Sunday, October 24, 2010

Siege mentality only protects thieves

Sunday Nation 24 October 2010

After my comment on the appointment of the Kenya Bureau of Standards CEO was published last Sunday, my inbox was inundated with responses, most falling in either of two categories.

The first group of responses expressed disgust at the minister’s decision, lamenting similar past occurrences in the grand coalition government and asking that due process be followed in such appointments. These were in the minority.

A larger number of correspondents lamented that the minister’s decision was being bashed simply because he is Kalenjin and had appointed a fellow tribesman to a prominent post in his ministry.

They averred that there would have been no furore had the minister appointed an individual from any other tribe to the position, whether the law was followed or not.

The suspension of the Higher Education minister William Ruto in the middle of the week only served to intensify the vituperation, with many pointing out that a conspiracy to demonise and eliminate prominent Kalenjins from positions of authority was afoot.

One of my correspondents actually stated it more graphically: “Kalenjin-bashing seems to be the in-thing now”.

It should be noted that the people holding these opinions are upright Kenyans to whom a significant level of intellectual achievement can be ascribed. Many are opinion leaders and what they say often reflects in an intellectual manner what the crude feeling on the “street” is.

It is also interesting to note that all those that supported the minister’s action were from his tribe, while those against his decision were more heterogeneous.

It would be completely dishonest to say that these reactions were unexpected. Kenyans have perfected intellectual arguments to clothe their own tribal chauvinism, and whenever a person is touched who belongs to the “other tribe” they eloquently wax lyrical about good governance and transparency.

However, whenever one of “their own” is touched, they come out guns blazing with pseudo-intellectual arguments about “good judgment, balancing the ethnic equation” and similar apologia.

This phenomenon is not restricted to intellectuals from any one tribe in this country.

We witnessed it recently with demonstrations in Bungoma over the fate of the Foreign minister Moses Wetangula over the Japanese embassy scandal.

Similar tribal demonstrations have been held in the past whenever the fortunes of some tribal chieftain are threatened and he utters the famous war-cry: “My people are being finished”.

It is time to expose this kind of reasoning for the vacuous hogwash it is. Many people belonging to communities whose members have occupied powerful positions in this country perpetuate a siege mentality in which they see any action against their tribes mate as a tribal witch-hunt.

They refuse to objectively examine the evidence, in the mistaken belief that loyalty to the tribe comes first.

We must realise before it is too late that we cannot eat our cake and have it. We cannot continue spouting platitudes about a taunet ne lel (new beginning) for Kenya while at the same time hiding behind pseudo-intellectual posturing to maintain a thieving cabal in power.

We must realise that it is either one or the other.

We either accept the dictates of the new Constitution and allow a dispassionate application of the law, or dispense with it altogether and continue with business as usual.

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer at Moi University’s School of Medicine.

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