This issue called negative ethnicity has been on the lips of many Kenyans. For good reasons; the just ended elections seem to have brought out this disease that resurfaces every 5 years (or is it an ever-present disease that just gets a face every 5 years?).
The issue is not new, perhaps we have swept it under the carpet too long and maybe it is time we started to address it. Then the minute I say we need to address it I get some jitters, how do you address such a thing? How do you address something that has been prevalent since this nation was born, how do you address something that each new regime has in one way or another ignored, how do you address something that is now an animal? But I guess in the same light, how do you not address it? Address it we must.
My generation…we are worse
I recently was in conversation with several of my friends that quickly turned political and with that was a fast deep to tribalism. I was disappointed to hear the conversation begin to be about how ‘us’ re ‘our tribe’ will always be more / less than ‘them’ and how that impacts the politics of Kenya. That I did not vote for ‘our’ kingpin was unfathomable. Another friend actually asked me if I have changed names, re married into other tribes as that is the only way I can support someone from these other tribes.
It was not just the arrogance of such statements that I thought was sad, but more so that we are middle class educated young Kenyans. You see I excuse my folks when they tell me such things, they probably don know better, but surely we should. We have schooled with people from all walks of life, I go to church with people from all sorts of tribes, some of my closest friends are from other tribes; so when we have such narrow-minded conversations, then it is saddening.
It got me thinking, are we taking steps backwards, is my generation so deluded by tribe, are we perhaps worse than our forefathers, do we ‘pretend’ to be forward-looking only to the point where our tribes are?
To be fair…I have been worse
To be fair, I have taken part in these tribal waves at one point or another, case in point was 2007 elections, so I can see where and how these conversations can happen. I have been party to these tribal talk (yes my confession box is wide open). I have thought on tribal lines, heck I have feared other leaders just because of their tribe. Oh I veil this nicely with issues, but at the core of it is a thinly veiled tribal self.
So before I throw stones, I really need to ask myself hard questions. I have to myself what is the problem and where did it start from? Could it be that we do not know any better? Could it be that we have grown up with these tribal talk all around us that we cannot begin to imagine thinking otherwise? Could it be the much propaganda that feeds tribalism could have impacted my views on other tribes?
The honest truth is this, in my heart of hearts are whispers that fuel this tribalism thing; whispers that ground my fears, whispers that make me more possessive of ‘my own’, whispers drum into my head of how ‘my people will be exterminated’, whispers of how we must ‘stick together’ to protect each other. I have heard whispers of how ‘our community’ was almost washed away in 2007 / 2008. All these whispers got through to my heart, and truth be told, they made me build walls to protect those I love most.
Then I hear whispers of another community, they talk of their equivalent 07/08, it may not have happened in 08. For some, it’s the events of 07 / 08, but for some its events in our short history that have fuel this tribalism thing. For some it’s the economic injustices their ‘communities’ have faced, that their infrastructure / government issued rights or privileges have been ignored because of their political stands; for some it is that they are homeless yet living in an unoccupied land that was sold to others at throw away prices. As I listen to all these, I know these for a fact all tribes in Kenya have been wronged in one way or another at one time or another.
So I see where are coming from with this tribalism thing, and any talk on tribalism must acknowledge that.
But I also cannot help but hear a cry of an innocent child who wants to be different. This child is loudly crying who will save me, who will help us heal? Who will put an end to this need to protect ‘my own’ from ‘them’? Who will save us?
In the recent past there has been a lot of talk of peace, and I am at forefront for advocating for that peace.
However, I have also had to face a difficult question, in the name of peace, are we burying our heads in the sand; are we creating an excuse for institutions not to deal with the many animals that led to 07 / 08 or the many other injustices in these nation? To be honest the jury for that is still out there.
I see the need for us to address these humongous issues before we can ‘pretend’ to be a peaceful nation. But I also see a lot of wisdom needed in determining how to deal with these issues, and tribal hate speech, propaganda, incitement I am not convinced is the right way to go about it. These will only create a bigger animal.
So yes, peace still is the only reasonable way to deal with these injustices. Anything that stirs that peace is just creating another bigger animal. I am not ready to add further injuries to the wound that’s already in place. Deal yes, but no more wounds please.
Is it time yet?
As I think through all these issues, the Christian in me is at the fore. Therefore it is easy for me to spiritualize this and say it is only the Lord who can help us heal these wounds. And I have no apologies for this solution coz when it is all said n done I know beyond a doubt only the Lord can deal with us.
But I also know there is a role you and me need to play.
We need to hear the loud weeping voice of help coming from our brothers and sisters, really hear it. It is a cry for help for many things, a cry to be rescued from poverty that plagues our society, a cry for changes in systems that seem to favor the few, but also a louder cry for a united Kenya.
I shudder to think if we can be different. A part of me thinks we cannot, we after all voted in status quo (in the form of either ‘principal’), maybe we are not ready for a change. I don’t know, but I refuse to give up.
I refuse to close my ears to the loud wailing voice of an innocent child asking who will rescue me. Who will ensure these ends now? Who will ensure that in another 10 years my people are not fighting against your people? With this cry I know why I cannot help but look at the Lord, I know no other way out, I know no other that can, I know why I need this Lord. Only He can be the justice I long for, only He can be the unity I need. Yes he wants me to put my faith into action but I so desperately need to found that action on Him.
Serikal saidia mentality
A couple of weeks back my pastor begun that conversation in church. He extended this conversation to one of the local shows.
One of the things that has stuck in my mind, has refused to go and no I do not have the specifics yet is a call he made for us all to get away from a ‘serikal saidia’ attitude.
Yes the government needs to play a lead role in getting rid of this menace, yes there is a lot of work to be done, yes I pray with everything I have that the government that takes the day deals with the injustices we have had as a nation coz I shudder at what will happen if we don, yes I need a government that will step up, I need a government that more than fixing my roads deals with this animal called tribalism that really just stems out of injustices. But I must also play my role at my level. I don’t know the specifics of that yet, the how when etc but I listened to my pastor share a story that challenged me.
Of a senior official of one of the leading companies in Kenya who comes from Kiambu but has adopted a school and pays fees for children in Kisumu. When asked why not in his neighborhood there are many poverty-stricken children from his community. His answer is this ‘ I want that child from Kisumu to grow up knowing there are people from my community who do not ‘hate’ him and who will lay down their lives for him coz he is a Kenyan’. That challenged me. You see it is easy for all of us to keep saying government should do this that and the other, but at our levels are we engaging as well? Are we building bridges with other communities, are we seeing things from the perspective of the other community?
Yes there are a lot of stories that can keep you and me hidden in the cocoon of our tribes, but long-term that will help no one. No man can be an island and succeed.
So this is my commitment, I will reach out people from other communities, I will feel their pain, I will see things from their perspective, and when I get an opportunity to, I will choose to bless them more than people from my community. That’s what we all must do, build bridges. Let us stop pretending it ain’t an issue. It is time to deal. While at it, make room for either ‘principals’ being our president. Truth be told, the case in court could go either way, that means either of the two could be our president, make room for either. The price of democracy is this, that some of us have to live with presidents we did not and would not vote for, but rule of law is the name of this game, and honestly I would not have it any other way.