Politics Made Easy: Kenya’s Elusive Unity and Cohesion
Blamuel Njururi – Nairobi July 22, 2015
When in government politicians curve out tribal, clan and family territorial enclaves that at times encroach into neighbouring tribes and clans resulting in frequent inter-ethnic flare-ups and deaths
When dealing with politicians Kenyans must understand Democratic Freedoms include the RIGHT to be STUPID and say stupid things anytime anywhere. During election campaign a politician will promise to build bridges where there is no rivers or drifts and get away with it.
A politician will lead you to death with promises of creating a better future for you, your wife and children, then blame everybody else but himself for your death. Politicians promise to die for what they stand, then pripell you to take the risk as their human shield in the name of freedom and democracy. When he ascends to power, you can go to hell and rot there while he enjoys the splendour of public taxes and state resources surrounded by his sycophants, kith and kin.
To stay in power politicians invent all nature of excuses to convince voters that they are most popular and should stay in power even when their constitutional terms expire. When out of power most politicians adopt hostility towards those who defeat them and at times stop at nothing to undermine peace in their own motherland to arouse ethnic hate among fellow citizens. They even enjoy cases of full-blown rebellion or anarchy achieved through bloodshed.
Kenya has had a fair share and experience of political terrorism, which in 1950s developed into a full-blown agitation for independence through Mau Mau. In post independence Kenya, political dictatorship was a convenient tool to stay in power by dictators using state terror apparatus to crash any dissenting voice. Highly repressive state tyranny saw suppression of Kenyans desire for democratic space through multiparty democracy.
The British colonial ethnic-based divide-and-rule governance found roots in post-independence Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s 16 years reign and sunk deep roots in Daniel arap Moi’s tyrannical 24 years era. Tribal chieftains were created out of teachers, civil servants and handpicked sycophants that dotted Kenya’s political landscape on the superhighway to poverty, deprivation and political emasculation.
Freedom struggle Mau Mau fighters and their families were not only short-changed but ignored to rot in their dreams of political self-determination especially on their struggle’s agenda of getting back their land grabbed by white settlers. The same applied to all other Kenyans victims of colonial land grabbing notably the Maasai, Kalenjin Talais and Coastal communities.
Mau Mau detainees, tortured by British colonisers, abandoned by Kenyatta
The historical injustices by the colonial and post-independence governments created and continue to create social disparities, which the political elite magnify through ethnic diversity lenses. When in government politicians curve out tribal, clan and family territorial enclaves that at times encroach into neighbouring tribes and clans resulting in frequent inter-ethnic flare-ups and deaths.
Self-centered politicians across the length and breadth on the Kenyan terrain wallow in opulent lifestyle funded by public coffers and corrupt deals, which is guarded by use of their ethnic loyalties rewarded with favours from the proceeds of public booty. It is therefore a benefit “worth to die for” that politicians will exploit ethnic bondage to stay in their comfortable perches.
But that has not always been the natural Kenya. In the good old days Kenyans mingled extensively in secondary schools, universities and places of work without ethnic considerations. Today it is increasingly difficult for Kenyans to demonstrate the ability to live together as communities, go to educational institutions without tribal tags and work in public and private institutions without constantly being reminded of their ethnic origins or that their colleagues by politicians.
Politicians in Parliament, both National Assembly and Senate have no ethnic animosity when they plunder public coffers in unreasonably big salaries, fraudulent claims and extravagant trips. They are united in corruption. But when other Kenyans are appointed to public offices politicians are quick to shamelessly disparage their public standing with ethnic innuendoes that they are appointed because they come from particular tribes. Both Houses appear to be possessed of ethnic demons whose images of the serpent adorn their Speakers chairs.
Many politicians are permanently preoccupied about how they can hang to politics by destroying others on the basis of their ethnicity and not how together they can build a prosperous Kenya. Ethnic demagogues are worshiped by their tribesfolk blindly and foolishly in a manner that promotes political cannibalism.
As “Embu Nation” (sic) citizen, I went to Kangaru School Embu with Luos, Baluhyas, Kambas and Kikuyus, who are still my friends today. Our head master was a Luo Samuel Ayany after a Briton Hampton left. I joined the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in 1968 and worked with Somalis, Merus, Kambas, Luos and Kikuyus in Embu without any tribal considerations.
