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OPINION: Makau Mutua right on a 'less tribal nation' but wrong on two issues
By Bwire Mugolla | Updated Jan 16, 2018 at 10:37 EAT
Renowned legal scholar Makau Mutua

Renowned legal scholar Makau Mutua on January 7 wrote a relatively positive article arguing for a less tribal Kenyan nation

In the article titled We must free ourselves from divisive political tribe, Professor Mutua rightly observed that Kenyans are indeed people who hold nothing against their compatriots simply on the basis of tribe

But the good professor got it wrong on two points, and this has to be disabused at the earliest opportunity so that his otherwise good effort does not go to waste.

In his opening remarks, Makau alleges that year 2017 taught him that Kenyans hate each other with deep venom. The professor learnt the wrong thing and he needs to unlearn it, fast. Kenyans love each other and just like any other animate community, they differ from time to time.

The second thing he says he learnt is that Kenya is a nation of fools, more or less like what veteran journalist Philip Ochieng described in one of his newspaper headlines as “a nation of sheep”.

My compatriots and I can be everything but fools. I will explain.

If there is a habit that one can easily term as Kenyan, it is the ability to fast forget atrocities of whatever nature and, to use a not-so politically correct phrase, move on. This, in many cases, is a negative trend. One that I have in many occasions argued that it is our collective undoing.

The way we shout about mudslides and floods when they happen and claim lives, and after a few days get residents of the affected areas moving back to their “homes” and go on with their lives and live like nothing happened, is, for lack of a better word, amazing. The tragedy is that these disasters find a way of happening again and claiming more lives, lives of the survivors of the previous incidents who should ideally have learnt from that experience and changed abode. Look at how fast we are forgetting how bad December has been with deaths and life-changing injuries on the road. One can be sure that if no major road incident happens this week, the country will stop discussing the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) and the traffic department of the police vis-aviz what they should do or not do and, naturally, move on. The night travel ban will be quietly lifted and the officers of the two institutions will go back to their bribe extorting ways and life will go on, the Kenyan way. I am deliberately avoiding using the word accident to describe the madness on the roads that lead to the bloody carnage because its “accidentness” is debatable.

And it is this Kenyan way of doing things that is also worth celebrating!

There is something so distinctly Kenyan about Kenyans that proponents of secessionism, tribalism, regionalism, extortionism and all negative isms have found impossible to crack. That is what has held the country together for so long. That is what will hold this country together for so many millennia to come. It is the integral, subconscious appreciation of the fact that there can only be one Kenya and nothing can change that!

Kenyans have a natural oneness that is difficult not to notice. They will quarrel and call each other names sometimes at a spur of the moment and in most times when incited or paid to do so. They will sing praises and argue amongst themselves for one political cause and leader or another when it is convenient. They will even dress in manner that seems to suggest their DNA and that of a neighbour who doesn’t agree with them are not compatible. But if something external threatens their nationhood, you can bet your last coin that Kenyans will forget those superficial differences in a blink of an eye and confront the “common enemy”.

That is why barely two months after what some describe as one of the most divisive political election in the world, Kenyans are living like the most the unified population ever, tackling their daily needs like they did before the campaigns began. It is why Musyoka, Onyango, Kariuki and Bwire are meeting every evening at their local estate bar and discuss the nine o’clock political news with the same interest they discuss Hollywood entertainment news, nothing personal. It is that admirable oneness that greets the priest during his mass on Sunday with recitals of the Lord’s Prayer, the Sheikh at the mosque on Friday.

A visitor on this side of the planet will struggle to relate the August-October seeming hostility among Kenyans and the harmony that is prevailing now, save for the few incidents and pronouncements from those whose livelihood depends on ruble-rousing.

Kenyan oneness is an attribute that every patriot needs to embrace, encourage and defend at all times. The amnesia, though, should be practiced as selectively as possible so that it only serves to make us stronger. Otherwise, as argued before, it will be our waterloo.

Let’s only forget that which has the potential to scatter us and always remember, learn from and avoid that which can exterminate us both as individuals and as the Kenyan community.

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