Phallus of the Composition
By Elly Omondi Odhiambo
Sometimes politics in Kenya bears a resemblance to the Greek theatre of the old. Why is the male anatomy so important in political overtones? This is the kind of obsession the Greeks had in their ritualized politics, the private was public and the public became very private. In July 2007, just a few months to the Fiasco Elections (read Wathika, Magara, Thuo, Mbugua, Khalwale the list is endless) in Kenya, I wrote an opinion article on this notion of superiority which some ethnic chieftains still continue to express in the name of political to be precise, future national leadership. I have preferred the title of this short essay ironically to fulfil the passion of some of our politicians; those who believe that one cannot and will never be president of Kenya if the sheath of their male anatomy, penis was still in place. It is also a penned reasoning about the fate of women in leadership.
To millions of Kenyans, not just the said politicians who represent them, the old traditional notions of the complete man, the warrior, the head of the family and possibly the entire nation must be of a certain resume, one in which the phallus or penis becomes a political entity. Never mind Barack Obama, his predecessor, David Cameron, Jacob Zuma and so forth, whether or not these have also faced the knife. Instantly, in Kenya with this direct correlation between the presidency and the route to it, even in our post-modern environment, the likes of Martha Karua and to a more speculative extent, the warrior like Mama Orie-Rogo Manduli and any other woman worth their salt, would never become president of this country. Why? When in the peak of her career Mama Orie-Rogo walked the path like a peacock, did the audience just see her beautiful headgear or was that a woman whose voice many Kenyan women have but are clearly unheard? The subject of the phallus displaces them in the order of the socio-political food chain, hence making them just mere females, spectators and in this way engendered as the periphery, not the centre.
Therefore in sexual politics, what radical feminists call male controlled hierarchies, in our case, the Judiciary, Parliament, the religious pulpits and the boardrooms of capitalist entities like banks, supermarkets and other industrial sectors, these are a microcosm of what is happening in Kenya at large. But also on this same note, one will not be surprised to hear a female political leader conforming to the sexualized politics of the phallus by calling for the rejection of men who are not circumcised. If it is a numbers game, there are very few radical feminists left, they have not all converged or sheepishly accepted the male ordered status quo, the problem is, even the media has given them a blackout. So the only way they can be heard is when they act as an appendage of their male counterparts or politicians. However there are strong signs that in Kenya today, there are women leaders who are on the frontline to bring a paradigm shift in the equality debate which is often weakened by the historical male superiority complex.
Again, away from the subject of the phallus, sexism and women, this same part of the male anatomy has resurrected and is in the headlines with vicious venom. The Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta spoke at Wangige where he described President Mwai Kibaki as a circumcised man, full and complete to the task of the presidency. This implies that Prime Minister Raila Odinga, because of his ethnicity, Ja-Luo, if uncircumcised, should never head this nation. I have recently told an Irish friend that in Kenya, the phallus is not just a mere organ; it is used as an electioneering bullet point, almost like a necessary part of a manifesto. The phallus is Kenya’s Tahrir Square, period it can be the single most unifying course if deliberately used by politicians to rally ‘their’ people in a common course to defeat Raila Odinga. My Irish colleague objected to this rationale calling it primitive. He even followed with a strong defence of leaders the world over who are elected not because of the shape, size, cosmetic or traditional scars on their phallus but the sharpness of the matter between their ears, the brains. My friend watched the now infamous Wangige Speech as archived on YouTube, he could not believe that the smartly dressed chap delivering it was also Kenya’s Minister for Finance, a man who should be surmounting pressures on the global stage to reject some of the insidious effects of the Western Banking industry and how a number of their ludicrous investment profiles in Africa can be tamed or properly regulated for public good, a review of tax policies for example.
Back to the 2007 article, then, I noted that beyond Raila Odinga’s circumcision or not, the mystery that permanently bedevils his pathological enemies is really political and quite unnecessary. If one read the playground antics of anti-Raila politicians then, their fears have not only remained politically the same, their ideological vacuum is also on the same plane, nothing has changed. They are not providing any ideological or post-constitution promulgation initiatives that would make their claims even stronger and genius than those of their imaginary enemy; the one they say is not circumcised and therefore cannot and will not be president. The question I asked in 2007 and I will ask again today is simple, ‘if all Jo-Luo were circumcised would that constitute a new page in Kenya’s politics of the body and mind?’
Elly Omondi Odhiambo is a Research Associate based in Northern Ireland firstname.lastname@example.org