government – especially the police – were responsible to for the legislator’s execution and attempts at concealment. Moi lied to Kenya with a straight face.

On ascending to power in 1978, Moi sought to either kill or neuter any potential institutional challenge to his autocratic rule, however modest. Barely a year into his presidency, he in 1979 banned student union – the Nairobi University Students Organisation (NUSO) – and expelled the entire leadership comprising among others Rumba Kinuthia, Otieno Kajwang’, Mukhisa Kituyi, Josiah Omotto and Wafula Siakama. This was followed in quick succession by the proscription of University Staff Union (UASU) and the Kenya Union of Civil Servants in 1980. Simultaneously, the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) and Maendeleo ya Wanawake were coopted and later made affiliates of Kanu, the only political party.

As if the killing of these institutions was not enough, Moi went ahead to politically harass individuals that were seen as posing real or perceived threat. In August 1980, Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o was arrested twice in a move clearly aimed at intimidating the dons that had been at core of UASU leadership.  Others subjected to routine harassment were Oki Ooko-Ombaka, Micere Mugo, Mukaru Ng’ang’a, Katama Mkangi and Shadrack Gutto. In May 1981, Moi ordered the expulsion of another lot of student leaders seeking to revive the student union. These included Odindo Opiata, Makau Mutua, Saulo Busolo, George Rubik, Dave Anyona and John Munuve among others. As this happened, Moi closed the university for close to five months and for the first time in the history of the university, we were ordered to report to chiefs on a weekly basis. Despotism had become a hallmark of Moi’s rule.

Parallel to this, and riding the populist crest of fighting tribalism, Moi banned socio-cultural organisations like the Gikuyu Embu Meru Association (GEMA), the New Akamba Union, Luo Union and others.

In May 1982, Jaramogi had made a widely publicized visit to the United Kingdom, where he addressed the British House of Commons, among other engagements. Jaramogi’s address was on “The Role of political Parties in Africa.” A firm believer in the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy, Jaramogi had fought all his adult life to institute and nurture the same in Kenya. This had put him on a permanent collision course with the colonial government (who ironically were practicing the same in their metropolis but subverting efforts to institute it in their colonies) and post-independence oligarchs. Jaramogi’s lecture received very positive coverage in the British press. The Kenyan print media took the cue from the British press but largely ignored the entire content of the address, only reporting that Jaramogi had announced his intention to launch a new political party to challenge KANU’s stranglehold on power. 
On May 26, 1982, the Governing Council of the ruling party (composed of 12 members) instructed parliament, the Attorney General Joseph Kamere and Minister for Constitutional Affairs Charles Njonjo to prepare a bill amending the constitution such that Kenya would by law become a one-party state. The resulting bill also proposed to create a new office of the Chief Secretary to serve as head of the public service. On June 9, 1982, after less than one hour of debate, Parliament of 170 members voted 168 to 2 in favour of the amendment.
Between May and June 1982, Moi ordered a crackdown targeting university lecturers, This resulted in detention without trial of Kamoji Wachiira, Edward Oyugi, Mukaru Ng’ang’a and Al Amin Mazrui. Maina wa Kinyatti and Willy Mutunga were charged with trumped up sedition offences. Mutunga’s charges were later withdrawn as he was also detained. Kinyatti was later, on October 18, 1982, sentenced to six years in jail. Others like Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Micere, Nyong’o, Gutto and Kimani Gicau had to flee the country into exile. In this crackdown, scribes were not spared. In apparent reaction to his audacity to stand against “Nyayo candidate” in a Nyeri Town parliamentary by election occasioned by the jailing of ex-freedom fighter Waruru Kanja for “violating foreign exchange laws,” journalist Wang’ondu Kariuki was charged with “possession of seditious publication” called Pambana and jailed for four-and-a half years. It is worth noting that by this time, the tyranny had become so entrenched that the despot had detained even the Deputy Director of Intelligence, Stephen Muriithi. It was at the height of this repression that junior cadres of the Kenya Air Force staged a poorly organized and executed coup. So, the coup was a consequence of Moi’s tyranny – not the converse.
 The coup provided Moi with the opportunity and excuse to intensify crack down on lawyers, authors, activists, scientists, and (especially) university lecturers and students perceived to be critical of his authoritarian rule. I was among the more than 70 students arrested and detained at the GSU Training School, Embakasi. Having been held for two months incommunicado, 67 of us were eventually charged with “Sedition.” We were released six months later when the state could not manufacture evidence to convict us. But six amongst us – Jeff Mwangi, Tom Mutuse, Ong’ele Opalla, Wahinya Boore, Ephantus Kinyua and Kituyi Simiyu – were convicted sentenced to jail term of six years each. Raila Odinga, Prof. Otieno Osanya and Otieno Mak’Onyango who had been charged with treason also had their charges dropped as they were detained without trial.
More than the foregoing, the attempted coup provided Moi with an arsenal to settle old scores and assert himself by systematically instituting an oppressive one-man state through consolidation, centralisation, and personalisation of power while neutralising disloyal elements, real and imagined. In his book, African Successes, David Leonard notes that the coup attempt was “a piece of good luck” for Moi. The attempt legitimised Moi’s reorganisation of the command structure of the armed forces and the police. Once the attempt had been made and suppressed, he was able to remove leaders from positions that were most threatening. The armed forces and the police “were neutralised”.

