I recently spoke with someone I had not spoken with for over twenty years. Julia (not her real name) and I met when I lived in Southern California back in the 80s and had been Facebook friends since 2010 but had yet to talk. Julia is also from Kenya. Her mother is from Nyeri and her father is from Kiambu â€“ someone definitely crossed the Chania River! We caught up on what had happened in our lives since we last talked almost two decades ago. She waxed maternally about her two beautiful children â€“ Julianna (with two â€œNsâ€ instead of one â€“ there is a big difference I was told â€“ forcefully) and Julian (Julia with one â€œNâ€ not two). I patiently listened and concurred with her unabashed adoration of her children knowing that I expected her to do the same when I started babbling about my beautiful son. As presciently as I had imagined, Julia and I both agreed that fortunately, Malo, my ten-year old son had indeed inherited his momâ€™s looks! I shamelessly talked about my recently-released book Wuodha: My journey from Kenya to these United States and the excitement of the book tours and related discussions with the audiences. 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 socio-political discourse back home; the raison dâ€™etre of my blog.
Julia and I blamed everyone and everything for the dysfunctional nature of present-day Kenyan politics. She decried the gloating of â€œherâ€ people from Central Province (over their near-monopoly of Kenyaâ€™s presidency), â€œtheir dominanceâ€ of Kenyaâ€™s socio-political and economic life since independence and their perceived sense of entitlement. I lamented over the â€œherdâ€ and â€œvictimâ€ mentality of â€œmyâ€ people from Nyanza; wondering about the wisdom not to mention impact of their near-permanent status as the mainstay of Kenyaâ€™s political â€œoppositionâ€. 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 countryâ€™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 â€“ South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong â€“ or so I argued in my senior thesis in 1989 in a paper well-received by my advisor Professor Chalmers Johnson, a noted political economist and expert on Asia at UC San Diego.
We did not forget the role M1, as Daniel Arap 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 Kenyaâ€™s Camelot Era that started with so much promise only to fizzle in an orgy of post-election violence in 2007: Mr. Kibakiâ€™s â€œre-electionâ€ and twilight swearing-in ceremony attended by a handful of sycophants birthed the post-election violence that forever tarnished Kenyaâ€™s image as an â€œoasis of peaceâ€ surrounded by the Idi Amins and Siad Barres of this world; the same PEV that Messerâ€™s Kenyatta and Ruto are answering for at The Hague.
Julia waxed eloquently and with unmistakable pride about the improbable journey of one Barack Hussein Obama â€“ son of a Luo man from Kâ€™Ogelo and a white woman from Kansas â€“ who rose to become the first black (and bi-racial) president of these United States no less â€“ a country whose past, like that of Kenya, is also marred with deadly violence between its citizens â€“ blacks and whites. We then laughed uncontrollably as we debated how Mr. Obama would fare were he to vie for Kenyaâ€™s presidency. All told, it was a heartwarming conversation. It felt great to reconnect with a long-lost and dear friend.
The one thing Julia 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 ourselves for what ails Kenya.
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 â€œBullâ€™s Eye: Life after the elections.â€
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 Kenyattaâ€™s candidacy because I believed then as I do now that he is the poster child for all that has been at the heart of Kenyaâ€™s socio-political problems: Corruption, nepotism, entitlement, privilege, patronage, impunity etc. I also did not support Mr. Kenyatta because he was (and still 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.
While I cannot change the fact that the president and deputy president of the country of my birth are both facing charges at The Hague, I can change the role I play in shaping the tone and quality of discourse between Kenyans and about Kenya. And beyond just writing about and analyzing Kenya and Kenyans, I can DO something that makes a difference in the life of a Kenyan not from my part of Kenya!
To put it bluntly, I can make a difference in the life of a non-Luo!
Though I am not familiar with the TV series â€œBullâ€™s Eye,â€ I think of it as political satire addressing current events in Kenya from the YouTube clips I have seen. 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 â€œLuo Nyanzaâ€ with â€œtheir opponentsâ€ 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).
I pledge to reach out to other Kenyans in my own small way to make a difference in their lives as embodied in Mr. Gathunguâ€™s words.
I pledge to BE the change I want in and for Kenya.
By Washington Osiro