People who deserve bouquets and those who should get barbs

Kenya had at least four national blackouts in 2023. [iStockphoto]

The year of our Lord 2023 has ended. With its demise, comes the opportunity to issue our annual bouquets to those whose feats we admired and throw barbs to those that were a disappointment.

My very first bouquet goes to the Hustlers. It’s been a tough year for all, but more so the hustlers. With no reliable incomes, the increased cost of living and the enhanced taxes have hit this lot hard. I have therefore been pleasantly surprised in my sojourns around the country, to watch these folk refuse to surrender and make the best of a bad economic situation.

The best evidence of their energy was notable in several upcountry “hustler markets” that I passed by during the year. These were Luanda Market in Vihiga, Mwingi in Kitui County and Kagio Market in Kirinyaga. In these markets, reflective of much of the country, hustlers exhibited their admirable resilience energetically trading everything, at all hours.

In Luanda and Kagio, the markets are at their most vociferous in the early evening, with the trendy nightclubs waiting to occupy the nights. Here you will hear no mourning about taxation and cost of living as wares and cash exchange hands. Things are tough, but these hustlers are doing their best to make life bearable. They and many like them, deserve a bouquet.

The next lot that gets a bouquet are our sportspeople. Despite lacklustre support from the government, our sports heroes have consistently done us proud, and this year was no exception. Whether it’s the beautiful Faith Kipyegon breaking world records or Ferdinand Omanyala flying Kenya’s flag in the short races, Eliud Kipchoge’s seemingly effortless runs, or golden Tennis girl Angela Okutoyi winning Grand Slam titles, these Kenyans have lifted Kenya’s name way above its weight. To each of these, and all the sports heroes, goes a bouquet.

The final bouquet goes to an unlikely lot. In the last few years many Kenyan leaders and opinion shapers have written their biographies. For many years, Kenya was starved of biographies, which are useful in telling the true story of a country, especially one like Kenya whose history remains contested. That trend has since been broken. Of course, many are over-careful or self-lauding, but one can still read between the lines to weave a story of Kenya in the decades it has existed. 

We remain hopeful that we will see biographies on Mzee Jomo, and the Duke of Kabeteshire who defined the first years of this Republic. In the meantime, may of those who have had the courage to open their lives to us receive this bouquet.

As for barbs, the first is an international one. It goes to both Hamas and Israel for the bloodletting that has been visited on civilians in Israel and Gaza. There can be no justification for what transpired before, on, and after October 7. Both Hamas and Israel have the capacity to make the ongoing terror to stop. I however place the greater burden on Israel, who, unlike Hamas, who openly espouses terror, is supposed to be a respectable member of the family of nations.

So, while Hamas gets a barb, Israel gets a double portion for playing to the hands of Hamas. The next barb is closer home. It goes to the “winging and whining” elite. You find them in WhatsApp groups mourning the cost of living and heightened taxation. They can analyse all of Kenya’s problems but have no engagement in civic action beyond mourning in these groups and in high-end lounges imbibing the latest single malts and imported beers. They have not a single positive thing to say about country or government. Many were quiet and cheered on previous regimes as they massacred the country but are now experts on good governance. This barb is hurled at you.

The final barb goes to KPLC. In the last year, we have had at least four national blackouts, some placing our international airport in total darkness. For a country that prides itself as a middle-income economy and a regional economic power, this is beyond shameful. The excuses we have heard from KK’s top honchos are embarrassing and unacceptable. Hence this well-deserved barb. Finally, to you my readers, I allocate the remaining bouquet. May your tribe increase.

-The writer is an advocate of the High Court