When I joined class one in Mulooni Primary School in Mbooni, Eastern Province, I did a short stint in the junior choir (which also sums my singing career), and I remember the words in the song:
“watoto wa nyayo,
tusome kwa furaha,
tena kwa bidi”.
When I was in class 8, there was a biting hunger in Ukambani and I remember the lorries that brought yellow maize and soya beans, foreign food that fought our pangs of starvation.
The other thing that I remember from my childhood is my uncle who stopped going to work, and smelling nice.
I learned recently that the mix up of events and memories were carefully crafted, as the reigns of neoliberalism, fronted by Margaret Thatcher and shoved inside us by the World Bank forced our relatives and friends to troop to the countryside from Nairobi, where their jobs had been rendered obsolete or irrelevant by economic policy.
Literature and sentiment give you the freedom to choose what to remember a person for, the legacy you want to give him and the things you want to type on your timeline.
Let’s start with the death of Robert Ouko and the dozens of people who died in relation to that death. Investigations from Scotland Yard led to the conclusion that the people behind the murder would stop at nothing to erase the trails. Men serving in the high echelons of Moi’s regime were implicated, and while some did get off lightly, others died and we will never know what happened.
There were other notable deaths or assassinations if you will that some attributed to the iron-fist grip on power that he never wanted anyone to contest against. Remember Father Kaiser (John Anthony Kaiser), a man who had taken the risk of speaking up to power, and his death on August 24, 2000, gangman style, as it was reported by the Daily Nation. There was Bishop Alexander Muge who died in an accident that people still debate about.
Remember Nyayo torture chambers and the men it harassed, took to prison without trial and got killed without trace, just because they dreamed about a better country.
Attempt to force love
Let’s remember the tribal clashes and massacres in Nyanza, North Eastern and Rift Valley that were occasioned by a desire by his leadership to deepen our differences instead of highlighting our similarities.
I was late for “maziwa ya Nyayo” and I cannot talk about nostalgia of milk, but the song we recited in class one, coupled up with the difficulty of learning how to recite the “loyalty pledge”, capture the efforts that the KANU government put into revising history, telling us that Kenya was an oasis of peace.
The relief food that we received in class 8 shows another attempt for the people to be convinced that they were living in good times, forgetting that their deprivation (that led to the need for relief food) was a result of poor governance, greed and buddy culture where loyalty was rewarded, before anything.
Almost everyone who went to school between 1985 and 2002 saw President Moi at close range, always with his fimbo ya Nyayo that was a metaphor of force and pain. He tried his best to become a darling of the people, to be tangible to them, show them he was still the president. And the people contracted Stockholm Syndrome and saw him as a darling father who had made our country peaceful, brought prosperity and ensured that we enjoyed our lives.
Hii ni taarifa ya habari
When I heard the news of his death this morning, the voice of Edward Kadilo rang in my mind on KBC radio where the first three minutes were dedicated to the activities and events that the president attended. Again, this constant presence of the president in our minds was meant to make us elevate his status and stop imagining that anyone else was capable of taking over from him or overthrowing him, at the bare minimum.
Someone told me that there are two ways to make people loyal to you; you either show them how important they are to you or deprive them and show them how useless they are. This rule works in personal relationships, in political arrangements and power circles, and even in the church.
The KANU government, just like the Jubilee one, survived on deprivation and fear. Kenyans were convinced that they were nothing and their lives were unimportant, and that made them cling desperately to the only river of help that was flowing; the government.
The buddy culture sown into developing countries by the West completed the job. The Kalenjins, en masse, did not benefit from Moi leadership, neither have the Kikuyu’s from the Jubilee one. The biggest beneficiaries are the buddies to the leaders, guys who come from different tribes, but the same class, whose loyalty is rewarded more than the affection of millions of voters.
Lest we forget, even this post would not go live in the Nyayo error (sic), and maybe it won’t sit well with the Tano Terror.
We have lived in a toxic country and we suffer Stockholm Syndrome, and that may make some of us feel that we have lost a patriot, a man who rescued our country from the vagaries of ethnic fights.
We may remember his national holiday speeches with nostalgia and we can type RIP. But let’s not revise history, because if we do, we will find ourselves in the past, sooner than later.