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Did Ruto miss way, show his hand too soon?

By | Sep 2nd 2011 | 4 min read


In my village there are tortoises. It is a taboo to kill them even on your farm. Drivers stop either to give them way or hoist them out of danger. The reptilic crawlers, though ugly with scaly legs and furrowed shell, stand for wisdom and longevity in African mythology.

This is probably because they not only live for at least 150 years, but the shell around and the ‘board’ beneath them is actually their home and protection. Understandably then some mortgage company did use tortoise to market its products.

But what is intriguing about the tortoise, and that is probably why it is respected in the community, are its attributes. It is not a danger to anyone, for it forages. But most important it cowardly recoils, pretends to be dead when confronted. Still if you lift it in this state, it urinates, the foul smell, is its defence mechanism.

This way, it survives many enemies and predators, except of course the mongoose. Now this ugly chicken thief also knows one defence mechanism; it lets out a terribly foul smell when under flight or attack.

So it has come to pass in my community through generations that a coward is dismissed as ‘mechwe’ or literally tortoise. The reasoning is that the coward is inconsequential, so why bother.

You see in communities like mine, when two men wrestle and one is felled, the other gives him a hand to rise up. Only then can he choose to continue with the fight, or call for ceasefire, at which point it is clear who is the winner.

Being a society that has stereotypes sarcastic and unfriendly to women, a man who tramples on another while he is lying sprawled on the ground is derisively laughed at as one who fights like a woman. For my grandfathers argue that women fights are unorthodox, every weapon including fingernails and dust on the ground, can be deployed at will.

I do not disagree because I have never understood why when the ladies fight, the winner usually is she who scratches the other the most, offers the most abusive insults even by spilling the most sacred beans, and above all, tears the other’s clothes the most.

Fighting women?

Now, in my own simplistic way, I have been savouring some hilarious moments from our politicians and the lessons from these tortoises. I have also laughed my heart out when I see how, to the horror of my grandfather if he was still alive, grey-haired men engage in fights with women.

I say so, not to demean women, but because I guess that is the thought running through the minds of my villagers when they weigh the sacking of our MP Hellen Sambili. You see, however inaccurate this might be, the joke among them is that Prime Minister Raila Odinga after wrestling with Mr William Ruto, has chosen to extend the fight to Mama Cherurbai (Prof Sambili).

Secondly, because Ruto is saddled with The Hague monster, which he falsely claims to be Raila’s evil design, in this village they see him as trampling on a man who is already down. Here in Mogotio, as I understand, tradition and politics have a meeting point, and that is why it is hard to separate fact from fiction. That is what Kalenjin politicians know, and for example are now harping certain cultural practices in Raila’s community that they deem ‘unmanly’ and retrogressive.

They do not, of course, tell you what has changed from 2007 when they could literally have wrung your neck if you dared mention Raila’s name in bad light.

Now let us go to the tortoise; how I wish our politicians can learn from these crawlers. The only guttural noise they make that I know is when they are procreating — which is just a sport. They live long because they make few enemies. They also do not move along in a herd like us who are goaded with lies and empty promises from one party to another.

The tortoise in fact crawls along with its ‘home’ and so never needs to fight for space with anyone.

They also play the fool when attacked, ‘burying’ head in shell, and mimicking death, until the enemy goes away. Even if rolled downhill, its shell will protect it from harm. It also does not pretend to be anyone’s hero as the giants our politicians strive and pretend to be.

But calculative they are; you just need to see how they slowly pull out their heads to scan its environment even when it had been pretending to be ‘dead’. This is what compensates it for lack of speed, either with the tongue or legs. And it is paid by nature with installment – living close to two centuries!

Trust no one

You may, therefore, understand why I pity the likes of Ruto when I see them strutting with bare chests in a lion-infested forest. To his people, daring the lion is heroic, and dying in its hands is an honour, because though it is a taboo to kill a tortoise, no one ever claimed it is a distinguished animal.

But with all his vocality and adventurous spirit, which is always at boiling point, I am sure in my village though they disrespect the tortoise, they also appreciate the reality that though the earliest bird catches the worm, it is also true it is the earliest worm that gets caught. You see one secret that keeps the tortoise going is it trusts no one, any squeaking noise makes it recoil. That way, it lives to fight another day.

The writer is Managing Editor, Daily Editions, at The Standard.

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