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Thursday, April 03, 2008

What Language Is Used?

One commentator here today posed an interesting question that I would like to take up and ask Kenyans because it is important that we all know the answer to this question.

When the Safaricom IPO was being discussed in the corridors of power, what language was being used?

When John Michuki and now George Saitoti are being issued with instructions on how to shoot to kill and torture ordinary Kenyans (evidence is now rapidly emerging of military atrocities in the Mount Elgon region with killings and the kind of torture that makes the CIA look like kindergarten kids), what language is used?

When critical issues are being discussed amongst the most powerful in the Nairobi Stock exchange, what language is used?

When the most inner of the inner cabinet meet to discuss how to deal with “Raira” and those stone-throwing “Mjaruos”, what language pray you tell me is used?

When the issue of vetting ODM cabinet choices (and not PNU because they are all pure and holier than thou) first came up, what language was used? And as the reaction to this well timed demand is being monitored, what language is it being monitored in?

Are you in Nairobi… or Mombasa? Go now to the CBD and hang around listening to Kenyans talk. What is the most common tongue you will hear?

When Martha Karua misses her appointment at Serena Hotel and instead goes to State House instead to receive fresh instructions, what language does she communicate in and what language does she receive the most emotional parts of her instructions in?

What language does the President discuss the most sensitive issues arising from his regular NSIS briefings in?

When the inner cabinet is discussing strategy on how best to play for time and generally frustrate the ordinary folks and indeed the law concerning a grand coalition government, what language is used? When they discuss how the Safaricom IPO is more important than the IDPs, most of whom voted for them blindly in the last general elections (and most of whom speak the same language as they do) what language do they use?

What was the language of choice in the first Kenyan cabinet as ministers discussed amongst themselves waiting for the president Kenyatta to come in? This is what forced Daniel arap Moi, then the VP to take a crash course in this beautiful and well loved language. Luckily the late Tom Mboya who was in the same cabinet, had already learnt it and could even speak it fluently. And that’s because most of his constituents spoke the language.

What is the language of choice of the hardliners within the Kibaki administration?

My dear brothers I do not need people to hurl insults at me or throw stones. I just need a simple answer. If you do not know, just say, I do not know and keep your venom to yourself. Please.

Let me finish this post with two short stories of what happened to me on two different ocassions. I used to work for this monthly business and finance magazine as the editor. The owners of the publication spoke this language and one day I felt pity for a graduate who walked into our offices who had been jobless for many years. I recommended that he be given a chance in the sales and marketing department, the only place where a vacancy existed. Before I knew it, this guy (who spoke the same language as the owners of the magazine) was in the accounts department, and voila before I could say “what is happening?” discussions were being held between the owners of the publication and this accountant whom I picked off the streets, about my conduct. It was of course being conducted in that language. It did not matter that I rescued the publication from the jaws of bankruptcy and made it extremely profitable within a period of less than 3 months.

Actually in all my time at the helm of the business monthly, no article I wrote personally or published in the magazine had a single comma changed. But one day I did a cover story about the controversial language we are discussing here and the community involved in general. The owners demanded that I change the cover and leave out the story.

I was mad as hell, but ninge-do?

Then when my son was born and I went to the maternity hospital to see my wife, I had barely spent two minutes in the place when my in-laws came. They greeted me in Kiswahili and then switched to that language. One of them snatched the baby from my hands and the language filled that entire bed-side as they chattered away excitedly completely ignoring me without whom what had just happened would never have happened.

I was mad as hell, but ninge-do?

Actually I did do something. I walked out of that hospital and was never seen again until several days later when my wife called my office (there were no mobile phones in those days) asking me to come and clear the bill at the hospital and bring her home. I obliged.

I love my in-laws but nita-do?


Anonymous said...

Interesting Brother, That is the norm or culture?, Well I rememer the Dyas of Mio speciffically at Egerton University. This is known to many so I wont bore you up with the story again. The fact is Languages have been used negatively in our society and I don't foresee a change soon Uhuru used it to stop his people from killing in Nairobi recently. Well poor you about your wife and newborn, at times we have had to contend with the absolute loss similar to yours, sasa nitado? Well that is life.

Anonymous said...

Interesting too i might add...Mandela is on record to have once said, to speak to a person's heart, you speak to them in their mother tongue. Our (as a people) main problem is the negative use of our diversity. I'll selfishly hold, that i don't know what language "chief" here is referring to BUT let those that do not use their "language" to throw the first stone.


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