Tribe should not be a liability

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BY MACHEL WAIKENDA

Kenya is a country blessed with diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds that on a sad note have been used to divide us politically. Tribe has become more of a liability than an asset for us as a people even when we shun it for common interests.

We often seem to forget that regardless of our ethnic backgrounds and heritage, we all aspire for the same things. We forget that we face the same challenges and problems despite what tribal corner we run to when we feel we want a sense of belonging.

Every Kenyan from whatever part of the country is looking for opportunities to advance their lives by making them better. And more importantly, every Kenyan wants to exploit these opportunities in a peaceful and secure environment. At times, our ethnic differences break this sense of unity creating deep mistrust among us.

Every Kenyan farmer is looking forward to waking up to a country where they are sure they will get market for their produce. The same aspiration is held by every fisherman, craftsman, miner, entrepreneur and by all in other trades.

Every day, young graduates throng interview rooms in their thousands looking for the same opportunities despite their tribes. Moreover, they even shared classes and worked on projects with the aim of excelling in their studies without looking at their backgrounds.

It is unfortunate that we always end up divided mostly along tribal lines in any period preceding or following an election. Most of this division is mythically driven by selfish leaders who wish to make their supporters believe that there is an “Us vs Them” divide.

As a result, we end up looking at others from our tribal microscope; sometimes magnifying the stereotypes associated with others and ignoring what we all have in common.

It is interesting that we always forget these differences when celebrating or mourning anything that is not politics. When the government appears to be using our taxes in a not prudent manner, we always find a common voice.

If you are at a social place when the Kenya Rugby 7s team is playing, the cheers and the groans are all united. The same happens when our athletes are on the track or when Harambee Stars is playing, despite their not so impressive performance.

We always get back behind our national teams as a united nation and want to share in the celebrations. We wear faces of displeasure when they do not perform as we would expect, forgetting our diverse tribal heritage.

We engage in business with each other without taking into account what tribes we come from. We all do so with a common goal of empowering ourselves economically.

When cultural nights are hosted in various entertainment spots in Kenya, we most of the times join our friends from that culture and celebrate. We even pool vehicles to get all of us to such events.

Imagine if we pooled the socio-economic vehicles that we need to advance as a group. We would collectively take a central role in pulling in the same direction for a more cohesive and productive society.

We all cry out as a united front when we hear of increased insecurity in a part of a country that we have never been to or will never be too. It is because we have the same aspiration – to live in a secure and crime-free society despite of where we are.

But things are always different when it comes to politics and dealing with national issues. Even when we have leadership that has been supported by a large portion of the country, we still want to make it appear as belonging to a certain tribe.

We must as a people cultivate the one thing that unites us which is being Kenyan. We must identify why we are one people facing the same challenges and work on it as a uniting factor.

There is nothing wrong in belonging to a certain tribe as just like our gender we never chose to be born that way. What is wrong is us to carry the notion that we are superior than others whether we control political or economic power.

As a country, we are celebrating 50 years of independence that was gained by our forefathers taking a united front to resist colonialism. Our forefathers were born into different tribes – more than 40 to be precise – but because of a common enemy called colonialism, they found themselves as a single unit called Kenya.

Over the years we have found an opportunity to come together on this sense of unity and deal with what we see as oppressive leadership with the example of emergence of the opposition in the early 90s.

As we head towards the Jubilee celebrations, we must take a conscious decision to make our diversity work for us. Some of our cultures have attracted tourists to this country and instead of looking at them as inferior, we must decide that we must strengthen this as an asset for all of us.

We have before us an opportunity to ensure that we develop a culture of unity to deal with our challenges. The same way we partake in a traditional meal or a drink regardless of our tribe, we must strive to unite and face the socio-economic challenges that are commonly facing us.

When we do this, we will have more that unite us other than running to our tribal cocoon when we feel threatened by the advancement of others that are not necessarily of our tribe.

Our forefathers aspired for a united country that was able to tackle every emerging issue as a unit. We will continue to erode this dream by ganging up in our tribal cocoons especially for political gain.

The big question for all of us is what makes us proud of being Kenyan and how we can use this understanding to tackle the challenges facing us individually but are common to all.

