This Thing Called Tribe

22 Aug


Recently, I was copied in on a transcript of a mail-conversation whose participants included various Kenyans in a group mail setup. Some of them were members of the Diaspora, some of them were at home. Most were, and are doing well, working in Big-4 firms and other large corporations both here and outside the country.

And I was hugely disappointed.

For, without exception, it was possible to look at a fellow’s name, regardless of where or how much or how long he’d read, where he was working… and divine the line of argument he was taking from just that-his name. Fellows with names beginning with O had a proclivity for being anti-Establishment. Fellows with names indicative of a childhood spent playing on the slopes of Mount Kenya tended to be pro-Establishment. I’m sure you understand what I mean.

Is this a one-off example? Would that it were! In the run-up to last year’s referendum, colleagues in the office where I worked were polarised along the very same lines. The Bananas were largely from Mount Kenya. The Oranges were from everywhere else. These are educated people, among the crème-de-la-crème of Kenya’s education system. And yet…

Exactly WHAT is wrong with us Kenyans? What is wrong with a man, who has been in and out of classrooms, some of them Ivy League, for 80% of his life on this earth, and yet when it comes to issues of development and the direction of his country, he still thinks tribally? We have walked, and talked and lived in the groves of academe for decades, and we have managed to emerge unscathed. Education has not changed us. Exposure has not changed us. Religion has not changed us. We have received instruction, and remain unintelligent; schooled, we remain all the while unlearned, and though literate, we are as yet unlettered. We continue to be creatures of trait, rather than creatures of thought, long after the ink has dried on our most donnish qualifications. Our benighted arguments and thought patterns are still informed by the most primordial, and therefore the most savage and barbaric of our feelings. All we have learned how to do is to eloquently articulate these feelings in languages other than our mother-tongues. We have made the camp of the inerudite our permanent bivouac. We are still primal, still backward, still uncivilised, still uninformed; still undauntedly, steadfastly, unashamedly, and unapologetically human.

Nor is the problem generational. I used to think that my generation would see a change in things. Granted, there are more mixed marriages now, than before. This is a great step forward. The generation before us can largely be forgiven for their outlook on life, growing up as they did, and all. They have also seen the worst of a repressive Moi regime, in which tribalism was fostered, nay, nurtured, to the exclusion all tribes out of favour with the President. Their point of view is partly inborn, and partly a reaction to and the backlash of past, repressive regimes. But we have no excuse. We ought to be more intelligent than we seem to be on the strength of this anecdotal evidence.

These discoveries lead on to the thought that our politicians should not be blamed for being what we are. Someone once said that we deserve the leaders that we get. There is no use spewing impassioned diatribes at the political who-is-who, when we are just the same. JUST THE SAME! We are birds of a feather, peas in a pod! Politicians do not radically change upon their ascendancy to power. They are who we are, and we are who they are. Granted, they stoke the fires of tribalism so as to increase their own relevance in terms of the balance of power in the country. But this would not work, if the populace itself refused to be tribally motivated.

What can be sadder, more deplorable, more lamentable than this? What, more than this poor state of affairs, is downright reprehensible? What is the seed of the robbery perpetrated on Wanjiru (the choice of name is extremely inappropriate), by the people Wanjiru has put into power, in the form of inequitable and insensible distribution of resources? The genesis of this grand pilferage is when such narrow parochialism dictates the course of development in this country. What, I pray, is the point of tarmacked by-ways in Central Imenti, when the road to Nakuru, it would seem, is paved exclusively with good intentions? It’s enough to make a grown man weep, I tell you. That is a crime against humanity. And it has the double and not entirely undesired effect of making tribalism grow by feeding on tribalism, for it is the poisonous embryo in which such infamous sentiments as “It is now our turn to eat” fester.

I would like to be optimistic, but not to the point of naïveté. I have tried, and failed, to see hope for politics in this country. I would be the first to want to be proved wrong. I fear I shall not live to see it.


