The extremely slow realization that the Kikuyu are getting isolated from the rest of Kenya has started to produce a literature in which it is explained that the Kikuyu have acknowledged the mistake they made in supporting Muigai in 2017.
As one can imagine, this hubris makes many Kenyans livid.
But unfortunately, it is not enough to say that the empathy the Kikuyu are seeking is still selfish and narrow-minded. And it is. Rather, we must analyze how this hubris got entrenched among the Kikuyu, because the mechanisms which have made the Kikuyu collectively blonde and clueless are actually contained in the BBI. If Kenyans let the BBI pass, the disease leading to the collective zombification and self-decimation of Kikuyu men will spread to the rest of Kenya, and when it doesn’t, the State will still mete gun and physical violence against men. Because ultimately, BBI does not call for change in the status quo; rather, it seeks a change in our attitude towards the status quo.
The Culture of Uthamakistan
The unstated religion in Kikuyu-land is that being a Kikuyu man is the best thing since sliced bread. This religion is reaffirmed at different gatherings (weddings, funerals, church services) where men are encouraged to affirm a manhood that is modeled on Muigai, or on the local rich man who owns land and drives around in an SUV. This model of masculinity is a Kenyanification of the colonial white settler. In fact, had it not been for technology and independence, the alpha Kikuyu male would have a horse instead of a Prado, and would have called himself Sir Charles or Prince Andrew. I’ve been told that such men do exist in the exclusive clubs formerly frequented exclusively by colonial settlers, but the only one I’ve seen is former AG Charles Njonjo.
The message in uthamakistan is that there is no alternative to manhood than this. In some ceremonies I have attended, even in church, this reification of Muthamaki masculinity is presented as a cultural obligation. Kikuyu men are told that other Kenyan ethnic groups are proud of their identity, but Kikuyus are ashamed of theirs, and so joining groups like the kiama kia ma is an obligation to not just the ethnic group, but to African identity as a whole.
This message is not only widespread; it is also comprehensive, because it covers property, education, culture, faith, gender and anti-colonialism, making it difficult for an ordinary man without a sufficient grasp of history and political education to refuse. So what are the options for a Kikuyu man who does not own property?
Alcohol and suicide. Alcohol to silence the voices in his head asking him to be what he can't be, and because he can't go burn down the media houses, Jogoo house and churches to shut those voice up. After all, the Uthamakistan message is that those institutions are "his," and if he can’t enter them, Muigai is doing so on his behalf. So he can’t fight the institutions that are “his.”
The other option is suicide to get out of the system altogether.
And this was the suffocation that Binyavanga Wainaina was fighting against. He was saying that this straight pipeline of "go to school, get a job or start a business" was “crap,” and to illustrate, he gave the example of someone with two Masters degrees paying a bribe 300,000 shillings to get a job as a private in KDF. Throughout his life, Binyavanga called for a variety of stories and innovations to counter this single story that is strangling Kenyans.
The status quo responded viciously. People who took up his call were called “literary gangsters” by the academy, and it is rumored that the state undermined Kwani? from within.
Granted, Binyavanga had not reckoned with the ethnic dimension of what he was fighting against, and often wavered between supporting and opposing the government. But he was onto something, and the seed needed the soil, water and sunlight of Kenya's diversity and creativity to germinate.
And this is not to suggest that Binyavanga was the only one who had this seed. He probably got far as he did because he was a Kikuyu man. In other areas of Kenya, such seeds never see the light. All the government does is send a chief and some body bags to finish that story.
And so the purpose of BBI is to prevent different imaginations of what Kenya can be, of a Kenya that is not centered around the figure of the Kikuyu or white settler male who offers no innovation or social service. BBI therefore seeks to infiltrate faith, initiation ceremonies, schools, marriage and history education to ensure that the seed of the propertied ruling class is planted in every mind in every corner of Kenya.
The Kenyatta head start
What the BBI proponents fail to realize is that not all cultures in Kenya are equal, because the Kenyattas have a head start in the proposals in the BBI. The Kenyatta name already brands the nation's major conference center, the national referral hospital, two universities, the largest international airport, a major street in the capital city and the largest public beach at the coast. Jomo’s wife’s name is on the newly rebuilt waterfront which her son had the audacity to inaugurate on Mashujaa day, a day which we clearly have not successfully divorced from the Kenyatta name.
We even have their family grave in the center business district, which has become the stone to kiss for foreign dignitaries visiting Kenya. Muigai also used a statue of his father on the new cash bills, by exploiting the law that said that a human portrait shall not be used. So, they would argue, our cash bills are using a portrait of a statue. That’s how cynical the family is in entrenching its name.
The basic message is that Kenya's national identity is synonymous with the name of the Kenyattas, and it will not be shared with any heroes or historical milestones from the rest of Kenya. Those others can be commemorated in the 46 counties, but not in Nairobi, which the BBI assigns a special status because of the foreign (read Euro-American) expatriates who live there. If Kenyans want to remember Mekatilili, for example, it will be done in Malindi and not in Nairobi. Nairobi is the Buckingham Palace of Kenya and the seat of the national government (read the Kenyattas).
