I, and only I, choose to be a tribalist!

That the geopolitical entity called Kenya was created by historical happenstance is incontrovertible fact! In fact, the name “Kenya” only entered official nomenclature with the declaration of the ‘Kenya Colony’ in 1920, having before that been known as the British East Africa Protectorate. So we have really just been in existence for 92 years – not even a century!

BUT it is here, in Kenya, that we all find ourselves in time and space – 40 million-odd people living within the same defined international borders, sharing a common political and economic destiny, subject to the same fundamental law that we gave ourselves (the Constitution) and a variety of statutes enacted by our supposed representatives. For better or for worse, we are KENYAN!

Being an accidental conglomeration of ethnic groups which successive governments have not found it fit to actively meld together, the centrifugal forces of tribalism dominate the centripetal forces of nationalism. Because of our pre-existing atavistic instincts, well-horned by the politicians to guarantee their continued ascendancy, we are constantly pulling apart rather than squeezing together at the macro level, even as at the micro level we have valued neighbours, friends, workmates and even relatives that are not from our ‘divine and special’ ethnic group!

And THAT is what we must address! All common sense, even enlightened self-interest, dictates that it is in our common interest to build the Nation of Kenya. Surely, it must be clear, to even the most ethnically narrow-minded of us, that should our respective ethnic ghettos by some miracle become mini-states, such states would likely not be viable – and indeed, their emergence is likely to be out of an ocean of blood – each other’s blood!

We have blamed the divide-and-rule tactics of the colonial master for our intractable tribalism, and we have blamed the politicians that succeeded the colonial master. BUT to be xenophobic and hateful is a personal decision, not a community decision! To deny a fellow citizen their due rights because of their ethnicity, or give another citizen what they do not deserve because of their ethnicity, is a choice we each make! To spread hurtful stereotypes that demean and dehumanise, with the very and express intention to demean and to dehumanise, is a personal choice! To fail to speak up for or stand with a fellow citizen that is being subjected to diminution and dehumanisation, is silence and inaction that we each choose! When we fail to call out the haters; when we allow ourselves to be lulled by obfuscating statistics, and acronyms, and linguistic diminutives; when we opt for the convenient, safe and cowardly options in the face ethnic hatred; THESE ARE CHOICES WE EACH MAKE!

The colonialist has been gone for a generation and a half; the enhanced flow of information and enhanced levels of education allow us to dispel misinformation and disinformation; and our political dispensation is such that we actually have a choice as to who rules over us, what kind of leaders we elect. Destructive ethnocentricism is therefore a choice we have taken, a bed we have made!

Who can save us from ourselves but ourselves? We KNOW that the British employed divide-and-rule along ethnic lines, but rather than work to erase that, we perpetuated and enhanced it to sustain the ruling elites in power. We KNOW that the British marginalised certain parts of the country, but rather than rectify this we enacted an economic blueprint soon after independence that OFFICIALLY perpetuated this policy, leading to ethnic and regional bitterness. We KNOW that our leaders exploit ethnicity to perpetuate their hegemony and protect themselves from retribution for corruption, incompetence and indolence – yet we continue to re-elect them, or their doubles, into office! I insist that the British wronged us grievously, both by herding us into a single discordant nation and then by adeptly exploiting that discordance for their own purposes, but we have had time and space to mitigate the losses from those wrongs and failed to do so – it is so much easier to blame it on somebody else!

We must empathise with those whose circumstances have narrowed their world view, whose mothers feed them ethnic hatred with their breast milk, and whose fathers constantly admonish them for associating with non-human humans, and we must factor those circumstances into our judgment of them – but we must also acknowledge that each of us is created with the ability to pick ourselves up and move forward, and it is for this reason that not every citizen born in their native village, weaned in their native village, raised in their native village and schooled in their native village is a crass, willfully ignorant, hateful, blood-thirsty tribalist!

Many choices are made for us, but there are those choices that we make for ourselves! Once again I ask, who can save us from ourselves but ourselves?


Be very afraid, for genocide stalks us again…

In the run-up to the 2007 elections, many discerning Kenyans saw what was coming – because an unstoppable force was running at a break-neck speed towards an immovable object. To many it was obvious that we were headed for disaster, even if the extent of it when it happened was so great that it shocked and numbed us.
We have since recovered from the shock – and we are no longer numb. We have obfuscated the horror of the tragedy with meaningless numbers, acronyms and understatements – we have called genocide ‘PEV’, and ethnic cleansing ‘displacement’ and called victims ‘IDPs’. We have rehabilitated the genocidaires, and many occupy positions of influence in our government! We have done everything we can to make sure there shall be no investigations, no due process, no truth, no retribution, no restitution and no reparations – and hence no forgiveness and no reconciliation! We continue to sabotage the institutions and structures that would make sure the heinous crimes of the last election are not committed again.  In fact we are so recovered we are once again preparing for more of the same!
New political alliances mean that the victims and perpetrators of that tragedy will be different from the victims and perpetrators of the next such tragedy. We have created and are actively subscribing to hate-groups on social media and elsewhere. We are shamelessly engaging in ethnic mobilisation, driven by myopic leaders, acquiesced to by government and blessed by the church.
Who will “Kenyans” be killing in March and April 2013? Who shall the genocide target this time? When does it all end? Please read the article below and be very afraid!
The 8 Stages of Genocide – by Gregory H. Stanton, President, Genocide Watch

