The peace messages being traded around are really pissing me off. Unfortunately, they are inexorable
Hate him or love him, Boniface Mwangi, the award-winning photojournalist turned activist and doubling as political pundit lately is a different kind of man altogether. His heart-wrenching post-election violence pictures have been pinned up enough times around the country while others have accused him of commercializing the whole post-election violence business.
His haranguing the political establishment by calling them Vultures and the graphic graffiti that he painted the town a while ago earned him accolades as well as unsavoury comments apropos to the agenda of those funding such initiatives. But he has weathered the storm and cynicism with which him and his ilk have often been treated with. Kenyans are a skeptical lot and apathetic towards any ideal political situation that some of these activists espouse.
But truth be told, the idea that we can go to war real sickens. Roundabouts in Nairobi bear messages of peace and cohesion. There are television adverts that talk about Kenyanism and every talk show is fraught with all manner of rhetoric of the 2007 elections and the unforgettable outcome. It is like the election which is supposed to represent renewal and better promises now represents doom.
How did it happen that we have grown to fear each more and more over time? I mean over the last five years, we have amicably stayed together, done business together, worked together and everything in between. Yet I am being advised to relocate from my residence to a much friendlier environment, just in case something happens come March. It is a fear shared by many Kenyans and in deed most individuals will have to travel mostly to their ancestral homes to wait for the outcome of the elections.
We are inextricably linked to each other, yet there is something blinding about politics that awakens the worst in us. If I can share my mundane daily experience which is applicable to a million others, here is how it unravels. I work in a neighboring country with a team of Kenyans from all tribes. What binds us there is that we are all Kenyans who have somehow opted for greener pastures to provide for our kin. There is no politics on how we got there, other than the widespread unemployment which affects every Kenyan.
Back in Kenya, my landlady going by her name is presumably a Kamba lady I have never seen. I only deposit the rent in the bank and through her caretakers we are housed quite comfortably. Other than Kenya Power, and may be the little overpriced flats, I have no complaint whatsoever because that is how life is in Nairobi for a million others.
My immediate neighbours include a woman and her daughter who most likely are from Central Kenya or Eastern. We hardly cross each other’s line and for one and half years we have enjoyed a cordial neighbourliness. To the left is a Luo gentleman. I occasionally drop by his house to catch up some late night soccer. His wife doesn’t quite fancy me but that is because I always overstay my nightly visits long afterwards the matches are over. Like all men, we turn into soccer pundits and start regurgitating everything that we have just witnessed. It is a bad habit that women detest. But all in all we are good neighbours, it has never mattered where I come from or where they come from.
Occasionally, I pen a piece and mail to three editors I have never met. Going by names, one is Luo, another one a Kamba and the other Kikuyu. We all come from different places yet we interact anonymously bound by the entity called Kenya. One or two Kenyans will react to the pieces and we communicate as one community.
I schooled with different people from all walks of life. In university I had all sorts of friends. I have attended funerals in Rift Valley, visited families in the Coast and a wedding in Central Province. We always help each other in times of need and nowhere is this evident than when you lose a colleague at work. We effortlessly work to ensure a decent send off for the departed.
Yet, as we approach elections, there are people forcing me to perceive other communities as enemies. I insist on judging people on individual basis. There are people from my community I would kill for less, if killing was legal. They are not angels as some would have me assume in the short run. The corruption scandals in the country have big people virtually from each community in Kenya.
It was the American First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson who once said that every politician should have been born an orphan and remain a bachelor. These guys can drive one nuts. I hate their ability to disunite us and unite us at will for their political gains. Their spell on us is so poisonous, yet we cannot explicate ourselves from them.
The real problem as Achebe once put it in his novel A Man of the People (1966) is that we are swayed by our stomachs and not our heads. That is the reason the most annoying politician is the most popular among the Kenyans if opinion polls are to be believed. The quality of politicians in charge of the city where you would expect more learned people who should know better is to say the least, appaling. Yet the educated middle class sit pretty in their houses cursing on Twitter and their bar-room punditry where they would rather discuss the stock, weddings and holidays. Yet they the most vulnerable, possibly a salary away from brokenness.
Achebe also proclaimed that in our societies it is whom you know as opposed to what you know. Works all the time for those who know people. But for countless individuals who don’t know anyone in high places, it never works. Only the constitution and equitable sharing of the resources will ever alleviate the deplorable state.
Now as we grind ever fast to the election date I am being persuaded by ‘dark forces’ to start perceiving my dutiful mama mboga as a rip-off, the matatu conductors as an extortionist, the handful and rowdy Gor Mahia fans will represent the entire Luo community, conveniently forgetting my endlessly helpful Luo neighbor. My girlfriend is not welcome at home for the moment. My colleagues and friends from different tribes who often call me to check a job advert in the paper or contribute to me when I am bereaved are not friends anymore but people from different tribes.
Until we learn that elections come and go, but the neighbourliness, the connection and above all friendship stays. We need each other to make this country a better place. It takes some travelling out of the country, especially Africa in order to appreciate that Kenya is among the best countries in Africa.
So this back and forth regrouping of politicians is what Kenyans needs to look at and ask if do we really need the same bunch to dictate how we run our lives? It is the same script, same cast. You just get tired of these things