‘Sagana summits’ should not be happening in 21st-century Kenya

Sunday December 01 2019

President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives at Sagana State Lodge in Nyeri for a meeting on November 15, 2019. What made the Sagana event more of a tribal congregation than a national one is the fact that the participants were drawn largely from one region and mostly from one community. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The gathering of leaders from Mt Kenya region at Sagana State Lodge recently might not have been the first but, I hope, for the sake of national unity, it will be the last.

There is nothing more ethnocentric than the President of the Republic being seen as kowtowing to one community in a country of nearly 50 million in an ethnically divided country.

It is understandable that Mt Kenya leaders should cry foul for having been neglected by the government — if, indeed, that is true.

And this, we learnt, was the reason for the hurriedly organised summit to address their woes. But now, the other communities will similarly come out crying of neglect.

Would the President have the time and energy to run around mollycoddling all the cry babies of this world?

The problem with the Head of State reacting in such a manner just to appease an ethnic community is the risk of opening a Pandora’s box, where time and efforts are spent to placate all the rest and even their clans and sub-clans, which will only lead to further division.



On the face of it, tribal cocoons may seem harmless. But continuous conduct of leaders in a tribal way does not help to change the psyche of a country to think less of tribe and more of the nation.

The Tanzanian Foreign minister, Prof Palamagamba Kabudi, during his speech at the BBI report launch, gave fantastic examples of how Tanzanians consider themselves as Tanzanians first before their tribe.

We even learnt that Tanzania has had Kikuyu, Maasai and Kipsigis in its governance structure.

Tribal talk in Kenya is not confined to the country’s borders. When a Kenyan meets another abroad, the second question they would always ask is, “Where are you from?”, meaning, “Which is your tribe?”

From there, some of them would choose where to place you.

And it is mostly in two boxes: tribe and political party. The information is very crucial, too, in deciding whether you are worthy an invite to a nyama choma party!


I’m not suggesting that we can’t get together to discuss issues that affect our communities. Tribe is the monster we can’t avoid but can learn to live with.

But if the issues at hand are of national importance, our leaders ought to separate tribe from nation.

For me, what makes Sagana more of a tribal congregation than a national one is the fact that the participants were drawn largely from one region and mostly from one community.

The irony of this is that, what was to be discussed also touched on and concerned the rest of the country — be it the local economy or BBI.

Economic discussions are a very easy excuse to use in Kenya to isolate investment in other parts of the country.

I don’t believe one part of Kenya should be given priority and more attention because it’s closer to the centre of power.

It means other areas that have no chance of ascending to the presidency will have a longer wait for lacking in numbers at the policy table.

Economic discrimination has been detrimental to the country. I believe the President should also have convened a ‘Sagana’ to help quell the weekly protests by the coastal residents over the declining local economy.


An economically stable Mombasa is to the benefit of the country. Mombasa is the hub of Kenya’s tourism. It also hosts one of the largest ports in East and Central Africa.

Mombasa is also the second largest city in the country and one of the highest contributors to the GDP.

Economic sabotage of parts of the country is an own goal by the State. There is more pride for Kenya to have prosperous tribes all round.

The President was reported as having wondered aloud recently why “Kenyans were broke”.

It is not entirely his fault, however, to not have the true picture of the struggles ordinary Kenyans go through. The problem is sycophancy, which has become entrenched in our society.

Those appointed to give the President feedback are busy painting a rosy picture of a country bursting at the seams with poverty, diseases, high cost of food, insecurity and unemployment for self-preservation.


It’s time President Kenyatta looked around those he relies on to achieve his goals. If there are dead weights, then he must consider offloading them.

He needs a team that is people-focused and ready to engage with him and the public honestly with a view to improving lives.

As Kenyan youth keep saying, ni kubaya (life is tough). But all is not lost as long as we find the solution to our political and economic woes as a Kenyan nation and not ethnic blocs.

We must stop being inward-looking — as Sagana summits exemplify. The Kenyan nation can only be built by looking outwards to all communities.

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected] @kdiguyo