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Kaparo’s humour and wit amid tense quest for elusive peace

By Nzau Musau | August 2nd 2015
NCIC chair Francis Ole Kaparo addresses Ilchamus community in Logumgum yesterday

In William Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, Dromio of Syracuse says what Father Time hath scanted men in hair he hath given them in wit.

He goes on to say there is no time for a man to recover his hair when he grows bald by nature, “because time himself is bald, and, therefore, to the worlds end will have bald followers.”

A fortnight ago, Francis Xavier ole Kaparo, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) chairman landed in Baringo wearing a large scout hat to conceal his bald head. Kaparo was here for a peace mission. Resplendent in a full scout uniform with a neckerchief slide inscribed “messenger of peace” to boot, he was shooting straight right from the moment we met for a briefing at Lake Bogoria Spa Resort.

In the next few days he would lay bare his wit, experience, firmness and humour as he extracted peace from the Tugen, Ilchamus and the Pokot – three of the communities living in Baringo County. “I am very serious about what we have come to do here. I have not come here to swim. I want to get this done and over from the bottom of my heart,” Kaparo told an advance party of NCIC peace facilitators led by Reverend Peter Chemaswet.

The mission would take a different approach. It would convene the traditional barazas under trees. There would be no town hall “hair-conditioned” meetings or hotel deliberations over cups of tea and sweeteners. Kaparo, a strict follower of time, would oversee and guide the dialogue.

Skillfully and at appropriate times, he switched gears from NCIC chair, to Speaker, to a Maasai elder, to a comedian, to a story-teller and to a preacher: “Every one of Satan’s actions and intent is a negation of God’s command. Where God says love your neighbour Satan says hate your neighbour. The people of Lokumkum, you have a choice. Do you want to follow God or Satan?” he preached, citing Mathew 5:9 and the prayer of St Xavier.

Beseeching the three committees to keep peace, Kaparo would in each meeting draw the residents’ attention to the area’s natural wealth; wonderful scenery, fresh water lakes, natural gas deposits, geothermal power and oil potential.

“Woiya,” he would exclaim in his native Maa. “I have never seen anything like what I have seen in Lake Bogoria today, God boiling water for you in hot steams. And you are busy pulling all stops to slaughter each other.” He was never short of making sarcastic statements which drove the message home. When we met a group of elders he had earlier on met in Eldoret town on another peace meeting, he admonished them: “Mlikuwa mnaringia nani (Why were you full of pride?)”

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He laced his peace-making drive with scintillating cocktail of analogies and when residents would take long in giggling at his analogues, he would shout: Order! Order!

Warring communities

“Do you know why a dog eats human feaces? Because they lacked one of their own to tell them that human feaces are no good,” he would answer before a local seizes the moment and talks endlessly.

The point would be driven home in no time. If the Pokots, Tugens and Ilchamus continue fighting (eating feaces), it would not be because they lacked one of their kind to warn them against it.

“And do you know what our Maasai people asked the hyena? They confronted a hyena and asked him, ‘hyena where do you get your food yet you don’t keep livestock? You don’t farm and you do not trade. He responded: My food is plenty because I eat those who do not listen or toe the line’”.

Again, the message was home and dry: The warring Pokots, Tugens and Ilchamus are the wayward types who do not subscribe to guidance. Accordingly, they will be feasted on by the hyenas of poverty, ignorance and disease until they get back to their senses.

But he also justified his mission using Biblical truths. “Which one of you, if he has 100 sheep and loses one of them, would not leave the 99 in the open pasture and go look for the one that is lost until he finds it?”

And when they appeared lost, he added: “Kwani mnafikiri mimi sitaki kuenjoy weekend? Mnafikiri mimi sina ng’ombe za kuchunga? Mnafikiri sina bibi wala watoto wa kukaa nao (Do you think I have nothing better to do)?” he asked.

Child education

In Sandai, he waxed philosophical: “If we killed all Pokots, because you all seem to suggest they are trouble makers, who will become the Pokot because Kenya cannot be complete without the Pokot?”

In Loruk, he singled out an old man and asked him: “Wewe ulisoma ama ulikula fees? (Did you really go to school?).” When the crowd rolled in laughter, he remarked: “Woiya, I didn’t know Pokots can laugh.”

In all the peace meetings, he appealed to the residents to take their children to school. He told them he was not born a speaker of the National Assembly: “Education made me a speaker. Kwani mnafikiri utasoma na uendelee kulisha mbuzi hapa na pale?”

And when he needed to sound tough, he sounded tough. In Loruk, where a senior assistant chief Wilson Chebugei was killed by alleged Pokot raiders last month, Kaparo was in his no-nonsense element: “Woiya, what’s the matter with you? What is in your head, brains or porridge? Or is it gas?”

In the same venue, he took his phone and opened WhatsApp mobile application: “Do you guys even know what is WhatsApp? The world is moving fast. And instead of saying WhatsApp you are saying WhatsInn?

He then took his reading glasses and put them on an Ilchamus man in the meeting and showed him the WhatsApp app on his phone. In the same meeting he asked for a coin. In the first instance no one offered one.

He blasted them: “Kwani nyinyi ni fukara aje (Just how poor are you)? You waste all your time in war and you do not have a single shilling?” Reiterating his earlier analogy of dogs and feaces, he threatened to conduct a Harambee to build Pokots, Tugens and Ilchamus a “huge dining hall” for eating feaces.

In all the instances, Kaparo signed out his “peace lectures” with yet another hyena story, this time borrowed from the late Elijah Mwangale. It is the story of the hyena and the stone told to Parliament after the 1975 murder of JM Kariuki.

“The hyena told the stone; even if you have not responded you have heard me. It is the same for me. I believe you have heard me.”

And so it was that Kaparo, a bald follower of time, managed to squeeze out ceasefire between Tugens and Ilchamus by striking a ‘golden mean’ between humour, toughness and wisdom.

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