We must get out of tribal cocoons

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NGUNJIRI WAMBUGU

Charity must begin at home and political tribalism must be fought from within. Even the Bible says we must first remove the log from our eyes before pointing out the specks in the eyes of others, and that’s just me removing the logs.

Part of this requires me to articulate my views on President Kibaki: Prime Minister Odinga & Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru, the three public personalities who will determine the effect of Central Kenya in the next election.

First, let me state for the record that in my opinion HE Emilio Mwai Kibaki has been a pretty good President in the circumstances under which he has ruled this country.  As a man who was elected on a wheelchair, he somehow managed to make impressive economic progress, although the lack of a firm hand on the political front was quite evident.

He ended his first term with a full revolt from his allies and was forced into bed with his enemies. The beginning of his second term was bloodshed, though again somehow he managed to bring in a first-of-a-kind coalition government, and share some of his power (real or perceived) in a partnership with his erstwhile rival. Somehow (and one tends to use this word a lot while referring to Kibaki) he then went on and oversaw a peaceful referendum that introduced a revolutionary constitution.

That is why I am excited about his message not to anoint a successor. A key observation about President Kibaki is how he works within the changes happening in Kenya rather than use his power to make things work as he would prefer. He is a pragmatist and his message, shared so far to a mainly Central Kenya audience, is him being consistent and encouraging our region towards politics that is part of the whole, rather than a distinct unit as we have done over the years. He intends to retire gracefully and in the dignity of a national leader, and this is a sure way of doing so.

As regards Uhuru Kenyatta, I must admit to having a lot of respect for who he is, especially when one imagines what others could have done – or become – had they been born in his circumstances: he has done pretty well. Uhuru is also a one of a kind in my book.

He has the distinction of being the prominent son of Kenya’s Founding President; represents the cream of the largest, most politically and economically powerful community in Kenya; occupies a position among the top five senior-most political leaders in the country, and is most likely one of Kenya’s wealthiest citizens. This is a terrific combination in a leader.

What I cannot understand is why he would then allow himself to be contained nationally, as a Kikuyu politician. Observing him one gets the impression he has decided that political tribalism is the way to go, and become a key champion pushing for scenarios where political elites arrange tribes into ethnic bastions, ‘create’ ethnic chieftains to rule each bastion, then hijack the right of those from the communities they now ‘own’ to determine who becomes the overall ‘king’ of them all, usually while seating around a boardroom.

The fact that his advisors can even argue that it is okay for him to do this because others are doing it means they do not understand the strength of his brand: and how selling him as a Kikuyu Chieftain as a means to making him a national figure is to completely miss the mark.
It is my opinion that Uhuru is a national figure by birth, and so anyone trying to make him a local chief is actually destroying the very essence of who he is. I am also sure that the people behind this strategy do not realise that practicing political tribalism means they are involved in all three main challenges in Kenya today: corruption, impunity and negative ethnicity. That is why we will keep asking that he reconsider staying as the national figure he is, and moving Central Kenya up to where he is, rather than accepting to be taken back into ethnic cocoons. He is one person who could make a difference.

Whenever I think of the Rt Honorable Raila Amolo Odinga and Central Province, I remember a story shared with me by an Irish friend. He told me that how during the Irish/British ‘troubles’ young Irish boys were taught that the definition of a true Irishman was someone who hated the British. This sometimes feels like the message around being a true Kikuyu, and Raila.

In Central Kenya when one talks about Raila the first thing that comes up is the ’41 versus 1′ political strategy that is somehow always connected with him since the 2005 referendum. Those pushing this story argue that he deliberately presented Kibaki’s government as a Kikuyu government and messaged his campaign as being about teaching Kikuyus. (I had actually believed this until I was reminded that Uhuru was on the same side with him then, and so it was not possible to have such a strategy).

Then there is the perception that those behind the 2007/8 post election violence in Rift Valley might have been acting on his behalf. The Prime Minister’s aggressiveness to be Kenya’s next president also goes against how a typical Kikuyu interacts with public office positions: we believe that leaders should be ‘volunteered’ by other people (even if the leader has to pay those volunteering him before hand, to do so!)

However the fact is that Raila Odinga is currently Kenya’s leading 2012 presidential candidate in literally every poll conducted so far. Then there is the little matter that the population index indicates Kikuyus are not enough to stop anyone from being President by themselves. Finally one must consider that we must not be like another group of Kikuyus who assumed that the presidency was a Kikuyu preserve, and then got caught completely unprepared by Moi’s 24-year rule.

