This is a unique year but our politics stays awfully the same

Thursday December 03 2020

Grade Four pupils from Moi Avenue Primary School in Kenya's capital Nairobi wait to do their assessment on October 21, 2020 following the phased opening of schools. Schools have been closed for most of the year due to Covid-19, with most offering online learning. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


December is approaching and we can now begin to see the end of 2020. Almost a whole year has gone with children out of school.

These are the kind of things that we have probably prayed for in our childhood to happen; not to the extremity of a whole year, just a day.

Being sick for a day — even by faking illness — and missing school was something that many children fantasised about.

“Listening to my fellow panellist speak and I wonder if we live in the same Kenya?” This was something that I blurted out during a Zoom call on some of the measures that organisations are making to sustain themselves. Some of the information that was being shared by a development agency was the number of people it had been able to support through community outreaches.

People are wearing face masks and companies are finding new ways to sustain themselves during these new normal.

I was impressed because during a walk to the neighbourhood supermarket, I would count people with masks rather than without.


This reminds me of the time I had a conversation with a childhood friend. We had met for a brief catch up and she was explaining how she hates seeing road roadblocks because police always find something wrong. And with the curfew, encountering the police is so common during curfew hours.

And there’s something else that she said that really caught my attention: ‘‘It’s the bribes that work me up. I can be pulled over for absolutely nothing, they see that I look Indian and harass me. Like the other day, I was talking to my father, and he told me he had to pay Ksh2,000 ($18) because his driver’s licence looked old.” I remember stopping her from starting another sentence, and asked, “Wait, What? Did I hear you right?”

And she continued, “Yes, you know, the licence, red looking booklet, it looks faded and he was told that he could not drive around with a faded looking booklet. It looks old.” And I was confused, as she continued with her story, that such stories are so common, every member of her family has some crazy story about being pulled over for ridiculous trumped up reasons, and most of us bribe, because we don’t want anything to do with the police.

There are many things we can talk about being uniquely 2020, changing how we function tremendously. But what appears to be constant is our politics heading in the wrong direction.

Talk about the economy, public debt and measures ordinary people are taking to survive — people are desperate. But Building Bridges Initiative will have no problem thriving, come rain or sunshine.

Nerima Wako-Ojiwa is the executive director at Siasa Place @NerimaW