Posted by on August 22, 2006 in Politics


33 responses to “This Thing Called Tribe

  1. AK

    August 22, 2006 at 10:43 am

    It’s all about the inequitable distribution of the national cake. The person who will one day unite Kenyans will have to see beyond clusters and address Kenya’s problems holistically and in a fair manner. Until then, brace for even deeper divisions.

    In the new year, my friend from central province and I were comparing notes after visiting home, she was so impressed with the improvements overall (particularly in public service delivery) in her home area and wondered if it was the same for my area. Her face just lit up as she told me of the changes…I on the other hand, had nothing much positive to report because there was really nothing new. That is our Kenya!

  2. egm

    August 22, 2006 at 10:48 am

    Seeing how ingrained in us it is, what is the most effective way of dealing with this animal? Is it accepting the fact and then working a way to foster development despite the animal’s presence? I ask this since given the current situation where our generation is caught up in the mess, chances are high the next generation will not escape it either. By observing their parents, our children will mimic us. And if they see us with tribalistic tendencies, no amount of words to the contrary will alter their perceptions. So is this something that we are doomed with to eternity?

    Like you, I would want to be proved wrong on that issue. In the meantime, I guess the best we can do as individuals is be diligent in our perception of things political so as not to be caught up in this trap.

  3. m

    August 22, 2006 at 7:29 pm

    I believe our generation is has a case to answer. We have ABSOLUTELY no excuse for such ludicrous behaviour, especially seeing that we have grow up in metropolitan societies.

    Very strange how we don’t know what race/tribe is when we are kids but as we grow up we inexcusably become that much more foolish!

  4. mwanainchi

    August 22, 2006 at 10:27 pm

    Like AK says this is not surprising.
    Infact the more educated you are clearer it should be.
    The nations limited resources will be closer to you if your tribemate is prezzy.

    Politics is about personal gain in kenya (Zero sum gain) not national devt. It us or them.
    This is true even inside the the tribes itself, inside the disctrict, inside the towns, inside the village and inside the clan.

  5. egm

    August 23, 2006 at 12:55 am

    Mwananchi raises a good point. When we finally rid ourselves of tribalism, will something else rush in to fill that void? Do we as humans have this inate desire to group with those like us, be it racially, tribally, financially, intellectually, etc. that is harmful to the well being of society as a whole? Could we group ourselves into these different categories and still progress and develop?

    I also like AK’s point of having a leader who will rise above the petiness that exists and have a national outlook. Ensuring that everyone, no matter what your last name is, gets a share of the national cake. It will take someone willing to be considered a pariah by his own people. A prophet unwelcome in his own land.

    And in response to M’s statement, I ask, what is it about us that suddenly notices differences after a certain age? Is it something that has always been in our subconcious, but as children we manage to keep it repressed? And then as we grow older these come to the fore? Like I mentioned earlier, could the tribalistic tendencies we observed as children be manifesting in us as we grow older? You know the way you would hear our parents generation talking about how you shouldn’t trust people from such and such a tribe, people from this other tribe are lazy, people from that tribe are violent… etc. These stereotypes that may have been spoken toung-in-cheek may have been embedded in our psyche. I don’t know. I’m at a loss, just as M is. I, too, simply can’t understand the transition from tribally-blind to tribal fanaticism.

  6. Kagz

    August 23, 2006 at 2:35 am

    1st…Brilliant Post.

    2nd…Very good observations by all those who have commented.

    3rd…I live in the US and ALWAYS get amazed that there exists organizations like “Kalenjins Living In The US”. Ati Ruto came to address them about 1 month ago. This is MADNESS!!!

    4th…Just like you “I have tried, and failed, to see hope for politics in this country”.

    5th…As my e-friend EGM said, “humans have this inate desire to group with those like us, be it racially, tribally, financially, intellectually”…….hence i conclude that Tribalism is NOT bad. NEGATIVE tribalism is what is killing Kenya.

