KDRTV-Nearly a decade ago, I promised my friend Abraham Gumba that I would step away from Kenyan politics and political postings on social media and in the newspapers. I have kept that promise.
But today is a special day, Abo. After this, I’ll go back to posting once a month or so, and only about sports or about Kuka, for another decade.
Daniel arap Moi, the man who reduced Kenya from a runaway African economic success story to one of the poorest countries in the world in just 24 years as president, is dead.
Many younger Kenyans have been fed on the myth of Baba Moi, maziwa ya Nyayo and “kinder, gentler times” – and, not having lived through Moi’s ruinous leadership other than as babies at best, they now know no better.
Many are angry with the Uhuru Kenyatta presidency – they do not realise that it was Moi who plucked Uhuru from a life of privileged obscurity in 2002 and set him on the path to Kenya’s presidency.
Some are unhappy with the misrule that Uhuru and his deputy, William Ruto, subject Kenya to – but they are too young to know that Ruto was a jobless young man who, in 1992, was taken under the wing of a very corrupt politician and nurtured by that thief into the politician that he is today. That corrupt patron was Moi.
All look around at the festering mess that is Kenya today – the Kenya that tourists don’t see, the festering garbage, the unreliable electricity, the failing industries, the growing refugee industry, the ethnic violence, the political corruption – and fail to realise that this is the work of Moi, perhaps the only leader to have taken a country so promising and reduced it to a hovel so impoverished in so short a time.
Moi’s sins were many, but perhaps none was greater than the sin of tribalism that he perfected into an evil art. Kenya’s younger generation laugh at Mugabe for grabbing his country’s most productive farms and ruining his economy in the process, but few of them know that Moi did the same to Kenya’s economy in the 1980s.
Spooked that Kenya’s then-affluent and growing middle class would force him to cede power or even topple him – coups d’état were the in-thing in Africa those days – Moi resolved to reduce the power of the middle class by turning them against each other using tribe, and by ruining the economy and thus making the middle class dependent on the State, and hence on him, for their sustenance.
And so he set about appointing illiterate thugs from his tribe to every economic sector. Private companies were denied licences unless they employed Moi cronies in senior roles. Virtually every management and HR department in both the public and private sectors was taken over by half-literate barely-out-of-their-village Moi tribesmen, who in turn hired even more illiterate tribesmen to dominate companies both private and public.
The results were predictable: every economic sector collapsed.
By 1985, Kenya had gone from being a food exporter to the second-hungriest country in Africa, just behind basket-case Ethiopia. When Western musicians held concerts to help send food aid to starving Ethiopia in 1985, they did not know that Kenya, the beautiful Safari country of many a National Geographic wildlife documentary, was starving too.
Today’s under-35 Kenyans will have no memory of eating Mexican yellow maize donated by the US to stave off starvation in Kenya.
But then, again, they will have no memory of men in CID cars knocking on their doors in the thick of the African night – long after the birds had stopped chirping for the evening and even the crickets had retired their incessant bedlam – to demand “wapi kipande?” of their parents, and to then cart off any unlucky adults who did not have a national ID card, many of those adults never to be seen again.
And if you lived in a “frontier” district like I did, and your home area bordered a neighbouring country – mine bordered Uganda – then you had no right to exist. Moi and his thugs branded you a “foreigner”, and no number of ID cards in the house could save you: when the CID or police came for you, you either found money to bribe them, or you were locked up in Moi’s “detention without trial” cells for being an “illegal immigrant” in your own country.
But who am I to lecture the new generation of Kenyan kids? Moi ensured that history was removed from the Kenyan curriculum, replaced by GHC with an emphasis on “civics and good citizenship” – aka having an unquestioning attitude – and so what they learn today is shallow nonsense that leaves them as ignorant as they sound.
And so they mourn Moi, in an act of National Stockholm Syndrome whose most supreme irony must surely be that they don’t even who dug them into the hole in which they find themselves today, and which they lament everyday on social media.
Read the linked article, young Kenyans, if you can spare some time from your endless Facebooking and Instagramming and complaining, and pay special attention to reason #8.
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