Monday, May 20, 2013

Oppa Kenyan Style

“This is Kenya and things have to be done the Kenyan style.” That was the angry message reportedly given to Ronald Slye, a commissioner at the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, the body charged with exhuming Kenya's past so we can exorcise the ghosts and lay to rest the fears that have supposedly petrified our national life. His crime was the refusal to "ngo srowry" on the chapter covering political assassinations which, as his Kenyan counterparts recognised, violates deeply entrenched cultural beliefs and taboos.

You see, Slye is American. He and the two other non-Kenyan commissioners seconded to the TJRC by the AU's Panel of Eminent African Personalities -Zambian Gertrude Chawatama and Ethiopian Berhanu Dinka- have failed to appreciate the traditional "Kenyan style" of report writing. Namely, that reports can only reveal the truth when the government has opportunity to frustrate the consequences of such revelations either by withholding the findings from the public or by bungling long-drawn out prosecutions.

The TJRC report, however, does not afford the Kenyatta administration much room for manoeuvre. The report can be made public immediately the President touches it, and indeed the TJRC said to have copies ready to go live on its website once President Kenyatta gives them a date to present it to him. They have been waiting for better part of three weeks though, so I guess he is not too keen to get it.

Also, like the Waki Report, its recommendations must be implemented. The self-propelling mechanisms ensure that once the report is handed over to the President, the wheels of justice are set in motion and the culprits must be brought to book. Even more worrisome, its pages probably contain potentially career and freedom-threatening observations on issues such as grand corruption, illegal land acquisitions and political assassinations

Embarrassing and punishing senior government officials is most definitely not "the Kenyan style." We rather prefer that the foreigners shut up unless they have something positive to say. Just look at where Waki got us -our excellent Excellencies having to endure the ignominy of a trial at the Hague. Therefore, we must all hope that the TJRC has not followed Waki's un-African example and come up with yet another secret envelope to be handed over to Western imperialists in the event of local non-compliance with its recommendations. That might bring the wrath of the gods.

For there is only one thing that is more Kenyan style than impunity. And that is forgetfulness, our time-honoured and traditional tendency to bury our heads in the sand. Our culture does not permit to speak ill of the dead, and that includes those with a deadened conscience, especially when they control our version of the nuclear football. Kenyan style reports should not allow us to learn from past mistakes as doing so risks acknowledging that our ancestral warrior-kings -the heralds of independence and peace and all things democratic- and their present descendants may have made mistakes, or even worse, that they may have knowingly acted in immoral, thieving and murderous ways. Chaos and mayhem, we fear, may be visited upon us as these spirits take their vengeance on our self-righteous souls.

On the other hand, there is no need to waken the spirits of the non-victims of past non-indiscretions though. Their powerlessness and anonymity follows them beyond the grave so long as we have the good sense to ignore them. Better to let sleeping dogs lie.

Now, since the ignorant foreigners have already raised the spectre of wrongdoing, a traditional cleansing is required. The report must therefore become a whitewash of all sins and must meet with the approval of our priest-king. Any mention of his name, and those of  his friends, must be deleted in the course of this cleansing. In return, he will intercede for us with his glorious ancestors who will resume the flow of riches from heaven and, for the present at least, spare us violence.

In future, fellow Kenyans, if we must remember the past, then let us remember the good times and the silver linings. Our children should only hear the positive and the embellished. Like how we always came first in class, and how they are all descended from great chiefs. We must purge our history books of anything that may be remotely embarrassing, any references to colonial collaborators or murderous and thieving governments. They must understand that all were freedom fighters, especially those who fought from the inside, and all were honest-to-God patriots.

That is the Kenyan style, the path to a Kenyan peace.

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