    6th…I think there’s something called POSITIVE TRIBALISM e.g I am a Kikuyu and ABSOLUTELY love all-things-Kikuyu e.g Food, Culture,Language etc (but that does not mean i hate on other tribes).

  7. egm

    August 23, 2006 at 2:48 am

    There is a church in Boston for the Kikuyu. I kid you not. I have been to it (I am not Kikuyu, but I understand the language). The question my father asked when he came and attended a service there was why Kikuyu. Why not Kiswahili? What if other Kenyans want to congregate, but since the only place other Kenyans are the language of choice locks them out? As you say, MADNESS!!!

    I do agree, that in our attempts at correcting the ills of tribalism, we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bath water. There is a lot to be proud of in the different ethnic groups in Kenya. Different cultures that enrich each other.

    But as Kagz puts it, it is that entitlement people have that they are superior to all else that is killing us. The mentality that because I am of this tribe and you are of a different tribe, I am better than you. That is wrong.

    Unfortunately for us, that “negative tribalism” has been in place for so long, and is obviously so deeply entrenched (as witnessed by how our generation has not escaped it), that utmost care will be needed in maintaining and keeping what is good, and discarding what is bad.

    A mystery wrapped up in an enigma enclosed in a conundrum for sure!

  8. Kagz

    August 23, 2006 at 3:51 am

    AK : Unlike you, my shagz is not too far from Kibaki’s house so our roads are PERFECT!!!

    EGM : Ati Kanisa Ya Wakikuyu? Je, huu ni ungwana????
    I’m SOOOOOO damn proud to be a kikuyu but can NEVER attend that MADNESS.

    The predominantly-white church i attend has an African Service which is 90% Kenyan and 90% Kikuyu but ALL sermons are in ENGLISH. Worse-case-scenario is when a visiting pastor from Kenya comes and throws in a few swahili words.
    I like this approach coz it gives Americans & Other Africans an opportunity to come and witness how we do church.

    Our elders are partly to blame. Being kikuyu, i grew up being told “We own Kenya”, “Kisii’s are lairs”,”Raila must go” etc.
    This generation has ALOT TO UNLEARN!

    AOB: Politics is showbiz for UGLY people [Half & Half,2006]

  9. M

    August 31, 2006 at 9:32 pm

    @Kagz – Ebu explain to me that “positive tribalism” nicely because as it is — I don’t buy it

  10. joe

    September 22, 2006 at 2:23 pm

    Interesting! I think as long as Kenyan politics is not about ideas people will always support one of their own who they feel they can trust. In 2002 I supported uhuru because I was for the idea of young leadership. I also felt that Narc was old Kanu recycled with people I never trusted –ntimama-remember the envelopes-raila-corporation. Kibaki –mugumo tree etc.

    At the time I was also against most of what was in the draft constitution (bomas).it just wasn’t a realistic constitution –removal of provincial administration and an executive prime minister elected by our useless Mps sounded like Kenyans being taken for a ride .

    But when the oranges and bananas came about. I supported the changes to the draft constitution simply because the chief executive should be elected by the people and not the mps .But when ODMs attacks started calling us aduwi and saying it was us vs them instead of explaining what I was they didn’t like in the new draft constitution warning bells started ringing. The fact that they won claiming that it was 42 vs. 1 just told me what their agenda was why could it be that Kenya won plus they made it look like it was a landslide win when it was a 52% to 48% win. I am not looking forward to packing my bags and going into exile Because my grandfather didn’t like Luos in the 70s and 60s.I have many Luo friends but I am not ashamed of who I am or where I come from.

    Sometimes I think people likes Raila don’t know what they are really doing to Kenya polarizing the people into ethnic groups. Everything Raila has done in the last few years has alienated kyuks Leading to growing kyuk Nationalism( I am a kyuk first then a Kenyan second).

    Moi keeps on warning about it but nobody listens. Going back into tribal cocoons is a defensive mechanism. Tribal nationalismin the long run can only lead to conflict

  11. I

    September 27, 2006 at 1:45 pm

    what the hell is POSITIVE TRIBALISM?!?!

