The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon dismissed the commanding general of the UN peacekeepers. A UN report had concluded that the July attacks on a civilian compound and a site which houses UN staff was due to a lack of leadership on the part of key senior mission personnel and it culminated in a chaotic and ineffective response to the violence. This sounds sensible enough. But it gets complicated: the General happened to be Kenyan. President Uhuru predictably threw a characteristic tantrum over the issue and ordered Kenyan troops out of South Sudan.
Ban Ki-Moon may be bemused by this, he needs a lesson on Kenyan culture. I will give him one.
Mr. Moon, in Kenya no-one is held accountable for anything. When things go wrong, it is never anybody’s fault especially not the leaders’. Our leaders only take responsibility when things go right. They pat themselves on the back, on the cheeks, everywhere, especially the pocket. When things go right, you will see Kenyans lining up to be feted and praised and commended. Had the July fight that went wrong and caused the firing of the General gone right, the General would have received accolades and praises from none other than the President himself. A journalist with nothing better to do and looking for a story would have hunted down the General for an interview. He would have done an article titled, “Kenyan General teaches the world how to do it”. The editors would be happy with him and put the on a centre-spread in one of the feature magazine inserts starved of celebs and people of value. To be sure, he would have been in the Mashujaa day list next year. Mashujaa day is our version of Heroes Day – and we fete one and all, even those who were simply working in the line of duty.
We live in a country of rights with no responsibilities and obligations. In fact Mr. Moon, the word accountability is an alien word here and no-one is ever held accountable. We ushered in a new Constitution in 2010. And it gives Kenyans rights without any corresponding responsibilities and obligations. If you read our Constitution Sir, you will find certain interesting facts and you could partly understand why we do not hold people accountable for anything, and why you pissed-off our President.
The words “right(s)” and “freedom(s)” appear more than 340 times (including in the appendices) in the Kenya 2010 Constitution. The words “entitled” and “entitlements” appear 19 times most in reference to citizenship. The word “responsibilit(y) (ies)” appears only 16 times and none in reference to citizens The word “duty”, appears 3 times only, the word “obligation(s)” appears twice in regard to citizens. You may imagine that military service is a sacrifice and that those who serve there should know as much. Unfortunately Mr. Moon the word “sacrifice” does not appear at all in the Kenya 2010 Constitution.
Please do not take offence over the tantrum from our president. That one is like that. He himself will take responsibility for nothing, even when it is going wrong in his own office. He tells Kenyans that it is their problem and even reminds them when he goes on foreign trips in exotic lands like Israel. He says that we Kenyans have skills. Skills like stealing and tribalism. And to confirm as much, he runs one of the most notoriously tribal and corrupt government independence Kenya has ever seen. And when some disgruntled Kenyans shout too much, he convenes a PR circus called “Statehouse Summit”. There no one takes responsibility for anything, least of all him. He asks his juniors “Sasa mnataka nifanye nini jameeni”. (Translation: What do you fellows want me to do?) Ma! (Translated from Kikuyu, the Presidents vernacular as: True story)
So understand his anger. He had not expected you to be so unreasonable as to hold a Kenyan General accountable for lapses that occurred under his watch. That is a very un-Kenyan thing to do. I know you claim there was a report. One that implicated the leadership and you had to act. “Aah ripoti ni kitu kidogo” (Translated: A report be a small matter) Reports do not mean much to the Kenyan establishment. They have never meant much. Don’t get me wrong. It is not that we do not do them. We do. But Mr. Moon, imagine you take those things called reports too seriously. Here, they are done and presented to the President with fanfare, speeches, photo-ops including selfies. They flip through them and if they do not like them especially because they are almost always implicated or their own business, political and other interests are threatened, they are thrown in the dungeon, forever. And with a flip of the hand they tell each other “Hii ni upuzi gani, sisi ni serikali bwana” (Translated: What nonsense is this, we are the government man). It you go to the government archives you will find a stack of them; Goldenberg, Ndun’gu, Ouko, Akiwumi, TJRC etc etc.
The President thinks the problem with you is imagining that you must act on a report. Don’t you have shelves or archives in New York where you sit? Hey Mr. Moon, wacha kuweka sura ya kazi kwa hizo reports (Translation: Stop putting face of work when it comes to the reports). They are not to be taken seriously. They are for PR. “Rudisha General wetu kazi.” (Translation: Return our General job).
So, Mr. Sec Gen, I hope you understand why our President was annoyed with you. Here we do not hold people accountable, we only take responsibility of things that go right and we do not take reports seriously. By the way, we hear there are war crimes in South Sudan. We hope that you are not planning anything stupid. Like taking anyone to ICC. And if you do don’t let our President know. I can already tell you what his response will be: “Bwana Sec Gen, ati ICC, heheheheheheheheheheeee”. I am not sure I need to translate. The language of laughter is the same the world over. Welcome to Kenya the land of the free. So free that we are free of accountability.
If you want to appease our feisty President, Mr. Moon, return our General job!