Inspired by (no longer fellow delinquent blogger) Mama Junkyard.
I grew up with a father who was a politics junkie – no surprise that I become one myself. He did not live long enough to see the end of the Moi era, so most of my memories of political discussion in my household involve epithets being hurled at Moi or at the news (which especially in the 80s was really Moi). Also have memories of me helping him find the BBC or VOA on the shortwave radio, because this was the closest Kenyans could get to independent media. And you had to listen with the volume low, with copies of Gitobu’s weekly paper hidden (and my mother in a panic), because you didn’t know who was spying and when you could get labeled as a Mwakenya member.
My very very first vivid political memory though is of the coup in ’82. I was five years old, schools were closed for August holidays.
I had been sent to the duka (store) to buy bread and milk in the morning as per the norm. The store closest to the house was out of milk and I really wasn’t going to be the bearer of that news to my mother (a did you check all the other dukas “conversation” would have ensued) so I walked a bit further to the next duka. As I’m paying for the milk, I hear gunshots. At first we – me, the duka guy, people milling around as they do in estates – we surprised, it was so out of the blue and bizarre. Next thing, we’re all in a panic and running for cover. I ran back home, I think leaving the change behind at the duka.
TV only came on at 5:00 pm, so everyone turned on their radio to try and figure out what was going on. In the meantime, soldiers from Lang’ata barracks were flooding the estate (we lived in Madaraka not too far from the barracks) looking for good knows what. I think the coup plotters had taken over KBC radio by then and were announcing the coup/playing martial music. The soldiers (army) I believe started shooting people indiscriminately. We were all instructed over loudspeaker to lie down in our houses. Anyone caught peeping outside their windows would be shot. It was terrifying.
Meanwhile, we had no clue where my dad was. He worked the nightshift at the airport – target number 1 in any coup. We found out later than he had run smack into the soldiers when driving back home and had been arrested in held by them for a couple of hours, because he didn’t have his idea. He was later released under circumstances which I now forget.
I remember being cooped up in the house for a day or two, and then leaving to go and see the bodies of people who had been shot within the estate – most for having not having an ID, wrong place/wrong time, looking out through their windows. My uncle worked at the Air Force and was charged with treason like all Air Force officers it the time…it took his siblings months to find out if he was dead or alive and where he was being held. He eventually did five years even though he had zero to do with the coup. It was a scary scary time.
What was your first political memory? Please indulge me.