If mine had collapsed in Kenya the first reaction would have been denial

Thursday October 21 2010


The recent rescue of the 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped underground for more than two months spurred a lot of debate locally, with internet-savvy Kenyans cracking jokes over their mistresses and wives, and asking how it could have been had this been in Kenya.

As is expected, the jokes were about tribe, women and infidelity which is our second nature, a part of the national lingo perpetuated by some mindless government advertisement about mpango wa kando – whatever that is.

One of the jokes – based on the bastardisation of miners – which was a manifestation of our infatuation with tribe, was that Kikuyus can be found everywhere including Chile where 33 Mainas were being rescued.

When it came to women, others asked how it would have been had the miners been Kenyan women. Would their boyfriends have fought for space with their husbands at the rescue site?

One person replied that Kenyan women could not have been trapped in that mine basically because they are not (copper) miners, but gold diggers. Touche! Jokes aside, just try to imagine what could have happened if this mine had collapsed in Kenya.

First, the government would have denied that a mine had collapsed. In fact, it would have denied the existence of a mine, considering that ours is a system that thrives on denial.

Of course we have the busybodies who know all and would have started by spreading rumours about the ownership of the mine and the number of the trapped miners, and the GoK could then have been forced to deny the number and in the process accept the existence of the mine.

For the first one week after the collapse, the area around the mine would have been a hive of confusion as drunken and clueless villagers with all sorts of tools and no knowledge of mines and mining, try a rescue operation because the mines’ ministry has no one with an idea about mines or rescue operations, thanks to nepotism and favouritism when it comes to appointing public officials.

More than half the people milling around the mine would have been idlers who have nothing better to do than stare – another national pastime – thanks to runaway unemployment and underemployment which have guaranteed an endless stream of young Kenyans who engage in nefarious activities.

These idlers do have basic needs, and some Kenyans would have seized the opportunity to make a few shillings, and would have started selling them alcoholic drinks laced with poisonous chemicals, which would have led to a bigger tragedy, and gnashing of teeth, wailing and shedding of crocodile tears by GoK functionaries.

Away from the mine, MPs and ministers would have been blathering at cross-purposes, as they usually do, with others asking the GoK which they are part of, to rescue the trapped miners, and others questioning the logic behind having actual mines yet we once paid one person billions of shillings in export compensation for exporting non-existent gemstones which were “mined” in Kenya.

On their own, ministers would have been blaming one another for the collapse with the minister we thought was in charge of mines not only saying the collapse was caused by his political enemies, but also denying responsibility and passing the buck to another minister who would also have denied, but would still have appointed the mines’ CEO, a person who does not even know that mining involves drilling of holes.

By then, not a single GoK minister would have visited the mine, but rumours would have spread about the ethnicity of the trapped miners and an MP, or a group of them thereof, would have reacted to the rumours and converged at Parliament Buildings to address a press conference and blame the GoK for targeting their people by sending them on dangerous missions…

Before the reporters reach their respective media houses, another minister would have anointed a particular person to speak for all the miners, and issued a diktat that anyone who tries to contact the trapped men without going through the anointed spokesperson would be finished off politically…

That speech would have caused a hue and cry and for a moment the GoK and the public would have forgotten about the miners until some high-ranking government minister with a knack for being Mr Fix All visits the area and calls on private companies to donate equipment to be used in rescue operations…

In the meantime, political analysts would have been changing clothes between television studios as they spread half truths, half-baked opinions and gibberish on the meaning of the anointment and how it would shape Kenya’s political landscape in 2012, a year which they refer to even when talking about the weather.

“The failure of the rains yesterday, many months before 2012, has been caused by those with their eyes on 2012 when the 2012 succession battle will reach fever pitch and determine who occupies the State House from the year 2012…”

Away from the TV studios, private firms would have been falling over themselves to donate equipment, not because they care, but because they hope that their gesture will earn them political protection and exemption from paying some mandatory duties.

By then, the high-ranking government minister would have been accused of not only being ambitious, but overstepping his mandate, territory and undermining the area MP.

Using forged documents
The families of the trapped men would have started demanding compensation and some civil servant would have started processing claims by using forged documents, meaning that eventually, the money was going to end up in the wrong hands. In the meantime, a foreign country would have offered assistance and politicians would have made noises about our sovereignty.

The foreigners would have come anyway and by the time the dust settles, they would have rescued one person, and then helped our armed forces to build a dais where the President and Cabinet ministers would have sat during a memorial service for the entombed miners, victims of GoK’s ineptitude – like millions of Kenyans who are above the ground…