Thursday, January 17, 2019

It doesn't have to be this hard

2018 ended as I expected it to end with the airwaves rent by the cacophony of political magpies announcing their loyalties, disloyalties and betrayals without shame, the way a baboon moons the whole wide world with its pinkish buttocks. Christmas and the New Year were dedicated to the perverse exercise of deciding Uhuru Kenyatta's successor without actually acknowledging that that was what we were doing. And then the grenades were detonated, the car bombs exploded, the gunfire replaced the political tea-leaves reading and Kenyans were once again called upon to be stoic in the aftermath of death and destruction.

When the Westgate was attacked, Kenyan officialdom was used to cross-border terrorists recruiting Kenyans and launching home-grown attacks at bus stations, churches, outdoor tent-revival meetings, bars and markets, the places where the dusty-faced Kenyans congregate in large numbers, the places where the Kenyan wabenzi avoid. Kenyan officialdom had decreed that the high and mighty were safe because they had at their command guns, soldiers, CCTV cameras and very, very fat wallets. Westgate changed us like 1998 didn't or Kikambala or Gikomba or Mpeketoni.

Every attack till Westgate, save for 1998 because US citizens died, hadn't democratised pain and suffering, placing the President and the guy that washes his socks on the same plane of pain. After Westgate, you could tell, he securocracy's leaden-footed imbecility notwithstanding, that Something Was Going to be Done. But habits are hard to break, especially bad ones, and what we got were the most anti-people legislative proposals since the Pass Book Ordinances of the Colonial Government, the Security Laws (Amendments) Bill, 2014. This was the starkest reminder by officialdom of the proper place of victims in Kenya's hierarchies: the poor and the politically powerless do not matter as much as the movers and shakers.

DusitD2 is a harsh reminder that though things have changed, they haven't changed that much. Kenyans are more aware of what they must do in order to deal with the pain, suffering, and trauma of an attack. But officialdom, though more professional, remains mulishly unchanged. You can see it in the casual way untruths are passed on as facts. You can see it in the way the Official Story has been told and finished. You can see it in the way that even foreigners have no compunction about displaying the remains of our murdered loved ones for all to see - unapologetic, unashamed, ugly and mean-spirited.  And you can see it in the way officialdom has subtly celebrated "return to normalcy", highlighting buoyant news about the securities market, the lack of ofay "travel advisories", the non-disruption of ofay tourist activities.

You can set your watch by the next steps in officialdom's process, culminating in high-decibel succession rows by even Kenyans who should know better. Deceptively somber Kenyans will appear on news shows and lie through their teeth about the 2022 Question, distracting us from the 2019 five-fingered discounts they will award themselves while we, the ones without the benefit of metaphorical and literal safety nets and bulletproof vests, watch our savings turn into puffs of smoke as railway profiteers take us for a ride. At least, you might think, we are resilient. Yes we are but surely, it doesn't have to be this hard to be an ordinary Kenyan, does it?

Listen to what Gen Z is saying. Hear them.

Kenyan Gen Z seized the moment that was made for them and threw down the gauntlet at the feet of the Kenyan State. With the memory of the bi...