The Kenya We Lost

11 Sep

View of the Masai Mara from A Hot Air Balloon


I am not an old man, by any stretch of the term. Far from it. In fact, by our own nation’s definition, I am a young man. I am part of its “youth.” Life, with all its myriad joys, stretches out in front of me (or so they tell me). And I am looking forward to it. But I am not so young that I do not have memories. I am not so young that I have nothing to remember (or forget, for that matter). My memory may desert me at times, but I have many treasured recollections. And this morning, I am remembering.

Yes. Thousands of miles away from home, I am remembering the verdant slopes of Uhuru Park, a place I have walked through from the Haile Selassie Avenue entrance to the Kenyatta Avenue/Uhuru Highway exits many, many times. I am remembering how lovely those grass-clad slopes look after a week of refreshing rain. I am remembering how that same hill looks when juxtaposed against the Government buildings on Community Hill.

I am remembering how forbidding the Park looks when black clouds, heavy with imminent rain, hang low over its brow. How many times I have rushed by, oblivious to the dark beauty in the scene, bent only on beating the rain! Anyway, this morning, I am remembering.

What we had

I am remembering how apt the name “Uhuru” Park must have seemed that glorious afternoon in the late December of 2002. I am remembering what the country felt like, now that the second liberation had actually occurred. I am thinking, now, how fitting it must have been to hold the new President’s inauguration there. Truly there could have been no other venue. No stadium, no other site was fit to hold that inauguration ceremony.

I am remembering how the usually grass-clad slopes were alive that day – alive with people. Photos in the eagerly-awaited paper the next day seemed unreal. Never was the phrase “Kenyans from all walks of life” used more fittingly. Thousands upon thousands of Kenyans had made the pilgrimage to Uhuru Park. Perhaps for some, it was to confirm for themselves whether it was really true that we had toppled KANU and replaced it with NARC. Kenyans stood, sat down, and stood up again. A small number of Kenyans scaled the few available trees to get a better view of the proceedings. There were Kenyans everywhere! Happy Kenyans. Impatient Kenyans. Even a few irate Kenyans – irate that Moi still had any part to play at all in the ceremony. Such was the momentousness of the occasion that even those of us who had hitherto been apolitical were drawn to the spectacle. I recall that some fellow Campuserians, including a Ugandan medical student, actually made their way to Uhuru Park. It seemed the nation had made the impossible possible, and that the improbable had come to pass.

I am remembering sitting close to the little two-tape-deck Goldstar radio at home, and listening to the Inauguration ceremony. I remember hearing the President-Elect swear to protect the Constitution. I remember the conviction in his voice as he delivered what has elsewhere been called “a soaring speech full of regime-change passion and dynamics.” Unable to rely on a TV to follow proceedings, I looked out over the shamba at home and watched the green maize fronds frolic in the breeze, as the sounds of the inauguration ceremony filtered into the sitting-room.

I remember that it was not a cripple I listened to that afternoon, either. No, that was no wheelchair-bound, neck-braced cripple. After decades of Moi, our generation was now listening to/watching – not a President that the fates had forced upon us, but rather – someone an overwhelming majority of Kenyans had put in power. The idea of a President who was “ours” – novel concept! – was imprinting itself onto a Kenyan consciousness that responded with wonder. It was a stupendous moment! So it was very easy to believe, that day, as he spoke with a power in his words that belied his temporary physical state.

I particularly remember how I felt as he said: “…corruption will now CEASE to be a WAY OF LIFE in Kenya.” In all of that speech, that is the one phrase that will never leave me. It was, and is, the one phrase I can never forget. That phrase enthused me. It enlivened me. It galvanized me. That for me was the moment I knew that “change had come.” The delicious vehemence in the President’s tone was filed away in the labyrinthine libraries of my memory forever.

I am remembering the Kenya we all woke up to in early January 2003. I remember how when an extra public holiday after New Year’s Day was announced, it chimed right in with the feelings of national joy and euphoria that swelled in our collective breast. I am remembering those long-lost, heady, now-distant days when a Gallup International Annual End of Year Survey said we Kenyans were the most optimistic people on God’s green earth. If you have ever had the pleasure of taking large gulps of clean, cold, rarefied, early-morning, out-of-town air, then you know what the political atmosphere was like in Kenya in early 2003. It felt like it was dawn in our country. And, perhaps, it was.

This morning, I am remembering a Kenya where the entire Presidential motorcade consisted of three cars. Yes. Just three. And in fact, only two were Government vehicles. The other long wheelbase S-Class Mercedes (I loved those cars) was the President’s personal car. And it had been modified to take his wheelchair.

I am remembering how for six months at least, we were one. There were strikes at export-processing zones, I remember, because folks wanted the change they had voted for yesterday to show up inside their wallets today. But we were one. There was freshness in the air. Oneness.

