The mission to Canaan did not begin with the National Super Alliance in 2017. The Opposition armada, under the leadership of liberation icon Raila Odinga, change advocate Musalia Mudavadi and the gentleman of politics Kalonzo Musyoka, was reclaiming a mangled dream.
The dream of a national haven inspired the struggle for political independence decades ago. The struggle against land alienation, forced labour, taxation without representation, forced recruitment of African men for colonial wars and ‘kipande laws’ preceded Nasa.
Freedom icons Ojijo Oteko, who founded the Kavirondo Tax Welfare Association, the Nandi leader Koitalel arap Samoei and Harry Thuku of Kikuyu Central Association, had a vision of a Canaan 77 years before Nasa arrived.
But even among the pioneers there were denialists. The collaborators were the mambas blocking the road to Canaan. But their resistance, betrayal, and treachery did not dim the expectations of a Canaan.
The promise of a Canaan was the rallying point for the nationalist movement. The message of a possible Canaan had a huge emotional appeal. The victims of colonial rule bought into the Canaan dream and believed in the cause.
Right-thinking Kenyans know it was, and still is, a cause worth living, fighting and dying for. Many died while trying to throw out crocodiles from the route to Canaan. Mau Mau and World War II widows are symbols of this torturous mission. The pre-Independence Canaanites identified three enemies: Eradication of ignorance, disease and poverty were the ultimate goals of the struggle.
Political independence from colonial rule was supposed to prepare the ground for the mission to Canaan. Not literally a land flowing with milk and honey, but one sensitive to the needs of its citizens. A government by Africans, for Africans, was expected to be sensitive to the needs of the oppressed. Yet crocodiles are hurdles on the quest for a just society. They are shedding crocodile tears. They are paying lip-service to the war on corruption. Political independence came in 1963, when the ‘British crocodile’ was evicted.
The Mau Mau war of independence, the militarised arm of the freedom movement, was a complementary, strategic roadmap to Canaan. Then followed the emergency years of the 1950s. The arrest and detention of the Kapenguria Six – Jomo Kenyatta, Paul Ngei, Achieng’ Oneko, Bildad Kaggia, Fred Kubai and Kung’u Karumba – was an attempt to sabotage Mission to Canaan. The freedom icons knew the road to Canaan was crocodile-infested.
When Jaramogi Oginga Odinga wrote Not Yet Uhuru in 1967, he was affirming a truism that has since assumed a monstrous hue. The fact, known to patriots, has been the subject of a controversial imagery for months. Raila Odinga set the agenda for the discourse. Of course there were, and there are, crocodiles on the road to Canaan. The conscientious appreciate impunity, corruption, arrogantocracy, election rigging and electoral violence are hurdles on Route Canaan.
Beneficiaries of impunity do not want free and fair elections. They do not want to free the masses from ‘prolonged stupidity’. When Raila says the journey to Canaan has been deferred until the crocodiles are thrown out of the ‘River Jordan’, he is making a profound, patriotic statement. When he speaks about the ‘Handshake’ and Building Bridges Initiative, he is giving a strategy of ejecting the crocodiles from Canaan Road.
In 1963, Raila’s father, Jaramogi, and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s father, Jomo, were on the right side of history. Today, the sons of the founders are advancing the dreams of their fathers. They are building bridges so Kenyans – Nasa, Jubilee and the rest – can reach Canaan. It takes arrogantocrats to miss the truism.
Denying the hurdles on the way to Canaan, even with the evidence of history, is reactionary. It is an attempt to rewrite the narrative to suit the denialists. Facts, though, are self-evident, solid, incontrovertible and stubborn. The mission to Canaan – a land free of mass poverty, diseases and ignorance – has not stalled. This is the message behind the Canaan metaphor.