If there is something major that I have learnt this year thus far then it is the fact that one is never old enough to lose a parent. I can hardly think of anything that have been as devastating to me in this life as the loss of my Dad. Even if he was from a different generation. The generation of President Mwai Kibaki. Conservative as they come with certain views, rules and principals cast in stone. This had to be the main reason why in his last days he had clearly lost touch with a new world where rules and principals are super-fluid and where change is happening too fast for anybody to fully grasp it, let alone its’ implications.
A friend once quipped that I seem to know Mwai Kibaki so well. If this has come out in my writing then it has a lot to do with the fact that I understood that my dad was from the same time and thus tended to think along very similar lines.
It took me many years but finally I learnt to accept him for what he was. Especially because of the positive side of being unshakeable. The man just couldn’t take a bribe or even look the other way. He just couldn’t. Many times his life was threatened simply because he was unable to do the safe thing of walking away and pretending he had seen nothing. He often told me that his conscience just couldn’t take it. Rare breed indeed and clearly the kind of people we need to shape and create our new Kenya. And if he were still alive today and was in a position of power he would not have been worried about that terror word amongst the high and mighty these days; wikileaks.
Wikileaks is that magic terror word that causes the rich and powerful to wake up in cold sweat at night (that is when they do manage to get some sleep). I spent a little time yesterday reading the Sunday Nation and could not help agreeing wholeheartedly with a number of opinion pieces denouncing Kenyans for the habit of falling over themselves to show mzungus just how much they knew.
I have been privileged to have gone to school with and even found myself in quite a number of situations where I have interacted with Mzungus and I can authoritatively tell you that irrespective of the smiles and kind words, they have a very low opinion of us in general. And I am not being racial. This is made worse when we always seem to want to bend over backwards to please them and show them how clever we are.
Indeed this is one of the reasons why I respect Tanzanians, even with all their poverty and issues. Walk into any office in Kenya today ahead of a mzungu and you will be told to wait while the mzungu who is behind you in the queue is served first. One day in 2004 I walked into a Dar office several paces behind a mzungu and was shocked beyond words when he was asked to wait while the man asked me; nitakusaidia aje kaka? (How can I help you my brother?). Later I heard many Tanzanians point out how most mzungus love to come to Africa to exploit Africans and take away from them while pretending to help. I thought to myself how true this was and how naïve we Kenyans are while being so desperate to look intelligent in front of white folks while actually making an utter fool of ourselves.
That is how diplomats readily get so much information from clueless government officials and even politicians. I can imagine a new arrival being briefed by a fellow diplomat thus;
“Simply wine and dine them old fellow. They are obsessed with unhealthy red meat. Just roast plenty of the disgusting flesh over some charcoal fire and keep their glasses filled mostly with that trashy beer they call Tusker and they will sing better than any bird you know…”
I recently almost threw up as I listened to a popular Radio personality host a mzungu on their show. I have interviewed many people and attended many press conferences in my time and it is so easy for me to tell when the person asking the questions is making an effort to look intelligent. Actually the best interview is where you ask the kind of questions your audience would ask, even the stupid ones. The reason why the Wikileaks revelations are so detailed and accurate is because somebody asked plenty of stupid questions over some nyama choma and Tusker, now guess who looks intelligent?
P.S. Did you catch the Wikileaks where VP Kalonzo Musyoka wanted the mzungus to put pressure on Kibaki to step aside on account of his health (discussed here in Kumekucha many times before 2007) so that he would ascend to the presidency and be in pole position when fresh elections are called? Amazing stuff!!