Saturday, May 15, 2004

On Her 37th...

To Our Mother Kenya on Her 37th Birthday

who remembers bamuinge
who remembers makhan singh
who remembers george morara
who remembers muindi mbingu
who remembers mary nyanjiru
who remembers mwangeka
who remembers koitalel
who remembers pio gama pinto
who remembers wasonga sijeyo

why is an avenue in mombasa
named after moi
rather than abdilatif abdalla
why is a street in nairobi
named after banda
rather than bildad kaggia

when is cege kibacia
going to come alive
in our history classrooms
when is micere and ngugi
going to come back to our theatres
who is to reassign alamin mazrui's
kilio cha haki
and kinyatti's
thunder from the mountains
into our national curriculum again

ten thousand mau mau fighters
refused to emerge from the forest
after the con trick of december sixty three
and soon kenyatta's white air force bomber pilots
were flushing out the klfa stalwarts
from their bushy and mountainous strongholds

oginga odinga
spat out not yet uhuru
and murumbi following in his wake
could only stomach
the stench of official corruption
for a few months
before retreating into private obscurity

a national mythology
has grown around the fake
baba wa taifa
who squandered a powerful legacy
as a cherished pan africanist
to head one of africa's
most avaricious looting families
mortgaging our nation to the west
in the process
the grey iron fisted charismatic
who pledged
to forgive his colonial jailers
and forget the settler atrocities
soon bested the governor
in lording over state house

kenyatta and kanu at one time
showed so much promise
a promise of patriotic glory
a promise of a young nation
a promise of a land of freedom and justice
kenyatta and kanu
ushered in misery
inspiring ngugi wa thiongo
to chronicle the tribulations
of the disenchanted children
of a misbegotten uhuru
kenyatta and kanu
killed the dream
of uhuru na kazi
umoja ni nguvu
sisi kwa sisi
prompting nyerere
to denounce kenya
as a man eat man society

between sixty three and seventy eight
kenyatta and his kanu/kadu cabinet
of thieves, murderers and liars
presided over a growing nightmare
as jm kariuki decried
the sad, mad reality
of a nation of ten millionaires
and ten million beggars

in the seventies and eighties
the chelagat mutais
the marie seroneys
the moseti anyonas
the mwachengu wa mwachofis
the lawrence sifunas
the chibule wa tsumas
the james orengos
the koigi wa wamweres
tried to keep alive
the voice of militant protest
in the silenced house of parliament

while the njonjos and the omamos
the oloitiptips and the mudavadis
the sharrif nassirs and the letichs

warned the wachache wasiotosheka
to watch out
silent torturers from
nyati house and nyayo house
went on
with their mundane
and macabre duties
hounding patriots
into dungeons and into exile

the benign fascism
of the old man
and his coterie
of corrupt thugs
a culture of silence and fear
that forced
dissent underground
and gave rise to
the cheche kenyas
the december twelve movements
the kenya anti-imperialist fronts
the mwakenyas
the ukenyas
the uwakes
the mdks and the hdks
the kenya revolutionary movements
and the me katilili revolutionary movements

neocolonial fascism
led to a flowering
of socialist clandestine organizing

that paved the way
for the rubias
the matibas
the imanyaras
the muites
and all the other
not so young turks
of the late eighties
and early nineties

even though
all these latter day saints
of the kenyan pro-democracy movement
claimed credit
for creating
kenya's second liberation
those of us
who had spent years
discussing and agitating for
national democracy
social justice
genuine freedom
true independence
for years and years
under the hostile gaze
of the secret police
and under the very nose
of the murderous warders
even though
the johnny come latelys
of the reform movement
were thumping their chests
only hours
after they had decamped
from top positions in kanu
those of us
who had opposed
the one party dictatorship
kibaki was still vice-president
and matiba still a minister
those of us
who remembered the
embarassing court poetry
of oloo aringo
and the virulent
the pathetic grovelings
of john keen
those of us who remembered
the mahihus
the nyachaes
the mathenges
the yusuf hajis
and the otieno osares
those of us
who remembered
the brutality
of the provincial administration
and the pettiness
of the local sub-chiefs
those of us
of wananchi
who had borne the brunt
of the one party state for decades
merely chuckled
as we marveled
at the political gymnastics
of the newly minted anti-moi opposition

in this last decade
we have been through
two charades
as multi-party elections
in this last decade
we have seen
bankrupt opportunists
with a passion
for megalomania
golden opportunities
of ridding
our tortured nation
of the blight of the
moi-kanu one party dictatorship
we watch
with growing horror and disgust
as the railas and imanyaras of yesteryear
the ex-detainees
and ex- targets
of state terrorism of days still fresh
we watch with growing disgust and horror
as our heroes from ninety-two
in an insane competition
to verify
once for all
is the most depraved
from the former
pro-democracy camp

for the future
of our children
and the prosperity
of our nation
we have refused
to wallow
in the tempting luxury
of cynicism

in the face
of the growing poverty
still we hope and hanker
for a new kenya
in the face
of fetid and putrid
still we fight
for a new kenya
in the face
of growing repression
and rampant injustice
still we sing
the fiery songs
of freedom and protest
in the face
of the devastating AIDS calamity
still we hold tight
for a healthier
new kenya
in the face
of growing violence
against women
still we work for
gender equality
in a new kenya

we have refused to give up
on the mau mau fighters
who sacrificed life, liberty and property
we have refused to give up
on the patriotic and progressive intelligentsia
who defiantly spoke the truth
we have refused to give up
on the militant and determined students and youth
we have refused to give up
on the tortured and harassed prisoners and exiles of
state repression

as kenya
to celebrate
her thirty seventh birthday
in neo-colonial captivity
we rededicate ourselves
to the struggle

we refresh
our commitment
by reminding ourselves
of what ngugi told us
all those years ago:

there is no night
so long
that does not
end with
the break of dawn

onyango oloo

toronto, canada

4:16 am eastern standard time

monday, december 11, 2000