Ben Gethi, the Commissioner of Police, for instance, was detained at Kamiti and laterretired “in public interest”. Moi also eliminated Kikuyu and Luo officers from the military and put in Kalenjin and non-ethnic challengers. For instance, he named General Mahmoud Mohammed — an ethnic Somali — the army chief of general staff.
With the disciplined forces in the hands of handpicked loyalists, the political structure was next. President Moi had a Bill enacted that granted him emergency powers, and the provincial administration and civil service came under the Office of the President, for the first time in post-independence Kenya. In effect, a DC could stop an MP from addressing his constituents.

Next was Parliament, whose privilege to access information from the Office of the President was revoked, thus subordinating it to the presidency. The Legislature could only rubber-stamp — not check — the excesses of the Executive. That is how, in 1986, it imposed limitations on the independence of the Judiciary.

Two expatriate judges — Derek Schofield and Patrick O’Connor — resigned, lamenting that the judicial system was “blatantly contravened by those who are supposed to be its supreme guardians.” Parliament also gave police powers to detain critics of Moi’s authoritarian regime. It did not end there. The freedoms of the press, expression, association, and movement were curtailed. In effect, Kenya became a police state.

President Moi ensured that his presence was felt everywhere; he stared at you from the currency in your wallet and mandatory portraits in every business premise. Streets, schools, a stadium, university, airport, and monuments were named after him. He gobbled half the news time on radio and TV, where he was always the first bulletin item. Ministers wore lapel pins with his photo on them. Indeed, one Cabinet minister in the Moi government was said to have had a dozen suits, each with its own pin lapel – just in case he forgot and wore the wrong suit!

Moi was felt in the education system, in which students recited a loyalty pledge, learnt about the Nyayo philosophy in GHC, and drank Nyayo milk. In the remotest parts of the country, the local chief was the president’s eyes and ears.

Kanu replaced the secret ballot with a system where voters lined up behind candidates in 1986. Parliamentary candidates who secured more than 70 per cent of the votes did not have to go through the process of the secret ballot in the General Election in what was more or less a “selection within an election.”Take the case of Kiambu coffee picker Mukora Muthiora. He “defeated” the late Njenga Karume for the Kanu sub-branch chairmanship. Karume was then a former assistant minister for Cooperative Development. Provincial Commissioner Victor Musoga declared Muthiora the winner, yet he never participated in the election. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.


On the morning of March 27, 1986, Moi stopped at the gates of Kipsigis Girls High School where I was a teacher on his way to Kisii Teachers College to preside over a graduation ceremony. He arrived a few minutes to ten o’clock.  Perched on the sunroof of his limousine, the President praised the school and told the students how fond of the school he was. He told them that it was due to his love for the school that he had given them big land and dairy cattle. He spotted me and warned that I should not teach subversion. “I have sent you good teachers like the Secretary General here, but he should desist from teaching subversive behavior,” And with those pronouncements, I knew my goose was cooked. 


On Monday April 14, 1986 at around 7.00 p.m., I was picked up by the Special Branch after a three-hour search in my house. After 16 days of torture at the basement and 24th Floor of Nyayo House, I was sent to Kamiti maximum Prison for a four-year stint as Moi’s state guest.