And most of all, I am remembering a Kenya where corruption was fought not just by Kenya’s Government, but by her own citizens as well. A Kenya where at least one policeman who thought that he could still stop matatus for bribes and get away with it received a rude awakening as incensed passengers descended from the matatu, staggered him with a short but pithy lecture on the concept of a “New Kenya”, forcibly dispossessed him of bribes he had taken up to that point, and proceeded on their journey. This incident in particular represents the high-water mark of my entire existence as a Kenyan citizen. As I said, I am not an old man. But I still remember.

Alas. It was all of it a lie.

What we’ve got

In less than 10 months (by October 2003), no lesser publication than The Economist was reporting that Kenyans were disappointed in their new Government. The article was occasioned by the “apparent assassination” of Dr Crispin Odhiambo Mbai, a man who at that time had been involved in drafting the new Constitution. In the article, that worthy periodical reported: “…the speed with which Mr Kibaki’s presidency has become synonymous with the interests of a small group of his Kikuyu tribe, Kenya’s largest, and its cousins from the Mount Kenya region is extraordinary.”

Perhaps we have forgotten that Kibaki had promised Kenyans a new Constitution in 100 days. Dr Mbai’s violent death was merely a sign of things to come, for we all know that that we only got a new Constitution over 3,500 days later, and that because it was forced upon the Principals by the terms of Agenda IV of the National Peace Accord.

We all know that nearly 10 years after the Goldenberg Commission of Inquiry, no-one is behind bars for their role in that scandal. Actually some of those who are said to have been involved were given a hero’s sendoff upon their untimely demise. Others of those who are said to have been involved are running for the Presidency today. All this, fellow Kenyans, we know.

We also know, from the contents of The Githongo Dossier and the book It’s Our Turn To Eat (Michela Wrong, 2009), that the NARC Government by this time had rolled up its sleeves and was knee- and elbow-deep in the mucky business of stealing KES 21 Billion from taxpaying Kenyans through Anglo Leasing, with the current President’s complicity. That looting started on May 29 2003, a scant five months (almost to the day) after that glorious afternoon on December 30th 2002.

And that Presidential motorcade, @Roomthinker tells me, is now not 3, but 23 cars long, not counting outriders.

We were deceived

True deception, I discovered earlier this year, occurs when you don’t even know you’re being deceived. It is when you don’t know what’s happening that deception is complete and total. And folks, in 2002-3, we were deceived. The morning and the promise of early 2003 did not lead to the bright day of prosperity that we all expected. Nay, that morning has instead given way to a long and protracted darkness. That rarefied atmosphere of hope has been replaced by the fetid stench of a rotting, nameless, shapeless filth, Augean in its proportions. The dawn is long gone, and in its place is a soiled and Stygian night that has lingered far too long: a night of rampant, pervasive, and Government-sponsored corruption, the fevered and clannish protection of narrow tribal interests by the political class and some of this nation’s citizens, and the looming spectre of ever-deepening poverty for far too many of our nation’s people. Today, Kenya staggers under the burden of the thousands of transgressions that have been visited upon her undeserving citizens by a remote and distant political class. What is worse, a distressingly large number of small-minded citizens are perpetuating this cycle, both wittingly and unwittingly.

Yes, we were deceived. And we are being deceived again.

What next

Before we vote again, next year, before we return unhelpful, harmful and downright dangerous politicians to positions of power, we must ask ourselves: WHAT HAPPENED? That in Kenyans’ souls that made them forcibly dispossess policemen of their bribes – where did it go? Where is that force that relegated tribe to the back of our thinking for at least half a year? That essence that made us proud and happy citizens of one nation for six short months, where did it go? Is it gone for good? Can we get it back?

Will we ever trust one another again? Will a belief in a common ideal of what Kenya should be, and not what she is, ever unite us again? Will we as a Kenyan people ever be energized, catalyzed, enervated – one – again? Or are we doomed to stagger through another decade led by distant, self-serving and self-seeking leadership, even as the Tana burns, the Coast erupts, and scandal after filthy scandal hits our headlines?

Will we trust any leader, ever again? If so, upon whom are we going to bestow the precious gift of that trust? Are we going make it expensive for leaders to win our trust, or will we sell it cheaply and repent at leisure even as that trust is cruelly betrayed? Will the cheap politics of costly handouts continue to appeal to us, or will the March 2013 election encounter an altogether more mature electorate? Will we think before we vote, or will we vote first and think later?

That Kenya we had – and lost. Can we get her back?


Posted by on September 11, 2012 in Politics


38 responses to “The Kenya We Lost

  1. oluocheli

    September 11, 2012 at 10:36 am

    why do i want to weep now? i vividly remember these events in our history. I was there personally and i witnessed them at first hand. The inaguration, Mbai burial, The constitution, i was personally there and the hope we had is nolonger there…. Lets elect a leader who will help us realise Vision 2030 and not Vision 3020…

    • Chrenyan

      September 12, 2012 at 7:48 pm

      Hey Oluocheli,

      Thanks a lot for commenting – in fact for being the first to comment. I appreciate that.

