Let us just speak the truth here. You can choose to disagree, but the fact is: we are in a more dangerous precipice than we have ever been. Let us just admit it, we all got to the voting boot, the tribe in us came calling. So should we should not really hate ourselves, rather we should build a reality around this premise.
90% of Kikuyus don’t hold a favorable opinion of the Luo community. The many Kikuyus I have spoken to, think of the Luos as loud and arrogant without even the slightest grasp of what business is. In fact I just lost a prospective girlfriend/wife for being a Raila sympathizer.
90% of Luos don’t hold a positive attitude towards the Kikuyu community. The many Luo friends who have spoken to me have proclaimed the usual stereotypes of Kikuyus being thieves with a maniacal obsession with money. These stereotypes are a part of our everyday discourse. Some take it with a light touch. Some loathe it. But even in our local comedy, we exploit them to the bone.
The Luo-Kikuyu problem has been there and it is not going anywhere. We should be thankful that the two communities don’t share a border; otherwise the history of this country will be very much different. The mutual contempt, hatred and prejudice cannot be wished away. Even the voting patterns reflect this sad, if shameful state of affairs. It is always like a protest that the other tribes will pick on whom to side with under the able guidance of their tribal chieftains who switch sides more frequently than you wink in a day.
As one Ugandan journalist put it: the fact that Uhuru and Raila received more than 95% of the votes cast in their respective strongholds is already an unhealthy situation for country that ascribes to democracy. I couldn’t agree more. But as the argument goes, the Luos have ever supported a Kikuyu for the top position. Legend has it that Oginga Odinga unselfishly refused to take the presidency in 1963 until Kenyatta could be released from jail. When Kenyatta got out of jail, Odinga agreed to deputize him. A few years down the line, ideological differences drove former friends apart with something historic happening in Kisumu in 1969, the year Tom Mboya was assassinated.
The fall-out consigned the Luos to a life of misery where they had little in the way government goodies, given how they used to be distributed. When Moi took over, the man who wanted to overthrow him was also a Luo and the misery continued. The fact that the Luos (and the many others opposed the dictatorship of Moi), meant that there were fewer Luos in top government jobs.
In 2002, Raila declared ‘Kibaki Tosha’ and that effectively removed the dictatorship of Moi. In 2007, we all know what happened and Raila was still forced to play second fiddle. Many have come to accuse the Odingas of naïve complacent that has been costly. Where some see an unselfish trait, a trait that wants the best for the country, others sees utter buffoonery and the conclusion many have arrived at is that the Kikuyus will never, ever, ever vote for anyone who is not one of them. It is their democratic right, but we will scrutinize that in a moment.
This mutual and cancerous hatred is one of the worst social construct and a tragedy of the 21st century. It is so poisonous that the sense of disillusionment among my Luo friends is not good at all. I watched as they beamed image of Kenyans happy for the Jubilee victory across the country. The towns showed included Nyahururu, Nyeri, Kikuyu and Murang’a. There were other crowds in Nairobi and Nakuru, but going by many factors, linguistic and physical, one could easily tell that they were specifically lauding the Uhuru presidency and thanking Ruto for delivering the victory. What many Kenyans are adamantly sure is that the same crowd cannot vote for Ruto if he vied for the presidency even if he was pitied against Satan.
The result of the elections, while predictable, shocked the country and the whole country was torn into two parts. No blood was shed, there were no policemen climbing perimeter walls or teargas canisters being lobbed to disperse crowds. But we have never been more divided as a country since independence. And we are headed down a terribly slippery road that will tear the country down forever.
The fact that the most qualified and the least corrupt leaders received less than 60,000 votes goes to show that as a country we hate progressive ideas and these things will stick with us. But how can we cure these suspicions?
I have had an opportunity to be a student leader at the biggest and the best university in the region and that is where Kikuyu/Luo bad blood is nightmarish. Every leadership and managerial positions are perceived from the Luo-Kikuyu matrix. In fact the Facebook fan page of the students of the said university will best capture the contempt students from these two communities harbor for each other. It often gets uglier and even the management of the university is cognizant of the fact and tries as much as possible to address the issues. Actually, the university is divided through the ethnic divide but somehow it functions pretty well.
Those afraid of the Luos, do so out of ignorance and a refusal to embrace the bigger picture. The same can be said for the Kikuyu. Those of us who come from other communities subscribe to the laid down stereotypes and often it is a question of choosing the lesser devil.
But true leadership is about bridging the gaps. Disabusing Kenyans of tribalism and we start talking about sharing and redistributing the wealth much more equitably. After all, haven’t we discovered oil recently? The economic prospects have never looked better and grimmer at the same time. The next couple of months will determine the path we will take. It hurts.
If we embrace one another and clamour for better and credible institutions, we will stop the belief that your tribe, if in power is a source of wealth. Differences will always be there. Not that the Germans care so much about the French. Nor do the Italians care so much about the Spanish. But with proper structures, our prejudices will remain just that; prejudices.
And now the Kalenjin have joined the fray. How sad! These three tribe vote for their tribal chief overwhelmingly and that contributes to our instability since the numbers will always favour the majority who occupy a smaller geographical region.
By me, until power moves from the two communities to other communities, that psychological leap, necessary for development will not be achieved. If life was fair, Raila should be the next president and then we break away from all these leaders and focus the Peter Kenneths and Kiyapis of this world. But that is wishful thinking. It seems we are more determined to remain tribal until something really nasty awakens us. God forbid.
As of now, it remains, one half of the country, which is almost 90 % of the tribes in Kenya is not very happy with the outcome of elections. The other half’s half is unsure of the coalition and the only people contented with it are people from Central. They really need to rethink this. For the nation to get over this hangover, we should embrace other candidates as well. Our democracy is as such. For now, the time proven stereotype that they will never vote elsewhere will always portray them in a bad light to many people.
Yet as Chimamanda Adichie said, stereotypes are not so much untrue, as they are incomplete. This is the platform from which we must have this discourse. Otherwise, we might run out of sand to bury our heads and the carpet to sweep the dirt.