Moi’s vindictiveness did not stop at the so-called dissidents. Their kith and kin were also guilty by association. None personifies this than Ida Betty Odinga. A young woman in her thirties with three children, the eldest of whom was barely nine years old, Ida Odinga was thrown into the deep end of the pool of life by Moi’s police state and expected to swim through. This was at a time when Moi had placed her father-in-law, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, under house arrest. When Raila was arrested and falsely charged with treason, she proclaimed her husband’s innocence and went on to seek for him the best legal representation locally and internationally. This struck mortal fear into the face and heart of Raila Odinga’s tormentors. Ida was determined that her husband got justice. The State was bent on perpetrating a sham trial on treason charges then hang Raila. To them this young woman was a nuisance. But they were forced to make a quick retreat. Since they had no evidence to sustain a charge of treason, they had no option but to withdraw the charges and place Raila Odinga in preventive detention. Because she had shown that she could fight for justice, she was no longer just another teacher – a public servant. Because of her association with “an enemy of the State,” Mrs Odinga was now “a person of interest.” Even though she tried to do her best in her job as a teacher at the Kenya High School and bring up her young children as a single mother, the Moi government would use security officers to constantly harass her with a hope of breaking her. She was eventually retired “in the public interest.”
Maina wa Kinyatti, having been jailed on October 18, 1982 and sentenced to six years in jail contnued to be tortured in jail by various methods, including being held naked and without food for up to seven days at a time, living with mental patients, subjected to arbitrary anal searches and being beaten with sticks while being forced to do physical exercises. The torture, in different form, was extended to his wife Mumbi. She became a marked person. Her interactions with her students were watched, her shopping analysed and her correspondences intercepted in the post office and read. On April 11, 1987 Mumbi was arrested while attending a Drama Festival in Embu. She was driven back to Nairobi and locked up overnight. In an interview with the New York Times published on April 27, Mumbi said that, during a total of seven hours of questioning, the police accused her of giving money to Mwakenya, organising exiles outside of the country and planning to train members of Mwakenya as guerrilla fighters. 

Winnie Muga, was a student at Kenyatta University College at the time her husband, Muga K’Olale was arrested from their house in Umoja Estate. At the time of K’Olale’s arrest, Winnie had just given birth to their firstborn girl the previous week. As they arrested K’Olale, the officers turned their house inside out – throwing nappies around, moving furniture, and even ransacking the cradle. Leaving things strewn on the floor in both their two bedrooms, kitchen and the living room, Special Branch took K’Olale with him. Restoring order in that house was left to this woman that had just given birth a few days earlier. The police chaps did not tell Winnie Muga where they were taking her husband. The young woman was to spend the next four months combing police stations and the Kenya Police headquarters in Nairobi without a clue as to where her husband had been taken. After fifteen agonizing weeks of waiting to know the whereabouts of her husband, Winnie Muga was somehow relieved to know that the husband was alive but at the same time hit by a sentence of ten years in jail slapped on K’Olale after “an own plea” of guilt to a charge of Sedition. It was alleged that K’Olale knew about the coup plot and actively participated in its planning and execution. 

Koigi wa Wamwere’s wife Nduta, and Koigi’s entire family had to endure intimidation and harassment by police on numerous occasions. Nduta eventually left Kenya in 1988 to join her husband who had fled Kenya after detention and was now living in exile in Norway. Koigi’s mother, Monica Wangu Wamwere, had her house surrounded and searched by the police on several occasions and demolished twice. In January 1995, the police once again surrounded Monica Wangu's home while a service was being held there in memory of her husband, who had died a year earlier. She had refused to bury her husband until her two sons were allowed out of prison to attend his funeral.
Josephine Nyawira Ngengi, sister of G.G. Njuguna Ngengi who was on trial with Koigi, was arrested in May 1994 in Nakuru. She had been actively involved in the campaign for the release of political prisoners incarcerated by Moi and participated in the Mothers' hunger strike in 1992. Nyawira was held incommunicado for 22 days before being charged with robbery with violence, which carries the death penalty. Two other women, Ann Wambui Ng'ang'a and Tabitha Mumbi, and 16 men were charged with the same offence. All the three women complained that they were tortured while in police custody. Nyawira stated that she was beaten and that blunt objects were forced into her genitalia until she bled. As other people canonize Moi and talk of his legacy, this is the Moi I knew. To rephrase Mark Anthony in Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, The evil that men do lives after them;The good is oft interred with their bones;So let it be Moi. 

