Friday, May 22, 2020

Reawakening the literary passion and the negative ethnicity


For long, I’ve been an avid literature lover. Back then, I could read huge tomes as a pastime. Books and I were constant companions. That was long before the advent of smart phones that seems to have slowed the pace as I shifted to consuming digital content – mostly which had little to do with digital books with much of time spent on social media.

  Then came migration to digital television content and I was much of a couch potato especially at weekends glued to the screen following European football leagues with movies in between as a premium cable TV subscriber. In short, the books that made me an armchair traveller including visiting and touching distant galaxies became a thing of past. I had lost interest in smut stories, which, anyway, were imaginations of authors behind them, and had switched to watching reality and documentaries in science channels.


  As was with the case with books, television too became a bore and paying for subscription became hard as well. Not really that I could not afford to pay, but I questioned the logic of paying for premium content to be treated to repetitions of same programmes over and over until new content was added or at the weekend when the channels like sports ones would come alive with live matches.

  Such weekends would find me at social joints catching the live matches in company of friends. And here is where I found it lively to be than being a couch potato or an introverted being, which basically I’m.

  The outbreak of worldwide pandemic, the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 in China late in December 2019, saw disruption of my socializing.

  The stay at home and work from home order came at a most stressful time. But it reawakened my interest for reading just to pass time. I hunted those books I recall were good reads. Over the time, the pages had yellowed and the odd colour eye straining. It was then that I switched to eBooks.

  One of eBooks that had my attention was titled, Left to Tell. It is a testimonial kind of narrative by a Rwandan genocide survivor by name of Immaculee Ilibagiza. What Rwanda experienced mirrors what Kenya had undergone on three occasions namely 1992, 1997 and 2007 when Rift Valley had exploded like a powder keg.

  Reading the gory story where Hutus butchered Tutsis like wild game will leave a reader with bitter taste in the mouth. The sordid details where hapless victims were bludgeoned to death reflect what the Kikuyus in Rift Valley underwent during post-election violence in the three respective years highlighted above. In both Rwanda genocide and Kenya’s post-election violence, politics was at play. Whereas masterminds of Rwandan genocide have been arrested and served justice, those in Kenya since 1990s are walking scot free. The recent arrest of Felicien Kabuga in France, another financier of genocide in Rwanda, is illustration how the tiny central African nation will go in pursuing those behind the atrocities and bring them to justice. For Kenya, the pretended oasis of peace, the victims of 1992, 1997, and 2007 violence were left on own, and either shown the middle finger and told to forgive, forget and move on!

  And going by the politics of the day, will 2022 see Rift valley burn down again? Only time will tell.

  While in high school, my desk mate was a Kalenjin. When it comes to Rift Valley post-election related violence or insecurity like cattle rustling, the Kalenjin carries that badge of honour as instigators and rustlers. My desk mate, who was in a class of majority Kikuyu students, was recipient of all manners of tribal laced invectives. It seems that negative ethnicity was ingrained to many of us from a tender age and it only takes words of a vindictive politician, especially during the electioneering year, to see violence hotspots exploding in an orgy of killings.

  Immaculee, as a Tutsi, had Hutu friends who, on the day genocide commenced proper in Rwanda, turned against her as a total stranger. This observes in Kenya too when the two tribes, which coexists as good neighbours, are suddenly turned against each other. No wonder the Kikuyu in Rift Valley are to be heard saying they have a debt to pay in 2022 to guarantee their safety. Unfortunately, as had been shown in many countries, leaders are chosen at boardrooms, not at ballot boxes. Or, as Joseph Stalin once noted, those who count the votes determines the leader, not those who casts them. Think of the US imposing Juan Guaido to Venezuelans as their president, yet the latter never contested in a presidential election in that country against the sitting one, Nicolas Maduro!

  What stands out in this book is the author’s courage to meet the killer of her parents, a very trusted neighbour during good times, and looking him in the eye and whole-heartedly forgiving him!  

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Reawakening the literary passion and the negative ethnicity

For long, I’ve been an avid literature lover. Back then, I could read huge tomes as a pastime. Books and I were constant companions. Th...