Tough times don't last, Kenyans will weather these raging storms

Protestors march in support of the Housing Levy along Parliament Road, Nairobi, December 28, 2023. [Elvis Ogina Standard]

Whenever a crow grows old, feels its body has grown weak, and its claws too frail to swiftly swoop down on prey for itself and its children, it does not fly to a desolate place to await its death.

Instead, it flies for miles, each wingspan stronger with sheer willpower, to a faraway mountain where it sheds its claws, grits the old beak on a rough stone edge and will itself into a transfiguration, a rebirth. So, the next time it flies back to familiar territory and company, it is virtually a new being. I guess this is how these birds are able to live longer than human beings.

Kenyans have a lot to learn from this resilient bird whose place in African folklore is so prominent that in our folk stories, it could even carry greedy hyenas – they must have been politicians – to eat exotic meat in heavens, but I digress.

It has been a tough year. Actually, it has been a tough couple of years. We were just smarting from the political hiccups following the 2017 elections when, two years down the line, the angel of death in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic was again hovering above our land.

We, nonetheless, turned round the corner and though we lost lives and livelihoods, the scenes of mass deaths that had been predicted for Kenya and other African countries owing to our admittedly decrepit health systems did not happen.

However, we were barely out of that Covid-19 rut when Russia invaded Ukraine, and we all said, well, that’s a European problem. Until we realised it was not, what with its ramifications casting a long shadow on our post-covid tranquillity.

It so happened that the rains had taken French leave and left us getting mocked in the region, where Kenya has for eons been fabled as a regional hub but this time, we had to bow our heads and go around looking for food.

As the four years of drought, locust invasions and other telltale signs of looming bleak times were still gnawing at our national psyche, we were rudely awakened to our precarious food situation.

We had all along considered ourselves a maize and ugali country, but the fact that we were struggling to raise the rallying dollar to buy mainly wheat and wheat products opened our eyes to the fact that when we wake up, we eat bread, pancakes and other wheat-baked foods.

Proper meal

For the avoidance of doubt, Christmas and New Year parties around Kenya are incomplete without chapo, again which is based on wheat, as are the noodles that lazy Nairobians feast on because they can’t stay in the kitchen long enough to scramble a proper meal. No problem there, except that we need, going forward, to have a diversified food security strategy. Kenyans must not live on posho alone.

And just when we were scratching our heads on how to tame the dollar amidst rising fuel prices, our fiscal obligations as a country prompted the government to institute measures that have largely been termed harsh but which the Kenya Kwanza government has been at pains to explain were necessary to keep the country afloat in fiscal and monetary terms.

In a word, it has been a terrible year for many, including those in power. As the year winds down and the dawn of a new one stirs the horizon, we can find solace in what the grandmother bedbug in Chinua Achebe’s book tells the little ones: “Take heart, whatever is hot now, one day soon it will be cold.”

That was after somebody splashed hot water on the little bedbugs. Well, no one is likening Kenyans to bedbugs. We are a resilient, hard-working lot who have always leapt up after every fall, dusted ourselves and blasted forth.

My message is, as you draft new year resolutions – the same as last year because you never actualised any – and as you troop back to the cities and towns around the country to resume work, invoke the spirit of that crow on the mountain. Imagine you are coming back to Nairobi with new claws and a brand-new beak.

To face life as we have always done, with courage and determination. For while we might have been to hell and back. They say it’s darkest just before dawn. Besides, we still have a lot to thank God for.

We have the gift of life, health, good friends and, yes, a country that still loves us and covers us in peace and stability though we do not always reciprocate that warmth.

-The writer is an editorial and publishing consultant.