  12. Sarah

    September 28, 2006 at 3:45 am

    The very thing that divides COULD be the very thing that unites us. The day Kenyans realise that just like any successful organisation needs, accountants, marketers, lawyers etc so to can the country benefit from the vast cultures.


    I find it ironic for those two words to be put together tribalism has a negative connotation to it so how can it be positive

  13. keru

    September 28, 2006 at 3:32 pm

    I’m proud to be Kenyan – for some reaon many of our politicians believe that if we keep saying that, we’ll eventually act it, regardless of their lack of example, and our lack of conviction.

    If perhaps we all work at being human, then I’ll be proud that other Kenyans are Kenyans, and perhaps they’ll be proud of me as well.

    At the end of the day human beings want to belong somewhere and forget that even though we’re different we are still part of the human race.

    All I’m saying is that instead of constantly uttering -mimi ni mzalendo- act it, and let evetyone else believe it.

    Less talk and more action is what we all need to practice – look at where Wangari Maathai is, her actions shout loud and clear!

  14. Kamau

    September 29, 2006 at 2:50 pm

    I think we are experiencing the evolution of a new tribe called Kenyans. Culture is not static and all cultures are influenced and borrow from other cultures. The urbanization of Kenya is creating a new tribe that borrows from all Kenyan cultures and other external cultures.

    The friction we see is between those that identify with our pre-colonial tribes and those that identify with the newer emerging tribe of Kenya. The Kenyan tribe identifies with all that is Kenyan and thus the nationalistic outlook as compared to the narrower tribal outlook. I see this schism in my own family, they say all the politically correct things however, their actions and unguarded comments make me realize what tribe they really identify with.

    I believe that eventually the Kenyan tribe will grow with future generations, unfortunately the Kenyan tribe is still a minority tribe and dose not has a large constituency.

    We need to be able to express economic and social interests in class terms and the left, center and right ideological divide that modern political thought is based on, not tribal affiliation.

  15. Gish

    October 2, 2006 at 10:46 am

    Here we go again. Tribalism, i googled and got this”A cultural practice of behaving in a manner to benefit one’s own family or tribe, rather than doing what one individually believes is right, especially with respect to supporting political or public policy changes.“. Is that it at least of Kenya?
    I dont believe there could be possibly any excuse to vouch for tribalism, ukabila. Positive tribalism i think is an oxymoron, kagz seems to belive in it pray do tell how this is? I wonder whether is is too much for us to be both our tribe and Kenyans at the same time? What am i first mount kenya mafia then kenyan or kenyan first?. I think am kenyan and all others is details…

  16. Wabz

    October 6, 2006 at 4:48 am

    While there is nothing positive about tribalism, there is nothing negative about celebrating ones culture and appreciating our differences. It is those differences that make Kenya the vibrant society that it is. While I am !00% Kyuk and enjoy mugithi, Mukimo and attending Itegas, I thoughly enjoy Isukuti, and lipala, dancing to “Kenge kenge” and their dancers are out of this world . We must appreciate that every tribe has contributed to what is considered uniquely Kenyan
    What is destroying Kenya is the the politicization of tribes and ethnic jingoism. Politicians are using tribes to further their ambitions at the expense of Kenya. It is up to the youth who are the majority and have no stake in tribes, to discard these politicans or else we are doomed

  17. donworry

    October 22, 2006 at 11:39 am

    I love your piece Chrenyan. It is indeed a real shame that after all these years educated and well travelled people are still unable to take a national outlook. They all pretend that it is all the fault of the politicians who fan hatred and mistrust but surely kikulacho si kinguoni mwako? The same goes for our pathetic media which cannot face the beast head on.

    Let us stop our hypocrisy and look inwards. It is only we the people who can tell our hate spewing politicians (who claim to represent us) to take a hike. No government on earth can legislate against what we feel inside. People must look at their own hearts. It is not beyond us because many of you know how relations in our country have cut across boundaries of race creed and clan and nationality.