Those things that make us proud of being Kenyans can act as the magnet that pulls us together. Kenya needs individuals who will not hesitate to see their countrymen advance without trying to figure out what tribe they belong to.

It needs the current generation, which is well-read and exposed and united by languages such as sheng; arts such as local music, to overcome the reference of tribal stereotypes.

The youth in Kenya need to take up a leading role in cleaning up negative stereotypes that have been a major source of divisions.

The government may run all sorts of programmes to fight negative ethnicity but it will be up to individuals to holistically view others as Kenyans and not only when there is need to do so.

(The writer is the TNA Director of Communications. Twitter @MachelWaikenda)

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  • Faceless

    Ironically those who seem to be loudest against tribalism are indeed, the ones perpetuating it through SIEGE MENTALITY POLITICS. Since the March 4th 2013, a section of Kenyan politicians have relentlessly propagated a siege mentality among the people (tribes) they see as constituting their political power base. Unawares the populace buys these ‘siege’ as real. They fail to realise that these politicians are only interested in self gains and nothing more. I unapologetically say that the politicians have chosen to run “hiding among ones people after the March 4th defeat, similar to the way a dog hides its tails between its legs”.

    What worries me however, is the broader implications of these siege mentality that Kenyans should be concerned with. This is because while pretending to be advocates of systems and institutions for democratic governance, this SIEGE MENTALITY will only result in the destruction of the very national institutions that Kenyans heavily invested in following the 2007/8 Post-Election violence. Indeed, I always point out that the conflict
    that followed the 2007 general elections resulted from to similar propagation of siege mentality during the 2005 referendum. such SIEGE MENTALITY is what led to the devilish 41against 1 Arithmetic that ODM used in the run up to the 2007 elections and the siege of the GEMA by the rest of the country, yet they had won fair and square.

    Indeed, at the risk of being perceived as an alarmist, it should not be a surprise that Kenya will be once again revisited by the PEV genie if we to the referendum way between 2013 and 2018, thanks to this propagation of siege mentality by CORD and Raila in particular.

    For the benefit of those who do not have an idea. Siege Mentality is a shared feeling of victimization and defensiveness. It is a collective state of mind whereby one believes that one is being constantly attacked, oppressed, or isolated in the face of the negative intentions of the rest of the world. The result is a state of being overly fearful of people ‘who do not belong’, and an intractably defensive attitude towards such a people. Among the consequences of a siege mentality are ethnicity, racisms, social conformity, and lack of trust, but also a preparedness for the worst including fighting and a strong sense of social cohesion among the “sieged”. Sociologically, the term may refer to persecution feelings by anyone in a group or a group that views itself as a threatened minority.

    It is this SIEGE MENTALITY that drove Hitler to kill millions of Jews. SIEGE MENTALITY also drove the inhuman acts of the Apartheid regime in South Africa. it was SIEGE MENTALITY that is responsible for the Rwandan genocide of 1994. This SIEGE MENTALITY is encouraged by the leadership in Israel and in North Korea to justify their continuance in power. SIEGE MENTALITY is being used by the USA government to drive the global anti-terror agenda and invasion of ‘unfriendly’ governments especially in the oil rich middle east.

    In Kenya, SIEGE MENTALITY has led to having some regions of the country isolating themselves from the government of the day while causing others to believe that a government belongs to them and not to the rest. Indeed, it is this SIEGE MENTALITY that cause the so called ethnic cleansing in both the 1992 and 1997 general elections. This SIEGE MENTALITY led to the killing of 1,500 people and displacement of more than 500,000 following the 2007/8 general elections.

    With the most recent trend being that of using SIEGE MENTALITY to straight jacket the Kenyan populace, especially in the so called CORD regions of Luo, Kamba and Kisii tribes, into certain political thought, it is high time that Kenyans were warned that politics funned by SIEGE MENTALITY are not aimed at benefiting and/or protecting any one or group of communities/tribes from another or anything.

