Saturday, September 4, 2010

No place for tribalism in the new Kenya

One the greatest benefits of information technology is that it makes information available at the touch of the finger, and citizens can now access to some government data with relative ease.

In case in point is the census report published last week. Through the short message service, Kenyans were able to obtain population figures from the national level down to the grassroots.

Sadly, and as the Director General of National Bureau of Statistics reports, Kenyans then rushed to establish the relative size of the nation’s tribes--more than half the SMSs received at the census bureau wanted to know the size of one tribe or another.

And buoyed by the numbers, some 300 representatives of three of the country’s most populous communities called a meeting on September 2 in Nairobi to work out ways of forming a political alliance ahead of the 2012 elections.

For a country struggling to heal wounds of the post-election violence fuelled by parochial interests, this enthusiasm does not augur well for the future of the nation as a whole.

In post-independence Kenya, tribalism has been one of the most destructive forces threatening the evolution of towards a national outlook. The single most important reason for viewing everything through an ethnic prism can be squarely laid at the presidency and its imperial powers.

The Kenyan President has always enjoyed powers that promote skewed resource allocation and plum jobs for his tribesmen who, in turn, influence employment for their kinsmen in the civil service and parastals.

Entire communities have been socialised to think that to get anywhere they need to have some of their own in high places and that having one of their own as president is a matter of life and death. It is this kind of determinism that fed the flames of the post-election violence.

But this does not have to be the case. First, it is a fallacy to think that a president benefits all his tribesmen. It is only the elite from his tribe that get anywhere near the high table. For the majority, other than empty tribal pride, it matters precious little who occupies State House.

Secondly, with the new Constitution in place it will be extremely difficult for a sitting president to reward his tribesmen with plum jobs. And with a devolved government, resources should be channeled equitably to the counties thereby rendering marginalisation of some regions impossible.

Hopefully, the new Constitution will be reinforced by legislation to ensure that people will no longer depend on individuals to receive national resources or services. Indeed, the new Constitution provides a golden opportunity for the emergence of nationalism untainted by negative ethnicity.

Kenyans must therefore work exceptionally hard to disabuse themselves of this obsession with the tribe, a mind set that has no place in the new Kenya.

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