We Are All Kenyans

03 Aug

(or: What “Us” vs “Them” really means in Kenya)

And so today I finally post this article. I started to write it around the time the inflammatory Kikuyu songs were publicized in this excellent article. I commend the author for having the courage to write it. But perhaps it is Providence, after all, that I am posting this article on the day when we all unite around our celebrated and talented track athletes as they represent our nation at the 2012 London Olympics. On this day, it’s not “hao waKalenjin.” Today, you will not see #TeamMaasai or #TeamKaleoz or #TeamRift hashtags. No today, as it has been for the past one week, and as it will be for the next one week or so, it will be #TeamKenya.

Expect this unity to be short-lived.

For seven years now it has been a source of constant wonderment to me just how much success our politicians have enjoyed when it comes to putting us all in tribal pigeonholes and then making us all put one another in tribal pigeonholes as well. I wonder at it, honestly. I wonder at how tainted a word sisi has become in Kenya. I wonder at how much more tainted a word hao has become. I wonder how we are able to celebrate and befriend the Kalenjin when he is winning glamorous Grands Prix in ritzy European capitals, and then resent the same Kalenjin when he is our neighbour. I wonder at it.

Let me wax political. I wonder how two Hague suspects, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, can declare their respective interests in the Presidency, and receive the support of millions for their flawed bids. I wonder how it is that any of these candidatures can be robustly defended on middle class forums such as the The Daily Nation/East African Standard/Capital FM news sites and on Twitter and Facebook. Perhaps I will wonder even at the comments on this article, even though I promise here and now to answer each comment as patiently as I can. It appears to me that much of the middle class in Kenya has managed to attain a middle class economic status while remaining steadfastly “below the poverty line” intellectually speaking. How can anyone rule when defending themselves for months at a time at The Hague? Why should we expose ourselves to the peril, the embarrassment, and the stigma of having a President in international courts for months at a time? Or a President who is unable to make any foreign trips for the fear of being jailed? But I digress.

Anybody can stand on a podium and say anything, within limits. That’s called Freedom of Speech. For example, I can stand behind a pulpit and say if you touch my great-grandmother’s tombstone (may she rest in peace), within two hours from aforementioned contact you will receive news of great personal wealth. Now that is all kinds of un-Scriptural. Yet supposing there were queues of people waiting to touch said tombstone. Who should be blamed, myself (the liar) or the congregation (who believed it)? Yes, I’ve told them a lie. But they’ve believed it. Is the congregation entirely blameless?

Because in quite similar fashion our politicians have pulled the wool over our own eyes. “It’s them!” they say. “They are the ones stealing NHIF money!” Or: “It’s them, they stole the Anglo Leasing money!” As I’ve pointed out in a poem, things are now at the point where it is less about the stealing, and more about who did the stealing. The stealing no longer troubles people. We have sunk to such depths that we only really care to know who benefitted from it. The fact that it was stolen is neither here nor there. As soon as we can ascertain that “they” did it, however, we leap to our feet, with the decibels pouring out of our throats.

What has led to the success of this divisive kind of politics? It is the perception that when mtu wetu is in power watu wetu benefit. [Frankly part of the reason some of the Kikuyu feel so close to Uhuru Kenyatta is because (I hear them say) “At least Uhuru stood up for us when were being finished.”] This perception that watu wetu benefit when mtu wetu is in power is perhaps the biggest deception on the Kenyan political scene. When mtu wetu is in power, what he/she does is to busy himself or herself looking out for the interests of – wait for it – mtu wetu. “Not watu wetu?” I hear you ask. No. Mtu wetu. Best believe it is mtu wetu first, mtu wetu last, and mtu wetu always. Anything mtu wetu does for watu wetu is done either accidentally or solely as a way of keeping mtu wetu in power so that mtu wetu can then continue stealing from everybody up to and including watu wetu. Now that is the truth, and if you’re fidgeting, calm down while I try to give some examples. I will give two instances where Kenyans have had to live like animals because of their so-called leaders’ failings – and the culprits may surprise you.

I am reminded of the time when our current Mtu-Wetu-in-Chief, President Kibaki, had just come back into power after a flawed election. It is a documented fact that people in Nyeri were eating pig food at the height of the 2009 drought. I remind us that Nyeri happens to be President Kibaki’s home district. What good had it done watu wetu that mtu wetu had retained power? Had that sneaky swearing-in stopped those poor Kikuyus, our countrymen, from having to eat the food of swine? Were they benefitting in any way from all the scandals that have occurred during the reign of mundu witu the President? Or perhaps let us take the example of Mr Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, the current Vice-Mtu-Wetu-in-Chief, and a man who has done precious little for the people of Mwingi in over a quarter of a century as a Member of Parliament. It is yet another documented fact that his people were drinking water straight out of the ground like cattle as recently as 2010. What good has it done these poor Kambas, our countrymen, that the Vice President is a wa kwitu?? I use the phrase “his people” quite loosely here, for they are not his people. They are merely his intellectual slaves, and he uses them for his own ends. It ought to be a criminal offence to treat one’s constituents like that. You see, this is the end-result of the mtu wetu argument for the watu wetu: misery, dehumanisation and utter, abject lack. That is the mtu wetu argument distilled to its essence.

Who “they” really are

You know what? Despite all this, we actually believe the politicians!  After we have eaten pig food, washed it down with filthy groundwater, and endured all the myriad cruelties, large and small, that we suffer due to inept leadership, we then behave exactly like the dumb cattle they make us out to be. Because we still believe that “us” and “them” is about Kikuyu vs Luo and/or Kikuyu vs Kalenjin and/or Kamba vs Meru and/or Luhya vs Luo and/or Kisii vs Luo. They pit us against each other and make us even fight each other. They watch as we die. And while we are dying for them, they are busy escaping the local problems that they have themselves created. Seldom do you hear that a senior politician was injured in a demonstration. Their cancers are treated in foreign hospitals even as their local Health ministries are involved in scandal after scandal (I do not wish cancer on anybody at all). Their children study in foreign schools, or schools here that are so exclusive that it is like another Kenya altogether (I saw with my own eyes the airstrip at St. Andrew’s Turi during the Madaraka Day weekend, and I have seen an eye-watering fees invoice from the school). Then when their children marry each other – across the tribal divide, mind – they will invite one another to the ceremony. And all the while we argue for them, defend them and at times die for the so-called cause.

I will be frank. I must be frank. I cannot be otherwise but frank. A thief of public funds is a thief of public funds be he a Luo thief, a Maasai thief, a Meru thief, a Kalenjin thief, a Digo thief, a Kikuyu thief, a Dorobo thief, a Luhya thief, an Arab thief, a Somali thief, or a white thief. The long and short is this: he/she is stealing and we are suffering. That is the real “us” and “them”; that is the real “we” and “they”.

Who “we” really are

You know who we are? Well, we’re the fools who are supposed to gulp down swine-feed and feel privileged that our man is in power even as we chew the stuff. Yes; we’re the guys who’re supposed to smile for the cameras while we munch. We’re the ones who get to enjoy drinking dirty water out of the ground, like cows. We’re the dirt-poor, NGO-fuelling, indigent wananchi who can’t afford a KES 125 packet of unga but who will believe the politician who gives us 500 shillings after doing nothing for 2 decades of both his and our lives. We’re so destitute that when the price of the matatu goes up by 10 bob in the morning, we have to cut back on lunch. We get to “feel it” every time fuel goes past KES 100 a litre. That’s our role in the grand scheme of things. And let’s not be naïve either; that’s the way the politicians look at us, too. They know us to be this. Let me ask this: when the price of fuel rises, does it remember who voted for President Kibaki or who voted for Prime Minister Raila? When the shilling plummets to KES 107 to the US dollar, does it remember who voted for Kibaki or who voted for Raila? No, it doesn’t. The shilling hits 107 for everyone. Fuel prices rise for everyone. Yet it is true that fuel could hit KES 200 to the litre, and these guys would never know. Why? Because our taxes give them cars, pay for their fuel, pay them a mileage allowance and add a driver on top for good measure. We pay for their opulence, as we suffer through our indigence. Right now, our taxes are even paying their taxes (one of the most ridiculously absurd ideas ever to emanate from a system of Government). Why? Because that’s who we are, that’s what we do. And then after all that, we line up at 5:00 in the morning and vote them all back in.

What can we do?

In case it isn’t clear by now (and it ought to be) this is isn’t really about Kikuyus vs Luos. It is not about Kalenjins vs. Kikuyus. It is not about Luhyas vs. Kambas. No, my friends. We suffer from a failure to discern the real enemy here. This thing is about the dizzy, staggering gazelle vs the patient, circling vulture. It is about the wounded impala, with torn flank, that is valiantly trying to fend off that dogged hyena that believes that it is now just a matter of time. It is about impunity vs justice. It is about the lives of 1,032 Kenyans vs. justice for 4. It is about the IDP vs. the politician. It is about transparency vs corruption. It is about right vs. wrong. It is about “us” the wananchi, and the citizens of this nation vs “them” the tribal leaders who want nothing to change except how much access they have to power and wealth.

