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Kenyans never learn from the past; that’s our biggest problem

COMMENTARY
By Muchiri Karanja | February 25th 2021

Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka speaking at a press brief where he said he will go out of his way to campaign for the BBI document.:[Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Nothing new happens in Kenya. May be the only reason we are so into divisive politics is that we lead such flat lives that we crave something new -a new lie, a new promise, some excitement, to break what Russian writers used to describe as the flatness of existence.

You want proof?

Take your pick. Let’s start with the current debate about schools unrest that has seen youngsters torching their dorms and turning their fists and all manner of crude weapons against their teachers?

Nothing new here. Back in 2001, we spent millions of shillings on a report on schools unrest after figuring out that the youngsters were not setting their dorms on fire because they needed warmth.

Out came a beautifully worded report with excellent recommendations including posting more counselors to schools and motivating them to spend more time with students, abolishing corporal punishment and setting up student barazas to drive a participatory and democratic school rules agenda.

Well, you ask where that report is.

Somewhere in the offices of the Education ministry, dusty and all forgotten-now we are about to write yet another report with highfalutin recommendations. Then we will forget it until another dorm goes up in flames or another teacher is beaten up by his or her students.

Then our national amnesia will convince us that burning dorms and violence targeting teachers is new.

Take two. Some people are alleging that a political narrative is capable of stoking a class war. The veracity of the claim is yet to be established.

But if this political narrative or even another stokes conflict, it would be unexpected. It would be nothing new!

In 2008, after erstwhile neighbours turned against each other and we had to call in some foreigners to remind us that this country belongs to all of us, one of them-retired South African judge, Johann Krieger warned that unless youth unemployment was addressed urgently, it would come back to haunt us.

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The good judge, and later, our very own Justice Philip Waki, were clear on the subject of the country’s bulging population of jobless, hopeless youth, warning that it might make the 2007/08 violence look like child’s play at some point.

Well, what have we done for the youth so far?

Why for example, has anyone not bothered to find out why they are not borrowing money from the Youth Fund whereas they have debts left and right from the more exorbitant online lenders?

We also have excellent reports, again, with excellent recommendations from the Ndung’u land report to the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission.

Where are they? In some office somewhere gathering dust. Now I hear we are planning a vote on yet another report.

Oh, then there is this shaking of hands between Opposition leader Raila Odinga and his erstwhile political nemesis President Uhuru Kenyatta that has shaken the country.

Think it was new?

Why, these two gentlemen’s fathers shook hands back in the sixties before more than half of this country’s population was born. Then, Raila’s father-Jaramogi said ‘Jomo Kenyatta Tosha,’ a slogan that was to be replicated by the son decades later. The truce only held for a couple of years-and this is not new too.

Selective amnesia

Truth be told, no country proves the adage that history repeats itself better than Kenya-the only unique aspect of our cyclical history of mistakes is that we never learn.

This country has more reports than the University of Alexandria before it went up in flames-may be too many of them. This is not news either.

We have something else bigger than the library of Alexandria though-our selective amnesia. We chose to forget irritating truths, forget our painful pasts; we keep trying to reinvent the wheel when there are so many wheels decaying in our junkyards.

We are a nation of sheep led by the nose by every Tom, Dick, and Harry that comes along with enough money and convincing lies and promises.

May be the lies are so irresistible, so tantalising because nothing new happens in this country-except perhaps, new lies.

Or maybe, we Kenyans have short memories…or maybe, we have a serious case of selective amnesia…or maybe, before we do the change the constitutions and all that stuff, we need to blow the dust from or those moth-eaten reports on our country’s history.

 

Mr Muchiri is a journalist

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