Nairobi, February 5, 2020

Nairobi Sikhs celebrate the late Surjeet Singh Panesar


Surjeet Singh Panesar (Jr), Kenya’s four-time Olympian passes away

by Dil Bahra


8 November 2019

Surjeet Singh Panesar (Jr), affectionately known as Sindh, who represented Kenya at four Olympic Games, died in Nairobi, Kenya on Wednesday 6 November 2019 following a short illness. He was aged 81.
Sindh was born on 24 June 1938 in Nairobi, Kenya. His parents had emigrated to Kenya from India in 1919.
He studied at Duke of Gloucester School in Nairobi and went to India for further studies in 1954. He studied at Maharaja Patiala Public School and Patiala University. He played hockey for his school and university teams and during school holidays he played for Mohindra College. Harbail Singh, the legendary Indian Team Coach, who had coached India’s Gold Medal winning teams at Helsinki 1952 and Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games and who was his college coach, took him under his wings and had a big influence in his hockey. He also played football at school and university.
On returning to Kenya in 1957, he joined Sikh Union Nairobi, a Club which his father, Mr Balwant Singh Lalton, a very active sportsman, had a very deep association with
– he was one of the founders of Khalsa Club which later became Sikh Union Club.

Sindh represented Sikh Union Nairobi from 1957 to 1980, winning the Ujjager Singh Rai Cup; Kesar Singh Cup; Siri Guru Gobind Singh Cup and Aggarwal Cup in the 1957 – 58 season. He was a member of the Club’s team that won the M R D’Souza Gold Cup for a record thirteen times.

He represented the Asian Sports Association and was a member of the team that won the Kenya Cup in 1958.


Surjeet Junior seated 1st left with Sikh Union Nairobi Team 1970

He was selected to represent Nairobi X1 against England at City Park Stadium, Nairobi on 19 September 1958 and the following year he continued representing Nairobi X1 as a centre forward in the matches against India in Kenya.

He was selected to represent Kenya National team at the East African Championships (Rahim Jivraj Trophy) in Nairobi in May 1960 and earned his first international cap when he played against Uganda on 29 May 1960. Playing as a centre forward, he scored two goals on his debut, in Kenya’s 4 – 0 win and helped his team win the Championship for the second year running.
From that moment he became a regular for the National team, playing as a centre forward and was selected for Rome 1960 Olympic Games. He played in the 3 Test match series against Pakistan in Nairobi on the way to the Olympics.
Following the East African Championships held in Zanzibar in 1962 and retirement of Surjeet Singh Deol (Sr), Sindh took over the pivotal position of centre half and this is the position where he excelled. He played at Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games and started as a centre half at Mexico 1968 Olympic Games. An injury to the left back and captain of the Kenya team after only two matches at Mexico forced Sindh to take up the position of left full back for the rest of these Games.




Surjeet Junior standing 1st left with the Kenyan Team that toured India in April 1964.

On 27 April 1964 this team defeated India 0 – 3 in Jabalpur, this being India’s biggest defeat at that time in 184 internationals. Six months later, India won the Gold at Tokyo Olympics and Kenya finished 6th – her best Olympic Games position.

He was selected to represent Kenya at the first Hockey World Cup in Barcelona in 1971 where Kenya reached the semi-finals.

At Munich 1972 Olympic Games, Sindh played as right back. He retired from playing international hockey after these Games. At the Munich Olympics he became the first player to have played 31 matches, a record he held until 1988 when he was joined by Australia’s Richard Charlesworth. They both held this record until the London Olympic Games. The Rules of Hockey have changed over the years. The  Substitutes rule only came into existence in 1972 and now the rolling subs rule is in play.
He was one of three Kenyans to have played at four Olympic Games - Alu Mendonca and Avtar Singh Sohal being the others.

Surjeet Junior, standing 4th from left, with the Kenya Team at the 1st World Cup in Barcelona, Spain in 1971. Kenya finished fourth.

