I read with interest Kelvin Odoobo’s article ‘Kenya’s Tribal Equations in the search for a new constitution’. I have noticed that quite a number of articles about Kenya are written through using tribal ‘lenses’. This is a very narrow manner of looking at the politics currently unfolding in Kenya.
What I want to tell all and sundry is that tribalism is an all-African phenomenon. Tribalism is alive in Africa, whether it is West, East or Central Africa. However, what is important for anybody giving any kind of review is the ability to give a deeper insight beyond simplistic tribalism.
What I am saying is that ‘painting’ Kenya as a ‘tribal homeland’ is unfortunate and short-sighted.
The thing that we ask writers is to look at the other attributes that many outsiders rarely get to know about Kenya. I think that would cause more interest than the tired and worn-out issue of tribalism.
As one of the EAC member states, it is not by accident that Kenya managed to record sterling economic performances over the years. Tribalism per se is not the driving force in Kenya as Kelvin puts it. There must be some characteristics that have propelled Kenya to such heights.
That is why those attempting to study Kenya’s underlying challenges, such as the hunt for a new constitution, should do more research. For instance, attempts should be made to look at the generational issues in the writing of a new constitution.
Readers should also be informed about the attempts Kenyans have made to wage war against tribalism. I believe that it was very wrong for Kelvin Odoobo to assume that elections are, and will be solely conducted through purely tribal affiliations.
Kenyans came together in 2002 and voted across tribal lines. My own grandmother voted for someone who belonged to another tribe. It was the very first time that that happened in our own village.
The same happened in the last elections- contrary to what ‘experts’ said. Not many people know that a lot of youthful voters defied even their parents and tribal chiefs to vote across the tribal divide; these trends partly led to the bloodletting that later ensured.
Within the young generation concerted efforts have been made to break down the ‘traditional’ attributes being highlighted in Kelvin’s article.
Nairobi is a teeming metropolitan that disproves his thesis. It is truly metropolitan in the literal sense of the word. ‘Sheng’, a hotchpotch language that is slowly finding its way to other regional capitals is Nairobian by all accounts.
It is an attempt meant to fight tribalism by converging Kenya’s diverse cultures through language.
I want to point out that the search for Kenya’s new constitution is not only tribal. It is a class, generational, transitive and future issue under serious discussion. It is about a search for a new start. Not the same old, same old.
The author is a journalist with The New Times