I strongly urge us to start thinking for ourselves, because while our leaders do our thinking for us, we cannot, we will not, and we shall never benefit. In fact we will end up going to war against fellow Kenyans like we did last time for no tangible/valid reason. Then, after the hue and cry has died down and the politicians have paid themselves for their sins with a 40-minister cabinet, we all suffer together while the economy “recovers from post election violence.” It is urgent, it is imperative, and, as we look ahead to yet another election, it is critical that we remember that we have passed this way before. That we remember that we have paid dearly for our past indiscretions, and that perhaps we are still paying. That we remember that our so-called leaders will not be there to suffer with us when things go wrong (have you ever heard of clashes in Lavington/Runda/Muthaiga?). It is critical that we bestir ourselves out of our sleep and remember that:

we are all Kenyans.

And not just for the next one-and-a-half weeks, either.

To those sons and daughters of our nation who will be representing Kenya in the Olympic track and field events starting today I would like to say: All the very, very best. Some of our best talent left these shores because this nation didn’t do enough for them. I can’t blame them. But we all recognize that you decided to stay. Godspeed, ladies and gentlemen. And may God bless the nation of Kenya for she certainly needs it.


Posted by on August 3, 2012 in Politics


90 responses to “We Are All Kenyans

  1. Justus

    August 3, 2012 at 10:05 am

    You know one thing that amazes me, is that right from University (remember student politics) the aspect of tribalism is highly embraced. Stealing is not wrong as long as its ‘mtu wetu’ stealing. You can imagine after all the mess the former president caused in this country, no one can raise a finger and charge him in court. Why? Because no one wants to loose the Rift Valley vote. As citizens we are to blame, always seeking for ‘development conscious guy’ who will attend to Harambees and give us money. So once he buys our vote, he will have to steal to recover/harvest his investments. When you look at the debate in the social media, all things are viewed from the tribal angle.

    • Chrenyan

      August 3, 2012 at 12:24 pm

      Hi Justus,

      Thanks a lot for commenting. I have heard that politicians fund Campus politics. Looking at the increasingly sophisticated nature of SONU campaigns, I am inclined to believe this. This would partly explain why tribalism is embraced. I was shocked in Campus when I saw the same issues that bedevil national politics bedevilling student politics. We have to make a conscious decision at a personal level to be different.

      As for Moi, I was personally quite surprised when Kenyans trooped to visit him in hospital after his July 2006 accident. I certainly don’t wish road accidents on anybody. But I found it strange that after 24 years of misrule and grand corruption, after his policies impoverished millions of us, we found it in us to visit him in hospital. Led, I might add, by President Kibaki. The issue of charging Moi is court has to be done by someone who has not himself been involved in the things Moi was doing – and there is hardly anyone out there at present.

      The development-conscious politician needs to be re-defined as that politician who ensures Government funds are used correctly for the betterment of those who put him in power. As Martha Karua has eloquently pointed out of late, when a Presidential candidate spends billions on the campaign, he/she must to steal in order to realize a “return on investment.” By this logic, we should automatically reject anyone who dishes out money during the campaigns. But alas.

  2. Chelimo Mibei

    August 3, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Justus, I believe you are wrong on the rift valley vote. No one wants to touch Moi because those who could touch him are his buddies. They call each other names in public but in private they take very good care of each other. while we worship ‘mtu wetu’, the same ‘mtu wetu’ has his ‘watu wake’. The word ‘project’ is over used in our politics but it really means that, those in power must guarantee that no one can come after them once they leave office. Who is to say that Kibaki, Uhuru and Raila have not signed a pact. Kenyans are so busy choosing between one or the other, yet at the end of the day all three win. Many Kenyans have been deceived into thinking the choice is only between the two, look who is left out of the options, leaders with real potential, integrity and sound development record. The equation does not make sense at all. We are caught between one associated with corruption and another accused of heinous crimes.
    THAT IS NOT A CHOICE- But Kenyans seem to think so. Like they say, If it does not make sense follow the money. Who benefits from this ridiculous arrangement but the same ones already in power? Very clever, they have guaranteed themselves power and that circle could be expanded to include Kalonzo and a few others. let their own records speak for them.
    Kibaki’s government has had 10 years to go after Moi’s ill gotten wealth but they have not done so, not with any effort worth mentioning anyway. Remember how they came to power? In his second term, Kibaki was not after the rift valley or any vote, but still silence on his part.
    Chrenyan, a well thought out and articulated piece. I was cringing a few times when I recognised myself or family and friends in your examples. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Chrenyan

      August 3, 2012 at 12:53 pm


      Thanks for commenting. And for always commenting. Thanks for your compliment as well.

      Yes, Moi cannot be touched simply because those who would touch him are themselves doing what he did when he was in power. Remember, when NARC came in it hired Kroll Associates to trace assets stolen under the Moi regime. Kroll came up with a report that makes for very painful reading, (a summary of the report can be found here). But the along came Anglo Leasing (a scheme begun by KANU, but continued by NARC). After that, their own fingers were in the pie and so being unwilling to wash their own hands, they were unable to wash Moi’s. As you say, they all protect one another. One of the reasons that a person who will rock the boat finds it difficult to make it is because the corrupt elements will in fact unite against that kind of threat.

      Let us hope that one day we will all wake up and vote not according to tribe, but according to nationality.

  3. Moree

    August 3, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” Edmund Burke said. Sad that we still think tribal first as Kenyans. Miserable as this dim witted “mtu wetu” philosophy is, we are still being divided and ruled by its tenets nearly 100 years later. Colonialists used it and our politicians have perfected it. And sad bit is it benefits the greedy “vultures” at the expense of us – the serfs serving in the serfdom they have set up for us defined by boundaries of tribe. We still refuse to benefit from checking their past records and use sagacity informed by our knowledge of their ways. Election of credible leaders should not be through serendipity, but rather a calculated, wise, informed and non-tribal approach. These coming elections should not be a matter of choosing the best of the worst, but rather it should be a time when history, past records and discernment from above should be used. May God help us overcome this tribe thing.

    Thanks [Chrenyan] for this inspiring article. Keep up the good work.

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 12:26 pm

      Hey Moree,

      Thanks a lot for commenting. Actually for always commenting. And thanks for your compliments!

      I had to check the meaning of the word “serendipity.” 🙂 But I could not agree more: let us THINK and then VOTE. These two actions appear to be mutually exclusive, if not actually divorced, in the Kenyan mind. We can’t make accidental progress, it will take millennia!

      If we are good men, then let us do something. Thanks for sharing the article on Facebook. As the “youth”, so to speak, these truths ought to be very, very plain to us. If we didn’t grow up in Nairobi, many of us live in one urban centre or another, and we have some influence on the folks back home. We should use this influence to cause a shift in the way people look at things. As I was telling somebody, we are now of age! It is high time we got up and did something about the way things have gone in this country.

      Otherwise our children will one day wake up and wonder: what were you guys doing when the nation was going to the dogs?

      And we will have nothing to say.

      May God help us as we try to spread the message.

  4. Stephanie VanBuren

    August 3, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Well said…very well said..perfect example of tribalism is at my work place, a multinational, but the manager who is supposed to be literate and middle class speaks to clients and watu wao in her mother very good friend, and colleague is also in that category..Did i mention she overlaps…i thought overlapping is meant for ileterate low class people, who couldnt afford to go to driving not attacking the people but the behaviour…I cringe…and wonder..what is the limit?

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 12:41 pm

      Hey Stephanie,

      Thank you for commenting! Karibu to the blog, always happy to have new readers.

      The operative phrase in your comment is: “supposed to be.” 🙂 Maya Angelou has said: “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.” Civilized is as civilized does! Educated is as educated does! That is the thing. As for overlapping, it’s a side-effect of a nation that is hell-bent on getting ahead at all costs, because it is now considered that such an attitude is necessary for survival. Overlapping is merely a symptom, and its cause is rooted in the harsh economic realities of life in Kenya.

      With regard to helping such people, what I’ve found works is to first establish trust, so that someone always knows that you want the best for them. And then you can gently ask them why they should do that, and that perhaps they could consider doing things differently.

    • Chelimo Mibei

      August 4, 2012 at 1:08 pm

      Pardon my ignorance Stephanie, what is overlapping?

      • Chrenyan

        August 4, 2012 at 6:51 pm

        Hey Chelimo,

        Instead of queueing in orderly fashion in one’s own traffic lane, or changing lanes in an orderly manner, some people use lanes meant for oncoming traffic (or footpaths on either side, for that matter) to beat traffic in their own lanes.

        It’s called overlapping, and it only leads to further gridlock.

        • Stephanie VanBuren

          August 6, 2012 at 5:05 pm

          Hey Chelimo,
          The above defination works..we used to say cut line:)

  5. Kinyonya Mwangi

    August 3, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    But to be fair, ICC should not stop Uhuru or Ruto to seek office. The individuals are innocent until proven guilty. Case in point being Kosgei who was found innocent if ICC is itself is anything to go by?!

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 1:31 pm

      Hey Kinyonya,

      Thanks a lot for commenting! You always engage, and I appreciate that.