    SIEGE MENTALITY is only aimed at promoting and/or protecting the
    interests of an individual or a gang of individuals, in our case CORD politicians, who are propagating it. Today, SIEGE MENTALITY poses greater risks to humanity than Hitler’s Nazi, Al Qaeda combined with illicit drugs and unemployment. SIEGE MENTALITY and its perpetrators MUST be shunned by those who believe that humanity must work to solve its problems without BUTCHERING one another.

    • Mzalendo Halisi

      @ Faceless.Unfortunately you dont address the root cause of “siege mentality” but you are addresing the aftermath of it because it is propagated by CORD who happen to adress a particular ethnic block. The people who are propagating for Unity today against tribalisation are infact the serial perpetrators of it to sustain economic and social interests.

      We campaigned vigorously on both fronts on ethnic blocks and anti-certain tribes to sustain or grab power. On one hand were Jubilee brigade led by GEMA and Kalenjin who campaigned directly or indirectly on politics of survival, vitroil of sovereignity and demonisation of other uncooth and uncivilised tribes more so the Luo evil Raira. To their ethnic masses the message was clear, Raila engineered the ICC so as to block the Kikuyu Nation and ascend to power in which he was to destroy their economic and social interests due to his hate and revenge of the GEMA nation. It was survival for them and the Luos were to decimate their survival as they were hell bent to destroy their socio-economic existence. It was a fight between evil(raila) and good(their tribal maintenance) in their quest to power. That wasnt SIEGE mentality. On Kalenjin nation, it was retribution and revenge against a person whom they trusted previosly and betrayed them from Mau to the cases to condemning their son to the ICC cross. Combined the two nations gave the Jubilee 91% of their winning votes after thorough mobilisation of their ethnic cacoons. Thats why today, CORD opposition is not seen as opposition rather ethnic evil people, who are aimed at disrupting smooth services of the goverment..as if the work of opposition is to cheer goverment..CORD is seen indirectly as defeated ethnic group who dont want to accept and move on. On other hand Cord was Led by Luo community which had perceived notion since independence that they deserve to rule from odinga snr to jnr now. There underdevelopment is not because of their own stupid ideals but state favoring the ruling regime ethnic tribes. It was a fight for a do or die against perenial ethnic political rivals the GEMA nation who they knew would continue to skim and milk everything, thieves and arrogant. It was survival for them too. Kamba Nation was voting for the Luo to send a message of revenging betrayal by GEMA nation. Together they got 53% of their loosing votes. The Kisii, Coast and Luhya voted for them majority cause they felt the GEMA were hell bent to sustain in power to “eat” the resources. Thats also SIEGE mentality.

      Now after election, the Jubilee nation requires peace so as to have sober economic progress after using and whipping tribal emotion to clinch victory. CORD leaders complaints disenfrachise their economic and political ambitions as some of the cord areas like coast, western, e.t.c are heavily populated with their ethnic blocks and have immense resources and continual bickering of cord will increase animosity towards their ethnic blocks hence instability. U wonder whats the role of opposition, if not to critique and make noise to any ruling regime, factual or not = while goverment is to deliver irrespective of opposition! The SIEGE Mentality notion is farcical and not adressing facts..

      • Faceless

        Mzalendo Halisi, Sorry but I think reading a little of history would help you realise that indeed the genesis of SIEGE MENTALITY in Kenya was Jaramogi Odinga after he was fired as VP in 1965. You would realise that it is the reason why for decades, the LOU nation has opposed anything that Jaramogi opposed. You will also understand that it was the reason behind the SPLIT of FORD in 2002. That is the SIEGE MENTALITY that Raila inherited and has continuously perpetuated. You will understand that even his “Kibaki Tosha” thing was a face saving gimmick after he had been seen as a traitor by his community that had completely bought into his earlier SIEGE PROPAGANDA. You will realise that it was this that caused the once progressive Orengo and Nyongó to beat a hasty retreat into becoming chief apologetics of Odingaism.
        If HISTORY is what you wanted to connect with the CORD stuff of today, then there you have it. Hope you will now understand why the 41 against 1 and now 40 against 2 is coming from. Sawa??? Goodday!!

