I was stunned a while back when several Kamba politicians, mostly from Kitui, shunned Foreign CS Monica Juma’s “homecoming.”
Let me confess – I am personally not a big fan of the soiree known as “homecoming.” It’s typically a fete by natives for a famous son or daughter who snags a top state job. It’s harmless merry-making. To each his own.
That’s why I was aghast that some Kamba politicos would eschew and spurn Dr Juma’s homecoming on the sinister grounds that she is married to a Kikuyu man from Murang’a. I know some of the politicians. But their feckless conduct was primitive, nativist, sexist, and misogynistic. In this day and age, such lumpen behavior is disgustingly Neanderthal and indefensible.
Let’s dig deeper. People – in this case men – who are elected to represent us are supposed to understand the letter and spirit of the 2010 Constitution. It’s very sad when such men exhibit complete ignorance of the Constitution and the law. How, we ask, can they defend and faithfully execute that which they don’t understand? Or perhaps I am wrong.
May be they fully understand the law and the Constitution but choose – willingly – to violate them. In that case, the people should send them home during the next plebiscite. We don’t need politicians who act with the complete disregard of the spirit – if not the black letter – of the law. A bedrock principle of our laws is gender equality.
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The politicians object to Dr Juma primarily because they claim that she doesn’t represent the Akamba. This is a nasty argument on several levels. First, state officials – including members of the Cabinet – don’t represent a tribe, or a particular group. Juma wasn’t appointed Foreign CS to represent the Akamba. My assumption is that she’s fully qualified for the job, even though I may not agree with her politics, ideological orientation, and policy prescriptions.
Anyone, including any Kamba politicians, can object to Dr Juma on the basis of disagreements about ideas, policies, and politics. But no one is allowed to disagree with her because she wears a skirt, or makes her matrimonial home with a Kikuyu. That’s textbook bigotry.
Perhaps some disagree with her because she’s pro-Jubilee. I don’t know the political party she belongs to but that’s not the reason the these “nattering nabobs of negativism” gave. They explicitly argued that she had ceased to “represent” Kitui since she was now married to a Murang’a man.
In other words, Dr Juma had in effect ceased to be Kamba and was now a Kikuyu by virtue of marrying one. The logic is that a woman who marries a “foreigner” – meaning a person from a different race or ethnicity – abdicates her ancestral identity.
Ledger of tribe
In this logic, a woman become the “property” or chattel” of the husband. There’s no symmetry or reciprocity because the man – as the norm – keeps his identity. Let’s stretch the argument to its logical conclusion. The woman married to a “foreigner” forsakes her roots and in turn her people forswear her. She’s “lost” and is erased from the ledger of her “tribe.”
She’s a traitor to the tribe, a betrayer. She’s committed treason against the tribe. She must be expelled from the tribe. In a word, she ceases to exist. She becomes a nothing. In this argument, there’s no room for a Kenyan nation. In fact, by this argument, a Kenyan nation doesn’t – and can’t – exist. We must live in our “pure” tribal cocoons.
But only if we are women. Men, on the other hand, can have whoever they want from any tribe, or race. Wow.
There are many countries in the world that don’t permit a woman married to a man who’s a citizen of another country – a true foreigner – to pass her citizenship to her children. That’s what Kenya’s pre-2010 Constitution provided. The progeny of a Kenyan woman couldn’t become a Kenyan citizen if the father wasn’t a Kenyan citizen.
A Kenyan citizen mother couldn’t pass Kenyan citizenship to the child of a non-citizen father.
The Kamba politicians who banish Dr Juma to Murang’a seek to take us to the archaic pre-2010 national charter. Some of these men have logs in their eyes because they are married to “foreign” women. The Waswahili say “nyani haoni kundule” [the monkey doesn’t see its own backside].
This a baleful of hypocrisy. None of the politicians in question have ever suggested to me that I am not a Kenyan because my wife is an African-American. The subject of the racial or ethnic identity of my spouse has never come up. There are many Kenyans – both men and women – married across “tribes” and races, including to many non-citizen spouses. The heart goes where it must, and it’s usually not guided by a tribal gene.
-The writer is SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of KHRC. @makaumutua.