By Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation 18 November 2012
Whenever one wants to quit a destructive habit, they are advised to find an alternative wholesome habit to replace it. Spending
time on more useful things ensures that little time is left to spend on
the destructive habit, and in time, the habit is eventually lost.
In my view, we could apply this principle in dealing with one of our most destructive national vices. Most
Kenyans appear to agree that making political choices based on a
politician’s ethnicity is a stupid habit that we need to lose if we are
to make any headway in achieving any of our national goals.
Independence, we have tried several strategies to deal with tribalism –
the philosophy that tribal affinity is the primary consideration
whenever a political or socio-economic decision is being made. We
have tried the path of nationalism and patriotism. We have been exhorted
to put our country first whenever we are making decisions.
have been reminded over and over again about there being unity in
strength, and that our ethnic diversity should be our source of
strength. We have even walked down the Najivunia kuwa Mkenya (Proud to be Kenyan) route with former government spokesman Alfred Mutua.
seems to work. Despite all the efforts to remind us that we must think
of ourselves as Kenyan first, we have had nepotism and tribalism
reigning supreme at the pinnacle of power in our country. We have
consistently voted for presidential candidates from our own tribes or
those who have been endorsed by our favourite tribal chieftains.
We have even had several mini-civil wars pitting us against our fellow citizens from another tribe. It
has gotten so bad that political parties are now known as “vehicles”
for tribes and their leaders to compete for positions against other
tribes and their leaders. Indeed, the current frenzy of political
alliance-making is an ill-disguised prelude to continued loot-sharing
between tribal chieftains.
Luckily, there is a way we can finally lay this ogre to rest if we really want to change our way of doing things. Although
it is absolutely true that we need to start with the youngest children
for lasting change to be realised, this idea always raises the question –
who will bell the cat?
adult with a rotten mind cannot teach purity to a child. It follows,
therefore, that we have to rely on the second-best strategy.
us allow the adults to make their decisions whichever way they want. Let
them elect their political leaders based on their tribal inclinations
if they want to. Let them buy all their food and clothes from
people who speak like them, look like them and dress like them. These
are their inalienable rights.
But let us also do something else to protect our children from this filthy ideology.
us not publicly ask our compatriots how they make their important
decisions. Let us not give them an opportunity to spout ignorant
ethnocentric tripe, and thus justify their primitive instinctual
decision-making processes. Perhaps then our children will grow up
believing that we are cleverer than we really are, and are always
rational whenever we are called upon to make decisions.
discussing the evils of tribalism, we may finally allow this ogre to
slink back into the dark, dank cave from which it periodically emerges
to torment us.
Dr Lukoye Atwoli is the secretary, Kenya
Psychiatric Association and a senior lecturer at Moi University’s school
of medicine firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter @LukoyeAtwoli