        • Mzalendo Halisi

          Unfortunately as normal in our ethnic tribal politics an analysis can be noted from which area the person comes from. Although your prism is making sense but it is fundamentally distorted on perpetrators of ethnicity and rather you push to to “Luos” or Raila the Tribal Chief of the community, Just as Uhuru or Ruto or Kalonzo who are respective tribal chiefs. For decades Luo Nation has been opposing whatever for Odingaism? Mmmh, you are short of our ethnic history. Jaramogi tussle with Kenyatta was on system of governance(Read Kaddu/KPU) alongside Ronald Ngala and others who propagated majimboism while Kenyatta strong Unitary state for benefit of the “nation”. After expulsion, Kenyatta, brought Mboya to fight Odinga in Luo Nyanza and neuter him although he killed him later. Mboya tried the battles and at first he won but Odingaism roots grew as Mboya was seen as a Kikuyu mole. Eventually from 1985+ Odingaism has reigned supreme in Luo Nyanza as a solution to fight off Kikuyu hegemony. The likes of Orengo et al, were progressive but could not manage in Nyanza cause of perception of fighting odingaism and in essence Kikuyu Moles. I dont know where Luos constantly opposed odingaism lest you mean a few leaders there but not Luo community.

          But you have not adressed on the other side of the bread, why was that. Kikuyu Nation since independence has never voted for any candidate lest for a Kikuyu candidate. Isnt that SIEGE mentality or to simplify it ethnic balkanisation. Luos are represented by Odingaism as their political symbol, while Kikuyu dont have a single person as they change them but are represented by Kikuyuism as their symbol since in pre-multiparty politics that has been their trend, even when they were fighting Kalenjin Nation(Moi) they had a thin line of tribalism, from Matiba to Kibaki to Uhuru (Purely Kikuyuism) and even Muite.(Thats siege mentality, cause its beleiving without us or our own no survival and we need to balkanise ourselfs to benefit socio-economically). Kenyatta Snr. Immensely benefitted Kikuyu nation, though it was the elite but they benefitted as a community, it was a clear character that whoever gets into power milks the cow of resources, Moi followed suit with Kalenjin thats why at first he fought kikuyuism and GEMA nation beleived MOI was killing them economically and socially..and rallied behind their sons..(Thats not siege mentality)..Kibaki came into power after 24yrs of GEMA nation staying in cold and in the 10yrs it can be seen the difference in terms of ethnicity for the few GEMA not all as still most have problems like others. The narrative is clear, whoever gets in power gets it all, mainly resources and benefits, it was practised by the 3 former presidents and was seen clearly. And in run up to March 2013 election it was also clear from the campaign, siege mentality clearly happening on both sides. Entitlement, economic and social benefit and winner takes it all. In ethnicised politics thats the bottom line and thats why GEMA/KALENJIN fought before their reunion, Kalenjin simply beleived GEMA used their advantage in goverment to acquire land and press them economically and boom it was..from 1992 to the peak of 2007! 40 against 1 did not mean Kibaki did not get votes from other areas, he got in almost 20+ other tribes..however they ODM then knew Kikuyu time to “eat” was enough and RV chaos was boiling since moi ouster in 2002. 42 against 1 was a replica of the same, the two ethnic blocks have been in power and took it all from independence using economic and numbers resources and it was high time for them to pass the baton to others to eat. And for the GEMA/KAMATUSA it was for them to retain the post by any means neccesary to fend of possible disruption of their existence,economically and socially..thats a notion from a proffesor to a chokoraa, as ethnic reasoning in tribal politics is the same. Siege Mentality is ethnic balkanisation, and who practise it better than the major tribes led by the GEMA and LUO nation? Finding a solution for it rather than using fractured stories is what its beneficial. Is it deeper devolution so that everyone (ethnic blocks) dont blame others for their failures? sober discussion needed not adressing secondary parts

