TNA must get other ideas beyond the tribal card


I recently finished reading the book ‘Race of a Lifetime’, written by two distinguished American political reporters on the intricacies of the contest between Barrack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain and several other candidates, on who would be the 44th President of America in 2008.

The book offers interesting insight into how America dealt with the issue of race during the 2008 general election.

The Obama team ensured they avoided anything that suggested Obama was running for president as a black American minority. Obama made it clear that he was first and foremost an American, everything else after.

At some point just before the Democratic nominations, Hillary Clinton’s team had to do damage control when they were accused of trying to use the race card against Obama. A month to the general elections it was the Republican Nominee John McCain who had to back-pedal furiously after comments attributed to him and Sarah Palin seemed to suggest that Obama could be a terrorist, because he was called Hussein.

In fact, all through the campaigns, none of the candidates were willing to divide the country on racial lines, despite the advantages they would have gotten to beat Obama.

What worries me is that unlike America’s politics, Kenyans and their political leaders have no limits to what they will do to win an election.

Over the last four years we have witnessed a growing narrative of ‘we’, versus ‘them’.

‘We’ is defined as those who speak the same language and ‘them’ is those from other communities. Business leaders, religious leaders and elders have all been sucked into it and they are also calling for members of their ethnic communities to unite and support ‘one of our own’.

There is also a clear political strategy of ‘ring-fencing’ certain communities away from presidential aspirants of other tribes. Finally, we now hear of communities being declared the ‘sole political property’ of certain politicians.

The Kenyan public is a participant in this, despite clear and present evidence of how dangerous it is for all of us, wherever we are.

Luhyas have accepted that when Musalia Mudavadi is ‘touched’, they must react first; Kikuyus, when Uhuru Kenyatta is challenged; Luos, when Raila Odinga is mentioned; Kalenjins, when someone undermines William Ruto. The same applies for Kalonzo with the Kambas, etc.

We have also accepted that we belong to URP, TNA, UDF, Wiper, ODM etc because that is where ‘my tribe is’, rather than because we agree with the party’s ideology.

In this scenario the political party that worries me the most is Kenya’s youngest. TNA and its leader the Deputy Prime Minister of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta for example have no hesitation in celebrating the defection of Rachel Shebesh from ODM, over that of Jebii Kilimo from Kenda, because Shebesh seems to have heeded the call of the tribe. This is despite the fact that Shebesh is nominated, while Kilimo is elected.

TNA also seems focused in ensuring they get all the Kikuyu politicians in ODM to cross over, whatever the cost.

TNA is also aggressively consolidating all GEMA politics and politicians within it. This has seen older parties like PNU being literally forced to wind down. APK is struggling, and GNU is fading away.

The strategy is of course to get the GEMA vote in one basket so as to ably negotiate with the ‘owners’ of other communities, maybe over lunch at the Norfolk Hotel or some up-market boardroom, for who gets what seat in the next government.

Unfortunately TNA has ignored the fact that Kenya has not healed from the ethnic divisions and the post-election violence of the last general election. Kenyatta of all people must know that overt ethnic political mobilisation introduces a ‘1 versus 41’ narrative into the next general elections debate, even by default.

This is a very dangerous narrative as he is aware of where the ’41 versus 1′ in 2007 left us.

America goes to the polls in three weeks united as one nation, despite the power of the office the American politicians are competing for. The politicians know there are limits to what the American public will allow as political competition.

Americans also still remember the cost of a civil war, though it was centuries ago.

Kenya is five months away from an election that for all intents and purposes will be as competitive as the American one. Campaigns for this election are also happening within a background of inconclusive and highly ethnically divisive general elections five years ago, that left millions of Kenyans adversely affected.

They are also happening within the context of highly inflamed religious tensions following Al Shabaab attacks on churches. However, Kenyan politicians have no limits to how far they will go, to win.

They are even willing to orchestrate Kenyans to slaughter each other on ethnic lines to get into power. Kenyans are letting them do it, having forgotten the post-poll chaos of five years ago.

Shame on us!

6 Replies to “TNA must get other ideas beyond the tribal card”

  1. I seem to entirely agree with your argument. However, you are pinning down TNA alone when the master of tribalism lays with Odm. The party is the one that started referring to tribal numbers as national political support. It also made sure that whoever was opposed to its leader in Nyanza was put in a bottle. All that amounted to bringing tribalism on the national political table. You also remember that the party is in the habit of universally accusing communities of committing crimes that are supposedly committed by individual members. Its not strange to hear Odm party officials saying this or that tribe has no stand. Meaning that individual has refused to support Odm.

