On the Sunday of 10th June 2012, the country woke up to news of a helicopter crash in a nondescript forest called Kibiku near Ngong. A dramatic start to a week that would prove very eventful and illustrative of Kenya’s compulsive selective amnesia. The television networks scrapped the Sunday gospel music shows and maintained a constant flow of information. A minister, his assistant, their bodyguards and two pilots had perished en route to a small town in rural Kenya.
Comrades in politics cancelled their engagements to turn up at the accident scene to gawk at the charred site and more specifically to face the cameras and hog the microphones. Their P.R. handlers were earning their salaries! The incident was trending on social media, generic condolences updated. State House released a glowing tribute and declared three days of national mourning with flags to fly at half-mast. A special meeting of the cabinet was scheduled pronto.
The political class in true fashion put aside their differences and agreed to sing from the same music sheet. The flock they lead on cue provided the chorus and the country sang one collective dirge, accompanied by a plethora of adjectives mourning the departed minister, who was once the country’s vice president.
I’m told it’s unAfrican to speak ill of the dead. Whatever unAfrican means! I wonder why none in the political class could muster the courage to call it as it is. They conveniently chose to eulogize the minister as ‘a hero’, ‘a champion of peace’ and ‘a great astute leader’. Well there is nothing about our leadership to be termed African, nothing but self-aggrandizement. African leadership entails channeling the loot to an offshore account in Jersey, fullstop.
I will not be hypocritical like the rulers of this country. I will not feign some misplaced sense of Africanness and indulge in the selective amnesia we have endured for an entire week. I am not that type of plastic African. The late minister was a corrupt man, spineless at best. A Nyayo sycophant par excellence who kept mum while deputizing for his puppetmaster in a regime that ruled kenyans with terror, driving many to desperation and abject poverty. The minister was completely mum when the Nyayo House torture chambers was filled by cries and wails of those who opposited the rotten regime. Lest we forget he watched through the ethnic schism and conflagrations of Molo, Nakuru, Kisii, Transmara, Mount Elgon, and Likoni. He was central to the plot, infact dramatis personae extraordinaire to the tragedy called Moi’s administration. Nobody should fool us calling him a hero, not even his fellow Moi orphans overflowing with embellished tributes.
His hand was deep in the cookie jar that was Goldenberg, the scandal in which our country lost billions in export of fictitious gold and diamonds not mined within our borders. In 2004, after years of court manoeuvres laced with the usual lawyer tricks – adjournments, voluminous paperwork, delayed service of pleadings – the fresh NARC government appointed a judicial commission whose report recommended the minister’s prosecution. A Judge recently vetted as a government gatekeeper in 2006 heading a three-person bench specifically expunged that part of the report.
In the poesy of the expunging Judgement, ‘Like guided missiles hit only the target; let this order have the same effect by hitting only the target paragraphs in relation to the minister’. That judgement was the guided missile that extinguished hopes of bringing the minister to justice. Justice Kenyan style. No justice for those who suffered foreclosures from defaulted mortgages. Those who queued literally slept on Haile Selassie Avenue to get an audience at the U.S. embassy and once inside presented forged title deeds, begging for economic exile visas. At twelve, I never understood why I could no longer buy bread and milk with ten shillings. The economics of exporting nonexistent gold and diamonds still confounds even today. Death has robbed us his explanation. Many wanted a raw John Wayne-type full disclosure.
I have voiced my opinion at other forums – read pubs and social media. I have been challenged that now that he is dead he is beyond human and earthly judgement. I judge not. Skeptical I am about the entire Judeo-Christo-Islamic concept of life after death and that he will account to some higher being on some so-called day of judgement. The embellished panegyrics from a dark place of hypocrisy is what I condemn. Terming the minister a hero and talking of erecting a monument in his honour! Really! My taxes to be spent erecting a shrine for such a man! Please don’t insult my sweat! There is no monument for David Munyakei, the Goldenberg whistleblower who died a miserable death. Yet we erect one for the midwife of poverty? We are that demented.
So in our typical fashion we have set up an inquiry led by a Court of Appeal judge. We love them investigative talkshops, complete with TV cameras and live feed, whose reports we conveniently shelve and swiftly move on. I know better but hope, nay pray, the inquiry shall address, apart from the cause of the crash, the issue of why a police helicopter, a government resource meant to be utilised for police work, was being used as a high-end taxi for ferrying politicians to a private harambee. I thought there is legislation against this, an ethics code prohibiting politicians from participating in harambees?
As the circus of misplaced adjectives of revisionism drifts off, as we embrace a new bout of selective amnesia, let it be known that while many will forget, some will not. I speak out because many are cowed to speak out. A man should own his deeds of commission and omissions to his grave. I am ready to be held to account for mine to the cremation pyre. There was no hero in the late minister.