Nothing is Seen Outside The Cloud of Negative Ethnic Energy

Kenya’s political class understands that it deals with a docile nincompoop population. It knows that there are those who will unquestioningly swallow its propaganda. That the African people called Kenyans are incapable of questioning anything the master says.  For, they belong to soft-brained ethnic political fan clubs.

Members of such clubs have no minds. They have surrendered to the politicians their right and capacity to think. Accordingly, they have been zombified into tribal sheep. They can only bleat, “Four legs good, two legs bad.” In everything, they only sheepishly bleat, “Comrade Napoleon is always right.” This is regardless that Comrade Napoleon is President Uhuru Kenyatta, or Cord leader Raila Odinga. The citizen is a ready mongoloid in submissive ethnic tow. Hence the slogans, ” Tuko Tayari (We are Ready),” and “Tuko Pamoja (We are Together).” When the kowtowing mongoloid is not from the immediate tribe, he belongs to a compliant franchise holding tribe.

The leader’s tribal grip is the grasp of mass hysteria. You remain under the spell, even when you are temporarily isolated from the mass. The politician knows that you will nonsensically rationalize anything the master has said, no matter how ridiculous. The first line of attack is by junior politicos from the tribe. Their loyalty is measured in their capacity to ventilate venom against the tribal object of hate. The rare thinker in the tribe is meanwhile extremely afraid of his own tribesmen. He cannot speak his mind. If he dares he will be labeled a traitor and a madman. And it could get worse.

In the circumstances, is there such a thing as objective truth in the country? Is sober conversation possible? It appears that our truth is relative to our tribes. Accordingly we have the Luo truth, for example, and the Kikuyu truth – on the same matter. If the Luo leader tells us that we have an enemy from a country called Oceania, we will believe him if we are Luo and disagree if we are Kikuyu. If tomorrow he tells us that Oceania has never been our enemy – that in fact our enemy has always been Eastasia – nothing changes. Nobody will tell him that he previously told us our enemy was Oceania.

An ethnically docile population such as ours is dangerous to itself, to the country and to future generations. Zombie populations of the kind we are degenerating into will set a church house on fire, to please the leader and the tribe. It will raid a church in Kigali and hack everyone inside to death, just because they are Tutsi and the leader has said all Tutsi must be killed. The next day everybody is ready to deny that such a thing ever happened, again because that is what the leader says. If he says no church was set ablaze, there were no machetes, no poisoned arrows and no mass murder, then there was none.

Our circumstances make the conversation between the Opposition and the Government extremely problematic. Indeed, everywhere in the world the conversation between the Government and the Opposition was never easy. For the Opposition has the posture of a Government in waiting. And quite often it accedes to power – in societies that enjoy functional democracy. The Government, for its part, casts itself as the best thing to happen to the people.

Yet, does the Kenyan condition seem to be in a class of its own? Our political dialogue is informed by blatant hostility and uncontrolled cozenage. Lies and mutual ill will sit at the foundation of all communication between political camps – and therefore their followers. Nothing – and I repeat nothing – can ever be seen outside the cloud of negative ethnic politics. Within such a scenario, a matter of profound national import as the Northern Collector Tunnel Water Project from Murang’a to Nairobi can only cause more confusion and ethnic hate.

The project has been going on for two years. It is supposed to end the thirst in Nairobi – at least for a while. Like any major project of its magnitude, it has implications for the environment. Before such a project is embarked upon, it must be subjected to an environmental impact assessment. The public must be made aware of the intended project. They must know what it is about and the anticipated good. What role will they play, if any? Who is the sponsor? How much will it cost? Who are the contractors? How have they been awarded the contract? Why? Who else tendered for the project? Why did they lose? The answers must be in the public domain.

Cord leader Raila Odinga astounded the nation, this week, with allegations that the water project is going to turn Murang’a and parts of the neigbouring counties into a desert.  What’s more, he says this will happen within the next five years. Moreover, he says the project is being carried out in secrecy. He has even suggested that there is related commercial conflict of interest in high places. The response has been predictable and swift. Not even environmental experts are agreed on the matter. There seem to be no objective experts – only experts for Odinga and for Kenyatta. And they are defined by tribe, or by tribal franchise and alliance.

Such is the tragedy of zombie republics. They are worse than banana republics. Odinga has raised very serious issues. Yes, it is possible that he is being diversionary, as National Assembly Majority Leader, Aden Duale, says.  It is possible that he is diverting public focus from the troubles in the Cord fraternity. Conversely, could he be naively thinking that Murang’a could vote for him? Of course Murang’a will vote for Raila Odinga the day we begin bleeding rocks. You would expect Odinga to know this and the futility of angling for a Murang’a vote. Yet don’t we need a method of addressing issues? Fortunately five years is not a long time to wait for the truth.


