Death of a Milkman

So Kenya’s retired 24-years-a-dictator president is dead. Daniel arap Moi. From my observation of the people getting caught up in a strange euphoria of Moi nostalgia and the unfolding deification, I’d say it’s not the continued worship of Moism gagging people from speaking the truth. It’s people themselves. You’ve got 3 groups:

1. The hoi polloi and the soul-weary: They streamed in in the thousands to pay their last respects. Most were idle anyway. There’s an unemployment rate that still stands at 40%. The underemployed and the hustlers who work sixteen hours and live hand-to-mouth are weary. Their souls are frayed and famished and long for any national tragedy that can bring them a sense of pride and belonging in a place that chews them and spits them out. Even if it’s the death of the man whose boots crushed their necks. If I’ve been waking up to go sit idly at Jivanjee Gardens and catch the daily afternoon show starring the street evangelist, and then suddenly a big death happens, I’ll happily follow my fellow hoi polloi tribe to go see the new show. I’ll jostle for front-row position along Uhuru Highway, and I’ll be filled with perverse satisfaction that I belong to a country that can show off such pomp and circumstance. In that moment, I’ll find myself pulled in to the welcome euphoria, shouting with the masses– Nyayo! Nyao! Nyayo! And those sitting in the comfort of their homes watching TV will say- Look how beloved he was.

2. The beneficiaries of Moism (and this can be anything anyone wants to consider life-changing– from school milk, quarter-system, our-time-to-eat beneficiaries, etc..): These are people who want to hear no evil and refuse to imagine the man could have been anything less than an angel. This group has willed themselves into a state of denial. It’s amazing to watch. Like one of those fascinating creatures on National Geographics that magically transform themselves to cope with their environment or gain self-preserving advantage. If Moi’s atrocious deeds are brought up, they will find every which way, however ridiculous, to discredit those who bring them up. They will argue with the passion of a court poet to diminish the horrors of Moi era. There are records of human rights abuses you can’t argue with, and thousands of people are still alive with unresolved memories of what happened. These things were not imagined, but this group will tell you they didn’t happen, at least not in the way you say they did. Do dictators do good things? Absolutely. By all means, mention them, but don’t use them to erase the truth or alter history.

3. The Forgive-and-Forget group: These are mostly Kenyans who are doing well. Hard work and strategic relocation from Kenya (all you diaspora Kenyans mourning untruthfully) has put them in a place where they can afford to forget and tell others to forgive and move on. These are also people who were not directly affected by Moi’s cruel regime. The most that ever happened to them was getting harassed by police and asked for kitu-kidogo. Even if they know evil things happened, they can easily block that out since they didn’t wear the shoes of those caught up in ethnic cleansing, torture chambers, losing a job to a mtu-wetu… Empathy demands you walk in another’s shoes and speak up, but for those with life’s comforts, speaking up is tedious and interrupts a good life. So they strike a deal with themselves and say: Everybody has a dark side, even you, so forgive and forget… Justice means nothing to this group. Strangely, they will be very clear-minded about Zim’s Mugabe, Sudan’s Bashir, Cameroon’s Biya… Selective empathy is as callous as calculated suppression.

The ungagged truth-tellers in our midst are few. Guard them like you guard the last egg in the fridge. Until they multiply.

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