      With regard to Uhuru and Ruto, as I say in the article I find it very difficult to understand why we seem to be unable to contemplate a political landscape that does not include them. It’s not the ICC that should stop them. We ourselves ought to stop them as conscientious, patriotic Kenyans. There are 6 million Kikuyus. If they must be tribal (and I would hate that), then why not find a more worthy leader from among themselves? Similarly, are 5 million Kalenjins unable to unite behind a better so-called “leader” than William Ruto? It is sad that I have to descend to tribal arguments to bring out the absurdity in this. What is good is that the High Court will give a ruling on this matter, and that is fit and proper. We sorely require the Judiciary’s newfound impartiality at this critical juncture in time.

      On Innocent Until Proven Guilty, allow me to quote verbatim from a friend of mine on Facebook:

      ‘Innocent till proven guilty’ is a legal principle used to prevent wrongful convictions in criminal law. It would be extremely irresponsible if we applied such a lenient approach when screening people for public office. In the latter case, we do not have the luxury of affording anyone the benefit of the doubt. That’s why the judges’ vetting board is clearly not affording that leniency to judicial officers. The mere fact that Uhuru and Ruto are on trial for crimes against humanity should disqualify them from ever holding any public office, let alone running for the Presidency.

      And lastly, with regard to Kosgei, the same ICC that found that Kosgei did not have a case to answer found that Uhuru and Ruto do have a case to answer. So I’m not quite sure how Kosgei is an example here.

      • Kinyonya Mwangi

        August 5, 2012 at 9:26 pm

        My point is these guys are not unworthy purely for their involvement in an ongoing matter in Netherlands. Why are you insisting we stop them? That is what I would like you to be clear on. What makes them not to qualify as candidates? ICC? Nope? And by the way this argument is not tribal in any matter. I am just saying that we should give Kenyans benefit of doubt and let them make the judgemental decision at the ballot if the numbers quoted above. To a point where they can decide that PK is better than UK and vote for PK other than making decisions for Kenyans and eliminating some presidential candidates.

        • MaBaker

          August 6, 2012 at 9:46 am

          Hey Mwangi,

          Perhaps the objections to a UK or a WR presidency seem as though they are based on the ICC cases, and on the face of it, indeed they are. But maybe we need to look at why the cases were brought in the first place. To my mind, the charges relate to the saddest episode in our modern history.

          The paradox of the support to WR and UK is that they possess the greatest polarising ability AMONGST THE VICTIMS themselves. Put another way, each seems to be a champion/saviour to a very specific constituency, and the ICC case is the principal platform on which they are running for presidency. And in the end, they run in order to ensure one specific person does not become President. I would think we need a President who has got a real agenda for the economic progress of the country. As Bill Clinton would say, “Its the economy, stupid”. Secondly, it is important that the President has a profile that would unite the country, rather than polarise it further.

          A President needs to enjoy widespread legitimacy, and I think that the platform is important. That is, whether you run to serve the people, or you run to ensure so-and-so does not win. Secondly, the question of whether a UK or WR presidency is subject to High Court adjudication, and the IEBC will also be involved in vetting. And the international community (of which we really are part), already expresses disquiet over this matter. So it is a very divisive question.

          In an ideal world, without campaign slush funds and voter-buying, without narrow tribal interests, without ethnic chauvinism, without voter illiteracy and without election skulduggery, perhaps we could just let nature take its course. And we would get the right leadership based on real issues. But we do not lead in an ideal world, and that is why this question came up in the first place. We did have PEV in 2007/08. People were burnt in churches, and other were burnt in their homes. Whoever the protagonists were, people died and lost property on both sides. Lets not forget the victims, either. Because IDPs are still in camps, and if anyone has a right to purport to give either WR or UK any legitimacy, it is they. I imagine the FIRST thing that UK might have done would have been to settle some IDPs on some of the excess land his family owns. I also think the LAST thing WR might have done would have been to purport to acquire the land stolen from an IDP in Uasin Gishu after PEV.

          Lets hear from the IDPs. The rest of us were in our safe enclaves, and never really got to know the awfulness of 2007/2008. The lady in the wheelchair who was burnt in the Kiambaa church, she has no voice. The guy whose family of seven was wiped out in Naivasha, what does he have to say? What right do we have?

          • Kinyonya Mwangi

            August 6, 2012 at 1:47 pm

            I think the PEV was/is a sad story. But I am also inclined to argue that we should be dispassionate in our views. If WR and UK should not be running purely based on PEV,then it follows that the PM should not either. The origin of the matter was actually the 41 vs 1 banter! Do you reckon?

            • MaBaker

              August 6, 2012 at 2:33 pm

              I do reckon. And I won’t second-guess you about the PEV origins.But we were considering the candidatures of two individuals only. In my opinion, most of the “main” contenders are tainted, but that is why the IEBC vetting process would be so important. So the PM and all others should be vetted. Remember though, notwithstanding our personal opinions, the PM has no case at the ICC, and this is an objective fact. The point I was trying to make is this, it is impossible for victims of the PEV to be dispassionate. If someone lost a child, parent or friend, it would be most callous to ask them to be dispassionate. And that s probably why anyone who was involved in that fiasco in whichever way should quietly leave public life. Because they will never have the level of legitimacy required to drive the nation forward, in my humble opinion.

        • Chrenyan

          August 7, 2012 at 10:05 pm

          Hey Kinyonya,

          Allow me to beg to differ – they most surely are unworthy.

          To begin with, that matter is in the Netherlands only because these very politicians chose it to be so, believing that justice at The Hague would be justice delayed. They would actually be on trial locally, but at the time a decision needed to be made between a local tribunal and The Hague they themselves were firmly in the “Don’t be vague” camp. Now that justice is following its course, we find a curious but easily explainable reversal of opinions on their part.

          Secondly, it is not a matter of “eliminating Presidential candidates.” What we are trying to eliminate is tribal animosity and negative ethnicity. It so happens that most of our politicians are leading exponents of these dark arts. To the point that when they are finally being brought to justice for doing these things, it appears as if they are being eliminated! They are not. Justice is merely being applied fairly to all, for once. This should not be resisted. It ought rather to be celebrated. And anybody who is involved in stirring up tribal animosity should appear in Court, as the three musicians currently are, and as Uhuru and Ruto surely must. It’s not about elections and power. It’s about fairness, justice, equity and a Kenya where everybody matters, where people can co-exist in harmony.

          Lastly, they are not accused of stealing a box of matches. It was loudly wondered on Twitter yesterday how suspended Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza was recommended for sacking for pulling a security guard’s nose and brandishing a gun, and yet people accused of crimes against humanity are running for President. Are there two Kenyas? Why these parallel realities?

          Let them stand aside.

  6. Kinyonya Mwangi

    August 3, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    You have mentioned quite a number of occasions how ‘precious little” Steve has done for his people if Mwingi over a period of 25 years. Maybe. I would like you to tell us, in brief what he has done for them that is good. Or have they just blindly voted to him over a period of 25 years with no reason? Or are you saying he could have acted like his counterpart Charity? Perhaps the guy was busy being having a national outlook?

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 2:08 pm

      Hey Kinyonya,

      Once again, thanks for commenting.

      You have asked a good question.

      There is an excellent website called Mzalendo that is run by @Roomthinker and @KenyanPundit. In it you will find per-constituency report cards on how each constituency has utilized its Constituency Development Fund (CDF) from 2003-2010. If you check the Mwingi North Constituency Report Card you will see that some of the CDF allocated to Mwingi North has done some good: dams have been built, hospitals electrified and education facilities have been constructed. However, it might interest you to know that the total CDF allocated to Mwingi North from 2003-2010 amounts to KES 298,816,977. You will note, further, that Mwingi North’s overall performance with regard to how CDF has been spent is dismal. Why is it that nearly KES 300M later, the people of Mwingi are still drinking water out of the ground? That is my question.

      If this kind of performance corresponds with having a national outlook, then it is a national outlook that Kenya should do without.

      I give the situation in Mwingi purely as an example, so my statements should not be construed to mean that Kalonzo Musyoka should have acted like Charity Ngilu, either. She is responsible for corruption in each of the ministries she has presided over, and nobody should be asked to emulate that kind of behaviour.

      Please feel free to peruse the Mzalendo website; it really is an excellent piece of work. It can help each citizen to objectively analyze a politician’s effectiveness and more people should use it.

      Thanks again.

  7. Kinyonya Mwangi

    August 3, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Gotta be honest, in the last couple of paragraphs, you nailed it!!! Good job and remarkable thoughts. I just wish we can share these ideas wider and faster…

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 2:10 pm

      Hey Kinyonya,

      Appreciate your comment! Just one question, are you saying I didn’t nail it in the other paragraphs? 😉 [Chuckle]

      Thank you for your compliments, though and feel free to share the article as widely as you can.

  8. oluochcliff

    August 3, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Sawa. I asked a question on my fb wall some time back : What is the TOTAL cost of this election? Is it worth?

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      Hey Cliff,

      Thanks a lot for finding the time to comment. Do you mean the cost of campaigns, or the logistical cost to the country (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, etc)?

      If it is the former, the cost for each Presidential candidate is at least KES 11 billion, if a political strategist from the 2007 Kibaki Campaign is to be believed. A large proportion of this goes into bankrolling candidates to run under one’s party.