TRIBUTES


Avtar Singh Sohal (Tari), Kenya’s captain from 1962 - 1972 said “We were both very close friends and played together for many years for Sikh Union Club and for Kenya and both of us groomed many youngsters for the club. We were one in hockey and I will personally miss him as my very good friend and great hockey colleague. Condolences to our dear family.”
Surjit Singh Rihal, Kenya’s captain from 1973 – 81 paid this tribute “It was an honour to have played along with a great legend who inspired a lot of youngsters, including me, with his graceful stick work in Kenya to play and love hockey.  I admired and learned his style of scooping the ball. In 1969 l came back to Kenya after studying in India and joined the famous Sikh Union Club Nairobi so that l could play along with him. I took his position as centre half and he moved to right back position. Playing here at Sikh Union gave me a chance to learn more from his knowledge of hockey. We then played together for Sikh Union and Kenya in the  1971 World Cup and 1972 Munich Olympic Games. I admire him for his love for sports especially hockey and the respect he showed to all, both young and old people. I met him for the last time last year here in London along with many other Sikh Union players who had played together in the World Cup and Olympic Games with him. We will miss him but he will stay in the hearts of everyone.”
Raphael Fernandes, former Kenyan Olympian who now lives in Canada paid this tribute “Sindh was an Officer & a Gentleman – very soft spoken - and a Handsome

Personality with a dynamic International Etiquette and a Stylish Dress code! He was always the main attraction on the field – as he portrayed his Love / Discipline / Respect for the sport – with his Mastery / Brilliance / Skill / Experience / Expertise & Sportsmanship! He was my mentor and he always referred to me as “My Son” who has the longest strides with exhibition stick-work – but in reality I learned all the Golden Rules from the Master himself - and always tried to portray him!”
Davinder Singh Deegan, former Kenyan Olympian said “When I joined Sikh Union Club in 1965, Sindhi was the one who used to encourage me all the time. He was my pillar of strength when I started playing for Kenya. We played for Sikh Union and Kenya from 1965 to 1978. Throughout this time we were very close. He was a very honest and helpful gentleman should go out of his way to help anyone. We were roommates on many occasions on our tours and he was a fantastic roommate. He was a unique player who could play in any position.”

Cyprian Fernandes, journalist and author, who now lives in Australia, paid this tribute “When I saw Junior player for the first time, at centre-half for the Sikh Union I was like a stunned mullet. I had watched the visiting Indian, Pakistani and other visiting teams but I had never seen anyone take total command of a game as the supremo Junior did. He played hockey like  he  was  weaving  with  a  pair  of  knitting needles - he weaved between players, around players, found tiny crevasses in a closely packed defensive line and a flicked pass to the right or left or straight through the middle, especially to the right to Hilary Fernandes, and the move breached the defensive wall and Kenya was once again close to the D and poised dangerously for a goal. The very famous Hardial Singh once told me that the players were the ones that bent over and played close to the ground and yet had the ability to spring and watch what was happening in front of them or on either side. Junior was close to the ground, very close to the ground. I always marvelled at watching Junior in action.”


Ajmal Malik, former Kenyan Olympian, now residing in Islamabad, Pakistan said “Sindh was not only a great hockey player, but also a great colleague and friend. He was always there to help and provide guidance and advice on improving your hockey skills. During overseas tours he was always concerned about the well-being of his fellow players. He was a thorough gentleman with subtle sense of humour which always kept our spirits high.”

Hilary Fernandes former Kenyan Olympian, now residing in Toronto, Canada said “We were team mates in the Kenya National team for almost 13 years, representing the Country in almost all the matches that Kenya played during this period, at home and abroad. We played three Olympic Games together. What a pleasure it was playing alongside a very talented and gifted young hockey player. He made life easy for all of us on the field with his support and encouragement. He was capable of playing in any position if called upon, but was a star when he played in his preferred position as centre-half. He was in the driver’s seat and feared no opposition. I also had the privilege and pleasure of playing with him from 1965 – 1969 for one of the best hockey teams in the country – Sikh Union Club Nairobi. He was a well-groomed

guy who wouldn’t take any nonsense from anyone when he was on the field, he was in command and full of confidence.”

