The incontrovertible truth of the matter is that ethnicity has been used as a political weapon with devastating consequences for the nation. We cannot deny that there are politicians that have promoted the thinking that Kenya’s problem is the Agikuyu – in fact I remember a time further back when the term ‘tribalist’ was freely interchangeable with the term ‘Kikuyu’ even in some of our national media – with a very clear, even if unstated, agenda. More recently, and more tragically, we have all heard of ‘41 versus1’ and ‘1 versus 41’, depending on the jingoistic perspective of the particular individual and/or their audience.
But neither can we deny that politicians from amongst the Agikuyu have promoted the siege mentality, and false impressions of ethnic superiority, to serve their selfish political ends – as has happened in other ethnic groups as well. Most importantly, we cannot deny that certain music under scrutiny by the NCIC is chauvinistic and inflammatory – to deny this latter fact is really to refuse to see that we are headed to a dangerous place as a nation. Every Kenyan who truly believes that we should only be judged by the content of our individual character, rewarded only for the individual labours of our own hands, condemned only for the sins that we have committed as individuals, cannot possibly condone any form of ethnic mobilisation that denigrates and dehumanises other people, for those are the foundations of genocide – the kind of genocide (yes, genocide) that we witnessed not so long ago. To quote my friend Ephraim Njega: “Anybody who was in this country in 2007/2008 knows we must remain vigilant!”
It is tribalism when we discriminate against an individual from a given tribe because ‘they are an inferior people’ and it is tribalism of equal measure when we discriminate against an individual from a given tribe because allegedly ‘wamekula ya kutosha’! It is tribalism to claim that if a candidate is of a certain tribe or family lineage, then they should not seek the presidency and ‘their people’ should therefore vote for “an outsider”; and it is tribalism of equal measure to allege that a candidate whose community does not observe a given cultural practice is unsuitable for leadership! It is tribalism to assume you know my political inclinations because you know my ethnicity, and it is tribalism when ‘our’ community is always wronged against while ‘their’ community is always in the wrong! Above all, it is tribalism when we elevate stereotypes and simplistic generalisations into ‘scientific fact’ on the basis of which we dehumanise, devalue and diminish, other communities. These are the bricks in the first course in building genocide; and the next course consists of derogatory terminology like ‘thorns’, and ‘weeds’, and ‘madoadoa’, and ‘ticks’, and ‘boys’ when describing grown men!
We must continue to unreservedly condemn tribalism wherever it occurs, and whatever the conventional wisdom … and even where we have inadvertently entrenched it in our laws, like that ‘face of Kenya’ provision that almost everybody disagrees with me on! We must, AGAIN AND AGAIN, remind the nation that what counts is the individual citizen: his/her rights and his/her responsibilities. Unlike the individual, collective identities, like tribe, are contentious, amorphous and nebulous and should never be the basis on which the nation is governed!
We must condemn EACH AND EVERY LEADER whose platform is tribal, however carefully disguised or camouflaged! Above all, we must not with our votes reward leaders who gain prominence and ascendancy by playing the tribal card, for this tribe thing is a knife that cuts both ways – those that have benefited from their exploitation of negative ethnicity, shall also surely be punished for it in the unstoppable march of history! The tragedy is that there will be innocent thousands, even millions, who are fated to share their ethnicity who shall also suffer with them! To paraphrase yet another friend Joseph Kisavi: “…politicians misrepresent facts to the naive and gullible electorate to win their support – you commit a sin then turn round to shout ‘JAMII YETU INAONEWA’. When the country starts burning, we ALL suffer regardless of who started the fire!”
This is MY opinion, MY words, MY thinking! On THIS, feel free to condemn me or to praise me, but not on what YOU think is my opinion, or my ethnic and/or political loyalties!