Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Happy birthday Kenya. You are now 50. I keep trying to figure out what Kenya would be like if it was a human being turning 50. Would it be the woman with the silver streaks in her hair? Aging gracefully as time ticks slowly away. Crows feet barely visible on her face. Her body nurtured by the land and full of strength and vitality. Or would it be the 50 year old man? Firmly in the clasps of middle age. His Ferrari stuck in traffic as he revs loudly to get the attention of those driving a Toyota that has seen better days. Adorned in clothes much younger than his age but determined to fit in. 

The mental imagery shifts from person to person. Those who think we have so much to celebrate versus those who think the country has fallen further and further into an uncontrollable dive. It hardly seems like there is room for middle ground. A look back at 50 years of our nationhood means you are either incredibly proud of strides we have made or embarrassed by where we find ourselves today.

I'll begin with a caveat that I am not a historian. And they say history is written by the victors so it only reflects what those in power want you to think. It's hard to divorce the path our country has taken from the leaders we've had. I happened to be watching this documentary about our country's presidents and the information was disturbing. It wasn't about the presidency as much as it was that every person interviewed repeated the words "took over power" rather than "took office" in relation to the presidency. In effect, it points to our view of the presidency as a tool of rule rather than a tool of service. We decide to become subjects rather than employers.

Americans talk about their founding fathers with almost divine reverence. Like they couldn't do anything wrong. This is despite the fact that George Washington owned slaves and grew weed. That's the position I find ourselves in. Where we need national heroes and can't seem to let ourselves see history for what it truly is. Our founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, is hardly the democratic he is painted out to be. He ruled with an iron fist and may have been the reason why Kenya is so ethnically divided. Moi perfected the divide and rule tactics of the colonial powers and Kibaki was at the helm of a country that was hopeful for a new beginning and ended up brink of an ethnic civil war.