BY JUDIE KABERIA
I miss my childhood days. I was transferred to a school in Western Kenya, although my parents hail from Eastern province.
My former schoolmates were envious with most wishing they too had a chance to school in western. My new school comprised students mainly from Western and Nyanza provinces – or to stop beating around the bush, Luos and Luhyas.
My classmates nicknamed me ‘Mkikuyu’, despite the fact that I am actually from Meru; they assumed the Ameru and Agikuyu were the same. But they still tagged me ‘Mkikuyu’ and with no ill feelings at all. It didn’t affect me either. Infact, I felt proud of my branded title.
Indeed, I also picked up on the tagging; soon my best friend was a girl called ‘Mjaluo’. She was very dear to me as we did virtually everything and went everywhere together as best friends.
I taught her and others Kimeru, while some of them also taught me Kiluo and Kiluhya. It was very exciting to hear us struggling to learn each others’ languages, beliefs and cultures. I learnt luhya songs and even translated their meaning with great determination to learn and be part of them.
There is no single day I felt out of place because of my tribe.
During the school holidays – feeling as sweet as I used to – I would go back to the slopes of Meru pretending to have forgotten my own mother tongue. I only spoke Kiswahili, luo or luhya.
You can imagine my celebrity status back in the village, as I taught fellow girls and boys the little luo and luhya that I had picked up in school.
To spice up my acquired ‘knowledge’ I bragged that I could fish and cook a sizzling ‘samaki’ meal. Well… the fishing part was a lie but I sure had learnt how to cook fish.
Maybe it was just the innocence, but I am also sure that none of us noticed our differences on account of tribe.
So, why is tribe an issue in our country today? What have we done to the young minds in this country?
What’s wrong with me saying I am Meru, Luo, or Kalenjin? Whether the media will refuse to mention tribes or not, I know my tribe and I believe many other Kenyans know theirs.
Kenya should celebrate its culture and diversity. Our culture originates from our tribes and we cannot talk of one without mentioning the other. Even in our history, we hear of the Agikuyu, Ameru, Akamba, a Borana and many others.
Ethnicity is positive and unique.
I think Kenyans need to wake up and celebrate who we are. We are living in pretence yet inside ourselves we are deeply engrossed in our tribal cocoons.
Tribalism has been portrayed wrongly by our politicians. This is a class of power-hungry people who use all means to divide us for their own selfishness.
How comes we work without caring where we come from, but when we go to elections that’s when words of negative ethnicity emerge?
In between electioneering periods, you seldom hear of tribal clashes in the magnitude of campaign times. Why then do we see each other differently when we are about to vote?
Look at the person next to you. Are they your tribe? If so, I bet you don’t feel any resentment towards them, do you?
Let us accept and promote our cultural diversity. Whether you are Borana, Luo, Kikuyu, Maasai, Kamba, Somali, Meru, Kalenjin, Goan or Indian do not shy away from saying it. It is who you are.
Of importance is not to allow anyone to use you to hate others.
(JUDIE is a reporter with Capital FM)