          • Faceless

            FYI, I am neither Luo nor Kikuyu. You seem to be very misinformed. At no time was Jaramogi in KADU (not KADDU, KADDU belongs to Jirongo na niya jana). See you do not even have your facts right. Since his creation Odinga was a UNITARIST never a FEREDALIST. FEREDALISTS were from the small tribes under Moi and Ngala through KADU. Odinga and Kenyatta were in KANU as was Mboya. See what you said “Odingaism roots grew as Mboya was seen as a Kikuyu mole”. Why would that have happened if it was about systems of governance. Mboya was just opposed to the SIEGE MENTALITY that Jaramogi had started propagating, he knew it won’t take the Luo nation very far. How RIGHT Mboya was. I am not a Kikuyu to address their concerns, but as much as they have voted their own, they have never been captives as Luos have. Saitoti, Kamotho, Kanyingi, Josephat Karanja, Njenga Karume, Uhuru Kenyatta are some of the biggest beneficiaries of the so called anti-kikuyu regime of Moi. In an African proverb we would say that they never put their “eggs in one basket”. That cannot be said about the Luo.

            FYI, devolution cannot be the panacea to SIEGE MENTALITY. If it were, Midiwo would not be coming up with a skewed list head of government departments and agencies to further consolidate the SIEGE MENTALITY his mentor is busy preaching through devolution. I mean, devolution would be the panacea to SIEGE MENTALITY only when it is interpreted to mean dissolution of the entity known as Kenya. May be that is the agenda of the table, I do not know.

          • Mzalendo Halisi

            Dalmas Otieno, Odongo Omamo et al.. and many Luos have been beneficiaries of Moi Regime too..Jaramogi was a unitary pre-independence but after entry of Kenyatta and solidification of GEMA in the regime he knew the only way is through changing a system of governance thats why he went to seek a form of governance. Beneficiary cause of not following ethnic led goverment tribes idealism? Thats the causation of problems. Mboya was purely used by Kenyatta to fight Odingaism and after he was exhausted and Odinga left out, his ambition became fatal. There was no idealism to odingaism, rather it was against concentration of resources by the ruling ethnic elites. SIEGE MENTALITY for Luos am repeating is concentrated on Odingaism and Kikuyu nation on Kikuyuism. Luos are captives of Odinga and Kikuyu captives of their tribe. Whats the difference here? One is led on their tribe by a person(who they beleive can fight Kikuyu Hegemony) while other tribe are led by any but their person (from their tribes), held captive by one rao and held captive by their tribes. Or you call those different SIEGE MENTALITIES. Martha Karua, Peter Keneth, et al, were not hated or not progressive but did not sing to SIEGE MENTALITY of GEMA nation too!! isnt it. Coming from an area with marginalisation and smaller tribes, yes DEVOLUTION and not parliamentary system hogwash can adress the winner takes it all mentality. Midiwo ir surely a tribalist but i cant differentiate him from the GEMA nation..i cant mention many too. Devolution and empowerment of the counties is a realistic and inevitable way to adress the hegemony and large tribes mentality of “superiority”. When in Kilifi county we have 50% of resources, and determine the destiny of the area. We wont blame Luos or Kikuyus for centralisation of the resources and using it for their benefit and political gain..that has been the problem making the Kikuyu, Luo, Kalenjin, Kamba et al,,trooping to their ethnic cacoons. Strong Devolution as in most regions led by ethnicised tribal politics does not favour the majority led tribes but balances and demistifies ethnic domination. It can become a panacea to disolution of the state if their is fear of wrong doing..but can unify the state stronger. You have highlighted SIEGE MENTALITY on one community and blinding on others! Maybe thats the problem of solving our ethnic problem derailing our progress

          • Faceless

            I do not agree with you on the version of history you hold. The history of Kenya (whether interpreted by Prof. William Ochieng or Prof. Muriuki) cannot place Jaramogi anywhere near a FEDERALIST in both the pre or post independence eras of Kenya. Never ever. However, who am I to change yourstory. You only knows better what purpose it is aimed at serving.

