I’ve been watching the goings on in North Africa. Or, to be more accurate, I’ve been reading about it on Twitter. I don’t watch the news because it’s depressing. Someone is always getting killed, being hanged, or looking stupid.

Case in point. On Thursday morning, I woke up feeling really depressed over some personal issues, so I stayed in bed two hours longer than usual. When I finally gathered psyche to get up, I did a quick bit of taebo to get the juices flowing. The session is 45 minutes long, and I rarely make it past 20, but I got to the 40 minute mark and I was feeling pretty buoyed.

Then, as I took out the DVD, I lingered on CNN for a few moments. Hurricane Yasi and Chaos in Cairo. Aw Crud.

I logged into Twitter for consolation and found guys going on about #Kenya28Feb and University Revolutions In Arabia WhatWhat. I followed the thread – and the link – with some caution, and found that I quite agree, or at least, I agree with MisterNV.

But the whole situation got me thinking. A few days back, when Egypt was still just Gypt and the protests were largely iconic and peaceful, I saw a woman marching with a picket sign. I noticed her because she was marching next to a little boy. He couldn’t have been more than ten, and his face was as aggressive as the rest of them. He had a picket sign as well, and he wore just as much passion as the grown ups.

I wondered, for a split second, whether I would let my princess picket with me.

As Kenyans on Twitter continued to call for revolution – or to be more apt, violent reform – my insides started to shake. I thought about my baby. I wondered whether I’d find her a babysitter, grab a banner, and head to the streets. I wondered what would happen if she happened to see the news and saw her mummy running and screaming with a bleeding head amidst plumes of teargas. I wondered what could happen if minutes, hours, days, weeks later, the babysitter hadn’t heard from me, and I hadn’t come back home.

I wondered whether instead of joining the riots, I would run to the shop and stock up on as much food as I could, then cuddle my baby, sit glued to the TV, and watch the violence as we waited it out.

I wondered if my current bank balance would allow me to do enough shopping to wait it out.

I wondered … if all this happened, how long would it be before the looting started? Before the creepy neighbour broke down my door and tried to grab what he could get? How would I protect my baby? How would I protect myself?

I wondered, if we’d been waiting it out for a while and had run out of food, would I lock my little girl indoors, tell her to hide under the bed and not make a sound while I went outside blindly to scrounge for water and food? What if I got outside, was immediately attacked and never came back? How long would she stay under the bed shaking and afraid?

I wondered if I’d risk holding her hand and going out there with her to find her something to eat, instead of leaving her alone and unprotected. What gangs of marauders and law enforcers would we meet out there, and how they would respond to a little yellow girl and dark college-looking kid with D cups and purple dreads?

One Tweeter said Kenya will never have a revolution violent reforms, because the middle class is too comfortable, and that protesting would just be a nuisance. She could be right, but my thoughts are more on the terror than the irritation.

I realize some people may call me cowardly, middle class, bourgeoisie. The woman on the streets who was marching with her son might be offended. She might wonder if I think my child is more important than hers, since she’s willing to risk him on the streets and I’m not. She might spit in my face because she’s fighting for my freedom, yet I’m not willing to lift a little painted toenail.

Not that my toenails are ever painted, mind you.

I wonder the same thing myself. I wonder if I have a right to sit here and complain, to demand the torching of MPs [figuratively speaking, of course], to yell ‘Down With Ocampo 6’ yet when it comes to putting my pickets where my mouth is, I grab my baby, push the fridge over the doorway, and pray.

You could argue, and rightly so, that my baby shouldn’t grow up in a country like this. That if we all sit quietly and shut up, then maybe buildings won’t be burned, but we’ll continue to be oppressed economically and politically. That if corruption doesn’t stop and things don’t change, then ten years from now, my baby will be alive, bitter, and jobless, then maybe she’ll be brave enough to risk her own children for reform.

You could argue that if the men and women of MauMau and Saba Saba hadn’t risked their lives and children, we’d still be wearing khaki shorts, dreading Nyati House, or drinking maziwa ya nyayo. But I still wish there some way that we could change without throwing stones, getting arrested, and sucking teargas canisters.

There are no right answers to this. I love my country, and I want to see it change. But I’m sorry guys, I’m not changing the world at the physical expense of my own baby girl.


Kachwanya has a fairly concise take on why #KenyaFeb28 didn’t take off. It makes interesting reading. I especially like Point Number 10.

5 thoughts on “Violent reform is a luxury I simply can’t afford

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