My Provicial Press Officer (PPO) in Embu was amiable Dodi Odinga along with News Editor JB Ochiel and information officer Ambassador Muhammed Ali. I enjoyed covering meetings and showing government documentary films in Embu, Meru, Isiolo, Kitui and Machakos without any qualms during public and private interactions. As Machakos relief District Information Officer I thoroughly enjoyed myself covering a fight for Machakos District Kanu chairmanship between the late Joseph (Munyao) Ngei then a minister in Kenyatta government and late businessman Mbolu Molu – especially taking pictures when Ngei was down.
Ngei was not impressed but we settled the matter many years later during a friendly chat on the shores of Lake Turkana where he had gone to launch a fish cold-storage facility as minister for Co-operatives. Local politicians later caused the abandonment of the vital project to keep their voters famine-food-reliant in poverty to justify claims of the area’s marginalization.
I would also later organise for international press conference for ailing Ngei at Chester House to highlight his distress totally abandoned by a country and government whose freedom he suffered for in detention. many other national heroes in Kenya are only remembered after death.
I enjoyed optimum cordial working relationship with colleagues of all tribal backgrounds when I was transferred to Information House, then along Travin Road, now Mfangano Street, to work at the Press Office, the Kenya News Agency (KNA) and the Voice of Kenya. In 1969, I refused to join Kikuyu staff who were being ferried to Gatundu at night to take oath after the assassination of Thomas Joseph Mboya, who had given us a very stimulating public lecture at Kangaru on Nationalism.
At Information house I enjoyed myself thoroughly working with my Luo Editor-in-chief Authur Reuben, Press Officers Tom Benzi and Tom Kazungu. Our teleprinter and radio technicians were mostly Russia-trained Luos including the late Oluoch Kanindo who later became a successful businessman and Member of Parliament.
Similarly I encountered and made friends with many students of diverse tribes and foreign nationalities at the University of Nairobi (1970-1972) – many of them friends to date. At Nairobi University the student community was united and respected each other as Kenya nationals not ethnic bigots. When I encounter James Orengo, I see a Kenyan friend I met at the University of Nairobi and not a Luo lawyer. I may today differ with his political beliefs but University of Nairobi remains a timeless bonding denominator.
James Irengo: A Kenyan friend not Luo lawyer
The same applies to my colleagues at the School of Journalism Magaga Alot, John Mramba and his Ethiopian wife Mekdes, John Nkinyangi, Nicholas Dodi, who was with me at Kangaru among many others. Those are men and women who never see fellow Kenyans through ethnic prisms. I too learned the art of judging people by their behaviour, actions and decisions as individuals not by their tribes.
I found it fun working with even some people with open tribalistic tendencies and it never bothered me in Nation Group where I was Journalist of the Year in 1975, Standard Group, Stellascope/Weekly Review, where I became Journalist of the Year in 1978 (for investigative journalism), and the new Sunday Times, where I won best designed Newspaper Journalism of the Year Award in 1983. At Kenya Times I indiscriminately poached the best reporters, editors and printers from the Nation and Standard making permanent enemies with their top brass then – especially Nation’s George Mbuggus.
I remember Moi asking us to produce Sunday Times newspaper on a Thursday as he launched Kenya Times newspaper and I promised him there would be one the following Sunday and it came to pass with me as Managing Editor. Kenya Times group would later be destroyed by then sole ruling Kenya African National Union (Kanu) political interference and civil service bureaucracy with Japheth Shamallah doubling up as Managing Director and Permanent Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In 1979 I launched Kenya Confidential (KC) which navigates through the Kenyan society exposing corruption, social evils and hot politics by design. I won Journalist of the Year Award for exposing drugs menace (including a Police Commissioner involved) in 2004. In the political arena Kenya Confidential was launched to give the opposition a voice against Moi’s dictatorship and specifically Mwai Kibaki in Democratic Party and later as victorious joint opposition candidate in 2003. I had devoted extensive coverage and promotion of the late opposition doyen Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s FORD in Society Weekly magazine but a divided opposition robbed him of victory in 1992.
On the subject of national cohesion, there is a saying that you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your neighbours, which I find very applicable in every day life. It is impossible to choose your neighbour in urban residential estate as it is impossible to choose who sits next to you in a matatu, bus, plane or train in very many cases nor do you choose their drivers or pilots. You don’t choose who you stand with in a queue awaiting to see a doctor, pay your supermarket shopping or withdraw/deposit cash in a bank or M-Pesa kiosk. You don’t choose who grows sukuma wiki or sugar cane whose sugar you lace your tea with every day.