            Devolution panacea to SIEGE MENTALITY? I do not think so. For within the so called devolved entities, we do have some who will feel more entitled to stuff than others and will continue using this strategy to have their way. Say Kisumu for instance, what would one make of the assertions by Oburu the other day that the Kisumu Gubernatorial position was meant to belong to Bondo and not anywhere else in the county. What would you attribute the fighting in Moyale between the Gare and the Murule clans to, the fighting in Tana River between the Pokomo and the Oromo. The story of the Suba not being Lous when they have been everything but Lou, the Ndia in Kirinyaga who are told they are not Kikuyus. I mean it is all over. Just pay closer attention to the issues at the county level especially in cabinet appointments. Indeed, the allocation of CDF funds was itself using such mechanisms. So Devolution will do away with that?
            No, DEVOLUTION is just another Mirage that has been created for the poor to keep chasing as the solution to their marginalization by the elite. Sad that you and others with very high intelligence could be falling for such.

            I wish you could be able to see that siege mentality will within devolution will still be used for “concentration of resources by the ruling ethnic elites”.

          • Mzalendo Halisi

            History ideology or narrative can be debated but facts stand there. If you beleive Jaramogi was for a unitary state rather than federalism before and after independence then its an open debate. However, from the argument it is evident that the SIEGE MENTALITY( a.k.a Tribal Balkanisation) is not on Cord Leaning Ethnic tribes but perfected by Jubilee Predominatly tribes. In this case we discuss about majorly, the GEMA, Kalenjin, Luo, Kamba, Luhya among others like Mijikenda and Kisii. Its a shared ideology perpetrated by the dominant. What in agreement which although have not articulated is the SIEGE MENTALITY( ETHNICISATION OF TRIBES) IS WITHIN CORD AS MUCH OR LESS THAN JUBILEE.

            Looking at the ethnic history of our Nation, yes devolution can lead to dethnisation of our dirty tribal politics.You have clearly noted that, in counties there will be those who will feel entitled than others? Why because they feel economic space and other stuff are theirs. Thats perfect. Now that is what is replicated Nationally depending on ethnic composition of the ruling coalition or party. Indirectly or Indirectly Dominant Ethnic tribes in the ruling regime because of their contribution to their win. This is then replicated on all spheres of public and private sectors in terms of ethnic dominance. Application of SIEGE MENTALITY of entitlement becomes reality. What would be the stake of other ethnic losers or their feeling. Loosing everything even which is in their territory. The fear of what is happening in terms of tribe is what is replicated through the state. In this case , Unitary State then becomes an illusion created by the dominant ones to maximise the benefits of the country and populate other areas in disregard to their interests. Now finding a probable solution becomes a problem leading to uncernanity and suspicion of the tribes. For instance, why should coastal people think wabara or people from GEMA are parasitic to them and use state influence to get resources while the GEMA beleive they are hardworking and the guys are plain lazy even to their resources! These suspicions are created by socio-political structure which is determined by our ethnicity. Devolution though not perfect can become handy in adressing these deep seated ethnic animosities which are harnessed by the tribes.

  • marloow

    I love the blatant and puerile hypocrisy of the plea for tribal harmony and unity from the director of communications of a political party (TNA) whose raison d’etre during the 2012 elections was demonization of those “foreigners” who were out to “finish our sons”…
    To quote Rev. Wright – the chickens of tribal allegiance are coming home to roost..especially for those given the mandate to lead a very divided nation…

  • Rodgers Vele

    Nice piece of Message, I wish this message could have been delivered to the immediate former president before the disputed elections in 2007, People would not have died because of him clinging on power. Am sorry to say this but despite the fact that Kibaki did quiet well in terms of development he completely failed to unite this country, it’s during his tenure as a president that tribalism was openly practiced under his watch and he did nothing.

  • Shagalabagala

    I have had the privilege to read some psychology and knows something called projection. Somebody suffering from a disorder(psychological) appears to point fingers at others. I am not surprised about the content of this piece because I know who has authored it and what he stands for.

  • Kwanusu

    Mr. Waikenda, your piece is like a hen running around with the intestines of another hen! It is no secret that your employer has taken tribalism to another level unabashedly and indeed you are the youth within who should be making a difference. I honestly believe you are where you are now simply because of the tribe thing. The current generation, to which you and I belong is a great mistake and a global shame..sometimes I wish it could just be wiped out! Let us not pretend and agree that tribalism and nepotism in this country have been escalated by the people in power and we all know where POWER has been since independence.

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