It was the 18th Century Scottish poet, Robert Burns who wrote in his poem ‘To a Louse’ (honestly, a louse), ‘O would some power the gift to give us to see ourselves as others see us’. Well for Kenyans that gift has all but been delivered, courtesy of the latest round of Wikileaks that reveal the views of US embassy officials in Kenya about our country and its leaders. And some people are none too happy about the picture the released documents portray.
Not least in the ‘concerned of Nairobi’ category is Gitau Warigi writing for the Sunday Nation on March 6th. ‘WikiLeaks exposes our weaknesses when in the company of foreigners’ was the thunderous headline and the article beneath it itself exposed Mr Warigi’s pretty damning view of our fellow Kenyans.
‘We become hopelessly vulnerable in the company of foreigners’ stated Gitau Wagari, and continued, ‘When they lend us an ear, or pretend to, we turn into drooling chatterboxes ready to spill out everything we know, and much that we don’t.’
‘The weakness is widespread’, said Wagari, ‘Cabinet ministers will drop everything they are doing to respond to lunch summonses from nondescript diplomats who are not even ambassadors’. And, Wagari was in his stride, ‘At diplomatic receptions, journalists and civil society types will blabber on uncontrollably…’
It was difficult to tell from the piece who were the bad guys, those wretched beguiling ‘foreigners’ or us weak-kneed blabber-mouth Kenyans.
In a side column Gitau Wagari also drew attention to the MP who has claimed in Parliament that there is a plot to assassinate her with the aid of an Israeli hit squad (it’s those ‘foreigners’ again – and why do we always think it’s the Israelis?), an accusation on which she now seems to have gone somewhat quiet.
‘The problem with living in Kenya is that one has to put up with so much nonsense’, bemoaned Wagari. He is of course, quite right.
The Forum has often before drawn attention to our national pastime (a pastime much beloved of journalists as well, Mr Wagari) of telling stories that are demonstrably untrue, which any sentient human being should be able to spot in an instant are untrue, and that we go on believing because the story is more fun than the truth (for examples see our earlier postings, ‘Lee Harvey Oswald did not shoot Dr. Robert Ouko’, February 11th, and ‘The facts of Dr. Ouko’s murder must be reported’, December 10th).
In the same edition of The Sunday Nation, Murithi Mutiga warned in the light of the Wikileaks one thing was certain, ‘the incoming US ambassador will find it much harder than Mr Ranneberger did to convince guests to come to dinner at his home’.
Don’t you believe it Mr Mutiga, and Mr Wagari, Cabinet ministers and others will continue to drop everything for to attend a lunch with whatever diplomat calls. After all, we Kenyans do not turn a free meal.
And look on the lighter side. Wahome Mutahi, in his hilarious book, ‘How to be a Kenyan’, wrote that despite many changes over the years, ‘Kenyans have remained Kenyans… They have continued to be their distinctive selves. They still defy warnings, imagine that there is nothing like a natural death and take rumours to be truer than the truth’. It would take a mutation, suggested Muthahi, for this to change and that if it did, ‘the world will lose some of the most interesting inhabitants it has ever had. It will lose people who live on melodrama, over-exaggeration and conspiracy theories’.
The ‘nonsense’ is that these silly ‘foreigners’ report it in official communiqués to their governments. The joke’s on them.