      As humans, we weep because we care. We weep because the pain of betrayal is deep and it is bitter. We weep for what could have been. And I say: if weeping will wash the scales from our eyes and make us see the past 10 years for what they really are, then let all Kenya weep.

      Let her weep, I say, for the needlessness of her suffering. Let her weep for the self-inflicted-ness of her wounds. Let her weep – for a time. And then let her say: Never again; it shall not be.

  2. Justus

    September 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Its disheartening, outright frustrating. We voted for change, and we failed to get it. I don’t blame the politicians, they are just a reflection of the society in general. Until the society changes, it will be difficult to get ourselves the desired changes. But we cannot give up, change must start somewhere, it must start from you and me. Now we have a chance to attempt to get the right leadership next year, hope we don’t squander that opportunity.

    • Chrenyan

      September 12, 2012 at 8:11 pm

      My dear friend,

      Asante sana for commenting – indeed, for always commenting.

      I agree with the way you feel, bro. It is unfair to expect any Kenyan citizen to be happy after reading that article. These things must dishearten us. They must frustrate us. They must disappoint us, and leave us feeling angry and dissatisfied, for as a nation we are much too comfortable with a status quo that is robbing us of our dreams and the dreams we have for our children.

      I further agree that we as the citizenry must take a significant portion of the blame for what has happened, and because of that I agree that we dare not give up; instead we must catalyze the change in perceptions that will enable those around us to see things for what they really are, and start thinking differently about the way this nation has been run.

      It starts with one. It may take time, but we will get there.

  3. John Seno

    September 12, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Well written, politics will always be politics, understand its true nature, don’t expect much from a politician, expect much from yourself

    • Chrenyan

      September 12, 2012 at 8:44 pm

      Hey John,

      I am honoured that you found time to read, and thankful that you found time to comment. And for a writer of your stature to compliment my writing is heartening.

      Now, I’ve read your article, and I absolutely loved it! I have scheduled an update on Twitter and Facebook to spread the word. So many quotable truths in it. Thanks for that.

      To quote Scripture: “bear with me a little in my folly.” Against all odds, I still believe. I might be foolish for doing so. In fact I MUST be foolish to continue to believe. But it has been said that youth is wasted on the young; allow me to be young a little bit longer.

  4. Kellie

    September 12, 2012 at 11:39 am

    At the risk of sounding like a broken record:
    Democracy is a game of numbers, where the Least Common Leader (think LCD in math), wins as voted by the majority. The reason it doesn’t work for us (Africa) is because our majority is uneducated, poor and easily lied to…
    How will the 2012 vote change this?

    • Chrenyan

      September 12, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      Hey Kellie,

      Thanks for finding time to comment!

      You raise a valid point. Rousseau (I hear!) advocates for a small state, and says democracy cannot exist in large states; he advances an “everyone must know everything about everybody else for there to be a true democracy” argument. And I agree. We get by largely on pseudo-democracies. Voter education would help us out on this, but it is generally not in the interests of the powers that be for voters to be educated.

      I’ll have to do it. 🙂

      With regard to the 2013 vote, it is perhaps too soon to expect a large-scale shift in voters’ thinking patterns. But one can try; one can do one’s bit. Youthful naivete, I call it. Bear with me.

  5. Flora

    September 12, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    This post made me sad. I wish we could recapture those heady days, and make them our daily reality. Can we find what we lost, or something better than what we are today?

    • Chrenyan

      September 12, 2012 at 9:03 pm

      Hey Flora,

      Thanks so much for commenting. I wish we could recapture them too! I’m trying to bring them back, by telling folks about them and hoping it will make them believe that we can do it.

      Are you willing to help?

  6. MaBaker

    September 12, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    I was there too, and the sense of betrayal is palpable. But I was also there during the Moi post-1982 years, and I know that its important to celebrate the gains we have now, not only in terms of the new Constitution, but also in the joys of being able to post in this blog and others. We must consolidate our gains, and step up vigilance.

    Kenyans are a resilient people, and I refuse to accept that we shall not rise again from the ashes like the proverbial Phoenix. We must guard against the mixed messages we are getting, that its alright to take the money offered by the politicians, even if we do not intend to vote for them. We must reject the culture of broken promises in all its manifestations. Most of all, we must set a new bar for leadership – not whether they offer us handouts, but whether they offer as a future in which we not only never need handouts from them, but indeed, get to a place in which we willingly offer them our handouts in order that they may run future campaigns to be leaders again.

    Its difficult to ignore the American Presidential contest at this time, and to draw parallels. At this time, when we still have no idea what ideologies the majority of our candidates are offering – beyond stopping one individual from becoming President – the American contest is almost all wrapped up on the basis of the candidates’ nomination acceptance speeches!!

