The Commowealth games and our patriotism

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Commonwealth Games marathon events (Photo credit: jimmyharris)

The 20th edition of the Commonwealth Games came to a close on August 3. Despite the comments that may or may not have been made by a certain Jamaican, it seems that on the whole the games were an enormous hit.

 A number of African countries were at the  and participated in the games. And from South Africa, with their 13 gold, 10 silver and 17 bronze, to Zambia, with their 2 bronze medals, a total of 11 African countries made it to the medal table at the game.

I am certain that across the board there was jubilation and lots of warm fuzzy feelings as we in Africa watched our sons and daughters take to the podium, and our nation’s national anthem was played.

 That warm fuzzy feeling known as patriotism. When everyone and the uncle Bob, wants to be associated with the success of the competitor in question. When all sorts of public figures set out to idolise the said competitor as a shining example of how said African nation has made progress and so on.

On the flip side, the reality is a lot of African countries are still wracked by the spectre of ethnic and racial and religious hatred, discrimination and the violence (both objective and subjective) that comes with it.

 This manifests most openly in politics where, more often than not any sense of loyalty to the construct called the country is often forgotten in the mad rush to corner and monopolize the resources of the state for one group or coalition of (ethnic, religious or racial) groups, at the expense of another becomes an all-encompassing ambition.

 In Kenya, for instance, the government and non-governmental organisations have invested a lot of resources over the decades in trying to manufacture patriotism, by way having people sing national songs, national mottos, national philosophies and engage in all sorts of national initiatives to foster positive nationalism as well as defeating the monster of ‘negative ethnicity.’

 Yet as recently as 7 years ago several; hundred thousands of the same Kenyans were fleeing from their homes and livelihoods because, their fellow Kenyans had determined that political preferences and ethnic origins disqualified them from living in safety and security in whichever part of Kenya they wished.

 Perhaps it’s all just escapism from the tough realities that we face as nations, struggling to find the courage to confront difficult questions on identity. Taking Kenya as the example, even as members of the public prepare to host massive home coming parties for the athletes who won big in Glasgow over the past fortnight, their remains the ongoing tension amongst us regarding issues like land ownership and land alienation.

 Then again maybe I am putting too much emphasis on what is really not realistic expectation fro countries whose are barely 50 years old and have virtually no roots in the cultural and historical background so the people who are trapped in them. Perhaps it is too early to expect African nations yo function as singularly indivisible peoples, but on the other hand, the leadership needs to step up, if we are to not move in the opposite direction and become even more divided and broken than we are now

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