Two Cents and a Tribal Penny

Finally, Kenya has a new president elect. His name? Hon. Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta. While some Kenyans are quick to point out how dissatisfied they are with his victory, others are very much enthused about this.

I, in particular, am glad that the gears of life can now move at their normal pace. Children going to school, industrial workers marching to their workplaces, TV channels airing their normal broadcasts, and me back at my corner. That street corner which I hold very dear. It’s at a crossroad, by the way. A crossroad intersected at the junction of Personal Biases and Moral Reason. It is here that I spend my endless days, either standing, or in a crouched position. One or the other. Today, I’m doing the latter. Because I love being able to feel the pavement occasionally as I empty myself of thoughts and emotions that afflict me. Connecting with the mother earth, throwing pebbles into the small pool of water next to the road’s drainage vents. At most times this process feels quite fitting with my mood.

Am I right or wrong in being on this corner, or holding the views I’m about to lay bare? I don’t know. Do I have any moral ground to feel offended by the state of affairs in this country? Read on, maybe you’ll understand. All I know is that whether right or wrong, justified or unjustified, I am entitled to hold a position. A position I hope people will, by the end of this rant, respect. Don’t get me wrong, I have no misgivings whatsoever on the outcome of the election. All I can’t allow myself to do is hold my tongue. If I do hold back my tongue from uttering what I feel to be true…(heck, let me rephrase that). I try my best never to speak out of turn or provocatively, but sure as the tides come back to shore, I do not hold back my tongue on things I feel strongly about.

There’s this scene in the beginning of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘HiiPower’ video with a snapshot of his written outtake. He talks about Lesane Parish Crooks visiting him in his sleep and giving him a message. Who the hell is Lesane? I bet you good ol’ uncle Google has lots to say about him. Moving on though, K-Dot was given a message – one we don’t get to see. But throughout the song, there is a feel of the mission he might have been given to accomplish. You should make a point of watching that video. Even if you’re so in love with Justin Bieber (choke), or the quack-queen Nicki Minaj.

Now, back to the motherland. Throughout history, or from what my history classes have taught me, there has been some sort of long-standing rivalry between our dear brothers and sisters from the Mt. Kenya region, and those from the Lake Victoria region. For those with no recollection, the story goes that:

Once upon a time, yeah – once upon a time, many many light years ago, before King Napoleon met up with Luke Skywalker and shared a marijuana joint with him…there was harmony between the two tribes. In the face of colonial oppression, one Jomo Kenyatta was imprisoned along with five of his comrades. The fight for independence needed a face that spoke of a clear vision for a free Kenya. Mzee Kenyatta was the only one we could turn to, but note that he was behind bars (or perhaps a mud hut would be more befitting with their times). So, for those who still had the lucky essence of being free-men, work had to be done for Mzee to be released. By all means, he had to be released. Hence began the work and struggle to have the Kapenguria Six liberated, with one of those fighting for this release being the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. In due time, freedom for the six was achieved. Now here’s where the sweet tasting coffee, that was the fight for independence, got its dash of sour.

As with any deal, whether business or political, one of the parties has to return the favour shown by the other. Whether or not the agreement was entered into by mutual consent, an honourable man returns a favour just as he would honour a promise. Unfortunately, in the case of Kenya’s fight for freedom, the late Jaramogi, Kenya’s Vice President as appointed by the late president, disagreed with Kenyatta’s approach to governance on more occasions than once. Naturally, he quit his position in government and formed a different party. But despite this, the friction between the two only degenerated, leading to Jaramogi’s arrest, and two year detention, after a verbal exchange of bitter words between him and Mzee Kenyatta in Kisumu.

Fast forward through the years and you will find that Jaramogi’s opposition to Mzee Kenyatta’s rule never ceased, even after his death. This bitterness he held permeated into the hearts of his tribes’ mates owing to his influence as a Luo leader. Members of the political class also felt cheated by the late Mzee’s rule, with the deaths or disappearances of those vocally outspoken against this rule eventually leading to a side-eyed view of Kenyatta’s tribes’ mates. Untimely, those views once held by our grandparents are what gave birth to the enmity exhibited between both sides of what was once a mere case of a political fall-out.

Now, what am I really trying to say?

I’m saying that Kenya has come too far for us, as citizens of different ethnicities, to keep holding onto the same bad blood that our grandparents or parents once held. The age-old view of an ‘us against them’ battle for political or tribal supremacy is dim-witted and regressive. Kenyans are still, in this day and age, holding onto tribal placards and shouting from the depths of their tribal bellies, (with diction hampered by mother-tongue interference) at how this tribe has lost and this tribe has won. Seriously and literally speaking, no tribe has won, and none has lost either. Tribally speaking however, people feel that the Kikuyus have won and the Luos have lost. Heck the Kikuyus might even feel that ‘they’ have won, while Luos may feel like ‘they’ have been cheated of a victory.

Allow me to indulge you: I recently saw a post, or was it an argument, between supporters of two different candidates (namely Raila Odinga and Uhuru Odinga), and boy was it colourful. Here’s how the tickling competition played out:

Dimwit A, a die-hard Raila supporter, writes something akin to “I hope Ruto is cheated so that he knows how devious Kyuks are.”

Dimwit B, a die-hard Uhuru supporter, responds, “Hatuwezi mtoka. Tutampea post ya PM.” (Translated as: We can’t deceive him. We’ll give him the Prime Minister’s post.)

My questions are these:

Why does Dimwit A think as ill of the Kikuyus as to brand them, and I believe he meant all of them – collectively, as conniving? Additionally, why is he so darn pessimistic about an Uhuru presidency? I mean, the guy hasn’t even been sworn in yet this Dimwit A has already pegged his bet on Honourable Ruto being cheated.

