January 9, 2008

i heeded kenyan pundit’s call to write about what the growing pain of the young kenyan demoncracy means on a personal level. i decided to share this because i feel it is important to shed off any veils of silence, after all, silence never protects anyone.

I left Kenya when i was 24 years, 10 month and some days old. With me were two suitcases stuffed with books and unsuitable clothing for the upcoming winter and in the midst of the hot, tuesday afternoon, my heart was burdened by the choice I feel I had to take.
I was tired of living unnoticed.
I was afraid of my safety.
And most of I was tired of pretending I was anything that who I really was.
I am a lesbian.
A queer.
A shoga.
A dyke.
An ‘ abboration’ of nature.
Watching Kenya unravel causes me untold anguish. I am fatigued by the worry and anxiety I have shed tears for my friends, my family and the nation as a whole.
Yet, in the stillness of my heart, I am not surprised. I am not at all surprised that underneath the veil of calmness lies intolerance. We are as a nation and as individuals are not sentries of peace, we would like to believe that we have no strong affiliations to the groups that we belong to.However, I ask, take a moment to ask, who do you consider your friends, your crew, are they born from the same background, do they look like you, what are their professional and personal affiliations, are they in synch with yours?
I knew from an earlier age that I was different. Even though I ‘ belonged’ to a majority, I was still reeling from the overt forms of sexism, patriarchy and homophobia. What I saw around me was a need for group consensus and I knew that for me to thrive fully, I would either deny being an authentic human being, or negate the truths of my experience. And so I did the former and I left and now I am left with images of  the Kenya of my youth, nursing an untold nostalgia while basking in the sea of otherness.
For status quo to remain in place, there needs to be a level of group chaos. Kenya and indeed the world has tithered on this premise. Now that the pandora box has been opened and the shadow of our collective experiences has been unveiled, what choices do we have?
It is not the time to sweep this experience and return to ‘ normal.’ What is normal? Is it to pretend that this didn’t happen? Is normal to congregate amongst ourselves, our ‘ tribes’ our safe havens and drink into the well of our tribes and in stupor like mentality point fingers at others.
We have an opportunity as individuals in our enclaves of influence to become more mindful and compassionate to ourselves and others. This is an opportunity to pour balms of forgiveness onto the wounds of intolerance. We have a unique experience to thrive from this experience and be better human beings or engage in viscous cycles of hate.
We are after all, each other.


3 Responses to “”

  1. Peter Says:

    Yes, one of the people re-said ” Peace is not the absence of Violence”.

    As we ponder on the “normal” one will want to ask ” was there ever peace in Kenya?” The answer will probably be NO!
    There has been efforts and pockets of perceived peace. Within the main towns of Kenya, they had started to host “ethnic evenings” – what does this mean? Carnivore would host “mugithi night” for Kikuyus, Ohangla night for the Luos, there are other names attributable to different ethnic groups: Luyha night, Kililimbi Night (Kamba); Coast Night, Kaleo Night etc etc . This served to celebrate the unique things within that community. Food, dance, dressing, language etc. These have become catchy within the urban centers. What i wonder is, would they be as popular say in the middle of the ‘bundus’ some where? say you were to host Luo night in deep arm-pit of say, Githunguri ( just a name i picked) – would it go equally as well? would it be equally attended? would the people there luxuriate in Ohangla?
    Thus, the thin veneer of “peace” as we have been describing it has been an illusion. Time to put things on the table and deal with what needs to be dealt with and get on with it!

  2. athenaeum Says:

    Thank you for this honest piece of writing, what a beautiful post.

    I was speaking to a friend in Nairobi a few days ago who wondered whether it was necessary for Kenyans to face the problems underpinning the crisis now rather than wait. The election and the violence have certainly brought to the surface tensions that have been so clearly elucidated by many commentators since then. It has been cathartic in this way.

    The hostility and the intolerance that I encounter in my travels through cyberspace have completely altered my perception of Kenya. I can not recognise the Kenya I know in the hate-speech I am reading. But I am hoping it is a temporary abberation and Kenyans can repair the harm that has been done, IF the country continues along the path of democracy. It wasn’t necessary to go there, but clearly one faction of the elite were not prepared to let go of power. Perhaps fearing the repercussions of a Raila presidency.

    Democracy is something that the masses want and it is the poor and disenfranchised who have nothing to lose who are leading this. I don’t see the middle-class out there agitating for change but that is not to say they do not care about the future of the country. This is not their battle but they will take note and act responsibly when they are given the chance.

    Raila can do nothing to stop this violence and animosity. It is up to Kibaki to either step down or come to some arrangement with Raila which will help to pacify the thwarted dreams and aspirations of those who feel betrayed by the machinations of Kenya’s political elite. This will restore order and hope. As long as Kibaki fails to act and speak like the elder statesman that he is, these things will continue.

    I have railed at Raila but really the buck stops with Kibaki for undermining Kenya’s fledgling democracy. The issues have also moved on and he needs to recognise that his inaction has only exacerbated the contradictions that exist between the poor and the rich.

    Kibaik and the political elite need to know that only when the voices of the marginalised are heard and acted upon will Kenya become a truly humane society.

    I was quite perturbed by the Kenyan constitution which chose not to recognise lesbianism but was at the same time very homophobic. What are your thoughts?

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