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.
History though can't be painted in broad strokes. Statistics can be given of each presidency that brought some sort of economic or social gains to this country. The idea that I reject is where history is rewritten to form a false narrative. That we are still talking about fighting colonialism 50 years is proof that we would rather retell the story than face our own demons. Getting freedom from the Brits didn't set us out on a rosy path of milk and honey. Far from it. And having someone steal and plunder from you isn't lessened by the fact that the person shares your skin colour.
Kenya has had its fair share of ups and downs. We've made huge strides. And we've had moments of national shame. Blood has been poured for this country. Our sweat goes into building the very foundation of Kenya. So the upshot of it is this. We aren't celebrating the actions of those in office. After all it's hard to find someone who feels represented by those goons in parliament. Instead we celebrate those moments we've pulled together as a country and inspired each other to be better despite all the odds. Remember every moment we've stood up together. it is only through our weak moments that we can celebrate our strengths. It is only through acknowledging the tribal animosity that we can appreciate Kenyans shunning tribe in times of need. We can always be better. After all Kenya isn't Kibaki, Kenyatta or Moi. I am Kenya. And so are you. And we just turned 50.