AMENYA: Why Kenyans are a special people

AMENYA: Why Kenyans are a special people

By Albert Amenya,

Former US President John F. Kennedy said, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

When I examine Kenyan politics using my crystal ball, I see the harbingers of class suicide knocking at the door. It’s needless telling our politicians to save themselves because as Kisii elders say, “a hunter’s dog doesn’t hear the smell of faeces”.


Since politics is now the best-paying job in the country, the desperation of politicians could be understood.

Raila now dangling on Maandamano threats before President William Ruto is simply clinging to the last bogeyman in his possession.

He will succeed, but the nation will pay for his selfishness.


During campaigns, politicians regaled us with false hope and fake promises. Where is that hope now after being elected?

I keep saying that the only lucrative “business” left in Kenya today is the business of government. That’s why everyone is aspiring to be a governor, then retire to Senate.

[I say EVERY POLITICIAN because I’ve not heard of an exception] Those of them that have not yet been “conscripted” by the gods or their people are hoping to become the presidential candidate or presidential running mate.

So there is nothing else our “performing” politicians can do outside of government? None hopes to set up an industry that can employ people?

They are not willing to take chances on doing business in the wonderful environment they created while in office. Going to the Senate is a retirement benefit: no stress, no worry, no job and easy cash.


While these plutocrats fight or quarrel over our taxes, the rest of us watch helplessly. If you can’t beat them, join them? We can’t beat them but we can’t even join them.

You can only join them when you are ready to be “groomed” in the art of Kenyan politics. Being a godson or a goddaughter entails campaigning, fighting and rigging election for your godfather, the only one that can raise (from banks, if need be) the hundreds of millions and billions needed to fight in an election.


Our politicians are leading Hollywood lifestyles yet the legitimate income of each in one term (five years) is far less than their actual spending. Who is fooling whom?

The unhidden truth is that the politicians are supposed to amass wealth once they get into office. It’s not a crime to steal in Kenya, and that’s why no big thief ever goes to jail here despite their fingers being caught in the national cookie jar.

Once a thief lands in a Kenyan court, the story ends there. You’ll read later that the accused was found innocent because the prosecution could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that he stole. Ha! What nonsense is this?


Although we have endured this tribulation right from the Kenyatta and Nyayo eras, I don’t think the country can take it anymore.

Kenya is bleeding from the nose, mouth and anus because a few rapacious, lazy and unproductive elite have elected to descend on its commonwealth while the majority of plebeians who pay taxes are suffering.

We are at such a crossroads right now. But in the midst of the despair, the listlessness, the anxiety, the what-happened-to-us and what-the-hell-is-going-on, you can’t miss the fact that the average Kenyan has not lost his bounce.


The biggest tragedies that have hobbled other countries are happening here and we just shrug them off. Our national leaky bucket has a thousand holes.

They have raped our treasury blue but Kenyans are still going strong. Life goes on as if nothing happened.

Whatever life throws at the average Kenyan, they protest, they complain, but they magically accommodate it. It is the reason why nobody will throw stones because electricity tariffs are at the worst level, but they’ll only lament and emerge even stronger.

In this country, the people are determined to live no matter what. We are indeed very special humans.


Kenya is indeed peopled with funny characters. You’ll find county workers who have not been paid for months after months, see the same Governor who is responsible for their misery even after receiving devolution money from national government to help them, and has refused to deliver and they will still scream: “Your Excellency, Sir!”

When these workers attempt go on strike, someone calls them together, says something sweet, provides something nice and everything falls nicely in place.


The late Chief Abiola of Nigeria was quoted saying that ‘anything in Africa can be arranged nicely’.


There are those who say that even Raila’s Maandamano was arranged nicely, and once he is taken care of, Kenyans will be on their own. Stories of high prices of basic commodities will only be discussed among the poor Wananchi.

One interesting thing about Kenya is that politicians can grumble as they wish about the public space but the people are not ready to give up their will to live, their right to live and their understanding of how to live.


If you put your neck on the line on politicians’ behalf, you will be shocked that you will the subject of memes and WhatsApp jokes.

The people laugh at martyrs and heroes like Raila because they see no reason why anyone should commit suicide defending Kenya, when there is so much life to be enjoyed.

Kenya is probably the global headquarters of enjoyment. The way the ordinary Mwananchi has complained in recent times, about political changes and how the high cost of living is screwing them, you would think Kenyans are in serious trouble. But that is not the case.


The foreign exchange market has gone into a crazy overdrive impoverishing the whole nation. Parents whose children are schooling abroad and other expensive international schools in Kenya are afraid that they may no longer be able to pay fees.

