Are we a tribal country? Yes we are. I always believed that this was a perception issue. I also believed that it was wrong to be tribal. I have now accepted that we are tribal and realised that it is not wrong. What is wrong is how we have used this reality to divide, rather than unite Kenyans.
First let me confirm to you that we are tribal.
Look at how we establish the traditional family unit, which is essentially the very heart of our society. One is generally expected to marry from within their community. Those who marry from outside the community will inevitably encounter that outspoken relative who will voice what many other relatives are not asking; ‘Is it that you could not find a good spouse from amongst our people?’ However even in such cases tradition will be followed and the cultural expectations of both communities will be factored into the wedding process and subsequent marriage and children rearing.
Then there is how we do our politics. In Central Kenya we are gradually getting to the point where the traditional elders’ fraternity must know you well; which essentially means that you have followed due process and become a member of the ‘Kiama’ (Elder’s Council) before you are recognised as a genuine political leader of the region.
In North Eastern elders are determining who will run for what political office and for how long. In Nyanza the elders association has become a political tool. In Western, rites of passage are political affairs. In the rest of the country men (and women) have to be crowned as community leaders as a first step when embarking in the pursuit of political office.
So we are tribal. But how do we leverage this reality for good?
Towards the 2013 elections I was one of those who did not believe that the Kalenjin community could vote for a Kikuyu as President. Just five years earlier the two communities had been the main points of violent inter-ethnic contact following the disputed 2007 general elections. However the Kalenjin did vote for Uhuru Kenyatta!
The answer to this question is the reason behind the subsequent and completely unexpected political partnership between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities in government, and why this partnership is still intact four years later against all odds and internal intrigues.
It is also an example of how to use our tribal reality to unite rather than divide Kenyans; and a profound testimony to the fact that our difficult interethnic history is not the obstacle to building one united nation, unless we let it.
What happened is actually very simple. Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto candidly discussed the points of past, current and future conflict between the Kalenjin and Kikuyu communities. They then established the Jubilee Coalition, an outfit that presented a platform upon which to find solutions to these conflicts.
The result was that even though the conflicts were not actually resolved an environment was created that gave hope that they could be, with time. This was enough for the two communities to work together despite the challenges decades of mistrust and animosity presented.
This is concept behind the proposed Jubilee Party.
Uhuru and Ruto are hoping to expand their own two-community experience to include all the other forty plus Kenyan communities. If it works … and it’s a big ‘IF’; the Jubilee Party will become a political umbrella under which all our Kenyan communities can speak candidly about each other and through which they can propose and execute viable (political) solutions to solve our historical and future inter-ethnic conflicts, amicably.
This is a terrific idea, which is why #IAmJubilee!