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Plea to young Kenyans: Shun tribalism

By Peter Kenneth | December 2nd 2015

Obama came and spoke to you.

The Pope has come and spoken to you.

There is no one left to come and speak to you.  It is time for you to decide; the time for you to act. Do not let the words and encouragement of these two leaders go to waste.

Both President Obama and His Holiness Pope Francis were united on one point:  that you (and all young people) are responsible for the greatness of this country; you can change this country but not with tribalism in your hearts and minds, nor with hatred, or divisions.

Division is the only thing standing in the way of the greatness of this country and the greatness of this generation.  It is the only thing standing between this generation and the fight against poverty, disease and corruption.

Obama spoke about your unlimited potential and how Kenya stands at a crossroad, a moment of both promise and peril.

The choice between which of those paths we take is yours. He urged unity and  respect for a person based on who they are not where they come from.

Kenya needs an answer from you now.

The Pope was much more direct and clear. Tribalism equals destruction. His Holiness was also clear that you have a choice to make and a path to choose.

“I want to invite you all today to hold each other’s hands, let’s hold hands together. Let’s stand up as a sign against tribalism. We are all a nation, that’s how our hearts must be.

Tribalism isn’t just raising our hands today, it’s an expression of our desire, our hearts, and this tribalism is a work we must carry out every day against this tendency. You have to listen to others, it’s a work of opening your heart,” said the Holy Father.

I ask you to open your heart and to keep it open so that we can pursue the greatness and the potential of this country.

I honestly believe that it can be done; it is possible to make a break from the hatred and division of the past and write a new chapter in the history of this country.

This is not a country of stones or robots. You are not a robot. You are not a stone.

Tribalism has gotten us nowhere. Think about it. What has it achieved? What has it added to your life? To the country?

President Obama and the Pope spoke about corruption. The Holy Father was categorical: Corruption can destroy this country. Corruption is not the path to life. Corruption is the path to death, he said. 

Neither Obama nor the Pope said it but in this country tribalism is the most widespread form corruption, it is the ‘original sin.’  The people who take billions of shillings of our taxes do it under the cover of tribalism.

The tribe will protect them. You will protect them. You will defend them.

My young friends, we live a common life. The challenges of life belong to us all; poverty, health; and unemployment are not tribe-specific and they never will be.

If you go to the cancer ward at Kenyatta Hospital right now you will find that it reflects the face of Kenya. If you look at positions that need to propel Kenya forward you will realise they do not. They call it politics. Are you okay with this?

Today, there are young men and women like you who will go hungry because they could not get the job they needed to buy their daily bread. This fate has nothing to do with their names.

Tribalism will condemn you and your children to a life of slavery to a group of individuals who will use you and never solve your problems.

All tribal leaders are the same because they believe in the same thing so there is no difference, no superiority between one and the other.  They swear by the same principles.

A choice between tribal chiefs or parties is a choice between destruction and destruction. The question you should ask yourself is how much destruction this country can take before it snaps? 

Tribal chiefs are very good at commanding your loyalty. They use words like ‘we’ or ‘us’ or ‘our’ people and you fall in line.

“Be ... suspicious ... of all those who employ the term ‘we’ or ‘us’ without your permission. This is [a] form of surreptitious conscription ... Always ask who this ‘we’ is; because more often than not it’s an attempt to smuggle tribalism through customs,” said Christopher Hitchens.

My friends, there is only one ‘we’, the ones who pledge allegiance to the national flag. I ask you to set aside any other and focus on the one true union that binds us all.

Leaving tribalism is not going to be easy: you will need your ears; your mind and your heart. You will need to start listening to new voices and opening your heart and mind to new ideas.

Many will try and discourage you: they will say Kenyans will never give up tribalism. Ask them where they met all 44 million of us and agreed to that. They will tell you things will never change. Your response should be, “Of course they won’t if I don’t do anything about it!”

In short my young friends; I am merely saying that tribalism is a waste of your talents; your energy and the potential of your entire generation.

Obama was right when he said we have not inherited this nation from our ancestors but borrowed it from our children. You can make sure it does not return to them broken, bruised and battered by tribalism and corruption.

What do you say?

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