Monday, December 19, 2022

Save the children. Or die.

It is ingrained in us to seek the intervention of the supernatural and, thereby, received divine favours. We propitiate the gods (and the universe) by making sacrifices to them in the hopes that they will be kind to us and grant us our deepest desires. Some of our sacrifices are deeply personal, while other are in the far of property. The more desperate we become, the bigger the sacrifice. This belief has led to great crimes.

I can't remember which general election brought to the limelight the serial murder of albinos but I remember how terrifying it was for them as a category of people, Kenyan and foreign. The killings were so widespread that our sisters and brothers in Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were not spared. All this just so a man could win an election, something he considered to be a matter of life or death. After he lost, as many of them did, he fomented violence in his community, leading to further bloodshed, only this time more indiscriminate.

Kenya has had a long history of human sacrifices for wealth or political power. Those of us who grew up in the late 1980s and early 1990s can remember the rumours of a transport company owner whose Mombasa-Nairobi buses would have a string of accidents that resulted in mass casualties and that the deaths were human sacrifices to satisfy the bloodlust of the majini that made him fabulously wealthy. So it is with profound sadness that we are now told a family in Kisii has made a human sacrifice of a husband and the eyes of their three-years' old child so that the son and the mother can become rich. Our capacity for cruelty camouflaged as mysticism knows no bounds.

This faith in the supernatural has little to do with the level of education or social class or political and economic power. A successful political candidate from western kenya was convicted by an election court for, among other things, relying on witchcraft to win re-election. It seems, though, that the wider poverty spreads in kenya, the more people turn to supernatural interventions in order to get ahead. In Kisii, for example, the past decade has witnessed scores of widows being branded witches by their families, and murdered, and the properties they inherited from their husbands shared among their survivors. And now, children, without the ability to defend themselves or understand the risks their families pose, have become targets.

More generally too, children have become the targets of cruelty, in the home and at school, and little seems to be done to stem the tide of violence directed at them. I remember the lengths to which parents and alumni went to protect the "reputation" of a church-sponsored school located along Waiyaki Way when it covered up the death of a pupil at the hands of his classmate. Or the callous way the Cabinet Secretary for Education refused to address the systemic failures that led to the deaths of scores of schoolgirls in a dormitory fire.

As a people, as communities, as a nation, we seem impervious to the pain our neglect and violence has wrought on the most vulnerable among us. So long as we are securing the bag, you and yours are on your own, and our children had best learn fast how to fend off the predators and killers who would seek to shed their blood for a fistful of shillings. What we are doing is sowing the seeds of our own destruction, destruction that will come at the hands of those we have abused, misused and defiled, and made stones of their hearts. If we don't save our children, they will be the death of us.

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