Kenyan politicians will never cease to amaze. Many of them are people gifted with high levels of hypocrisy, double-speak and mendacity and they do not even feel any shame when they peddle lies that are at cross-purposes with what they practice. Take for instance the issue of tribalism. Many politicians, especially at this time of heightened political tensions, will always accuse their opponents of practising tribalism.
But they will not look at themselves in the mirror in the morning, think carefully what they intend to say during the next campaign meeting, and moderate their utterances. All they know is that everyone else is a tribalist while they themselves are nationalists, even when they surround themselves with advisers, strategists and supporters from their home counties.
For the past two years and even longer, opposition politicians have been peddling the narrative that the ruling party is populated by tribalists. Yet they have all been busy courting the loyalty of their kinsmen and women as the stepping stones to high political office.
Take, for instance, former Vice-President Musalia Mudavadi. This is a man who has tried his hand at the presidency and failed. But despite pretending to be a nationalist of impeccable pedigree, the other day he agreed with alacrity to be named as spokesman of the “Mulembe Nation”. What is this “nation” but an aggregation of Luhya sub-tribes? My take is that he only did it because he realised that if the Luhya united behind him, they may have the numbers to propel him to the highest office, or close to it.
Unfortunately for him, another player from the same “nation”, Mr Moses Wetang’ula, has for a long time harboured the same ambition, and he has worked hard to woo his tribesmen and women to his side. But the way things are going, if the Bungoma Senator does not toe the line, swallow his pride and agree to play second fiddle to Mr Mudavadi, he will be labelled a traitor to his tribe.
Right now, in many people’s minds, this is what has been happening to his soul-mate, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, because he says he wants to become president. It was amusing to read about the two joining forces in a trip to Embu County where they asked the residents to vote out Jubilee and thus get rid of negative ethnicity.
But a week ago, the same Musyoka was celebrating the co-option of a small party, Muungano, by his own party Wiper. Now, Muungano happens to be led by a fellow Mkamba, and Mr Musyoka unabashedly explained that this union would allow him greater bargaining power to gun for the Nasa leadership. In other words, if everyone in the Kamba nation was with him, then he would be in a stronger position to be nominated the flag-bearer.
It is thus obvious that accusations about negative tribalism only come into play as a potent weapon with which to whip political adversaries, otherwise it becomes a vital card to play when the same individuals lust for power. Can you beat that for hypocrisy?
It is obvious that ethnicity is a major player in our politics. Every aspirant, and not just those in Jubilee, wants numbers on his side for the same reasons. And if you can play the tribal card, accuse others of tribalism and get away with it, the better.
Let us put it this way; belonging to a tribe has never been a crime. We all belong to one or the other. But when it colours everything we do, when it becomes an obsession and rules our lives, when we only view our country and the world through that prism, this is what is known as negative ethnicity, one of the most destructive forces in this country. If you happen to be a member of the same tribe as the President or his deputy, you become an immediate suspect and a tribalist to boot.
How you have always related with members of other ethnic communities doesn’t count.
It is time Kenyans realised that they are always being taken for a ride by politicians in their selfish quest for power. We are made to start hating one another months to an election, and in our stupidity, we forget that tomorrow we shall depend on each other in our daily lives while the winners celebrate and the losers mope in undeserved opulence.