Monday, December 26, 2011

The tribal catch 22... We Do Not need it in Kenya!

It is the people of Kenya who must be as tall as giraffes and look all around, not get stuck in small houses and windows... 

photo by Martti Lintunen, Finland

No doubt this is a marvellous photo. See many more giraffe in the article. My kind friend and photographer Martti Luntinen is reminded of curiosity by this photograph. The giraffe has already climbed the stairs outside. It is on second floor. It could reach the third floor. But with its head inside the house, it cannot see the third floor. What is more is that it's neck could be stuck in there. That is not place for her. It is a giraffe in the wrong place? Many Kenyans are not using their grace and voice to resolve the problems of xenophobia that we all face for being different. 

Back to the photo. The house is beautiful. It is fine that it is old. Something happens to both the beauty of the giraffe and of the house however. We only get to see the giraffe's flank and wonderful legs.It is still beautiful. I know that her eyes are powerful but her vision is not for seeing inside beautiful houses. She must see above trees and in the long range. He must see better than a gazelle. We, the people of Kenya have to see far and wide for us to love the 'other'. We must stop building little 'tribal' homes now. It is time to build a home called Kenya. The mentality of if everything is not in my house then it cannot be anywhere else must vanish. And State House must not be run like an elders hut.

The politician who called himself a giraffe was Moi. I do not know. What I know is that if we have a Kenyan Awakening, we shall be better for it. We have weaknesses but none as dangerous as our view of 'us' and 'them'. I am going to talk about Kenya's weak point at this time and before- tribalism.

The giraffe and the leopard or cheetah have something in common. I found out about cameleorpardis when I wondered about the relationship between a giraffe and a camel. We must not get held by stereotypes. They are awful. Between a giraffe and a camel, there is a strong link. However, alone in the bush without birds, without elephants and other animals, giraffe would be unhappy. Crocodiles too would be unhappy alone in rivers. No matter their tears.Hippos too.  No matter their eyes. Diversity is great in humans too.

It was not just that Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki have been tribal in their approach to national life. It was also the way of the British. The wound is deep but we must heal it. We must find a way, like a giraffe does to see and to drink water. We cannot waste time on this, it is dangerous. Once reason is clouded one can never tell what happened. Our words must be clear especially this coming year, an election year. No to this blindness! We must lead ourselves, we cannot trust the politicians.

Tribalistic drivel robbing Kenyans of power to reason and common sense

Many of us in Kenya, but not all of us have seen how a giraffe drinks water. The gracious animal puts its front legs astride and makes room for its long neck to fall to the ground. Then it 'whoops' down as I like to imagine gulps and gulps of water, gallons in the end. They run like a river down a long throat. The joke about a giraffe that has a sore throat I heard often. 

I wish that we in Kenya learn to look outside of ourselves, outwards. It is hard to do this when those in power look inwards all the time. Into their 'house'. The speak of 'our people' meaning 'our tribe'.  'Our presidential candidate' (whatever that means if he or she is tribal), our own (US) versus the 'other'. Right now this discussion is worrying. I remember it towards 2007 and an election that ended in 1 333 deaths, massive rapes and transmission of HIV/Aids virus and the growth of suspicion and even a word I dislike but is real. Hatred. No matter what, we have to try and be above the big challenge humans have with 'otherness'. Remember the lioness who brought up an oryx? She did not care that this was another species.

Stamp of Kenya pic by Philo Ikonya

I wish that Kenyans such as Hassan Omar the head of the Kenya National Commission of Human Rights could help us with the truth.. I completely agree with him and was incensed and said it on media about Kenya Revenue Authority being so Kibaki's people top heavy. Kibaki, I lost hope after your election in 2002 when you started inviting old men and business pals to State House once again making it a home of buddies of your age and ridge. 

I expected better because your children and grandchildren I saw were not so tribally educated? When my poet friend and I found your daughter drinking at a pub, she was not drinking traditionally from a horn. She was on her own. She drank silently in a corner. My poet friend told me she always did that. Judas had before told me that you also used to drink long and hard alone in your garden in the mornings. And that was not traditional either. What is this about tribal leanings?

I saw Moi take us back to a place of tribe that many of us had left. I saw education retreat to villages when people could no longer go to secondary schools outside of their home areas. I saw us dwindle from a people who were becoming a nation of many different nations of Kenya into people only aware that the President is of this or the other race. 

We must enrich Kenya with better presence in a whole spectrum of society. This should be so in Civil Society and that is not all. Kenya needs a very strong group of leaders with moral authority and voice but who are not going into politics. Our politics like politics everywhere perhaps but more so in Afrika is not ours. It is so divisive and dangerous that even as some must go into it, others with clear and well heard voices must remain vigilant outside of politics. This level of leadership must be cultivated. We cannot talk of Kenya as if a president were enough. It is not possible. We must change things. We must recognize leadership not just at a political level but at many other levels of our society. We have to be there to staring without blinking. Watchful. 

By John Berga of Stavanger in Norway
(Eye of giraffe in Kenya)

Omar, teach us to be above political rhetoric no matter what his own goals may be. I remember the MP for Kikuyu was of interest to Omar Hassan before he got his posting  and so were many others. I remember Hassan Omar protecting me and other human rights defenders so very often. At that time we did not think, at least I have never thought of us as group from here and not there. We cannot do it now. The people are as tall as giraffes and they have good eyes. We cannot allow ourselves to lead them to look into small windows if they want to see Kenya as one house with many rooms as my photo shows. There will be many doors of exit and entry. It is dangerous to join in sectarian chats on the presidency because you could have millions of misled voters belonging to a group you talk against digging in and insisting and we all saw what happened in 2007/2008. 

Seize your freedom Kenya ! Take it once and for all. Kenya  has had 48 years of independence and we are not free

It behoves the Uhuru or independence generation, and even younger generations of Kenyans to awaken. We have to light a different fire. To do that, we have to borrow some fire from somewhere. We do not have to re-invent the discovery of fire.

Look. Mohammed Bouazizi awakened the Arab world. Look. You have known fighters for freedom in Kenya. They were never fighting for one tribe. They did not fight for a presidency and no land. We, today are threatened with a diminished scope.

We must light ourselves up inside and awaken. Forget about just voting an individual in. Make yourself feel and be as important as the Head of State. Kenya is your country. The Head of State is you. It is not the person who will be voted in as president. It is all of us. You will be the president of Kenya. Then the president of Kenya will live like all of us. Then the president of Kenya will be someone who knows that all of us are that person and those close to her or him in whom we invest our power through our vote.

It would be strange to vote in a new constitution and we did that in August 2010, get more freedom and still remain as at independence only level. We must claim our space. We must be and are important. We are the people who have to say.

If a young person is busy talking this or that tribe. If a person is looking at many millions of Kenya as just a tribe who have no right to this and that, then this person has grown older than the oldest and erred. You may think I live in an ivory tower.

Daily, we are told what politicians did. How they travelled, what they ate. Who visited them. Where they are going tomorrow. And where are we going tomorrow, 2012 as a nation? 

Politicians are the headline news of our country. They have become the main thoughts that we have. So often, they speak. You do not hear of an agenda. The media does not push them to tell us why they want to become presidents.
Or why they sit together across ethnic divides whenever they need a position. And as for Omar, Omar is every group of Kenya, that is why he is heading a human rights organization in Kenya. The Kenya National Human Rights Comission. Watch out for Kenya all of you, not just for your own agenda.

By Marisa Fushile


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