      If it is the latter, the IEBC estimated the coming election will cost KES 35 billion, down from an initial budget of KES 41.4 billion. The cabinet allocated KES 17.5 billion for the election in the budget.

      You have a point. Does it mean that Kenya now exists to fund elections? The only way for Kenya to remain economically viable as a nation is to make sure that leaders who thrive on this kind of largesse are removed once and for all.

  9. Antony Njoroge

    August 3, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Amazing read bro.This is the voice of reason that we all need to hear before we plunge our beloved country into a pit.

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 3:40 pm

      Hey bro

      Very happy to hear from you – glad you found time to read! And thanks for commenting as well. I hope as many Kenyans as possible can carefully consider these things and make informed decisions about the future of this great nation.

      Thanks again.

  10. aknownemass

    August 3, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    The problem with all the main presidential candidates on offer is that they have nothing to differentaite them other than their tribe!

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 3:44 pm

      Hi aknownemass,

      Thanks for finding time to comment!

      Now what you’re saying is true. We shall just have to do away with the main Presidential candidates then, shan’t we?

    • Chelimo Mibei

      August 4, 2012 at 8:02 pm

      Aknownemass- let’s not tarnish all the presidential aspirants, some are upright and dependable. a piece like the above is what is supposed to make us stop and judge each individual carefully and ask ourselves why we will vote for them.

  11. jack

    August 3, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    To add to what justus said. It never cease to amaze me how the more education we get and money we make the more tribal we become.
    I grew up in Nairobi , did all my schooling in Eastlands, i had friends from all tribes that i did not even care what part of the country they called ‘ushago’, we never thought in terms of tribe, it was never a factor. we used to go eat at our various homes without any care in the world.

    The first place i witnessed tribalism was in campus! for the first time in my adult life i met people who identified more with their tribe first then with the rest. maybe it was more a function of they having grown up in areas that were exclusively for their tribe. I just don’t know how you solve this problem.

    Back to my initial point, what i have seen so far is that the more education you get and more money you make, the more tribal you become, my prognosis is that we unfortunately find a sense of security in ‘our’ tribes. for some strange reason when you have lots of cash people start feeling only their tribes fellow can be trusted to help them keep it. in the same breadth i have met highly educated kenyans in the US who cannot apply for positions at our public universities for the simple reason that the VC, Principal or Dean is not from their same tribe and that lowers their chances of being hired.

    Sometimes it feels like a never-ending cycle bro.!

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 4:05 pm


      Thank you for finding the time to send in a long and detailed comment.

      I too am amazed by the tribal bigotry that has pervaded every sector in Kenyan society. I have marvelled at how increasingly tribe has entered even our generation’s mindset. I think it is a matter of “train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he shall not depart from it.” We have somehow nursed tribalism from our mothers, and learnt it on our fathers’ knees. But we are now of age! A time has come when we are able to judge for ourselves which of our parents’ credos are right and which ones are wrong.

      There is a temptation to succumb. There is a temptation to give in and be like everyone else around us. But how will that help? As I was saying in the article, all manner of information, attitudes and learnings are thrown at us. We must learn to sift through them and decide which ones to keep, which ones to discard, which ones to promote, and sometimes, which ones to fight against.

      Appreciate your comment once again.

    • Chelimo Mibei

      August 4, 2012 at 8:21 pm

      Jack, I hear what you are saying and the frustration that just when it seems we should be making progress by getting educated, we find a way to go back instead of forward. That is why this is a battle, it is probably the greatest tragedy of our times. When you take politics out, most people are reasonable and are willing to work together. The change has to start with me and you and we have to be willing to talk boldly about it all the time.
      Your post reminded me of a saying that was floating around in 2008 when Obama was elected: “Rosa sat so Martin could walk, Martin walked so Barack could run. Barack ran so our children could soar”. Every generation has to pay a price for certain ideologies or rights to be realised. Every single one of the people I mentioned had to do it tough so the one who came after could go a little further. Our children should not have to deal with the same issues of tribalism as we are dealing with today, they need to be able to tackle tomorrow’s challenges not yesterday’s disasters.
      many commentators here have expressed their desire to see this piece in the dailies and I also feel strongly about it too. Before that happens, how about we send the link to every one of our friends and family. Those are the ones on our immediate sphere of influence. This article gives us a talking framework, lets use it to maximum effect.

  12. Minch

    August 3, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    Powerful article, my friend. I pray we will all demonstrate having learnt our lesson by the way we vote next year – choosing leaders with the interests of all Kenyans at heart.

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 4:08 pm

      Hi Minch!

      Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment on the blog itself! I suspect that as a nation we are a long ways from having learnt our lesson, but it is never too late for us to make a start. We can all do something.

      Once again, thanks a lot.

  13. David Ben-El

    August 3, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    Man u mek fatmata conteth luk lyk a primary skul composition writer

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 4:09 pm

      Hi David,

      I’m not quite sure who Fatmata Conteth is… but thanks! I hope the article meant something to you.

  14. gerbera

    August 3, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    This is such a POWERFUL post!!! I wish it could be published in our local dailies and translated into all the languages in Kenya for ALL to read… I wish you could get a platform to address the nation! This is SO spot on…awesome post!

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 4:15 pm

      Hey Gerbera,

      I want to start by thanking you for finding the time to post a comment on the article.

      I am glad that you think that this is worth putting in our dailies – even translating! Thanks a lot, that’s really high praise.

      I have used Twitter to ask Macharia Gaitho and Charles Onyango-Obbo if we can get this published in The Sunday/Daily Nation. Let’s see what comes of that.

      In the meantime, please feel free to share it as much as you can. Thanks a lot.

  15. Wakilo

    August 3, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    My question is one only…how many will be try and go to their MP for the purpose of inviting them for your function and will speak with them for 1 hour without using some tribal language? How many? Are we not part of the problem too?

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 4:21 pm

      Hi Wakilo,

      To begin with, thank you for commenting on the post. Thanks for your question, too.

      I think we are dealing with two different issues here. Speaking in the vernacular with one’s MP is not so bad. It is in a sense tribal, but it is not necessarily harmful. What is harmful, as I have tried to point out, is that tribalism that returns the same MP to power when he has done nothing for his people. It is that tribalism that even seeks to elevate perennial underperformers to the position of President. That is the kind of tribalism that leads to the tragedies I have outlined in the article.

      It is the type of tribalism that we must all avoid.

      In fact, it is the type of tribalism that we need to wage war against, for to keep silent is to allow it to continue unchecked.

      • Wakilo

        September 14, 2012 at 6:00 pm

        Thanks for your reply. Yes, I agree that a MP who has not done anything for his people should not be returned … but my other question is if the people do not care and want the MP back again who will block them… if the people further again do not care and want that MP to go for the position of the President, how is this tribalism going to be changed? Maybe the constitution should have a checklist of what qualifies one to be electable as a MP! And the checklist should include having done ‘something’ for his/her own people. and then out of all the MP’s whoever has done much for his own people will be elected president…the only problem is that takes away the power of the ‘vote’ and probably redefines democracy. It would be a nice view: instead of people looking at who has the most money to run a campaign, they consider who has done the most good for their people!

        • Chrenyan

          September 14, 2012 at 8:00 pm

          Hey Wakilo,

          Thanks for stopping by again.

          Yes that MP should not be returned. As to if people don’t care (or are too ignorant) and want him back again, now that is a salient issue. No-one will block them! The return of Chirau Mwakwere in that by-election is a case in point. We are now at the core of what ails this nation, we are at the proverbial crux of the argument. Mtu wetu dupes watu wetu into thinking they’re better off when he is in power, and they continue to suffer. That’s why I was saying that those people are not really Kalonzo’s people (or Kibaki’s for that matter). These people are merely intellectual slaves, used by the politicians every 5 years to get back into positions of power and influence where they can make themselves wealthy.

          On to solutions (I really like your comment)!

          Firstly, we ourselves must be at the forefront in loudly decrying any and all politicians (whether from our area or not) who lie that they are the answer when they are part of the problem. This message must be spread far and wide: our families need to hear it. Our watchmen need to hear it. Our friends need to hear it. Our relatives need to hear it. The guy at the local kiosk needs to hear it.

          Secondly (on the issue of the law), the Constitution envisaged that kind of checklist but made the critical mistake of leaving implementation of Chapter Six to the same MPs that it tries to root out. So we are in a quandary once again. I have in the past said that it is a pity that we must be micro-managed by the Constitution, but if we’re unable to help ourselves without its aid, then we must accept its aid in order to be helped.

          Lastly, I agree: instead of people looking at who has the most money to run a campaign, they should look at who has done the most for their people. If Kenyans would do that…! We would be very far. However I temper this with a note of caution: at a Presidential level doing a lot for one’s own people is a good pointer, but it is not enough. We need to be sure that all the other peoples of this great nation of Kenya will be helped when this gentleman/lady comes into power, otherwise we will just end up with leaders who stuff the Kenya Ports Authority with “Mount Kenya people” and thereby give the Mombasa Republican Council reasons for violence and secession. That is not progress.

          Thank you so much for stopping by once again. If you are able, and whenever you can, please spread the word about how the electorate should evaluate those standing for election.


