Thursday, February 25, 2010


*Mutahi Ngunyi

If Kenya collapses in 2012, it will be because of the Gema community. What is more: they will be the biggest losers. Bottomline: They have to climb down. But there is a corresponding thought for the Luo Nation.

The Luo invented politics. Now they have exported it to America. And, on this, I have a problem. Other nations are consuming their political genius, but we are not. The question is why? I have a hypothesis.

The Luo Nation is in bondage. For half a century now, it is enslaved by one family: the Odingas. A liberator from the ‘‘Lake’’ must arise. Then we will know that a new order is coming. And the same is true of the Kibaki wazees and the Gema bondage. Gema is a community of ‘‘slaves’’. Some are ‘‘slaves in labour’’; others are ‘‘slaves in attitude’’.

The Mungiki uprising is a crude rejection of this ‘‘slavery’’. But there is a Lowest Common Denominator between the Luo, Kalenjin, Kikuyu and Luhya ‘‘slaves’’. They are treated like the ‘‘Pavlovian dogs’’. Let me explain.

Ivan Pavlov was a Russian scientist, the son of a village priest. In 1870, he abandoned his religious career and went into science. His experiment on ‘‘drooling dogs’’ won him the Nobel Prize in 1904. In this experiment, he noticed that whenever a dog encountered food, saliva poured out of its mouth freely. But he wanted the dogs to drool without the food.

And so, he began a process of conditioning them. His first action was to give a lab coat to the person who fed them. With time, the dogs began to identify the lab coat with food. Each time they saw a lab coat, they dribbled with saliva although there was no food.

Then he went to the next level. He rang a bell during meal time. And with this, the dogs began to associate the bell with food. At the mere sound of the bell without the food, they responded by salivating. He had conditioned their reflexes to respond to what he wanted. And this is what the Odingas, the Kibaki wazees and other tribal chiefs have done to us.

Like Pavlov, they began with our need to eat. Now every Kenyan thinks that politics is about ‘‘eating’’. Their next concern was to cheat us; to make us drool without the food. When President Kibaki was sworn in at night, Gema’s saliva dribbled. When Raila Odinga became Prime Minister, the Luo Nation drooled.

And when Musalia Mudavadi became Deputy Prime Minister, the Luhya had saliva all over. But did this translate into food? Zero. It was just a Pavlovian ‘‘lab coat’’; an empty bell ringing. The question, therefore, is this: so what?

Yes we are ‘‘slaves’’, we are ‘‘Pavlovian dogs’’ and in bondage. If we are comfortable with this, why upset it? If the Luo Nation is happy with the Odinga bondage, and the Gema community ‘‘loves’’ the rich wazees, why change it? I have a hypothetical reason.

One, Kenya is at the ‘‘tipping point’’. This is the point at which the momentum for change is unstoppable. And we are here out of choice. Consider why. This month I worked from several African countries. Of these, Zimbabwe was the most depressing. Like Nigeria, they suffer from the ‘‘cowardice of nations’’. Their president is an incompetent, reckless bully. He stole an election. The people did nothing.

In our case, no one won. And the people said ‘‘No way!’’ If the Zimbabweans and Nigerians chose the ‘‘path of least resistance’’, we chose the ‘‘path of active resistance’’. We killed each other out of choice. Now we cannot get to the next level out of accident. It must be out of choice; deliberate, calibrated and with intentionality. And the starting point is ethnic re-engineering.
The Luo Nation must reject Raila Odinga; the Gema people must banish President Kibaki and his tired ‘‘wazees’’. If the tipping point is a place where the momentum for change is unstoppable, it must result in a ‘‘take-off’’ not a crash. But we will only take-off if we embrace the new and banish the old.

Two, we must upset the old because it has conditioned us to live a lie. Migingo Island was a lie. It was a diversion from the local crisis to a ‘‘non-issue’’. Similarly, the military intervention in Somalia is another lie.

In fact, to send our army to Somalia is foolhardy. George Bush Senior did it. And those pirates fixed his ‘‘soft bellied’’ soldiers. But we are also cheating ourselves. Take Mr Kenneth Marende for instance.

He makes a bogus ruling in Parliament and everyone wants to make him president. Then Uhuru Kenyatta reads a budget ‘‘nicely’’. And everyone forgave his ‘‘errors’’. The lie here is to scratch the surface and to ignore the deep intentions. Our liberation will be in interrogating intentions; searching for the truth!

My third reason goes back to Gema. The Gema community must upset things because they are not even real. In fact, there is no Gema community. It only comes alive when the rich wazees are threatened. Unfortunately, the Kibaki wazees have no respect for simple Kikuyus. They call them ‘‘tumundu’’, meaning ‘‘little inconsequential people’’.

And it is this false unity of purpose I am questioning. To save the country, therefore, this community must abandon the arrogant wazees. In the name of the community, they took the country to war. Now we must lay the blame on the wazees squarely. And when this happens, the process of making a ‘‘covenant of tribes’’ will begin.

Not a covenant between the rich, but one between the people who burnt the Eldoret church and the families of the dead. An understanding between the Mungiki killers and the slain victims of the Naivasha massacre. In sum, if we leave it to the politicians, they will collapse the country. If we have a covenant amongst ourselves, we might save it. Am I making sense?


  1. Girl,am proud of you. You are not only making sense but you are thinking like a congregation of 20 elite people thinking alike.

    This is so true,i couldnt agree more. its time to stop waitng to be spoon fed.our mother died,its time to grow up and depend on are a great writer too.

    1. Thanks Kenyans we have the responsibility to think beyond our tribal affiliations...Kenya is bigger than that.


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