Consanguinity — the belonging of a people to a common ancestry — is as old as creation. It walks hand in glove with feelings of security, both real and imagined. There is comfort in belonging to a bloodline, regardless that it is a human or jungle bloodline. Accordingly, it is natural for every herd to seek advantage and dominance over others for itself.
The herd is the self and the family writ large. And the self wants to dominate, and not to be dominated. Feelings of self-assurance, or conversely exposure, because of belonging to the same kinship is universal. In the end, everyone feels safe or endangered because of his or her natural herd membership. There is comfort in knowing both the herd and the shepherd. The Good Book has, therefore, said at John 10: 14, “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” Woe unto the sheep that has no shepherd, or does not know its shepherd.
Loneliness and aloneness stalk you, everywhere all the time. The question “Who am I” can never leave you. Regardless that we love our relatives or not, we are glad to know who they are. It is instructive that Abraham Maslow has ranked family identity among the very basic of human needs. Identity is at once a physical safety need and a social need. You enjoy both protection and self-esteem in the herd.
Ngugi wa Thiong’os Mugo agonises about his unknown ancestry in the novel A Grain of Wheat. After his hated aunt Waitherero has died of old age and over-drinking, we are told: “. . . strangely, Mugo missed his aunt. Whom could he now call a relation? He wanted somebody, anybody, who would use the claims of kinship to do him ill or good. Either one or the other, so long as he was not left alone, an outsider.”
The Abaluhya people met in Kakamega last Saturday to crown a spokesperson. They were a people yearning and groping for safety and self-esteem. They are slowly waking up to the reality that a dog market is not a chicken market. If you behave at a dog market as if you are at a chicken market, you will be classed as a madman. The Abaluhya are among the mad people of Kenya. While everybody else makes their political decisions based on consanguinity, they filibuster and nitpick. In the end, the world is shared out and eaten up as they watch and lament.
Yet, in a sense, the non-consanguine political spirit of the Abaluhya is not bad. Indeed, it provides the best possible model for an issue-based democracy. If we should want ideas to be floated and debated, and that the best ideas should carry the day, this should be the way to go.
Do decades of “democratic practice,” however, demonstrate that it is foolish to carry chicken market behaviour to a dog market? Four successive regimes have regrettably demonstrated that you must go back to base in order to go anywhere in Kenya. If that is the Kenyan model, then the Abaluhya have no choice but to embrace Musalia Mudavadi as their political kingpin.
A number of lessons quickly come to mind. The first one is biblical. We have read where it is written in Exodus 4. 2: “Then the Lord said to him, ‘What’s that in your hand?’ ‘A staff,’ he replied.” The man in question is Moses. He is instructed to use his staff to fulfill a number of miracles, including parting the waters of the Red Sea to open a path for his people from bondage.
If political leaders are the proverbial staffs in the people’s hands, then Mudavadi is easily the staff in his people’s hands. The choice before them would appear to be to work with him and enjoy some relevance in the wider national agenda, or to trash him and remain irrelevant.
The second lesson is that what Cotu Secretary General, Francis Atwoli, and his team did in Kakamega mirrors what was in 2012 dubbed Limuru II and Limuru III. At the two meetings, the Gema community anointed Uhuru Kenyatta their leader. They instructed him to form a political party. They would vote for him and for the party, they said. And they did.
The people of Mulembe may want to borrow a leaf from the mountain. They may want to consider the reality that in 2002 and 2005, the majority of Mt Kenya people did not like Uhuru at all. He was a symbol of Kanu and of dislike. However, when John Michuki told them that Uhuru was the Mosaic biblical staff in their hand, they embraced him. They have never turned back. The Mulembe people have had their own issues with their man, just like the Gema people had with theirs. Gema turned a new corner, however. The Mulembe nation must also turn a new corner with Mudavadi.
A third lesson from the mountain is that despite his endorsement in Limuru, there were those who refused to recognise Uhuru. Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua, lawyer Paul Muite and Social Congress leader Peter Kenneth not only rejected him, they also went on to run against him for President. Mt Kenyan consanguinity was however so powerful that it swept away the dissenters. Late in the day, they have eaten humble pie and recognised Uhuru as their leader.
Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula and Kakamega Senator Bonny Khalwale are playing the Karua-Kenneth-Muite fiddle. If the Mulembe people borrow a leaf from Mt Kenya the two will eat humble pie. Worse placed are the Jubilee acolytes in MPs Bernard Washiali, Injendi Malulu, John Waluke and David Were. The ground is already sinking under them, having taken a dim view of their political alignment.
They have a tough assignment ahead, as has the LPK brigade of Ababu Namwamba and Co. If they do not find a backdoor into the increasingly appealing notion of NASA, they could be staring at political oblivion in the eye. The politics of tribes and tribalism have been known to be regressive. Yet, those who disavow them loudest are their fiercest champions in practice. The Mulembe people have their choices clearly cut out. They can elect to go with Mudavadi and find some space in the broader national agenda, or they can conversely go on squabbling and scattering their votes and — in the process — remain irrelevant. The choice is that simple.