Muigai has also sealed the loophole that might be presented in the education sector by reducing education to vocational training for children, and by crushing incentive for the study of arts and humanities by paying lecturers less than lecturers in STEM. And history, ethics and whatever else we hope will be taught will be dominated by Muigai, since the Official Historian is supposed to be appointed by him.
So if Kenyans are reading BBI about culture and inclusivity to mean that they will be treated equally, it will not happen. On paper, things are equal, but as we say, kwa ground, vitu ni different.
Basically, what BBI is doing is to shut down any options for Kenyans to imagine a Kenya whose imagination is not dominated by the Kenyattas. And this will mean alcoholism and suicide will become the escape from this suffocation for all Kenyan men.
And as we mock Miguna Miguna, we are missing the underlying message of his expulsion from Kenya. Why would the Kenyan state be so scared of a man who didn't win the Nairobi gubernatorial seat, to the extent that they drugged and shipped him out of Kenya? It is because Miguna is asking us to think of something different. And he put his body on the line at the swearing-in of Raila as president to visualize it. The elites fear our imagination more than anything else, and that's what Miguna is demanding that we use.
The Kenyan state is fighting against any man who does not exude the aesthetics of a propertied landlord. The fear of Luo men, including of Raila, is not about initiation. It’s a fear of a different manhood whose identity is not attached to state power used for massive and primitive accumulation, a manhood that is different from the colonial settler manhood on which Kenya was built.
We must all tell our stories
The state’s determination to protect this Kikuyu (white) alpha male is relentless. That is why the so-called fight for the boy child started in Kikuyu land, and started as a war against women, rather than a war against the white supremacist Kenyan masculinity. The boy child camp is famously silent when young men are killed in slums by the police or brutalized in the school system up to the universities.
The same model of masculinity accounts for why any man with a political thinking different from that of the state is vilified in Kenya as being uncircumcised, womanly, gay or insane, and that is if they are not expelled on a plane, beaten or shot in the streets by the police. That would answer Gathara’s pondering “why some Kenyans seem to imagine that being called either a woman or a homosexual is an insult.”
And unfortunately, the Kenya church got coopted into this insanity by being cheated by the American evangelical right to swallow the "focus on the family” agenda, not realizing that even as evangelicals talk of nuclear families, they have a separate narrative of black male pathology, because white supremacy does not consider black (or African men) capable of belonging to stable, nuclear families. The narrative of black male pathology is necessary to explain why black people are poor and disenfranchised. And when you think of it, it’s the same way the Kikuyu elite justify Uthamakism – they say that poor, Kikuyu men are the problem, and that the problem is caused by empowered Kikuyu women or the "girl child."
The way ahead is not to decide which family is a real family. It is to send a strong message to the state that it has no business dictating what is in our bedrooms, our homes, our cultural spaces and in our education. The BBI proposes to extend the tentacles of the Kenyan state to marriages, initiation ceremonies, ethics, art and history, so that wherever we are, the only story that is told is that of the state made in the image of the Kikuyu (white) alpha male.
The solution is to tell our stories, and to fight against the state being the only decision maker in who tells stories. Even the prime minister position is a form of alienating people from telling their stories, because it prevents us from having direct say in politics. A prime minister position strengthens the political class to prevent change by making agreements amongst itself, as we have seen in Kenyan universities, and with the UK that has both a head of state and head of government whom the British people did not elect.
And the Tories keep winning and screwing the British working class despite the fact that Labour and other parties have significant support. It is likely that even now, Labour could lose the election because the media (money) feeds the British with so many lies and distortions. Cambridge Analytica was British.
It is important that we do not hate the Kikuyu men who trooped with their bags of githeri to the voting booths so much, that we fail to see that it is precisely that model of citizenship and manhood that is being prepared for all Kenyans. With BBI, every Kenyan will be trooping with their equivalent of githeri to cast their ballot to support the same people screwing us. We need to prevent the state from dictating our stories. We must fight for a Kenya has space for all our stories, all our ceremonies, and all our histories.
And we must free our cultures and identities from the shackles of ethnicity. Since colonial rule, Kenyans have made the mistake of restricting culture to ethnicity, forgetting that culture also includes information, education, technology and art. As Dan Ojwang explains in this article that I highly recommend, academics – even icons such as Bethwel Ogot and Ngugi wa Thiong’o – have drowned in this ethnic narrative, erecting ethnic groups as rigid identities in the name of fighting against colonial rule. And this ethnic tunnel vision has been facilitated by the state controlling access to information and space for the arts. Yet history, Ojwang argues, there is ample evidence of hybridity even within ethnic groups before colonial rule. BBI has basically stuck to the ethnic lines drawn by colonialism, confining Kenyans to create culture only within ethnic groups, and then assigning all other forms of cultural production to the supervision of the state.
But most of all, we need a new Kenyan deep story, such as that of freedom, of a brave and proud people who defied oppression to assert our humanity. Mekatilili, Syokimau, Pio Gama Pinto, David Munyakei, Chelagat Mutai, Chris Msando, Onyango Oloo and Kioko Mang’eli are just a few of our heroes whose names should be on our buildings, in our awards and in our history books. We are tired of burying our heroes prematurely after a life of unnecessary misery and hardship from a system that had shut them out. And not surprisingly, BBI does not address that.