Classification Symbolization Dehumanization Organization Polarization Preparation Extermination Denial

Genocide is a process that develops in eight stages that are predictable but not inexorable. At each stage, preventive measures can stop it. The process is not linear.  Logically, later stages must be preceded by earlier stages.  But all stages continue to operate throughout the process.

1. CLASSIFICATION: All cultures have categories to distinguish people into “us and them” by ethnicity, race, religion, or nationality: German and Jew, Hutu and Tutsi. Bipolar societies that lack mixed categories, such as Rwanda and Burundi, are the most likely to have genocide. The main preventive measure at this early stage is to develop universalistic institutions that transcend ethnic or racial divisions, that actively promote tolerance and understanding, and that promote classifications that transcend the divisions. The Catholic church could have played this role in Rwanda, had it not been riven by the same ethnic cleavages as Rwandan society. Promotion of a common language in countries like Tanzania has also promoted transcendent national identity. This search for common ground is vital to early prevention of genocide.

2. SYMBOLIZATION: We give names or other symbols to the classifications. We name people “Jews” or “Gypsies”, or distinguish them by colors or dress; and apply the symbols to members of groups. Classification and symbolization are universally human and do not necessarily result in genocide unless they lead to the next stage, dehumanization. When combined with hatred, symbols may be forced upon unwilling members of pariah groups: the yellow star for Jews under Nazi rule, the blue scarf for people from the Eastern Zone in Khmer Rouge Cambodia. To combat symbolization, hate symbols can be legally forbidden (swastikas) as can hate speech. Group marking like gang clothing or tribal scarring can be outlawed, as well. The problem is that legal limitations will fail if unsupported by popular cultural enforcement. Though Hutu and Tutsi were forbidden words in Burundi until the 1980’s, code-words replaced them. If widely supported, however, denial of symbolization can be powerful, as it was in Bulgaria, where the government refused to supply enough yellow badges and at least eighty percent of Jews did not wear them, depriving the yellow star of its significance as a Nazi symbol for Jews.

3. DEHUMANIZATION: One group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases. Dehumanization overcomes the normal human revulsion against murder. At this stage, hate propaganda in print and on hate radios is used to vilify the victim group. In combating this dehumanization, incitement to genocide should not be confused with protected speech. Genocidal societies lack constitutional protection for countervailing speech, and should be treated differently than democracies. Local and international leaders should condemn the use of hate speech and make it culturally unacceptable. Leaders who incite genocide should be banned from international travel and have their foreign finances frozen. Hate radio stations should be shut down, and hate propaganda banned. Hate crimes and atrocities should be promptly punished.

4. ORGANIZATION: Genocide is always organized, usually by the state, often using militias to provide deniability of state responsibility (the Janjaweed in Darfur.) Sometimes organization is informal (Hindu mobs led by local RSS militants) or decentralized (terrorist groups.) Special army units or militias are often trained and armed. Plans are made for genocidal killings. To combat this stage, membership in these militias should be outlawed. Their leaders should be denied visas for foreign travel. The U.N. should impose arms embargoes on governments and citizens of countries involved in genocidal massacres, and create commissions to investigate violations, as was done in post-genocide Rwanda.

5. POLARIZATION: Extremists drive the groups apart. Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda. Laws may forbid intermarriage or social interaction. Extremist terrorism targets moderates, intimidating and silencing the center. Moderates from the perpetrators’ own group are most able to stop genocide, so are the first to be arrested and killed. Prevention may mean security protection for moderate leaders or assistance to human rights groups. Assets of extremists may be seized, and visas for international travel denied to them. Coups d’état by extremists should be opposed by international sanctions.

6. PREPARATION: Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity. Death lists are drawn up. Members of victim groups are forced to wear identifying symbols. Their property is expropriated. They are often segregated into ghettoes, deported into concentration camps, or confined to a famine-struck region and starved. At this stage, a Genocide Emergency must be declared. If the political will of the great powers, regional alliances, or the U.N. Security Council can be mobilized, armed international intervention should be prepared, or heavy assistance provided to the victim group to prepare for its self-defense. Otherwise, at least humanitarian assistance should be organized by the U.N. and private relief groups for the inevitable tide of refugees to come.

