Tackle tribalism by engaging young people in rural areas

Friday January 12 2018

There is a great need for critical thought in tackling tribalism in Kenya. Its root cause, in my opinion, is political incitement.

I concur with an interesting argument that was made by Alan Masakhalia, a Kenyan political scientist, who said, in his article ‘Focus on Tribalism in Kenya,’ that tribalism cannot be traced to ancient warfare amongst Kenyan tribes since each lived in their own distinct areas.

British colonialists introduced the principle of divide-and-rule in Kenya, which then amplified the major differences in the cultures and traditions of different tribes. Consequently, there began to exist tension, suspense and mistrust.

This style of ruling was adapted by the leaders at independence and is still in existence today. The tool that they use to rise into power is tyranny of numbers — a hypothesis developed by Mutahi Ngunyi.


It postulates that the more supporters our political leaders are able to draw from their ethnic groups, the higher the number of votes they are likely to receive during elections.

As a result, they target the support of as many ethnic groups as they can, dividing the country along tribal lines.

Oftentimes, they hold their campaigns in the specific regions where their tribes reside and give many promises. Arguably, many of these promises are not fulfilled once these leaders are elected into power.

Due to political differences between people from different tribes (usually a ruling party against opposition party supporters), tensions persist between them, especially when the political atmosphere is sparked as elections draw near.


Tribal difference lead to tension, which erupts in violence as was witnessed in the 2017 general elections.

The aftermath of tribalism in Kenya is disunity and animosity, its worst being the 2007-2008 post-election violence which led to deaths and mass displacement of citizens, leaving an indelible scar.

This calls for a need to analyse this cancer called tribalism.

According to the Youth Voice Journal, 84 percent of Kenyan youth aged 15 to 24 years live in rural areas and lack access to information, despite its importance in tackling tribalism. This could be alleviated through other means such as holding workshops and training camps.

Engaging the youth in educative forums that foster the development of critical thinking will mould them into future leaders who innovate practical and sustainable solutions to the problems we face. This will also contribute to the eradication of tribalism in Kenya.