It is therefore imperative for Central Kenya to engage Raila Odinga beyond our stereotypes of him, and distinguish facts from perceptions. It is also quite obvious that the post-2008 Raila is very different from the pre-2007 man: one gets the impression of a politician who has learnt from past political mistakes, and watching him one sees a man in a transition of sorts. For example it is quite clear that no one will be accusing him of practicing political tribalism.

It is also arguable that Raila’s relationship with Central Kenya is Kenya’s last frontier in tackling negative ethnicity.  If he can successfully engage the region Kenya on its stereotypes and perceptions of him to the extent they can start considering his presidential candidates on its merits, we could very well be on the road to a situation where popular local folklore today never again becomes lethal political ammunition later:-maybe to the detriment of national peace.

So as KikuyusforChange we have invited the Prime Minister to discussion forums in the five counties of Central province, where he can meet local opinion leaders and candidly discuss the perceptions, fears and expectations they might have of him.

We hope that as we do this our colleagues in community-based groups from other parts of the country, like Northern Forum for Democracy, Teso Progressive Forum, Western Leaders Alliance, Nyanza Youth Coalition etc: will also invite those leaders that their regions do not understand, and hold similar discussions.

I believe that if a broad section of members of various communities can interact with the individual politician beyond the stereotype, then we will introduce the Kenyans for Kenya spirit into our politics, and if we do it rapidly enough, we will create an environment where 2012’s elections are about policy rather than ethnicity: which for my friends Peter Kenneth, Martha Karua, Paul Muite, Mutava Musyimi and Uhuru Kenyatta, is the only way Kenyans would vote any one of them President after Kibaki.

(Mr Wambugu is the convenor, KikuyusforChange)

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  • mkenyamzalendo

    I BELIEVE IN THIS ARTICLE VERY WELL AND AS KENYANS WE NEED TO BE THING OUT OF OUR TRIBES AND EMBRACE OTHER TRIBES OPINION  THEN THAT IS WHEN WE WILL BE TALKING ABOUT VISION 2030. 

  • Kamau

    PNU alliance has won in  Kamukunji, and Raila had indicated that it was a contest between him and Uhuru, please consider decamping

  • Machag

    Its ok to have people with differment views and who look at the prism from different angles but we also must agree that whenever the people from Central Kenya meet that is translated to be tribalism but when others meet and even hold elders meeting as happened in Western not too long ago that is called strategizing. We have had alot of “advice” since time gone on joining the rest of the country-no one has told us how we have not joined them but the community is littered with your likes basically merchants of infliuence and no one perfected it better than Kamotho, Ngumbu Njururi etc etc etc and now YOU. They had better arguments than the one you are putting forward. We dont mind you holding your auction in different places as you please but please let us be. The Kikuyu are one of the most informed communities in the country and will not be confined to whatever the few leaders who meet and declare one to be the spokesman want but at least give us that credit and stop talking down on us about perceived wrongs and lack of direction and/or nationalism. Reading through your piece one has the inclination that either you don’t live in Kenya or you are just visiting and there are many of us like you,.. The People of Central Kenya have a right like any other people to decide the way they will go

  • Anonymous

    Sorry my friend. 2012, HAKUNA MGAWANYIKO just as we have shown in Kamukunji. Finally. The man has owned up that he is the convenor of “Kikuyus for Raila” lobby group. Prepare to cry in the toilet just like Miguna Miguna when Raila fails to reward you hata kazi ya sweeper. 
    DO NOT DISTORT HISTORY. Raila sanctioned the 41-vs-1

    Thank God for the BBC which unlike the Kenyan media, does not shy away from recording and preserving facts. Here is the proof. 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_VhoiDmHmU&feature=relmfu

  • Kiugi

    I am very sorry but you are walking that road alone

  • Dan

    I totally Agree with you, because whenever UK talks he refers to KIKUYUS and people from central province as “MY” people!!!! What about the rest of Kenya? This UK is too much drunk of Tribal Politics and Ethnicity that was introduced in Kenya by his Late Father Mzee JK. Only Ocampo will correct the mess in his head, only ICC will teach him that Kenya is ONE house, one nation, one people and we are not owned by his overly developed political super egoism. 

