From the Editor’s Keyboard

Our people have a long history of self-hatred

14 September 2006 at 07:15 | 1696 views

"Today, our inferiority and regard for foreigners as superior to us is total and instinctive. Indeed, the older our independence gets, the more mentally enslaved we become, not by the efforts of the West but our own."

By Koigi Wamwere, Guest Writer.

Since the white man set foot in Kenya in the 19th century, consciously or unconsciously, Africans have had to wrestle with the problem of self-image.

Like other people, our self-image is what shapes our destiny. Before slavery and colonialism, we lived at peace with the world and ourselves and had no problem with our self-image.

But when the white man came, enslaved and conquered us, he embarked on a process of eroding our self-image and pride to maintain his conquest. Through laws, the media, religion and education, he taught us that we were inferior and he superior. Now we accept our inferiority and self-hate and seek more.

Knowingly, we get less African the more we imbibe foreign education and religions. The Mzungu has certainly bewitched us!

For many years, freedom fighters resisted cultural conquest while loyalists, home guards and the Western-educated accepted it. At independence, Kenyans thought that with the exit of the white man and the coming of independence, they would recover not just their stolen lands but self-image. They were wrong.

When colonialism formally ended in 1963, the white man’s cultural and ideological conquest did not vanish. African caricatures of Western political parties, civil service, parliaments, courts, schools, churches and media perpetuated, promoted and perfected the white man’s ideology.

Today, our inferiority and regard for foreigners as superior to us is total and instinctive. Indeed, the older our independence gets, the more mentally enslaved we become, not by the efforts of the West but our own.

And most unnaturally, the more enslaved, the more we loathe liberation. We now have become a nation of self-haters and self-enslavers. And here, I am not talking about individual self-hate. You may love yourself, but be a self-hater if you believe your kind is less able and others are better.

The malaise of our collective inferiority has sunk into depths of great shame. We have lost our confidence. We seek foreigners’ approval in what we do and say. We consider something said only when foreigners say it. When they walk half-naked in New York or Paris, we walk naked in Nairobi. Whom they crown, we make a hero. Whom they attack, we kill. We seek them to anoint us as leaders. Without them, we feel impotent!

Oppressed nations look up to the youth for salvation. For youth to liberate, however, they must desire freedom more and be less mentally shackled. Unfortunately, this is not so in Kenya and I hope I am wrong.

When I look at three recent generations - Mau Mau freedom fighters, perpetuators of the White man’s values after independence and today’s youth - the oldest are the best, the youth the least inspiring.

Black Europeans are, however, our worst enemies. They made a whole generation - their children - robots in the delusion that they can be white. Their worst crimes are adulation of foreigners and things foreign, worship of money, self-interest, ethnic myopia and mind conformism.

A good example will suffice. Recently, the Kenya Football Federation kicked out our national team, Harambee Stars, out of the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, and invited the better-known Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions to practise at Kenya’s best stadium.

Instead, the national team was taken to Ruaraka, a field not as good as Kasarani. It mattered little that at the time, Harambee Stars was preparing for a match with Eritrea. In the end, Kenya lost to a team that had been dismissed as minnows.

I was surprised that the media found it odd. What KFF did is what we all do all the time. Though United States Senator Barack Obama has done nothing spectacular other than that he has a Kenyan father, when he visited Kenya recently, our media put him at a pedestal with Jesus, the Superstar.

They followed him wherever he went, covering his speech at the University of Nairobi live and generally giving him inordinate coverage in the papers and on television.

The Kenyan media gave Senator Obama coverage they or American media would never give a Kenyan MP, President, Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai or South African nationalist and former President Nelson Mandela or any of their own.

Momentarily, I thought they believed an American senator means president-elect and not the American equivalent of a Kenyan MP. When they said they found him, "a born leader, star quality with youthful looks and deep-voiced", I wondered why the qualities in Obama were not noticed in the other countries he visited, including South Africa.

Mr David Mendell, the American journalist travelling with him said of the senator in South Africa: "He could walk down the street without any trouble. A few people noticed and said: ‘This is that senator’, but nothing more."

Why did the Kenyan media see more in Obama than others? This is because he, like the Indomitable Lions, is foreign and successful. That is what we worship. Before Senator Obama were the Artur brothers. For weeks and months, all we heard from the media before some ended in their laps was Artur Margaryan and Artur Sargysyan.

The notoriety of the Armenian brothers may have deserved some coverage, but no Kenyan equivalent can get pages and pages of coverage, week after week.

The foreign suspects got far more coverage than the good works of great Kenyans such as Prof Ngugi wa Thiongo, Prof Ali Mazrui or Dr Calestus Juma would ever get. To our media, flamboyant foreigners with suspect credentials deserve preference over unassuming Kenyan greatness!

I cannot conclude without mentioning Sir Edward Clay, the former British High Commissioner, another foreign darling of Kenyan media. When Clay lambasted corruption, Kenyan media gave him tonnes of coverage as if they were hearing it for the first time. They applauded more loudly than when a Kenyan said the same.

We may agree with whatever foreigners say, but there is something seriously wrong if an issue makes sense and a song sounds sweet only when a foreigner says or sings it. It is time we stopped being parrots and apes of other people. Otherwise, we will remain behind, poor and crippled.

About the author: Koigi Wamwere(photo) is a Kenyan writer, human rights activist and politician.

Special thanks to professor Abdul Karim Bangura of Leonenet-UMBC for bringing this article to our attention.

Source: The Standard newspaper, Nairobi, Kenya.