The president’s remarks, made after a belated jetting back into the country after almost 30 Kenyans were executed in Mandera on Friday, include the trivializing of sexual abuse. In the clip, the president blames the rape of a three-year old by uncles (plural) on the child’s parents.
What is more interesting is that the media houses did not consider that statement significant enough to put in their news clips. They just talked about the so-called overarching point that security is everybody’s responsibility. What is worse, the remarks were made at a university, and get this, at the launch of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence campaign.
I’m so horrified. That example is so, so, so inappropriate. It is a desecration of humanity, innocence and intellect.
And it is worrying.
And the gods have not left us alone for the choice we’ve made.
Since those elections, we have seen senseless killing of Kenyans in markets, bus stops, mosques and churches. We have seen corruption at top levels of government remain unpunished. A woman was gang raped, her back broken, and the culprits got away with it. Now women are being stripped and beaten in public. Ethnic hatred is on the rise. And now the president expects us to digest an unpalatable, horrifying example of injustice – the rape of a toddler – as an illustration of the irresponsibility of ordinary citizens. That’s how devalued our lives are.
But tragedy tells us that this is the price we’re paying as Kenyans for refusing to sacrifice politicians for the sake of the nation. In his great book Myth, Literature and the African world, Wole Soyinka explains that be it in African or Greek tragedy, the suffering of ordinary people, of the innocent, indicates that the society must right a wrong, must appease the gods. There is a folk tale recorded by Wanjiku Kabira and Karega Mutahi of a time when there was a drought, and the community was told by the rainmaker that the ancestors needed to be appeased, and the community chose the most beautiful girl of the village to make amends. And the girl sang as she went, and then the rains fell. Christians believe that the same thing happened at the cross. Christ, who was without shame, was crucified to set right the broken relationship between God and humanity.
Tragedy is a basic human reality of living in this world. And tragedy dictates that, as Harvey Birenbaum said, that “we kill the king because he matters enough.”
That is why, at a very basic, human, African, Christian, philosophical level, the president must bear responsibility for insecurity in the country. Every child raped by an uncle (yes, Mr. President), every woman stripped or raped, every ordinary Kenyan killed at the market, in a place of worship, travelling in a bus, is the president’s responsibility. And by choosing to be president, he loses the right to devolve that responsibility to the ordinary citizens. That’s the work of preachers, teachers and parents, and if the president wants that job, he needs to resign and join the ministry. Or join us in the classroom. But the president has no right to use the seal of the President as a moral pulpit while he is Commander-in-chief with his own security detail to protect him.
And we will continue to hold the president responsible for the safety of every human being within Kenya’s borders. He signed up for this job. And if every human being is so valuable that God sacrificed Christ for their lives, every Kenyan life is valuable enough for the president to resign if he can’t run a coherent security system. And valuable enough for him to apologize for those remarks blaming a three-year old rape victim for having reckless parents. The president must receive the blame, and be sacrificed if need be, because he matters enough. And because Kenyan lives are so, so, so worth it.