This weekend I spoke with someone I had not spoken with for over twenty years. We met when I lived in Southern California in the 80s and had been Facebook friends since 2010 but had yet to talk. Juliana (not her real name) is also from Kenya. Her mother is from Nyeri and her father is from Kiambu – someone definitely crossed the Chania River! We caught up on what has happened in our lives since we last talked almost two decades ago. She waxed maternally about her two beautiful children – Julianna (with two “Ns” instead of one – there is a big difference I was told – forcefully) and Julian (Juliana sans the “A” at the end). I listened and concurred with her description of her offsprings knowing that I expected her to do the same when I started babbling about my equally beautiful son. As presciently as I had imagined, Juliana and I both agreed that fortunately, Malo, my adorable ten-year old had inherited his mom’s looks! I shamelessly plugged my upcoming book Wuodha: My journey from Kenya to these United States. I also told her about my blog, thetwoninetyonetracker.com once again with little shame! It was at this point that our conversation took a sharp turn and focused on the just-concluded presidential elections and the postings on my blog.
Juliana and I blamed everyone and everything for the dysfunctional nature of present-day Kenyan politics. She decried the gloating of “her” people from Central Province (over the election results), “their domination” of Kenya’s socio-political and economic life since independence and their perceived sense of entitlement. I lamented over the “herd” and “victim” mentality of “my” people from Nyanza; wondering about the wisdom of their near-permanent status as the mainstay of Kenya’s political “opposition”. We both blamed the politicians from Kenyatta Pere to Kenyatta Fils, Odinga Pere and Odinga Fils, not to mention the sycophants around them, for the country’s halting socio-political and economic development since independence; economic development whose trajectory, especially in the late 70s, was on par with that of the Four Tigers – South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong – or so I argued in my senior thesis in 1989 in a paper well-recieved by my advisor Professor Chalmers Johnson, a noted political economist and expert on Asia. We did not forget the role M1, as Daniel Moi was called back in the days, played in exacerbating the tribalism, corruption and human rights abuses set in motion by Kenyatta Pere. We mused over the third crossing of the Chania River by one Emilio Mwai Kibaki. A development I described as Kenya’s Camelot Era that started with so much promise only to fizzle in an orgy of post-election violence in 2007: His “re-election” birthed the post-election violence that forever tarnished Kenya’s image as an “oasis of peace” surrounded by the Idi Amins and Siad Barres of this world; the same PEV that Messer’s Kenyatta and Ruto are answering for at The Hague. Our pride was unmistakable as we marveled at how the half-Kenyan Luo Barack Obama rose to become the first black (and bi-racial) president in America no less – a country whose past is similarly marred with deadly violence between its citizens – blacks and whites. We then laughed uncontrollably as we wondered how he would fare were he to vie for Kenya’s presidency. All told, it was a heartwarming conversation. It felt great to reconnect with a long-lost and dear friend.
The one thing Juliana and I started to discuss albeit not as vociferously as we did when assigning blame for what ails Kenya was OUR role in contributing to the dysfunction. The two of us spent more time casting aspersions at all save us for Kenya’s problems.
I have to admit that I have offered more criticism than solutions to the problems facing the country of my birth; an admission and realization that brought me to the quote below from a YouTube clip titled “Bull’s Eye: Life after the elections.”
It is my prayer UK/Ruto reach out to Luo Nyanza no matter how many times they may be rebuffed. UNITE KENYA.
I did not support Uhuru Kenyatta’s candidacy because I believe that he is the poster child for all that has been at the heart of Kenya’s socio-political problems: Corruption, nepotism, entitlement, privilege, patronage, impunity etc. and because he is facing charges at the International Criminal Court for crimes against fellow Kenyans. Maybe it is just my quirkiness or maybe I have been away from Kenya for too long but there is something morally wrong when a presidential candidate and his deputy are both facing charges as heinous as the charges facing Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto.
Having said that, I recognize and respect the fact that Mr. Kenyatta was duly elected by the majority of Kenyans, Supreme Court-confirmed and finally inaugurated as President of Kenya. I will give him the honeymoon period he deserves even as I continue my critique of his presidency. However, I also want the criminal proceedings at The Hague to continue to their conclusion, if for no other reason than to provide some semblance of justice for the thousands of Kenyans brutally murdered and hundreds of thousands more displaced from their homes because of actions allegedly fomented by Mr. Kenyatta and his VP.
Though I am not familiar with the series “Bull’s Eye,” I think of it as political satire addressing current events in Kenya. It is, I believe, the equivalent of two shows that air stateside on the TV channel Comedy Central featuring Jon Stewart and Steve Colbert. The comedic respite of the YouTube clip aside, the comment from Mr. Gathungu was timely and extremely instructive. I would, however, replace the words “Luo Nyanza” with “their opponents” thus the comment would read: It is my prayer that UK/Ruto reaches out to their opponents no matter how many times they may rebuff their efforts (to unite Kenya).
It is my sincere hope that President Uhuru Kenyatta takes Mr. Gathungu’s advice to heart. It is also my hope that as Kenyans, we take Mr. Gathungu’s words to heart and become the change we want in Kenya to wit: Anyone interested in adopting an IDP?