Kenya post March 4th 2013: The face of a re-ethnicized nation
the March 4th elections we now know the type of people some of us really
are. Our voting patterns hinted at being people with a tribal inclination. It
is no wonder then that politicians would talk of consolidating the Luhya,
Kalenjin or Kikuyu vote.
Coalitions banked on an ethnic support base and this tendency is what has given
Kenyan politics its ethnic character. Now for a country that
has over 42 plus tribes with some as large as millions and others in their
thousands one is left wondering if these smaller tribes will ever rise to the
helm of leadership in the country. This again can be argued that, we may always
have a group that will always be in leadership.Mutahi Ngunyi read our tribal
tendencies and came up with the (infamous) tyranny of tribal numbers. This he plainly put it that the most determining
factor for Uhuru Kenyatta’s win would be based on the Kikuyu and Kalenjin vote.
True enough, the votes tallying showed this projection clearly. Politics is a
game of numbers and if these numbers
were drawn from fellow tribes-kin then so be it, as some politicians consoled
and cheated their followers.
However, there are those who said that tribe
would not be integral in these elections claiming that Kenyans are peace
loving, informed and “untribal” and
instead these coalitions were united by a common agenda to assert Kenya’s
sovereignty and independence from neo-colonial justice and Western
interference. Some writers even argued that Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto presented in the election a referendum on the ongoing
ICC process. While this is debatable, the announcement of Uhuru’s victory saw
remarks that “another Kikuyu” had taken over power. In fact some said that one
Kikuyu passed on power like a baton to the next.
Consequently, social media was ablaze with tribal
connotations, hate speech, vitriol, suspicion, and even threats of retaliatory
attacks. While the National Cohesion and Integration Commission named and
shamed Kenyans who were tribal, more tribal snide were exchanged nonetheless
online. Indeed, tribalism was on the World Wide Web. Ironically, the Kenyan
people were lauded for conducting the elections peacefully dismaying
international media houses that had camped around awaiting violence; this is
because people were fighting on new battle fields-SMS and Social Media.
The 2013 election and to some extent the ICC issue
re-ethicized the nation at a time when the 2010 referendum and the promulgation
had a de-ethicizing effect on Kenyan politics. The result is that the country
has now been re-divided into two large ethnic coalitions. Those in support of
Raila Odinga echoed his efforts in pushing for multi-party democracy in 1992
and the promulgation of a new constitutional order in 2010. They were however
quick to point out that while these victories have redefined Kenya
fundamentally but have come at a cost to Raila Odinga’s bid for the Presidency.
He has become a victim of his own successes as the country has moved on. On the
other hand those for Uhuru say that he brings with him fresh leadership skills
and a “youthful and digital” touch in the country.
It therefore begs the question whether the choices made
following the elections were simply about tribal arithmetic or an argument for
asserting nationalism versus democratic reform. While I see elements of
nationalism and new hope for Kenya I think pre and post March 4th
2013, we have become a re-ethicized nation. It is
important to note that there are two kinds of ethnic groups when it comes to
politics. The first are ethnicities that are so highly politicized that they
tend to polarise politics ethnically. We can call these fighting ethnicities
centrally organised for political action. On the other side, you have
ethnicities without extreme ethnic politicisation, without a centralised
political organisation or direction. They do not vote one way, but many ways.
The effect of polarizing politics ethnically will mean that
any action taken by the President and his deputy is analyzed through the ethnic
lenses. Such as is the case with the recent Cabinet nominations belittled by
ethnic bigots. Recently, Daily Nation on its Facebook reported a raid in a
house in Thika where not only was the family robbed of its valuables; the
daughters in that house were raped by the armed thieves. I was shocked and
appalled by the ugly turn of event, however, my shock tripled when someone
commented that they deserved it, as
they were Kikuyus. How low have we come to wish such a vile action such as rape
on anyone? It goes to show how weak our shred of tenderness and respect for
other communities is slowly shedding off. This is one of the many examples of
comments and words, hurtful words we read and hear from those around us. I
ask…what went wrong where? What price will we pay for being re-ethicized?
I believe we must change this tribal narrative and learn look
and hope for the best in fellow Kenyans regardless of their ethnic background.
There is no doubt for instance that the people Uhuru and Ruto nominated to
Cabinet are brilliant minds. Unfortunately, with the re-ethicized state of
affairs we will continue to hear cries of how many representatives of a certain
community are in Cabinet, and of how many other ‘tribes’ that have been ‘left
out’. One thing that we ought to remember is that Kenya is one out of many. We
all make and give Kenya its identity and not our specific tribes. In any case
no one tribe has the numbers to entirely win the presidency for one of their
own without the vote from other ethnic groups. Neither can to be
self-sufficient from the rest. We need to stop the rhetoric and act. We need to
discuss issues of tribalism and if we feel a tribe is being marginalized and
others benefiting there are structures in place to address this. The first is
the courts, the National and Integration Commission, writing to parliament and
being proactive citizens who accommodate all communities.