The “legacy” of Mwai Kibaki

We know journalists will soon begin to obsess over what is the legacy of Mwai Kibaki, Kenya’s 3rd President since Independence. Kibaki has to stand down next March (when elections are scheduled in Kenya) after two terms in charge (including a disputed December 2007 re-election). It’s hard to make sense of the politics around Kibaki’s “legacy.” Legacy truncates. Legacy is very often mis-remembering. I mean, anyone who’s ever gone to a retirement party can attest to this. Retirement parties also remind me of funerals: eulogies remain the best lies we tell (ourselves) about ourselves. Legacy is the same, so that Rosa Parks is not months and months of community organizing and preparedness, and broad base movement building, and political action, and coordinated effort and sacrifice, but rather that lady who refused to surrender her seat. This is legacy, which is why I’m not certain it is important.

Kibaki’s legacy is that he represents schooled/rational violence. Kibaki is our London School of Economics guy. Unlike Daniel arap Moi the unschooled dictator, Kibaki is a dependable neoliberal technocrat. His legacy is clear: be it the disarticulated neoliberal expansion that he is praised for, or the normalization of state violence through the “rational” deployment internally of the military and the police to subdue and torture for the peace. And sure, Kibaki’s legacy can be reduced to post-election violence, even as I am uncomfortable with the singularity of post-election violence.


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