It definitely won’t be as witty as the one by Pharis Kimaru that trended at the height of Waiguru’s troubles around the loss of almost quarter a billion shillings from the government through the National Youth Service.
The thing is, I’ve always been ambivalent about Waiguru, and her sisters Shollei and Barasa who were unceremoniously hounded out of government after being sidelined by their male bosses. That’s because I have come to learn this principle: it’s very difficult to fight for justice in the name of people who have dirty hands, especially when it comes to public issues. Not that the criminals don’t deserve justice; it’s that their crimes provide a perfect distraction for the people who need to heed the message of justice.
With Waiguru, my ambivalence reached its peak. Anyone who cares to understand my ideological position and not be distracted by ethnicity or empathy for those in power (an emotion that I’m amazed is rampant among Kenyans), knows that ever since Uhuru Kenyatta ran for office, I have detested how his persona and legacy have dumbed down the Kenyan national consciousness. The Kenyatta II regime has returned us to the obsession with land and the accompanying injustices entrenched by his father. It has made Kenyans give up the hope in democracy that was at its height with the promulgation of the 2010 constitution. It has made us settle for being serfs in feudal monarchy logic, instead of aspire to be citizens in a republic where the health, education and other social services are equal for all citizens.
The regime that Waiguru so loyally served has also made public and vulgar expressions of sexism more mainstream. Even before Kenyatta II became president, he was already asking sexist questions like whether unnamed people thought that Kibaki was their “kihii” and whether Hague was their mother’s home. As president, he blamed the rape of a toddler by “uncles” on the toddler’s parents. It is under this regime that we women have been speechless as Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero slapped women’s representative Racheal Shebesh , and we have had to take to the streets when women were stripped naked at bus stops. Since the bandying of the word “kihii,” politicians like Governor William Kabogo are not shy to have public conversations about the status of politicians’ penises, tragically to cheering women.
I won’t go into corruption, absent leadership and the other vices, because my interest is in the intellectual and philosophical damage that this president has wrought on Kenyans. Experts like David Ndii are better at talking about the economics.
With all this garbage, I find it difficult to defend a woman who loyally serves such a regime, especially when the regime inevitably abandons her to the dogs of public opinion. Not necessarily because I’m bitter with the degradation of the Kenyan mind; rather, I see sexism as a necessary characteristic of our patriarchal, penis-obsessed corrupt politicians.
And any woman with at least a degree should read about Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution. The “eat cake” quote attributed to her was a lie emanating from the sexism that remained deeply rooted in the revolution. Antoinette was an innocent Austrian whose marriage to King Louis XVI was arranged for political expediency, and who found herself thrust into a nation in turmoil. When she was blamed for anything under the sun, it was highly sexualized, and eventually she faced the guillotine like her husband. That’s the tragedy women in patriarchal power face, and that’s why women need to be savvy and fight on the side of revolution. If one decides to be on the side of oppressors, we will indeed mourn the sexism of which she will become a victim, but we cannot fight for her to be saved from the guillotine.
And in Kenya, what we need to fight for is not women to be spared the guillotine, but for men to face it too. However, in Kenya, male criminals impoverish, insult, beat, rape, kill and displace us, and then we not only vote them in; we also commit national and continental resources to getting them off the hook. The Kenyan economy took a heavy beating through the Goldenberg scandal, and the culprits remain heroes. A few decades from now, the history of Kenya will tell how much of Kenya’s physical and material resources – much of which is raised through the labor and exploitation of women – was spent on ICC and its aftermath.
This masculinization of Kenyan impunity should be a challenge for genuine advocates of the boy child, because how do we expect our sons to do the right thing, to respect others and to work hard, when the message that our nation sends is that when you’re a man, you can get away with anything? It is no wonder that when initiates mentored by the Men for Equality of Men and Women would be asked what being a man means, they would reply that it means sleeping with women, controlling women and using drugs, cigarettes and alcohol.
People concerned about justice should also pay attention to the media’s increasing trivialization of justice for women. The Daily Nation, for example, asks the important question “Is it because I’m a woman?” when talking about Shollei, Barasa and Waiguru, but not when Ogiek widows are dispossessed of land by the area chief. We must not let the media turn women’s struggles into the mess that ethnicity has become in Kenya. Right now, when Kenyan politicians get into trouble, they protest that their ethnic groups have been targeted. We are not going to do that to women, by claiming that the trials of women culprits are a feminist issue.
Are Shollei, Barasa and Waiguru victims of sexism? Definitely. But in their cases, the bigger fight is for the respect of public resources, for accountability and for democracy. The biggest one is for revolution. We don’t ask for women in government simply to fill a gender quota in a rotten system. We ask for women in government as evidence of a system that reflects the will of the people, who include women.