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Ethnicity has frustrated graft war, says Raila

By | November 6th 2010

By Mutinda Mwanzia

Prime Minister Raila Odinga has slammed political leaders who turn to their tribes for protection when called to account for various misdeeds.

Mr Raila said negative ethnicity has frustrated the war on corruption and denied the nation an opportunity to prosper.

"Tribalism has been accepted at one time as a friend, rejected as an enemy at another, and finally smuggled in through the backdoor as an accomplice," said Raila.

He said public officials who commit crimes as individuals but turn to their tribes for cover when called to account were living in the past.

Raila said the new Constitution offered great prospects to reclaim the nation from the claws of tribalism.

Raila, who spoke at the University of Nairobi during a public forum to discuss ethnicity, said it was worrying that tribalism has replaced nationhood as a source of identity.

"Since independence, leaders have played the tribal card to deal with challenges making the country descend from the high pedestal of a beacon for hope to an example of how not to build a nation," said Raila.

He said due to negative ethnicity, Kenyans look at each other as an enemy that needed to be kept at bay or subdued.

Raila said tribalism has resulted into national issues to be viewed through ethnic lenses. He said successive governments since independence have failed to provide an alternative to tribalism because central authority was based on perpetuation and not sharing power.

"Ineffective and undemocratic governments wanting in legitimacy did little to convince the people that nationhood offers more benefits than tribalism," said Raila.

He warned that political parties based on tribal strengths will become extinct with the coming of new laws.

"Regional or ethnic based parties will find it difficult to make an impact in the political scene and may be forced to close shop. The era of briefcase parties is also gone," he said.

"The Constitution we recently unveiled offers great prospects for reclaiming our nation from the clutch of the tribe. Article 10 of our Constitution states that the national values and principle of governance include, among others, patriotism, national unity, and sharing and devolution of power," Raila said.

He said political leaders should also hold the highest responsibility for promoting tribalism but warned those playing the tribal card will soon be extinct.

Endangered Species

"Those politicians who think their areas are exclusive to them only are simply an endangered species," Raila said. Raila said Kenyans should learn from the 2007 post-election violence and transform the country from a nation ravaged by tribal tensions to a united one where citizens enjoy harmony.

Prof Yash Pal Ghai, Justice Ministry PS Amina Mohammed and former nominated MP and lawyer Njoki Ndung’u were some of the panellists.

Higher Education Minister Prof Hellen Sambili and the university’s Vice Chancellor George Magoha were also present.

Prof Ghai said inequalities in sharing resources, power and political exclusion fuel negative ethnicity in many countries.

Ms Ndung’u said Kenyans should embrace positive aspects of ethnicity adding the implementation of the new Constitution will help deal with the cancer of tribalism.

She said Kenyans must take advantage of their diversity adding negative ethnicity has been condemned as the bane of the country.

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