In my previous blogs, I have noted that, if I were a Kikuyu, I would start an organization I have variously described as Kikuyu’s Against Another Kikuyu President –or something to that effect.
I have also previously stated my reasons why and I have made it clear this has nothing to do with being a tribalist or anything close. I was therefore very happy to read Mr. Ngunjiri Wambugu’s article, We Must Get Out of Tribal Cocoons, which essentially takes the same position I have been advocating about this issue.
Mr. Wambugu noted in his article that he is a convenor for a group called Kikuyus for Change, ostensibly advocating the same position.
As I noted elsewhere, I couldn’t have put the case better for this concept, which I hope gathers steam and more progressives, especially those from Central, come on board with it.
In response to Mr. Wambugu’s article, however, another writer makes almost equally compelling case in the opposite, namely, formation of such groups as Kikuyus for Change, is not desirable or necessary.
In this blog, I respond to this writer’s sentiments and views.
You have written an equally excellent rebuttal of Wambugu’s excellent piece on this topic. However, on balance, and everything considered, Wambugu has the better argument, if anything because you are looking at things from a half-empty glass point of view, when Wambugu is looking at things from the half-full perspective.
I am responding to you because Wambugu’s views closely mirror mine on this issue, which I have been writing about for some time and I have several reasons I side with Wambugu.
First, you say, that the “idea of Kikuyus for Change or Luos for Change sounds great at face value. But it presupposes that the Kikuyus or Luos as communities in their entire-ties have been or are against change.”
You have missed the point here. The question is not one of whether our communities are or are not for change; one can assume they are, but only if they know what that change is and in any case, not always.
For example, try to convince Omogusii to do away with amatoke, and instead substitute growing some other high yield, high income crop, you’ll be wasting your time for that’ll never happen.
In this types of cases, we are not even talking about change but something wholly different as in genetic restructuring.
There are certain changes, however, that are less drastic that merely require attitudinal adjustment while others are more fundamental and require more than a change in attitude.
Tribalism and negative ethnicity fall in the latter category: To change the mindset of people how they perceive other tribes, you’ll at the minimum require a complete reorientation of their cultural, societal and individual beliefs, which go beyond mere attitude.
This is a staggering feat to accomplish, but it must be done.
What I hear Wambugu saying, and I agree with him completely, is that tribalism and negative ethnicity is so deeply ingratiated in people’s mind because it’s something learned from childhood, not necessarily by everyone, but a vast majority and thus the reason it thrives to this day.
Wambugu’s prescription for a cure to this disease, is also something I completely agree with, to wit, and I quote him, “It is therefore imperative for Central Kenya to engage Raila Odinga beyond our stereotypes of him, and distinguish facts from perceptions.”
This is not to say other tribes do not have the same task or responsibility; they do.
This in essence must be a multi-intertwined reciprocal action and reaction involving all tribes.
My point is and has been the Kikuyus and Kalenjin must take the lead in doing this and if they do, the rest of the country will follow.
The question is therefore not whether change is welcome in our communities, but whether we as progressives are willing, ready and able to lead in bringing it about.
Wambugu’s is answering, “Yes,” with Kikuyu’s for Change.
I would love to start one as “Kisii’s for Change” but this is not necessary because Kisii’s have never voted as a bloc for anyone but instead they always split their vote across the board.
That’s not to say some of them are not die-hard tribalists: like a flu or common cold, tribalism does not discriminate by community; it’s a question of depth and degree. It’s deeply entrenched in some communities, less so in others.
Kisii’s didn’t even vote as a bloc for Simeon Nyachae in 2002, much to his chagrin, but true to their form of independence, they also voted for Kibaki in large numbers–again, to Nyachae’s chagrin.
Luos on the other hand, have voted as a bloc for Kikuyu presidential candidates, so no need for Luos for Change there.
I think you see my point, which goes to my earlier point I have been making and that is, a change in voting patterns is essential primarily among the Kikuyu and Kalenjin.
Once that happens, the rest of the country will follow suit.
Yes, Kalenjin voted as a bloc for Raila in 2007 but it’s precisely for this reason they, too, need to take equal share leadership in ending tribalism and negative ethnicity by spreading their vote according to individual qualities and qualifications, not tribal affiliation.
As a Raila supporter, however, I’d be remiss not to say here and now, let also a majority of these communities vote for Raila in 2012.
Second, you say, Wambugu “further presupposes that the few individuals who come together to form the Kikuyus or Luos for Change are the only progressive and pro-reform members of the respective communities – the rest of the community being anti-change!”
I don’t think this is what Wambugu is trying to say; rather, I hear him saying, let progressives take the lead in bringing about the fundamental attitudinal and cultural changes necessary to end tribalism and negative ethnicity.
In other words, someone has and must take leadership on this issue and, since its obvious elected leaders are reluctant or unwilling to do so, given generally this is not something they consider helpful in election or re-election strategies (wrongly so), groups like Wambugu’s Kikuyu for Change must take the lead.
One need not be elected to effect fundamental change in Kenya.
Third, you say because you believe some of those now championing reform are at the core, anti-reformist, one should be “cautious to claim or to want to be associated with such groups as Kikuyus or Luos for Change because such tads, though high-sounding and appearing progressive at face value, are discriminative, isolationist and driven by a false guilt mentality by people who have bought into the stereotype that all Kikuyus are guilty by virtue of the fact that two of their own have been occupants of State House and allowed themselves to be conduits of exploitation.”
You have collapsed several unrelated issues into one.