    Kenyan is faced with alot of security challenges and our politicians can do us proud if they campaigned together. Or at least, showed the public that election is no more than friendly match. Infact, hatred driven by tribal campaigns would quickly dissipate. The country is not getting anything at all from tribal defections. We need to turn the country in to island of peace that it used to be by engaging in unity of purpose. Terminologies like two horse race, thats meant to exclude majority of Kenyans from political equation, should be discarded forthwith. Indeed, talk of fictitious opposition to new constitution thats purely meant to divide the people should be avoided. For no single Kenyan was opposed to the law. Referendum was simply about when amemdments were to be effected for 25% of the document thats not agreeable. Otherwise, Kenyans embraced it without question.

    If the likes of PM Raila could stop tribal politics and pursue positive issues, we would surely have a better country. And if media houses ignored tribal talk, we would be heading in right direction. If we stopped parading this talk of joint thievery of national resources in the name of tribal numbers, we would be walking on the path of peace. And if brother Uhuru was to move from village defections to real issues, Kenya would be taking a huge leap towards peace. We should all take deliberate collective action towards collective peace. We need to insist on issues and issues alone during campaigns.

  2. Yes indeed we have slowly regrouped into our tribal cocoons , God was not selfish when he created different creatures. Human beings like things uniform, that is why we have social classes and castes , paupers and the rich, we have successfully chaperoned ourselves into certain stereotypes .

    The worst thing about us Kenyans is that we are overtly forgetful its getting clearer that indeed we never learnt from the 2007-2008 bad season and if we cannot respect our own origins or ethnicities (of-course we can never change that) i.e. respect customs and mantras of each of our 42 tribes , then instead of voting on the basis of tribe, we ought to looks at the policies and individual performance vis a vis tribe.

    we have a long way to go if we cannot look past our tribes, Americans vote for values in systems , we vote for “mtu wetu” . and shamelessly we are the teachers of our politicians, they tell us what we want to hear, they have been trained by the best (wanjiku) .

    So before we go into elections we must remember the cordial relationships that we have in our offices and neighbourhoods and seriously consider if we want to loose that. No office is made up of one tribe, nor is the neighbourhood, you don’t board a bus or the train with your village neither do you retire to your village in the evening, when you go to Kencom, you don’t meet your village-mates .

    I mean we have all come to Nairobi and all those other cities to hustle , to eke a living and we do so with people from all walks of life, the people who come to your harambee’s are Kenyans, the people who come to your baby shower are your friends and most obviously from all over Kenyan, they are your current siblings.

    Let us consider these beautiful relationships and if we want to loose them because Kura ni ya mtu wetu. Kenya is a blessed nation with 42 beautiful tribes, an amazing Mosaic that the world celebrates, except Kenyans themselves, what’s with the selfishness ? Lets choose leaders out of the values the endow and not from the huge numbers he/she can bring to the table. We are not sheep or goods to be barter traded. come on!!!

    1. @Averagekenyan: Indeed thats the way to go. The problem is not the average Kenyan, its the guy who claims he has numbers, tribal numbers and then sells that to us. What these guys are telling us is that few tribesmen means keep away from the presidency! You can see the overwhelming stupidity in it. A national leader cant be driven by tribal numbers. Real leaders are driven and sustained by ideas! Is brother Uhuru armed with ideas? How about PM Raila? Surely, parables and football antics are not ideas! Thats why I support brother VP Kalonzo Musyoka. At least, he has some ideas and achievements that can be displayed. He has also refused to corrupt himself. Scandals have never found their way to his offices. And surprisingly, none of these tribalists acknowledge that! If PM Raila was as clean as VP Kalonzo Musyoka, can you imagine the sort of image that would have been presented to Kenyans? I dont think Churchill, chairman Mao, Nelson Mandela, etc, would have even matched his status! And take in to account the fact that Raila has hopelessly lied to build a political career on quicksand. However, brother VP Musyoka remains as humble as ever! Because of that, evil men have used all tricks in the book to throw mud at him in every turn. But the VP remains as diplomatic as ever! Its not even hard to hear his critics saying that he is not made for Kenyan politics. Meaning he has refused to steal or go for usual scandals! And forgetting that the VP with his humility, moved from inhospital poverty to top leadership. With his feat, just imagine where he would be by now if he found everything sewn for him like brother Uhuru or PM Raila? Kalonzo is the right man for this country!

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