    Just in passing I believe that the name you mention above is actually Wanjiku. As the the appropriateness, perhaps that is the crux of the matter

    Let me quote from a famous play by Saddam Mutiso

    “……….’Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
    Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
    What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
    Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
    Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
    What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet;…….”


  18. Mbutu

    December 27, 2006 at 2:37 pm

    There is nothing contradictory between ”positive” and ”tribe” or ”tribalism”. If one neglects their roots they become easily disorientated in this confusing world.
    Q:Is there just one tribe in every country on earth European, Asian, American, or African except Kenya? Why is UK caled ”united kingdom”, with its constituent tribes- English, Irish, Welsh, Scotch, emigre…?
    Kenyans, lets be honest with ourselves- we must first accept, appreciate and nurture our rich diversity before we can accept we can belong together. The next step is adopting the best attributes of other cultures to enrich our own, and increasing move towards a Kenyan culture. We should also avoid being used to fight one another by those who profit from our engineered mistrust.
    For example, I have travelled far in this country, and know that the economic recovery is taking place all over, not just Central. Roads, agriculture, fishing and other industries are being revived- so why do we want to isolate fellow Kenyans?? Lets steer away from useless propaganda.
    Fact: poverty or prosperity of an individual or community in this country is not related to proximity to constituency or province of any one politician, be it Kibaki (Central- Othaya), Raila (Nairobi- Kibera), Tuju (Nyanza- Rarieda), Moi (Rift Valley- Baringo C), Kenyatta (Central- Gatundu S), Kalonzo (Eastern- Mwingi), Balala (Coast- Mvita).
    Lets wise up and avoid being manipulated to degrade and hate our humanity and Kenyanness by people who profit from the mistrust between Kenyan neighbours. Remember, no politician is worth dying for. If they incite us to the point of fighting, they will retreat to the safety of their houses/hotel rooms where they will enjoy the spectacle.
    Ask yourself- why do we glorify evil when we overhighlight (or is it glorify) one murderous gang in media (print and electronic) because of the ethnic group of its leaders? Which is the better of the repulsive, blood-thirsty gangs- Mungiki, Kamjesh, Jeshi la Mzee, Baghdad Boys, Msumbiji, Taliban,, or… Could it be that consciously or not we have fallen so low we believe some Kenyan lives are worth less than others?

  19. Mchokozi

    March 11, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    nice analysis~!

  20. mwaniki

    April 3, 2007 at 11:37 am

    article well articulated.some comments show the animal in us[tribalism].
    lets do what we believe is right, respecting other peoples tribes,races and cultures in our thinking,planning, jobs and national resource allocations.then and only then can we say with one voice “proud to be kenyan”.

  21. jkmangelete

    June 4, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    yu guys! i wish yu could all just fold up or rather give up like i did long time ago. whatever tricks we try many kenyans are not likely to trully embrace the spirit of acting kenyan.

    for instance, over the last two years i have witnessed a funny trend which has continued to perfectuate itself every day in nairobi. if yu wish just take a ride with me on a friday evening and we start with thika road from choma zone through tana hills, roasters, blue springs, homeland all the way to KU, and yu will notice that kyuks have virtually chased away all other tribes living along this corridor from neighbourhood pubs. how? they continuously play those funny inaudible tunes of theirs which tend to be more related to waltz than any bantu music. in most cases it is a one man/woman guitar thing but nobody seems to get the mori to jump to heir feets for a jig. it is simply boring. the same senario is repeated in kariobangi area.

    when yu move to mombasa road, embakasi, mulolongo, or even south B/C, nairobi west or langata yu find people from all over the country mixing freely and enjoying a variety of music.

    move to kawangware and its environs and surprisingly the thika road senario is photocopied. whats up guys.

    just associate with people who are willing to associate with others, be it in marriage, business, politics or in any other way of socializing and yu will never regrete. force ourself on some of these antisocial selfish goons and you will have just yourself alone to blame. i gave up after trying for quite long. now i am even teaching my small ones how to be careful with some people. for i am a true kenyan. it all belongs to us but if yu wish yu can isolate yaself and leave the rest together. shauri yako.

