Sagana State Lodge rice feast provides good food for thought

Rice delicacy. Feeding hungry people for the sole purpose of achieving a political end is exploitative. [iStockphoto]

In his famous work, 'Things Fall Apart', Chinua Achebe says; “a man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to save them from starving. They all have food in their own homes.

"When we gather together in the moonlit village ground it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so.”

I would have wished this was the reason the organisers of the Sagana State Lodge put up the televised party. The ‘eaters’ who gave interviews to the media said they were very happy to eat “mchele na nyama” (rice and meat). 

It was a historic day for some of them getting into Sagana State Lodge while for others eating rice and meat was such a privilege, so they said.

Truth be told, similar sentiments would be expressed in many parts of Kenya were a feasting of the same kind to be organised in their locale. Take it to parts of Nairobi, Nakuru, Eldoret, Mombasa, Kisii, Garissa, Machakos or wherever, and the reactions will be the same.

Food insecurity is a problem in this country that, like many other social concerns, we gross over. We never take the pain to address the root causes of our social problems with an eye fixed on improving the livelihoods of people.

I wonder if people who harvest plenty and can afford mchele and nyama would even want to be featured on TV, proudly announcing they are having a one-in-a-lifetime chance to feast. Like the healed leper in the Bible, one cannot hide the joy of a momentous occasion.

There are a few lessons we can pick from the eating feast. First, our people are very grateful for gestures of appreciation however small they are. Although, clearly the reasons for the invitation to the Sagana State Lodge feast were very different from the reasons the invitees showed up, throwing a party for people who hardly get invites from the who-is-who sends a message of care and solidarity.

Hungry people

Second, exploitation of the poor is real. Similar occasions where the poor are invited to eat and then used to legitimise agenda they have no clue about is common. It is just that it is not captured in the media the way the Sagana Lodge feast was.

Queues to serve food where masses are invited sometimes turn very chaotic. The reason is that the poor do not get enough of such a food in their homes. Feeding hungry people for the sole purpose of achieving a political end is exploitative.

Third, we have considerably regressed in attending to our rich African values of utu. Human dignity is a right which, in our African anthropology, is deeply rooted in the utu philosophy. Our parents of the past truly embraced being as a way of life. Everyone had plenty to eat.

Those who did not have were supplied with what they needed till the next harvesting season. Neighbourliness meant care for the needy. Food, of all basics, was never a problem in that era that many educated folks today call the 'primitive era'. In the utu philosophy, the greatest person in society is one who promotes the common good.

Fourth, closely related to utu is the Ubuntu philosophy that defines the spirit of Pan-Africanism. Colonialists conquered our communities and ruled them with impunity.

They did not apply to themselves the same Constitution that defined their rights back in Europe.  

Africans who resisted or who voiced dissenting views were hunted down, arrested, tortured or even killed. Fellow Africans participated actively in enforcing the brutal regime of the colonial master.

As long as they received some benefits from the powers of the time, they were too happy running over their fellow Africans as if it was a divine role they were carrying out.

Pan-Africanism detests leaders who exploit their own people. Right from the household, national and continental levels the spirit of care, solidarity, truthfulness and above all authenticity shall characterise a true African leader.

-Dr Mokua is Executive Director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communication

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