Of The State Of Hypernormalisation and Murder


I did not know Chris Msando. I was only able to attach his name to a familiar face I had seen on TV, making a case for technology on TV panels. Before his passing, he was a nobody. Just another Kenyan with unenviable task of managing a national election and like most people who work for public institutions, I supposed that he was beholden to the vested interests in his place of work.

On the day IEBC put out a report that one of their employees had gone missing, I remember feeling somewhat apprehensive. There was no name given and with the amount of propaganda flying about in this election period, it could fake news for all I cared. Nonetheless, public officials who go missing tend to wind up dead. “It is normal?” a friend a commented as matter of fact.

Women in Politics: Not Just Pretty Faces

The Churchill Show that airs on NTV network is the biggest comedy stage in Kenya. The comedy format show has performed consistently as the highest viewed TV show on Sundays on GeoPoll ratings across the networks, with estimates of 2 million viewers. On the evening of 16th April 2017, the affable host Daniel Ndambuki, known by his moniker Churchill, had special guests. A series of high chairs were arranged on the front stage and strobe lights lit up the background. An excited crowd ushered in the four guests who were aspiring for the women’s representative position in Nairobi County.

Navigating the Politics of Fear

The campaign season enters its final leg and all Kenyans have become political analysts. Political power barons and their lackeys dominate the media space competing for eyeballs. We track their every move, tune in at the appointed hour to keep up with their engagements, like fans of a compelling reality TV show. We spend hours discussing their tactics, analysing the moves of our favourite political power barons flexing muscle at mammoth public rallies, exciting adoring masses with their mere presence.

These special ones, exalted by the offices they seek, hold audiences in a daze. On their large shoulders, our hopes and dreams hang. The young boys watching all this, in the innocence of youth, can only be enthralled with the amount of media consumed these days. It is expected. As a young boy growing up in the 80s, I believed that presidents were anointed by God.

Thievery Corporation

Veteran cartoonist Gado on official  greed.
Veteran cartoonist Gado on official greed.

My Mashujaa day was uneventful. I missed the president’s speech and could not get anyone in my circle to share an update the next day. Most people had done what ordinary Kenyans do when a public holiday falls on a weekday. Have a late night and sleep in the next day. I asked James the taxi driver, my man on the ground, if he had listened to the presidents’ address. He replied that he does not pay politicians any mind these days. It does not matter what is said. It won’t be done.

There is general apathy in the air in regards to the countries state of affairs. The overall feeling is one of helplessness. The corrupt get away with it. The rich get richer and the inept run the show. Word on the street is the government is broke and no one is surprised. It is obviously someone’s fault but in Kenya, no one in the upper echelons of leadership ever owns up to incompetence. Owning up is for sissies. And every good lawyer advises one not to accept liability. This is the base rule of pilfering public funds.

For young people, it might be difficult to fathom but Kenya was not always like this. Sample this statement for example;

“In a country like Kenya which will go to independence without the financial reserves, such as were available to India, Ghana or Nigeria upon the attainment of independence, austerity will clearly be the watch word in the management of our national finances”.

This is not an extract from a speech delivered by some benevolent colonial governor. The words were uttered by former President Mwai Kibaki, then a member of Central Legislative Assembly, East Africa as captured in a report of the convention on social and economic development in the emerging Kenya nation, held in Nairobi, August 1962. The report was aptly titled “The Kenya we want”.

Kibaki the economist saw the link between education and the increased productive capacity of our economy. He would eventually achieve his goal of universal primary education in pursuit of mass literacy but the quality and execution has since been wanting. Presently recurrent expenditure in education is viewed as mere consumption. The conversation on education died out as soon as teachers stopped agitating and it was replaced by the legendary Kenyan indifference.

It is evident that the only people who get the benefit of a public outcry in their defense are political leaders. Their individual blunders always take on national proportions. An attack on a personality’s transgression is seen through the prism of political rivalry. Personal accountability is for low level offenders. Where money talks, the thievery corporation thrives. Accountability becomes a euphemism. Fighting corruption means aiding and abetting it. Securing the youths’ interests, means sabotaging our children’s future to satisfy personal greed.

Eventually, we have gotten accustomed to getting held hostage by a political elite that continues to use the privileged position to gain wealth and perpetuate total domination of the rest of society.

Constant over stimulation of injustices with no consequences to the perpetrators have gradually numbed the citizens’ reaction. Anyone who gets robbed daily will soon be overwhelmed and exhausted by the sheer magnitude of misfortune around them. Kenyans have been reduced to bystanders in their own tragedy, paralyzed to inaction by their powerlessness. The message to the youth is clear. Doing good and right, is a long haul, just not worth the effort. Playing dirty pays, cutting corners reaps benefits and breaking bad has evolved into the accepted standard of public service.

In Northern Nigerian, Boko Haram terrorists became so rampant that the populations got desensitized to terror. In market places, a bomb would go off and right afterward people would pick up pieces and continue as though nothing happened. It is a story shared of war ravaged towns and spaces. People get used to it. In the face of an overwhelming negative force, indifference becomes bliss. There is no point worrying about something that you are defenseless against.

This may help answer the nagging mystery of why poor and oppressed Kenyans still line up to vote on Election Day for candidates who have no track record of fighting for public interest.

In Kenya we cannot see beyond the election. It is all that matters. All other facts can always be dealt with after “we have won”. Tribal identity is still more important than long term national policies. The facts may be presented to your face but our brains are programmed to retreat to false sanctuary of political instigated tribalism, a long established divide and rule tactic.

As activist Boniface Mwangi cries out, “Team courage!” He looks around and no one is moving which means it is not safe to stand out. Those who tried paid the price. Why burst a hernia for your country when your country does not even acknowledge your existence.

Progressively, a population loses hope in getting what they want and the faith in their ability to change their circumstances. Most tragically, they leave the field open to the overlords to gloat and enjoy the impunity of their total domination.