I want to remind my dear reader, of the powerful words of two great Americans in gone times. “Some things are right, and some things are wrong. Eternally so, absolutely so.” These were the words of Abraham Lincoln, in his 1858 debates on slavery, with his arch rival, Stephen A. Douglas. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would echo Lincoln’s message repeatedly, during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60’s. Some things are right, and some things are wrong.
Recollecting Lincoln’s struggle against slavery, Dr. King famously said in 1968, “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon of hope to millions of slaves, who had been seared in the flames of whithering injustice.
It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But one hundred years later, the coloured America is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the coloured American is still sadly crippled by the manacle of segregation and the chains of discrimination.”
King saw the plight of the African American of 1968 in the imagery of the recipient of a dud cheque. The founders of their nation, in 1776, were compared to benefactors who left a promissory note to their heirs. But when taken to the bank, it was returned with the words, “insufficient funds.” Hence African Americans continued to “live on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”
They languished “in the corners of American society.” They lived in the shameful condition of “exile in their own land.” The recent death of George Floyd has once again dramatized this tragic truth. It has mattered little that Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, a hundred years before Dr. King’s famous “I have a dream” address of August 1963.
Nor has it mattered that Lincoln paid for the proclamation when the tragic drama of his life came to a sudden end, in 1865. Confederate conspirators wounded him fatally as he watched “Our American Cousin” on the evening of 14 April in a play theatre. He died nine hours later. This has not mattered. It has not stopped four policemen from sadistic death dramas in which African American lives are taken away like rats’.
Floyd died under the sadistic knee of a White policeman on a Minneapolis street on May 25. The ensuing protests, everywhere, remind us that we have learned little. Nearly 160 years after the Emancipation Declaration, little has changed. Not even the reign of an African American President in the White House has served to restore faith in the 1776 America promissory note. George Floyd has been served a bad cheque. It has been returned with the words, “Refer to drawer. Insufficient funds.”
But it is not just our American cousins who trapped in this plight. Back home in Mother Africa the more things change, the more they remain the same. And I will go with the Kenyan case. Nearly three score years ago, the founders of our nation brought a great beacon of light and hope to the new Kenyan nation. They promised future generations that justice would be their shield and defender.
Three score years later, injustice reigns. The pillars of the institutions of justice are tested every day, with ever mounting tenacity. The court of justice is starved of hands and minds to do the just work. Court orders are themselves held in spite. The lords of impunity look at them with eyes of jaundice and scorn. They approach the call of duty with contempt and mockery.
On the one hand, they decry the slow pace at which the wheels of justice roll. On the other hand, they refuse to carry out the sacred duty of swearing in judges, who have been methodically adjudicated for appointment. They give vague sounds to the effect that the nominees are defective. The entire lot and caboodle is defective?
But, even if there were individuals, will we not be given their names and the names of their defectiveness? Manases Kuria, a departed Kenyan primate, famously told us, “People are known by names.” And the celebrated Ellen G. White, an Adventist poet, petitioned us to call sin by its name. Will not the Kenyan Executive name the sins in the Judiciary? Will they not call the presumptive sinners by name? And if the task be beneath the office of the national Chief Executive Officer, will not his officers in the advisory corridors of law name the sin and the sinner alike?
Some things are right and some are wrong, eternally so. This is the third consecutive column in which I am naming President Uhuru Kenyatta as sinning against Kenyans. His is the sin of abdication of responsibility and the sin of succumbing to the slippery appetite to amass more power and plot to kill independent institutions that balance power. In this, the President negates the promissory note of 1963 and the subsequent flickers of hope, as Kenyans trudge on this treacherous path.
At another level, I have reminded you that I serve as the Secretary General of a political party. Every so often I have received unsolicited advice, “Get your party leader to talk to President Uhuru to bless him for the presidency in 2022.” And I have wondered aloud, “Really? Bless him to continue taking the country to the wrong place?” What Uhuru is doing to Kenyans is wrong. Eternally wrong, absolutely so. The impunity in the Executive is wrong. It does not matter that the baton should be passed on to another Uhururite. It will still be wrong, eternally so, absolutely so. Our country must raise its head from the soft satiny pillow of apathy, to demand better standards.