Thursday, 10 January 2008

Kuteleza siyo kuanguka
(To slip is not to fall)

Sikiliza upate kujua…
(Listen so that you know…)

I remember fondly as kids when we were occasionally asked to go to the front of class and tell stories and would always excitedly start as all stories are started in Swahili…

“ya mchele!”
“Ya mwizi!”
“ya watu wotee!”
“Na Maziwa je?”
Ya watoto wa nyayooo”

“Hapo zamani za kale……”

At that time it didn’t matter some statements were propaganda from Moi’s time…it also really didn’t matter that if you joined the primary school mass choir the songs you were bound to sing would be exalting his reign filled with words like Nyayo PhilosofiaBaba wa Taifa…and all the sycophantic lullings that went with sucking up to political leaders…

…it did matter though at some point when Kenyans decided to flex some muscle and break away from Kanu…

It was a hard time for all just before the multiparty era ...people talked in hushed whispers…disgruntled Kenyans who wanted an end to Moi’s era talked code OMO (Operation Moi Out) and the maziwa ya watoto wa nyayo was scrapped….Molo clashes hit us…inflation..macabre assassinations took place…white elephant projects with our taxes….a seemingly dull era which some of survived…barely..

We were probably too young to know or care…we played games like cha mama and katii…the boys would use scrap polythene papers and make soccer balls during break time….we ate ten-cent sweets called koo and survived drinking water straight from the taps…tribalism was not in our priority lists…

Admittedly though we did have several light moments listening to the different accents from all the corners of Kenya…it was not rocket science to place “your shrubs” what with all the mother-tongue interference…and really that was about it…some may have pushed the stereotype jokes to much higher levels...but on a whole nobody really cared to know your tribe...we were to busy living and learning…besides, Kimombo ilikuja na meli…. (English came on a ship)

This is to say that in my generation tribe was not a main preoccupation. Our parents worked in factories, schools or for the government…a mix of people from all backgrounds and all walks of life…

Our ethnicity only came in the picture when we went to our ancestral homes during Christmas…meeting with the grandparents, uncles and aunts...learning folk songs or tales and all kinds of happy family banter.

Then when back in school we swap stories on how big a goat or sheep was slaughtered…or how far and adventurous the trip was…then we move on co-existing in the normal rhythms of peace…

When I was in primary school we made the usual obligatory field trips to the national museum and parliament. While parliament was in session we watched wide-eyed as the debates egged on about the expensive this and expensive that’s…perhaps having the unusual guilt trip that in fact it was at the expense of the normal Kenyans to which one member was aptly asked,

“How much is too much?”

Of course at the time we laughed and now that I have grown somewhat and now pay taxes…I still dwell a lot on that question posed… “Sooo…How much is too much?”

On 27th December 2007 I cast my vote after a two and a half hour wait on the queue amidst all and sundry…when the cops patrolling were not looking we whispered loudly to each other on the about why our preferred choice were the obvious victors…..

All the while my cell phone was working over time sending texts and calling my friends riddled around the country talking of our different experiences…even then, tribe still didn’t occur to us…

I placed wagers with friends supporting different candidates and in happy camaraderie we jested each other each claiming that we would wake up the next dawn to our preferred choice…. we turned our TV’s on to eagerly await the results…day one, day two, day three, four…each day grew more and more desperately anxious.

Then I watched as people just morphed into myopic tribalists…the jokes said in jest about a particular tribal group could not be said anymore…the beer we drank didn’t quench our thirsts…the roast meat lay untouched as we gazed across the table of the bar eyes shifting this way and that…suspicion mounting…we went home and locked ourselves up…

We stayed indoors nail biting and hoping for the best as stirrings of unrest began and as the melt down approached the winner was declared….

All hell broke loose….

We didn’t need to watch the TV to know that the screams, gunshots, fires close by was a bad sign.

At night houses were torched…buildings burnt to the ground….and people were sent packing if they were from another tribe…that is those who were lucky enough to escape with their lives…

Police picked bodies every morning showing a path of horrific murders in the dark….

It greatly surprises me that with all that now I hear the amblings of people bitter with each other based on their ethnicity...I am sure that we can’t lack a few narrow minded people in a community…but on a whole I am sure Kenyans are more level headed than what has been recently illustrated…

I watched mortified….as my countrymen unfolded rooted bitterness so evil that whoever cast a stone, stole, killed and clobbered innocent people will surely remain cursed for generations to come.

I now know how one can beckon trouble by acts of carnage…killing mothers and children and burning a church full of the old and weary seeking shelter is bound to mark you for life. I actually empathize with the killers’ future generations whose tainted blood shall forever be cursed ten fold…

I watch foreign news and I hear descriptions of old warring clans and tribal tension…something strange to me and to the youth of Kenya….

All you need to know is that I am a Kenyan...and unless you’re tracing my ancestral roots…you can’t really place me… Don’t get me wrong….I am very proud of where I come from and it is a fundamental part of me that I hold with the utmost importance…but right now, I am more focused on where I am going and I cant get there on my own. I need my brothers and sisters that I live amongst…I need the friends whom I grew up with playing hide and seek and cha mama…and at this point, I don’t really care what tribe you are...I only want to know that you are my fellow Kenyan…

Amani kwa wote
(Peace for all)



Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Lets Give Peace a chance....Kenya

My friend had just finished lining up on new years for 2 ½ hours for fuel and on her way home she was caught up in the middle of the boda boda people (cyclist taxis) who were chanting and supporting their political leader and when the GSU forces came to contain the stirrings she got hurt in the melee…

Nothing except pain is gained by violence...