In one of his many posts, Edward Indakwa, of the Standard wrote, “I think the reason why too many of us keep poking sticks into the tribalism beehive is because we can’t conceptualize what it means to belong to one nation-state.’
Right from birth, we learn how to be of our tribe and not of the other. We perennially group ourselves through school, past university, and into adulthood.
Ted Malanda added, ‘In fact, writers routinely talk about the Luhya nation, the Luo nation, the Kikuyu nation and so forth. And they are right. Kenya is but a geographical space. Ironically, some of our most rabid tribalists have never ventured beyond their villages to explore the remote fringes of their own districts of birth.
Young white people fly thousands of miles to Nairobi and travel by matatu to remote parts of Kenya yet we have people in Nyeri who have never gone to Naivasha, people in Kitui who will never see Voi and people in Vihiga who only hear about Busia. Moyale? Where the hell is that on the map?’
Though our cultural differences in music, food and weddings amongst others bring us together as ring of diversity via forums like Churchill Live and Ohangla night, there are well defined aspects of ethnicity that divide us.
Their basis being our perpetual want to be different from the other tribe. Always poking fingers at what divides us. Ignoring what unites us, when it suits.
- Your Name Sells You Out
‘What’s your name?’ It begins that way. When an answer is given, the other party begins assigning you attribute associated with the tribe you stem from; stereotyping. At that moment, it doesn’t matter if your ancestral home is Muranga though all your life has been lived in Kisumu.
- Political Competition:
Altruistic and non-ethnic politics died immediately KANU won the first post independent Kenya election. From then on, it has been mtu wetu pia anaweza or our people are being side-lined, attacked or targeted.
Tribes not singing the song of the government were politically punished through being passed on when it came to distribution of developmental funds.
Though we have political parties, the big man of our tribe decides which party we of that tribe should support. We follow him where ever he sells us. Ironically even the university graduate will toss to the wind common sense and rationality when politics is involved. The clarion call is, ‘our people too deserve a chance’.
- Historical Injustices:
Have we addressed the demon of historical injustices? Especially land injustices? The anger and animosity between neighboring tribes whose differences on boundaries weren’t and have been solved is always brewing. When one fire in some part of Kenya is solved, another comes about. Right now The Nandi and Luo are at logger heads, did this begin yesterday? Is there more to be done to put of the unseen but brewing hatred? Are we doing what needs to be done?
- Socialization processes:
The Kenyan is first socialized at school. When the little kids troop into class, they are neutral Kenyans, devoid of any tribal leanings. They play together, share a lot together. Have girlfriends and boyfriends from other tribes till a certain age when they begin to know that they are different from the other. They remember a conversation at home. A statement about another tribe by an adult. An accusation about you people is always like this or that way from a classmate and then the tribalism seed is sown. And it takes root. And it gets anchored.
- Jealousy, envy and backwardness of culture:
Trivial as it seems, there’s jealousy among tribes. From politics to development. From who is Miss World Kenya to Mr. World Kenya? And it hurts our diversity as a people.
It’s then that we begin pointing fingers. Flinging accusations. And trading insults on twitter and Facebook. We are not happy when other people do better. We prefer fighting and burning down the development projects of the other tribe than emulating them.
- Politics of Accommodation
When it comes to national power struggle, both the protagonists and antagonists openly play the ethnic card.
In the end the political elite will always leave the masses fighting for them while they accommodate each other when it comes to power and money. The deep-seated tribal divisions are not real there at the top level of Kenyan politics. And this is for the convenience of the politicians.
- Cultural Aspects
Different communities have different identities which are totally differing. For instance it is a taboo in some parts of the country to marry from a different tribe. How to we expect to slay the dragon of tribalism when our culture restricts us from marrying from another tribe?
The reality still remains, “We are way too racial to be black. Too black to be African. Too African to be Kenyan. Too Kenyan to be tribal. Too tribal to be a community. Too community to be a clan. Too clan to be a family and way too family to be individuals.”