Kenya is an interesting country. There’s always something burning. If it’s not smoke from a burning car that has just collided with another, it is our athletes achieving rip-roaring success in the international arena, or better still, a scandal in the government. It’s funny what campus students have resorted to in their quest to earn a living. The sad story of the USIU student who had been abducted and later killed by his own mates left us all feeling awful. Only for a ransom of Ksh.100,000? I found that to be rather imprudent. What of the school girls who went on strike in protest against the administration’s introduction of long skirts? They want to walk around in school feeling sexy. Certainly the challenges that come with modernization.
But perhaps the story making rounds right now circles around one name, Miguna Miguna! And no, I didn’t repeat myself. The lawyer from Nyando has been dominating the airwaves since launching his memoirs titled ‘Peeling Back The Mask: A Quest For Justice In Kenya’. A book that few admit is acerbic. What we have witnessed on the news recently could as well pass for some sort of dramedy. The catch phrase ‘Come, baby, come!’ which Miguna uttered on the launch of the book in reference to those who feel offended by his writing has gone viral in social media sites. Maybe this story is heading for its saturation point. We’ll get tired of it as it is our norm. But what baffles me with a good lot of sufficiently educated Kenyans is the fact that we are good in exhibiting colorful satire that often results to mere amusement but nothing to gain from. What happens after the dust settles and everybody has gone home?
The people of Nyando, shamelessly led by their Member of Parliament, staged demonstrations, in what I am made to understand was an attempt to disown Miguna. I won’t even dwell upon what their placards read nor what their MP said while addressing the crowd. To me that was pure theatrics. It’s like Kenyans are still shy of their democracy. That if our tribesman has a differing political opinion from what we collectively believe in as a section of a tribe, we regard him as an outcast. This debate is heated even in my very home. Kenya might be approaching 50 but her citizens are still 10 year olds romping about in the blindness of empty political fanaticism.
The presidential aspirants we purport to support are people we barely know. We simply watch them on the news, read about them in the newspapers, and if we’re lucky, have a chance to see them in those noisy political rallies or interact with them online. We don’t know the things they do when nobody is watching and it’s just them and God. That is to say we’ve always gambled with our votes. And even though we passed the new constitution, it’s almost evident that majority of us did that out of conjecture, because upto now, a huge percentage of us are not conversant with the contents of that document, especially in regard to democracy.
Miguna’s bullish demeanor has earned him many enemies. But Kenyans are also funny people. We have not read the book yet we’re very spiritual in cursing the author. It’s no wonder many of this country’s greatest writers die poor because we have a culture of not appreciating literary works. We have become obsessed with the online craze at the expense of the richness found in books. And then we’ll sit back expecting to achieve our visions as a country. Most of the people complaining about Miguna’s book even have no clue about what is written on its first page. It’s like attacking the devil yet you don’t even know how he looks like and you’re there charged with your arsenal.
The man simply wrote of the nefarious activities taking place quietly under the political umbrella, mostly in the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). For a person to take all his time to piece up a 500 page book, he must have done his research well and thought much before releasing it to the public. Not to say that I concur with the entire content of his publication as I have only read excerpts of it. I am simply saying that we Kenyans ought to stop being ignorant. Relying solely on the media for all the perceptions there are to all political challenges is only a tailored recipe to narrowing our minds, and unfortunately, we always fall for it.
Miguna just utilized his constitutional rights. No matter how much we call him all sorts of names, he could perhaps be a whole generation ahead of us – just in the manner in which he expresses himself in writing. His ego might lead him to throwing a few undesired statements here and there mainly because of the provocation he receives from members of the fourth estate whom I sometimes feel end up asking very irrelevant questions, but he means good for this country. He may seem demented and all that, but in my opinion, his work is the Kenyan desideratum. A decade or two from now, we shall surely appreciate him – maybe.
You can tell he is nothing in resemblance to a timorous customer, not new to controversy. Being the Managing Editor of the student magazine ‘Campus Mirror’, while at the University of Nairobi(UoN), he criticized the university’s administration and the dictatorial KANU regime. The Moi government banned the magazine together with the Student Organization of Nairobi University(Sonu) for which he served as the Financial Secretary in 1987. He was to be expelled alongside 42 other students for their involvement in activities that led to the closure of the university that same year. So many Kenyans who yap his name don’t even know him.
The challenges poised by this onerous situation are that Raila’s political rivals are cashing in on it. They’re using it as a weapon to attack him. Raila has not spoken out yet on this issue, and pressure is mounting. From the general public, those who do not support him have found a seemingly baseless reason to further their inundation of tribal politics. That’s why I say democracy is still in its infancy in our dear country.
I would have wished that before we hoist our lashes at Miguna, we would take in what he has brought forth, analyse it and make our individual decisions. But then the book is seemingly meant for the elite. Its price is a real tale to the common mwananchi who struggles to put ugali on his family’s table rather than struggle to buy a book whose cost is somewhat equivalent to or more than his monthly house rent.
Of course questions will not cease being raised, of why Miguna chose to talk about these things only after falling out with the Prime Minister, or why he did not inform the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission of these hidden truths he claims to be hoarding. Whether his motive was to injure Raila’s campaign trail or not, one thing’s for sure, Miguna wants Kenyans to think and think hard.
He is currently in Toronto, Canada, out of what most critics have termed as cowardice. But he outrightly states that he’s no coward and that he’s out of the country to market his book as well as share some good time with his beloved family, and will probably be back by September to face anyone who wants to take him to court.
In the end, our country is still above all individuals. It is our duty to be responsible citizens carrying at the back of our minds the consciousness that there are generations coming in the future whose state depends on the decisions we make now. Long live Kenya!!