The last and the most damaging ambition of any sage executive is self-knowledge. Indeed, the tallest trees have the deepest roots. Recently, while applying for my digital driving licence, I was asked a question that threw me off balance; the name of my mother. She had gone the way of our ancestors more than 20 years before and she had three names - Koptemo, Talaa and Elizabeth - acquired at different times and for different reasons.
Why would the National Transport and Safety Authority want to know my mother's name? Banks also have a policy called KYC – Know Your Customer. There are reasons for these requirements too, ostensibly to stem fraud. In the biblical books of Matthew chapter 1, verses 1 to 17 and Luke chapter 3, verses 23 to 28, the genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth, the Saviour of mankind, is clearly articulated, thus legitimising his messianic message and kingship (leadership).
Verse 17 of Matthew 1 reads: “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying into Babylon until Christ are fourteen generations.” Probably from Abraham to Adam is another fourteen generations.
We therefore believe Jesus as Lord and Saviour not on account of his numerous miracles (development record) or tantalising teachings (oratory skills) but because of his genealogy (lineage and pedigree). Without this clear genealogy, his message would be in vain and his leadership fraudulent to say the least.
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Barack Obama traced his father's roots to Kogelo village in Siaya County and proved to the world he was a grounded and legitimate man with clear ancestry. In his biography, ‘Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance’, Obama writes that he discovered he came from a large family, including half-brothers and a host of cousins and other relatives spanning several generations. “... my family seemed to be everywhere: In stores, at the post office, on streets or in the parks, all of them fussing and fretting over Obama’s long-lost son."
With this legitimacy, Americans put aside more than 200 years of bias and bigotry to vote on November 4, 2008, for a man with a background so different from their own. His inauguration as the 44th President of the United States of America was watched on television and heard on radios all over the globe. Kenya declared a national holiday in his honour.
But now, Kenyans are about to entrust their lives, wealth, children and farms to a man they know hardly anything about. We do not know you, Mr Deputy President; not your ancestry, lineage or history. Some say you are a Kipsigis, others say you are a Nandi. Some say you are a Tugen from Koroto, others that you are a Kisii. Some even believe you are a Kuria! Who are you, Your Excellency William Samoei Ruto, EGH?
Your biography is in high demand now more than ever before. Who are your brothers, your sisters, your wider family? Before we give you our vote in 2022, we want to Know Our Customer (KYC).
The Deputy President can take advantage of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s remarks made while launching Phoebe Asiyo’s Book, ‘It is Possible: An African Woman Speaks’, that a programme should be initiated to help public servants and prominent Kenyans write their memoirs. The depth of the tree's root system will enable the tree to tower over the forest, providing a great home for the birds of the air and shade for the toiling Kenyans - nursing mothers, elders, youths, children, even livestock.
Among the Kalenjins, when a man is going to engage (koito) the girl he intends to marry, he must choose the most experienced elders from his side to help him navigate the tricky engagement process. The aim of the elaborate process is to investigate the suitability of the woman and find out, among other things, whether there is any blood relation, any previous marriages or any outstanding issues between families such as land disputes, murder or witchcraft.
These background checks inform the way forward - whether the engagement should proceed or not. The scenario we are in as Kenyans is that we are about to betroth our only beautiful and beloved daughter Kenyan to a man (WSR) we least know about.
The observations of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer while living under fascism create webs of significance for our Kenyan situation. He wrote: “We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds: we have been drenched by many storms: we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretence: experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open: intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical. Are we still of any use?
"What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, straightforward men. Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves remorseless enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness?”
There are times when the message is painful to state and difficult to hear. What do we do when our efforts to listen courageously have failed, when we have engaged in paradoxical problem solving and nothing has changed; when turnaround, feedback, transformational coaching, strategic mentoring and participatory assessment have all proved unsuccessful?
The Kenyan as a living organism requires a different kind of politics and as Barack Obama prophesied: “Politics that will need to reflect our lives as they are actually lived. It won’t be prepackaged ready to pull off the shelf. It will have to be constructed from the best of our traditions and will have to account for the darker aspects of our past.
"We will need to understand just how we got to this place, this land of warring factions and tribal hatreds. And we will need to remind ourselves, despite all our differences, just how much we share: Common hopes, common dreams, a bond that will not break.”
Mr Chesang is a historian