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February 21, 2019

Two Kenyas ever more divided

The narrative of the two Kenyas echoes the Charles Dickensian context of the French Revolution, as captured in the classic A Tale of Two Cities. It was a France and a Europe of contradictions and appalling duality.

Kenya now, like France then, is a land of the good and the bad; plenty and scarcity; security and insecurity; dire want and opulence; joy and sorrow. Of children of a lesser god salivating for opportunities they hear about only as electoral promises.

One side of Kenya is holding the wrong end of the stick; the other side is in clover. The majority are suffering decades of exclusion. The minority are enjoying the fruits of Independence, with embedded public institutions singing along.

In 1700s France, the excluded majority were crying for bread. The pampered minority wanted the hungry to eat cake if they had no unga. The France of Queen Marie Antoinette was the home of the labouring and taxpaying French peasantry. Exclusion was real. The tipping point was near.

The queen, like the deposed Grace Mugabe, who is blamed for depression in Zimbabwe, was the author of mass despair in France then.

Imelda Marcos was President Ferdinand Marcos’s soft underbelly in the Philippines before Cardinal Sin denounced the politics of corruption, private indulgence and exclusion. The Church in Manila was the conscience of the nation.

France of the 1700s was a classic case of alienation. It echoes the feeling of exclusion that places Kenya in the uncertainty mode. The masses do not defy officialdom without reason.

‘Pwani si Kenya’ has a context. Secession talk is a product of a history of flattery and exclusion. A product of good policies that mean nothing to the majority in practical terms. A lullaby that can no longer console its hapless audience.

This year gives Kenya a climactic moment of competing narratives: One Kenya has built hope around Destination Canaan. The other arrived in Canaan 54 years ago. One section of Kenya is living in Egypt; the other entered Canaan in 1963.

One Kenya is feeling ‘blessed’; the other is denigrated. One is pleading for water pans that cost about Sh12 million; the other is enjoying dams with Sh19 billion budget allocations, complete with official launches.

One Kenya hoped the second General Election after the 2010 Constitution would actualise the dreams of the architects of the so-called progressive dispensation. This Kenya hoped for a free and fair election, where the majority would have their way and the minority their say.

The other Kenya knows nothing about the grievances of the excluded Kenya. All that matters for the blessed Kenya is state power as a golden end. How power is acquired and retained is irrelevant.

The clashing emotions of the two Kenyas echo the world of English writer Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities. The Dickensian duality is haunting.

Dickens writes, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, twas the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

On November 28, 70 per cent of Kenyans were mourning, as victims of fraudulent elections. The other 30 per cent were celebrating the presidential inauguration, which the other Kenya called a coronation.

Kenya should have become a nation in 1963, but it is still a country of disparate tribal interests. Despite these contractions, the country has survived, even as the dream of nationhood fell apart courtesy of official greed and ethnic hubris. The clash of interests has everything to do with the dearth of leadership.

The year 2017 exposes how officialdom can subvert the will of the people. The solution to the Kenyan contradiction is simple: Just do the right thing. Allow institutions of public governance - Parliament, courts, police and electoral arbiters - to serve the national interest.

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