For Kenya to be strong, united we must work from within our differences

It has been over three years since the Jubilee government got into office. During that period one of the most consistent (and misunderstood) messages that has come forth from this administration has been that Jubilee is about peace, national cohesion and inter-ethnic unity.

I had the opportunity of driving an inter-ethnic debate across Kenya after the 2007 post election violence where I directly engaged with opinion leaders from 30 of Kenya’s over 42 ethnic communities and at the end of 37 discussion forums I was deeply skeptical that we could create a united nation.

I also had the opportunity of working with today’s Opposition where I discovered that beneath the nice-sounding national platitudes from the political elite from this formation is a thinly disguised inter-ethnic animosity of a kind that I had never encountered, not even amongst the general population during the inter-ethnic forums.

But Jubilee could be onto something.

An avid reader of the Bible knows that for Israel to become the powerful nation they became, they first organised as tribes. When they were camping in the wilderness after leaving Egypt; marching to the Promised Land; or settling in Canaan they organised around their respective tribes. They even split the various roles within the community as tribes, which is how the Levites were responsible for worship duties. The most remarkable thing however is that rather than become weaker working with these internal divisions actually made them stronger, as Israel.

I want to believe that this is the concept Jubilee is pursuing. The idea that for Kenya to be a strong united nation we must work from within our differences and have candid inter-ethnic conversations of our expectations from each other, and from the whole.

Jubilee began this process from the most extreme divide amongst Kenyan communities; the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin. As Deputy President Ruto said in a statement that was deliberately misrepresented by some, “No community has more problems with the Kikuyu than us the Kalenjin’.

The Deputy President was right. No two Kenyan communities have greater distrust, fear or inter-ethnic animosity between them than the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin. In fact one of the reasons why I was sure Jubilee would lose in 2013 was because I did not believe that a Kalenjin could vote for a Kikuyu. But they did. The two communities have then managed to sustain a political coalition and maintain a functional government for three years.

So there is hope in this concept that is behind the formation of Jubilee. The message that Uhuru and Ruto have been preaching is that ‘if our two communities could come from the extremes they hold against each other and agree to work together, then there is no community in Kenya we cannot work with; be they from Western, Coast, Eastern, North Eastern or Nyanza’.

Unfortunately the leaders around the President and Deputy President do not seem to believe in the message their principals are propagating. They are still stuck in the fixation of what their two respective communities are not getting; which is really unattractive to the rest of Kenya. What we need to see instead are Jubilee teams of Kalenjin and Kikuyu leaders meeting Kambas, Luhyas, Giriama, Miji Kenda, Luos, Somalis, Arabs, Teso, etc with the message ‘There can be no us without you so come, let us dialogue together and agree on how to live harmoniously’.

This is the message that will ever get Kenya to the promised land of peace, love and unity; and win Jubilee the crucial 2017 general elections.

(Wambugu is a Director of Change Associates, a Political Affairs Consultancy)

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