The Star (Nairobi)

1 December 2012

Kenya: Waiting for Nationalists? Don't Hold Your Breath

Harry Thuku is recorded as the one of the first Kenyans to start a movement against the dominance of the white settler with the goal of empowering the Kenyan.

Articles refer to him as "interested in action-oriented measures to address the rising economic challenges facing Kenya's Africans". Like the rest of Kenya's freedom fighters, he was jailed in Kismayu for a decade, yet still came home to continue the work that he had started, only giving it up after denouncing the Mau Mau, a move which caused him to lose credibility with other freedom fighters.

It remains unclear as to why he denounced the Mau Mau. The optimist in me would like to believe that it was because he, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was for a non-violent movement, however, other documentation shows tha he benefited financially from the very whitesettlers against whom he fought for so many years.

Why else would he cooperate with his people's oppressors long before the struggle was over? Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first President, was involved in protest movements against the colonialists as early as 1924 - a whopping 40 years before Kenya's independence.

Kenyatta, a graduate of the London School of Economics, was an outspoken advocate of Kenya's self-rule and independence from Britain, a greatnationalist, and pan-African, who not only envisioned greatness in Kenya, but also for the rest of Africa.

In 1952, the Mau Mau began advocating violence against thecolonialists who had been making false promises about positive changes in the mistreatment of the black African through discriminatory policies.

Much as Kenyatta was not a promoter of the violence, he, and 5 others - dubbed the"Kapenguria Six" - were accused of leading the Mau Mau and were sentenced to prison for 7 years.

Kenyatta and his cohorts were released and eventually led Kenya to independence in 1963. I wish I could end right here. I unfortunately have to use the conjunction "however"!

Jomo Kenyatta was responsible for some great successes in Kenya; however, it isdifficult to ignore the ills that he committed against our great country.

Jomo Kenyatta stole the freedom of the very Kenyans he fought for. After the rumored implication of Kenyatta's involvement in Tom Mboya's death in 1969, he forced every opposing party into his political party Kanu.

With his support waning from Coast to Western province, as a result of the uncharacteristic silence on the subject of Tom Mboya's death, as well as, the political ramifications that followed, Kenyatta, in a single swoop turned Kenya into a one-party state.

In addition, he turned against some of the very freedom fighters with whom he was jailed. The decision to steal the freedom of Kenyans ruined Kenya, which he left in the hands of the next dictator - Daniel arap Moi, a 24-year disaster!

I would love to memorialize Kenyatta as the strong nationalist of 1952 who was willing to sacrifice himself for grabbing that the colonialists introduced.

Fast forward to the 2007 elections - over 1,000 people died and several thousand lost their homes over land issues started years before half of them were born, leaving Kenya more divided along tribal lines than ever.

The stories of Harry Thuku and JomoKenyatta are only but two examples of the cancers that plague Kenya's leadership.

Not only do I think that the self-serving characteristics of leaders like Harry Thuku, Jomo Kenyatta, and Daniel arap Moi brought Kenya to her knees, I think that Kenyans in general, if given a chance would be equally or more self-serving because the cancer is deeply rooted within us.

This is the reason why both President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have unexplainable wealth, considering that they have been government employees for their entire careers.

The same reason why politicians are currently jumping from party to party with the goal of ensuring that they can secure a spot with the sole purpose of lining their pockets.

The reason why it is difficult to go to a government office and start and finish a simple task without hassle... The reason why a matatu conductor will double the fare in the middle of a trip, and expect you to pay the fare on a moment's notice...

The reason why citizens bribe each other for services and the reason why the Diaspora cling to politicians who visit the U.S - for personal gain...

Everybody wants to grab something - they don't realize it, but they are doing exactly what Thuku and Kenyatta did. Selfishness is a part of the DNA of the average Kenyan.

So what will we ever do to change it? Is there any hope for Kenya? With the 2013 election looming, is there a single person that can be trusted to do the job?

Our presidential line-up consists of the power-hungry incumbent, a couple of Hague suspects, a defender of the 2007 violence, a just declared candidate, a flip-flopping chameleon, and other lackluster undesirables.

We would be complete idiots to hold our breaths with the hope of being led by true nationalists. We are a society of cancerous, self-serving, greedy individuals.

It's in our DNA but if we are serious about a prosperous Kenya, we have to collectively choose self-sacrifice to see change.

Are we willing to make that choice? Because I am optimistic I say we will, but I'm definitely not holding my breath while I wait!

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