  16. Mikeslim7

    August 3, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    How I wish every Kenyan would read this, that it may open their eyes and help them open the eyes of their neighbors. How I wish this would be read by the children in all schools, that they may grow up knowing what’s really happening, and that they may not fall into the same pitfalls their elders have fallen into. A very well put summary of Kenya and the politics at play. We really need to pray for our dear country.

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 4:51 pm

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for commenting, man. You’re one person I can always rely on for objectivity in these matters.

      We have got to try. We have got to do something or else one day we will be unable to look our children in the eyes when they ask what we were doing when the nation was going to the dogs. It’s got to start with us. Our families should be atribal. We should talk to our house-girls. We should question and challenge our colleagues. Our church friends. Our family friends. Our hairdressers and our shoe-shiners should know our stand.

      And yes, let us pray.

      It starts with one.

  17. Rose

    August 4, 2012 at 12:06 am

    This should be in the dailies; the whole nation needs to hear this…Thanks [Chrenyan] for the courage to speak out so boldly-this country needs more men like you.

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      Hi Rose,

      Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it. I’m glad to know that you feel the whole nation should hear this! Based on the requests made in the comments (including yours), I have asked Charles Onyango-Obbo and Macharia Gaitho about printing it in The Sunday/Daily Nation. Let’s see what comes of it.

      Thanks for the compliment! In the course of my advocacy, however, I have discovered that there are many good-hearted, objective, like-minded Kenyans. Some even sacrifice their families’ wellbeing for advocacy’s sake.

      We are not alone.

  18. Mark's dad.

    August 4, 2012 at 12:09 am

    [Chrenyan], I loved reading this piece as it captures my very emotions about a country I call home. I’ve been troubled by thoughts of how we can ever change this country that has been crippled by greedy, rich politicians and gullible, poor Kenyans. We are all ignorant, unfortunately.
    I have come to a simple and radical conclusion – Kenya needs a bloody war, not that of a tribe against another, but the common Kenyans against the political class. The fragile peace we live is such a falacy!

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 5:27 pm

      Dear Mark’s Dad,

      Thanks for commenting, man. I am glad this piece says what you feel needs to be said. It’s always encouraging when I find folks are feeling the same way.

      How I agree with you that ours is a fragile peace! It is an uneasy peace, balanced on a knife-edge. The tinder is there, let’s just hope it will not be set alight.

      Yes, how to change things? Perhaps sometimes we seek national platforms when the smaller platforms within our reach are untroubled by the thunder of our rhetoric. As I was telling Mike, it starts with one. Real, physical war is not going to help. That kind of war will set us back. Nevertheless, freedom is never given, it must be taken. Some form of war must be waged. Not a confrontational war, but a war that challenges age-old mindsets in the psyches of those around us. That war must be waged in our families. It must be waged amongst friends. It must be waged in the office over lunch-hour. It must be waged as we give the watchman a tip. It must be waged as we give our housegirls the day off.

      It has to start with us.

    • Chelimo Mibei

      August 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Mark’s dad, I am not sure how bloody this war you want has to be. The Mwanainchi has already paid for it many times over. Some have lost children to a preventable disease such as meningitis coz some big shot has chosen to pocket the money that would otherwise go to the health system.
      It is a battle alright, we cannot continue on the same path, something has gotta give.

  19. Lenjo

    August 4, 2012 at 12:29 am

    Same cry. I wish all Kenyans will read this and make a choice. A permanent choice to stand up for Kenya

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 5:32 pm

      Hi Lenjo,

      Thanks for posting your valued sentiments on this post. You’re so right: it is an internal decision that each of us must make! We must say: “I refuse to be prejudiced against my fellow-Kenyan any longer. Even if I am mis-treated because of my tribe (which I didn’t choose) I will not use such incidents to mis-characterize the offender’s entire tribe. I will understand that they’re just a little bit behind me in the way, and try to help them.”

      That way, we can break the back of this thing and be proud of our nation all the time, and not just when its athletes are winning medals on the world stage.

  20. Lish

    August 4, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Chrenyan, I am encouraged by your article, it comes across to me as an example of clear and critical thinking on this particular issue.

    It is refreshing to see that there are efforts from people like you (and others) to step out of the influences of their environment (tribe, religion, race etc.) to think clearly about the issues and make independent judgments without joining the “herd”.

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 5:39 pm

      Hi Lish,

      Thanks a lot for your comment, I am glad the article encouraged you. As you point out, we are not alone.

      Too often, the herd is in the wrong (oftentimes unwittingly). In this instance, that somehow must change.

  21. James Kirimi

    August 4, 2012 at 9:15 am

    [Chrenyan], thanks for the well thought and insightful piece. My take is that in Kenya tribalism, unlike positive ethnicity, is an ideology that has been well perpetrated by the political class for their own selfish reasons. Of course the naivety and myopic nature of most Kenyans, who buy the politicians’ mantra of “mtu/watu wetu”, has worked well to fuel the tribal card. When I was young, I was taught by my dad that I was a Meru by tribe and I grew to be proud of the Meru people and their culture. That is positive ethnicity. However, I also knew that I was a Kenyan and a child of the universe. I was a member of many groups, from my nuclear family, my extended family, my clan, my tribe, my country, my continent and the world. I did not feel any superior or inferior due to my membership to any of these groupings. I was proud to be in these groups and I still am. Through out my three and half decades of existence, I have had friends from many different ethnic groupings. The politicians understand that tribalism gets them votes and they sing and dance to it…not all politicians though. That is why the likes of Peter Kenneth, who shun the tribal card, are still likely to face an uphill task trying to win votes. Tanzania has mny more tribes than Kenya, but it is rare to hear of confrontations or insults along tribal lines. Mwalimu Nyerere might have messed up on the economic front in pursuit of a socialist Tanzania but he did wonders in inculcating the virtues of thinking of the country first. My take is that the real great divide in Kenya is actually between the political class and the electorate. But the politicians have been great in hiding this fact my fueling the tribal divide.

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 6:15 pm


      I’m delighted you found the time to comment. Thanks very much for doing so.

      Doubtless, there are elements of our culture that ought to be celebrated. However I fear that not everybody is able, like yourself, to distinguish the positive celebration of culture from tribalism’s more negative aspects, because we have allowed the politicians to emphasize our differences so much. As I read in an article the other day, “When the masses are weak and vulnerable their ability to make sound judgement is greatly reduced.” It is thus squarely in the politicians’ interests to keep us as divided as possible, providing they maintain a certain level of control over the people.

      I have been to Tanzania on a couple of occasions. And I have seen first-hand the results of socialism and an emphasis on Kiswahili. However, I have also seen the relative social cohesiveness of Tanzanians. We are centuries behind the Tanzanians, socially speaking. And now that offshore natural gas deposits have been found, and the mining industry is growing apace, I wonder who is worse off, these days.

      I am thrilled to hear you mention Peter Kenneth; just in case you haven’t seen my article on him, feel free to take a look. The man is on record as saying that he is not after the Kikuyu vote, because he does not want to be a merely regional leader. At least that kind of dialogue has entered the political arena. We need to hear that from everybody who seeks to lead.

      I will close using your last two sentences, which summarize my article in its entirety:

      “The real great divide in Kenya is actually between the political class and the electorate. But the politicians have succeeded in hiding this fact by fuelling the tribal divide.”

      I could hardly put it better myself.

  22. Inviolakshmi

    August 4, 2012 at 9:53 am

    I wish all kenyans c’d read ths. Kudos!

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 6:37 pm

      Hi Inviolakshmi

      Thanks for commenting! Please, feel free to share the article as widely as possible. The more who read it, the better.

  23. Dawkins oluoch.

    August 4, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    This should be in the local daily papers for all to read. Marvelous script.

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 7:54 pm

      Hi Dawkins,

      Thanks for stopping to comment – and for the compliment. I will try to get it printed in the local dailies. If you can help, please let me know. In the meantime, let’s circulate it as widely as we can on social media.

      Thanks again!

  24. MaBaker

    August 4, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Deep writing, as always, Chrenyan. Thanks for never shying away from the real monsters in the room.

    It never ceases to astound me, that so many of us still don’t “get” it. That we are all brothers and sisters. I suppose we are our own worst enemies, and will require an extensive de-socialisation programme for us to recognize that in the end, we are all the same, with poverty as our common enemy. And to deal with this enemy, all we need is to determine the right leadership to help us confront these challenges, and it is not important which community (ies) this leadership comes from.

    But perhaps we need a bit of perspective here, and to do this, we need to kind of go back in time somewhat. The whole tribalism thing is a colonial throwback. The colonial forces used this divide and rule as a policy. Now, before anyone misunderstands me, may I submit that there is nothing significantly different between our current leadership and the colonials. They all set out to do the same thing. Loot from the sweat of our brows. Except in the current case, we actually vote them in to do that. So we are the facilitators and co-conspirators. We give them the license.