7. EXTERMINATION begins, and quickly becomes the mass killing legally called “genocide.” It is “extermination” to the killers because they do not believe their victims to be fully human. When it is sponsored by the state, the armed forces often work with militias to do the killing. Sometimes the genocide results in revenge killings by groups against each other, creating the downward whirlpool-like cycle of bilateral genocide (as in Burundi). At this stage, only rapid and overwhelming armed intervention can stop genocide. Real safe areas or refugee escape corridors should be established with heavily armed international protection. (An unsafe “safe” area is worse than none at all.) The U.N. Standing High Readiness Brigade, EU Rapid Response Force, or regional forces — should be authorized to act by the U.N. Security Council if the genocide is small. For larger interventions, a multilateral force authorized by the U.N. should intervene. If the U.N. is paralyzed, regional alliances must act. It is time to recognize that the international responsibility to protect transcends the narrow interests of individual nation states. If strong nations will not provide troops to intervene directly, they should provide the airlift, equipment, and financial means necessary for regional states to intervene.

8. DENIAL is the eighth stage that always follows a genocide. It is among the surest indicators of further genocidal massacres. The perpetrators of genocide dig up the mass graves, burn the bodies, try to cover up the evidence and intimidate the witnesses. They deny that they committed any crimes, and often blame what happened on the victims. They block investigations of the crimes, and continue to govern until driven from power by force, when they flee into exile. There they remain with impunity, like Pol Pot or Idi Amin, unless they are captured and a tribunal is established to try them. The response to denial is punishment by an international tribunal or national courts. There the evidence can be heard, and the perpetrators punished. Tribunals like the Yugoslav or Rwanda Tribunals, or an international tribunal to try the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, or an International Criminal Court may not deter the worst genocidal killers. But with the political will to arrest and prosecute them, some may be brought to justice.

The original piece is at the website: Genocide Watch: The International Alliance to End Genocide at http://www.genocidewatch.org/genocide/8stagesofgenocide.html.

Et tu, Miguna Miguna ?

I have just finished the pre-eminent book published in Kenya this year, and I have also been reading a lot of the comments on it. Having read the book, I now feel competent to say the following:

Mr Miguna paints an amazing picture of personal struggle and triumph – I wish more people saw this, beyond the 250-odd pages about the Rt Hon Raila Odinga. For the achievements of his life, one cannot help but admire the author!

Mr Miguna has a confrontational, in-your-face, stubborn, unrelenting, egotistical personality – and this comes across in the language he uses in the book: hard-hitting, often insulting, and almost always intemperate! But though this may detract from his core message, we must not throw out the baby of content with the bathwater of style! And it is no doubt that abrasive personality that has enabled him overcome the immense challenges that life has thrown at him!

He makes charges of a personal nature against the Rt Hon Prime Minister and other persons – in my insignificant opinion, this is abhorrent; but again, when one chooses public life, even what should be purely private shall become a legitimate subject of communal voyeurism! And these matters, if indeed truthful, go to the issue of personal character and judgement.

Most importantly in my opinion, Mr Miguna makes incredibly serious charges of misuse of public office, corruption and general failure of leadership – the very issues that we are struggling to overcome as a nation. These issues should not be diminished or delegitimised by being made a political cause célèbre by railaphobes, or rather insultingly presented as evidence of a political witch-hunt by the ralamaniacs! These are issues of such fundamental importance they NEED to be addressed through a process that is credible, impartial and objective – away from the heat of the political exigencies of the moment.

I wish, probably in vain, that these matters could be brought before a court of competent jurisdiction – where all parties would enjoy the immunities and privileges granted by judicial processes. I wish Mr Miguna could be made to back-up his charges with facts and figures to the requisite thresh-hold, and I wish the Rt Hon PM and all others that stand accused in the book could be made to defend themselves by means other than eloquent articles in the press! Nothing would lay the truth bare like the intense crucible of an inquisitorial/adversarial process before a wise and competent judge! And such a process would in no way be a negation of the freedom of expression that has been won through the labours and pains of so many brave citizens! Indeed it would ensure that we exercise that freedom responsibly and with the requisite circumspection. In the absence of such a process, Mr Miguna’s charges will continue to be dismissed as the rantings of a bitter, possibly deranged and certainly vengeful man – while the Rt Hon PM’s informal defences will remain merely an exercise in damage control by smooth ‘propagandists’ of doubtful credibility and impartiality! As for the rest of us – we shall take sides in a manner pre-ordained by our existing political inclinations!

Finally, as a citizen I feel let down by Mr Miguna! By his own book, he was apparently privy to profound malpractices and yet continued to pugnaciously defend the perpetrators. He was privy to information that would supposedly help bring to account some of the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes committed in our history, and yet kept this to himself – and appears to continue to do so even as the nation cries out for justice. These facts grievously undermine his credibility – and will continue to be used as an effective rungu to beat him down. I say Mr Miguna should come out with all he has, and do so in a manner that will enable the appropriate authorities (local and international) take the appropriate action!

And that is my considered opinion!