On April 17th 2016, the Kenyan rugby fraternity was ecstatic. It felt good to be Kenyan. We had finally arrived. The impossible had been achieved. Kenya 7s had won the main Cup at HSBC finals at the Singapore Sevens, against the formidable Fiji, the most successful rugby sevens playing nation in the world.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Yet most pictures, tell a lie. Images are enhanced, filtered, photo shopped, staged and framed to make the subject more glamourous than they actually are. When you look keenly, the picture is often marketing or promoting some product or the other. But once in a while, you run into a picture that makes you think. My picture of the past week was a human moment captured after the 2017 London marathon.
It was a simple picture of Prince Harry, posing with the elite men and women winners of the marathon, Daniel Wanjiru ( no relation to the late Olympian Samuel Wanjiru) and Mary Keitany. Prince Harry was standing in the middle with his arms wrapped around the Kenyan athletes, at ease in manner and dress. On his left side, Mary Keitany with a radiant smile enhanced by her high cheekbones and a left running shoe heel raised, God knows why. An elated Daniel Wanjiru was on Prince’s Harry’s right side leaning into the shot, both his hands occupied. One hand holding a gift bag and the other an open box a gift watch in it.
A politician, a civil society lawyer, a hustler, a curious mwananchi and an activist met at an anti-government protest and started talking about what got them to be part of it.
The lawyer said, “I have always been curious about the social dynamics of people power, in exercising rights to dissent against institutionalized polity and how they organize as non-institutionalized political actors”.
The veteran activist said, “I have been active since the late 70s. I demonstrated with Tito Adungosi and Jimmy Orengo before he was expelled from University of Nairobi. I walked with Matiba and Rubia. Raila several times and even shared a cell with him briefly in Kamiti. We ate tear gas with Uhuru during his KANU days and I was there for Kibaki during the NARC era. Bwana, we are the original TeamCourage”.
TeamKenya is out in London and the corporate and politicians are going hoarse trying outshout themselves to prove to whoever is watching that they love Kenya the most. The Olympic season is characterized by an overload of patriotic messages. Switch on the telly, buy a newspaper and out pops another timely reminder of why you should be proud to be Kenyan.
I remember fondly those gullible years as a child looking up longing to those kids who got to welcome the president from a trip abroad, flapping their mini flags. I was envious of those young patriots and admired their pride for the motherland. I wondered why I was not like them. Why did I mumble over the words of the second stanza of our national anthem and why had I never thought of using the flag as duvet?
I was reminded of that period recently when I read a tweet from none other than PM Raila Odinga urging patriotic Kenyans to come together in large numbers and vote for Prezzo. My patriotic antenna flickered to life. “ The Prezzo of what?”
Prezzo the musician of the chopper-over-fence fame continues to up the ante so much so that he has some big hitters shouting from his corner among them Nairobi governor aspirant Philip Kisia and media don Chris Kiribu all weighing in. Turns out Prezzo is the ‘it” factor in a reality show house filled with bored and sexually frustrated housemates from around Africa and is a hot favourite to win the cash prize and everyone loves a winner. I remember when Prezzo was chosen to represent Kenya in the Big Brother Africa Star Game. I wondered why the minister for foreign affairs offered no comment. I mourned about the would-be damage to the country’s image abroad. I was simply being patriotic.
As a true patriot I speak from experience. I have lived through recurring absurdities of Kenyan reality and turned into an optimistic pessimist. I have learnt to manage expectations. Things generally tend to get worse before they can become better. My brand of patriotism is laced with cynicism.
Attempt to perk me up with artistic impression of Vision 2030 and I sneer back, “Whatever happened to Water For All Before the Year 2000”. Make a big deal about the Thika Superhighway and I worry about maintenance. Try and cheer up the mood with Konza city and our Silicon Valley potential and I will complain about the dominance of western conglomerates turning us into mindless consumers. Switch topics to Team Kenya’s hopes at the London Olympics and I start mourning about the AK (Athletics Kenya) and why chairman Isaiah Kiplagat needs to step down to pave way for youthful leadership if Kenya does not top the Beijing tally of 6 gold medals. Bring up youthful leadership and the retort is that I would rather have Uncle Moody Awori out of retirement than re elect Mike Mbuvi aka “sehemu-nyeti” back to parliament.
The one characteristic shared by genuine patriots, is that they mourn about everything. Outsiders and politicians may insist on wearing rosy tinted glasses and keep gushing on about Kenya’s great potential now that we have a new constitution. True patriots know why the glass is half empty. Indeed, only those who care about Kenya would bother to mourn about it. Ask Miguna Miguna.