    The problem we have is that at “independence” we allowed the Governor’s House on the hill to become State House at all. It is probably the single most important symbol of the perpetuation of the wrong leadership model. The leader is not a servant, but a looter. And that is what we must guard against when we castigate any particular politician. Politics as we know it, is a failed leadership institution. Because of this, unless we create a new definition of what leadership we want, we run the risk of replacing the current crop of politicians with their own clones, just having different names. That is why we complained about Jomo Kenyatta, Moi and 50 years later we are complaining about Kibaki. If we are not careful, we shall be complaining about Musyoka, Kenyatta, Ruto, Karua, Raila and all the others for a long time to come. Because they all look at leadership position as personal investments, and the ROI is corrupt enterprises. Not service.

    We need a model in which we go to a man/woman and tell them that we have assessed them and are asking them to lead/serve us, rather than allowing charlatans to roll out from under some rocks and come promise us heaven. Sometimes you listen to Wiper telling us what he will do when he becomes President, and cant help feeling as though the guy visits Kenya from outer space every five years when its election time as opposed to have been an MP for decades.

    We need someone who has proven that he can serve without stealing from us.

    In the end, its all about the economy and social justice. Once these are sorted out, negative ethnicity will be a thing of the past. We need leaders who will not steal, and are committed to equitable distribution of resources so that competition for scarce resources stops fuelling negative ethnicity. The politicians turn us against each other so that as we fight, they steal.

    But the challenge is upon us, we have to redefine what we want our leadership to be. It does sound like a cliche, but I think its true ” a people will get the government they deserve” . So, we should decide for ourselves what government we deserve, and we shall surely get it!

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 9:55 pm

      Hey Ma Baker!

      Thanks for commenting, as always. And thanks for your compliment – though I am not sure how I can respond to your comment because we agree on so much! I do think that a de-socialisation programme would be greatly helped if the nation could just get a taste of leadership that actually does something for them, instead of merely promising to do something for people. Because, as you say, the competition for scarce resources fuels negative ethnicity. So de-socialization needs to be preceded by a kind of leadership that reduces this competition. Further, we can take a conscious decision (like the Finns) to inculcate this in our children from a very, very young age through the revamping the education system.

      I did not know that the Governor’s House became State House! Very, very Orwellian. Well, Rousseau said that a true democracy cannot exist unless every voter knows everyone else, and Lord Macaulay denounced the American Constitution as all sail and no anchor. Indeed, the Kingdom of God Itself is a Kingdom, not a democracy, as I’ve said often. Nevertheless, here we are and we must work with what we have and define what we want our leadership to be and make sure that it does what is best for us… rather than allowing charlatans to roll out from under some rocks and promise us heaven. Do you know, sometimes the charlatans are even rolled out for us, they don’t even roll out from under the rocks of their own volition! Yet they are presented to us as credible options.

      Thanks once again for commenting. We are in complete agreement, Sir.

  25. Chelimo Mibei

    August 4, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    Personally I have never felt the urgency to get it right in an election as I feel this time. Some of you may have heard the African proverb about land not being inherited from our ancestors but borrowed from our children.
    i dare say as Kenyans we have not inherited our nation from our fathers, but we have borrowed it from our children. Let’s all do the right thing in fighting tribalism or we may not even have a nation left in which to be tribal.

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 10:10 pm

      Hey Chelimo,

      That African proverb: those are beautiful, beautiful words. It reminds me of the Norwegians who decided (after discovering considerable deposits of offshore oil and gas) that “just because we are the generation that discovered this oil does not mean we should be the only generation to benefit from it.” The Norwegian currency is probably the most stable currency on the planet, now. What a noble policy! And how completely opposite from the thinking of our current leaders, who seem to think that the newly discovered coal and oil deposits in Turkana and the Mui Basin respectively are their personal property!

      I also don’t think I have been as fired up about the state of our nation as I am now. Kenya could achieve true greatness if we could just get the right leadership in place. That process starts with getting people to realize what right leadership really is.

      If we do not, as you say, we may not have a nation left, at all.

  26. Hellen Nteere

    August 4, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    [Chrenyan]..This is a powerful article…Its a prayer too.That we learn to see the bigger picture than demonizing a tribe. God had a purpose when he created 42 tribes in Kenya. Am sure it was not to promote tribalism and all the vices out of it. Biblically we had the 12 tribes of Israel. Each had its own lineage until out of one of them our Saviour belongs…God has a special purpose for each tribe but the challenge is do we look at an individual in terms of a tribe in Kenya or as a Kenyan from a certain tribe??

    • Chrenyan

      August 4, 2012 at 10:27 pm

      Hey Hellen,

      So kind of you to drop by and comment. Thanks for doing so, and thanks for the compliment. For sure, God is unhappy with us for the way we have used tribe against each other and allowed ourselves to be divided along tribal lines, to the detriment of millions (ourselves included). We have got to see a bigger picture. We have got to see people as Kenyans FIRST. The tribe probably needs to be dropped altogether, until we can learn how to read people’s last names and not say “Must be a thief” or “Must be flashy” or “Must have a hot temper.” Until we can look at politicians and judge them on their merits and the manner in which they have served their people, not merely their tribal ID. If we can do that we can really make progress.

      Thanks, once again, for stopping by.

  27. david

    August 5, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    It is highly motivating to read this kind of article.Even though we still have a long way to go and a whole population to eye-open,this is the start we need.I now more than ever have hope that with these few right thinking minds,we are off to a new dawn in the mindset.The race of a mile starts with a step.

    • Chrenyan

      August 7, 2012 at 10:10 pm

      Hi David,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m glad the article motivated you! Yes, we have a whole population to “eye-open” as you put it. I keep reading articles and finding people who are thinking in a progressive way. We are not few. Let us educate everybody around us gently, patiently but inexorably and urge them to see Kenya as a unit that can be greater than the sum of its parts. We shall progress in doing so.

      Aluta continua.

      • david

        August 12, 2012 at 6:13 pm

        I hope now that the Olympics are over we are seeing the fruits of supporting our man…Our man is interested in shopping in London,not the welfare of our nation…That Soi and Kyuna are familiar names associated to “our men” should not come as a surprise.I hope we can start here and start free and fair elections at NOCK, and kick out “our men” then replace then with “our dutiful servant” who has the interests of the country first…because he is paid to do so

        • Chrenyan

          August 13, 2012 at 12:20 pm


          What a sterling comment. You should open your own blog and write a piece based on that! This is the precise effect of following “Mtu Wetu”. Watu wetu (in this case our athletes and the nation at large) have suffered! Our international reputation has suffered. The morale of our athletes has suffered. It’s a terrible situation.

          And I could not write your solution better even if I tried.

          It has been a blessing to read your comment, really. Ahsante sana.

  28. tmwendwa

    August 6, 2012 at 10:57 am

    This is a well done article which speaks the truth and deals with the crux of the matter that bedevils this country of ours. In addition, I think also the value system of our country and generation is corrupt to the core. As you aptly put it, it does not matter that anything was stolen. What matters is which tribe is being blamed and hence its “them versus us”. The media keeps the majority of us entertained in side shows; such as miniskirts while things like 98 billion KES missing from KRA accounting. When will we ever learn and take charge of our destinies? I have in my own small way. taking responsibility for the advancement of the community around my small area of influence.

    Parting shot:

    • Biggie

      August 6, 2012 at 11:24 pm

      Pesa went missing from KRA Accounting? From my knowledge of Tax collection- the only cash that KRA handles is for driving licences- roughly 2Bn per year and this has also been moved to NBK. Cash via Customs is banked at NBk / Co-op bank and remitted Asap to Treasury account at CBK.
      Pesa ya other taxes, PAYE, Corporation tax and VAT is sent via RTGS to the respective accounts in CBK.
      So are we talking of a book error or real cash missing.
      Please update us

      • Chrenyan

        August 7, 2012 at 11:18 pm

        Hey Biggie,

        Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I believe our friend is referring to this article.

    • Chrenyan

      August 7, 2012 at 10:32 pm

      Hey tmwendwa,

      Thanks for your comment and compliments. I appreciate them.

      You are right! The value system of this country is rotten to the core. There was an East African article about this just this Saturday.

      There is a very important point you make that no-one else has pointed out yet, including myself. Yet it is monumental. The media is keeping us entertained in side-shows! We have “tabloid TV” nowadays, where the news that is shown is not the news that helps Kenyans make sober decisions about critical issues. That is a huge point, and thanks for bringing it out.

      I have read the article. It is largely true. We need to vote in OUR interests. Not THEIR interests. That’s the long and short of it.

      Thanks again for writing! And please keep being responsible for the advancement of as large a community as you are able to influence! It will help us all.

  29. Sally

    August 6, 2012 at 11:53 am

    As always, you said it as it is. I wonder when we as Kenyans will realise that the relationship between us and our politicians has never had synergies and it’s all parasitic. The few instances when constituents have a give ‘ take relation are just but outliers on the relationship curve.

    • Chrenyan

      August 7, 2012 at 10:36 pm

      Wow Sally,

      You commented! Proud of you for that. Yes, you put it very well. As citizens we endure a parasitic relationship with our politicians – and we are the host. Only a very few are serious about bettering the lives of their constituents. These few should be retained, and more should be added to their number.

      Thanks a lot for commenting. 🙂 I appreciate it.

