By Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation 12 January 2014
Observing social discourse in Kenya, one notices a subtle shift in
explaining the distribution of poverty and under-development in certain
areas and among individuals. In the past, within relatively
homogenous groups of Kenyans, the discussion invariably veered towards
“marginalisation” by the dominant tribe(s) in government.
or coalition of communities, would be labelled as oppressors of the
majority, and all members of this group would be accused of all sorts of
ills that resulted in most others sinking into poverty and want.
the so-called “oppressors,” however, the explanation for the opulence
in their midst would be put down to hard work and innovative
entrepreneurship. They would argue that they worked as
individuals to build their wealth, and that those who enjoyed any
favours from the State were in the minority and often transcended the
They would cite examples of people from other
tribes who have been engaged in large-scale looting of State resources,
and were extremely wealthy, while their own communities remained largely
REPETITION OF INCOMPLETE NARRATIVES
group was also more likely to explain the high poverty levels in the
rest of the country as being a product of laziness, excessive
politicking, or lack of the entrepreneurial spirit.
groups exemplify how insulating operating in an echo chamber can be.
Repetition of these obviously incomplete narratives turned them into
some sort of fact, gradually growing into self-fulfilling prophecies. Many
otherwise able-bodied youth would resort to begging or extortion, or
other more serious criminality, arguing that due to “marginalisation”,
they were unlikely to make it legitimately in this country.
all members of the “marginalised” group would be astounded whenever one
expressed a contrary opinion placing the larger share of the blame on
the complainers themselves. On the other hand, the wealthy
“oppressors” would be shocked to learn that there are genuinely
hard-working Kenyans who had been shafted by the system, whose property
had been looted, and whose opportunities had been shrunk by operation of
the largely ethnic-based system of cronyism.
The long and short
of this piece is to demonstrate how things have changed today. A new
coalition of “complainers” is emerging, and it has succeeded in
resurrecting an old ghost to aid its cause. Today, the
colonialist and his neo-colonialist ally are the main cause of our
problems, and any indigene who thinks otherwise is dismissed as their
lackey simply doing the bidding of his “foreign masters”.
Growing up in the 80s and 90s at the peak of Nyayo’s power, one was made acutely aware of the actual meaning of such terms. Being
called a subversive under the influence of foreign powers always meant
the withdrawal of the privileges of citizenship, and existence at
Critically examining the re-emergence of
this phenomenon leads one to only one conclusion: We are constantly
looking around us for scapegoats that can explain our failures in life,
and we are averse to taking responsibility for the negative consequences
of our actions.
In 2014, one can only hope that we shall discard
this time-wasting habit, examine our own actions and resolve to make
better decisions and accept the concomitant results. In order to develop
this lovely country of ours, we must leave the West (or the “other”
tribe) out of it!
We determine our own destiny!
Dr Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer at Moi University’s School of Medicine. firstname.lastname@example.org