I was dismayed to see Embakasi East MP elect Babu Owino being arrested for calling an unidentified person mtoto wa umbwa. First, I couldn’t make out what exact crime the maverick had committed until I heard he had been charged with subversion. Subversion? What’s that? How can calling an unidentified person mtoto wa umbwa lead to the fall of a government? Well, let the courts decide that. But in our sociopolitical culture we do not have something like that. Instead of being thrown into some small dungeon, Babu Owino should have been taken to a makeshift podium somewhere in Mau Forest and crowned as an elder in an elaborate ceremony. That is how we treat our heroes.
What Babu Owino said was just balancing a scale and showing us that freedom of speech is enshrined in the constitution which is enjoyed by all side of the divide. That you can invent a word like umbwa, and leave a whole nation discussing it as to what it means. Some say it is a dog, so the unidentified person was called ‘son of a bitch’, which translates to abusing the unidentified person’s mother. Babu clarifies that actually mtoto wa umbwa is a puppy. Just the same way one would call you, mtoto wa ng’ombe, to mean calf. These interpretations are normal in our usually charged political system, where social media makes the most out of it especially when idle.
When Raila Odinga used to give us doses of vitendawilis, he was never arrested. He was never seen to be subverting the state. He would calmly call unidentified persons ndumakuwili and the persons who thought were being targeted would come out mouths blazing, but none of them would be charged with subversion, because this is our political culture. In fact, they would start calling him muguruki or madman. Now, between being called a madman and a puppy, I would gladly choose the latter. Especially when it is the President calling you that.
You see we always hear the President call the Supreme Court judges, wakora. To quote him, President Uhuru insists he will continue fighting Maraga and his wakora, thus saying, Nitaendelea kushambulia Maraga hadi atuonyeshe ni njia gani aliweza kufanya maamuzi ya ukora. Those are the kinds of leaders we want; leaders who have the courage to stop at nothing in expressing themselves because we are humans and we all hurt when our hearts are broken.
If we could get all of them to parliament, and we are striving to achieve that, then no one will stop us from preparing a huge pot of busaa under a large mugumo tree to celebrate. We want Moses Kuria, that guy who called for the assassination of Raila Odinga and the rounding up of people who voted against the current president. We want Kalonzo Musyoka who tells us the truth about our names betraying us. If you want something else, please find your own country and form your own government. For us, we are satisfied with Kenya, where a crime only becomes a crime depending on who has committed it, and at the end, all will be freed to continue with the freedom of speech.
Lalani Mbela is a lover of history and literature. Keep it here to read more of his satire.