    We can get back the Kenya we lost, but to do this we must determine the leadership we want, and choose it for ourselves – not allow that leadership to be pre-determined for us by this elite or that grouping. We do not want backroom arrangements that proclaim “A N Other Tosha!” That is not universal suffrage!! And it leads to a beholden leader with too many markers that will be called, too many debts that must be repaid. If there is any debt for the President to repay, it must be to us, the people!! If there are markers to be called, it is us, the people, to call them!!

    A President who raises funds using KES 1 Million-a-plate dinners, sends you a signal. And you ignore it at your own peril. There are only a smattering of millionaires in this country, and you know where his loyalties lie. The diners are merely making advance payments for future favours, and these will be repaid a hundred-fold, make no mistake. And its the tax-payer that will do the repaying.

    So, we are at the door-step of another beginning. A decade later. We have it within our grasp to make it work within a new constitutional environment. Its all up to us. And it also is a God-given responsibility of those who would lead us, to show the way. It can longer be politics as it has always been done in this country. It must be different. It must be a message of hope. A message of pride in our country. A message of renewal. A message of one-ness. A message of never again. A message of law and order. A message of equity. A message of security. A message of justice. A message of prior achievement.

    This, in my humble opinion, is what must be done. But we don’t have all day, and it must start now. Many people need leadership, and that is why bad leadership is so destructive, and why good leadership is so powerful.

    • Chrenyan

      September 12, 2012 at 9:56 pm

      Hey Ma Baker

      Thanks for commenting, as always. So you were at the Park? My, my. I agree, your sense of betrayal is deeper than mine is. But I also agree that it’s important to celebrate gains such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

      Regarding campaign funding: why shouldn’t people take money from politicians if they’re not going to vote for them? Won’t this eventually end the culture of handouts? Or are you saying that that money can only come from the citizens’ taxes, and for that reason handouts should be banned? In that case, I’d agree. As for dinners, although we should do without them, these fellows would certainly find a way to hand in those donations privately anyway. It might be better if these things are done in public.

      Backroom arrangements hurt many, up to and including some of those in the backroom. A dishonoured Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is a big part of the reason why we’re where we are today. And yes, it is not really democracy is it? It’s not universal suffrage at all.

      The last two paragraphs of your comment feel like a continuation of the article. I personally have a sense of urgency that I have never had before in my life. I keep saying, with oil in Turkana, coal in the Mui Basin, a single mine in Kwale that it is said will produce more foreign exchange per annum than all the coffee in the land, and (what I believe to be) soon-to-be-discovered offshore natural gas and/oil, the time was never better for principled leadership.

      We are indeed at the doorstep of another beginning. As a nation we should walk through that door, instead of turning our backs on opportunity yet again.

      • MaBaker

        September 18, 2012 at 2:39 pm

        Hey Chrenyan,

        I agree with you that it is more transparent for the politicians to get the donations publicly, but I think its even more important to get a declaration of the identities of the donors so that we know who holds the markers.

        But I still can’t agree that voters should take money from the politicians and then NOT vote for them. That level of dishonesty and betrayal turns all voters into politicians!! Politicians must be banned from buying votes, because in the end, the taxpayers ends up repaying this money many times over.

        Worse, it means that the good leader is overlooked on the basis of this dubious measure of “generosity”, if he does not believe in buying votes, or simply does not have money to dish out to voters.

        • Chrenyan

          September 19, 2012 at 7:10 pm

          Hey MaBaker,

          Thanks for commenting, as always.

          Now, your thoughts on this are much better-developed than mine. A declaration of the identities of the donors would indeed be the end-game here.

          Is it dishonest to take money from a politician and not vote for him? I think not. If I’m not getting my taxes’ worth of services, let me have my taxes back (or a small portion of them)! However I agree that the better thing is to ban distribution of cash. I’ve always wondered how we Kenyans can be so dishonest in other ways and fail to be “dishonest” in this way. We exhibit a strange loyalty to the dosh-disher.

          I hope that one day we will have an Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission that follows the rules you suggest to the letter.


  7. gitts

    September 12, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    we believed the hype. remember ‘ yote yawezekana bila Moi ‘ we thought that was it probably because as a big man Moi had made us think that all the government revolved around him but changing a country is not that simple. Systems, institutions and people had gone to the dogs and that takes time to fix. what’s disappointing is the new government did not have the will to do the necessary as interests came up. Note also a few. months before many Were staunch Moi loyalists but abandoned ship because they were ditched so really had not been part of the opposition in the previous decade. they were opportunists.

    for instance one of the leading lights of the opposition and a fighter James Orengo fell by the wayside because of that euphoria. We were high on hope and once the emotions died down a few months later the reality hit. politicians sell hope

    there have been many positives in the decade since but we’re not where we should be

    • Chrenyan

      September 12, 2012 at 9:19 pm

      Hey Gitts,

      Thanks a lot for responding. I remember “Yote yawezekana bila Moi!”

