Kenyans in diaspora have little of hyena spirit


Perhaps nowhere is one able to experience the full bloom of African creativity than through its folklore. And how the hyena got, or to some, lost its groove is one of my personal favorites.
Allow me, if only for a moment, to take your hand and lead you into the magical world of Zungumzo ki-Africa – the African Storyline.
One day, Fisi the hyena was lazily prodding along a road having quite the time of his life. But as the sun continued to rise that morning, so did the pangs of his hunger.
Where will my next meal come from, he wondered out aloud? At that very instance, Fisi noticed two things: first, that the road ahead had forked; and second, more importantly, a whiff of something inviting lay farther along each of the now bifurcated paths.
Fisi let out an exhilarating laugh as only a hyena is wont to do. “Should I go for this meal or that?” a pumped Fisi mused? Never one to lose an opportunity, he made up his mind to go for both.
So immediately began the process of planting one leg ahead on one route, followed by the second on the other.
Fisi was undaunted by the creeping stretch-fulness. After all no pain, no gain was an adage that characterized life in these parts of the world, and he’d lived by it his entire life.
But it wasn’t long before Fisi got so strung out as to be rendered completely immobile. “The bitch,” he cursed as he tried to retrace his steps backwards.
Fisi knew that Mother Nature had thrown him a curved ball and the result was a meditation on humility. It suddenly dawned on Fisi that ‘mtaka zote hupoteza zote’ (he who covets all loses all).
Fisi wasn’t able to undo the stretch nor the marks that it left. In fact to this day his signature appearance lingers as a lesson to all African children of the importance of shunning greed, and of the virtues of a life of moderation.
What I love about the story is its uniqueness – it literally has no counterpart in any part of the globe; not among the over 1 billion folks of China, a country that gave us the wheel – no mean invention for sure; nor in Japan, Germany or Russia.
Even America, by far the most creative nation in the world, with an economy a quarter the size of the world’s can’t even come close.
Or can it?
Some, including this writer, believe that the Kenyan diaspora in America has a little of the hyena’s spirit and script in them. In curious ways, our lives in America mirror this hyena conundrum.
Many Kenyans I’ve spoken to over the years were only too happy to bid the country of their birth a final goodbye.
That cars were known to literally disappear into potholes only to re-merge on the other end was emblematic of the mismanagement of the 80s. Leaving, one felt ‘good riddance.’
But even in Africa, it turns out, good management abhors a vacuum and soon, in came an economist named Mwai Kibaki flanked by his toolbox.
Armed with an almost religious fervor, Kibaki quietly went about correcting years of misrule. The first in was free primary school education, a feat so brazen that when asked whom he would most want to meet, former US President Bill Clinton didn’t bat an eye before responding, “Mwai Kibaki of Kenya.”
In this task of renewal, the president was aided by Raila Odinga, a consummate freedom fighter who had all the scars – including two lengthy and traumatic detentions -to show for it.
Raila’s constant eye on democratic freedoms was pivotal in helping Kenya usher in a much-awaited new constitutional order.
The economy started posting impressive GDP growth rates. Soon the coffee wasn’t all that Kenyan Americans had a whiff of.
“It was so exciting to see what was happening in Kenya. That’s when I started buying land there,” confides AK who along with his wife Cecilia came to the US in 1993.
Today, AK, 64, owes a 5-acre farm in Thika, in addition to a house in Nairobi’s South C, not to mention many other plots around town.
AK just returned from a two month-long stay in Kenya where he supervised the construction of a structure on his spread. And he’s not complaining one bit about stretch.
Proudly, he tells me that it features commercial space on the ground floor in addition to rental apartments upstairs.
“I’ll be going back this October,” he confides to me. Thanks to his son who teaches computer science at the Kenya Polytechnic but still finds time to supervise the remaining construction, the cowsheds will be all but done.
“Then I’m going to populate my shamba with dairy cows. Do you know that Brookside is now offering 35/= per liter? While I’m there I plan on growing about 200 banana plants.”
AK’s story is a drop in the bucket of literally tens of thousands of Kenyan stories in America who’ve finally found religion.
Collectively this group sends over $2 billion to Kenya every year, according to President Uhuru Kenyatta, on his recent meeting with Kenyans I’m Washington DC.
And in doing so, we’ve managed to secure a slot among the top three foreign exchange inflows into Kenya.
Curved ball or not, you’re gonna have a hard time finding anyone cursing Mother Nature in these parts.


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