Stop being defensive when Kenyans remind you of the weight of an oath

 A hawkers sells flags outside Nyayo Stadium during the Jamhuri Day Celebrations on December 12, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Old standing Kenyan stereotypes are being challenged and are changing. Those who say they know Kenya and Kenyans now have to look at the country again. When they do, they will notice some wide depictions that have prevailed for a long time are waning and waned.

As politicians love to say “Wajinga waliisha Kenya” (Kenyans are not fools anymore). The increase in socio-eco-politico dynamics is even making it harder to make or sustain generalisations. Kenyans have been described often as they of a short memory. They either forget the wrong done to them and move on or forget the wrong they did and repeat it. But this short memory stereotype is now short-lived. The contemporary Kenyan has acquired a “lest you forget” mode. Media has aided this greatly by retrieving, comparing, and contrasting various expressions of a leader over time.

The resultant analysis yields helpful labels. The pains of Kenyans are taking longer to go away and are lingering in their memory! Leaders in the present administration who keep reminding people of bad performances by past regimes should not expect people to overlook their errors too. They should therefore not be defensive when reminded of the promises made in daylight but are yet to see the light of day.

As a country, we often talk about “our youth.” There’s a need to scrutinise exactly what we mean by “our youth. “ Are they really ours? True, they live within Kenya’s geographical boundaries but where are their minds and hearts? Their being “ours” takes more than just being located here. They are in Kenya’s census but Kenya is not in their senses. How many of the young people truly own Kenya? Let us not forget how loudly they spoke when they gave voting a wide berth.

They do not relate with kumira kumira  (a rallying call that connotes voting with a saving act, especially with an ethnic motive). Some have predicted that this detachment may be a trend that takes more than civic education to avert.  There is a huge chasm between many young people and the political system.  Like a car on low on fuel, their patriotism is tending towards empty.  Describing them as “our youth” is a misleading generalisation.

“The system” in Kenyan terms describes total government and connotes an unbeatable strength. The phrase “system” became popular when an opposition parliamentarian in the immediate administration assessed the reason Raila Odinga had never won an election to be that he was always against the government. But with the handshake, he now had the system on his side. Finally, things have come together! But contrary to expectations, and to the disbelief of many, things fell apart.  Raila lost with the system at full throttle.

The system stereotype was busted. President Ruto defied this system theory. This phenomenon has become a book How Raila lost Presidency in 2022. The present government ushered in a system-neutral season. Though it ushered in a new political season, the present administration is not exempted from system-neutral claws. It can fall victim too!

The system is no longer synonymous with victory. On its road to the next election, the present government should be careful not to fall into the old system error of overconfidence.  

As the LBGTQ agenda seeps into our country, the primary response has been rejecting the practice. This is on the basis that it is contrary to “our culture.”  But what makes up the said “our culture?” Our traditional culture has been dethroned by Western ways and reduced to a ceremonial relic. The speed of corrosion will soon make our traditional culture a once-upon-a-time museum experience.

Our culture is morphing fast from endangered to extinct. For African culture to be perpetuated, the family is the master conveyor belt.  But a general observation of the current state of the Kenyan family depicts a struggling institution.

Divorce and separation rates, the prevalence of single-parent families, broken children from heart-breaking homes, and an evaporating sense of  – all do not bear good news. Instead, they tell that the license to talk about “our culture” is nearing expiry. Values are a key culture fortifier. We cannot talk about African values yet live in a hopelessly corrupt country.

Corruption is not African. African values commune justice, diligence, merit, togetherness, and humanness. A look at our Kenyan life lends the conclusion that these attributes are out of stock. To live in a corrupt state yet claim African values is a contradiction. In the current state of things we either redefine what we mean by “our culture” or engineer a values renaissance.

Africans – Kenyans included - have been described as “notoriously religious.” All aspects of life are engaged spiritually, giving a God-eye to everything. This is evidenced by the ease with which people reference God even in the most mundane of things.  Every ceremony in the community has a religious aspect. But with the Shakahola lenses,  Kenyans have upstaged “notoriously religious” and become “dangerously religious.”  Unlike other areas where stereotypes are negated, this one is raised to a higher degree. It suspends intellect and invokes mystery.

It suppresses diligence and replaces it with faith mania. It usurps reality and complicates it with asceticism. It suppresses human responsibility and heightens the in-breaking drama. This dangerous religion poisons constructive imagination and creativity, freezing the church into an underwhelming institution on a normal day and on a bad day, a laughing stock.

Kenyans have often been described as predictably tamable. This is a stereotype that is frequently abused.  Some leaders have been heard to say “The people will make some noises for a few days and then accept the change (say a tax) as their new normal.”  But this is no longer true. Overboard deception has morphed the people’s bold nerve of pushing back.

When times are hard, we are reminded by people in power that Kenyans are “resilient people.” While this is meant to be a positive description, it is not so when the government is the one weakening the people.