Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tribal Associations in Universities: End of an era?

Ethnic diversity is a resource that has been mismanaged in the past and must be resolved now to enable greater cohesion in the country.
Back in 2009 in first year of campus, we covered a topic on ethnicity in Political Science. At the time, I had done writings on tribalism and I had already started this blog. So doing the unit in class broadened my understanding on the same. Throughout the lesson, I kept remembering the flyers and posters stuck in our hostel and the tunnels asking members of a particular community to meet at various venues to "discuss the way forward for their people". There it was, tribal alliances that many times say they are to safeguard the interests of students from a particular region but come elections time the 'subtle' community organizations are at the forefront to prop one of their own for leadership position whether qualified or not.
I was burning with questions, why does the University allow it? What can the University authorities do to stop this trend of tribal alliances? So I summed up courage and asked my lecturer that. So here I was in a class of about 5oo students asking what can be done to break the 'status-quo', what was the way of doing business. My lecturer, Prof. Nying'uro looked at me, then looked at the entire class which was now quiet waiting to what he would tell me. He moved closer to my desk and instead asked me " Madam, what the university can do for you is not important...what is important is what you, as a student, a scholar do for this university...what can you do?"
The ball was kicked back to my court; I was challenged to do something. The class dispersed soon afterwards but Professors words stung me. I had to do something. I remember that day as I walked through the tunnels I went pulling down anything that was tribal inclined. All the posters that called for the Butere comrades to meet at hall 3 or those for the Narok students association came down into the dustbins. I know, that is a drop in the ocean but I had to start somewhere. Next thing I did was mobilizing  a few friends, my room-mates to join in not only removing the posters but to talk to fellow classmates, friends within our campus and other campuses about coexistence with other communities. Slowly, we planted a seed, we watered it and in as much as it grew, there were thorns and harsh environments which choked it. I faced opposition from some goons who told me I was doing useless work. So maybe I was, but I had stirred something, I had started discussions on tribalism in campus in a small way.
Next thing I did was to post anonymous notices, which signed off as I am not my Tribe. They spoke of integration, importance of each member of the various communities in a creative, sensitive and not forceful way. They were not calling anyone to meet up in room 310 for discussion on the way forward; the three paragraph notes challenged my fellow comrades. They would be plucked from the notice boards (tit for tat) and I moved to Phase 3 of my campaign, wearing the talk, literary.
Sample of the T-Shirts we made
So, we got a fellow student, Elvis, who we contracted to design T-Shirts with our message. A week later a batch of ten I am not my Tribe branded T-Shirts in different colors was delivered. On a set date, a Friday, we all donned our T-Shirts and went to class; good thing is half of us were from different campuses. So our campaign went a notch higher, guys were asking where we got the shirts/ idea from. We were practically walking banners with our message. One of us in the T-Shirt was stopped in town by several people asking about the 'movement'.
Flash forward to 2012, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has now put a check on these tribal associations in Universities.
“The education of young people should deliberately inculcate positive values on ethnic and race relations as opinions they form will often be those they will carry with them throughout their lives,” the policy against tribalism says on tribal associations in institutions of learning.  
“Education should lead to enlightenment, understanding and tolerance of the people of all ethnic groups and races,” it adds, noting that the institutions have been targeted for the role they play in national cohesion.
NCIC chairman Mzalendo Kibunjia, said this was not only critical during this election year, but equally important since the country was switching from a central government to a devolved government structure. 
“The climate of tension has been accentuated by the International Criminal Court confirmation of charges,” Dr Kibunjia said.
“There is therefore an urgent need to pro-actively start continuous conversation on ethnic, racial and religious grievances and their possible resolution with the political and economic elite across the country,” he said.
As my post topic asks, could this be an end of an era?
*I am not my Tribe philosophy is still on course, just like a river during the dry season, it may not be visible on the surface but it still continues to meander and flow underground, its absence does not mean it’s not there, it continues to flow!


What do you think?