The endless news cycles. The myriad of opinions and hot takes. The barrage of social media misinformation and its sinister twin, disinformation. Raila this. Ruto that. Rigathi blah.
It’s a lot.
From the moment Azimio La Umoja One Kenya launched its bi-weekly mass demonstrations on Monday 20 March 2023, each day was a guess for Kenyans. The Monday demonstrations could seep into Tuesday demonstrations, while Thursday demonstrations sometimes seeped into Friday demonstrations. Some people love these non-gazetted public holidays in the name of revolution, while for others, it’s the bane of their businesses, it’s poison to their professional schedules, it’s inhibiting non-remote education, and it’s taking a terrible toll on those whose mental health is dependent on structure and a somewhat peace in the nation.
Kenya in the time of maandamano is uncertain. Nairobi especially. Hardly anyone knows whose word to trust. Save for the politicians, hardly anyone knows what’s going to happen next.
“Do I leave the house today?”
“Can I go to the CBD today?”
“Can I use the Kibera bypass today?”
“Should I go shopping in Eastleigh today?
And many more questions are swirling through Kenyan minds at least twice a week. And while it might have felt like the capital was burning, metaphorically and literally with the burning of a church and mosque in Kibra, it does not mean that you, the individual, have to [metaphorically] burn alongside it.
Here’s how to keep your mind stead amidst the politics of chaos.
- Have a CPM (Clear Movement Plan)
Unless you’ve made the conscious decision to actively demonstrate against the government of the day, do not walk into the line of danger. Keep abreast of areas occupied by demonstrations and avoid the temptation to spectate, lest you accidentally find yourself with a nose and eyes full of teargas. When you spot heavy police presence during your movements, seek an alternate route. Even as an active demonstrator, it would be prudent to protest where the police aren’t. If anything, you’ll be able to protest, if at all.
- Turn Off The News Intermittently
Turning off the news does not make you unpatriotic, I promise you. An endless projectile of updates on the demonstrations, destruction of property, injuries, deaths and the overall sorry state of the country can be overwhelming to the nervous system. It’s okay to log out of Twitter. Nobody will vilify you for switching the live TV streaming tab in favour of Netflix. Mute your WhatsApp notifications. The course of history won’t change if you don’t know everything that’s happening at any given moment in real time. You’ll be fine.
- You Don’t Have To Engage If You Don’t Want To
Maybe you’re a Baba diehard: questioning the truthfulness of the electoral processes. Or maybe you’re just another Kenyan frustrated by the rising cost of living, inflated taxes and what feels like a spendthrift government looting the system. Perhaps you’re a Kenya Kwanza loyalist, sympathetic to a government still in its infancy. Resentful of a disruptive opposition inciting maandamano.
Or maybe you’re a middle-ground guy – because elections prove that politics divides Kenya into two (or three if you count the non-voting block), where one man’s Raila is another man’s Ruto – understanding where both camps are coming from.
Engage. Unpack. Vent about the socio-political climate to a listening ear or on social media (without being a nuisance). Or don’t.
You don’t have to take part in ascertaining who’s right and who’s wrong if the lines between right and wrong, with respect to the state of the nation, seem blurry to you at the moment.
- Do Not Ignore. Observe. Feel
Observe the patterns of demonstrations. Observe when they are peacefully protesting within their constitutionally-accorded rights. Observe when opportunists are using this crack in the political-democratic order of things to loot property and harass citizens. Feel the collective rage and disappointment of a nation whose promises go unfulfilled. Share your feelings at your own discretion but most importantly, feel the emotions moving through this country’s collective conscience, and in your own personal conscience too. Stop when it’s enough!
- Take Care Of Yourself. Even If The State Isn’t Taking Care Of You
We can’t pretend that the tumultuous state of the nation is anything other than far from normal. Still, you can choose to be grounded in your own personal sense of normalcy, for sanity’s sake. Keep to your routines of self-care. Prioritize health and self-preservation. Drink water. Be centred within yourself, even as the country’s centre feels like it isn’t holding. Continue your journey of growth as a person, even as growth in the country feels stunted. Strive to know yourself, even as the future of the country lies unknown.