“I work as a supervisor in a manufacturing firm in Nairobi and I dislike the manner in which some of my colleagues berate their juniors at work. When I point out to them, I am labeled a moral rebel. How can I convince the management to take action without being victimised?"
As children growing up in the city of Nairobi, we sang many songs, some Christian, others praising nature and all its wonderful creations such as the buzzing bee, while others were about time to go home for lunch and be with mum. Writing about these ‘nursery rhymes’ brings back many memories and nostalgia of yester year.
As Kenya approached independence (1963), we were exposed to an increasing menu of political music, some singing the praises of great men like Jomo Kenyatta, and others with political commentary about the politics of the day for example the majimbo verses the unitary government policies of KADU and KANU respectively. The excitement was not only in the air but for many palpable. It was a case of music in our ears in a literal sense.
One political song that remains in my head to this day spoke about how before independence Africans were last in the social pecking order and how uhuru was a statement and order that caused a social ‘About Turn’ that meant that from last we Africans became first! That was the nature of the patriotic music we heard as children. Some of us remember 12th December as the day we sung for our country in the presence of the Duke of Edinburg.
Soon after independence, came affirmative action to elevate the Kenyans from the colonial positions of oppression to create a country of more equitable distribution of resources. Bodies such as the Kenyanisation Bureau were formed to oversee the promotion of Kenyans to jobs otherwise held by foreigners. The Ministry of Trade was in charge of ensuring that retail trade was in the hands of Kenyans. The collective weight of government was geared towards the correction of the inequities associated with colonial rule. Debate continues to rage as to whether these programmes did good or harm to the people.
This rather long history lesson is intended to show you that the question you ask has deep roots that touch not only to the concerns you have today but to the whole subject that led to the struggle for independence. In addition to political self-determination was the thirst for human rights and dignity.
The constitution Kenya gave to itself in 2010 is big on human rights and the protection of the rights and dignity of Kenyans is central to the Constitution. It provides, for example for the protection of the person against torture whether physical or mental from private or public sources. Your question implies that some managers by berating their juniors are infringing on the constitutional rights of Kenyans.
Your duty to the juniors and to some extent the whole company is to make sure that the matter is brought to the attention of the appropriate authority. If for any reason you fear to point these matters to the company, then you have the duty to report the matter to the Kenya Human Rights Commission whose core mandate is to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights.
Respect for junior staff is not a favour but a right protected by law and reporting the breach is also a duty you owe those you have seen suffer.
The white colonial settler in days gone by employed grown men as ‘shamba boys’ or ‘house boys’ Younger men were titled ‘toto jikoni’. The adults those many years ago told us that independence meant that our dignity would be restored and added that all would have big houses, would drive cars and there was no need to work. (It seems their view was wrong in some respects).
I would urge you to take the bull by the horn and act now. You might remember a video that went viral recently which showed a Kenyan being whipped buy a foreigner for getting to work late. Such acts offend our Constitution and are in some ways what your question is about.
There is honour in protecting and upholding the rights of the most vulnerable in society, a fact that was well articulated by Mahatma Ghandi who stated in essence that the extent of the civilisation of any country is reflected buy the way it treats its most vulnerable people. Your juniors seem to fall in that category.