50 Years Angrier: On Celebrations, Riots & Revolution

Look at our country.

kenya at 50 celebrations

All 50 years of its freedom have amounted to everything you see around you today. All the freedoms that we enjoy, all the development that we witness and all the suffering that remains.

Last week, the the Creative Director at my place of work drafted a fairly sober email for one of our clients to send out on independence day. It talked of the “battles we won and the blood we’ve shed”. I had to tell him to rewrite it as it was too dark. Because if truth be told, we have tons of reasons to celebrate.

But while we’re being honest, it’s hard to remember those reasons when everyday, we are blinded by archaic injustices.

Yesterday, I happened to be a stonesthrow away from where the University riots began when they began. I read online about how the students were infuriated because one of their own supposedly committed suicide while in police custody for cheating on an exam. Students I spoke to seem to think “suicide” is a cover up. It’s not clear and I’m not here to take sides.

What is clear is that students rioted last night. And in response to the riots, police escalated from teargas and crowd control to live rounds and murder.

live rounds uon riots

Oh yeah, I’m calling it murder. Look, I understand that the students were endangering motorists and as someone who was there, I saw how disruptive it was. Trailers full of cargo were being diverted and stopped right outside the Lutheran Church. Innocent bystanders were being whisked away by nothing other than fear. It was loud. It was unnecessary. It was bad.

While one can make a very strong case against the students’ reactions, we must remember that the hierarchy of responsibility begins with the authorities. The authorities in this case, were the police.

Did we run out of tear gas? Do we not have pepper spray? If push really did come to shove, what happened to all those rubber bullets they used to use on us a decade or two ago? I mean at what point can our police force not contest with our university students? There’s a huge logical void here that leads me to wonder what police have been doing these past 50 years.

I mean the riots have been going on as long as I remember, so that’s at least 30 years. There’s a police station right next to main campus. And add to that, there’s this thing that’s overflowing with army personnel and trained officers not so far away called THE STATE HOUSE! How were none of these people able to contain the situation in the midst of a heightened security alerts because of all the dignitaries in the country?

Am I the only one who’s a little bit angry at this? Obviously not, cause the students seem to be peeved.

UON Comrades Tweet

And even then, I’m not taking their side.

Oh no, not in the least. I grew up on that campus and I’m constantly disappointed at how you all changed from the face of revolution to the cause of disruption. Yes, something needs to be done. That something is not robbing motorists, beating up bypassers and rioting next to churches on a fucking Sunday. Get your shit together. You’re the educated amongst us. Show it. If you want to protest, do it peacefully. Fighting violence with violence causes wars, not change.

Pangani Explosion

And behind the cloud of all the teargas and dust being kicked up by marching students, bombs were being set off killing innocent commuters and our president was announcing that he would be going on holiday for a few weeks to billionaires from the private sector.

I wake up today and I wonder, honestly, what are we really celebrating 50 years of? A government that fails monumentally albeit slightly less each year? A people that divide themselves along any lines they can every chance they get? A sovereignty that is currently on lease to China? A police force that oppresses more than it protects or a youth that disrupts more than it protests?

We seem to celebrate independence by deconstructing the victory of our forefathers with our own losses. As a people. As a government. As a country.

And it’s sad to think that because there is good that happens.

A lot of it.

But how many layers of suffering must wee peel off to see the pearls of progress? How many taxes do I need to be blind to to enjoy my salary? How much death must we endure to celebrate life? How much theft – from pick pocketing and bribery to overtaxation and large scale corruption – do we need to ignore in order to see our returns?

The only thing that seems to be growing consistently is the rage rumbling and bubbling beneath the skins of the people and how aimlessly it continues to be manifested.

50 years of this build up will surely amount to a revolution for the better…right?

Or are we doomed to just being grateful for our existence instead of celebrating our freedoms?

Happy Birthday Kenya.

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