  30. Aizoh

    August 7, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Powerful. I wish ALL Kenyans thought like this. I have shared and will continue sharing. Macharia Gaitho reffered to this post in his article in today’s paper. I hope that wont be all from him in regard to your twit to him.

    • Chrenyan

      August 7, 2012 at 11:23 pm

      Hi Aizoh,

      Thanks for commenting. Thanks also for sharing it and for committing to keep sharing it in future. I sincerely appreciate that. And thanks for the compliments!

      Yes, Macharia Gaitho very helpfully mentioned it in today’s paper. Based on the requests made in various comments on this post, I will keep trying to get it published somehow. Meantime, let’s all keep doing what you’re doing – sharing it as much as possible.

      I thank you, once again.

  31. Benda

    August 13, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    I think the middle class is too comfortable. This article will be retweeted and I bet that’s the much outcome it will have. Once the comfort zone is destroyed then Kenyans will act.

    • Chrenyan

      August 13, 2012 at 6:01 pm

      Hi Benda,

      Glad you could stop to comment – thanks a lot!

      Now I hear you, on the middle class being too comfortable, and merely retweeting. In fact I am dismayed that there is a significant proportion of the middle class that does not even vote. Which makes me wonder why they should even complain. In spite of all this, increasingly I am coming across folks who are willing to do a bit more than accept the status quo. Picha Mtaani is a case in point. And even though not everyone takes up that kind of activism, there is a rich vein of Kenyans who are trying to get the message across.

      With regard to the reach of this article – I am happy that at least it reached you! I am still trying to get it published in a local daily. So far there has been a small success – Macharia Gaitho quoted it in his piece on Tuesday 7th August 2012. If you have links to any reputable newspaper, I am willing to make contact.

      Thanks again – and please spread the word.

  32. fredokono

    August 14, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    Never have I seen the problem with our nation so finely distilled into simple, pure, untainted truths that should speak to every rational patriot – and cause them to take pause and think deeply on what part we have each played in burying the beloved country in the muck in which it now wallows … and inspire each of us to take up a shovel and dig us out!

    • Chrenyan

      August 15, 2012 at 7:39 am

      Hi Fred,

      After reading your comment I was tempted to re-read the article and see if it was really the one you were referring to! Thanks so much for your comment and for your kind and generous compliments.

      YES – shovel time! Let each in their own way spread the message and dig our nation out of the pit she is in. I believe we can do it, or I wouldn’t have written the article. Meeting people like yourself and your wife strengthens my belief.

  33. Afrowave (@Afrowave)

    August 15, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Hi Chrenyan,

    Let’s look at Kenya with large brush strokes and in three “eras” and possibly drill down into a typical situation to explain the things that bear on us, Kenyans.

    When one goes out of the country, if dark skinned, one’s identity is clear, African. Its not a debate, its a reality. When on comes “home”, the skin is not the issue any more, its the language, the community that shares it and the culture of relation through it. That is the “next” identity. Because its life-long based on upbringing and residence, its the next to being “African”. These 2 identities “happen” on you.

    Kenya is an abstract concept and so are most of the countries in Africa. Its not real, in the tangible identity sense. Its an idea. This begins to dawn on you as you enter teenage-hood. You learn that Kenya is not an ethnic community, its not a “nation”. Its a state. A state of what? A nation strictly, is England or Botswana, not the UK or Kenya. The latter a types of states, in this case, a kingdom and a republic.

    These are not semantics. These are mental constructs that dictate how one perceives who he or she is. Kenya is a 1884 Berlin Conference creation. Its “Lunatic Express” in its implementation and its birth is as a result of a world war that weakened the English colonial power. Almost all the “lord” settlers in the Kenyan “protectorate” are English by “tribe”. Kenya, as a construct of the mind, is inherently English in its foundation. The Kenyan Law is actually the English Law (not British Law).

    Kenya after independence was run by post-colonial Africans who were sold to the construct of the English (not Scottish, Welsh or Irish) imperial power structure. That’s how Kenya got an “imperial” president. And this was maintained, not because of the “Kenyans” did not fight back but because of the Cold-War that kept dictators, proxy wars and Apartheid going all across Africa.

    Once the Cold-War ended, “multi-party-ism” came in, all over the world, pushed by the “new” power, the US of A. Its not that they love Kenya, no.

    Now “we” are in the Post Cold-War “era”, trying to figure out AGAIN what Kenya is and yet our heros, just as for the young people in the 60’s, are thieves.

    Examine the people who control, what we think about every day and who we are as Kenyans; the political figures, the activists, the journalists and the athletes.

    Who are we?

    • Fred Okono

      August 15, 2012 at 11:33 pm

      Hi Afrowave,

      Your analysis is factual, and cannot possibly be challenged at that level: that the geopolitical entity called Kenya was created by historical happenstance is incontrovertible fact! In fact, the name “Kenya” only entered official nomenclature with the declaration of the ‘Kenya Colony’ in 1920, having before that been known as the British East Africa Protectorate. So we have really just been in existence for 92 years – not even a century!

      BUT this is where we find ourselves in time and space – 40 million-odd people living within the same defined international borders, sharing a common political and economic destiny, subject to the same foundational law that we gave ourselves (the Constitution) and a variety of statutes enacted by our supposed representatives. For better or for worse, we are KENYAN!

      Being an accidental conglomeration of ethnic groups which successive governments have not found it fit to actively meld together, the centrifugal forces of tribalism dominate the centripetal forces of nationalism – because of our pre-existing atavistic instincts, well-horned by the politicians to guarantee their continued ascendancy, at the macro level we are constantly pulling apart rather than squeezing together!

      And THAT, compatriot, is what we must address! All common sense, even enlightened self-interest, dictates that it is in our common interest to build the Nation of Kenya. Surely, it must be clear, to even the most ethnically narrow-minded of us, that should our respective ethnic ghettos by some miracle become mini-states, such states would likely not be viable – and indeed, their emergence is likely to be out of an ocean of blood!

      We have blamed the divide-and-rule tactics of the colonial master for our intractable tribalism, and we have blamed the politicians that succeeded the colonial master. BUT to be xenophobic and hateful is a personal decision, not a community decision! To deny a fellow citizen their due rights because of their ethnicity, or give another citizen what they do not deserve because of their ethnicity, is a choice we each make! To spread hurtful stereotypes that demean and dehumanise, with the very intention to demean and to dehumanise, is a personal choice! To fail to speak up for or stand with a fellow citizen that is being subjected to diminution and dehumanisation, is silence and inaction that we each choose! When we fail to call out the haters; when we allow ourselves to be lulled by obfuscating statistics, and acronyms, and linguistic diminutives; when we opt for the convenient, safe and cowardly options in the face ethnic hatred; THESE ARE CHOICES WE EACH MAKE!

      The colonialist has been gone for a generation and a half; the enhanced flow of information and enhanced levels of education allow us to dispel misinformation and disinformation; and our political dispensation is such that we actually have a choice as to who rules over us, what kind of leaders we elect. Destructive ethnocentricism is therefore a choice we have taken, a bed we have made!

      Who can save us from ourselves but ourselves?

      • Afrowave (@Afrowave)

        August 18, 2012 at 5:58 pm

        Bwana Okono, Asanti.

        Then let us build Kenya from the base, not what Kenya is, but what we believe, not think, but believe it should be. Until we nail that, we are a people without vision and thus bound to perish. For the sake of being relevant to all, let’s use a number of examples.

        The point is not to elevate this to the level of a “Calling”. It should be common sense for any one, as you say, who has an enlightened self-intertest.

        Let’s start with the story of the “nation” of Israel. In this story, it is God, Creator of the Universe setting out the agenda. He picks a rabble of slaves who are an “ethnic” group with a patriarch called Jacob renamed to Israel. This is a mixed multitude with possibly the poor and desolate of the originating country (Ex.12:37) and sends them to a “promised land”. So, lineage-wise, they are different. But they were to form a “nation” called Israel. So we, as Kenyans, are from different lineages, but through some “accident”, we are to form a “nation” called Kenya.

        God starts with an individual who is given the task of leading the people out of slavery into freedom. But this individual must speak to the people FIRST to convince them of the idea, before the liberation begins (Ex.4:28-29). The first thing is that he has what it takes, (basically, that he was “sent”) to lead people. What are the things we are to look for in a leader in terms of values (not “talk”) that we would say that the leader has what it takes? Clearly these values must be evident to the lowest in the society. So, even in the small sphere one has been given to operate in, like one’s own families, can the members truly sing one’s praises and do they reflect the principles the person lives by?

        On release from Egypt, the first thing that the people must get is a set of values that dictate how they are to live and be “different” from their neighbours (Ex.19 ff). Call this the Constitution. It is to this that the people agreed to in order to live in the land they were to be given (Ex.24:3). From it diverse laws were drawn out.

        But what was the point of this whole exercise? It was so that at the apex of it, which happened during the rule of King Solomon; “… Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon.” (1 Kings 4:25).

        So let’s reiterate:

        1. Did Kenya “need’ to be free from colonialism? There are people who believe we would be better off if we remained a colony of the UK. Can we really address this question impassionately? @Chrenyan is at pains to understand why people trooped to see Moi after an accident and was in hospital. There are some people who believe the Moi-era was good for us. We are all traumatized as Kenyans and we don’t even know it, let alone acknowledge it. We take it out on each other.