Photo Source Credits:

Devolution: Beware Hyenas in Sheepskins

You have heard of the numerous Senators and Members of the National Assembly intent on becoming Governors. As Kenya prepares for next year’s poll, I do not know of any Governor who would like to become a Senator. Nor have I heard of one who wants to go to the National Assembly. The story has been told, however, of one Senator who would like to become a Member of the County Assembly next year.

It all speaks to the clout at the County. Conversely, it is the tale of the massive transformational potential in Devolution. The regular County story is about strife, power struggle and theft. We hear about wasteful and unnecessary “benchmarking” outings and fistfights. This is part of the gravy train and malaise narrative.

MCAs are known to blackmail Governors with impeachment.  Governors must accordingly feed MCAs’ greedy appetites for free things. The saga of impeachment attempts in Makueni, Embu and Murang’a Counties remains fresh. Nairobi, Kwale, Nyeri, Kisumu, Nandi, Kericho, Bomet, Nyandarua, Bungoma, Meru and Kiambu also flare up every so often. And there are numerous other cases. We cannot rule out malice on the part of those either looking for quick cash from the county kitty, or those wishing to replace the Governor.

Gravitating towards the elections, there will be need to bear these realities in mind. Ugly scenes of the kind we have recently witnessed in County Assemblies in Nairobi and Kisumu are likely to be on the rise as election fever overtakes self-control. The county kitty is the target of all manner of marauders. Within this marauding, the truth is lost. It is difficult to tell which Governor could be stealing from the public and which one is the target of sheer malice.

The Senate has been an ambivalent player in this drama. To its credit, it has saved the careers of a number of Governors from the claws of greedy self-seekers in County Assemblies. Governor Martin Wambora of Embu was, however, twice impeached. The Courts saved his skin as many times. And we have lately witnessed unpleasant public engagement between Runyenjes MP, Cecily Mbarire and Embu Senator, Lenny Ivuti. The two were previously political allies, joined at the hip against Governor Wambora. They have now turned the guns at one another, prompted by the tantalizing smell of the Governor’s seat.

Here in Kakamega where I am writing from, there are endless wars between Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and Senator Bonny Khalwale. The Governor is the Senator’s regular punching bag. The Senator’s favourite theatre is the free funeral. This is an all-expenses-paid forum. I have witnessed some of this drama. The smiling Senator gambols in self-importantly. He disrupts the funeral service because he has “other important things to attend to.” Of course nobody else in this sad assembly has “other important things to attend to.”

The restless politician perfunctorily utters two sentences of condolence to the bereaved family. It is pure Orwellian duck-speak. The words come from the throat. He then sinks into what has brought him. He now speaks from the heart. It is an orgy of unsubstantiated vitriol against the Governor. Soon there is mike snatching, fisticuffs and an ugly free for all. His hooligans chaperon him to safety. In all this, the truth is lost. Whether there is merit to what he was saying or not, we will never know. In any event, the choice of occasion and manner of execution were both manifestly wrong.

Expect more drama at County level, both between hardcore adversaries and hitherto political friends. They are bound to go for one another in unprecedented fashion, now that we are on the home stretch. Expect even people believed to be thieves to fight to become Governors. The attraction for the one thought to be a thief is possibly the opportunity to steal. The counties have received an annual budget allocation of between 20 and 22 percent of the national revenue, since the coming of devolution. This would attract any high level thief who knows how to abuse power and skilled in cooking the books.

The wars, drama and ugly competition should however not mask the great transformation that is taking place across the country, courtesy of Devolution. Various independent authorities at the heart of Devolution need to give us authentic audits. Back here in Kakamega, it is easy to see the difference even at a basic cognitive level. There are roads, roads and more roads everywhere. Places that were previously impregnable are now easily accessible, courtesy of the County government’s focus on roads. Small towns like Mumias, Butere and others now boast of tarmac streets! We have even seen the occasional streetlight along village roads in our little Emanyulia. And we see massive improvement in healthcare and in educational facilities. Regardless of the Oparanya and Khalwale wars, Devolution is working here in Kakamega.

The story is the same across most the country. Perhaps the last word should come from the Revenue Allocation Authority. Are they happy with the State of Devolution? Are they happy about where their money has gone? I have had occasion to listen to CRA Chair, Micah Cheserem on this subject. Even as CRA Commissioners prepare to exit in December – without anyone going in the streets – they are satisfied that Devolution is transforming communities across the country. This is despite the challenges.
Moving forward, citizens must be careful whom they elect Governor. They should know that there are people whose sole attraction to this office is money and power, both of which they intend to abuse. We need to especially beware of those associated with financial scandals in other places and now crave to be our Governors. We must also audit the Senators and tell apart the good leaders among them from those salivating for the county kitty.

