Wednesday, May 09, 2007

STATE OF EMERGENCY

(His conscience pricked, this blogger visits with his old Kiambu cronies and ‘in the cutting of a drink,’ as always, rediscovers that many years since the end of the State of Emergency, to be a young Kikuyu man is still a crime.)

Even the smallest successes are to be celebrated but never at the expense of the things that matter. The Kenyan Urban Narrative was about a people, a dispossessed urban majority.

It was about letting the stories that remained untold, because the mainstream media couldn’t package them into a commercially viable product, be told. Stories about real people; the putting of faces behind the incomprehensible Donor Driven statistics: x % living below the poverty line, y Million youths lack ID cards, z % remain unemployed and live in informal settlements.

The journalistic exigencies of the 5 Ws and the H of journalism and the literary demands of form and structure were of no consequence in these narratives. After all, the story was of more value than the writing; was bigger than the story teller. Always was until people began to listen and suddenly the writing became larger than the real life stories Sooner than later the pursuit of issues was replaced by the carnal experiences of the one protagonist who rose beyond the statistics: Me.

So here I am, my conscience pricked and the school of hard knocks still in dire need of an ambassador. The streets, they say, have been a little safer since Matheri’s death but then the question remains: safe for who? The social economic variables that drive a certain demographic group into crime, especially that of a violent nature, remain in play. The guns might have gone silent in your neighbourhood but elsewhere, in the squalid domains of the Proles, they are still a blazing; machetes are still a flashing.

It is with all these in mind that Monday morning found me with loads of change and a desperate need to assuage my delirium tremens with more alcohol. (Dawa ya moto ni moto!) But this time round, I didn’t walk into Uchumi and buy myself a 750 of rum, as I have taken to doing these days, no; I made my way to the crime capital of Kenya’s crime capital, Kiambu.

***

It is 8.30 am on a Monday morning. Those who are gainfully employed are out there trying to afford their Labour Day beer; those without jobs are in here drinking in lieu.

I am sitting at the head of the table at Mbuthia’s Hardware and General Store. Well, Mbuthia’s Hardware and General Store is what the sign up front says, but once you walk into the shop; past what passes for hardware in Mbuthia’s crooked mind and ‘crude weapons’ in a court of law, you go through a side door into a dimly lit chamber. That is where I am seated; holding court before a bunch of characters whose names I know but who police generally refer to as: Suspect, Idler e.t.c.

And the conversation here is intellectually stimulating:

“iii Potash, shias… shias!”

“Cheers House! Wee… Shiku, letea yeye Kane Extra ingine.”

“Ee, dio dio… na ulete pia hiyo kitu yako na ulipishe huyu… hehehe… ni kapoa eh? Anyway, shief, can we appry the Socratic Method to the adage In Vino Veritas?”

“Uhm, well actually I have already used Cartesian logic to conclude that I drink therefore I am.”

“Hehehe… you are another one Potash, I tell you. But I like that wani. In fact I wiro rove it if you say: We drink therefore we are. Yes, WE. In Africa we never forget the We. It is about Ubuntu as Madera would say!”

“Hmmm”

I know where this conversation is headed: way too left for me. So I excuse myself and follow the tracks of a pungent odour to the urinal.

When I return, I find that the conversation has meandered, as all bar talk is wont to, and they are now discussing the similarities between the military tactics of Field Marshal Kimathi Waciuri with those of Ernesto Guevara.

This definitely intrigues me. In the last meeting of the Potashian Book Club, we discussed an extremely rare text, a manual on guerrilla warfare that is generally attributed to Kimathi Waciuri. It is said that Waciuri dictated it in Kikuyu to an aide. The original manuscript, no one has seen, and its translator into English remains unknown.

Other theories exist on the authorship of the manual. The most credible one is that Timi (R.I.P) wrote it circa 1995. That theory makes sense particularly because he was in boarding school in Laikipia at that time… Go figure! The reason I suppose the manual ended up being attributed to Kimathi was maybe to challenge the reader to take Kimathi’s ideology, for those that knew it, to heart.

Some theorists say that Potash wrote the manual in English and no Kikuyu version of it exists. But that theory is discounted by street intellectuals on the basis that the word Guerrilla is misplaced on the cover. (Hmmm… maybe that was a devise but who cares?)

