Messy Mashujaa

Messy Mashujaa

mashujaadayIt’s “Heroes’ Day” in Kenya, Mashujaa Day, and one of my Kenyan heros, journalist Macharia Gaitho, just displayed our time’s most painful paradigm: hypocrisy.

Like many long-lasting, courageous journalists in Kenya Gaitho is analytical and penetrating, seemingly nontribal, usually grumpy but without fail calls a spade a spade.

Today he berated his country’s national holiday in its most widely read newspaper:

“Unfortunately, we no longer celebrate our mashujaa, our heroes. We celebrate tyrants and thieves.”

Mashujaa Day was a social compromise of Kenya’s fabulous 2010 Constitution. Prior to then, “Kenyatta Day” and “Moi Day” were celebrated much as Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays were once celebrated separately here.

Jomo Kenyatta was the country’s first president and Daniel arap Moi was its second. Mashujaa Day combines them, as we combined our presidents’ birthdays into Presidents’ Day, but goes further than we have.

Mashujaa Day extends the celebration to the average bloke who perhaps without any notice helped to create a better Kenya through self-sacrifice. This addendum to the celebration was added because Kenyatta and Moi represent the two most powerful (although often opposing) tribes without acknowledging the remaining 40% of Kenyans.

“Mr Kenyatta … thought Kenya owed him all its riches and spent a bit too much time ensuring perpetual riches for his heirs.

“The Moi regime … [was] one [of] a rapacious orgy of slash-and-burn economics.”

Here’s what’s important in Gaitho’s roast of his national holiday: For some at first inexplicable reason, he ends today’s column (after seven asterisks) with the following:

“I really fail to understand the Obama doctrine. Syria and Iraq are in danger of falling to Isis, that monstrous Islamic supremacist movement spreading its tentacles across the region and beyond.

“But instead of backing the Syrian government against the monster, President Obama insists on a self-defeatist support for the armed rebellion against President Bashir al-Assad, that he assumes can also be used to fight Isis.

“You can’t have your cake and eat it, Cousin Barry. On this one I am with Russian President Vladimir Putin, if his military intervention is what will strengthen Assad and keep terrorists from our shores.”

Gaitho is right, history is turning out to harshly judge Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi. They were not the heroes “Heroes’ Day” intended to praise. And I’m pretty sure Gaitho will agree that neither is Bashir al-Assad.

For the record I don’t support the Obama policy in Syria, which is widely supported here. I really believe we should cut and run, and there are few on either side of our gaping American political divide who join me.

But I can’t understand Gaitho’s criticism of his first two presidents for their failure at fair governance when the real legacy of Kenyatta and Moi was that they kept the country stable and so much so that it was protected from outside forces.

So why does Gaitho now support Assad for the same reason?

Alas, heroes crumble easily in today’s extraordinarily complex world.