There is a saying that a lazy farmer blames his tools. In nearly all African countries there is a claim of monster “eating” people. That monster is called “tribalism.”
Former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi used to cry, “Tribalism is the cancer of African governments.” Is tribalism an epidemic African disease or it is a universal disease?
The Kenyan nation, like many other nations in Africa, is composed of people from different ethnic (tribal) communities. Kenya has 42 tribes. Some of them are so diverse from others that they speak languages which are 100 different from the others. Take for example the linguistic difference between Nilotic and Bantu communities. The two communities are actually the blue print of the Kenyan tribes. The Nilotic community is subdivided into other communities with distinct linguistic differences. So are the Bantu communities. All of them are described as tribes collectively. Each one of them is a nation by its own right.
When the British colonized Kenya for seventy years they did little to develop a sense of nationalism among the tribes. The matter started off by colonizers drawing boundaries to mark out their territories.
Boundaries which cut out Kenya from the neighbouring countries had absolutely nothing to do with the communities in their formation. Colonizers didn’t consult the communities in designing those countries. They treated the communities like wild animals and fauna. It was in colonial interests to isolate each tribe from the other for better governance. That, by all means, did not constitute what one refers to as a nation.
So who made Kenya a nation, for example? When and who taught the Kenyan tribes to come together and live and behave like a nation when for the seventy years they were treated as independent communities from one another? Before colonialism those tribes lived independently.
When colonialism came to an end, without initiating a dialogue among the tribes, Kenya was declared a nation under one administration. Thereafter, of course, it was expected to behave like a nation with patriotic ambitions. The truth is that nobody negotiated with Maasais or Kikuyus or Somalis or Luos or any other tribe to form a union called a government and a nation called Kenya. Instead, that union, which had been designed by white people, was imposed on the tribes. Obviously, it would be absurd or even unreligious for anyone to expect the tribes to respect each other. If anything, they are likely to feel like different animals forced to live in a common paddock.
Jomo Kenyatta, the first President of Kenya, like all other post-colonial presidents in Africa, did not think it fit to make those freed tribes negotiate how to live together harmoniously. Jomo Kenyatta behaved just like the colonials in thinking that the tribes were a united single community. The devil is in the details of how Kenyatta governed those different communities and how he shared the “national” resources among them. Look at what Kenya is socially, economically, morally and who is who in Kenya and see why.
It is stupid of anyone to put the blame of what is happening to a monster called tribalism. In the first place, Kenya has never had a true statesman capable of addressing the problem caused by colonialism. The presidents we have had have in Africa have been behaving more or less like tribal chiefs. Birds of the same feather flock together, isn’t it? Blood is thicker than water, isn’t it? We are crying foul because we have been ruled by tribal chiefs who have hardly been better than the British.
The British ruled this country to cater for their own interests. If the Kenyan Kikuyus are wealthier and more privileged than citizens from other communities, in this respect, it is simply because since independence Kenya has been ruled by three Kikuyu Presidents and only one none-Kikuyu President.
If we have to make any headway, first we must return to the drawing board to negotiate how and why we should live together harmoniously and take pride in it. Before that has taken place, to think and expect nationalism is not only unreasonable but stupid!