“…the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve.”

Barrack Obama’s inspirational Inauguration speech will be remembered for a thousand different reasons but a few lines in particular caught RJ Eskow’s attention:

“… we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united…we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.”

- Barrack H. Obama (20, Jan 2009)

In an OpEd for the Huffington Post, RJ looks at what that pargraph means to the developing world by quoting AllAfrica’s Wambui Mwangi beautifully written peace that suggests had Barrack Obama been raised in Kenya, he’d be at far greater risk for his safety. Wambui cites many examples of bright progressives that were cut down for trying to do just that, move Africa forward.

I am finding it very difficult to join in the jubilation about Senator Barack Obama. Not that I want to deny the man his victory, but my impulse to celebrate keeps deflating on the idea that the best thing that happened to little Barack was not growing up in Kenya…If he had grown up here, and had he somehow managed to retain most elements of his current self, he would have been another outstanding, intelligent and competent Luo man in our midst: and he would have been killed.

Yes, we would have assassinated a Barack Obama if he had remained ours, with us, one of us here in this schizophrenic cauldron we call home. This is not going to stretch the imagination of any Kenyan - after all, when we had that incredibly good-looking and charismatic home-grown hero, Tom Mboya, we shot him to death.

And when that austerely intellectual and elegant leader, Robert Ouko, threatened to look overly intelligent to the world, we killed him too. We killed Pio Gama Pinto and we killed JM Kariuki. There is no reason to suppose that Barack Obama, whose integrity of purpose and stringent sense of ethics even his enemies concede, would have survived his Kenyan roots.

HE IS MUCH TOO INTELLIGENT, TOO charged with the promise of history, too bold in his claim to a shining destiny, too full of the audacity of hope, for us to have let him survive. Kenya would have killed Barack Obama…

Being Kenyan, however, we prefer to drown in the pettiness of our parochial quarrels when at home, and if one of us threatens to be too hopeful, too ambitious, too intelligent, too creative or too inspirational to fit into our trivial little categories of hatred and suspicion, we kill them, or exile them from our societies, or we just cause them to run away inside, hiding from us and from themselves the grandeur of their souls, the splendid landscapes of their imagined tomorrows.

Nothing but the worst for us, at home.

That statement resonates all too fully. The history of brutal, power-hungry leaders across Africa perhaps reflects a need for politicians to be more cunning and more forceful and intimidating than their enemies. Intellect is not an asset, Wambui’s peace suggests, as did the movie THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND (2006), a fictional and slightly exaggerated account of the life of Ugandan president Idi Amin. Wambui’s essay however, illustrates that people are aware of a need for change and that’s a good sign for Kenya, it’s a good sign for us all.

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About the author: Jonathan Gosier is a UI designer, software developer and writer. He currently lives in Kampala, Uganda where he incubates and invests in East African entrepreneurs as the CEO of Appfrica Labs. He's also a TED Fellow.
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