By Dikembe Disembe
I have not been around for a long time. I have used my last two and a half decades through kindergarten, primary, secondary and now winding up at the university. In fact, I have not had time for myself (but really, what would I do with that â€˜timeâ€™, even if I finally was gifted with it?) and I doubt if I really will get it â€“ so much shit seem to be going on around â€“ for better, but mostly, for worse.
So we have a narrative in town, nay, in the next town. We who live in the city have the luxury to wallow in thinking about them who live in towns around the city and beyond â€“ like Kiambu COWnty, Machakos or Marigat â€“ the latter, far removed, is where those girls recently used feathers as sanitary pads, giving a chance for celebrity philanthropists in the mainstream press, like Julie Gichuru et al, to come on board and â€˜inuadadaâ€™, in the moral frenzy, raising a few million shillings for these eternally wretched poor of our time.
But I digress.
We are in Machakos County. It is the year of the lord two thousand and thirteen. Afred Mutua is the governor; while, Johnstone Muthama is the Senator. In the shadows, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta is the president and Raila Odinga is out in the warmth of the cold. The other significant entry, Justin Muturi, with a mouth that pours privileged ethnic verbiage, is the speaker of the 11th parliament. The republic, as usual, is at takeoff.
Maybe, Gov. Mutua should tell us more about this Machavibe. Maybe, he shouldnâ€™t. Who cares? But for posterity, and the fact that Senator Muthama, also a â€˜duly elected right-thinking adultâ€™ thinks he should, so we must prod. But remember, this writer has been around for a short-while; just two decades and may not be much compelling in his understanding of these things.
Gov. Mutua is a child of media publicity stunts. He is a product of the zinger, of the political soundbites that heralded this tragicomedy of now. He built the art of government propaganda to the stratosphere. When his predecessor, one Muthui Kariuki took over, it was not long before he was summarily fired (redeployed) and the whole institution that Mutua had taken half a decade building finally shut down. This man, Alfred Mutua, is a media colossus.
Because we are asking Mutua to tell us more about his machavibe at our own peril, we need to be conscious that others â€“ I here mean those â€˜development-mindedâ€™ than us â€“ may not want the story, the nitty-gritties of Mutuaâ€™s machavibe. All they want is simple: Are the skyscrappers rising?
I must confess something. On machavibe, Senator Muthama and myself are strange bedfellows. Maybe we are seeing something you are not seeing. Maybe we are just selfish. Maybe we are so stuck in the umbiliCORD that we see everything wrong with every move in the â€˜right directionâ€™ that Gov. Mutua is taking to so far. Maybe.
Comedian Eddie Izzardâ€™s satire suffices here. We were among the last British colonies to bloodily secede from the empire, and whether we fought our way out (Mau Mau) or â€˜negotiatedâ€™ it (at Lancaster) often confounds me. Like our deputy president said at Addis Ababa recently of press freedom in Africa; some things in this continent are â€œhopelessly contradictory, or at least, thoroughly confusingâ€. Machavibe is one such thing!
In Dressed to Kill, Izzard chokes you in to merriment with his take on British colonialism:
â€œWe stole countries; thatâ€™s how you build an empire. We stole countries with the cunning use of flag. Just sail around the world and stick a flag onâ€™emâ€
â€˜I claim India for Britain.â€™
â€˜You canâ€™t claim us. We live here. 500 million of usâ€™
â€˜Do you have a flag?â€™â€
Throughout last week, this has been the question that bothered â€˜usâ€™. President Kenyatta, tarry a little, donâ€™t withdraw senator Muthamaâ€™s security detail just yet. Not until Machavibe answers the little issue of the flag, this whole brouhaha about Machavibe is just that, brouhaha!
When we shift scales a bit, all we see are machinations of powerful corporations and the national government (let me not use the other name) operating in Machakos. All we see is a future dumping site of surplus â€˜strategicâ€™ labour. It is like this:
Mutua: â€œWe claim Machakos for middle and upper class people, many of them from outside this county.â€
Muthama: â€œYou canâ€™t Machakos for those people. We live here. Weâ€™ve been building this community for decades now. You just canâ€™t come into this community, claim it for yourselves and run everybody out!â€
Mutua: â€œDo you have the investors?â€
Investors are everywhere in Machakos. Both economic investors from as far beyond our seas as Dubai to our homegrown political investors â€“ they of the red carpet and the police sirens. The investors of Machakos has given rise to Machavibe â€“ a popular narrative whose themes (development, jobs, good life) reverberates far and wide. It echoes so far that the other day on twitter, the Kenyan â€˜middle and upper class peopleâ€™ social gossip site made it their â€˜trendâ€™ using the hashtag #WhatMyGovernorHasDone. Machavibe is cool.
However, the problem with Machavibe are the numerous labels it comes with; some which attempts to erase all understanding of the social, informational and political matrix of the people of Machakos. I mean the true people of Masaku.
Machavibe fits into the neo-global story of hapless gentrification which, in the long run, criminalises poverty and pushes those who will certainly be disenfranchised of their lands and community belonging deeper in the driest abyss of penury.
You see, Machavibe is presented to â€˜usâ€™ by its advocates as the physical manifestation of the miracles of public-private partnerships. The corporate â€˜worldâ€™ is in new scramble for economic partition of Masaku. Gov. Mutua is spoilt for a choice. When Senator Muthama, myself and others excavate the unstated in Machavibe, especially with the entry of big money and big brothers, our detractors, owning the means to perpetuate this grand lie, M-A-C-H-A-V-I-B-E, have deployed every available tool to silence us. To them, we are doomsayers!
In Machavibe, whole peoplesâ€™ history and story is lost in the clatter of a well orchestrated melodrama. Future odds, when the skyscraper have been built to shelter corporate headqaurters and office spaces, convention centers and high-end hotels; sports stadia and financial institutions; gated communities where those who would have made a kill quarantine their lucky kids and unlucky mannerisms. . .when all these these are done, there will be, of course, on the other end, impoverished people forgotten in the shadows of those skyscrapers, sliding precariously from helplessness to hopelessness to haplessness to nothingness.
Senator Muthama and I want that little matter â€˜of the people for peopleâ€™ sorted out. So maybe, Gov. (Dr) Alfred Mutua should tell us more about this machavibe. . .or may be, he should not. Over to you, Alfie.
Just thinking aloud people!