  22. Felix

    December 22, 2008 at 4:01 am

    Its 2008 today and what you guys feared would happen to our country has happened,lives have been lost confidence in our nation eroded but more importantly is the fact that perpertrators of acts of evil(read political class) are the ones deciding the justice route.But this nation is resilient enough we will rise again to take our position as haven of peace.

  23. Timothy Yegon

    July 27, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    I think Africans in general and Kenyans in particular have something broken in their heads that makes them run their affairs worse than animals. Thats just my opinion. All other regions of the world show some ability to learn from their mistakes, but not Africans. I cannot fathom the reason why this is the case. Thinking of it, that is probably why we were found by the colonisers still living in the iron age. Perhaps we are by nature primitive, and this will always be so for the majority of Africans.

    • Chrenyan

      July 27, 2012 at 4:58 pm


      It’s been a while, very nice to hear from you after so long. Indeed, when reading books like The State of Africa, one is tempted to think that the African is incapable of self-rule. All across the continent, the same issues arise – corruption in agricultural produce marketing boards, largesse by Government officials, revolutionaries-turned-rogue… Anyone who is familiar with the history of practically any African country cannot be blamed for giving up. And we continue to write feverishly on history’s pages with the same pen.

      However, you and I are not too young for a little bit of what I call “youthful idealism?” One by one, those around us, that kind of thing. Surely we can start things on a different path?

  24. Timothy Yegon

    August 1, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Hey [Chrenyan],
    Indeed it has been too long. We need to catch up.
    There was youthful idealism when Kenya got independence. There was youthful idealism in 2003. There has always been youthful idealism. Youthful idealism cannot take you far if not harnessed and channeled, and not allowed to die. The reason to be wonder if there could be something inherently broken within is if you look at our history of achievement in science, innovation or any measure of human progress, we always come up short. For example, there is little evidence that Africans learnt to read and write independently before the white man came. All other regions of the world mastered this thousands of years ago. In Africa, only Egypt and Ethiopia seem to have developed this skill independently. Reading and writing are fundamental for development, as it means skills and knowledge can be codified, stored and enhanced with time by the next generations. I am yet to see evidence that Africans discovered the use of the wheel before the white man came here. If you look at a country like China, they became a unified country over 2300 years ago. They built canals, discovered astronomy, they even sailed to Malindi and Lamu way before the white man. My question is, why is it that Africa, specifically East Africa, is so behind when it comes to significant achievements, things that were done thousands of years ago? Look at the achievements of other world regions in antiquity, then look at what Africa achieved. The book on African achievements is empty. Why is this the case? Is there some possible explanation why, apart from some inherent incapability within us?

  25. Timothy Yegon

    August 1, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Hi [Chrenyan]
    Indeed it has been too long. We need to catch up.
    Now, if I recall correctly, there was alot of idealism in 1963. And also 40 years later in 2003. And yet here we are. Idealism may not be enough.
    Another reason not to be optimistic is, if you look at what is known about African history before the white man, and compare it to other world regions like China, India, greater Arabia, even Korea, you will find that the book on African achievement is very empty. For example, there is little to no evidence that Africans outside of Egypt and Ethiopia independently learnt to read and write in their own script and language, which is essential for development as knowledge can be codified accurately and passed on to the next generation, which will then enhance what they learn further, and so on from generation to generation. I am not even sure we learnt to use the wheel before colonisation. If you compare Africa with say China, China unified as a country approx. 2400 years ago. They built the Great Wall and the Linqiu Canal, which are still in operation even now, at around the same time. China independently developed astronomy, navigation capabilities and sailing skills way before the Europeans, they even came to Malindi and Lamu way before the Portuguese. India also has its achievements, so does Arabia and even Iran. Rome was building roads all across Europe, trading with India and China. Even Russia has its achievements of antiquity, achieved indigenously. Why is it that Africa has none? Can you think of any reason, apart from inherent incapability, sad as it is to say? Why is it that even in this age of global connectivity and open access to information on best practice, do we still manage to get it so wrong consistently? What other reason could there be?