The people are blaming the government, but if you look around the cities, more businesses are actually springing up and all those foreign investors who are supposedly monitoring the Kenyan market are actually clinging to this market.


Why do you think these international entities like DSTV, Standard Chartered Bank, Coca-Cola, Toyota, IBM and, Mitsubishi want to remain in Kenya till death do them part?

Why do you think all those foreign countries want President William Ruto to visit? Recently, companies retrenched a lot of staff but the same companies have started recruiting again. In this country, what you see is not what you get.

There is problem with foreign exchange but activities at the port of Mombasa have not ceased. In fact, they have doubled.

Wait till October, you’ll be shocked by the number of Kenyan children heading towards Europe, North America and other parts of Africa in pursuit of expensive, forex-backed education.


I beg, leave matter. And if you want to know that all is well in Kenya, go to the nearest petrol station where many Kenyans are queuing up for fuel. The people are going through hardship but they are laughing at their leaders.

You think you can mess Kenyans up? No way! If you sell petrol for Ksh500 a litre, they’ll still buy. They stay in front of that petrol station and they review Kenya’s history and lament the choices they have made, but their spirit remains strong.

That is what makes them Kenyan.


Go to the newspaper vendors’ stand in the streets. The crowd of poor people who cannot afford to buy a newspaper copy, have all the same listened to the news and the only place where they can compete as pundits is that roadside corner, where sometimes one drunken idiot loses control behind the wheel and sheds human blood, wasting those who have gathered not to buy any newspaper, but to debate Kenya.

Nonetheless, those people indeed understand Kenya in and out.


You think you are done with Kenyans? No way. Go to Jeevanjee and Jacaranda gardens and meet the people’s legislators in Bunge La Wananchi. You’ll find people who did not go to school aptly and articulately debating Kenya.

This special crowd knows it all. You don’t want to get involved with them. They will remind you that a Ph.D holder is actually a real idiot, and that nobody needs certificates of any type to be a Kenyan.


Kenyans are so inventive, they find every way of beating bad news, bad experience, or anything that tries to defeat them.

Everyone says there is no money in town, they claim things have gone from bad to worse but the parties have not stopped.

Go to any of the joints around Nairobi, nothing has stopped. Go to Quivers, Ashaki, the Switch and Carnivore, they have all defied the Forex market.


Yes, the price of staple commodities has risen, but that has not stopped the people from throwing lavish wedding parties.

Nor has it stopped anybody from marrying three times when once is enough: our people do traditional wedding – valid; they go to the registry – valid; they rush to church – valid. Rather than marry once, they do it thrice, all within a week.


Is there poverty in town? You answer that question based on the evidence of your eyes. What I have seen is that Kenyans are still living as if there is too much money in the country.

Take a look at the garments Kenyans wear every week. We certainly don’t look like electricity is a problem or that money is in short supply.


As a young student at Moi University in those days, we used to go from one party to the other, guzzling free food and quaffing free drinks. Today, those lavish parties have not ceased.

Nobody eats like that in Europe or America. When you go to all the old joints, in Eldoret and Nairobi, nothing has changed either. The music still flows, the swag is on.

Elsewhere, new buildings are springing up; new cars are being “washed”, additional wives are being acquired. Leave matter, I beg.


Kenya will survive, and these same people who are complaining about change, you’d be shocked, they’d still vote for their stomachs in 2027.

And that is why Kenya is one country that beats all the textbook theories. We are just something else. There is more in the social arena that defines who we are, than in the theoretical arena.

The same people who are complaining that they have not seen change are actually hoping for more. They are not ready to adjust. They are not ready to make sacrifices.


If they have an opportunity to be close to government in any way, they will jump at it. The corruption that we talk about is not just in government corridors, it is in society. But the one inside society is so difficult to trap because it is amorphous and inchoate in so many respects. Invariably, the snake feeds on itself: mobius strip.

What we are left with is the image of the people laughing at government and themselves. Have you taken time out to check what happens on social media?

Anybody who ever ventured into governance is easy game. The people design caricatures and mock them.


Kenya produces more memes and graphics than any other country in Africa not necessarily because of the events that happen here but because of the people’s consciousness, and if I may add, private greed. In that other world, political change is ridiculed, poverty is deplored.

Kibaki is becoming a saint and Ruto a villain, but the people are still having fun, and blaming Kenya and the politicians.


I tell you, the problem with Kenya is not the politicians but the people themselves. We are a very special people, but we don’t really know what we want, and because we are like that, we confuse the politicians and the nation.

But for as long as we can wear those impressive attires and throw those parties and dance to old music and pay our private bills, we see no reason to care enough.

Pity is: no country can ever move ahead if the people do not care enough. For us, life goes on, no matter what.


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