Friday, April 10, 2009

You cannot kill tribalism

In a recent online discussion, fearless writer and activist, Okiya Omtatah Okoiti, responds to desperate cries against tribalism and digs underneath the "method" to wisely remind us that it is the attitudes and perceptions which use such methods that we need to address. The tribal discourse is a comfort zone perpetuated by those who require it to keep the status quo and we need to step outside so as not to be accomplices. No one is spared...

I have a feeling that we cannot fight or kill tribalism. Like terrorism, tribalism is a method, a means to a goal, it doesn't have a life of its own. It is a reaction not an action. You canot fight a method! Like the war on terrorism by non-state actors created more and worse terror by State actors, a war on tribalism and not on the circumstances that make it necessary will only create more tribalism, by articulating our differences.

Most terrorism aimed at the West today is a response to the imperialist foreign policy of the USA-led West which is founded on a convergence of economic, political, cultural, military and religious power, in a system of domination that imposes the flow of benefits from the vulnerable to the powerful. So to fix that terrorism we have to fix the attitude and activities of the global North in relation to the global South. I see Obama trying to do just that by unclenching his fist and reaching out for a handshake, nay, an embrace.

We must address the underlying factors that make people feel so insecure that they have to debase themselves so much and go into hunting formations like wild dogs and begin preying on their neighbours. Is it the dictatorship of scarcity (read poverty)? Is it the predatory post-colonial State? Is it the failure to have mechanisms to ensure political power is accountable, so that the only way to secure ourselves is to get "one of our own" in power?

For example, I have studied with interest the invention of tribalism (the conversion of an innocent identity into an ideology of domination and extraction based on that identity) by Kenyatta and his cohorts after our flag independence so that they could accumulate illicit wealth from other Kenyans, beginning with the hapless Kikuyu, in whose name they fraudulently committed the atrocities. And the ideology is still very strong that in Kenya today it is only the Kikuyu (read Njenga Karume and the axis of mediocrity that he represents) who have a Diaspora - a thing that has left me wondering how you can have a Diaspora of citizens within their own country. I am unable to see the Kikuyu or the Luo living and thriving in Busia as diasporas! Why don't we have a Luo Diaspora at the Coast where the Luos have settled in very large numbers?

All Kenyan communities are dispersed across the length and breath of the land but none of them but the Kikuyu has a consciousness of themselves as a Diaspora! And that goes to show the ideological damage the Kenyatta homeguards did to the Kikuyu identity. They made them feel so insecure that they ceased to be an innocent identity and became ideologically insecure because of who they are.

Moi did the same thing to the Kalenjin politicians. Just savour the hunting dog characteristics of their leaders and the insecurities they exhibit as they argue their "entitlements" that are separate from Kenya. Listen to their mumbo jumbo about the Mau Complex. Do these fellows see themselves as Kenyans?

To kill tribalism we must make it unnecessary as a tool/method for survival. Hence, the cure to tribalism lies outside the tribe(s). Let's endeavour to build a pro-people State that is prosperous, that will give us an identity that is superior to that which any of our tribes can give. The time has come Kenyan's stopped fighting for a piece of the Uganda Railway. Our economy that is founded on the Uganda Railway is now too small for our 40 million plus population. Let us think of creating new wealth. Let's stop borrowing and consuming; let's start saving and investing.

Which brings me to the question of political leadership. Both Kibaki and Raila are wired to consume lavishly and so cannot provide the leadership we deserve. They have the least respect for our taxes. They squander them on toys not on infrastructure! Both are limits not catalysts to the creation on a Sovereign Republic of Kenya. They cannot inspire that generation that will sacrifice to lay the sound foundations that the future can build on. In fact, Kibaki's economics of growth are not based on creating new wealth but on selling off what we own (to the lowest bidder?). Raila with his half-a-loaf jeremiad sees Kenya as a consumable (a construct that was popular with both Kenyatta and Moi). Otherwise, he would talk of having received half-a-bakery so that he could at least bake loafs for half the population.

But Kibaki is just a disaster! He is like a lazy parent who reflects good per capita income by selling off slices of his shamba and not by growing crops on it. Eventually he will sell all the land, then the cows, chicken, etc, and finally send his children out to be maids so that he can get some income repartriated from them. Having disposed off parastals (those that are remaining are already lined up for sell), Kibaki has now began selling plots to foreigners!!! And the sooner we stop him the better. Under Kibaki, our economy has become too dependent on external forces to be of use to us.

We must get a leadership which will tighten the Government's large belt of luxuries so that we stop the culture of borrowing and consuming to start saving and investing so that we can create new wealth to diffuse the culture of scarcity that we call tribalism.



Darius Stone said...

Interesting post SK.

I think the crux of the matter is that as Kenyans, we are collectively responsible for the biggest case of gross incompetence and deriliction of our civic duties by continuing to vote in the same same punks into office each time. Some will argue that they exercised their duty at the ballot box, but the truth is, it's not bloody good enough. We need to do better next time.

I see the way in which we constantly vote irresponsibly based on flawed tribal ideologies at the cost of competence as being the key issue here. The other side of it is that we dont' have a viable alternative to take over from the old school. We as the youth have failed to stepping up to the plate - sometimes succumbing to the stupid notion that the youth are the leaders of tomorrow. The truth is that the old guard are not going to give up power voluntarily, we'll have to take our country back.

Sukuma Kenya said...

Hey Darius,
Your comment reminds me of what a Minister once said to me straight in the face: he said there was no chance for change until him and all his age mates were dead...