Last year on July 9th 2015, to be precise, Kenya's foremost activist, Boniface Mwangi , did the unthinkable ;He released a controversial clip featuring him in a mortuary, casket and finally cemetery. He talked of his death. While celebrating his birthday. Uncanny.
Before you die, Mr. Boniface Mwangi, I want You to remember this One thing
But he's also dangerously courageous, unbelievably fearless and unfathomably daring.. And that's what makes him a star. A hero to many and a Western magnet.
Even by Boniface's standards, that video was a little off... A little too much and a tad too unnerving. But it is Boniface Mwangi anyway, a man who has had a chequered career shouting down leaders at National rallies, decrying the sorry state of affairs in the country, calling out unscrupulous, wealthy Government officials, launching guerrilla verbal attacks at Presidents and storming Government institutions to call for better service delivery and the eradication of impunity, corruption and excessiveness.
He's been hauled to dirty jails one too many times, he's endured brutal beatings almost every month,he's been bloodied and bruised, he's been a target of the Government for ages and he's had his life put in mortal danger every single day...
He's, I have said before, the male -even more fiery- version of the unbowed Wangari Maathai.
Boniface is unrelenting, bold, vicious, outright,indefatigable and amazingly invincible... Or so it seems.
But on July 9th, which is his birthday (He's quite a young man, by the way) Boniface, the Numero Uno provocateur, decided to celebrate his big day in an even bigger way- By musing about his death, reflecting on his very short journey on Earth, waxing philosophical and entreating the Nation to look into herself, find meaning in life and embracing selflessness. All this in a 2 minute video that depicted him DEAD. Yes, DEAD and in a coffin... No less.
I watched the video and cringed. Millions of other Kenyans did too.
But for someone who lives the dangerous life that Boniface lives,constantly surrounded by enemies,merchants of death, hired mercenaries and vicious enemies of accountability,you would do such a video too... If you had the courage.
Fast forward to 2016. And Boniface is mired in a messy legal tangle with one of the most fearsome and feared political behemoths in Kenya - His Excellency, William Ruto, the Deputy President.
His David vs Goliath-like beef with the Kalenjin kingpin has definitely put his life in danger. And attracted a lot of media attention and political backlash.
But Boniface remains unbowed. And characteristically combative to the end.
Those that know William Ruto know that he's definitely not a saint. And also, many sort of agree that this man is not one to mess with. Especially if you value this vain thing called being alive.
Still, Boniface pushes on. And he's just won round one of their court battle. But more is to come.
Going back to the video too him in his coffin... We see a lot of mortal danger for this young, feisty leader of the art conglomerate Pawa 254.
But Boniface... As you face your death... Here's a little SAD reality.
Despite the obvious fact that you've fought tooth and nail for this Country, put your young life on the line for millions of voiceless Kenyans, risked the safety of your family for a Nation's sake and risked, a billion times, plunging your wife to a 'Widow' status and having your kids grow up without a father, the same people you've worked so hard to liberate, these same downtrodden folks you've fought so hard to elevate, these same oppressed fellows you've risked death to save,will NOT REMEMBER YOU. Heed your word, follow in your footsteps or keep your flame blazing.
It's sad, but it's true.
Kenyans are NOT known to keep a word too long... We are not famous for idolizing our heroes for long, we are NOT known for keeping our word and we are known to immediately forget a hero once they've been lowered into the grave. And once the dust has settled... Literally.
We are great social media supporters... But not so great offline. We are good at cheering our heroes on on the Internet, and doing very little with them-or for them - off the Internet.
How many times have you organized-even rehearsed-how to shout down leaders at a National rally with your crew, a crew that played along all through, a crew that promised to stay in sync with you, only to arrive at Uhuru Park and BE THE ONLY person standing up to heckle? What happens to your crew? The crew that comes with you, sits with you, plots with you only to finally chicken out, as usual, and leave you on your own mechanisms? Watch you get dragged - and gagged- to the nearest, filthiest Police station?
Kenyans will NOT REMEMBER YOU...
They will applaud you on Twitter. And shun you in the streets... They will promise to show up at a protest on Facebook but chicken out on the material day.
Boniface Mwangi being arrested after a protest gone bad in Nairobi
They will urge you to go for the Government, they will push you to storm Parliament but if you ask them to accompany you, as it happens in Thailand, Spain, Brazil, India or Indonesia these cowardly rats will NOT show up.
They'd rather sit comfortable in their cosy homes and watch you get clobbered -and bloodied- on their 52'' plasma TVs.
They good at lip service... And extremely poor at walking the talk.
They didn't know WHO Wangari Maathai was until she won that Nobel prize. And after winning it, again, they forgot her. Yes, even after that global prize, her own people in Tetu, Nyeri still REJECTED her. And didn't re-elect her in 2007. Yes, even after that monumental prize, our President still couldn't be gentleman enough to make her a FULL Cabinet Minister in his Cabinet... Only relegating her to the less glamorous and ambiguous 'Assistant Minister Of Environment' docket.
We mourned after she died.. Forgotten, dejected and hopeless.. And got back to our daily hassles quick... Forgetting her struggle, her passion and her legendary brevity.
Boniface, these people will NOT REMEMBER YOU.
These cowards will NOT remember you... They will not name their kids after you, they will NOT quote you in schools, they will NOT write books about you or do films about you.
They will NOT.
Wangari Maathai plants a tree in Nairobi with then-senator Barack Obama
As you prepare to die, beloved brother, don't count on these cowards.. These Twitter warriors and feeble Facebook militias... Don't count on them.
Fight for them... But always remember they're a lousy, thankless lot.
Just like Wangari Maathai, Raila Odinga, Koigi Wamwere, Martin Shikuku, the poor Kenneth Matiba and Rev. Timothy Njoya, they'll forget you quick. Move on from you... And bury you even before your body rots in that grave.
Unlike you, they lack your courage, your zeal, your fearlessness, your dedication and your outlook.
As you prepare to die, always remember that your work will DIE with you, your teachings will DIE with you, your struggle will DIE will you, your legacy will DIE with you and your courage will DIE with you.
It's unfortunate. But sadly true.
Wangari Maathai was there....
Thank you for your work so far, Brother... But remember to live right, stay put and state focused.
And even though you don't do it to be idolized... Or celebrated, always remember that these people will not put up memorials for you. Or sing songs for you.
But fear not... You will have lived right. And done right... And that's all that matters.
May you NOT die soon though... There are people who are NOT worth dying for... Really.
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