October 23, 2018

The On Kenya, Off Kenya Patriotism Switch

Flag wave

By Hilda Kaguma

The IAAF World Championships held in Beijing this year provided a much needed injection of pride and patriotism to Kenyans. Divided along tribal, political, social and economic lines, the Kenyan team at the tournament reminded us about the one important thing that defines us all; Kenya.

Our political elite took some time off their busy schedules (filled mostly of what seems like mudslinging and inciting and dividing their electorate base) to respect what the athletes had achieved. The keyboard warriors (Kenyans on social media) called for a ceasefire to take a day or two off from their field of combat to post their congratulatory messages for our new heroes.

His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta led Kenyans in congratulating the team. Positive messages were posted on his Twitter account. The Deputy President also posted several messages and pictures on Twitter and Facebook while former premier Raila Odinga posted an article on his website praising our deserving heroes.

In truth, the team’s performance was exceptional. To come out on top of countries like the U.S. despite the fewer number of events we were participating in is a tremendous achievement. Our very first medal in a field event which was won by Julius Yego is something that will never be forgotten. The ‘YouTube athlete’ recorded the best throw in 14 years and the 3rd farthest throw in the history of the event. Yego started trending almost immediately on social media as he shocked not just Kenya but the world.

That feeling of patriotism was somewhat short-lived however as about a week later, the men’s national football team took on the Chipolopolo from Zambia in an African Cup of Nations qualifiers match. For those who live blissfully unaware, we lost 2-1 at the Nyayo Stadium. Kenyans certainly did not hold back their bile as we ridiculed the Harambee Stars after the final whistle. The joy and jubilation after our early goal was wiped away before half-time by the two admittedly sloppy goals we conceded.


Despite Zambia being the 2012 African Champions, a competition we have not competed in since 2004, majority of fans somehow still expected an easy win from the home team. The Stars worked hard, left everything on the pitch and rather than give them the plaudits they deserved we mocked them and mocked ourselves. After that one game it appears we have already thrown in the towel despite still having four more matches to go. Where was the Kenyan spirit then? Where was that pride we had a little less than a week prior? There was neither a word of encouragement nor disappointment from our top leaders. It appeared everything was back to business as normal. #TeamKenya, #HotbedOfChampions, among other triumphal hashtags disappeared fast into a sinkhole.

So are we fair-weather Kenyans? Do we only identify ourselves proudly as Kenyans when we win but quickly hide our flags when everything is not so rosy? There is no reason why we should celebrate our athletes, women’s volleyball, 7s rugby, Lupita Nyong’o, Barack Obama then not back the other teams when they return with tails tucked. We need to celebrate with the teams when they win and support the team when they fail. There is no doubt it can be frustrating, but being Kenyan is not something that we should switch on and off depending on our every whim. In Jeff Koinange’s old slogan, we should be ‘all Kenyan, all the time’.

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