My great grandparents must have cast a spell on me when it comes to Isukuti. This traditional set of shirtless drummists and dancers wearing hats made of Leopard skin drive me crazy. They do this magic perfomances in a circle. Each member holds his drum firmly by the side like a lost rib, tilts forward just a little while standing on the toes to make it easy for them to swing while dancing. Their skinny bodies expose the countable ribs which mysteriously look like guitar strings. I have a strong feeling these form part of the instruments they play because the beautiful instrumental rhythm that results gives an impression that there could be more instruments than what meets the eyes. Even when moving, they maintain the circle. Some members act as ‘eyes’ to performers who move in a reverse manner by rubbing their butts together. It looks as if the butts Hi-Five, but since there are no five fingers, just two blocks I guess they Hi-Block each other, if you know what am saying. These performers sense directions according to pressure difference on the butts as cued by the ‘eyes’.
This is what brought me to this political rally. Watching my tribe’s men make beautiful music and dances with passion and grit. In a twist of events a certain man grabs a purse from a lady about five meters away and takes off. He disappears like a flash of lightening. I moved like Mr. Flash in real life! ‘This man should enroll for Men hundred meters Olympic competitions.’ I thought. In five seconds he was fifty meters away. This was way before the lady contemplated raising an alarm amidst the ululations! All we could see were his heels patting his shoulders as his figure grew smaller!
His victory was ephemeral. As he turned to check whether anyone pursued him, he ran straight on to a tree. He knocked it with all the zeal he used to run and fell still on the ground. He tried to get back up on his feet quickly. He couldn’t make a step. I saw him stoop down and hold his knees. Like all the weight had been transferred to his head. Nairobi being Nairobi in an instant people gathered quickly, I don’t know where they came from but there was already a crowd. People armed with stones, canes, metal and all imaginable things that one can clutch and use it to hit a thing (Not even a being).
A rain of stones fell on him. They made it rain on him. In a second he was reduced to a motionless being. There was a lot of shrieks and sharply drawn breaths. Women were tightly holding their mouths, horror written on their faces, like they had just played witness to a horrific event that would forever change their lives. I remember not wanting to look at the man who’d just been hit. I remember dreading to stare at a result of men’s unfortunate handiwork he’d turned out to be. I remember thinking, “God, don’t let this guy die, not on this bloody day!”
When I finally get the spine to look at him my heart sunk. He looked like an archeological remain discovered in a pile of rocks. The Homo Sapien Sapien Pschophantae. Suddenly the mob runs back to the venue of the political rally. Back to ululations, dances, good music and euphoria. The waheshimiwas had arrived. They were welcomed heartily. The whole field had uniform T-shirts with all kinds of praises for the politicians. The whole arena went back to life. Indeed it was a ‘good’ day.
I stood rooted, unable to comprehend the flash of events that led to Mr. Flash’s splashing. I was chocked with anger. My heart bled. Could it be true that these people driven by anger about something deep down and they are just using this moment to channel it to the wrong person? Is there something more than what I saw? I felt like my whole body was being squashed by the hypocrisy of my fellow countrymen when I remembered this words by an oppressed African son,
“It is in our nature to sacrifice small thieves and elect big thieves into power!”
With an average per capita income of roughly US$1 a day, sub-Saharan Africa remains the poorest region in the world. Africa’s real per capita income today is lower than in the 1970s, leaving many African countries at least as poor as they were forty years ago. With over half of the 700 million Africans living on less than a dollar a day, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest proportion of poor people in the world – some 50 per cent of the world’s poor. And while the number of the world’s population and proportion of the world’s people in extreme poverty fell after 1980, the proportion of people in sub-Saharan Africa living in abject poverty increased to almost 50 per cent. Between 1981 and 2002, the number of people in the continent living in poverty nearly doubled, leaving the average African poorer today than just two decades ago. The 2007 United Nations Human Development Report forecasted that sub-Saharan Africa would account for almost one third of world poverty in 2015, up from one fifth in 1990 (this largely due to the dramatic developmental strides being made elsewhere around the emerging world).
Life expectancy has stagnated – Africa is the only continent where life expectancy is less than sixty years; today it hovers around fifty years, and in some countries it has fallen back to what it was in the 1950s (life expectancy in Swaziland is a paltry thirty years). The decrease in life expectancy is mainly attributed to the rise of the HIV—AIDS pandemic. One in seven children across the African continent die before the age of five. These statistics are particularly worrying in that (as with many other developing regions of the world), roughly 50 per cent of Africa’s population is young – below the age of fifteen years.
Adult literacy across most African countries has plummeted below pre-1980 levels. Literacy rates, health indicators (malaria, water-borne diseases such as bilharzia and cholera) and income inequality all remain a cause for worry. And still across important indicators, the trend in Africa is not just downwards: Africa is (negatively) decoupling from the progress being made across the rest of the world. Even with African growth rates averaging 5 per cent a year over the past several years, the Africa Progress Panel pointed out in 2007 that growth is still short of the 7 per cent that needs to be sustained to make substantial inroads into poverty reduction.
On the political side, some 50 per cent of the continent remains under nondemocratic rule. According to the Polity IV database, Africa is still home to at least eleven fully autocratic regimes (Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, The Gambia, Mauritania, Rwanda, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda Eritrea, Gabon, The Gambia, Mauritania, Rwanda, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda and Zimbabwe). Three African heads of state (dos Santos of Angola, Obiang of Equatorial Guinea and Bongo of Gabon) have been in power since the 1970s (having ascended to power on 2 December 1967, President Bongo has recently celebrated his fortieth year in power). Five other presidents have had a lock on power since the 1980s (Compaore of Burkina Faso, Biya of Cameroon, Conte of Guinea, Museveni of Uganda and Mugabe of Zimbabwe). Since 1996, eleven countries have been embroiled in civil wars (Angola, Burundi, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Uganda). And according to the May 2008 annual Global Peace Index, out of the ten bottom countries four African states are among the least peaceful in the world (in order, Central African Republic, Chad, Sudan and Somalia) – the most of any one continent.
Why is it that Africa, alone among the continents of the world, seems to be locked into a cycle of dysfunction? Why is it that out of all the continents in the world Africa seems unable to convincingly get its foot on the economic ladder? Why in a recent survey did seven out of the top ten ‘failed states’ hail from that continent? Are Africa’s people universally more incapable? Are its leaders genetically more venal, more ruthless, more corrupt? Its policymakers more innately feckless? What is it about Africa that holds it back, that seems to render it incapable of joining the rest of the globe in the twenty-first century? It is me and you friend. We sacrifice small thieves, and elect the big thieves into power. Entrusting our goats under the ‘Noble’ leadership of Hyenas and Leopards. Then when the Leopard eats our goats, we kill our neighbors.
Back to Mr.Flash, the idiots killed him. We killed him. You killed him too, with your vote. Next time, Vote wisely!