“But El Che cannot possibly have encountered Kimathi,” I jump into the conversation. “Besides in matters ideological the Mau Mau was not a communist movement, and neither was it nationa…”

My oration is interrupted by a brief commotion that sees the door burst open and six heavily armed men in jungle fatigues and red berets pour into the bar area.

“Mau Mau..eh eh eh… Hii ndio Mungiki kabisa,” the beefy unit commander yells. “Na hii ndio kiongosi!” He adds pointing his ex-shifta battalion Heckler & Koch MP5 at me.

“Kila mtu lala chini…” he continues yelling. “Kiprono ita Sergent!”

There are about five tables in the bar and they all empty as everyone dives onto the alcohol and mud streaked floor. All the tables empty apart from ours. Our table is ten deep. And we remain seated sipping on our drinks with decided nonchalance.

The constable who answered to the name Kiprono returns and busies himself with trying to salute cock his AK 47 and at the same time salute the lanky Somali with Sergeant stripes he has just brought back.

“Hi ni ile Israeli trained commando, eh!” Mbuthia observes.

“Ahhh…” I chuckle, “ile ya Israel inasimama kwa mlango ya choo ya rais!”

The loud guffawing that follows drowns the cacophony of menacingly cocked assault weapons.

Sergent Somali orders everyone who is lying on the floor to squat and hop out in a single line under the armed guard of two constables and the beefy corporal. I cannot help musing if there is such a thing as Indian frog file… and make a mental note to use that phrase in my next blog post.

Sergent Somali approaches our table.

“Nyinyi naona dume, eh?” He laughs while adjusting the frayed string that passes for a shoulder strap for an equally battered Uzi Sub.

“Wewe ati ndio Kiongosi…” Sergeant Somali addresses me. “Ebu leta kitambulisho…!”

I stare at him outraged. In the background, the radio is playing Cross That Line and Akon is moaning monotonously:

...Comin' from a life of crime
Tryna be on my best behaviour
You see my rep's gettin' bigger but still that same nigga bustin' shots at them haters
But only if you cross that line...


“Anauliza kitambulisho Kwani anataka kunadika sisi kazi?” My boy Mbuthia wonders out loud.

“Hapana, anauliza kwa nini hujavaa kipande kwa shingo; Kwani yeye ni Native Police?” Mburu (BComm, UON), an off duty makanga chips in sarcastically.

Over the ridges yonder in Banana Hill, the soundtrack must be from Ice-T in Cop Killer:

F**k the police, for my dead homies.

F**k the police, for your freedom.

F**k the police, don't be a pussy.

***

Skip sequence of events that involve me being told to stand aside and the conversation I have with Sergeant Somali as he chews miraa and dandias my gaffs while his boys order my boys to strip. Note that I tell him I am a social researcher gone underground to find out how a quasi-religious entity turned into a social-economic monster and its ramifications on Kenya’s political economy and related blah blah blah. Note also that it seems the Government of Kenya has a theory that mungiki adherents wear shorts and not briefs.

***

We, Sergeant Somali and I, are standing outside Mbuthis’s Hardware and General Store. I take a huge gulp from my half bottle of Kibao Vodka and extend the rest to Sergeant Somali. He spits out a huge Big G-less tuksin and swigs the vodka. He throws the empty bottle at the township’s Madman in Residence and misses.

The main street is empty. Two green General Service Unit trucks stand, one on each end of the street. Heavily armed officers watch over long lines of young men being loaded into the trucks. On the sidelines a huge group of women screaming: where are you taking our sons?

This is 2007 but it could be this same place at this same time in 1953. The only difference is that, in 1952, that young officer charging violently at his own people was a minion, in the starched shorts of the Native Police, taking orders from a crazy Johnnie. But he is grown up now… he is a big man in a suit and a plush Harambee Avenue office.

He won his independence and his people won dependence on him.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

First time reading your blog, very articulate! I enjoyed the way you described the situation in full detail.
Keep up the good work.

mwari said...

I have tagged you-to write a post on 7 things about yourself!

Boy genius said...

great stuff once again.... I have this feeling you're about to write about campus riot.... please

boy genius

Bomseh said...

This is deep interesting read.

I have also tagged you.

LPC said...

I like your blog, sincerely.