Kenya is stripped naked. Actually, scratch that, there is nothing like Kenya in anything but name anymore. The absurdity of it has been on open display since 2002 and stretching back to the 1960s. Landlord-tenant quarrels have now become diplomatic incidents while fights between co-wives – Lucy and Wambui – are responsible for some of the more important political alignments at State House.
The about-to-be-transferred World Bank Director, Makhtar Diop, has been the tenant of the First Family. The latest events in Kenyan cuckoo land were set in motion when Lucy turned up at his house, wearing her pyjamas, to complain about his noisy going away party. Reports of the incident later revealed that one of the ambassadors who has been taking the government to task for corruption is also a tenant of the Kibakis. And that the party, hosted by the jazz-loving Diop, was attended by the Kibaki kids and a host of NGO and diplomatic high-flyers. Kenya’s great and good, who with every passing day reveal themselves to be the soul of a cosy, incestuous vulture class.
On the Friday night in question, Lucy was indignant that the party animals should think that they could behave as if they were in the slums of Korogocho and forget that they were in posh Muthaiga. What delicious irony! The party was filled with people who manage to attend such affairs and live in Muthaiga precisely because of the poor people in Korogocho. In joyful attendance was the guitar-strumming Diop, in town to ‘eradicate poverty’; the diplomats who are our ‘development partners’; and the NGO ‘watchdogs’ who act in "the public interest". All with their fangs sunk deep in Korogocho.
During working hours, they may maintain separate offices, different functions and sometimes even assume the pose of rivalry. But, like the Billy Ocean song went, “the freaks (really do) come out at night”. When the cocktail hour is at hand, the truth of Kenya and its crème de la crème is on full display. They sip their whiskeys together, live in the same neighbourhoods and drive their kids to the same schools, in the same gasoline guzzling cars.
Even as Lucy storms into police stations and newspapers, alternating between hysterical laughter and slapping reporters, MPs are busy feathering their own nests. Despite the KShs 6 million they earn per year for rarely attending parliamentary sessions, they have decided that their two spouses and eight dependants should be able to visit any hospital on the planet at taxpayer expense. Wambui Kibaki if she was ever worried about her health should take heart in knowing that she is now in good hands. But she is probably too busy campaigning for her marriage in Othaya where she turned up last week to make a development contribution to a local hospital. After songs from the usual gaggle of praise singers, always kept on hand should the goody distributing class pass by, she should have had the courtesy to publicly reveal that her ‘contribution’ had been made by a Dutch NGO.
Then here comes the minister responsible for internal security, John Michuki, calling for the reinstitution of the Chief’s Act which was repealed in 1997. It is familiar territory for him: as Koigi Wamwere has been reminding us daily, Michuki was a colonial 'homungati' now turned government strong man.
The Chief's Act: a colonial relic used to great effect by the Moi dictatorship is to be brought back since the natives are definitely restless. What a country! On the one hand applauding the recent publication of books revealing the brutality Kenyans suffered during the Emergency and with the other considering the use of the laws used to impose that suffering.
Keeping up the litany of absurdity that is our lot, the British Council recently hosted a discussion of David Anderson's book which uncovers the colonial government's inhuman conduct during the Emergency. The event was well attended by "radical" Kenyans who commenced a spirited discussion on British colonialism in a British government office!
A few days later, the women’s rights lobby celebrated a castration law for rapists reasoning that prosecutions should be pursued with more vigour. No one cared that the same prosecutors, the police and judges keep no records of the trials, rarely follow correct procedure and never hesitate to trample on the rights of anyone accused of a crime or victimised by it. Because the abiding interest in our naked Kenya is to always keep an eye out for donors, locate the next 'funding stream' (anybody out there for 'judicial reform'?)
It goes on. Headline grabbing statements instructing us on how many wives the president has are officially issued by State House. Biwott, the Total Man of Totally Unproductive Politics, is said to be on the way back to government despite the allegations of political assassination that continue to dog him. Anti-corruption officials have had to flee for their lives. Mitumba taxes have been raised by 200%, perhaps as insurance against the Korogocho poor affording the same pair of pyjamas Lucy wears to break-up her tenants' parties. Then, unable to deliver on the half a million new jobs a year it promised, the government mimics colonial policy and chases hawkers out of Nairobi’s central business district.
© Martin Kimani