I had a harder time coming up with a title for this post than I had writing it. This is because I always knew how I would tell the story. How I would pass the story across. How despite my Kiswahili influenced phrase translation, I knew most of my audience would get it. That’s because they are Kenyan. When they read this, they don’t apply a particular accent to it. No, they use that familiar pronunciation that most are accustomed to. Yes, that way Kenyans speak that makes people always question where I’m from every time I travel. They seem to easily recognize the Oga and other Western African accents, I have been told the Tanzanian’s English is more sing-song than we can tell. And of course in Omugurusi’s country, they are easy to identify and well popularised by the hilarious Anne Kansiime.
Most of us especially writers insist on writing British English despite the fact that it’s harder to speak in the same accent. We have “U’s” in humour, favourite and all our endeavours. See what I did there? We also have “S” in place of “Z” in the past participle of most verbs. I actually forcefully use the S in my posts no matter how many red lines appear under my words. If you have been on my blog before, you will realise that these first two paragraphs are what I use to get my mind to focus. ADD is a bitter gift and a sweet curse. But I have the hang of it now.
About 3 weeks ago, I was to do a post that would have started with the simple phrase: “I HATE KENYA!!” My reasons would have been justified. As far as my perspective was concerned. See, I had been in Angola for just over 2 weeks. In those 2 weeks, I had to contend with knowing blood was flowing back at home. My brothers and sisters were getting killed or maimed for life. And this had prompted quite an emotional post from the south side of Africa. Ironically, here I was in a country that had experienced civil war into the 21st century. They had obviously learnt their lesson from what I could see around. They all mostly speak Portuguese and marry without discrimination on tribe or colour bases. This is saying a lot. The country has a machete in its flag for Chrissake. And yes, I know that was not the intended meaning.
Back to why I hated Kenya at that particular moment. I landed on a Monday at 3 am. And I was still a bit sad from the news I had read while abroad. I was supposed to be off work for the next 2 days due to travel and jet-lag. But I had a conference on Tuesday and so despite the fatigue, I was up by 6 am to pick up a Ugandan guest who was here to attend said conference. Long story short, by 8 am that day, I was not nodding off to sleep at Geographical Information Systems conference. I was standing in a stuffy, ammonia smelling, wall graffiti ridden room at Kibera Law Courts.
Yes, I had been arrested. For failing to use a pretty non-existent pedestrian crossing as I crossed Waiyaki way. Yes, I was at fault as long as the rule of law is concerned. But, yes I would do the same thing over and over as I told the cops as other guests at the back of the “Maria” tried to negotiate for their release. The thing is, on Waiyaki way, it does not matter where you cross the road, (that is unless you have a foot bridge close to you), you still have to rush across it like a demented oryx who learnt how to walk from Bambi to avoid getting hit by the onrushing traffic. See, no one slows down at the said pedestrian crossings. Some cars actually seem to speed up near them so as to avoid traffic that might be caused by people crossing. It does not help the case that the road is sometimes widest at these same points. I tried asking why not arrest the reckless drivers first who have made the pedestrian crossings unusable. I got comically stupid answers like “We will start with you today then we will move to the drivers.” Yes, you would have to use the Pedestrian crossing for the moment and if you got hit while following the law, they would make sure the driver paid heavily for your physiotherapy or your funeral. I had to pocket just to avoid slapping the tiny brain out of his ear.
But the arrest alone was not the reason I was so angry at the country. Neither the fact that I had to wait a whole day, standing till my old sports injured foot hurt like hell to pay a one thousand Kenya shillings fine. Nor was it the fact that some people charged the previous day with the same offence had been fined 20K or a month in jail. I thanked my stars I was not one of them. No, I was angry at the fact that in that one day, we were about 1000 people that were charged with such a minor traffic offence. I was angry as I saw a man arrested carrying business wares in a paper bag; weep at the fact that he could not afford the fine. Yes the poor would become more poor. But most of all I was angry at the fact the perpetrators of Mpeketoni attacks had gone through traffic blockades without getting arrested. I was angry that the grenade attackers had evaded these same cops. This great law enforcement order that could arrest 1000 people in one day for not crossing the road properly. Yes, they had missed an internationally re-known terrorist who would end up bringing terror and bloodshed at Westgate. Yes, my innate patriotism was gone. I could not afford to be loyal to this country. The next chance I got for better pastures, I would not even cross the border chewing cud. But that was 3 weeks ago.
