Friday, June 26, 2009

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin

The other day, I came upon a matatu. It had a beautiful black sticker that read: “I feel nothing!” At first, I dismissed it. Then I began to ponder over it. And, at this point, I realised that something was happening.

That, in fact, the "junk prophets" are hard at work. They are "junk" to the King, but real to the people. Their temple is not decorated; their message is graffiti. And this is what they are telling us: “I feel nothing!”

One of them heckled the President on Madaraka Day. Of course he was dismissed as another "kumbafu earthling." Yet beneath his action was a prophecy. As a photo-journalist, he had travelled the country taking photos of beheaded people and burnt churches last year. The world recognised his courage and art.

But deep within, he remained disturbed. By the time he was heckling the President, he "felt nothing!" And, as Francis Imbuga wrote in Betrayal in the City, “… when the madness of an entire nation disturbs a solitary mind, it is not enough to say that the man is mad." In fact, I am entertaining the thought that the hecklers could be prophets; the type President Kibaki refers to as "junk." And their message to the President is simple: “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.” I need to explain this message through a story from the Bible.

King Belshazzar was a bad man. His father, King Nebuchadnezzar, was even worse; before he died, he had raided the temple of the house of God.

From there he took vessels of gold and silver. One day, his notorious son, King Belshazzar, held a party with his lords, wives and concubines. Then he remembered the vessels taken from the temple. He asked for them. And, in mockery to God, he ordered his wives, concubines and lords to drink from them. At that very moment, a hand appeared on the wall and wrote this message: "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin." It meant, “God has numbered your kingdom and finished it; you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting!” That very night, the king was slain.

The message of the "junk prophets" to the President is therefore this: The writing is on the wall. Because of his action, or lack of it, blood was shed. And what is more: nothing has been done to address the causes.

Similarly, nothing has been done to stop a repeat. In sum, and like Belshazzar, the President has been weighed in the balances and found wanting! He can ignore the writing on the wall if he wants to. In fact, he can even behead the prophets and castrate the poets. Bottom line though is this: You can kill the messenger, but not the message. A disturbed "junk man" who "feels nothing" will always come back with the same message. And the more you "castrate" them, the bolder they will become. But what is at the basis of this anger? I have an hypothesis. The Kibaki presidency is built on deceit.

The 2002 MoU was a lie. And, if we fought last year, the MoU was the "original sin." Then we had the 2007 elections. No one won. Yet the President was sworn in as the winner. This was the second lie. In fact, this is the lie on which the grand coalition is built.

No wonder it has become a "bastard" government in the eyes of the people. But there is a third lie. We want to continue from where we left in 2007. And we want to do so as if nothing happened. Zero! We cannot write a new constitution or build a new political order on the fresh graves of the people we killed. Not so fast.

To do so is to be escapist. The contentious issues identified by the committee of experts this week are just woolly. They are the constitutional issues of 2005. The constitutional question of the moment is this: Who killed our women, children and brothers? And how will we stop them from killing us in 2012 and beyond?

Good people, the Waki List has to go to The Hague pronto. John Michuki told Parliament that we needed a local tribunal so that "… we can control it." Then he changed tune when he realised that he had revealed their undercover intentions. In sum, we do not trust the mainstream system. And this is what Kofi Annan does not get.

He should be told the following: We are not having a local tribunal. Not in August; not in January next year, not ever. And to pressurise the principals on this is to ask them to bribe the MPs. In fact, if the decision is changed by Parliament, it is because the MPs will have been bribed. The instruction to Mr Annan, therefore, is simple: Hague Express! What about this doesn’t he understand?

Or maybe he is telling us something with his delay. Maybe there is no list. It is also possible that the list has big names on it. Who knows, the two principals could be on the list! And, if this is true, Mr Annan’s hesitation must be explained. It has nothing to do with us; it is about protecting their clean "environment." They would not want to send President Al-Bashir of Sudan and President Kibaki of Kenya to The Hague now, would they? Bad politics. This is why he is desperate for a local solution. But our instruction to him is to keep it real. If President Kibaki and Mr Odinga are on that list, so be it. In fact, it is good for the country.

The other source of frustration is the fact that we are dealing with the wrong things. We are writing a constitution, instead of establishing a covenant between tribes. Instead of getting to the root causes of our crisis, we expect our problems to disappear. In the meantime, our ethnic passions are getting entrenched as coalition partners pretend to bond in retreats. Like the Kibaki presidency, we have also become a lie. And this is why we must listen to the "junk prophets." When they tell us that “I feel nothing”, they are telling us something. What is it?

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