Having been tagged on the tweet, I did due diligence to point out that Boni has never been pro-Jubilee. But it wasn't working, and I couldn't understand the persistence at using the tribe to associate Boni and Beatrice with Jubilee. At some point, I started to do a Rodney King and ask: since we're now all on the same page, why can't we just get along and unite??
I didn't understand the persistence until one evening after a difficult day at work.
The university where I teach went through a one-and-a-half year upheaval that ended with the ouster of the previous VC who, for 7 years, had inflicted wounds on us through bullying and insults. The wounds are still raw, and have made me finally seek couselling. But on this day, I was urged to "forgive," even though I explained that grieving isn't a question of bitterness, but a question of being wounded and needing to heal. But that evening, I went home feeling not being heard, and then read this post by Akinyi Odhiambo on the ongoing conversation about revolution:
And yes, one would argue that Boni and Beatrice should not be bundled with Jubilee. But that is actually where the real contradiction lies. It seems that it is only when Kikuyus are arrested in Nairobi that the conversation of revolution finally enters the national media and discourse. But when people in Kisumu were killed in 2017, and now when the people of Isiolo have rejected the annexation of their land by white conservationists, when the people of eastern Kenya, from the north to the coast, are being killed by KWS, there is no outrage and there are no calls for revolution. Uthamakism, Kenya's version of capitalism and white supremacy, is the standard language of hegemony in Kenya.
Uthamakism needs to be theorized more rigorously, because it is the standard language of all the state agencies, and of Kenya's educated class, be they in the media, education system or the church. Uthamakism is the language of all government bureaucrats and of many Kenyans, be the Kikuyu or not. What makes uthamakism so difficult to resist is that it uses ethnic vocabulary to speak the language of racism. It is so hard to fight neoliberalism and neocolonialism in Kenya, because the language of white supremacy uses the tropes of tribe.
But as we wrap our minds on how to understand racism and tribalism, there is another problem we must resist. The war on our souls.
The war against mourning
There is a peculiar phenomenon in Kenya. The successful war of the Kenyan state against grieving. The mockery of the casualties of the Kisumu in 2017 are standard in Kenya. We hate victims of capitalism and the state. We prohibit grieving for them, because grief humanizes them and acknowledges that the state has committed an injustice that has to be redressed.
And so when women, from Sharon Otieno to Caroline Mwatha to Ivy Wangechi are killed, the Kenyan media, the church and the police find reasons to prevent mourning and add grief to the bereaved families. We say that they were rapacious, immoral, money makers, that they were carrying out abortions and don't deserve final rites. Even as he grieved for the people of Kisumu, Magunga saw the connections between the people of Kisumu and the young men of the slums, whose deaths at the hands of the police are explain as war against crime. As the families of Solai grieved the loss of their loved ones after the dam burst, both the owners of the farm and people on social media reminded the bereaved that the dam owners had built a primary school and given them jobs, which was an underhand way of say that the bereaved should not mourn too loud in case they disturb the rich. When there are reports of the brutality at our high schools, the first instincts of teachers and the Ministry of Education is to criminalize our children as indiciplined and as exam cheaters.
In all these instances, the content may vary according to the identity of the victims and the circumstances in which they died, but the language is the same: do not grieve. Do not grieve, because those who died were not human enough. Luo victims were chaotic demonstrators. Women were immoral and oppressors of boy children. Young men were criminals. The poor were ungrateful. The children were indiciplined.
In each case, the content is different, but the language is the same. "Do not grieve for the victims, because grieving makes them human. And making victims human means declaring that an injustice has been committed and has to be redressed. And since we don't want to face the state, and demand justice. It's easier to blame victims and refuse to grieve for them."
As Lewis Gordon and Anna Jane Gordon explain in their book Of divine warning: Reading disaster in the mordern age, we blame the victims because we do not want to do the hard work of crafting a collective, political response to the problems that turned people into victims.
There is no revolution without mourning
What has happened after 2017 and with the handshake, is that there has been no collective mourning for the victims of police violence after the 2017 election. There was no talk of revolution or social change when the people of Kisumu were killed or when Miguna Miguna was drugged and shipped to a foreign country. The pain of Luos did not occasion a discussion of Jubilee supporters about revolution. It seems is only when their businesses are failing and when Kikuyu activists are arrested that they talked of national revolution.
I am not saying that that we Kenyans deliberately think that way. What I am saying is that the language of uthamakistan makes that kind of logic possible. And so there can be no revolution without dealing with the language of uthamakistan and addressing the way it trivializes some people and elevates others, without necessarily explicitly referring to tribe.
After all, the language of uthamakistan has taught the Kikuyu since the 1960s that lives lost to colonialism and for the Kenyatta's must never be mourned. So much so, that in 2013, theywere willing to vote for the people indicted for killing the victims of the 2007-2008 post-election violence, not because they believed in the indictees' innocence, but because they argued that the thirst for blood would end. If Ruto and Muigai are in State House, they reasoned, we wont be killed in the Rift Valley. And Muigai's appetite is not elastic, they said. His greed has a limit. He's too rich to steal. He will never ask for more if we give him what he asks for now.
But in 2017, we learned again that he didn't. The same man indicted for the killings of Luos in Naivasha would remain silent as his police went for Luos, but this time in Kisumu.
But ridiculing the victims was another way of saying to the rest of Kenya: cant you be like us, and accept to give the blood of some, to keep this colonial moster of Kenya happy? Why mourn for them? The victims were not human enough for Kenya to save. They were a sacrifice for Kenya to remain intact for the 1% of Kenyans to remain in power. For the Kenyattas to make money. For Euro-American tourists and investors to keep exploiting us. Because that's what the state is. A vampire of the rich.
So I honor Akinyi's mourning. I honor her grief, her refusal to switch off her humanity just so that some rich people are not disturbed by their conscience. I honor her skepticism that the people who voted for Jubilee now really understand why there is need for systemic change, when they have not collectively and officially mourned for victims of the state, being they in Molo, Kisumu or Mathare, be they Kikuyu or not.
Because revolution is for human beings. Revolution is for people who mourn. Who acknowledge they made mistakes. Who feel the pain of others. Who say that Pendo, or Katindi or Mwanaisha is also Wanjiru. Who say sorry.
Anyone who has not mourned cannot lead a revolution. Because revolution is for human beings. The first revolution we need is to become human again, to recover our souls through mourning. Because revolution is a comfort to those who mourn.
So blessed are the Kenyans who mourn. For theirs is the revolution. As Rev Maurice Wallace once said, "mourning is the potential for redress and resistance. It is a passionate protest against the tyranny of death. Mourning is a sit-in against loss, a public petition that will not keep silent. Mourning is the spectacle refusal of indifference, apathy, chauvinism, and injustice. It is our mourning that provokes a mothering God to radical action on behalf of oppressed and suffering people."
So mourning is the revolution. Because we want a revolution to birth a Kenya where all Kenyan lives matter enough.