I call it the biggest, loudest, most spectacular party ever held in Africa!
All of yesterday and all of today people didn’t go to work in Kenya: they played. There were soccer matches and bingo games all over the country, Nairobi’s discos wound round the clock, and impromptu marches in the street by mad bands looking like they came from Mars.
There were feasts like you can’t believe: in the countryside fried goats stewed with paw-paw and a touch of Tusker beer! In the cities there were black-ties (that came off pretty quickly) with prime rib and Indian-spiced posho!
It was the most peaceful, exuberant loudly musical, proactive joy Africa has ever experienced!
I wish I could have been there.
Listen to the video above, the unofficial new anthem of the New Kenya: Daima Kenya.
This was the day that the country officially “promulgated” its new constitution. That might seem arcane, and the whole affair has been buried in the world’s other griefs. Kenya’s a tiny place when measured as we seem to do every moment of the day, now, in dollars.
But it has nearly 40 million people, and that raises its position on the list of nations. And the human potential of each and every one of them has been elevated even more by today.
In retrospect I realize that the election violence which followed in December/January 2007/2008 was predictable: the obvious end-result of imposing a western-style democracy on a primitive society in the 1960s that couldn’t handle it.
But there was a silver lining. That jolt to national beingness forced a rate of maturation never seen in the history of mankind. It strained two generations and came to a boiling point in December, 2007.
1300 people were killed and 150,000 were displaced in horrible post-election violence. The terrible events were nonetheless mediocre by the standards of the world’s catastrophes, and so didn’t get the attention deserved. And it was for the wrong reasons that America and the UK took interest: because Kenya lies astride terror-stricken al-Qaeda almost-controlled Somali. A Cold War game plan that didn’t work then, and won’t work, now.
But thank God for Kofi Annan, who took the reigns for the right reason. He knew Kenya was a strategically important place. Not for its geopolitical situation, but for its human potential. Our world needs a lot of human potential.
So Annan manipulated the money from American and the UK, and restrained western impatience, and in typical African fashion, he pulled off a new day a lot later than America and the UK wanted, but for a future much longer than westerners normally consider.
The greatest irony of all is that this new Kenyan constitution “promulgates” a society which is more democratic, more transparent, more accountable to the people than in the U.S..
No judge will be brought to power because of cronyism or without adequate legal training.
Women will never be paid less than men. The disabled, mentally challenged, chronically impoverished cannot be ignored by social services; every single Kenyan that walks this earth now has health care.
Pregnant women whose lives are threatened can get an abortion.
Smaller political regions (like states and counties) can’t trump basic social tenants upholding human rights, or adjust national educational goals for parochial interests. IE: Evolution will be taught in schools!
There’s no chance that the chief executive, the president, or some inner circle of power brokers can go to war without the scrutiny and authority of the legislature.
And a lot more less dynamic but remarkably imaginative stuff like multiple types of civil courts for multiple cultures; full citizenship for all naturally born Kenyans living abroad no matter how long they’ve been gone; full land ownership with extremely limited rights of eminent domain.
These are all modern democratic principles the likes of which have disappeared in much of contemporary America. So I salute Kenya as a beacon to be emulated.
These lofty principles are much more distant from the realities of implementation for a poor country like Kenya than they would be for us. That’s the incredible challenge. Some may say it’s folly to dream so high.
But of all the wonderful words in Daima Kenya, posted here twice: above in the refined version performed today, and below in its original version first produced after the horrible violence of 2007, I’m sure you’ll hear, “Tu-ma-ini” or “Hope” multiple times. “Daima”, too, which means “forever.”
Forever Kenya. Forever Hopeful.