Though gentleness is not always a political virtue, the usually temperate manner in which Mr Musalia Mudavadi tackles most national social questions caresses me. That is why, personally, I have exactly nothing against the idea that Mr Mudavadi may one day become our President.
Yet it occasionally raises a disturbing question. Did President Uhuru Kenyatta once upon a time recently tell Mr Mudavadi that he – the President – had become “unfit to rule” and was, therefore, seeking a successor? That is a question that we, others, cannot answer one way or the other because we have only Mr Mudavadi’s word for it.
We have to say, however, that the allegation – made through the print media this week – is highly questionable. For even were it true, it would not be a socially proper statement for a serious politician to make at a time when Kenya’s intertribal political tensions appear to be rising again.
First, Mr Kenyatta, being a young, highly intelligent and well educated individual, appears to me to be most unlikely ever to seek to latch unilaterally onto his successor. The President of the Republic seems keenly aware that every one of his actions and, especially words, must be carefully weighed before it emerges from the mouth, especially on a key national topic like that.
For otherwise, careless words are most likely to cause a political maelstrom of the kind that, in its consequences, might resemble the tempestuous global winds that have quite recently nearly dismembered whole nearby Pacific Ocean nations that lie directly southeast of Kenya. Whether inborn, or whether merely acquired, that is a blessed gift for the president of a young nation to enjoy because, rooted in Kenya’s very colonial history, intertribal suspicions and tensions can erupt, like the Vesuvius, into murderous national ethnic skirmishing at any time of the day or night.
Kenya is lucky that its leader, the son of Jomo – the founding father of our nation-state – does not appear to be a man given to the blatant ethnic small-headedness of the kind that characterises our other politicians: of the kind, moreover, that has torn so many young and volatile Third World nations into smithereens ever since they snatched their independence from Europe.
The post-colonial tribalism that has torn whole Third World countries to fragments – especially in Africa – must be attributed to European colonialism because that colonialism was what forced all those hitherto independent disparate ethnic groups into single houses called colonies tyrannised by Europe. With preferential treatment of the colonially educated elites of those ethnic communities and without any effort by the subsequently independent regimes to remove the consequential tensions between those ethnic elites, post-colonial rivalries would become ineluctable between the elites of such large tribes as Gikuyu, Kalenjin, Kamba, Luhya, Luo and Mijikenda.
As a direct result of it, none of Kenya’s political parties is based on any of the social ideals that you might call ideologies. No. Kenya’s polls are nothing but contentions between leaders of large ethnic communities motivated only by the prospects of personal power and personal riches. That is among the uglinesses of our party politics.
For it means that, in Kenya, no individual from such small ethnic groups as the Arab, English, Embu, French, Gusii, Kalasinga, Maasai, Scot, Somali, Taita and Teso will ever ascend to State House. As a Suba – a small insular community in the Nyanza Gulf of Lake Victoria – I can never dream even of entering the kidumbwedumbwe because I know that no Meru or Taveta individual will vote for me. Yet we call it “democracy” merely because – in the language of those who introduced that political “ideal” to us – any “majority” is excellent as rulers even if – as the Germans will testify – that alleged “majority” is composed merely of Adolf Hitler’s race-goaded ragamuffins.