Friday, 3 May 2013

Ethnic Bigotry Is Our Achilles's Heel

Monday, April 29, 2013 - 00:00 -- BY NGUNJIRI WAMBUGU

During my time at the CORD Presidential Campaign there are three distinct experiences that came to mind this week.
Sometime late last year I was chairing a meeting in preparation for a tour by our presidential candidate to Western Kenya. The meeting comprised of key political leaders from the region, both incumbent and aspiring, including some members in cabinet.
My role as a member of the presidential campaign team was to ensure the tour kept on the fine line that balanced local and national interests, which unfortunately meant that we could not do everything that local leaders wanted. One of the leaders who felt aggrieved by this position loudly wondered why a Kikuyu was chairing a meeting to plan a tour to Western. He then suggested that I was in the wrong political formation and this is why I was not supporting his position.
The second incidents happened a few days after the general elections and just before the results were announced. This time the meeting was chaired by the CORD Presidential Candidate and we were discussing what to do about the discrepancies that were being highlighted at the Bomas tallying centre. I gave a suggestion that was not popular with some of the politicians present and one of them turned to a colleague and whispered that they must be careful about taking my ideas because I am a Kikuyu. Ironically the colleague he whispered to is also a Kikuyu!
The third incident was a few weeks ago after my column stating that with the decision by the Supreme Court confirming the Uhuru/Ruto victory in the polls, ICC now has no option but to leave the two alone to fulfill the mandate the Kenyan people have given them. My argument was that whatever the merits of the ICC case it was now clear that majority of Kenyans do not now support the ICC cases. I argued that it would be hard for ICC to continue arguing they represent the Kenyan people when majority of Kenyan voters had elected two people the court insists have cases to answer for crimes, against other Kenyan!
One reaction to this piece was the circulation of text messages & emails by a leading member of the CORD campaign team, stating that my piece confirmed that I had been a ‘Jubilee’ mole in the campaign. This was of course justified by my being Kikuyu.
Ironically it was issued by someone who had often testified of the work I had done in the campaign and despite the fact that I had received (rare) written commendations from other senior members of the campaign team on my work.
I am sure my experiences in CORD are mirrored in Jubilee, UDF and other political formations. I am also aware that this habit of looking at every decision made by individuals in influence through ethnic-tainted lenses is not limited to politics alone. However this week my sympathies are with the Cabinet nominees as they watch their achievements belittled by ethnic bigots.
I can imagine what must be going through Adan Mohammed’s mind as he listens to his appointment reduced to how he is a representative of ‘Muslims/Somalis’ in cabinet.
This Harvard University alumna who has been responsible for the success of one of Kenya’s elite international banks must be wondering whether he was also in these past positions as a ‘Muslim/Somali’!
Anne Waiguru and Henry Rotich; two respected economic analysts who did a sterling job in Treasury before their appointments, have now become ‘Kikuyu’ and ‘Kalenjin’ members of Uhuru’s cabinet, respectively. James Macharia, a guy who has led one of Kenya’s most successful local banks, that serves Kenyans of all walks of life, is now ‘another Kikuyu’ appointed by Uhuru Kenyatta. Rachel Omamo, a recognized lawyer and diplomat, is now ‘the only Luo’ in Kenyatta’s cabinet.
Professor Judy Wakhungu, until recently an Associate Professor of Science, Technology, and Society at Pennsylvania State University, is now the ‘Luhya’ that Kenyatta and Ruto chose.
If Kenya is to move from being a 3 rd World Country still struggling to feed itself, to Vision 2030; we must change this narrative and learn to put the best people we have, where they can do the best job; whatever their ethnic background. We have done it in sports, where no one argues with the fact that Kalenjins are the majority when it comes to representing Kenyans in international athletics.
We must do the same in governance.
There is no doubt that the people Uhuru & Ruto nominated to Cabinet are brilliant minds. Unfortunately there are some leaders who will not be able to see this through their ethnic lenses. This means we will continue to hear cries of how many GEMA & Kalenjin representatives are in Cabinet, and especially, of how many other ‘tribes’ have been ‘left out’. Kenyan nationalists must stand up call this for what it is; ethnic bigotry, and condemn it strongly.

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