Lords of the Flies Thriving on Campuses

The spectacle at Moi University on Tuesday demonstrates just how low the country’s leadership has sunk. It also shows our endless capacity to sink deeper and deeper still. Sometimes you think that we couldn’t possibly drop lower. Yet someone always proves you wrong.

In the unlikely event that you missed it, two governors and several MPs led rowdy crowds from their tribe in an ugly demo in Eldoret. They issued threats. They sounded ultimatums and brandished innuendo. The venue was the main campus of Moi University. They were protesting the appointment of Prof. Laban Ayiro as Acting Vice Chancellor of what they say is “their university.” Reason? Ayiro is not from their tribe – the tribe of the university.

The rowdy marauders, some complete in three-piece suits and others in wild regalia, threatened to disrupt the ended graduation at the university. A governor “on duty” gave the National Government twenty-four hours to replace Ayiro with his tribesman. It is instructive that this is not the first time this governor has notoriously led rowdy tribal crowds in this region.

Three years ago, he led a mob he called “his people,” in a similar fiasco at the University of Eldoret. He has also been involved in kindred drama at the Moi Teaching Hospital. And when terrorists killed our children at Garissa University, this governor thoughtlessly led mobsters in street protests against physically and psychologically traumatized survivors seeking temporary refuge at the Eldoret Campus.

It would be interesting to know the ethnic balance in the county government. While it is an open secret that all county governments are incubators of negative ethnicity, this particular county must worry us to no end. It will be recalled that it was within this county that the most ugly chapter in the post-election violence of 2007-2008 was written. I will spare you memory of the painful details.

There is nothing particularly edifying in a segment of the country  distinguishing itself for excellence in aboriginal violent provocation. We now stand the risk of profiling certain communities as violence prone. This must never happen. The only way to avoid this undesirable profiling is to talk straight to the champions of ethnic hate and exclusion.  They must be made to feel like the social pariahs that they are.

Kenyans must no longer be shy of talking about the growing tide of negative ethnicity. When leaders stir up their tribesmen, we have not even had the courage to name the involved tribes. We talk of “a certain community,” or “certain communities.” This is in the false belief that covering tribal fire with the palm of our hand will stop the inferno. It has not helped. Instead the merchants of tribal hate have only grown bolder and more arrogant.

The bad news is that ultimately nobody has a monopoly of vile ethnic sentiment. We each belong to some tribe. And if we were honest, we would admit to the occasional wave of negative ethnic emotion. We sometimes all share in some collective tribal grief. This is only normal. For the sentiment is sometimes justified. What matters in the end is whether we can tame the passion and find a socially healthy way to address the situation that drives the sentiment.

We are reminded of Shylock in Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice where he said, “He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million; laughed at me, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what’s the reason? I am a Jew.

“Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, don’t we laugh? If you poison us, don’t we die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instructions.”

The Bard has reminded us that if we are like you in everything else, we have the capacity to resemble you in your worst conduct. And he concludes that you will be lucky if we don’t outdo you in your bad conduct. This is the reality that we all ought to be awake to, and especially they who are privileged to occupy leadership positions.  Good leadership reminds itself that patience is elastic. Elasticity itself is exhaustible. This is why societies throughout time and space have destroyed themselves. Someone naively mistook other people’s humility and patience for weakness. Everybody paid the price.

Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has a tough assignment. He has to maintain sobriety in institutions that are dyed in the wool of negative ethnicity. The universities have in the main morphed into breeding grounds of the worst ethnic passions. From the administration, through the faculty, all the way to auxiliary staff and the student population, the credo is “We want our people.” Eldoret only seems to lead from the front.

Yet those in leadership must steer us towards more healthy ethnic relations. Regrettably, on going happenings in political leadership do not give us much hope. We are witnessing a hardening of negatively driven ethnic formations in politics. The recently launched Jubilee Party is nothing but a buttressing of negative ethnicity, disguised as an effort to bring Kenyans together. In fact the only thing it can achieve is solidification of the ethnic sentiment both within and without the party. In its wake, the tribes outside the new party are now busy solidifying against the Jubilee tribes ahead of a general election whose preparation looks like a checklist of the Armageddon.

Going forward, President Kenyatta and his Government must come down hard on negative ethnicity. They must begin by weighing their own conduct, actions and words. They must stay above ethnic slurs and distance themselves from reckless ethnic hate mongers. It is the only way to save the country from what sometimes looks like an imminent manmade apocalypse. For if a Jew offends a Christian, what’s the Christian’s gentle reaction?