My rationale is always too strong. So with time, love for my country has come back. As always we know who to blame. But we always forget about the man in the mirror. Yes, 26 years since the Michael Jackson hit. We still sing along without taking into account the lyrics. I will not adopt a holier than thou attitude and pretend I have not been in the least bit tribal before. But I have over time always worked to negate any history I might have had with that ugly attribute. I actually stopped using my actual second name so that one could not easily tell what tribe I was from. That way we could act with no prejudice. Be friends unconditionally. My 7 best friends are Kalenjin, Punjabi, Meru, Giriama, Luo, Kamba and Taita. I did not choose for them to be. No, their personalities are what makes them be accorded such honours. I have to state that I am Kikuyu otherwise this will not make sense. In that cell, my best friend was a Luo. Yes, in the eyes of our so-called leaders, we are supposed to be water and oil. They make jokes that never can you eat Omena with Githeri. Such shameless and archaic analogies.
We had been talking since the bumpy, overloaded, no-safety belt ride from Waiyaki way via Ngong road to Kibera. None was benefiting from the other. We just shared jokes and political quips. But by the end of the day, the relationship was forced to become symbiotic. He had no one to pay for his fine at the bank so I had my best friend do it for him. And with his knowledge of the Luo language he made sure he negotiated with the senior cop so we did not sleep in a cell. He was a brother in alms. (Yes I spelled that right). We even took the same cab to work from the hell in a cell. “Omera, Nyasaye ogwedhi”
I have written a post on how I was taught how to love growing up. One thing I was not taught is how to hate. I was actually taught of how evil that would be. How much of a sin that was. In later life when certain people have driven me to such an extent. i have only learnt of how consuming hate is on the person producing it than the one receiving it. It is a cancer. And its consequences are almost as deadly if not worse.
Yes, we called Luos, “Mera” growing up but that had loads to do with the repeated phrase; “Omera” . Which I later came to learn is one of the most endearing words in the language as it means “my brother”. I admired the Luo workers who used to live in Central Province then. This number has since significantly dwindled. They were hardworking, astute, muscular and if you know me then you would knowI kind of very much followed in these footsteps. (Just like being Luo, GymRat is a lifestyle 🙂 ) I have said before, I am a child of the world. I really do not care where my good qualities come from. All humans are my brothers and sisters. My enemies are those who try to oppress them or hurt them regardless of their creed, race or tribe.
Because whichever political rally you attend, whomever you vote for. It’s that neighbour you sell your wares too, that driver who drives your kids to school, that friend in your network who informs you of a vacancy at his workplace. That is your real friend. When in need, your wedding committees, your burial and funeral arrangements, your hospital bill Harambee does not have IDs being checked for tribal name tags. Yet, all and sundry who have known you, have respected you and have loved you will show up at your door.
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children
We are the perfect generation to exact change in this country. We are not the leaders of tomorrow but those of today. We can change two generations at once. We can change our parents and make sure our kids never learn otherwise. They learn nothing but love. They never learn to be Luo, Kikuyu, Kamba or Kalenjin. Teach them to be Kenyan. Yes I know it will be not be easy. Nothing worth it ever is. You cannot give up on this. The whole country will depend on you. Your heroism will be unsung. Not a single verse will be written in your honour. But I will stand too. I am sure as hell that I am not alone. My brothers and sisters from all parts of Kenya already ride with me. Are you willing to join me? I am not a Kikuyu, I am not black. #IAmKenyan
This will not be poetic, this will not be prose.
And for some time the thorns will outshine the rose.
The book will not be written. The history not recorded.
The wise will understand for the message will be coded.
The blind will hear the message and communicate it to the deaf.
The couriers will be the dumb so the secret will never be known.
We will have not seen, heard or said anything evil.
The war will be fought by the crippled, master minded by the bald heads of cancer patients.
You see the battle will not need brute strength.
The lid on the jar is already open and the concern will be how to get it back on.
The man in the mirror will already be one with his reflection.
The step of the Boy Scouts will sound like the army, but we will not hear it.
The bubble wrap around this new world will sound like gunshots but we will not fear it.
Peace, love and unity will be tissue thin but we will not tear it.
The struggle will be real but we will bear it.
THE DIVINE BANDIT October 17, 2013
Check out: http://iamkenyan.or.ke/