“The good you do for others always comes back to you” said my grandmother Shelmith (read Sheromithi) Waruguru Githaiga. She would repeat these words to us every day as a motivator, a compliment and as punishment. These profound words never made much sense back then but today, they haunt my every decision, good or bad. I will tell you why.
When we were growing up, Kenya was such a super power in our eyes! We talked and sang about it with pride. In our “Patriotic” (remember that word) stories no country came close to Kenya’s might. Well there was Israel (God’s territory according to Sunday school) and there was America aka US of A (the home of all heroes; Cynthia Rothrock, Chuck Norris and Van Damme). There was no comparing those two countries to Kenya. They were allies.
If you wanted to know how “bad” Kenya was, the Olympics told it all. Douglas Wakiihuri, Kipchoge Keino and John Ngugi ruled the track, mark you, doping scams were unheard of then. I remember when John Ngugi tripped during the 5,000 meters Olympic race and then went ahead to become second missing first position with milliseconds! I must have cried that day. Then there were other heroes like the late legendary boxer Robert Wangila Napunyi. I have never been a soccer fan but I knew Joe Kadenge (Kadenge na mpira would perhaps ring a bell).
Remember Ian Duncan and his co-driver Ian Munro driving a Subaru Supra and winning the Safari Rally in 1988? Of course you cannot talk about Safari Rally without mentioning Patrick Njiru with his co-driver Dave Williamson. Back then, Subaru Legacy was an airplane on wheels. Easter holidays were to die for. Every kid in town had their own version of a race car made from Kimbo, Cowboy and Kasuku tins. It took days of dedicated work to put together a race car especially one that you could open the doors! Forget this nitro nonsense on Ps3 and X-box. We knew how to say “X to the box” (I had to say thatJ).
Then The Rare Watts and Jam City changed the entertainment scene in Kenya forever. Jam city of course won the Fiat Uno but we all thought Rare Watts were the life of the competition. Back then, TV was full of local content. Forget Scandal, Prison Break or 24 we had our very own Tahamaki, Tushauriane Tausi, Professional View, Dunia Wiki Hii, Mamboleo and KBL Festival of darts. These were somewhat family shows that we endured watching as we waited for not so good shows, or ‘adult rated’ shows like No One But You and The Rich of Also Cry.
Being a Kenyan those days in my mind was the best thing anyone would wish for. The song “My Land is Kenya” by Roger Whittaker was like an extension of the national anthem. Speaking of which, back then we knew the national anthem word for word in both Swahili and English. We knew the composers, we recited the loyalty pledge with pride. Even the president loved his country and would stop on his way to any destination to give out Orbits. (I never got but I hear he used to).
You were not truly Kenyan if you did not have a Dash t-shirt; a locally made good quality t-shirtbrand. Towels were made by Fariji Towels and all other fabrics and bedsheets came from Rivatex Textiles. Buying anything second hand was uncommon. (Yes youngling you best believe that!). As a matter of fact there was a local car assembly for certain brands. Uhuru (not the current President) was one of the locally assembled cars. You had to literally kill this car for it to stall.
Government parastatals were functional and were a source of employment for many. Local products were the best brands on the shelves. KCC produced Ghee, great UHT milk and milk powder. I loved their butter even though my mum would not allow us to touch it in her absence. Kenya Meat Commission provided all kinds of meat and National Pencil made their own HB pencils. National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) was ever full. I don’t remember hearing about starving Kenyans back then.
I lived in the best country ever. Until I grew up and ruined it. I did not take care of it and left that responsibility to someone else. I started seeing things going wrong and never said anything. I looted my country with “deals”, avoided paying taxes and gave sidekicks. I was seduced and gave in to “outside brands” and abandoned local products. Perhaps that is how the tag, ‘Buy Kenya, build Kenya,’ came up. I learnt the art of corruption and passed with flying colors. My view of my country changed. I soon developed preferences and they started being reflected in the way I voted. I forgot what it meant to be a brother’s keeper. Everyone for himself sounded better.
My heroes soon changed from athletes that made my country proud and freedom fighters who put their own lives on the line to make sure I did not lose my rights, to national looters. I affirmed my support for them every five years. I sent them out to “harvest where they had not sowed.” They were so ruthless, that they started harvesting my future and that of my children. When the time for justice came, I “testified” in their favor and gave them a new chance to loot what was left.
If you are keen, you will see me and you still ruining the country further. I will give you a bribe to look the other way, pay you extra to cut “a few” corners and side step procedures. Yes you will catch me asking you to give me the tender and you will get your fair share. It’s not uncommon to hear me tell my children and yours that’s how the country is after all. Take a sit. Watch and learn. Let us show you how things are done. Come along, I want to introduce you to my business so that when I am gone you will run it the same way your father did and perhaps even better.
So here I am today caught between the fairy tale of what I know my country could and should be and the nightmare of what is. What has become of you and me? Is it all lost? Is there hope? Who will take us back to the days of childish faith in our country? Is it you Mr. President? Is it you my fellow Kenyan? Is it me? What if you and I refused to let things get any worse? What is there to lose that we haven’t lost? My Land still is and will always be, Kenya.
Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru