Kenyan scholar Dr David Ndii penned an opinion piece in the Daily Nation 26th March with the eye catching title ‘Kenya is a cruel marriage, it is time to talk divorce.’ Many Kenyans share in the frustrations borne out of pernicious socio-economic inequalities both horizontal and vertical. However few would welcome the proposal of annulling this great republic even as a last resort.
While sharing in the opinion that tribalism and corruption are likely to thwart our claim to nationalism, breaking up the nation into micro-states as proposed by Dr Ndii may result in an unimaginable apocalypse whose pain could prove unbearable.
Once the proposed nation states are established through whichever treaties, millions of Kenyans will be at risk of forcible transfer back to their ancestral homes. This will include Kenyans living in Nairobi , Nakuru, Mombasa and other major towns and in some cases rural areas. It is highly likely that in the madness of ‘watu warudi makwao’ innocent citizens will be persecuted and even killed in waves of ethnic cleansing. Law and order may collapse for unspecified periods as the security forces are forced to redeploy and reorganise along ethnic lines. A fight within the disciplined forces could even ensue spilling to the citizenry.
While we concede that deep, horizontal comradeship has not fully taken root in Kenya, we must acknowledge the interaction that was commonplace among different Kenyan communities before , during and after colonialism. This interaction pre-eminently seen in marriages , education, spiritual fellowships and business has made Kenyan communities heavily interdependent on one another more than maybe appreciated at first sight. Splitting the country into forty plus states would break up families, disrupt education and set the mini-states backwards in commerce, philosophy and spirituality.
I share in the opinion that we have squandered a few chances to unite. The greatest responsibility for these failures must be carried by those who have had the chance to lead the nation namely our former presidents and their henchmen. The advent of multi-party democracy was particularly unique given that most of the second liberation heroes had suffered under the one party oppressive state. However greed for power and selfishness among the opposition leaders of the early 1990s and to a small extent ideological differences became the Achilles heel of FORD – the progressive movement of the day. Seeds of tribal discord were sown and KANU ruled for another ten years into the new millennium.
The seeds of ethnic chauvinism from the 1990s have germinated and grown into carnivorous ‘triffids’ feeding on nationalism. Needless to say , ethnicity is seen as a legitimate gateway to national leadership and all major political leaders in Kenya today boast tribal strongholds(unashamedly). This is fraud and a continuation of the first sin by the founding fathers. Greed for power by a handful of elites has turned our elections into ethnic supremacy contests instead of being seen as a competition between ideas and development programs.
Democracy should ideally provide us with reasonable insurance against bad leadership. However ethnicity, corruption and weak institutions have compounded the Kenyan national headache. Kenyan scholars must continue advancing a debate that seeks to customize democracy to fit our diversity. I have found arguments around a rotating presidency particularly compelling.
If project Kenya succumbs to a break up, I am not sure if the resulting states will enjoy good governance and security. The devolution experiment has already given us glimpses on how micro-states would face management hurdles including corruption and clanism. The civil war in south Sudan should also provide caution that while communities will unite to fight a perceived common enemy, the same communities tend to implode once the uniting objective is removed or met.
There may be no magic bullet that will immediately fix the problem of tribalism. However Kenyans must know that leadership through the aristocracy of tribal messiahs is a sure path to destruction. We must start by rejecting ethnic chiefs and their coalitions.Kenya needs more ideologues going into leadership and inaugurating the spirit of Nyerereism in Kenya.We want to see elected and appointed leaders using public schools and hospitals. The over 11,000 security officers who watch over these privileged leaders should be freed to deal with threats such as terrorism, cattle rustling and violent crimes in our homes and streets.
Its not enough to simply declare that the Kenyan prognosis is grave then sit on the fence. If project Kenya fails, it will be our pain and shame before the world. We must fight to protect the Kenyan civilization.
Tanzania has more than one hundred tribes but nobody in that country cares very much about ethnic identity. The mistakes of Kenyatta, moi , kibaki and Kenyatta cannot be fixed by destroying our Kenyan identity but strengthening it and employing new thinking to solve our chronic problems.