Artistes and establishment loyalists were awarded for a reason

Mary Gakui from lolgorian in Transmara, carries a portrait of Father John Kaiser during a peaceful demonstration to mark the tenth commemoration since the death of Father John Kaiser, at the Holy Family Bascilica in Nairobi, August 19th, 2010.

What you need to know:

  • Such honours lists are very telling about the ruling elite’s priorities, loyalties and values.
  • Those selected confirm that Kenya ina wenyewe and the past 50 years have mostly been about them, their comfort, perks, grabbed land and their very lopsided perception of patriotism.

Tomorrow, Madiba will be laid to rest in Qunu. The earth will tremble as it embraces a great leader while the heavens will rock with the entry of a soul adored by billions.

Madiba will be welcomed home by Albert Luthuli, Joe Slovo, Ruth First, Walter Sisulu, Miriam Makeba, Chris Hani and other compatriots. Only one anti-apartheid struggle hero remains: Desmond Tutu.

What a collection of extraordinary selfless, courageous and inspiring people! History has taught us that the greater the persecution and injustice, the greater the quality of leaders who rise up and oppose it.

South Africa has produced a greater number of heroes and heroines in the past 50 years than any other country on the planet.

Recently, I spotted a list of Kenyans nominated for awards and honours as part of the Kenya at 50 celebrations. They were a fairly motley bunch of civil servants and loyalists. An earlier list was headed by Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo who has done nothing since his appointment to make the country safer.

The public was requested to give comments on the nominees’ suitability, but most Kenyans wouldn’t bother to reply and even if they took time, would most probably say ‘none of the above please’.

Yet, such lists are very telling about the ruling elite’s priorities, loyalties and values. Those selected confirm that Kenya ina wenyewe and the past 50 years have mostly been about them, their comfort, perks, grabbed land and their very lopsided perception of patriotism.

There is no interest in honouring Mama Koigi or Wanjiku; no place of honour for Nyayo torture survivors; no posthumous awards for JM Kariuki, Tom Mboya, Alexander Muge or John Kaiser.

Threats and insults are what today’s heroes like George Kegoro, Njonjo Mue and Gladwell Otieno who dared to defend victims’ rights recently in the ICC receive.

Sports stars, religious leaders and artistes who pose no threat to the status quo will be honoured but critics, investigative journalists or human rights defenders must rely on prayers of the marginalised for encouragement.

The beneficiaries of Thursday’s awards are mere actors and tools in the official historical script that the establishment would like Kenyans to adopt. But there are other narratives and brave stories not heard.

The poor who have endured corruption, greed, poverty, hardship and political violence for half a century were omitted from the establishment’s narrative. But they too have produced mothers and children whose names are surely written in heaven alongside Madiba even if they never made the Kenyan Gazette.

Their heroism and faith have kept Kenya sane, progressive and bravely resisting repressive regimes. The next 50 years belong to them.

We can no longer afford to sideline, bulldoze, enslave, bully or intimidate the 60 per cent who only create joy out of scraps that fall from the decadent ruling class’ table.

A radical transformation of society begins with a fundamental option to hear the narrative of the poor.

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