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Kenya’s soul is dead and we’re all guilty of killing it

By Makau Mutua | January 17th 2016 at 00:05:19 GMT +0300

A top politician – whom I shall not name – once said that Kenya doesn’t have a shortage of fools. My jaw dropped. Methinks the politician knows exactly why he would make such a derogatory remark. He would’ve been lynched if he was white. Let me set the record straight – the politician in question isn’t a fool himself.

But why would one impugn the character of homo sapiens he’s determined to rule?

There’s only one plausible answer – he must believe the earthlings are homo erectus, not homo sapiens. My intellect tells me to interrogate all statements, especially the most outrageous. I have reluctantly concluded – after deep reflection – that the politician was right

But I don’t endorse his contempt for the people.

I don’t want to be macabre in this column. Even so, let’s walk through some damning truths. I don’t know whether you’ve ever looked into the eyes of a corpse. I have – and the look haunts me to this day. The stare wasn’t blank, but deeply penetrating. I saw the torment of the world through those “dead” eyes. But I was shocked when I turned around, and looked back into the eyes again.

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What I saw can only be described as demonic, if such a thing exists. I was spooked. Now I know why – I was looking into the eyes of an expired body without a soul, without life. Which begs the question – when does a country die?

Some countries have died, and thankfully come back. Some, like Somalia, may die forever – the way the Soviet Union or East Germany died. But there’s no script for a country’s death, or a guarantee that a country will never die. Even Ancient Rome dies, as did Greece. Egypt, the Inca Empire, the Aztec Empire, the Mayan Empire, Great Zimbabwe, the Ottoman Empire, the Zulu Empire the British Empire, and countless others died – never to rise again.

There may be pretenders to some of these thrones, but that’s all they are – pretenders. But some countries in Africa are dying even before they are fully born. Think of DRC, CAR, South Sudan, and little Burundi to name just a few.

This is what Kenyans – if such a people exist – must ask themselves. Is Kenya dying before it’s really born? If so, is it dying because it has no shortage of fools? Who are these fools, and where are they?

It was either Joseph de Maistre or Alexis de Tocqueville who said that “in a democracy the people get the government they deserve.” The antecedent there is “democracy” which presumes the free will of the electorate. But I will go further, and argue that a culture produces a leadership that reflects it – whether in a democracy, or not. Either way, a civilisation – the accumulation of a people’s wisdom – is reflected in their state and its institutions. We are our culture.

I agree that culture isn’t static. In fact, culture is fluid and dynamic. However – and this is key – culture is forged over time, and is extremely resilient. It can be changed, or transformed, but only by a counter-culture. Which brings me to Kenya’s soul. Kenya’s soul – like that of any other country – resides in the people. I know Kenya doesn’t just have one soul – but I am only interested in its dominant soul.

There’s no doubt Kenya has two competing souls. The first, and dominant one, is the demonic and evil soul that has eaten the country alive with impunity, tribalism and corruption. The subordinate soul is the one that gave Kenya the progressive 2010 Constitution.

Kenya’s demonic and evil soul is pervasive. The people – both hoi polloi and the elite – are infested by it. Our people generally celebrate impunity, tribalism and graft. Kenyans love corruption. This is our national character. Even when our better angels ward off the evil spirits – as they did in the 2010 Constitution – the respite was momentary. We quickly lapsed into our true selves – a thieving, untrustworthy and ethically challenged nation.

Let’s be honest. There’s no need beating about the bush. We are our own worst enemies. Every five years, we elect robbers, drug barons, and haters. At a moment’s notice, we ecstatically cheer them at public rallies. We kill each other for them. Then we shed crocodile tears.

Let there be no doubt. Kenya’s soul is dying fast, if it isn’t dead already.

The press is awash with the most demented orgies of violence. Every headline screams about one heist of the public purse after another. Senior officials lie openly.

Every fool is looting. Our children are watching, and have joined in the moral degeneration. They are on drugs, or worse. The state is shredding the Constitution to pieces. This is what I believe – let’s get on the road to Damascus, or perish.

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