I remember an incident after I had just finished high school, I received a random call requesting me to participate as a respondent in an opinion poll. The researcher asked whether I thought Kenya was going in the right direction, to which I responded a big yes. She asked whether I thought the economy would improve, and I responded with another big yes. Of course a few years later, I was to be proved wrong, and when I remember the opinion poll incident, I laugh at my naïve optimism.
You see, I had just finished high school, and I was lucky to find a small job. In that job I was everything from receptionist, to messenger, personal assistant, sales girl and assistant accountant. For all that, I earned a mere 3,000 KSHS. Despite the low pay and lack of a proper job description, I was highly optimistic about the future. I was young, and I believed that the world was mine for the taking. My youth presented boundless opportunities, and I felt lost for choice.
The next time I experienced such optimism was in 2002. This time, my optimism was shared by the entire nation. Mwai Kibaki had just won the election, declaring him president, and putting an end to Moi’s 24 year dictatorial rule. This was the culmination of our jubilant singing “yote yawezekana bila Moi” (all is possible without Moi). At that time, Kenya was considered the most optimistic country in the world. We believed there was no greater fortune than to be Kenyan at that time. The future looked bright and promising, and like we had declared in song, everything and anything was now possible. We dreamed and imagined of endless possibilities.
Like my youthful optimism, this optimism has faded among most Kenyans, and many now cling on to false hope to keep going. The middle class cling on to middle class comforts and seek to maintain status quo. Even if they pay taxes, and have to secure everything privately, it is ok, as long as they can afford the private education, healthcare, security and all other services. The masses cling on their ethnicities, with the belief that once their own is in power, their fortunes will change. Those whom ‘their own’ have clinched power, believe that they are superior to those who haven’t. Never mind that they experience the same challenges; increasing costs of living, poor housing, unemployment, and poor basic services.
Both have chosen to despair, resigned to apathy, and decided not to understand the struggle for democracy or value the gains delivered to us by the Constitution. While this happens, the Constitution is being watered down slowly but surely. One day we shall look back and not recognise the country, or understand how we got where we will be. Then it will be too late. But until then, let us enjoy our fallacious hopes.