Focus: Kenya view.
When I was young, I wanted it all: the pick-up, the farm, the Godfather hat and the pointed shoes. I wanted the beer, the goat ribs and what in those days was called a Public Opinion- a beer belly. For God’s sake I even wanted gout, because it bespoke, eating well, conspicuous consumption. Gout was to me the disease of those who had arrived.
When I was young, all I wanted to be, when I grew up, was a Kikuyu.
I was born in Kiambu. That was just after Jommo Kenyatta died but just before the first coup in Kenya’s history. When I became of a school going age, I was sent off to school in the Rift Valley. In my school were many Kikuyus: Kikuyus from Rware and Kikuyus from Kabete; Kikuyus from Muranga and Kikuyus from the Diaspora. Those were days when Kikuyu regional rivalries and one-up-manship had been lost in the passage from one generation to the next and all that was left for us were the witticisms, hackneyed stereotypes and jocose contestations. Nobody cared where the next person was from- unless it was Dundori- and yet I made a point of reminding everyone that I was from Kiambu. I was Kiambu Mafia.
Then I grew up.
When I grew up, I realised that there were People from Kiambu and then there was the Kiambu Mafia. I was of the People- Kiambu had its owners. Indeed there was a Kiambu Mafia, with its GEMA conspiracies and massive loans to buy off every Mzungu settler from Kabete to Warubaga; loans that would later find their way into that classified document called the Debt Register which states how much you and your descendants, for ever and ever, amen, owe a Shylock in the Isle of Man that you never met. And then there were The People From Kiambu, a significant majority, who scrimped and saved to buy land- through, often fictitious or fly-by-night, land buying companies formed by the Kiambu Mafia to dispose off the parcels of land that they had acquired through the previously mentioned loans.
In retrospect, I was blessed; my family was privileged- my grandfather had land in Kiambu. He had a parcel of land in what was formerly known as the Native Reserve and a plot in the Gicagi. (My grandfather inherited those from his father who had acquired them in the Demarcation – colonial land allotments – and split it out between all his sons from a stable of wives. The Gicagi became the dice throw of Kikuyu-land – in some places, Gicagis became shopping centres and the land appreciated while in others they became a Kibera in microcosm.)
Then the Mau Mau war happened. Everyone was shipped into the Emergency villages. When the war ended, many returned to nothing. Some men returned from the bush and found that the only thing that their, now homeless, wives had acquired was a son or two that looked like the Chief and that one of the many things that the Chief had acquired was their land.
Is it not that all is fair in love and war?
When I was young, I was taught that the Mau Mau war was a struggle for independence. Then I grew up. When I grew up, I realised that the Mau Mau war was a dud; Kenya’s independence was negotiated. Long before the Mau Mau declared war against the white man, Jommo Kenyatta had been sleeping with a white woman. Jommo Kenyatta knew- because he had known books that one- that the problem was the top; the system, and not the colour of the man at the top. The British knew that he knew. And he knew that they knew that he knew. So the British called Kenyatta to England and negotiated a deal with him that would allow them to change the colour of the man at the top without changing the system.
And that is the way Kenyatta and his ilk; their kinsmen and descendants, from 1963 to perpetuity, won their Independence.
The Mau Mau war didn’t win anyone their independence, it won them dependence on a black man rather than a white one.
It thus came to pass, that one day in December of 1963 the Governor of Kenya, on behalf of Her Majesty the Tyrant of Empire, ceremoniously handed over power to Mzee Jommo Kenyatta. A celebratory mood rose all over Kenya; this was one nation under God, and no blessings from the Queen needed. The Union Jack was lowered. The Kenyan flag was hoisted.
Ee mungu nguvu yetu.
Ilete baraka kwetu…
Red, White, Black and Green
They told me that Red was for the blood that was shed and green was for the land that was won. I grew up and then I realised: red was for those who died fighting and green was for those who lived- to reap matunda ya uhuru. My ancestor inherited the red, your ancestor inherited the red; so why do we have to die that those that inherited the land may stay ever green?