Silu Fernandes, former Kenyan Olympian, now residing in Toronto, Canada had this to say: “My friend and team mate Surjeet Jr. dazzled the world of hockey, both on and off the field at the Olympics in Rome, Tokyo, Mexico City and Munich and Test matches in India, Pakistan and at home in Kenya. Showmanship and style were the undiluted essence of his life on and off the field and puts him right up there on the ranking of the world’s top sportsmen ...most certainly on mine ! Our team mates, here in Toronto, Hillary, Raphael and Leo Fernandes, Norman da Costa and I were very fortunate to meet up with the Maestro during his short visit in April of last year.”

Amarjeet Singh Marwa, former Kenyan Olympian said “I joined Sikh Union & the Kenya National Hockey teams in 1965 & met Surjeet for the first time. I was immediately captivated by his dedication, fitness & skill. He was a master class playmaker & during my playing career at Sikh Union, we lost only one game out of hundreds we played, sweeping all the tournaments, thanks to Surjeet & Avtar's help in defence. It was the same with the National team in World Cups & Olympic  Games. Surjeet was our guiding light for the young players & he was always helpful on & off the field. I am greatly honoured to have played with him. In the summer of 2018 in London, I, with some of my Olympic colleagues, had the opportunity of meeting him for the last time when we talked about our hockey conquests! We all will miss him greatly.”

Harvinder Singh Sibia, former Kenyan Olympian, now residing in the UK said “Surjeet Panesar - An amazing player with captivating skills, immense technical know - how with a gentle and polite demeanour to all those who came into contact with him. I had the opportunity to play alongside him and found his tips and encouragement very illuminating. A great player who stood among the best in the world.”

Jack Simonian, former Kenyan Olympian, now residing in the UK paid this tribute: “Sindhi, as he was popularly known, was a good friend of mine throughout my long period at Sikh / Simba Union in Nairobi. I am proud to describe him as a well- meaning character who would never have a negative word to say about anyone! "Rare at any time". At Hockey, he was a "Gentle Wizard" with his stick work and distribution of the ball to penetrative movements. He really understood the meaning of "The Craft of Hockey" by listening to people like our Mahan Singh and others from India who were on hand to advise in his maturing ages. To have listened and accepted the advice given shows, in my opinion, "Humbleness". I am proud to have known him and will miss his presence.”

Edgar Fernandes, former Kenyan Olympian, now residing in Melbourne, Australia paid this tribute: “Sindhi as he was affectionately known, was in my opinion, the greatest centre-half of his era, in the world. He was a player of great distinction, dedicated, determined, and it was a pleasure to play with him in my time, including the Rome and Tokyo Olympics. But as a person he exuded an air of confidence, was always impeccably dressed, had a great sense of humour, very friendly, courteous, and extremely helpful. He will always be remembered for not only his exceptional

ability in Hockey but also his outstanding personality. He was one of the greatest hockey players of Kenya.”

Norman Dacosta, former hockey correspondent of Daily Nation (Kenya), now residing in Canada, had this to say: “Sindhi was a field hockey icon and I had the unique opportunity of playing against him for the Railway Goan Institute and also reporting on, who in my opinion was one of the greatest centre-halves of his era that included some extraordinary Indians and Pakistanis. Off the field he was a dapper individual with a sense of good clothing and an immaculate beard and turban. I was fortunate enough to meet Surjeet in Toronto and later in Nairobi in 2018 and visit his beautiful home that he designed. And his garden was something to behold. Apart from his exploits on the field, Surjeet was a great cook and his chicken koroga was out of this world.”


(published on Monday 8 November 2019)

Rest in peace President Moi (the giraffe)


Rest in Peace President Giraffe!

