Intelligent. Kenyan.

Published: 1 year ago

Masilahi ya Nyasi

It’s been 4 hours.

Since all the research was done and I was ready to put this piece together. Four hours of staring at the computer – looking for an angle. Is there a new way to put old truths together so that they hit us with fresh apparence? A new form of relevance?

Is there anything new about ethnic tension? About ‘leaders’ using these differences to drive wedges? About hate speech? Is there any other way to say it? On Facebook Richard Oduor writes:

“Wanting the homogenous whole, but not the heterogeneous parts is nonsense. They want you to be a Kenyan. Good. But I’m also a Luo, and Luo is part of Kenya, as well, so I’m both, and yes, we can have multiple complex identities. It’s all good. So this update is really a Luo speaking in response to Moses Kuria’s comments. I’m still unwilling to be the acceptable ‘group of Luo professionals‘ aka the politically ‘good Luo.’”

Are there things that need to be restated? Things that need to be reaffirmed? It’s been 4 hours and, to this moment, I’m not even sure if I’ve began to write this piece.

Still, ethnic hate is not only something that we encourage it seems rewarded. After all, this same Kuria just last year had a case in court for the same matter. This time, he had not condemned one man but many people – asking that they be cut up with pangas.

And it can’t even be argued that he doesn’t know any better. In a column in October 2012 Kuria writes:

“History has proven again and again, that the easiest way to create a genocide-compliant environment is to resort to insults and use of figurative images with animist caricature. In Hitler’s Nazi regime, Jews were referred to as rats. The end result was not a Christmas party.”

He was referring to Raila Odinga’s use of the term madoadoa. A term that, itself, has a problematic history as it was used in the 2007/2008 violence to push the Kikuyus out of the rift. He was calling out a violence.

Given this man who knows about words, their histories and their impact can go around talking about killing killing people, what is being said? To apply the logic that he gave to us, the use of violent language is the easiest way to create a genocide compliant environment.

Genocide compliant.

Everywhere the whispers carry themselves. “I am afraid” is now something we say more often. Elections are things we think about with dread. Existing in an already polarized space, elections thrive on further polarization – making it clear that the “other” side is evil and that “this” side is good. We all know how the narratives of chosen people write themselves. A triumph, many times violent, over “others” is a big part of the narrative. It is important that the other side is destroyed that we may triumph.

These are not new stories. In order to create an empire you need a powerful other. All major religions and war stories show the same.

But, to return to Oduor “Wanting the homogenous whole, but not the heterogeneous parts is nonsense.” And it is to this nonsense that we seem to run for refuge. It is through this nonsense that our fear and insecurity manifest themselves. “We are one,” “One Kenya,” “tribe Kenya,” are a few of the various ways these fears have echoed themselves. Again through tragedy, again through reconciliation. Wash, rinse, repeat. Like moths we are spread by the simple switching of a light switch. When the light is on everything is okay, but when it is off we blindly attack anything in our sight.

 

Binaries are unwinnable

  • Aisha Onsando

The problem seems to be this either or mentality. Somewhere along the line between emulating the USA, creating our own identity and whatever else project Kenya means to each of us – we fell into a binary. With power now being defined as being held by either one or the other everyone in between became a “problem.” Democracy, now, has become not a competition of diversities but a choice between two majorities – with everyone else either voiceless and unconsidered. It’s no wonder a user on twitter (I was unable to find the actual tweet for proper accreditation) said it would be best to give the “major tribes” one part of the country to sort their issues out while everyone lives in peace.

Of course, I’ve said repeatedly, this is not new. There is nothing new about this model. In the 1980s, Coke and Pepsi were fighting for the US market, Coke was largely winning till they tried a drastic move with “New Coke” and almost handed Pepsi the market. In order to gain ground they quickly changed back but Pepsi had grown. However, because of all the advertising around this, the market was practically locked to any other colas. In their minds, there were only two colas – Coke and Pepsi. And so both companies grew and established themselves. But the real story here is about all the other colas that were locked out of the market. And, to break the metaphor, how important a diversity of choices is in leadership. If two people can, effectively, make sure that either one is in power, they leave no space for something else, for options. Which is what we’re sorely lacking right now – options.

And that’s the problem with binaries. We find ourselves so fixated on one or the other that we fail to realise that there’s so much more. So many different variations to this thing we call a government. We find ourselves so fixated on the fight. On the fact that there are two elephants, somewhere, fighting that we forget that we are the grass.

It’s been 10 hours. Life’s still the same.

  1. By Brainstorm | Choosing Ourselves on November 22, 2016 at 7:52 am

    […] Bannon, Miguel & Posner question whether urbanization, industrialization, education, political mobilization, and competition for jobs deepen ethnic identities rather than weaken them, as individuals exploit their ethnic group memberships as tools for political, economic, and social advancement. Further, as the election period becomes more imminent ethnicity becomes more salient amongst respondents. Ethnicity becomes most salient were two or more equally sized groups are competing for power – a case obviously apparent in Kenya, where conversation around politics seems to teeter between Luo or Kikuyu. […]

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