    • Chrenyan

      August 3, 2012 at 11:42 am

      Hey Timothy,

      Your comment leaves one wondering whether there is indeed any hope for Kenyans, or indeed Africans at large. I have heard there was a library in Timbuktu, but beyond that I haven’t heard much mention of “our achievements of antiquity.” It is a sad, sad state of affairs if we hadn’t learned to use the wheel before colonization. Where were we, and what were we up to? And like you say, now that we KNOW about little things like the wheel, and global best practice, we appear to be unable to simply COPY what others are doing, with adjustments for our own context!

      So the question becomes: what should be added to idealism? Are we actually incapable of adding anything to our idealism (those of us fools who still have it) to move us forward?

  26. Timothy Yegon

    August 3, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Hi Chrenyan,
    I have not yet figured what can be added to idealism to make a difference. The answer to that question has eluded much more knowledgeable and informed people than I. I do not think there is any easy answer to why we were quite behind when other people came to Africa, and why we still lag behind now given the benefit of knowledge we have from other peoples. I have just gotten to the stage of asking what is wrong and looking for reasons why. Perhaps there are other reasons why we are so behind. Maybe with more time and exposure/interactions/travelling especially by the youth and education things will change, but based on evidence from our history, it may take a lot of time, beyond our lifetime, our children’s lifetimes, and our great grandchildren’s lifetimes. Idealism is not foolish, it really helps when you have to overcome all sorts of seemingly insurmountable challenges, for example as you pointed out in your post, if the cream of society still think in terms of tribe, what hope the people not at the top of the food chain? I only hope that idealism does not detract from the reality of the challenge being faced or lead to false hope, as it did in 1963 and in 2003 as far as Kenya is concerned.

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 12:04 pm

      Hey Timothy,

      Certainly, you and I are not the most knowledgeable and/or informed people. Nor do we need to be. It is sufficient that we see the problem for what it is and have at least a willingness to see change. That is all. Actually, idealism does require a certain amount foolishness… the foolishness/craziness to believe that the impossible is actually possible. It’s foolishness, but it is necessary foolishness.

      Exposure/travel can and does help, but in my experience it is a double-sided coin. I know one guy, for example, who used to tell me that KANU had done a lot for Kenya. He made one trip to South Africa and came back a changed man. He is now living in the United States, and I don’t blame him. On the other hand, I’ve seen folks who are just as tribal outside the country as they are in it. Even after spending years abroad. Then the other thing is, not everyone can travel.

      It is true that it may take generations to sort things out. But I find myself unwilling to wait 4-5 lifetimes. Something has to happen now! Or else, why did I live? I think it’s a matter of doing what one can. Challenging everyone. Not in a confrontational manner, but in a way that causes them to examine why they think the way they do, and whether that way of thinking is correct. Workmates, parents, friends, siblings – EVERYONE.

      I at times think it is easier to deal with people at the bottom of the food chain than those at the top. Those at the top, and who fondly imagine themselves to be at the top intellectually-speaking as well, find it harder to see that they’re wrong. Those at the bottom are aware of their economic status. And they will not couch their tribalism in hypocritical arguments. They will tell you bluntly: “Mimi ni wa Uhuru,” and then one can start from there. The other day I spent two hours discussing Presidential candidates with some people. At the end of it all I found that the problem for one of them was that she was fixated on a candidate from her own tribe and actually hated (her own word) a credible option from another tribe for pointing out the (very real) flaws of her preferred candidate. She lives outside the country, by the way!

      All in all, thanks a lot for commenting, I REALLY LIKE your comments. Keep them coming, man. If you have anything to say on my latest post, I’d be glad to hear it.

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