by Macharia Mwangi
PART ONE: In the Garden
Our moment of departure is rather uncomfortable. The present is shrouded in a lot of misgivings, and we are frantically groping in the dark, uncertain of which way to follow. The past, the good old past, haunts us; it reprimands, tantalizes and mocks us. Yet, the sun above our heads continues to point to the passage of seasons. The whistling of the wind and the singing of the birds herald the coming of a new season, rousing us from our sleep and compelling us to arise, embrace the new dawn or perish.
No doubt we Kenyans have come a long way: a baby nation grown old and senile overnight. Our fathers fought for a garden. In the middle of this garden they planted the tree of freedom. The tree, watered with our kindred's' blood and tears, was never to be cut, never to be left to wither and dry, and it was never again to be watered with blood and tears. Its fruits were to feed the mouth of every living Kenyan regardless of his or her race, tribe or creed. The sons and daughters of the land would never suffer want.
There was a blissful sojourn at the garden, which was inspired by the promise of dreams beckoning at the far horizon: Uhuru na kazi (freedom and work) was the clarion call from Jomo Kenyatta, the founding father of the nation. Agriculture was the mainstay of Kenyans. The peasants lost themselves on the farms. They tilled and fed the land. God, in the multitude of his blessings, was merciful and the harvests were bountiful. The economy thrived and political goodwill flourished. This was good. It filled the hearts of Kenyans with delight. There was laughter, there was happiness in the garden where the sons and daughters of the land sang, played and danced with carefree abandon.
But soon the bright horizon started receding farther and further and the beckoning promises of the young nation-state proved to be a mirage. Economic mismanagement edged its way into the system as corruption, tribalism, and political thuggery became rampant. Pauperization of the masses resulted, as the poor became poorer while the rich few became richer. The law of the jungle took root. This killed the spirit of nationalism, and the dream of the exuberant independent Kenya withered. Once in a while a dissenting voice would be heard striving to revitalize hope. But it always proved to be a far cry, swiftly silenced through intimidation, manipulation and assassination.
It is thus not surprising that the generation that followed had little to pick in the garden. Though they went to school with the zeal their fathers and mothers had inspired in them, nobody wanted to look at their certificates, their diplomas, or degrees. Did they have the right connection? Did they have a tall kinsman? "Self-employ yourselves," shouted the masters of the garden. But how many had the means? Some tried and perchance succeeded, some tried and failed. But in a land that has been as abused as ours, the opportunities are limited, bloody competition and survival is not even for the fittest but for the lucky and the chosen few.
Hear then the cry of the lost generations. See them lying half-dead at Uhuru Park. Watch them roaming the streets with their heads bowed and notice the despair in their hearts. The garden is suffocating with garbage hills heaped with mounds of corruption, incompetence and retrogressive thinking. Our politicians are mere demagogues whose favourite sport is a shouting match in parliament for fun and fame's sake. They have no commitment; they are sinister tricksters feeding on the sludge while fervently promising us handouts of hope. Out pot-holed lives have now reached a disturbing and most horrifying dimension. Our eyes, once cast to far horizons, now stare at the heavens in wet supplication.
PART TWO: The Journey
This evening, we watched the sun sink down on the western horizon. And while still on this side of the hill, we marveled at the glowing moon as it gradually ripened into a red ball. We were not anxious as we waited, for we knew that soon we would be drifting into space, flying high into the heaven of this blessed night. The stars are smiling down on us and the soft wind quietly whispers a song of hope. We smile, for we know that the future, with its promises of happiness, still remains within the reach of our untiring hands. And together as a nation we must make this journey at the dawn of the third millennium. Undeterred, we shall restore the glory of our nation.
And Chinua Achebe asked the crowd, "Where did the rains start beating you, Kenyans?" "Here!" I shouted, pointing a finger at my shrinking stomach. "If you do not believe me," I hastened to add, on seeing the frown on Achebe's face, "ask the Auditor General. Ask any Kenyan; even the children, ask them. Ask our journalists. Ask Mutuma Mathiu and he will tell you that our national granary has fallen, that it is nearly vanquished."
"Then go and gather your people to lift it. Repair it and build stronger standing poles. Beware of the rats that sneak in and out of the granary with impunity," he admonished. As he went away, embarrassed, he recommended that all Kenyans read his book The trouble with Nigeria.
Then I woke up only to find myself sleeping at the same place l had lain some minutes ago at Uhuru Park. It was a dream.
Yet, to realize the new millennium dream, we must heed Achebe's call. In the above-mentioned book, Achebe argues that poor leadership is the root of Nigeria woes. Our lot is not different. A good constitution must be put into place to ensure justice and equality for all. The constitution review process that has stalled must go on with the participation of all Kenyans. Laws that oppress certain persons must be abolished or amended. This includes laws on the rights of women. The law must protect one and all, and the whip of the law must be applied to all that are guilty, their ethnic groups, positions or political affiliations not withstanding. The power of those in positions of leadership, including that of the president, will have to be checked.
It is not blasphemous to say, "Seek ye first good governance and all other things will be added to you." With good governance it will be easy to control corruption. It will call for accountability and transparency in the management of the public coffers. This will transform into improved infrastructure and public utilities. Tribalism, favouritism, and nepotism will be curtailed, paving the way for appointment of people to public offices on merit.. This will restore sanity in the civil service.
The political spenders must not remain with us in the next millennium. Kenyans must learn their tricks and render them futile by standing only for that which is good, dignified and visionary. Never again shall we take handouts from politicians, never again shall we fall prey to their empty slogans. Politicians must give a clear account of themselves. We shall scrutinize their past and demand that they have realistic ideas, that they have constructive and practical solutions to our problems. We shall have no time for political adventurers.
With men and women of integrity and vision at the helm, the blessings will flow over to the populace. The socio-economic environment will be improved and greater stability will be manifest. Donor confidence will be restored and investment will be encouraged, which will make the private sector flourish. More jobs will be created and the lost generation might finally find its place in the garden. The stone throwing peasants will drop their missiles and once again busy themselves on their farms to feed the nation, confident that no fat cats will loot their hard-earned money.
The new millennium dream must also bring along the rejuvenation of academic pursuit in the country. The education system must be geared towards sound nationalistic goals. It must equip the new generation with technological skills that will contribute to hasten industrialization. Our universities must regain the spirit that once characterized our world of academia. Our scholars must intensify their contributions in terms of research that will be useful to the formulation of national policies. Academic freedom should be paramount and hopefully university students will not misdirect their energy in stoning and burning vehicles, but will use it in intellectually stimulating ventures.
Since this journey is an indispensable prescription in curing our woes, we must mobilize all Kenyans to board the flight. We must cultivate a new image among the citizenry. We must preach social and cultural integration of all the ethnic groups in Kenya. We must revamp the spirit of nationalism by preaching patriotism in our institutions whether in churches, educational institutions or public barazas. The mass media must relay the message of this dream as a matter of urgency and without reservation. Let us condemn the spoilers of this dream in our newspapers, on our television stations and radio broadcasts. Let us relay this message by inspiring cultural festivals in our theaters and public places throughout the nation. Let us continue to sing the song so that every Kenyan will whistle its tune in his or her waking moments: in the farms, in the offices, along the village paths, in the streets and along the highways.
And God, in his kindness will look down on us and bless our land. If we keep His law in all that we do, He will shower our land with peace and goodwill. He will choose from among us a great ruler who will lead us to the promised happiness. The stars will everlastingly smile down at us posterity will judge us most kindly.
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