Thursday, February 02, 2017

A sad bunch of jokers

oath
ōTH/ 
noun
oath; plural noun: oaths
1.
 a solemn promise, often invoking a divine witness, regarding one's future action or behavior.

"they took an oath of allegiance to the king"

Samuel Kamau Macharia or, as his is known in Kenya, SK Macharia, the eponymous chairman of the Royal Media Services company, is in the cross-hairs of an angry group of men, described as " about 100 Kikuyu elders", because he has "betrayed his community." According to these 100 Kikuyu elders, Mr Macharia was "[given] 14 mandatory days to apologise to the community for exposing them (sic) to attacks by other communities especially in this electioneering period". Presumably, these Kikuyu elders are speaking on behalf of the Kikuyu community in Kenya and they feel that Mr Macharia has betrayed the members of the House of Mumbi.

Mr Macharia's betrayal, apparently, is that he publicly advanced the opinion that Raila Odinga beat Mwai Kibaki in the 2007 general elections and that Mr Odinga was cheated of victory. Mr Macharia made this statement in the Senate chamber when he appeared before the Senate to testify against the passage of the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2015, which, among other things, intended to amend the Elections Act, 2011, to make provision for both an electronic voter registration system and a "backup manual register of voters".

Mr Macharia's stance invited the wrath of the Kikuyu elders and they threatened to curse Mr Macharia. This threat recalls, at least for those who were sentient at that time, the oathing that took place in central Kenya, the Kikuyu's political and cultural home, in the late 1960s. Many myths surround the oaths that were allegedly administered during that period but what many agree is that the intention of the oaths was to bind the Kikuyu masses to the Kikuyu political classes. In the words of one famous refrain from that era, [presidential] power should never cross the Chania river. In recent days, a vicious rumour has circulated that the rallying call is that the Kikuyu must protect their uthamaki (kingship). With the recent story that Mr Macharia has indeed been cursed by the Kikuyu elders, it is quite possible that the protect-the-uthamaki project is well underway.

Mr Macharia is wealthy, his wealth founded on the back of his media company. Mr Macharia has also clashed with the Government over many regulatory matters, including on the fees levied for broadcasting spectrum and the manner in which spectrum is assigned for digital broadcasting. His disputes with the Government has been very loud and very public. Both times he has challenged the Government, a Kikuyu was pas president and so, among some of the Kikuyu elders' thinking, Mr Macharia, a Kikuyu himself, has betrayed the Kikuyu by being disloyal to the president. But by supporting the narrative advanced by Mr Odinga, a Luo, that Mr Odinga was robbed of electoral victory in 2007, Mr Macharia has crossed the Rubicon and declared war on his community hence the curses which, according to a Mr Kiarii Rugami wa Chumbuu, Mr Macharia will suffer untold calamities within ninety days of the curse being placed.

The Kikuyu elders are just the latest gang of unelected windbags purporting to represent the true interests of ethnic communities. The Kalenjin have theirs, as do the Luo and the Meru. What all these cabals of men have in common is an inflated sense of importance at complete variance with their stature or status. More often than not, they fall fall back on cultural tropes and devices to cow members of their ethnic communities. Whoever refuses to toe the line is "cursed" and, in rapid succession, "calamities" befall him. (You will find, though, that some of the calamities are engineered by the exchange of large wads of cash between the "elders" and young men who deliver sound beatings.)

I doubt whether Mr Macharia fears the curses that have been placed on him; he is smart enough to know that in Kenya things like curses are the alibis old men rely on to hide their hands in the commission of crimes. Mr Macharia knows that to defeat the curse he doesn't have to go back to the elders with his hat in his hands and beg for forgiveness. He knows that to defeat the curse, he will now have to spend a little bit of his many billions to hire bodyguards and food-tasters but to truly defeat the curse, he must publicly and unashamedly laugh at the elders' faces and show the world what a sad bunch of jokers they really are. They are the political equivalent of the saddest food in the world: mukimo. Something that has been boiled to death, utterly devoid of taste, bland and boring.

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