The Five Monkey Experiment


In July 7th 1990, an illegal demonstration was staged in Nairobi by the then opposition leaders to advocate for Kenya’s constitutional reforms. The demonstrations partly yielded fruits when in 1992, the then president Moi bowed to pressure and allowed the changing of the constitution to give way for multipartysm. That day ended up being named “Saba Saba”. This day epitomizes the struggle for the second liberation. People wanted a new constitution that was written by Kenyans and not the old one that was copy pasted from Britain. The struggle culminated in August 2010 when the new constitution was promulgated.

We also have a new “Saba Saba” day that has been reinvented by CORD leaders. Comparing the one that has been reinvented by CORD and the old one, you’ll realize that the old one had a philosophy or ideology as opposed to the current one which doesn’t have any ideology. Most of the youths advocating for the current one were not even born when the original “Saba Saba” was initiated. You will get a blank stare when you ask one of them what was the ideology of the original “Saba Saba”. According to them, it is ok to practice political activism on that day since our fore fathers did that in 1992. What they do not know is that the objective of the 1992 activism has already been achieved. This reminds me of the five monkey experiment which was conducted by some psychology scientists.

monkeyA group of scientists placed 5 monkeys in a cage and in the middle, a ladder with bananas on the top. Every time a monkey went up the ladder, the scientists soaked the rest of the monkeys with cold water. After a while, every time a monkey went up the ladder, the others beat up the one on the ladder. After some time, no monkey dared to go up the ladder regardless of the temptation. Scientists then decided to substitute one of the monkeys. The 1st thing this new monkey did was to go up the ladder. Immediately the other monkeys beat him up.

After several beatings, the new member learned not to climb the ladder even though he never knew why. A 2nd monkey was substituted and the same occurred. The 1st monkey participated in the beating of the 2nd monkey. A 3rd monkey was changed and the same was repeated (beating). The 4th was substituted and the beating was repeated and finally the 5th monkey was replaced. What was left was a group of 5 monkeys that even though never received a cold shower, continued to beat up any monkey who attempted to climb the ladder.

If it was possible to ask the monkeys why they would beat up all those who attempted to go up the ladder … I bet you the answer would be … “I don’t know — that’s how things are done around here” Does it sound familiar? Try asking the youths advocating for “Saba Saba” the original meaning of the day. Just like the monkeys, I bet the answer you’ll get will be “We don’t know, that’s the only way of remaining relevant politically”. That notwithstanding, we should know that ignorance is no defense. History will judge us harshly if we let our country go to the dogs. The politicians don’t care about the aftermath of “Saba Saba” because they can seek asylum outside the country. But you and I will die in our country. Don’t miss the opportunity to share this with others as they might be asking themselves why we continue to do what we are doing if there is a different way out there. Let’s ask our elders the original meaning of “Saba Saba” before we start preventing other monkeys from climbing up the ladder.



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