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Turning on our Somali brothers and sisters both foolish and self-defeating

Monday November 19 2012

By MACHARIA GAITHO

I spend a lot time on this page excoriating the greedy, thieving, lying, rabble-rousing, ethnic warmongers who pass for leaders in this country.

But at some point, we must accept our own culpability, for we get the leaders we deserve.

Mr Raila Odinga, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, Mr Musalia Mudavadi, Mr William Ruto and the whole kit and caboodle of them did not attain exalted status by themselves.

We pushed them up there because we were foolish enough to buy the lie that they are the defenders of our interests. All they did was exploit our own base instincts and herd us into the ethnic cocoons we so idiotically fall into.

It is confounding that in this day and age when we are thinking Vision 2030 and winning global plaudits for advances in communications technology, a majority of us are still stuck in the stone age.

That is why we blindly follow ethnic chieftains and obey their commands to go to war against neighbours.

It doesn’t strike us as odd that the leaders incite us to war as they sit together in private members’ clubs to gorge themselves, quaff wine, cut business deals and work out ethnic alliances.

The same foolish herd mentality is what makes us lash out at the slightest provocation against those of other ethnic communities or religious beliefs; even when it should be obvious that we are willingly falling into the traps set by provocateurs.

Events in Nairobi’s Eastleigh area after the Sunday grenade blast in a matatu bear this out. Howling mobs went on a rampage, targeting members of the Somali community.

The idiots did not stop to consider that they were only playing into the hands of extremists carrying out bomb attacks in Nairobi, Mombasa and Garissa with the aim of inciting religious and ethnic conflict.

It is true that the Al-Shabaab menace with roots across the border in lawless Somalia, has exported its insane brand of Islamic fundamentalism to Kenya.

It is also true that the extremist Islam has gained toeholds within the Somali community in Kenya, as well as within other Islamic communities, particularly at the Coast.

However lashing out indiscriminately at Somalis is as foolish as it is self-defeating. The mad bombers must be laughing themselves silly having succeeded in turning Kenyan against Kenyan.

By all means, let us fight terrorism with no quarter asked and no quarter given. But we will do that by identifying, isolating and killing the real terrorists, not by hitting out blindly at everyone and anyone on the basis of some uneducated ethnic and religious profiling.

As someone opined in a social media protest against mindless retaliation, not every Kikuyu is Mungiki and not every Luo is a stone-thrower. And not every Somali is Al-Shabaab.

Applying ethnic and religious stereotypes to identify enemies can be a very dangerous game in a cosmopolitan country where Kenyans have mixed without borders in every corner of the country.

We have seen in the past how morally bankrupt leaders designed and executed ethnic violence programmes in the early 1990s as a weapon against the multi-party campaign. Mentally bankrupt citizens obeyed commands to take up weapons against neighbours and drive them out of their homes.

The “final solution” was seen in the ethnic cleansing of the 2007-2008 post-election violence when the discourse shifted from resettling the displaced in their supposed ancestral homelands rather than allowing them back on the lands from which they were kicked out.

This is why Kenyans must collectively wise-up and see the bigger picture rather than be confined to narrow prisms.

The Somali people, by and large are peaceful, hard-working Kenyans whom we ought to emulate. That there are a few rotten apples in their midst cannot be an excuse to demonise the whole community.

It would help, however, if they came out more forthrightly against those that despoil the community.

If extremists and terrorists have infected the community, they must be exposed and punished as individuals; just as should any criminals within the Kikuyu, Turkana, Kalenjin and other communities.

The instinct to protect “our own” must not be allowed.