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Let us protect Kenya’s ailing sugar industry

By Kethi Kilonzo | August 16th 2015

“More than fifty years ago a middle-aged woman walked into the clinic of Kurt Goldstein, a neurologist. Though she appeared normal and spoke fluently, she had one extraordinary complaint. Every now and then her left hand would fly up to her throat and try to strangle her. She often had to use her right hand to wrestle the left hand under control, pushing it down to her side. She sometimes even had to sit on the murderous hand, so intent was it on trying to end her life.” V.S. Ramachandra & S. Blakeslee, Phantoms in the Brain.

Each of Kenya’s 42 tribes has its own history, traditions, culture and language. Some tribes are better in athletics than others. There are those that lead the way in football. While others excel in trade, some are considered to be the source for the most loyal employees and assistants. There are tribes that are bigger in numbers than others.

Some tribes are more conservative and remain true to their culture, traditions and history. Others are more liberated and have adjusted to and adopted modern lifestyles. The sum of the different tribes is what makes Kenya. It is the weave of culture, tradition, history and language that defines us as a nation.

Every country that has tried to amputate or diminish parts of itself or its citizens has failed. Every nation that has demonised a section of its citizenry has suffered grievous consequences. And after they have tried and failed to eliminate their perceived internal enemies, these nations have had to reach out to that part of their citizenry to rebuild their country together as one.

Rwanda is not Hutus. Rwanda is not Tutsis. Rwanda is not Twas. Rwanda is the sum total of the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. The Hutu once reached to their guns, machetes and bare hands and tried to exterminate the Tutsi. They failed. Though the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa are now rebuilding their once torn nation, the ghost of genocide will haunt them for generations.

After suffering the loss of a hand or a leg, some people continue to think and feel as if they still have that hand or leg. Neurologists use the words “phantom limb” to describe this condition. The missing arm or leg may linger indefinitely in the mind of a patient long after it has been lost in an accident or through surgery. The “pain” of the missing leg or hand also persists.

Numerical size doesn’t make any tribe in Kenya more important than the other. Neither financial strength, nor intellectual and oratory prowess, makes one superior to the other. Every nation thrives on the strengths as well as weaknesses of its composite tribes.

We can’t all be professors. Universities need janitors. We can’t all be doctors. Hospitals require the services of nurses. We can’t all be traders. Businesses need security guards to keep potential thieves at bay. We can’t all be top athletes. Someone has to keep any eye on the clock to check the timings; another on the finishing line to determine who came first, second, and third.

The ongoing sugar war is once again turning Kenya into a psychotic middle aged patient with a murderous left hand determined to strangle herself. We can’t all rear goats and cows. Even if it does not make cents, those whose universe revolves around sugarcane deserve our empathy, support and protection.

After all, the brain will never send a message to the heart to stop circulating blood to the two small toes because the eyes are more useful to the body.

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