By Anyang’ Nyong’o
Kenyans started celebrating athletic victories at the Olympics currently going on in the UK as our runners picked up medals in the long distance races. Nations that enter competitors who complete the race but don’t win anything will still celebrate their heroes when they go back, while Kenyans celebrate heroes and victories at the same time.
This experience that we are just about to have should teach us a thing or two about our aim to become a Middle Income and prosperous country by the year 2030 as envisioned in our Vision 2030. If indeed we do get there—and we must—we should be able to celebrate our heroes (our people) and our victory (social and economic prosperity).
But we are threatening ourselves not to become heroes even if we do make major social and economic strides. As long as our struggle for nationhood—for building a place in which we can all feel at home—is threatened by major social contradictions, fratricide politics and a terrible lack of humane values in everyday living; our future even with Vision 2030 realised is jeopardised.
Let us agree for the moment that the social pillar of this vision—the political and social—is the most problematic at the moment. Let us also agree that we all somehow realise this but we somehow sadistically inflict pain on ourselves whenever we make certain positive steps forward.
We can go back to the heroic feeling that we all had in Jamhuri Park on the midnight of December 1963 as the Duke of Edinburgh lowered the Union Jack and Mzee Jomo Kenyatta hoisted the Kenyan flag, to the trumpeting of the Kenyan National Anthem that I had the honour to be one of the Alliance High School and Alliance Girls High School choir of 24 to record it for the first time in Kenya’s history!
We can go back to the “unbwogable” days of NARC as a rainbow coalition of Kenyan patriots came together to get rid of an authoritarian regime and bring in a broadly based national democratic coalition government whose life was only as short as the celebration lasted. Before long the pain of sadism set in when we rolled back to the bad habits of authoritarianism.
Almost eight years later we were celebrating the victory of a new Constitution, giving Kenyans an opportunity to enjoy those human rights, freedoms and opportunities that they had fought to get for years. But now comes the implementation process and the old habits we have all longed to burry and forget begin re-emerging: the treacherousness of government by secrecy and connivance, the undermining of democratic institutions and procedures, and so on.
Why must we inflict such pains on ourselves when opportunities arise for all of us to be heroes and to celebrate our victories at the same time?
Why are we running as if this is the last time we shall ever run, as if we hand over the button to somebody else we lose our past victories? What is in our psyche as leaders, as competitors in this friendly race of life refereed by such a fair judge as God?
Quite honestly I don’t know the answers but I must ask the questions nonetheless. I am sure the “beautiful ones”, even though they are “not yet born”, must be around somewhere in the loins of our men and the wombs of our women beckoning on us to prepare the way for them to come into a better world and answer these perplexing questions to the satisfaction of future generations.
The irony, of course, is that very soon we shall have the double carriageways running from Mombasa to Kisumu and beyond, and we shall want to ride on them day and night celebrating that particular victory. But that assumes we have peace and security and a 24-hour economy in the future. With things as they stand today, is that a victory we shall really celebrate?
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