President Daniel arap Moi that I knew from 1960 to 1975 was a quiet man. As his nickname suggests he was also a very alert and watchful man. Most Kenyan politicians, especially the Kikuyu underestimated the former teacher, Daniel arap Moi. Among them was the man with whom I worked closely on the Foreign Affairs circuit, Foreign Minister Njoroge Mungai – the man who always carried a revolver somewhere on his body, anytime, anywhere, except at his wedding where I jokingly asked him if he was packing and just laughed. But it was no laughing matter on those times I supped on Aquavit, Champagne and Caviar in the Norfolk Hotel saunas. The question of who would succeed President Kenyatta was always hot in the air and it was not different that we discussed it and each time his answer was: “Moi will not succeed Mzee.”
So, who would succeed him? I asked. “You got to remember it was the Kikuyu who gave up their lives fighting for the freedom of this country. It is only right that a Kikuyu succeeds Mzee.”
But that is not democratic, I argued. “It will be. A Kikuyu will succeed Mzee and it will be done democratically.”
Will it be you? “Who knows, maybe!”
That was the tenor of conversations on that subject. Mungai was always very irked (and I had to be on my guard because I had learnt never to be casual with the minister who had a reputation of being a hard man, even alleged to have fired the first shot into the crowd of Luos … thus starting the massacre that cost (from memory) 11 or 17 people their lives, including an infant in the arms of her ayah … at Kisumu where Jomo Kenyatta at come to challenge Oginga Odinga and the Luo people after the death of Tom Mboya, often heralded as Jomo’s best man to succeed the Presidency). Yes, the name that irked him often was Charles Njonjo. He never told me what his problem was with the attorney general but I know of one instance: In and 1971 at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Singapore, on the day before meeting of the Heads of Government, it was agreed that Njonjo would be leading the delegation and put Kenya’s case for the anti-arms sales to South Africa campaign (which Mungai had worked on for nearly three or four years prior). I spent some time with Njoroge Mungai and his specialists at meetings that night preparing of the big meeting the next day. Moi did not know the intricate details of the campaign but was aware of it. Sometime in the early hours of the morning, Mungai’s phone rang and he was informed that Moi, and not Mungai, would be leading the delegation.
That previous afternoon, while everyone was relaxing the swimming pool and talking about the arms campaign, Njonjo said he could not understand when Kenya and other people were bothering with this anti-arms sales thing. If it was up to him, he said, he would open an embassy in Pretoria “tomorrow”. Following several minutes of stunned silence, Moi led the laughter celebrating the Njonjo joke, except Njonjo was not joking because I think he knew it was all a waste of time. If he knew, he was right. The next day, the British Foreign Secretary nuked any discord in the house by getting everyone to agree that heads of government would discuss the matter as a family and come to an agreement. Naturally, Mungai was fuming and frothing. His four years of work around the world, coaxing Africans, Asians, Canadians and everyone else in the Commonwealth to support the campaign had been nuked in just a matter of minutes.
Meanwhile, Moi had nothing but a momentary twinkle in his eye and after he brushed it with his handkerchief, a think smile creased his face.
I ran with the pack and came across Uganda’s Milton Obote and several other leaders offering an impromptu press conference. I was first to draw and show: Mr President, how could you all have allowed that to happen … the anti arms sales to South Africa campaign nuke by a procedural motion …
Obote butted in: “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, this Cyprian Fernandes, who is an imperialist stooge … working for the Americans and the British …”
My colleagues, butted in a chorus of: “Answer the question!” Obote and his fellow heads of government just turned around, shook some frenzied fly-whisks in the air and departed.
A couple of hours later, I headed off to Hong Kong, only to learn that Obote had been overthrown and I return on the East African Airways Comet (I think) which took an unplanned left turn to pick him and for me to score an exclusive of sorts.
Throughout all this, Daniel arap Moi went about the business of seeing something of Singapore. One night when Njonjo and I joined him for dinner, Moi broke into torrents of derision when he was that we were having escargot for entres … (Nini na kula dudu (in kitchen Swahili (mine), translation: “you are eating bugs” or words to that effect.
I had known that he was a teacher in the Rift Valley. I had also known that he had been on a teacher training course at Jeanes School Kabete and had quickly come to realise the value of athletics coaching and had returned and urged every school to have at least one teacher trained in coaching. It did not happen overnight but it did eventuate … how could it when the Rift Valley came to conquer the world in middle and long-distance running. In the very early 1950s, Moi was Vice President of the African and Arab Athletics or Sports Association. We often discussed athletics and he was always mightily proud that so many young people from the Rift Valley were showing promise of following the footsteps of Kipchoge Keino and the other pioneers who had shown what could be achieved.
When Kenyatta eventually died, Mungai and others tried to change the Kenya constitution to stop Moi from succeeding to the Presidency. Charles Njonjo strongly fought off the attempted move on the constitution. That made it even more clearer that the feud between Mungai and Njonjo would continue forever.


