If you desire a better Kenya, denounce tribe
A wise man once told me that a fool learns from his own mistakes while a wise man sees the mistakes of others and learns for himself. I was thus curious about the mistakes other nations around us have made. The nation in my mind that has made the most mistakes and that I knew the least about was Somalia.
You see, Somalia has been in a state of war for the past quarter century. It is a war that has been on longer than Justin Bieber has been alive. It is therefore not uncommon that the nations of the world forget what happened in the past.
But as I began to read the book The Roots of the Somali Crisis, I realised that Kenya, my beloved country, is the simple minded fool that never learns from the mistakes of its neighbour. First, Somalia is a nation in which there is more loyalty to the clan than there is to the state. Her politicians, from independence, exploited this reality to achieve success at the expense of the development and growth of the nation.
Somali politicians of the past used clan supremacy to validate access to power and government appointments. Disregarding a merit-based system, they entrenched the idea that the clan was the only way to ascend to power and one’s clan would also be the only reason one could ascend to office or get appointed or elected. This of course is a familiar reality in Kenyan politics, where every politician is looking to put together a hodgepodge of tribes in order to deliver a picture of fake unity.
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So entrenched is this belief that many politicians are busy fighting President Uhuru on everything just so they can become the Kikuyu supremo after his exit from the presidency. At the same time, Ukambani supremacy wars are in a very hot phase and our news is awash with whether Kalonzo will maintain his grip on the Kamba nation.
Do we realise that the only difference between us and Somalia is the fact that our tribal enclaves are not armed? Do we realise that while we are busy fighting for tribal supremacy we are tearing at the fabric of the nation and making patriotism a pipe dream?
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The other mistake Somalia made is that its politics was without ideology, and every Kenyan knows that our politics is also bereft of ideas and ideologies. There is no unifying, organising principle in Somalia, and there is equally none in Kenya. Instead there is clamour to represent all clans in a Somali government as there is similar clamour to represent all tribes in the Kenyan executive. The result is there are never enough seats to go round and, therefore, there is always a section of the population that feels left out and disgruntled.
Another mistake that Somalia made, which Kenya is making as well, is the inability of successive governments to invest in the alleviation of poverty and the exclusion that happens whenever large parts of the population are poor. Unemployment meant that many young people were left with little to do than take up arms, not for the country but for the clan.
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One may try and argue that this is not the case in Kenya, but a study of any of the tribal clashes and indeed any election-related violence makes one realise that it is always poor jobless youth who are at the forefront,; egged on by the clamour to have one from their own tribe in power disguised as justice.
The similarities do not end there; the Somali population is also accustomed to a ‘do it yourself’ kind of life. The expectations they have of the government are low, hence they organise and fix their own security, garbage disposal, sewage, and roads. This under-reliance on the state leads to apathy, and this apathy in turn leads to a population in depression and thus exploitable.
The same, though to a lesser degree, is true of Kenya; many of us don’t depend on the state to provide water. Garbage disposal is a perennial debate in county offices and we still throw stones into pot holes as we wait for the authorities to get round to it. Kenyans rarely expect anything good from the Government and thus we don’t take who we elect to office seriously.
If we expect nothing, then anyone can be a governor, an MP and even a president. This is why we can elect people with questionable credentials to offices of public trust. This is ironic.
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Somalia and Kenya are like neighbours, one whose house is burning and the other whose members love to play with matches. We stand and watch the inferno that is in our neighbour’s house while giggling at the small fires we start every day.
We forget that our house is built of sticks, our roof is thatched and our parents are too busy making themselves rich to watch over us. Kenya, we must throw away our matches before we burn ourselves; we must denounce tribal politics and embrace organising around ideologies. Most importantly, we must stop fighting for tribe and for ‘our man’. If we don’t, we may soon find ourselves copying Somalia instead of learning from Somalia.
Mr Bichachi is a communication consultant. [email protected]
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SomaliaThe Roots of the Somali CrisisWarsupremacy