Sunday, August 12, 2012

Why Kibunjia’s team has got it all wrong

Sunday Nation 12 August 2012

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission has an abiding obsession with tribe, which has now led them into uncharted waters, with potentially disastrous results. We must take this early opportunity to set them straight, and help them to avoid creating conditions that will thwart any integration attempts in this country for generations to come.

Some genius at the commission came up with the idea of tribal power-sharing in the so-called “hot-spots” based on patterns of violence after the last General Election. The idea was to select these multi-ethnic cosmopolitan regions and convince the residents to “share” political seats among the various tribes they belong to, to ensure that all tribes feel a sense of inclusion in the county political leadership.

The plan, according to the commission, went swimmingly until cracks started to emerge in some of the counties due to disagreements over who is empowered to make such decisions on behalf of the tribes, and what seats should be “allocated” to which tribe. In my view, this was the inevitable result of this misguided venture by a publicly funded body whose key remit is to ensure peaceful coexistence among the various peoples of this republic.

We have argued before that “tribe” is an artificial social construct, and it has been demonstrated in many instances to be extremely fluid depending on the method one uses to arrive at it.

Matriarchal societies

For instance, in matriarchal societies, ethnicity is conferred through the mother. If that were to be applied across our country it is a sure bet that an overwhelming majority of Kenyans would have to change their tribes many times over. 

Further, even in patriarchal societies, we have now glimpsed the truth in the saying that while maternity is certain, paternity is a matter of conjecture. Many Kenyans proudly defending their tribes on the basis of their presumptive paternity may be shocked to discover that they are not their fathers’ children, and may belong to a totally different lineage. DNA analysis would prove this, but the easiest way to find out would be to ask their mothers.

In my opinion, this misguided obsession with tribe is one of the factors that continue to drag our country deeper into an abyss of under-achievement and perennial strife. The commission would do well to find ways of highlighting the achievements of the “tribeless” entrepreneurs of our country, and demonstrating the futility of using tribe as a means of political or economic organisation.

Time and again we have demonstrated how gullible Kenyans are being exploited by politicians who only use tribal affiliation to get advantages in political and economic deals, advantages that they do not later share with their presumed “tribesmates”. For a tax-funded agency to fall into this trap is indeed regrettable and, on this basis, one would hope that when their term ends later this year, none of the commissioners should be allowed to continue in office.

They have misused their time in office, and have squandered public funds on hare-brained schemes whose net effect has been to emphasise our ethnic differences instead of improving the environment for integration.

We must therefore look out for a new crop of Kenyans who understand the reality of the new Kenyan “tribe” whose only interest is in building a Kenya future generations will be proud of.

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is the secretary, Kenya Psychiatric Association and a lecturer at Moi University’s school of medicine; twitter @LukoyeAtwoli

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