That is a natural phenomenon you can’t change and when you try you can easily get into situations that can lead not only to family disagreements but to tribal, ethnic, racial, national and even World Wars. Germany and Bosnia are good references. Since Yugoslavia broke up after the death of Joseph Tito, the fragmented states have yet to find peace. More recently the break-up of the Soviet Republic has nothing to show as a lesson to the world how smaller units of states safeguard indigenous harmony and prosperity. Life is short here on Earth, enjoy it. Let your heart radiate harmony, not ethnic odium.
Kenya’s prophets of doom, perhaps anxious to actualize the colonial prophesy of leadership of “death and darkness” are now agitating for dismembering Kenya into fragments of small state governments on the basis of ethnic differences. Some, of deceitful professorial claims, argue as if they were marriage lawyers in cases of inconceivable settlement of adulterous broken and irreconcilable marriage – of the Kenyan ethnic situation.
Ethnic, tribal, clan and racial differences will always be there. That is why brother turns against brother, husband against wife etc etc. Many families live by grace of God in which corruption and money breaks up homes. What Kenyans need more than anything else is understanding that they have only one Kenya to call their country. The nonsensical Luo, Mulembe, Kale, Gema or Kamba “Nations” promoted by politicians, is a recipe for social and economic disaster.
Kenyans of all ethnic differences can live in peace and harmony like they do in Mathare, Kibra, Langata, Karen, Kileleshwa, Muthaiga or any other estate in Nairobi and other urban areas. They too can live in harmony on islands like Migingo with their Ugandan landlords as well as various communities in the Rift Valley – if and when political agitation is stopped.
This may appear simplistic nonsense to scholars of ethnic hate. But there is no greater source of simple nonsense than our politicians and so-called professors, who put their political and scholastic interests before the Kenyan nation. As Kenyans we must engage each other on issues that promote our common good, social benefits and harmonious co-existence. Kenya has more to unite us as a people of one Nation family than that which divides us. We must learn to tame those who preach ethnic divisions by denying them positions of leadership at all levels.
Our country is not the cradle of mankind just by name. Straddling the equator on equal halves, Kenya enjoys a dramatic geographical formation that literally represents the entire Earth. The country centrally features snow capped Mt Kenya with polar-like icebergs bordering tundra climate down to Alps-like mountain slopes into temperate features ringing the mountain on a descent of magnificent landscape of forested hills into the Rift Valley canyons and rolling Savannas.
On further descent this magnificent gift of Nature embodies desert conditions to the North, Indian Ocean to the East, Lake Victoria to the West and Snow capped Mt Kilimanjaro to the South on the border with Tanzania. Kenya therefore, gracefully encompasses almost all Global geographical features, climatic conditions and vegetation. Kenya also enjoys three months of wintry season climaxing in July and August.
Spectacular Tundra climatic vegetation on Mt Kenya
This has resulted in a great range of natural habitats, harbouring a huge variety of fauna and flora full of wildlife, birds and sealife. Kenya’s history of migration and conquest has brought about a fascinating social panorama, which includes the Swahili city-states of the coast, the Maasai of the Rift Valley, White Highlands Caucasian farmlands, Commercial Indian urban population and a mosaic combination of Bantus, Nilo-hamites, Nilotics, Hamitic and Semitic communities.
Wildlife National Park within the City of Nairobi
Kenya’s world-famous national parks, tribal peoples and superb beaches lend the country an exotic image with magnetic appeal. Treating her as a succession of tourist sights, however, is not the most stimulating way to experience it. If you get off the beaten track, you can enter the world inhabited by most Kenyans: a ceaselessly active scene of muddy farm tracks leading to Coffee, Tea and Sugar plantations, corrugated-iron huts, tea shops and lodging houses, rural crammed buses and streets wandered by goats and children.
Both on and off the tourist routes, you’ll find warmth and openness, and an abundance of superb scenery – rolling savanna dotted with Maasai herds and wild animals, high moorlands grazed by cattle and sheep, and dense forests full of monkeys and birdsong plus unpolluted white sands coastline doted with beach hotels and cottages.
Of course Kenya is not all postcard-perfect: start a conversation with any local and you may soon find out about the country’s deep political, economic and social tensions – a common feature in the developing world invested with corruption and loose threaded ethnic diversities poisoned by politicians.
Politicians never offer solutions to anything. They create problems in order to remain in positions of power and influence purporting to solve them. Follow your heart when you relate to fellow Kenyans not political nonsense and stupidity, which are the tools of work for politicians. Our fate is we unite or perish.
Wetangula and Kalonzo in the throws of self-inflicted political Doom’s Day