Onwards, who are these ‘WE’ that Dimwit B mentions? Is there a brain in a glass jar somewhere called ‘WE’ that calls all the shots on his behalf/on behalf of his tribe? Furthermore, what role exactly does this Dimwit B play in the larger scheme of things? Should we know about it? Because I believe Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta has his own band of advisors. Advisors who would definitely not be uttering nuisances such as “Hatuwezi mtoka.”

Nonetheless, the whole thing went on for quite some time. For those well versed with Facebook, Dimwit A’s post garnered well over 60 comments. By my count, 38 were Anti-Raila/Pro-Uhuru comments, with Dimwit B scoring 15 out of the 38. The remaining 22 were split between two camps. 12 made by Dimwit A, in an effort to save his skin from being exhibited in the Smithsonian museum, and 10 made by Pro-Raila/Anti-Uhuru aficionados. A real tyranny of numbers, don’t you agree?

For anyone reading this, sorry to say this but: nothing, and I repeat – nothing, of any benefit and any fundamental nature, comes from your (or my) fellow tribes-mate being the president of this country. My life will be the same old struggle it has always been, and you will still face the same old problems you always have. In no way whatsoever, will an Uhuru Kenyatta presidency make it easier for a Kikuyu guy to score a chic, nor will a Luo have it hard since Raila did not win the elections. Neither will it be any easier for girls from Nyeri to deny the hack-attack skills they have come to be known for, nor will a Luo girl have it hard trying to argue out the reason as to why they are well endowed in the rear department. (And I mean – very, very endowed.) We will still be us, no matter who, or what, becomes president.

But the fact remains, every child brought up within the beautifully landscaped confines of this country, Kenya, was brought up in a tribal homestead. Go on, deny it all you want. But the truth is painful. So deal with it. For those honest enough to agree, you will attest to being given the notion of your tribesmen being the darlings of morality, while members of the other tribe X were branded as being the trailblazers of all evils to ever befall this earth. This is non-disputable, UNLESS (note the words in block) one’s parents/grandparents were of mixed tribes. However, that alone did not completely shut out the room to paint other tribes in bad light.

Kenyans are so divided on tribal lines that if, and when, aliens come and invade the earth, some people will still cling onto each other with tribally-stained nails saying, “That tribe is to blame for this invasion. They are the ones who have been known to talk to aliens. I once heard one of their women say she sired a child with an alien from Pluto – that planet farthest from the sun. Imagine that.”

Why do we continue to perpetuate these tribal animosities, when we are well beyond them in a matter of social speak? I have dated people from tribes other than mine, and I currently am. I sure you have too, or are in the process of gaining the favour of a boy/girl from a land other than yours. Yet when the time comes for people to align their political allegiances, everyone rushes back to the warm cocoon that our tribes offer, so readily, every electioneering period. Friends go at it against fellow friends; couples involve themselves in tongue lashing contests; families chase away sons and daughters-in-law who hail from tribes other than theirs; and the whole country vanishes since we are no longer a people, but tribal armies.

Politicians turn into tribal chieftains, and family heads become their tribal henchmen. You do what your parents and relatives say because their way of thought matches well with how you were brought up. You start noticing those “evil” attributes you were always told about in this or that tribe because, really, you look for them. Constantly praying that you may see, and confirm, them for yourself how much of thieves they are; or how they are ready to take arms against you in the case of a loss. If I may point out, what you wish for is what you get. And for as long as you wish to see the evil in others, that’s all you will see. Your conscience will be completely blinded from seeing their virtues. Virtues like how Raila helped fight for an open democracy, being repeatedly arrested and detained in the process; or how Uhuru Kenyatta totally and absolutely declined to sign off on pay perks for parliamentarians. Really noble and selfless virtues if I may add.

But no…we all willingly shut our eyes from what we don’t want to see, Why? Because you don’t want to think with your conscience, but along the lines of that attribute we adopt along the way of life – TRIBALISM. Give tribalism a break, damn it. Better yet, break the curse. So that our kids, if and when they come about, may have a break from this ‘us against them’ tribal war. Trust me, they wouldn’t be able to survive it. They won’t have the brains to do so. What with the ever rising amount of mentally-degrading content on TV and the radio. So let’s stop it while we can.

No matter how much more I say though, or how many more paragraphs I bang onto this aging keyboard, my only wish is this. That as I remain crouched by this corner, looking at people speeding down the highway of Personal Biases, that some of you may notice the stop sign and look down the lane of Moral Reason. Forget what your daddy said, or what your mommy said. Be you. Be your own individual. Wake up and listen to yourself talking ill of your friend’s/boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s tribe, or even your husband’s/wife’s tribe. Give it a break. It’s been way too long to be talking about the same thing. Let’s talk about Vision 2030; how Luo girls are well endowed; how Kikuyu girls are light skinned and sometimes very beautiful; how Luhya girls have the sexiest calves in Kenya; or even how Maasai girls are the only girls who look good with gap-teeth. Please, for our own sake, let’s talk about anything that will help change the topic of tribe being an issue.

And as I now toss the 2 cent coin I’ve been holding onto into that small pool of water, besides the drainage vents, I pray that you may notice my solitary and desperate state. And that you may have the urge to, at the least, wave at me as you shift gears and head down the lane on the right of the crossroad. The right lane – the lane of Moral Reason. It’s a small lane, but with a big capacity.

Let’s take it, please.

#np Swim Good – Frank Ocean

“…I’m about to drive in the ocean/ i’mma try to swim from something bigger than me/ kick off my shoes and swim good, and swim good/ take off this suit and swim good, and swim good…”