Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Slap Heard Round the World

Rachel Shebesh, the Nairobi Women’s Representative, as in a Member of Parliament, as in a highly respected public official, was among council workers who stormed Governor Kidero's office on September 6, 2013, in a demonstration over the ongoing county employees strike. The Governor emerged from his office and was surprised to find Shebesh and an estimated 30 people. There is a general consensus on these facts in regards to the incident termed by one newsite as “the slap heard across the nation” (http://allafrica.com/).

Video footage depicts a heated exchange between Kidero and Shebesh, followed quickly by a now famous slap. Shebesh can be heard sputtering “You have slapped me? You have slapped me?” as she is being led away by aides.

This is where the general consensus ends, with contrasting opinions heating up social media. Contradictory statements from the Governor’s office have caused yet more confusion. Kidero’s initial response denied slapping anyone, "I was in my office but I don't remember or have any recollection of slapping anyone. All I know is that a group of people about 30-40 tried to force themselves into my office led by an Honourable Member of Parliament,” said Kidero.

The honorable mayor later recanted this statement, claiming instead that Shebesh provoked the incident by assaulting him. While the Kenya Police Medical Examination report corroborates his account of soreness to the groin, the video does not depict any evidence Shebesh attacking him, leading to yet more confusion. Both Shebesh and Kidero have filed police reports.

All in all, this exchange has irrevocably impacted the images of both parties. Shebesh, no stranger to conflict, has been defamed further, with individuals expressing sentiments that “she had it coming,” or focusing on her approach. The Nairobi county assembly heard a motion calling for the impeachment of Governor Kidero, a decision that has currently been tabled. Several civil and women’s groups have condemned the incident and his behavior.

While the details of the incident remain clouded and controversial, the fact remains that both Kidero and Shebesh are publically elected officials in offices that demand a level of decorum and respect. So, why is Shebesh making a ruckus, and why is Kidero behaving like a violent criminal, or a batterer?

S.N.L Kenya has developed a music track labeled “Slap Them Like Kidero,” further solidifying the issue in social media. Slap them Like Kidero This entire incident has had widely felt implications, both for Kenyan politics, and for the greater discourse on gender.

What is my take? I always tell my five year old and three year old that it is not right to slap, punch, or hit anyone (some few exceptions apply). I do NOT believe that Kidero should have slapped his colleague, whether male or female. The video indicates to me that the slap was not prefaced by a squeeze or any assault on Kidero. Shebesh could have demonstrated more decorum in her visit to Kidero’s office, but two wrongs do not make a right. Following as it does on the Sonko imbroglio, I think that it is fair to use this moment to focus on the mis-treatment of women in Kenya. Dr. Kidero, did you receive your doctorate at the school of violence against women?

On a lighter note, this post made me laugh! Did Kidero Allegedly Slap Shebesh, or Did He Certainly Do It?