Sunday, January 20, 2008

Am I my brothers keeper? (why kenya is at crossroad)

A few days ago, I had a discussion with a friend who works for a well known media house. Since I would not whole heartedly agree with his view that the current situation pertaining in the country was attributable specifically to one side of the political divide, I was left in no doubt that I should be considered a traitor to my own. That’s ethnic, not, political persuasion.And that’s the rub. How do we even begin to bridge the ethnic divide, because it does exist, when to reach out to the other side may well lead to alienation from your own ethnic community?Is this situation unique to myself? I think not.Kenya is walking wounded. The 2007 general election has exposed the deep ethnic hatred that has simmered for many years in this country. Kenyans, in their own unique way, have perfected the art of doublespeak. That we are a united nation, and proud of our patriotism yet we remain deeply divided along ethnic lines as the outcome of this election has clearly shown.Isn’t it time that as Kenyans we come out once and for all and admit that all is not well in ‘our house’? What are we so afraid of, that we would rather find a quick solution to the current crisis and return to our ‘fake’ lives only to wait for the next implosion of ethnic killing.In todays nation, Gitau Warigi said, ‘Yet the mere resolution of the presidential election dispute is not going to erase the ugly ethnic hatred that has finally been exposed. Dialogue is the first step but, inevitably, some lasting constitutional or other pact must be worked out to ensure everybody will forever feel safe. And, ‘the facade of a peaceful Kenya has always been intended to obscure from view the deep fissures in the country’.It’s clear that many of us recognize the deception we are living. More so, another opinion article in the same paper today notes, ‘It gets even more tragic for Kenya that in this day and age, corruption and ethnic chauvinism remain the biggest challenges’.So its clear to all who want to see. Tribalism or ethnic chauvinism to a large extent is the driving force behind our politics and hence the flawed elections and its aftermath.It is clear to me that corruption and tribalism go hand in hand. There is a viscous circle containing in it, tribalism, corruption and politics. The three combining in various lethal doses to fuel the next.In my own sphere of influence I have often argued that the first in line in this sad mix is tribalism which then fuels political interests to convert Kenyans to support and vote one of their own ethnic community or a friendly ‘one’ to get as close to executive power as possible. Hence if ones ethnic group have a candidate for the presidency then the obligation is to support him or her regardless of their capacity, reputation, or leadership qualities. In addition, the community should then support as many next tier candidates as possible so as to attain the largest spread of ethnic command of Government.So the prize then is Government and the Executive power that goes with it.Why? This is where the corruption element rears its ugly head. So that the community may firstly protect itself (read those who have already been implicated in past corruption related offences) and then go on to acquire more wealth through manipulation of selected Government processes. Those not directly in the ethnic political elite then strive to acquire ‘Godfathers’ who will facilitate the same. The rationale being, ‘it’s our turn now’, and ‘if we don’t do it someone else will’.This unfortunately unravels back to the Kikuyu elite of the 1960’s when the first post independence government was formed. Kenyans have thus adopted the misguided notion that the best way to negate the corrupt gains made by this community is to get one of their own into power and reverse the trend to their own favour.Despite our claim to being a mostly Christian and for that matter Muslim nation, the concept of forgiveness is surprisingly absent.Yet as we become more sophisticated as a nation we must cloak our raw unbridled greed, tribalism, in ever more sophisticated camouflage. Hence, NARC and now ODM and PNU. At the heart of each you will find the same principle at work.Its either direct, as in, we need power to sort out our issues and redistribute income or the previous Government neglected (or threatened) us so we will join with another power seeking group to remedy the situation and punish them in the same vein. This would explain the coming together of Luo, Kalenjin and other tribal groups against the Kikuyu under the guise of democracy. The majority of Kikuyu for one do not believe this.Please do not (deliberately) or otherwise misinterpret this as an attempt to justify tribal/ethnic groupings or any one communities desire for political power including my own.I have always seen myself as a Kenyan first and a Luo second and in that sense I believe it is easier for me to temper my own tribal inclinations (which exist). Indeed I see that we have far more to gain by seeing ourselves as one, as Kenyans than letting our ethnic order get the better of us.Further, there is absolutely NO WAY that a division of Kenya along those lines into separate states will make life any better for even the most economically endowed ethnic group. So what’s the point of thinking in that way in the first place?Our strength as Kenya and our future is in us setting aside those tribal passions and working together to make Kenya what is should be. This will require forgiveness, understanding, compromise and humility. There is no other way and what we have witnessed in the last 10 days is not an option.A ‘Truth and Justice Commission’ is a priority. Those old wounds have not healed no matter how much we pretend they have. We have to deal with our past to ensure our future and the sooner the better. Otherwise Kenya will continue to exist as the dysfunctional house it is where, gains today can be reduced to nothing in hours, each time ethnicity takes centre stage.If combined with genuine patriotism, wealth and power will improve the lot of the common man as those who have attained them will understand that fate plays just as much a role in their lives as their own strivings.There is something that I have thought of often but have never been able to find the correct words to express. I found the words almost exactly as I had envisioned my thoughts in today’s nation editorial.‘Kenya practices a brutal, inhuman brand of capitalism which encourages fierce competition for survival, wealth and power. Those who can’t compete successfully are allowed to live like animals in slums. The country is choking with millions of young, able-bodied people who haven’t a hope of amounting to anything and who are susceptible to the seduction of false promises’.To this group the Political class plays master puppeteer with the consequences we have already seen.I put it to you that the solution to Kenya’s problems lie in a quiet and distinct revolution in the minds of the middle class who may not control the wealth but are most certainly the only real buffer this country has to true and bloody revolution.So where does this leave us?Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes. Yes I am. I must be.

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