By Shadrack Muyesu
The most fascinating characteristic of a human being is the ability to lie to himself and actually believe it. Equally fascinating is the praise that modern society heaps on persons who demonstrate an unrivalled ability to accept information without question and reproduce it absent contradiction.
Good students of history swear that our independence is the gift of an unrelenting sacrifice of blood that our forefathers lovingly made. Keen interrogators of the same history, however, refuse to believe that a disciplined British force could have been defeated by a ragtag group of African militia wielding homemade guns and kitchen knives. At the risk of a tyranny of condemnation, I dare say that I subscribe to the later school of thought. Far from being earned, Kenya’s independence was the negotiated result of lengthy discussions among British parliamentarians who believed that the colonial empire was no longer viable as economic project. It shouldn’t come as a surprise therefore that we “won” at about the time everyone else was winning.
That said, it would be foolhardy to trivialise the efforts of Dedan Kimathi and the rest of the freedom soldiers. Indeed, like Nyungu ya Mawe, Chief Mkwawa, Mekatilili wa Menza and most famously prophets of Majimaji, on sheer belief alone, these great people deserve stellar mentions in the annals of Kenya’s histories for years to come.
It baffles me how a name such as Jomo Kenyatta is bandied around in these circles though. Jomo’s contribution to the freedom struggle was a 15 year excursion abroad to which history documents that he was “attending meetings.” The less said about this trip the better for, in all fairness, Edna Clarke Kenyatta remains its only tangible legacy – not even an educational certificate (where our historians want us to believe he was studying!).
But the man went and returned, triumphantly I should say, as though he were Julius Caesar returning from one his murderous conquests and all of Rome, the Senate plus, gathered to meet him. A party portfolio and in a twinkle, he was president. For a man who had only sneaked into the king’s dinnery, one would be forgiven to assume that he would immediately set about justifying his new status by righting the sins of the old. But lo and behold – typical of man who only inherited his fortune – instead of unifying the country, he settled down to looting its coffers and, in the process, pitted brother against brother in a vicious cycle of hate that is now the monster of tribalism, to which we are prisoners today.
While our land problem is naturally burdened upon the British for their massive displacement exercise, it shouldn’t be lost on us to recall that, upon independence, Jomo had the chance to make things right when tasked with reallocating recovered crown land.
Disenfranchising his own Kikuyu tribesmen, he took this land instead and shared it out to a handful of tribal henchmen who never developed it, leaving a large number of the original land owners landless. Fortunate peasants would receive an acre or two in foreign lands while enterprising (mostly corrupt) persons organised themselves into land buying companies that purchased massive tracts in “other people’s inheritances.”
Having paid himself for his “freedom hustle”, good Jomo set about doing the only natural thing a man in his position would do – consolidate his position. He killed private enterprise by consistently emphasising on public investment in state-run corporations. He plotted continuously against political freedoms, even killing when he needed to, just so that he and his mountain mafia could feel safe. As far as his hate for contemporary intellectualism goes, he is perhaps only bettered by Sassou Ngueso and his infamous hate for eye glasses “for they made people look smart.”
So much was his hunger for personal wellness that he couldn’t help but pick his Kapenguria cellmates’ pockets (or their lives when push came to shove). Not even his Kikuyu tribesmen were spared. With swagger, grandiose and an enchanting charm, he would go around teaching his people to hate the very people who had unselfishly crowned him – and not just them but their offspring as well. After all this, a careful study of the secrets of WikiLeaks, the deaths of JM Kariuki and Thomas Joseph Mboya, not to mention the utter poverty in which true freedom heroes lived and some died, it is difficult to love such a man!
Spread all over and surrounded by mass victims of Jomo’s sins, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Kikuyu are always on the verge of a holocaust every other time elections call.
The drafters of the Constitution of Kenya must have had these thoughts in mind when going about their craft. But while the Constitution (2010) adopted a legal framework upon which we could be sanctified, I dare say that this was a wrong prescription that could only be the result of an inconclusive diagnosis. The application of Article 10, the Preamble and indeed the entire document as a curative agent is difficult in a primitive, rural society that still places so much emphasis/value on land. It’s, in fact, impossible where a great deal of the people that make this exercise in this society have, by accident or design, been disenfranchised of their original lands. An impossible task becomes unthinkable where loose cannons such as Moses Kuria, George Aladwa and Ambrose Weda seemingly exist to earn a million shillings in benefits just to slap up with ignorance and rapture the fragile love we may have.
Equity and justice cannot be achieved by “criminalising” inequality and injustice; cohesion and integration cannot be realised by having a working cohesion and integration commission in place; good governance cannot be realised by ascribing the ideals of constitutionalism and the rule of law; neither can good leaders by voting or advocating for a robust liberal democracy; nor land reforms by revamped land laws protecting existence or emphasising on the right that every Kenyan has to reside anywhere within the country!
Kenyans need to be patriotic first. But even this patriotism cannot be achieved by running emotive adverts on TV, uniting behind “Shujaa 7s” or killing time at Churchill. Patriotism can only be enjoyed where there is a national ideology in place, a national identity, a shared genuine belief in oneness. It is a mindset. (Little wonder the great Nelson Mandela said that when a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw).
Dear reader, we lost the chance at natural patriotism when Jomo refused to be guided by the instruction of Kwame Nkrumah, who patched up a broken country through education; the wisdom of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who to unite his people used a simple ideology; or Madiba, who by a single public act achieved the seemingly impossible act of joining the white man and the black man. Like Rehoboam, Jomo decided to follow the Nguesos of this world, to which end he managed to start his own version of a Kenyan cosmic war. Make no mistake; Nkrumah wasn’t without error, and neither were Mwalimu Nyerere, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ben Bella or even Madiba. If anything, a good number of these men retired with massive fails. Yet, to the end that they united a country, their legacies are undisputed.
They could have failed, but they failed trying. Kenyatta failed trying to fail, he stole trying so hard to steal and typically Kenyan, we rewarded him with a state burial, a flag draped coffin and a mausoleum escorted by war songs and heartfelt dirges that only a Messiah deserves!
Kenyans’ minds are poisoned, and rightly so. Our only sanctuary lies in surrendering our destinies to the remaining few who demonstrate a true patriotism in a system of justified choice-making (moderate deliberative democracy), not a robust liberal democracy! If a robust constitution is our biggest achievement, then it walks hand in hand with our doom!