The Kenyan Nation has been diagnosed with severe and malignant bouts of triibalism, marginalization, corruption and divisive politics. The four elements had long been illuminated by the Nigerian Novelist Chinua Achebe for anyone who cares. Achebe’s four novels Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God, No Longer At Ease and A man of The People together represent the making of modern Kenya.
Dates in fiction and fact attest to Achebe’s sense of history and to his consciousness of the times and their change. Power attracts power, and power at all costs becomes central to political life, and part of the price of power is the public good. As a consequence, when the competition for positions intensifies the purity of the Bench, academia, and the services gets defiled and contaminated.
How we do business
A bureaucracy at the beck and call of the politicians ensures that only to the victor belong the spoils. Being co-opted into government service through political alliance and standing for election in the Opposition were common ways of entering or attempting to enter the profitable business of government.
The cross-cutting elements in the thick of things for Kenya and Kenyans are primarily two-fold: the first factor is the foreign businesses- the mainspring of corruption in Kenya today. International corporations are involved in corruption that is both obvious and difficult to discuss. Scrupulous and shrewd foreign amalgamations and individuals anticipate government policy on matters such as taxation and investment outlooks.
The huge stake in the national economy by these international corporations would imply a high level of mutual understanding between the foreign bodies and the political class.
Businessmen in private are very frank about “the price of doing business” however, in the public, the “price” is not discussed unless circumstances force disclosure. Foreign corporations make deals with politicians with ease and abandon. However, their deals are not part of public record so that while they are widely reported they are not readily documented.
Why would parliamentary committees all of a sudden turn into a Tower of Babel when investigating corruption. Why would the Judiciary all of sudden find itself starved of critical resources to execute its critical mandate; why does agencies that ought to fight corruption look the other way when these deals are cut in broad day light? There must be a hidden hand.
The second factor is that tribalism is compounding a fluid situation. Kinship theme is so powerful at the base of civil order that it precedes all other obligations.
Locally, individual politicians established constituency-wide loyalties among villages that in the past had been rivals. This way, kinship was enlarged locally and through the local party affiliation, a quasi-national loyalty emerged. This was conditional. If the party was in the minority, members of the party defected or realigned or coalesced to form a majority party.
The realities of political life militated against national loyalty. In every case, national loyalty was dependent upon local advantage. To illustrate this, an elderly man a councilor, speaks in favour of Odili in A man of the People thus: “The village of Anata (Chief Nanga’s Village) has already eaten, now they must make way for us to reach the plate. No man in Urua (Odili’s village) will give his paper (vote) to a stranger when his own son needs it.”
Because most parties developed along kinship – constituency – regional lines, they encourage re-existent ethnic concepts. Cultural stereotyping abounds and flourishes. Politics, having inadvertently helped to create stereotypes then proceeded to capitalise on them, to whatever extent stressing them would secure votes.
Elections are competitive leading to rivalry. The quest for votes demands the organization of the electorate along whatever lines available. Since no stronger loyalties than kinship and lineage exist, organization along extensions of these loyalties is inevitable. And as elections approach, ethnicity has to be stressed, both positively and negatively.
Kenya, they will shout, has to be protected from being taken over by the Kikuyu or the Kalenjin or the Luo or the Luhya and voters will vote based on their fear of the perceived enemy and support of their perceived brother. As a result, politicians can cynically manipulate the masses even when the parties have demonstrated their moral and ideological bankruptcy.
In short, tribalism has become a major support for the gross corruption of the Kenyan public life.
The politicians for the most part see their mutual interest served by keeping the system stable. Political thugs, having tasted their power, will not just disband merely because the elections are over.There is another election to fight for five years down the road.
Thus the country becomes the open prey for those who have erected politics as their new faith.
However, there is ground for hope – the Kenyan soul will outlive the crisis and shine bright like the morning star. Men and women who believe that the present is to be endured for the sake of a future will rise.
Mr Chesang is a historian