Who is Robert Alai? Do you have a family? What do you do?
Robert a humble African who has very strong Pan-African views. I am a blogger, I hold opinions which I see good to share with everyone for a better world. Yes I have a family. I have a son who is six months old.
Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I went to school in Nyando, Kisumu County in Kenya. I am basically a village boy whose first time brush with the city was when I was joining college.
My child-hood was adventurous. I lost my mum while I was in Class Six. It was hard growing in a polygamous family but we learnt to protect and love each other. I loved looking after our almost 70 heads of cattle, lots of sheep and few goats. Most of the time we wouldn’t afford even Akala (sandals made from car tyres) to wear to school or while going to look after cattle.
Again I wear UK Size 46 shoes and I am 6’4″. That means that getting my size of shoes was also harder since Bata was the most common shoe seller and did not have most of the big sizes. My dad was a Primary School teacher before rising to be a schools inspector then an Educational Officer. He was strict but also very human and made sure that we never went hungry. On the occasions when he was broke, he made sure that he called the family and apologised.
That was unique, few parents call their kids and apologise to them for not being able to buy enough food.
What is education like in Kenya today compared to 20 years ago?
Education in Kenya is now too commercialised. The value of what you get is not what you pay for. I would rather we study in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda or even in South Africa instead of studying in Kenya. There is no reason why education, which should be a basic aspiration of every nation, is made so expensive.
Following you on twitter is not only educative, informative and funny. I have told you once before that it is also a pleasure because I admire someone who tells it like it is. Have you always been out spoken?
I have always been outspoken. I was suspended from both Primary schools for being outspoken. In college, I used to write secretly to media houses. Fear of expulsion was great but I have always believed in telling it like it is. I also tell my relatives as it is. I used to tell my dad as it is. He died knowing that what I did not agree with I would tell him.
Your way of telling it like it is must ruffle a few feathers. Doesnt it scare you?
I have received calls from politicians. First was when I used to run a Google forum called KaziAfrika. I used to get a lot of threats. We have a very ethnocentric country. That is my biggest worry. Problem is that we would rather not hear what bedevil us but preach our national anthem like it will correct the wrongs. Kenyans and Africans must rise above ethnicity. We MUST confront it and slay it. Sad that almost 90% of current conflicts in Africa are ethnic.
Have you ever thought of becoming a politician?
I have never thought of being a politician. I think I would be shot on the podium while campaigning. There are times when I fear for myself but I get assurances when I visit slums and see people who are on the brink of death but keep pushing on with life.
What is your opinion on Kenya’s political climate today?
Kenya is so screwed up. We practice politics, the president has made Kenyans think that ethinicising governments is cool and should be equated with merit. When you ask why 90% should have one community in almost 80% of the positions, you are asked “kwani si they qualify to be”. We must not only practice fairness, but must be seen to be fair.
Can Kenya elect a female President?
I am from a family of 25 and 20 of us are girls. I really belive that a woman should be president in Kenya. I don’t think we need a very vocal, ethnic and chauvinistic woman like Martha Karua. We need a Graca Machel or Mama Salma Kikwete kind of woman. I believe that I know four women I would love to see rule Kenya. Problem is that they are too sane for madness in the Kenyan politics and so might be unwilling to join in the madness.
You once tweeted something like ” You treat women who smoke just like you would treat a truck”. Your tweet was sexist. Are you one of those men who silently wish that a woman ‘should have stayed in the kitchen’?
I believe that a woman has an almost holy place in the family. Wishing that no woman smoked does no mean that I wish that they were only heard and not seen. I wish they would realise that they are the image of tender, caring, romantic and beauty of the world. I hate seeing even men smoke but I will never date a woman who smokes.
A woman smoking is destroying her womb which is the only sacred container of life. It is very hard to reverse the damages.
What is your view on women empowerment?
Women should and must be empowered, but we must never do it at the expense of the boy child. The women we empower are the same ones we expect to be approached, seduced and conquered by men. When you empower women and forget the boy child, you are creating a society full of single parents and same sex marriages.
I don’t want a situation where society would rather have 100 scholarships for women but none for men. If you create 100 scholarships for women, create 50 for men but also have a plan to level the offerings so that we have a 50:50 sharing in future. Sad to note that very educated and financially empowered women are being forced to bend low and marry less educated, shy and scared men because nobody empowered the boy child when the girl child was being empowered.
Is the war Kenya has with Al Shabbab affecting you? (Citizens)
The war is really affecting me. We are not a free country again. Everywhere you go, your pockets have to be checked and even genitals touched in the name of looking for weapons. Al-Shabbab has made kenyans cut on their bisuness and recreational activities with many now avoiding crowds. The rise in oil and imported goods’ prices has been blamed on Al-Shabbab’s activities in the Indian Ocean.
At the 2011 Press meeting with Ban Ki Moon, I told him that I think UN is not doing East Africans good by allowing Somalia to be lawless. I am glad after that exchange, UN involvement has been improved.
Out of a total of 49 million tourists that visited Africa in 2010, around 1.39 million came to Kenya. The figure is very low compared to earlier years. Can Kenya’s tourism sector ever go back to what it used to be?
Kenya will always rise from the brink when it faces its challenges and confront them head-on. I believe that we are not doing eveything right. Again kenyans are not aware of even the great places which they can visit in their own country. It is sad that most foreigners know much more about tourism great places than ourselves. We need to change that by teaching more on our cultural and great facilities. Domestic tourism is not exploited. We really need to exploit domestic tourism and see that foreigners will visit even more because almost every Kenyan will be talking about Kenya.
Now, when you ask a Kenyan what the country has to offer, an average citizen would tell you the obvious which offer no unique experience. We need to talk more about what we know about our country.
Where do you see Kenya in 30 years time?
Considering all factors constant, Kenya is going nowhere in 30 years. But with the dragon of nepotism, ethnic chauvinism and bad government slayed, I see Kenya as an African Norway in 30 years time.