The Norwegian Council for Africa

The Norwegian Council for Africa

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Patrick Gathara

Patrick Gathara

The Religion of Development

A version of this article was published in The Star

A month ago, despite having failed to qualify for the biggest party on earth, members of Kenya's hapless national soccer team had a reason to smile. They were, after all, joining the other 32 national squads in Brazil 2014 courtesy of the (hopefully personal) generosity of President Uhuru Kenyatta. The Stars had to settle for a seat in the stands but what the heck! It was still the closest they have ever been to joining the spectacle.
Last weekend, however, that little joyride didn't seem to have done them much good as lowly-ranked Lesotho bundled them out of the 2015 African Nations Cup. Still, painful as it may be, the spectre of Harambee Stars coming from watching the World Cup only to suffer humiliation at home is a useful metaphor for Kenya’s obsession with symbolisms and the terrible realities these symbolisms are employed to mask.
Take “development” for example. What really is it? What do we mean when we speak it? Is it having tall buildings, roads with multiple lanes and standard-gauge railways? For many, this is what it signifies. Mwai Kibaki, till recently, was regularly feted for having presided over the… ( Read on! )
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