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Kenya facing a midlife crisis @50

By Oyunga Pala | December 8th 2013

By Oyunga Pala

Kenya: Our beloved Kenya is celebrating its 50th year of existence and one would think the country was battling with a midlife crisis. 

At around 50, most men take stock of their lives and realise they could have done a lot better with their time on earth. A sense of mortality hangs in the air and that suddenly sparks off a flurry of activity designed to make up for lost time.

They look at their bodies and troop back to the gym to break a sweat. They examine their partners and decide they need a mistress to spice things up.

They started showing up at youthful events in jeans, butchering slang and trying to pass for someone they should have been decades ago. They throw around words like ‘digital’ and ‘dotcom’ acquiring sophisticated gadgets that they cannot operate.


The more expensive the better because functionality is not half as important as price. There is a hunger for bigger, faster cars, with tinted windows and with a driver behind the wheel.

It impresses the nubiles who mistake you for someone important. Kenya at 50 has all the symptoms of a male midlife crisis.

 The country is getting a bit obsessive comparing its progress with countries that are not its age-mates. 

Instead of taking an honest look at our peers who started out in the same league 50 years ago like Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea and questioning our choices, we seek the soft targets. In this case, Somalia and, lately, South Sudan are the ones we can give patronizing lectures on how to run an independent African nation. 

Not too long ago when Kenya wanted an ego boost, all it had to do was look around the region for chaos and disorder. Back then we were known as island of peace. That all changed post 2008 election violence and we have since learnt how vulnerable our glass house is.

In the good old days, we could sneer at our neighbours and declare to anyone who cared to listen that we were the Dubai of East and Central Africa.

Things changed while we were bragging and now news from the neighbourhood is giving us ulcers.

Somalia seems to be stabilizing and has a coastal line that could rival ours. Those envious Tanzanian have better roads. Rwanda is cleaner, the women more beautiful and the West cannot stop gushing on about how easy it is to do business in Kigali.

To west in Uganda, despite Museveni’s bully status, you can get a better quality and affordable education in Uganda.


Kenya is not very different from a 50 year old who shaves bald to hide his receding hairline. Posing and flossing is the Kenyan way of living in denial.

A country that is more focused on building world-class golf courses as its sports stadiums deteriorate. But that’s the 50s for you.

If you look outside of yourself, there will always be a sense of dissatisfaction. Especially as your children did not turn as great you hoped and are pretty much holding you hostage with endless demands.

However, no sensible 50 year old will let that great milestone pass without a fuss. So they decide to throw a bash of epic proportions and party like it is 1963.

 An invite-only party, with no expense spared to impress our curious neighbours and get everyone talking about how far this great nation, that we call home has come.

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