Saturday, 4 January 2014

Why Kenyans want you to keep your hands off their tribal chief

Saturday, January 4th 2014 at 22:13 GMT +3 

By Makau Mutua Twitter@makaumutua Kenyans start the Year of Our Lord 2014 the way they ended Anno Domini 2013. The last year was truly annus horribilis. One word defined 2013 – dysfunctional. Yes – we had an election, and regime change. But that five-year democratic ritual did nothing to create a “more perfect union.” Today, Kenyans are as divided – if not more so – as they were 365 days ago. To quote Irish poet William Butler Yates in the “Second Coming,” we are “turning and turning in the widening gyre.” The “falcon cannot hear the falconer.” Will “things fall apart” because the “centre cannot hold?” Is “mere anarchy loosed upon the world?” Why “do the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full passionate intensity?” I used to think – growing up in Kitui in the 1960s – that everything was possible. I was so optimistic about Kenya that I even thought boxer Muhammad Ali – the greatest pugilist to ever step into the ring – was a Kenyan. I thought chapati was an original Kenyan food – until an Indian-Kenyan friend gently enlightened me that it was Indian. To paraphrase poet Yates, “the ceremony of innocence hadn’t been drowned.” I doubt that a Kenyan child can today imagine such lofty dreams. For this poverty of philosophy, I blame not just the leaders, but the common people – the hoi polloi. Parents, teachers, and politicians have conspired to rob young Kenyans of the gifts of virtue. Instead, they glorify vice. Let me tell you something. No greater vice exists in Kenya than the tribe. And it’s not the tribe per se that’s the bane of our existence. It’s the demagogueing of the tribe that’s Kenya’s undoing. This is our boogeyman. It’s a dragon that will consume us all if we don’t slay it. I swear – and I know many thoughtful Kenyans so – that Kenya has become more tribal as it’s gotten older. The reverse is supposed to be true, but the tribalisation of the state has quickened in the last three decades. Kenyans, if we can even call them that, have lost their national consciousness – zeitgeist – before they even had it. Folks have taken refuge in tribal cocoons. The 2010 Constitution was supposed to cure our tribal myopia, and lead us to higher ground. This is why. One of the key central organising philosophies of the new Constitution was to forge a national psyche. It was to “detribalise” our politics, and “nationalise” them. That is why the Constitution is erected on the pillar of “individual” rights. The Constitution places the individual, not the tribe, at the centre of the legal and moral universe. It’s true that the Constitution recognises and protects “group” rights, but only from marginalisation, or oppression, by either the state, or other groups. The Constitution discourages – even subtly prohibits – mobilisation along tribal lines. It’s a nationalising, “Kenyanising” charter. It’s not a tribalising, primordial document. There’s only one problem. The Constitution left intact the tribal zones created by the colonial state. The 47 counties – the locus of devolution – are congruous with the 42 colonial districts. As we know, the colonial districts were tribal enclaves meant to ease imperial rule through indirect native collaborators. In my view, the Constitution erred here – it shouldn’t have used colonial cartography to birth a more democratic Kenya. That’s a congenital defect in the Constitution. It should have disrupted existing tribalised political units by creating a new map of Kenya devoid of tribal hegemonies. I admit this would’ve been no easy task, but I believe political elites wanted to preserve their ethnic bases – the status quo – by creating counties. It’s going to be damn near impossible to slay the tribal demon with the county structure in place. You can see it already – tribes are competing for resources and political favours under the guise of counties. That’s why Meru leaders – led by Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi – can tell President Uhuru Kenyatta they’ll oppose him because he’s “sidelined” them in making national appointments. They want Mr Kenyatta to “pay dowry” for their support of TNA during the March elections. That’s why Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter can harangue Mr Kenyatta at a public rally for “shortchanging” URP – by which he means Kalenjins – in making national appointments. The message is clear – it’s the turn of tribes in Jubilee “to eat.” Even Deputy President William Ruto has weighed in. He told Luhyas last week in Bungoma County that they lack leverage because they don’t vote as a tribal bloc. Mr Ruto should’ve encouraged Luhyas to vote not as a tribal bloc, but according to their conscience as individuals. This attitude fosters tribal divisions in Kenya, and herds voters into tribal alliances. Tribal kingpins thrive in this atmosphere while the country grows further apart. No wonder Kenyans want you to keep your hands off their tribal chief. CLICK

No comments:

Post a Comment