        2. When a man comes to us, stands up to speak to us as a leader, what values, actions and reputation does this man have for us to follow him, through the Valley of Suffering? To achieve the vision he spells out, everyone has to “sacrifice” and maybe suffer. Is he convincing of this? Or shall our heroes continue to be thieves and thieves become our heroes? The reason this comes before the next point is because a country with good leader and a bad constitution will fare better than one with a bad leader and a good constitution. Remember the UK has no written constitution.

        3. Do we have a constitution that is respected by all and holds all accountable? How do we bind each other to it? Have we read it, understand it and know what it asks for and what it will achieve, if we ALL work to live by it? It can only be achieved if the critical mass of people are “good”. If not, who will hold who to account?

        4. Is Vision 2030 enough, how does each of us see ourselves in it? Do we even believe in it? Is the motive of the struggle we are in, not so that every man can dwell safely, with sufficient shelter, food and drink? What is the aim of it? What is our vision of a “beautiful Kenya”?

        • fredokono

          August 19, 2012 at 9:06 am


          You have distilled the essence of the issue admirably. The bottom-line is that we need to build a nation of shared values and shared aspirations. To achieve that, we need leaders that espouse and represent those values and aspirations. That is our challenge – will we give ourselves such leaders? Only time will tell!

          Fred Okono

    • Chrenyan

      August 16, 2012 at 12:31 am

      Hey Afrowave,

      Thanks a lot for writing such a long and detailed comment. I will try and do it justice.

      I think first of all, that perhaps a distinction should be made between culture and tribalism. Culture is that which makes Kalenjins carry out their marriage ceremonies a certain way. It is what makes almost each tribe have a certain way of dressing an “elder.” It is what used to and in many cases still informs dowry negotiations, funeral arrangements, etc. Culture is not necessarily bad, and need not be repressed. In fact it should be celebrated.
      Tribalism, on the other hand, is believing one’s tribe and culture to be superior to others, or merely to be more worthy of benefitting from what accrues to the whole nation. It ought to be fought at every turn.

      I heartily agree: yes Kenya was an abstract concept. Communities were carved up and shared amongst colonial powers most arbitrarily. But is it that way any longer? After all this time? Let us take the case of Somalia. It is said to consist solely of Somalis, and look at what’s happened there: the clans are fighting one another! We may divide ourselves to our hearts’ content, but uniformity will forever be a mirage. Lines must be drawn at some point.
      This reminds me of a quote, I can’t find who said it, but it could have been Bill Clinton. Around the year 2000, scientists finally finished mapping the human genome, in the process learning that we are all (regardless of race) 99.9 percent the same genetically. The quote goes: “Funny how much of life is about that 0.1%.” And it is so true.

      You mention teenage-hood. It is one of the saddest things to me that a young generation that grew up in a cosmopolitan setting is now as tribal (if not more tribal) than its forebears. What I wonder is how this was passed on. This is not an awakening, but rather a darkening. Why should Oluoch and Karanja or Kipng’etich grow up kicking karatasi footballs together only to suddenly become enemies at 20 years of age? Did we breastfeed prejudice? Did we learn it bouncing on our father’s knees?

      We are humans. We have been thrown together by accidents of history and of geography and we have got to try to make the thing work. As Fred Okono has said, if we were to Balkanize ourselves into little bits and pieces, that wouldn’t really work. We have got to make the thing work.

      That said, I really love one quite brilliantly-put point you’ve made – that we cannot have what Kenya is defined by the West. Or the East for that matter. These other nations more often than not have other interests in mind (the Cold War, oil, geopolitical strategy, etc). We must define who we are for ourselves – in our collective interest as a nation – and go from there. The Western nations – exactly like our politicians – are not on our side in these matters because their interests and the common interest often diverge. I am just reading in Its Our Turn To Eat how the Department for International Development (DfID) insisted on giving aid even to a clearly corrupt Kenyan Government because giving aid was something the Tony Blair Government, with sloganeering such as the “Year of Africa” etc, had decided must happen. In this way the British (and other Western governments) aided and abetted corruption by ensuring that publicly stolen funds were not missed because they were merely replaced by donor funding.

      Other interests are myriad and competing; we need to define Kenya for ourselves. We should define it as a single state, with diverse people of various cultures but who, more importantly, have common interests that we choose to emphasize more than our differences.

      • Afrowave (@Afrowave)

        August 19, 2012 at 2:26 am

        Sawa basi Chrenyan,

        Let us start with our primary identities and let us look for similarities in our societies that we can extract and put these together in one basket and call this “Kenya”

        Let’s look at governance and character. Right now we are in an interesting place where we live in communities that recognise the “age-group” and that people older than you are, can be of a different age-group and be your siblings. The age-group of one’s grand parents might be the one you can have open discussions with but not of one’s parents. Our social governance structure is based on this. The age-group that was installed into leadership led the community as a group of “elders”. These elders were chosen to represent the community based on their character and through consensus. It was democratic, but not from a European framework. This is why, as you have rightly said, that this informs dowry, inheritance, conflict resolution and justice. They had a one-term period rule. There was no need to clamour for office. All you had to do is have good character and a well brought up and resourced family and at the right time, one would become an “elder”. It was something to look forward to.

        Right now we are trying to make an imperial system that only works mono-ethnically work for a state of many “nations”. And its the money to corrupt the system that talks. Not character or family values. Do we even have a set of values we believe in and that our leaders should have?

        Can we have a discussion on the return of our previous systems of governance but modernized, not urbanized or globalized. Can we create communal functions and “federal” functions for these offices? Do we think we can? Look at what the “Gachacha” courts in Rwanda established and resolved compared to “Arusha tribunal” that has clearly failed its mandate.

        Are we brave enough?

        • Chrenyan

          August 23, 2012 at 6:28 pm

          Hi Afrowave,

          I am trying to do justice to your excellent comments in one comment.

          Hey Afrowave, I love the idea of we ourselves coming up with what we believe Kenya should be, and then working towards that. However, I think it is going to have to be a calling because it is not common sense for everyone. Those who see things this way are going to have to take it up as a calling until there is a “critical mass” of true Kenyans.

          Really loved your analogy on the children of Israel, and yes, Solomon’s reign was Israel’s Millennium. I actually think that the lesson of Solomon’s reign is that idolatry/apostasy soon ensues when a people are materially blessed. It is the cyclical story of Israel from Judges to II Chronicles.

          To answer your questions:

          1. “Yes” we needed to be free of colonialism socially speaking. Economically speaking, I wish the white man was in charge. South Africa is way ahead of us economically speaking, but the people believe that their newfound freedom means that they have access to money. What happened in 1994 was that black South Africa gained access to not raw cash, but to opportunity. The black South African is yet to realize this, and unravelling this dangerous entitlement thought chain will take some time. So it is not bad that we are no longer colonized.
          2. Any man or woman should be vetted based on the promises they have made in the past to people, and whether they have kept them. It is a sad thing that money has been elevated to god-like status, such that if one has it, how they got it ceases to matter. I agree that the leader is more important than the Constitution. We are having to micromanage our leadership through our Constitution and bills like the Leadership and Integrity Bill, but I think this is helpful.
          3. There are debatable clauses in the Constitution. By and large, however, it is a good document. Respect for the rule of law, however, is something that is going to have to be inculcated in Kenyans. I am sure very few have read it. And I think we will achieve a lot if the top is good. That is what leadership is all about – the top sets the tone, and the led follow it.
          4. Very few Kenyans believe in Vision 2030. Remember piped water to every home by 2000? Vision 2030 is not in and of itself bad. However those tasked with implementation are less than serious.

          With regards to governance, elders and age-groups, I have actually suggested to the Peter Kenneth strategy team that national cohesion can be fostered by self-negotiated (though perhaps Government-arbitrated) peace and/or settlement agreements between communities in flashpoints. These agreements should be arrived at through discussions between elders of warring communities. Let elders sit down and talk to one another, and the communities will respect what they come up with. It’s not an “either-or” situation… It’s a matter of using what works at different points. To come up with an eldership at national level would require a new constitution, etc. But that does not mean that it cannot be used.

          • Afrowave (@Afrowave)

            August 23, 2012 at 9:21 pm

            Hi Chrenyan,

            Thanks for the reply and it does justice to the questions. Its good to know that Peter Kenneth is being advised to go in this direction for because the communal structures are already there and should be used for conflict resolution, boundary demarcation among other things. The real question is, over a length of time, if communities accept this is a the “modus operandi”, how can we main-stream these structure to replace the imperial “provincial” system that is being force fitted into the new Kenya?

            • Chrenyan

              August 24, 2012 at 11:47 am

              Hey Afrowave,

              Thanks for your response, I’m glad you felt I did your comment justice.

              You raise a very valid point – boundaries. If boundaries can be agreed on by elders and settled, then it becomes a matter of the provincial system buttressing what the communities have already agreed on, on the ground.

              Please, you really need to blog your thoughts and try and catch the attention of the progressive politicians amongst us, because your suggestions are quite simply brilliant.


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