Don’t ignore tribal factor in elections
By - | December 23rd 2012
For all the fine talk against tribal alliances and calculation in electoral politics, I am yet to see where this is not done in the world.
Recently, Obama won the US elections through a ‘coalition’ that included Blacks, Hispanics and Asians, all of which are ethnic/racial groups. Mitt Romney swept the white vote, also another distinct ethnic bloc. Democracy being about numbers, it would take a miracle of hurricane size for a political leader to win a national election while ignoring the single largest electoral unit, which is the tribe.
Unfortunately in our world, it is not just individuals who vote but also tribes. And yes, tribes just like individuals do have unique interests and grievances, some legitimate, some not but it’s for the vote outcome to sort that out.
In 1963, Kanu won the elections by bringing together the Luo and Kikuyu, the two biggest tribes in Kenya In the Narc revolution of 2002, all tribes of Kenya ganged up against the Kalenjin and Narc emerged winner. All these wins were a simple matter of arithmetic centred on the tribe. You also have to get your hands dirty cobbling up a patchwork of an alliance of some kind. Not doing so makes you elitist, plastic and out of touch.
True, the other politicians aren’t admitting that theirs are tribal alliances – but this is what makes shrewd politicians. Politics is the art of the possible, not merely rhetoric.
Xavier Owino, Nairobi
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