I refuse to suck up to this fake sense of Kenyan patriotism.
I grew up reading books on Kenyan history and singing to the tunes of patriotic songs that were constantly propagated by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. I went to school in a single party state when there was no difference between government and political parties. I was taught history that was cooked by the curriculum developers to deliberately make me become patriotic to the country Kenya.
At school, I was taught to sing the national anthem as well as recite the national pledge, which at the time, was coined to end up with pledging loyalty and allegiance to the president of Kenya. I was taught that Kenyatta was the Kenyan Jesus. I was taught how to sing for the president, and bow my head in respect.
In church, I was taught to obey and not question authority. I was taught to take it as-it-is, accept and move on, not to follow my emotions, and not to question. I was taught that I deserve nothing but grace. I was taught to pray with my eyes closed. I was taught to be silent in the face of injustice, by simply praying for bad people doing bad things – that they may be forgiven and go scot-free.
In reality, we are divided as the branches of this tree. Whereas we come from the same roots, we have made branches that ensure that we do not converge as we fight for sunlight and air.
Then I was brought to Nairobi, where I met pastors who steal from their congregation, in daylight. I met employers who sucked the last drop of energy from their employees, and gave them 2,000 shillings for end of year bonus. I met friends who made me believe “am looking out for you” while they meant “I am looking out for myself through you”.
Sadly, mid life clarity has taught me that – education, religion and a large part of Kenyan socialization is a well orchestrated ploy to manufacture a deeply complacent but very functional citizen, a hard working but extremely hopeful citizen – one that pays immense tax but does not question the government on how it uses it, one that should be easily duped by fellow citizens that calamity and disaster brings out “the best in us”.
And so, with time, I have come to make thread of Kenyan patriotism. It is inspired by disaster and calamity. We are happy to have calamity bring us together. It’s the only language we understand. It looks like a language that could finally unite Africa. It looks like a language that Africa can speak together. We seem to often get united by grief.
That said, I decide that I wont suck up to the fake sense of Kenyan patriotism that is currently being shared around. We are one? No we are not. WE ARE NOT ONE. We are not! We are not one. Let me remind all of us that, it is the season of pretending to be ONE. It has happened before and now it is here, fresh with lilies, graphics, hysteria, poetry and related paraphernalia.
In 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi, We suddenly were ONE. I forget much of “We are or We are not ONE” events that happened between 1998 and 2008, but came elections in 2008, then we were NOT ONE all of a sudden. Came the Kikuyu + Kalenjin + Luo post election violence in 2008, and then we were ONE, immediately condemning attacks by our own terrorists.
When it came to taking suspected criminals to the International Criminal Court, We were not ONE, all of a sudden. Came hunger and starvation in Northern Kenya in 2011, and then Kenyans for Kenya campaign made us believe that were ONE again. Came elections in 2013, and then we were NOT ONE again. Came terrorist attack on 2013, and then we are ONE again, all of a sudden? wtf?
We are pretending to be one, and many of us are utilizing the limelight to gain political “I do good, I do well, I am also human” mileage for future prospects. Kenya is a cunning economy. We are NOT ONE, we are selfish individuals who sing at the pulpit when the song is nice to our ears, but we turn ruthless, aggressive, malicious and viciously greedy when the curtain closes on us.
Then I saw this list of these names and I wondered – how are we one? MichaelGichangi, head of National Intelligence Service; Julius Karangi, head of Kenya Defence Force; Ndegwa Muhoro, head of Kenya’s Criminal Investigations; Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, THE head of Kenya. This list sounds like a public university graduation ceremony. …..Aketck, Akoth, Atieno, Atika…. Are we one? No we are not.
We are not one when police wielding guns and black radios continue to throw me out of the road so that a More Important Person (MIP) get a privileged pass. We are not one when priests and pastors continue stealing and fucking their own congregation. We are not one when the first agenda on the list of Kenyan leaders is to add more salary, even before beginning to work. No we are not one.
We are not one when Indians continue oppressing their African workers in the export processing zones and the manufacturing industries. We are not one when we do nothing to bridge the capitalism divide that continues to deepen in this country. We are not one until thieves stop raiding my village with guns.
We are not one when development organizations continue to spend almost half of the development grants traveling to Africa in the name of “safety & security, Africa travel, hardship allowance, and close monitoring of projects”. We are not one when development partners keep creating self-existence development cartels that distribute money, jobs and favors to friends, so they too may come, live and enjoy Africa.
Consciously and conspicuously, we are ONE against this mzungu (white person) court because it is targeting the Kalenjin and Kikuyu communities in Kenya and Africa at large. This is finally, Africa United, we are TRULY ONE. We are ONE in Africa, and now we see on the news, every often, another African president joining in frustrating the mzungu court and condemning how this mzungu court is undertaking the criminal proceedings on Africans. When Africans kill their own, we are ONE in accepting, forgetting and moving on.
I wont suck up to this WE ARE ONE facade. I often sign off greetings with “ONE Love”. What does ONE mean? One love to me means, unity, equality, peace, justice and fairness. It is a deep understanding and interpretation of “ubuntuism” a philosophy that I never learnt in any class, but one that I came to embrace. It is about “human kindness”, which is far from what we see, hear, speak and feel today. We are NOT ONE until UBUNTU.
I wish all of us calmness as we go to bury our dead. Life continues, it has a way of going on. I too lost a young friend to a different type of terrorism – terrorism of life. He took his own life. I knew he was carrying around a tough weight behind his back, one that he did not choose to hurl onto himself. He put on a brave fight for the days we talked. But at the end of it, terror attacked, and his walls caved in. We are Not One when young people choose to catalyze their departure from earth.