A lot has been said and written about Donald Trump’s recent ‘shit-hole’ comment. The Jubilee regime, in a bizarre defence of Mr Trump, has stated that it has no issue with the comment because Kenya was not directly mentioned.
That is not surprising given its unspoken views of Kenyans as expressed in the way it kills us extra-judicially and willy-nilly when we protest against it, or when we welcome leaders they do not like at the airport. And if you are poor and accused of even petty theft, your life means nothing to the regime.
Any regime that so blatantly steals from its people, which encourages monopolies in the cellphone and dairy industries, which allows the police to extort wherever they can, and which sees our lives as dispensable is clearly in tune with Mr Trump.
To its credit, Botswana was the first country to officially take issue with Mr Trump’s comment, calling in the US Ambassador for a dressing down. It is empowering when a small country is clear about its pride and dignity. But then, of course, illegitimate regimes do tend to suffer from reduced confidence and dignity!
One of the better analyses of this comment is in Foreign Policy by Dayo Olopade, a Nigerian in the diaspora (see: https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/01/17/american-shthole/).
He warns Americans that with Mr Trump in power, they better get ready to see America become just like the shtholes he condemns, given that he has the makings of the dictators and authoritarian leaders who have turned African countries into shtholes!
Be that as it may, and no matter how angry or sad we may be about these comments, how many of us share these same views when it comes to tribe or gender or xenophobia? We often get distressed when racial attacks are made that dehumanise or reduce us, but are we also guilty of similar views when it comes to tribes or gender?
Is there much difference in referring to Africa as 'sh..thole' countries when some of us refer to some communities as “nyamu cia ruguru” or animals from the west? And what about those who think that circumcision is a necessary attribute for leadership even when we know — or should know — that there is no correlation between genitalia and brains and leadership?
After all, the communities that circumcise are a minority in the world and some of the greatest leaders in the world have been uncircumcised men and women.
It is similar thinking that makes many of us men feel superior to women. I still vividly recall a conversation at the University of Nairobi’s CCU in the 1980s, just as we were graduating, when a friend of mine stated that the first requirement for him in selecting a wife was that she “must respect me firstly because I am a man!” I asked him if he would respect her first and foremost because she was a woman and his shocked face is still clear in my mind!
How many of us think that some communities should never produce the president even if we do not say this publicly? The 1969 oathing ceremonies for the Agikuyu were based on the belief that only they could or should ever lead Kenya. While that is almost 50 years ago, the underlying sentiments have been passed on across generations in some form.
Of course, the more sophisticated types will mask their true sentiments with statements that seem specific to particular candidates, for example, that they do not agree with a candidate’s views on rent-controls for the poor, which they view to be more painful than the actions of their favoured candidate that promote, facilitate or condone corruption or killings of protesters and the poor.
They pretend that trickle down laissez faire capitalism is best for Kenya, knowing full well that it has never worked anywhere and also knowing full well that the continued domination of the presidency by two tribes only spells disaster for the future.
None of us asks to be born in a specific race, gender or country. It is all an accident of nature. But if we believe that this accident comes with inherent superiority then we are no better than Mr Trump.