NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 27 – In the recent past there has been an upsurge of careless talk and tribal overtones by not only leaders but also by everyday Kenyans.
The matter has raised concerns over its impact on a country that is still reeling from the effects of the 2007/08 post poll violence that led to deaths of over 1,000 people and displacement of hundreds of thousands.
And during the last day of Pope Francis visit to the country, as he was addressing the youth at the Safaricom Stadium Kasarani, he came out very strongly against the practice telling the youth that ‘tribalism destroys’.
“Tribalism can only become with an ear, a heart and hand. If you do not dialogue with each other, if you do not listen to each other, then you are going to have divisions like dust; like a worm that grows in society,” he said.
The Pope was responding to concerns raised by Linet Wambui who spoke on behalf of the youth and who singled out tribalism as among the threats to national unity said tribalism unnecessarily polarized Kenyans to turn against each other stating that if the country was to forge ahead towards progress, it had to be ‘nipped in the bud’.
“Tribalism comes to the ear, then it goes to the heart, the reaction goes to our hand. You could be standing with your hands behind your back, carrying a stone which you then use to hit others,” he said.
He called on Kenyans to instead attempt to learn the diversity of everyone’s unique culture instead of sticking to the negative attributions.
“Ask someone what is your culture and why are you like this, why do your cousins have this customs, do they feel inferior or not?” said the Pope.
He noted that only dialogue between the different groups would resolve the issues of concern.
Referring to Thursday which was declared by the government as a day for prayer and reconciliation, Pope Francis asked all those attending the meeting at the stadium to stand up hold hands saying this signified unity against tribalism.
“Let’s hold hands together and let’s stand up as a sign against tribalism…we are all a nation. That is how our hearts must be, tribalism isn’t just raising our hands today, it is an expression of the desire of our hearts,” the Pope continued.
And as the group stood up and did as he asked forming a chain around the stadium, hands up in the air, the Pope added, “this tribalism is work we must carry out every day against this tendency.”
In a resounding statement to the thousands who had gathered at the stadium the Pope had addressed an issue that is proving a difficult ‘nut’ to crack as the government attempts to calm the rising temperatures ahead of the next general election just one year away.
“To overcome tribalism is a daily endeavour, you have to listen to others, it is the work of opening your heart to others and it is the work of your hands,” he concluded.
He further urged the youth to shun drug and substance abuse and instead choose a path of prosperity.
He reminded the youth that they did not live in heaven said to be the land of ‘milk and honey’ but on earth which was full of challenges and it was up to them to overcome them so that they are not obstacles to progress.
“There are invitations that will lead you astray to evil but there is something that you have, the capacity to choose which path you want to chose,” he stated.