Decolonisation is the buzzword of the moment in certain circles that I drift in and out of, and, amazingly, more than half a century since the process of politically decolonising Africa began, we are still clinging on to the vestiges of the system.
Look around you and you will see there are very many areas of life in Independent Africa that we need to undo or dismantle the remnants of the bastions of colonialism that make up our everyday existence.
I will take just two recent issues from Kenyan news items to back-up my point. The first is the manner in which we recruit members of the National Police Service.
It would appear that little, if anything, has changed from the days of Sir William Mackinnon who founded what we now refer to as the Kenya Police back in 1897. In those days Mackinnon and his minions would round up the youth of an area in the village square, and inspect them very much in the manner of a slaver inspecting slaves for market.
We still round-up potential recruits for the police service in public fields, where in front of idlers, the odd local pervert and news cameras, they are stripped to their underwear and then poked and prodded and generally humiliated and dehumanised for what seems like public entertainment.
During this testing, the recruiting officers, who seem to feel the need to be unnecessarily loud and rude, inspect the teeth and gums of the young men and women as if they were goats at an auction when in fact there are modern ways to test the physical (and for that matter) mental fitness of recruits.
What would be so hard in getting the recruits to undergo their physical in the relative privacy of a social or church hall? Would it be so hard to get them to visit a medical professional hand picked by the police service to conduct a proper health check? Might it be possible to treat potential guardians of law and order as if they were valuable human beings from the beginning?
The other aspect that needs urgent decolonising is our diet. Ever since I was old enough to understand the words drought, famine and the phrase ‘food shortage,’ maize has been at the heart of the matter. Yet, in reality, maize was only introduced into the country’s diet with the coming of the colonialists at the end of the 19th century.
According to sources quoted by WikiPedia: “Eventually the domestic demand for maize grew as Africans left their farms to work on settler farms, in mines or industrial plants, particularly in Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Food consumption preferences were influenced by the rations that employers used as in-kind payments.”
Before we ate sorghum, millet, yams and sweet potatoes. If we had stuck to this diet, there wouldn’t be the current uproar around maize iko and Mexico, and our people would not be facing the seemingly manufactured food shortage.
By the way when Mackinnon founded his force, it was originally to provide security for the maize granaries of the Imperial British East Africa Company in Mombasa.