“Rich Kenyans”: An Oxymoron

I happen to be doing some work for a certain exclusive Golf Resort near Nairobi. Part of my work affords me access to pretty much everybody’s information; monetary and otherwise. I didn’t need this info to know that only rich people go to the club. It’s apparent before you even get there.

See, I use public transport. I’m not poor, I just don’t want to be forced to pull out the Audi(Remember what happened the last time I did that?). Besides that car guzzles fuel like it has a bladder problem. It needs a doctor, not a mechanic. Anyhow, until this job opportunity arose, I had never been on this side of town. So when I got out the shuttle for the first time, I felt like The Fresh Prince when he first got to Bel Air.

It’s different here. The houses are like small countries. I kid you not, I’ve actually seen a castle in this area. Moat and all. Maybe for you, that’s nothing fresh but I grew up in pockets of this city where this is surreal. Where I grew up, when they rob you, they take your whole person not just your belongings. So the first time some random on the street greeted me without the intention of stabbing me thereafter, I was taken aback. “What is this place? It can’t be Kenya.” I thought to myself.

And you know what? I wasn’t entirely wrong.

One of the first things a newly rich Kenyan does is to de-Kenyanize himself. They move out of the areas where the rest of us live into places where half their neighbors are from some European country with the GDP of North America. They send their kids to “international” schools. They stop going to the village. Instead, they go to vacation far, far away, very, very often. They embrace “Internationalism” and blame the government for forcing them to be less proudly Kenyan. They remove themselves entirely to where they almost “visit” Kenya when they aren’t hiding in their castles or killing free time at ritzy country clubs normal Kenyans can’t afford.

And these faux-Kenyans come to this club for many reasons: only one of which is relevant. They come here to feel Kenyan. The illusion of belonging by omission. Because in comparison to everyone else, they are the most Kenyan folks around[staff excluded]. They speak Kiswahili and have been to that side of town once or twice before. They remember their families and flaunt their nationality and then proceed to do RPS(Rich People Sh**); i.e. talk to other rich people about why poor people aren’t rich while eating Ugali with Sterling Silver forks and knives. Or play golf.

I see these clowns here, day in and day out digging the grave of their culture deeper and deeper with every golf stroke. The greens are like a graveyard of Kenyans past; the birthplace of these rich blank pages of culture.

Don’t get me wrong, you can technically have wealth and maintain a Kenyan nationality. But a “Rich Kenyan” puts the “Rich” before the “Kenyan”. Kenyans with money do exist. In smaller numbers. You probably see them every day and would never tell how many digits their bank balance consists of by their demeanor. But you know they’re from here.

Because the truth of the matter is, it’s not about the money. It’s never been about it. Money doesn’t change you, it just makes you more of what you already are. And one of these guys started off an ambitious Kenyan. The other, a self-loathing individual from a country he was never proud of.

Can’t really blame either. I can only congratulate their successes as I connect the dots of loose observation.

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