London is burning, will Kenyan leaders learn?

In this part of the world, news of riots in London are surprising and shocking. It is inconceivable that the first world and the godfathers of democracy can turn to riots, violence, looting and hooliganism for any reason at all.

One cannot even imagine that the London metropolitan police is somewhat overwhelmed (and the prison cells full) by the hundreds of young people turning up for the riots.

We are almost getting self-righteous about the whole fiasco. At least we riot for a cause. The Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans and Syrians are out on the street for a noble cause. What about the London youth? From the international press coverage, one may be fooled to think that the London youth are just in it for the DVD players and 'HD ready, 42" plasma TVs.

However, on digging deeper, the London youth are probably in it for a higher cause. Sample this from Penny Red, a London blogger;


Most of the people who will be writing, speaking and pontificating about the disorder this weekend have absolutely no idea what it is like to grow up in a community where there are no jobs, no space to live or move, and the police are on the streets stopping-and-searching you as you come home from school. The people who do will be waking up this week in the sure and certain knowledge that after decades of being ignored and marginalised and harassed by the police, after months of seeing any conceivable hope of a better future confiscated, they are finally on the news.

Riots are about power, and they are about catharsis. They are not about poor parenting, or youth services being cut, or any of the other snap explanations that media pundits have been trotting out: structural inequalities, as a friend of mine remarked today, are not solved by a few pool tables. People riot because it makes them feel powerful, even if only for a night.

People riot because they have spent their whole lives being told that they are good for nothing, and they realise that together they can do anything – literally, anything at all. People to whom respect has never been shown riot because they feel they have little reason to show respect themselves, and it spreads like fire on a warm summer night. And now people have lost their homes, and the country is tearing itself apart.


Noone expected this. The so-called leaders who have taken three solid days to return from their foreign holidays to a country in flames did not anticipate this. The people running Britain had absolutely no clue how desperate things had become. They thought that after thirty years of soaring inequality, in the middle of a recession, they could take away the last little things that gave people hope, the benefits, the jobs, the possibility of higher education, the support structures, and nothing would happen. They were wrong. And now my city is burning, and it will continue to burn until we stop the blanket condemnations and blind conjecture and try to understand just what has brought viral civil unrest to Britain. Let me give you a hint: it ain’t Twitter.


The Kenyan government and leaders should be very worried at this time. In our villages and town estates, there are hordes of young people, idle, jobless, angry, hungry and with nothing to lose. They have pent up anger with everyone and everything. This is our Kenyan time bomb. It is ticking and as political tensions and temperature begins to build up towards 2012 general elections it is bound to blow up if it is mishandled.

Ukiona cha mwenzio cha nyolewa, chako tia maji so says a Swahili proverb (If you see your friend's hair being cut, prepare yours for you are next). With the first world burning, what chances are there for the third world to escape this wealth inequality and leaders callousness judgement?

This entry was posted in , . Bookmark the permalink.