By Kinaga Mbugua
I write this in nostalgia. I’m happy that indeed, Kenyans can sometimes be angry enough to ‘take matters into their own hands’ and ‘fix’ their own problems hands on. On the flip-side of this though, I’m saddened by the persistent reminder at the back of my head, that the war that has now started in parts of Central Kenya and beyond, will soon be too big a Pandora box to open.
The other day I shared a conversation at the barber shop with a group of men. Among the many topics we delved on, the war on illicit brews took a lead swing. And a majority of us could indeed attest to the fact that there had been a reduced number of hopeless drunks sauntering on the streets those past weeks. One of them joked about there being more ‘night hours’ as public transport vehicles retired much earlier due to a lowered market share. This is actually true.
I have followed this debate on the current woes facing Central Kenya, and followed on conversations bordering on whether or not it is justifiable. Of course, the usual cynical pundits have labelled it as the usual PR gimmick fed to Kenyans by the ruling duet. Others see it as good propaganda item to draw away focus on the NYS scandal that has left Kenyans 826 million poorer. The ever-ludicrous sycophants have supported idiotically without question. Why? Because their President supported the move. And their area MP as well. So why bother discuss it anyway? Much less think about it. And this is the usual yarn we have cycled through the years.
I choose to discuss it from a different axle of the spectrum.
Crowd dynamics has been the elephant of social sciences for as long as we can remember. Pundits claim that it is a fusion of awe, fascination and wonder, yet monstrous and pathological in the same breadth.
With no intention of going back to sociology 101, this reality is heavily dawning on us. The reality of the existence of ‘organized gangs’ in Kenya.
When Mutahi Ngunyi, a well known political analyst claimed that the Mpeketoni attacks and other pockets of terrorist attacks around Kenya were a result of ‘rented terrorism’, very few Kenyans took him seriously. His research, in 15 counties un-earthed more than 238 militia groups. These groups, according to him, were to be found every 4 kilometers you walked!
The current fight against second-generation liquor should be an eye opener to Kenyans not just in Central province, but beyond. For the past three weeks we have been treated to ugly scenes of violence, destruction and absolute madness steered by elected leaders. And while the exterior facade may be cushioned in honest intentions of saving our youths from a drowning pool of hopelessness, this fight is marred by despicable pockets of opportunism by these same elected leaders.
In his book, “The Crowd: A Study of the Popular mind”, French sociologist Gutav Le Bon claims that the masses have never thirsted after truth. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.”
It is this fact that drives the likes of Waititu and Moses Kuria to lead a war as general and commandant respectively.
What Started off as solemn cause for action is slowly spawning into a campaign agenda for the 2017 polls. Politicians, in their usual pattern, are mobilizing youths and women groups into fighting a ‘war’ which only themselves understand, while at the same time suffocating the real war underlying. Everyday a barrel of ethanol is kicked and suck into the soil, the average youth and woman is made to believe that its their future they are fighting for. But while this may somewhat be true, the truth also has its confines.
The kikuyu (the dominant ethnic group in central Kenya) needs to awaken to the fact that this war is a good pointer of the real war between the haves and the have-nots. The former, as expected, has taken a lead on this, pulling the entire masses behind them. And this is why Waititu and Moses Kuria can so well appear on national dailies, with youths and women wielding pangas and machetes behind them, on a charge against those perceived to be behind the ‘liquids of death’. The picture, which is currently doing rounds on social media reminds me of the 2007/08 ghosts which continue to taunt us every waking day. One only needs to compare that photo with those taken afew years back, when Kenyans, for a moment, forgot that they were nation, and separated themselves into tribal kingdoms; fighting, killing and maiming in the name of their tribe.
Gangs don’t change. Only time does. Their leaders may also change, as well as the illusions they feed to these innocuous youth and women groups (the youths especially). But the crowd mentality will remain. So while today we have the legislators midwifing the current war against illicit liquor, let us remember that afew years from now, the agenda will not be the liquids of death. Rather, it will be on guarding ‘our tribe’ from those who seek ‘to turn us into aliens in our own land’.
It is high time we woke up to the fact that 2007 can so well recur, if unchecked. It is my hope that these gangs currently working at the behest of rogue politicians shall not turn onto each other three years from now seeking to avenge or ‘defend’ their ethnos and kinfolk, all in the name of Jubilee, CORD, or whatever else will have been formed then.
The writer comments on political and socio-economic issues.