      Now, what you’re saying reflects something someone very close to me told me recently. They were undergoing a training in which they were taught that a proper system of Government is not about people, it’s about having efficient, effective institutions. We have got to put institutions in place that reduce the reliance on right leadership. And you have hit the nail on the head: the NARC Government never had the will to put these institutions in place. And yes, too many were opportunists. Man, I like your diagnosis.

      I tell you, men are weak. Too many RE-formers (Kiraitu, Orengo) have morphed into CON-formers upon getting into power. If such firebrands could compromise so quickly, what does that say about the future?

      Again, I agree that we’re not where we were in 2002. Blogging like this, for example, would have been fraught with risk in Moi’s time. However, we could be so much further down the road. Granted, things will take time to correct. What will be key is whether we can put in place the kind of leadership that has the will to get cracking on what is admittedly a monumental task.

      Once again, thanks for responding. I enjoyed your comment a lot.

  8. BabaMark

    September 14, 2012 at 8:44 am

    For many months of Sundays, I have disappointedly hated our politicians. But I have paused and thought; don’t we have honest Kenyan’s who can decently run the government? We do. Unfortunately the Kenyan voters, you and I, are the problem, for the righteous man and woman will not garner the majority vote. The liars will emerge victorious in March 2013. Then, I have asked myself a more difficult question – where will change come from? And here are my 3 words for an answer – Pain, Pain, and Pain; the kind of pain that made Mau Mau fight the British oppressor, arrow against gun; the 1994 pain that made Rwandese loath tribalism; the kind of pain that made Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire leading to Tunisian revolution. I think Kenyans need to suffer immensely, the poor need to get acutely pained, the middle-class need to lose all what they precariously holding onto, the rich need to be lynched. Perhaps then, Kenyans shall vote with their minds.

    • Chrenyan

      September 14, 2012 at 6:37 pm

      Hey Baba Mark,

      Thank you for responding, and at such length.

      I agree entirely. The Kenyan voter is his/her own biggest enemy. A straw poll will show you that nobody is satisfied with the direction in which our country is headed. Nobody is happy with what’s going on in our nation. Particularly at this time when teachers are on strike, lecturers are on strike, doctors are on strike and the police are on a go-slow. That we are in trouble is not in doubt. However, our solutions to the trouble we are in are generally haphazard, lacking in logic, cannot be supported factually, and mixed in with an unhealthy and toxic amount of tribal sentiment.

      I pray that pain will not be the catalyst. Pain is not the right path. Pain has collateral damage. Pain could mean Mark is in danger. Or his mother. Why can’t we use (1) our God-given intelligence, (2) our ability to be heard and (3) our gifts in order to spread the right message?

      Even as I write these words, I am aware that pain is inevitable if we keep on the way we’re going. It will be a natural consequence if the problems of rampant youth unemployment and a sordid lack of issue-based leadership are not speedily addressed.

  9. Wangari

    September 14, 2012 at 11:29 am

    It’s sad Indeed. And yet, the choice of leaders we are left with to vote for this time round don’t really evoke much in me. Mine is simply to be the change I want to see. And yes, majority of us are still hoodwinked into tribal politics that don’t help anyone other than the politician waving the card and his cronies. God help us all to come to our senses and soon, without having to suffer any more consequences of our unwise choices.

    • Chrenyan

      September 14, 2012 at 6:45 pm

      Hey Wangari,

      Thank you for reading! And for commenting. I’m glad you could stop by.

      I believe with you in being the change we want to see. If I hate corruption, then I must never pay a bribe. If I hate paying taxes, then I must pay mine as a businessman; I must pay customs duty at the airport; if I hate theft of public funds then I must never take inducements for doing my job as a Government employee; and so on and so forth.

      As for what options we have regarding leaders in the next election, feel free to have a look at my piece on Peter Kenneth; I only say this because you’ve raised the matter in your comment. For the reasons outlined in that article, he’s my pick for 2013.

      Once again, nashukuru.

  10. transatlanticlawfirm

    September 14, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Chrenyan: Thanks once again for capturing the moment/loss and frustration so well. Makes me wonder: ever considered a career in writing? Just a random thought.

    Seriously though, I am not as disappointed as are other Kenyans. When everyone was celebrating about the “new dawn” in Kenya, I was not so sure. In fact, I almost ruined the party here in Minneapolis when I cautioned Kenyans to temper their enthusiasm for the new NARC government because I did not think it was new at all! You see, humans are incredibly consistent beings: those who learnt at the feet of the master would rarely act differently. My thesis then (as now) is that Presidents Kibaki and Moi were good students of Mzee Kenyatta and their leadership would not stray too far afield. Now we know.

    True change in Kenya will surely come when we change the underlying dynamics: the people and the factors in leadership. Asking a beneficiary of corruption and nepotism to end the vices is foolish; expecting a dictator to voluntarily relinquish power is futile and assuming that opportunists are “reformers” is ignorant. As you rightly put it, it only took 6 months for the true colors to emerge. How long did it take for the Grand Coalition to shame Moi’s rule in waste, corruption, “eating”, oppression….?

    Finally, rather than be disillusioned, Kenyans ought to take the hard lessons that they have learned. This time around, we must scrutinize the applicants for public office carefully, matching their word with deed at all levels. As President Reagan famously put it, we should “trust but verify.”
    Otherwise, 6 months after election, we will read the same sentiments from you. Only this time you would have more to remember.

    There is hope, Kenyans only need to seize the moment: shed tribalism and ask the hard questions.

    • Chrenyan

      September 14, 2012 at 7:11 pm

      Hey TransAtlanticLawFirm

      Thanks a lot for finding the time to post in such a lengthy and detailed comment. I sure appreciate it!

      Currently, writing is a hobby for me; I fear making it a career, where I have to post Article x by Date y, will take the joy out of it. 🙂 But thank you for thinking enough of what I write to say that I should consider making it a career.

      You were wiser than most. I was a lot younger, a lot more naive, and I was taken in hook, line and sinker. Now we know that there was nothing new. No lesser personage than John Githongo is on public record as saying that corruption is now actually worse than it was under Moi, and is being tempered only by GDP growth. I write these words day after Raila Odinga has secured the support of none other than Gideon Moi in his bid for the Presidency. Gideon Moi is a man who The Kroll Report says had GBP 550 million in overseas bank accounts – 10 years ago. Truly, we are looking from pig to man and finding ourselves unable to discern any difference in their visages. And finally, today someone on social media said the list of front-running Presidential candidates reads like a list of top KANU delegates from years gone by. Indeed, change was not to come.

      We must, as you say, be the engines of the change that we seek. First of all in our own personal conduct, and secondly in terms of who we select to lead us: those leaders must have values that rhyme with our own. And we must be at the forefront in espousing a new way of thinking to our fellow citizens: “shedding tribalism and asking the hard questions,” as you succinctly put it.

      I personally write in the hope that my fellow Kenyans and I will learn from the 2002-2003 experience. We stand, as MaBaker says, on the doorstep of another beginning. The opportunities are there, if we will take them.

      I just hope we will.

  11. Ben Mulwa (@BenMulwa)

    September 14, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    Tears well in my eyes as I read through this. Tears welled in my eyes as I watched Kibaki take over exactly ten years, and a mixture of pain and frustration chokes me.

    We were betrayed, we were duped, we were conned. It will be nearly impossible for Kenyans to trust again, especially politicians. This I encounter each day.

    But we must never give up. We cannot afford to give up on ourselves. We cannot afford to give up on our future. It was a hoax, but we shall rise again, trust again, believe again – and finally bequeath unto ourselves and our future generations, the Kenya we must have.

    Thank you @Chrenyan for this article. I couldn’t put it better. I still remain optimistic that one day we shall meet again at Uhuru Park, and deliver true ‘uhuru’ to all Kenyans. God bless.

    • Chrenyan

      September 14, 2012 at 7:27 pm

      Hey Ben,

      First of all thanks for writing in, I’m glad you could comment.

      As I told oluocheli, as humans we weep because we care. We also weep because the pain of betrayal is deep and it is bitter.

      Speaking from a Kenyan perspective, again I say that if weeping will clean the dross out of our eyes and help us to see things for what they really are, then let all Kenya weep. The lessons history teaches us are there for the learning.

      It will be nearly impossible for Kenyans to trust again. That trust will really have to be built painstakingly, and by a little more than just a campaign. We cannot give up. We must not. Actually we dare not. I hope that mere words will not win our trust again. I hope that phrases like “proven track record” will enter the national dialogue, even as phrases like “mtu wetu” make an ignominious and long-overdue exit. I hope that we will not believe just what we’re told, but what we see. I hope that what’s right in front of our eyes will be apparent. I write in that hope.

      You’re welcome (for the article). It is in a sense my duty to write. For I too hope that once more we can congregate at Uhuru Park in an atmosphere of new freshness made all the sweeter by the pain of the former betrayal, and the wisdom that came with it. I too hope that one day we will be able to deliver true Uhuru to all Kenyans.

      May that day come soon.

      God bless you too.

      • Ben Mulwa (@BenMulwa)

        September 3, 2013 at 1:29 pm

        On April 16, 2013 Kenyans cheered and jeered (depending on where one stood) at another misadventure. May God’s grace be upon us.

        • Ben Mulwa (@BenMulwa)

          September 3, 2013 at 1:30 pm

          Mark you it is exactly one year since we were here last, and as a nation we are fast hurtling down the road into obscurity.

  12. Muthuri Kinyamu

    September 15, 2012 at 5:48 am

    I wish I could get this post on the Daily Nation and get all the radio stations to talk about this but then I remember the media in Kenya has already taken sides in the next general election. How I wish this could be read to all Kenyans loud…..however since I know and I have read this I will share it on all the pages I manage on social media, my blog ( and spread the word to my friends. Lets talk to Kenyans about this…lets create awareness…lets shape our future. Thank you. Follow me on Twitter @ KenyanMarketer.

