By Ekakoro Emm
KENYA: AFRICA’S IDIOT-EAT-IDIOT SOCIETY
The other day I came home to the village to find that my mother had brought home a young Ugandan lady to help her with bits and bits of work.
Most of you know what I’m going to say next. The famous kneeling regime…. Never greets you while standing, always serves food while kneeling, you know, the whole works. The total opposite of the Kenyan woman who faces you, arms akimbo and spewing insults like a mjengo worker.
I must confess all that kneeling embarrasses me. I can tolerate the first one even though I wish even that were not there. But then it’s simply a clash of cultures. When I greet her she goes tongue-tied because she’s unsure how to respond. I’m a man, older, and technically her boss. On all those three levels, it’s not supposed to happen. She’s supposed to be the one greeting me, putting on all the display. I on the other hand am simply doing what I’m used to: I say hi to anyone I encounter regardless of status.
Now, the casual observer from outer space would think how egalitarian and free Kenyan society is. How grovelly and subservient Ugandans are. How such grovelling behaviour isn’t good for modern development. They would all wish to be Kenyan.
Until the observer from space realised that in Uganda, no one sleeps hungry amidst plenty. There are no cartels importing maize and sugar and milk and eggs and fish. That infact Uganda comfortably exports those things to its next door neighbour Kenya who has killed her own local textile industry and then taxes apparel importers out of business as if they have a local industry to protect. Ditto for sugar, maize, name it. Ugandan unprocessed milk and eggs are literally hawked in Kenyan villages, provided the greedy cop who himself sneaks to Uganda to buy them, doesn’t catch up with the hawker.
The observer would learn that at the ighest hint of food shortage its Ugandan food that comes to its rescue. There are no cartels kiing local industry and agriculture and importing mercury-laden sugar from Brazil or maize from Mexico or eggs from South Africa and then derisively advising the godforsaken farmer to try avocado farming. And that when things get too tough to bear it’s the Ugandan beer the Kenyan in the border counties and beyond runs to to forget their problems temporarily.
Kenyans repeat the Late Julius Nyerere’s description of us as a Man-Eat-Man society with a chuckle like it’s something they’re proud of, laughing off their neighbors as slow and unenterprising.
No, we’re a country of idiots who are too gluttonous and know not when and where to stop. We eat everything in sight. And we think it’s cool. It’s cool until like the Irish Kilkenny cats, we’ll eat ourselves until only the useless and lifeless tails will remain.
While everybody in the world is striving to run away from such greed, Kenyans embrace it and are obsessed by it. Maybe we need to be colonised afresh, this time by fellow Africans who will teach us brotherly love.