The blood sports, whose visibility has been maintained in Western civilization today through Hollywood films and video games on gladiators, were a cathartic spectacle that sustained the Roman empire. Because Rome inevitably used brutal war to capture every area that it added to the empire, violence necessarily became the lifeblood of Rome. But also, as various ethnicities, nationalities and classes were brought together, blood sports in the stadiums became one way to keep the empire united through gross displays of valor and power. Gladiators, slaves, prisoners, Christians and wild exotic animals were subjected to torture and excruciating death for the entertainment of the crowds. Scholars say that the games provided an outlet for citizens to express increasingly violent aggression while the state contained the violence within the walls of the colosseum.
And as years and sham elections go by, Kenyans are becoming savvy. They know that the problem isn’t with just who is in office, but with the kind of offices we have. Muigai, Ruto and the political class, and their American advisors, know that Kenyans are restless. We are upset by the sham of an election in 2017. Few of us believe Muigai won the presidency, let alone on "merit." We hate the unfairness of the presidency staying in one family, and we no longer feel shy to openly say it. And to deflect and contain public restlessness, the political elites are treating Kenyans to spectacle of ritual, cultural distortions and an anti-corruption bloodbath.
In Mr. Muigai’s support base, we are witnessing a rise in the performance of the grotesque in the name of rituals that perform distortions of Kikuyu culture and anti-imperialism. While his core support base remains drugged with faux anti-imperialism, the rest of the country is baying for political blood. They want Muigai out of the presidency so badly, that this time they didn't just vote and lament about it. They also cheered the swearing in of Raila as the people's president. Kenyans cried for a break from the violence in 2008, then swallowed their pain in 2013, but became more vocal in 2017. And they will ask for more in 2022. So Muigai and his American godfathers have to keep us entertained, and they know that the narratives of numerical supremacy will not work after the boycott of the election re-run of October 26.
And so, without the substance of democracy and growth, Muigai has no option but to entertain us with spectacle. Instead of giving us an efficient health system, he bloats the National Health Insurance Fund with money and imports Cuban doctors. Instead of fixing the schools to be more humane, he turns the school into a factory pipeline in the name of curriculum reform. Instead of restoring employment and helping Kenyans provide themselves with homes, he promises to build us overpriced houses as cheap homes and plants a grotesque SGR on the landscape.
But the problems remain, and life becomes more desperate for the ordinary Kenyan. To protect themselves from a crumbling society, politicians extort more and more wealth from the public coffers, and use our money to erect phallic and grotesque structures to entertain each other in the counties. The corruption becomes more brazen and more spectacular, and the Kenyan public bays for more blood of the politically connected, sending shivers up the spine of an illegitimate government and a nervous American empire that needs Kenya to continue being its outpost on the continent.
Enter corruption games.
The corruption games have become a spectacle in which mind-blowing sums are looted, the media pretends to be a watchdog, the police are uncharacteristically generous with the details of the heist, and suspects are paraded in court. And because many of the suspect are from the president’s tribe, the sight of a perceived arrogant tribe humbled in a court is visually appealing to many Kenyans.
To add to the spectacle, the mainstream media has become the choir that cheers the blood sport on, finding intellectuals to help them give Kenyans the illusion that the Kenya government is actually fighting corruption.
The American empire also swings into action, dragging hapless European bureaucrats to issue a frivolous statement in support Mr. Muigai’s supposed fight against corruption. The Kenya government treats us to increasingly emotional displays from men, which is quite significant for a patriarchal society like ours. It also parades both clueless participants like Ann Ngirita and more senior civil servants in court.
But before the Kenyan public can rationally dissect the second edition of the NYS heist and get closer to the core organizers of the looting, another heist appears in the news, of maize this time. And before we get to the bottom of that, another one appears, this time of illegal sugar imports with high levels of toxins. With NYS it was programs. With maize it was farming. Now it’s our food. The political temperatures are getting higher, and politicians, like their Roman predecessors who sponsored blood sports to become popular, are gunning for the kill.
And so we see a “furious” president promise meaningless rituals like lie detector tests and lifestyle audits, which all politicians support. The Young Parliamentarians use the occasion to gain popularity by isolating politicians from the majority youth population. Moha Jicho Pevu, now in politics after building his reputation as an investigative journalist, mentions Ann Waiguru, whose name is hinted and whispered but never directly connected to corruption. And Waiguru plays to script. She threatens the MP with a lawsuit for defamation, even though the MP has not really made any significant accusation against her. All he did was to say that she should be investigated. Aden Duale, who’s exploits have been named in the citizen hashtag #Weknowyoursalary, has come out with guns blazing claiming to care that Kenyans get justice.
But a more theatrical performance came from Interior CS Fred Matiang’i, who made an emotional outburst about sugar by invoking our freedom struggle, declaring a war with a nameless enemy, offering few concrete details but issuing speeches about crying for his beloved Kenya.
But the politicians and big shots in government are not fundamentally against corruption. They’re just sitting in the gallery, joining the tide of public anger as we get entertained by the display of justice against middle to low level players in the corruption story. Like the Roman Emperor, politicians are the real perpetrators of corruption, but they are watching the blood sport with us in the stands, when they should be the ones in jail or banished to exile so that we can reconstruct Kenya.
We the Kenyan people are being bamboozled. These displays of the fight against corruption have no substance in terms of social restructuring and political reform. The affidavit of Josephine Kabura, for example, talks of phony charges against Kabura and NYS to appease the public, of Mutahi Ngunyi advising Waiguru on how to “cool down public anger,” and on erecting decoys and performing “cleansing rituals.” But the state capture is still going on, as we saw yesterday when Mr. Muigai rolled out IFMIS, the system through which the heist of public coffers has been done in Kenya and even Malawi. We are being treated to blood sport by the political elite and their Euro-American godfathers, and if we continue being entertained by it, we are eventually going to become indifferent to theft and injustice and forget to demand fundamental social change.
The feudal empire of exploitation, injustice, inequality and crony capitalism will not fall through rituals and fake anti-corruption blood baths. It will fall through getting a president duly elected by the Kenyan people in a way that is transparent and verifiable. We need an end to land speculation as a source of wealth, so that we can free the economy for people to earn a living from ideas and labor, rather than just inheritance. We need real social reforms in health, education and welfare, not the current superficial ones. We must not be fooled into accepting theatrics as an end of the current feudal, crony capitalist empire in Kenya. We should not be content to be entertained by blood sport while the oligarchy marches on.
Wachira Maina. "Nothing new about Uhuru; just a facade." Daily Nation, June 3, 2018.
Boniface Mwangi. "Which lifestyle audit? But we know the thieves in Kenya!" Standard, 22 June 2018.