  • Kiugi

    Iam not sure which part of central you are from,but i can tell you that you need to see some light…..”nataka kuongea na waluo na waluhya”,you remember that speech by Raila,Uhuru park 2007?… post election killing 2007, interview hosted by BBC,’this is nothing it is like a fight between Chelsea and Man U,you remember that interview…..Most of our tribes are united more than never,and that is what happened in Kamukunji….you have not seen anything yet days of vitendawili is gone and Kenyans are smarter today than yesterday….that kikuyuforchange to me it sound like YK92

  • Dake36

    You cannot have your cake and eat it.You are the convenor for kik’uyu for change instead of advocating kenyans for change. By saying we come together in c.kenya we are just trying to catch up with the rest of what other regions in kenya have  already done.No  critics like yourself has ever written an artical to critisize others who are enthroned directly without any contest. UK has suggested  to MK and PK and any other would be aspirant  to come together and contest who among them should lead us to negotiations with others leaders from other regions regarding who among them should run as president.I wish you well with your tribal grouping.You should not see the presidency as a kikuyu contest versus other communities.It is a leader with the majority of votes cast irrespective of tribal affliations, who will  be our president plus other conditions as per our new constitution.If whatever we stand for is aganaist any kenyan laws, then intead of your empty rhetoricking you should seek redress in courts of law to streamline the process

  • Jmaish2002

    Ati kikuyus for change which change and which kikuyus are you talking about. Go look for a real job man.

  • Well said Wambugu! Tribal alienation will not get Kenya anywhere but create more animosity from the other 40+ tribes.
    Bravo to KikuyusforChange…KenyanswantChange!

  • Wainaina

    I am descended from Central Kenya where my father, mother and my fore fathers were born meaning that I am a Kikuyu. What upsets me the most is that I am expected to be one of Uhuru’s “MY PEOPLE” yet his ideals & associations do not appeal to me. I am supposed to blindly follow and accept the endorsement by a cabal of elderly Kikuyu men that he is the only one that can unite the community. But the question is unite the Kikuyu against who??

    To me UK epitomizes what the rest of the country has always thought about Kikuyu’s as being too self important and arrogant and believing rather naively that if united as a community they can make a president by sheer force of numbers. 

    The fact is that no one from any community can hope to be a president of Kenya today without a nationalistic appeal and once again UK, his handlers and some within the Kikuyu community have got it wrong and forced the Kikuyu to unite against the rest of Kenya…….in a no win contest!!

  • Plynkariuki

    I agree on the point of perceptions, and currently it is perceived that Kikuyus will NEVER vote for any other person apart from a Kikuyu, and this is backed by EVIDENCE, hard evidence since 1992. This has cemented in other regions, including the new found KKK/G7 alliance members from Kalenjin, that eventually Uhuru and his people, will want the rest of the KKK to support a Kikuyu. This is what I think Mr. Wambugu is saying. Kikuyus have a right to back “their” own, all the time….but in doing so, they are creating more evidence that they don’t care about the rest of the country, selfish etc. Other perceptions that are rife about Kikuyus include the higher percentage of Kikuyus working in the Public sector. Hence, instead of bashing Wambugu, lets look inwards, and see how we can kill those perceptions. Otherwise, I see a trend in future, where other communities will continue to hate us based on this, and we will be alienated from the rest of the country, and left to do our own things ourselves which will not help the country, but simply cement all the hatred against us, our businesses, genuine work etc.

  • Anonymous

    Why should we engage Raila Odinga in particular but not others? After all, the latest opinion poll shows he has only 26% support. Uhuru with 23% is more or less tied and he has not even began campaigning. There is nothing special about Raila that Kikuyus MUST engage him.
      You are really just a hired gun to propagate Raila propaganda and you will fail. We KNOW WHO Raila is ever since 41 against 1 and no amount of clever posturing and lies will change that. That 41 against 1 chain will hang around Raila’s neck like a 50kg chain forever UNLESS he apologizes to Kikuyus GENUINELY and REMORSEFULLY and expresses SINCERE REGRET, otherwise he can forget it. Otherwise you are just pissing in the wind before a storm into your face; so pathetic. Kikuyus for change indeed. 

  • Anonymous

    It is true that as long as our country is divided along ethnic lines we will never progress.All major wars that happened after the second world war especially in Africa were mainly caused by leaders who propagated negative ethnicity.we as Kenyans should strive towards choosing leaders based on substance rather than our ethnic identities http://www.tusijisunde.com/2011/good-morning-kenya-is-it-really-a-new-dawn/

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