More on that Botswana trip: My friend John Kamau (The Nation, The East African), one of the great investigative journalists of our time, has resurrected a story first published in 2013 about Mama Lena, Daniel arap Moi’s first wife, who died in July 2004. The marriage ended in divorce 1974 which was finalized in 1979 but not  without some bitter incidents.
I had accompanied the arap Mois on their visit to Botswana and spent quite a bit off-time with them. Mama Elena was known as a very “kali” (tough) woman, an almost fundamentalist Christian, she would not put up with any kind of “nonsense” including silly jokes. I can’t remember either of them having a drink and I am certain the Vice-president (then) would have had the courage to either.
More often than not, they were very quiet.
Both had a very strong and enduring connection with the Barnetts. The father, Albert arrived in Kenya in 1907, a bachelor. He later married a Swede, Elma, and had two sons, according to John Kamau. Reverend Erik Barnet married Daniel and Lena. His brother Paul had baptised Lena.
More of than not, Moi often stayed with the Barnetts.
“The Barnetts made Moi the Sunday School teacher at an early age as they encouraged him to take a leadership role in the church. By 1942, he was the school captain of the government school, with Paul and Erik as his peers – the two missionary sons of Albert Barnett.”
To say that they were pretty one big family is something of an understatement.
I did not drink in front of either of them. Mama Lena did give me a severe ticking off for smoking. She was a formidable figure…but somehow lost in religion. And I am not saying that is a bad thing but moderation does come to mind.

Kenya has a lot to thank Moi for … and others will tell that his reign was perhaps one best forgotten because of its cruelty.
Before I left, he treated me to lunch at Parliament House. When I was leaving he handed me a letter in which he applauded me for being a journalist who contributed to nation-building always ...at the end he wrote, "you will always be welcome as a tourist.". I think he had the last laugh there.
Sadly, he will only be remembered for one of the worst presidencies in Kenya’s history.
Byron Menezes His legacy of dictatorship, brutality, nepotism and corruption stands tall when African nations are reviewed. I too left Kenya in the early 90s as it grappled with ethnic clashes, a collapsed economy and regular detention of free speakers. Tumetoka mbali (we have come a long way) is a topical phrase used now, indeed we have.

God bless Kenya as it continues to struggle with the destruction of that era, in particular, the emotive land issue which is at the root of almost everything today due to roadside declarations and cronyism in dishing out state resources.

We left Kenya because of you Mr Moi made things hard and so l don’t have anything nice to say but had to leave my beautiful Kenya where l was born and raised l cannot believe you lived that long,” said another of my readers.
Daily Nation: “Daniel arap Moi ruled Kenya with a strong hand. He jailed his critics without trial and had others tortured, was feared in every corner of the country and had fierce policemen at his beck and call. In spite of such power, chapters of struggle abound in both is family and political affairs.”
 The Guardian: Daniel arap Moi ruled Kenya with a strong hand. He jailed his critics without trial and had others tortured, was feared in every corner of the country and had fierce policemen at his beck and call. In spite of such power, chapters of struggle abound in both is family and political affairs.
The New York Times: … after suppressing opposition and consolidating power in a single-party state, he began a 24-year dictatorial reign. Mr Moi — with his nimbus of silver hair, buttonhole rose and ivory baton — dominated life in Kenya. He put his face on banknotes, ordered his portrait hung in offices and shops, enriched his family and tribal cronies and, as investigations showed, stashed billions in overseas banks. For much of his tenure, it was illegal even to speak ill of him.
LA TIMES: Political activists and others who dared oppose Moi’s rule were routinely detained and tortured, the report said, noting unlawful detentions and assassinations, including the killing of a foreign affairs minister, Robert Ouko.
“The judiciary became an accomplice in the perpetuation of violations, while parliament was transformed into a puppet controlled by the heavy hand of the executive,” the report said.
Corruption, especially the illegal allocation of land, became institutionalized, the report said, while economic power was centralized in the hands of a few.
BBC: … Moi's rule was typified by economic stagnation and his government was so corrupt that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank stopped lending to Kenya.
The biggest single scandal was first made public in 1992.
Known as the Goldenberg affair, it centred on the theft of £400m of public money that was paid as state subsidies to a company called Goldenberg International to promote fictitious exports of Kenyan gold and diamonds.
It took 14 years for fraud charges to be brought against, among others, the company's director, the former treasury permanent secretary and the former deputy director of the central bank.
An official inquiry suggested that President Moi must have known about what was going on but he always denied involvement.