    • Chrenyan

      September 15, 2012 at 12:12 pm

      Hi Muthuri,

      Thanks a lot for your comment.

      I get that a lot from readers: that this should be in the national papers, etc etc. I am honoured that folks think enough of my writing to say that, and I thank you for saying so. Now, it is sad that we are polarized and non-objective as a country but I write because I believe that at the same time we are not alone when we write the truth and try to stand for what’s right. There are many right-thinking Kenyans out there – like the ones who lectured the policeman.

      Thank you so much for doing what you can to spread the message! I will certainly look for you on Twitter.

      Once again, thanks for stopping by.

  13. Njeri Okono

    September 22, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I couldn’t put it any better. It evoked deep and very mixed feelings — anger and outrage at how we’ve not only been shortchanged but also let ourselves be hoodwinked and deceived; but also joy in reconnecting with what Kenya was then in those few heady days, and also hope that we can indeed recapture that Kenya we lost.

    All is not lost, because we still have people of integrity and vision in Kenya that look at things for what they really are, and not through the warped reality-distorting lenses that we let politicians superimpose on our naive noses. I won’t ask you about considering a career in writing — you’re already there. Instead, I would ask you to consider a career in leadership.

    Like you, what I remember most from that 2002 Kibaki speech was the one that has turned out to be a blatant lie: “Corruption shall cease to be a way of life”, which I submitted on Twitter when #TopKenyanLies was trending.

    I must admit though that my joy in 2002 was also dampened by a niggling scepticism on Kibaki being the one to lead us to the promised land and away from the wilderness we’d wandered in for so long, but I must confess that even in my darkest speculation, I would never have believed his leadership would sink to the incredible depths it has, and just when you think it’s now reached the rock-bottom, it digs itself into deeper depths. There is the corruption, ceaseless but futile attempts to limit freedom of speech, the tampering and costly ‘experiments’ with the Constitution which saw his promise of 100 days translate into the depressing 3,500 it took as you’ve reminded us, with the ‘Government draft’ he supported roundly rejected by Kenyans along the way, buying him more time, all of this at the expense of, and underwritten by, we Kenyans.

    I also draw hope that none of what Kibaki has done — or not done — has escaped the record of history. But most of all, I am inspired by the fact that with the passage of time, Kenyans continue to make incremental gains that the politicians cannot claw back, no matter how much they hack at it.

    We may not be moving as fast as we should, but we ALWAYS move further each time, not BECAUSE but DESPITE the leadership at the helm.

    Finding,and reading from, like-minded people like you ever rekindles my fire and belief that tomorrow shall be better than today. That our children, and our children’s children, shall live under a better dispensation than what we have today. My children are incredulous when my husband and I relate to them Kenya’s unwritten history of the horrors of the Moi and Kenyatta years: this makes me realise that each generation of Kenyans has enjoyed gains fought for by the generation that preceded them. This gain is incremental, and there’s no turning back, no matter how hard the detractors of progress may try. Amandla!!

    • Chrenyan

      September 24, 2012 at 5:59 pm

      Hey Njeri,

      I am thankful for your long and detailed comment. As I was telling Justus earlier, it is unfair to ask a Kenyan to read this and not be moved. Moved with sadness, and with sorrow admixed with anger, at what has happened. Truly, elements in Kibaki’s inauguration speech deserve pride of place in a list of #TopKenyanLies. But as I said, some of the sorrow must be for the self-inflicted-ness of our problems. Without that, we will never move forward.

      I think it is commendable that people can still have hope in their hearts after having doubts about Kibaki’s ability to deliver the change we so looked forward to. If I had that kind of foresight, I’m not sure I could still hope, because hoping in Kenya is an exercise in naivete. Yes, under Kibaki’s ‘leadership’ Kenya has lurched from tribelessness to tribalism, from depth to darker depth, and from corruption to grander corruption. His intransigence (with Raila) regarding the 2007 election results led to the deaths and displacement of the very people whose lives and livelihoods they are meant to protect. History will remember this, as you point out. Yet as you say, we must focus on the positives. Someone has got to be foolish enough to believe. Somebody has got to hope. Someone has to say, I will not despair. And I think that person will find he/she has company. There is an excellent article in the Daily Nation today in which Mukhisa Kituyi pays tribute to the late PS David Nalo, saying what a patriot the late PS was. There truly are well-meaning, qualified, patriotic, fire-in-their-belly Kenyans, and they may not be as few as we sometimes feel. What they need is an environment in which they can blossom. What they need, to quote your excellent turn of phrase, is that environment where they can flourish and move this nation ahead “because of” rather than “despite” our leaders.

      During the 2008 American Presidential campaign, a 19-year old single mother from Pittsburgh was quoted as saying: “Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked so Obama could run. Obama ran so our children could fly.” I hope that when our generation is silent and in the grave, subsequent generations will be able to say we sat, and walked and ran, and as a result, they are flying.

