And so today I finally post this article. I started to write it around the time the inflammatory Kikuyu songs were publicized in an excellent article. I commend the author for having the courage to write it. But perhaps it is Providence, after all, that I am posting this article on the day when we all unite around our celebrated and talented track athletes as they represent our nation at the 2012 London Olympics.
On this day, it’s not “hao waKalenjin.” Today, you will not see #TeamMaasai or #TeamKaleoz or #TeamRift hashtags. No today, as it has been for the past one week, and as it will be for the next one week or so, it will be #TeamKenya.
Expect this unity to be short-lived.
For seven years now it has been a source of constant wonderment just how much success our politicians have enjoyed when it comes to putting us all in tribal pigeonholes and then making us all put one another in tribal pigeonholes as well
For seven years now it has been a source of constant wonderment to me just how much success our politicians have enjoyed when it comes to putting us all in tribal pigeonholes and then making us all put one another in tribal pigeonholes as well. I wonder at it, honestly. I wonder at how tainted a word sisi has become in Kenya. I wonder at how much more tainted a word hao has become. I wonder how we are able to celebrate and befriend the Kalenjin when he is winning glamorous Grands Prix in ritzy European capitals, and then resent the same Kalenjin when he is our neighbour. I wonder at it.
Let me wax political. I wonder how two Hague suspects, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, can declare their respective interests in the Presidency, and receive the support of millions for their flawed bids. I wonder how it is that any of these candidatures can be robustly defended on middle class forums such as the The Daily Nation/East African Standard/Capital FM news sites and on Twitter and Facebook. Perhaps I will wonder even at the comments on this article, even though I promise here and now to answer each comment as patiently as I can. It appears to me that much of the middle class in Kenya has managed to attain a middle class economic status while remaining steadfastly “below the poverty line” intellectually speaking. How can anyone rule when defending themselves for months at a time at The Hague? Why should we expose ourselves to the peril, the embarrassment, and the stigma of having a President in international courts for months at a time? Or a President who is unable to make any foreign trips for the fear of being jailed? But I digress.
Anybody can stand on a podium and say anything, within limits. That’s called Freedom of Speech. For example, I can stand behind a pulpit and say if you touch my great-grandmother’s tombstone (may she rest in peace), within two hours from aforementioned contact you will receive news of great personal wealth. Now that is all kinds of un-Scriptural. Yet supposing there were queues of people waiting to touch said tombstone. Who should be blamed, myself (the liar) or the congregation (who believed it)? Yes, I’ve told them a lie. But they’ve believed it. Is the congregation entirely blameless?
What has led to the success of this divisive kind of politics? It is the perception that when mtu wetu is in power watu wetu benefit.
Because in quite similar fashion our politicians have pulled the wool over our own eyes. “It’s them!” they say. “They are the ones stealing NHIF money!” Or: “It’s them, they stole the Anglo Leasing money!” As I’ve pointed out in a poem, things are now at the point where it is less about the stealing, and more about who did the stealing. The stealing no longer troubles people. We have sunk to such depths that we only really care to know who benefitted from it. The fact that it was stolen is neither here nor there. As soon as we can ascertain that “they” did it, however, we leap to our feet, with the decibels pouring out of our throats.
What has led to the success of this divisive kind of politics? It is the perception that when mtu wetu is in power watu wetu benefit. [Frankly part of the reason some of the Kikuyu feel so close to Uhuru Kenyatta is because (I hear them say) “At least Uhuru stood up for us when were being finished.”] This perception that watu wetu benefit when mtu wetu is in power is perhaps the biggest deception on the Kenyan political scene. When mtu wetu is in power, what he/she does is to busy himself or herself looking out for the interests of – wait for it – mtu wetu. “Not watu wetu?” I hear you ask. No. Mtu wetu. Best believe it is mtu wetu first, mtu wetu last, and mtu wetu always. Anything mtu wetu does for watu wetu is done either accidentally or solely as a way of keeping mtu wetu in power so that mtu wetu can then continue stealing from everybody up to and including watu wetu. Now that is the truth, and if you’re fidgeting, calm down while I try to give some examples. I will give two instances where Kenyans have had to live like animals because of their so-called leaders’ failings – and the culprits may surprise you.
I am reminded of the time when our current Mtu-Wetu-in-Chief, President Kibaki, had just come back into power after a flawed election. It is a documented fact that people in Nyeri were eating pig food at the height of the 2009 drought. I remind us that Nyeri happens to be President Kibaki’s home district. What good had it done watu wetu that mtu wetu had retained power? Had that sneaky swearing-in stopped those poor Kikuyus, our countrymen, from having to eat the food of swine? Were they benefitting in any way from all the scandals that have occurred during the reign of mundu witu the President? Or perhaps let us take the example of Mr Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, the current Vice-Mtu-Wetu-in-Chief, and a man who has done precious little for the people of Mwingi in over a quarter of a century as a Member of Parliament. It is yet another documented fact that his people were drinking water straight out of the ground like cattle as recently as 2010. What good has it done these poor Kambas, our countrymen, that the Vice President is a wa kwitu?? I use the phrase “his people” quite loosely here, for they are not his people. They are merely his intellectual slaves, and he uses them for his own ends. It ought to be a criminal offence to treat one’s constituents like that. You see, this is the end-result of the mtu wetu argument for the watu wetu: misery, dehumanisation and utter, abject lack. That is the mtu wetu argument distilled to its essence.