A lot of us grew up being told to either be quiet or leave the room when the grownups were speaking. And it is no surprise that our modern day politicians adopted the same lingo. They consistently tell Kenyans, who pay taxes and vote them in to either be quiet or leave the room. In most cases, they have been kicked out of the room or denied access to the building where important decisions about their lives are made.
We know we are not in that room when we see pictures of Kenyan athletes sleeping on the floor in foreign airports; see the ever increasing unemployment rates and decreasing standard of living. Mind you, they never fail to prepare us for these unbearable shifts by constantly telling us to brace ourselves for tough times.
So, what does being in the room look like? What would Kenya look like if it worked for Kenyans? Who are Kenyans without the constant gas lighting from its government, threats to comply with government orders and directives, chaos on our roads, fear of carcinogenic substances in our food?
Who are we when we are not struggling to survive, to breathe? What does Kenyan freedom look like, what is the Kenyan dream? I refuse to believe in the “resilience that produces maturity gospel” preached by our politicians. I am not a zebu cow and neither is Kenya. I reject the resilient rhetoric that makes us comfortable in our misery. I reject headlines that sentence us to: “Brace yourselves for higher fuel prices, higher price of bread, higher electricity bills,” higher this, higher that… I reject it in all of its silencing, its manipulative finality and its hopelessness. I reject resilience because we cannot dream and be resilient in the face of misery at the same time. Nothing better comes when we collectively agree to be resilient, just more things to be resilient about. It feels like people sit in a room, in our absence of course, and come up with things that demand our resilience that will eventually kill us because we cannot hold our breath any longer.
Kenyans are record breakers, inventors of M-pesa among many other things. We are the funniest people alive, see how Kenyans on Twitter (KOT) shut down the internet whenever we need to. Our artists are a constant reminder of what Kenyan beauty is and can be. When you think about the beauty of this country, think about what we could be if our government conspired with its citizens to help them prosper. We have a government that cares too deeply about how Kenya looks like to investors and tourists but does not seem to care about how Kenyans feel about being Kenyan.
Article 1(1) of Our Constitution states that all sovereign power belongs to the people. That means that we have every right to be in the room. Kenya should and must work for the Kenyan people. How do we take back this power? We must interrogate individuals who run for office and vote in leaders we know mean well for us. We must imagine leadership beyond dynasties and familiar personalities. We must take the time to study government structures and actively engage in government processes and hold them accountable to the people and the Constitution.
When we meet the Kenyans who have dedicated their lives to rejecting resilience, let us not ask them to fight on our behalf or speak for us. The work of imagining and working towards a Kenya that works for all of us cannot be delegated. It is not enough for us to become admirers of their words, their courage, and their convictions. We must all be willing and ready to ask the question, “I see what you are doing, how can I help? What can I do for this win? Then put in the work. A Kenya that works for all of us must be worked on
by every Kenyan.
I wish you a year and a decade that doesn’t give you reasons to be resilient. I wish you courage that consistently denounces survival.
Written by Wanjiru Nguhi
Co-Founder of Mwafrika Mwenzangu | Lawyer | Political Strategist | Writer | Feminist