  14. Njuguna Ngugi

    October 15, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    I also do recall 2002 with nostalgia, not for the promises( I know better) but rather for the peace. It was the only time since the advent of multi party politics in Kenya that we didn’t have violence (pre or post). If we can replicate 02 peaceful elections, I think we can deal with the rest in due course of time. With another bout of PEV, even if we elect Obama or any leadership genius…

    • Chrenyan

      October 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      Hey Njuguna,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Interesting viewpoint! Peace is very important, but it will either be enforced, or it will come on the back of not thinking tribally. Unfortunately, tribal self-interest is quite high at the moment (which is to the liking of most politicians), so enforcement is our best shot (enforcement by the police as well as tribal politicians being dealt with by the Judiciary (e.g. Waititu and/or Uhuru/Ruto).

      I hope we will have peaceful elections.

  15. Lakshmi

    November 10, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    Motorcades which waste our tym, g.v.t oficials hu waste our resources n bury our potential. Sad.

    • Chrenyan

      November 25, 2012 at 12:09 pm

      Hi Lakshmi,

      It’s taken me some time to reply, but thanks for writing in.

      It is sad that Kenyans must suffer through horrendous traffic and 20-car motorcades in this day and age. It has been said that the developed country is that in which the wealthy use the public transport system – because it is that good. That is the direction we must take.

      Thanks again!

  16. Sylvester (@syl_vestr)

    November 10, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    I wept 10 years ago, and i weep now. The difference is while once i wept for joy, at the thought that we were finally back on track to becoming the country we deserve to be, the light and beacon of hope to other African countries, now i weep because my dear country has become disillusioned, lost and sadly, instead of focusing on real issues that will lead us to where we deserve to be, we have become entrenched further and further in irrelevant issues.
    The change we want, that which we deserve won’t come from politicians, nor will it come from we the so-called enlightened ones burying our heads in the sand as if the politics of the day doesn’t affect us. We have to stand up and be counted, and when it really matters, we have to stand in line and VOTE the leaders we deserve. I have always wondered why if Kenya has close to 40 million inhabitants of who almost 25 million are of voting age, our polls are decided by a mere 5 million or thereabout, what happens to the remaining 20 million? You guessed right, they are like us, who believe our single vote doesn’t make a difference, then we are surprised when we end up with the waititus and sonkos as leaders.
    We can change this country to head in the direction we want, but we have to do it from an active as opposed to a passive point.
    Your article has indeed awakened memories, hopes and dreams in me, I hope it does to many others, that’s why I shall share it away.

    • Chrenyan

      November 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm

      Hi Sylvester,

      First of all thanks a lot for taking the time to write in. I appreciate your comment. As I have told others who have written, I understand the tears. We cannot rejoice in response to such betrayal. It is painful, and it is heart-wrenching. It is sad. And what makes it all so much worse is that it is AVOIDABLE.

      Your solution is spot-on! Until we starting voting “for” our own good instead of voting “against” certain leaders/people who are perceived to be “the enemy”, we shall continue to be mired in this mudhole, in this morass of corruption, grand theft and tribalism. Kenya is becoming increasingly unsafe, the gap between the rich and poor is growing, the population is growing apace and leaders are busy forming tribal alliances. We need issue-based leadership.

      We must be active, we must spread the word everywhere we go, and in the March 2013 elections we need to pull this country back from the brink.

      Thanks again for writing. And thanks for sharing, I truly appreciate it.

  17. Antony Bii

    December 6, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Yes I also do remember. What a false dawn it was, just like a false start in a 100m dash leading to an automatic disqualification. I vividly remember that day, many guys hurdled around a tv at a shopping centre, full of promise, a new beginning they believed. Sadly, it was not to be. The problem lies with the kenyan electorate themselves not the leaders, as they say we get what we deserve. My heart bleeds for this land which we hold in trust for our children and their children. I pray that they will forgive us for failing to see beyond our tribal cacoons. Change will come albeit slowly. We just have to give it time but hope it wont be 50yrs because even the youths are infected with this curse of tribalism

    • Chrenyan

      December 6, 2012 at 7:58 pm

      Hi Antony,

      Thanks so much for responding. You’re right, it was such a false dawn. The problem, as you say, lies with we the electorate. Just two days ago or so, the guard at the bank greeted me ecstatically, saying “tume-seal deal”. I spent some time vehemently trying to explain to him how little the two main deals mean for him as an individual. It is sad for our hopes to rise every election only to be dashed by the same leaders we trusted last time around. The merry-go-round of political leadership must be stopped and we must admit new and clean leadership onto it, all the while educating the people as to the presence of fresh leadership. Radical change is required, and I am trying hard to ensure I will see it in my time.

      Tribalism IS a curse! But together, let’s try and educate Kenyans such that we see a change during our own lifetimes.

      Asante once again.


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