The way I understand it, Wambugu’s Kikuyu for Change is advocating for fundamental change in attitudinal and cultural thinking vz tribalism and negative ethnicity, which I concur or state as my position, if he is saying something else.
This is related but separate and apart from political and institutional reform in this sense: ending tribalism and negative ethnicity will certainly fundamentally change the political dynamics of the country, especially in how we elect our presidents.
However, electing a president or leaders in an environment where tribalism and negative ethnicity is not a factor will not by itself automatically lead to a realization of political and institutional reform.
That will be a first but necessary reform.
The second part of that would require electing leaders who are truly committed to the kind of political and institutional reforms we have just embarked on a journey to implement.
A leader who is at the core anti-reformist therefore must not expect and cannot expect to be elected in this new environment where reform is the only agenda, double that if his or her hope is to ride the tribal train, if tribalism is dealt a fetal blow in changed attitudinal and cultural tidal wave.
In other words, the watermelons would not have the opportunity to practice their trade; their option would simply be to either embrace reform or pretend to embrace reform but any pretenses without result will be sniffed out and exposed, leaving them vulnerable and therefore towing the line.
It therefore matters not much whether one is pro-reform as a mission or anti-reform at the core but pretending to be the former.
Your caution about Kikuyu’s for Change possibly including such elements is therefore not something to be concerned about.
Another issue you have collapsed in your argument above, is that groups such as Kikuyu’s for Change are, as you say, “discriminative, isolationist” and driven by “a false guilt mentality by people who have bought into the stereotype that all Kikuyus are guilty by virtue of the fact that two of their own have been occupants of State House and allowed themselves to be conduits of exploitation.”
Taking the first part of this argument to be it is undesirable to have a group that is “discriminative” and “isolationist,” no one would disagree with you.
In fact, we have had such groups before and none more representative of the concept and therefore its undesirability than GEMA.
An organization such as Kikuyus for Change represents the opposite, however: While GEMA was intended to create a permanent ruling class from Central, a group such as Kikuyu for Change is intended to erase and abolish this idea that our president must only come from one particular region.
That being the case, your second part of the argument that an organization such as Kikuyus for Change is “driven by a false guilt mentality by people who have bought into the stereotype that all Kikuyus are guilty by virtue of the fact that two of their own have been occupants of State House and allowed themselves to be conduits of exploitation,” is misplaced for the same reason.
In my blog on this subject titled,The Kikuyu Must Lead In Ending Ending Tribalism In Kenya, Followed By The Kalenjin and The Rest Will Follow, I stated as follows:
Having extensively written on the issue of ending tribalism in Kenya, I must confess even as I write about the subject, I am often resigned in the background this is just but a dream wish for some progressives like myself because the reality of it is, old habits die hard.
Thus, even when I suggest as I have in the past that, if I were a Kikuyu, I would start an organization I have variously described as Kikuyu’s Against Another Kikuyu President –or something to that effect—something in the back of my mind keeps telling me this is simply a utopian dream.
I could be wrong and would obviously be glad to be so.
I have hastened to add that I hold that view—of not another Kikukuyu president; at least not this round or next, anyway—not because I have anything against Kikuyu’s—I don’t—but I do hold this view for the same reasons other progressive Kikuyus hold the same view, and that is, it is just neither fair nor just for an ethnically diverse and vast country such as Kenya to have two of its three presidents since its independence, hailing from the same tribe.
It’s the Clinton Fatigue, if you will, that many believe denied Hilary her official date with destiny at the White House; ditto for the Bush Fatigue whereby Jeb Bush who, better than his brother he might be, or even better than his father for that matter he could be, the United States of America simply can’t take another Bush at the White House; not any time soon, anyway.
And that includes anyone who may not be related but has the same name—just not another BUSH!
Same concept for Kenya—okay, Kenya goes more in that not just another Kenyatta (sorry UK) but not another Kikuyu either.
As noted above, not a shred of tribalism in many of us who say so; just a fact of life, if we are to be intellectually honest about these things.
All of us as Kenyans were happy to have and accepted Mzee Jomo Kenyatta as our first president and we lived with the fact that he was to be our president to the day he drew his last breath, which was fine; the man, after all, was very instrumental in our country’s gaining independence.
All I am trying to say in all of this is this: Kikuyu’s must take lead in ending tribalism by supporting other than “their” own not because of guilt but as a matter of bringing about unity and love for each other as a nation.
Your contention that an organization such as Kikuyus for Change seeks to shame Kikuyu’s into embracing fundamental attitudinal and cultural change viz how we elect our president is therefore equally misplaced as well.
In fact, this change is already taking place within Central albeit not by much not out of guilt or anything like that, but because people of reason and circumspect, especially those who can separate the chaff from the wheat.
In other words, not all Kikuyus have an issue with voting for someone other than “their own,” and those who don’t necessarily are not driven by guilt but by being just objective according to their own needs and appreciation of the concept of oneness in nationhood.
We need more of these not just in the Kikuyu community, but in all communities.
When I read Wambugu’s piece, I felt as though I was hitch-hiking on the highway and he came along and we are all along for the ride to the promised land of a tribalism free nation.
I’ll urge you and other progressives to join as well.
Third, you say that “I am hesitant to be associated with such groups because they criminalize members of the respective communities by creating the false impression that all Kalenjins participated and benefited from the looting of public resources for their individual good so that a few of them must isolate themselves, brand themselves as Kalenjins for Change to gain acceptance among the rest of the Kenyan people.”
As I have said and it’s clear from above, no one is talking about criminalizing anyone, let alone any community.
And neither is anyone advocating for people to isolate themselves from their respective communities by merely branding themselves as individuals for change to gain acceptance from the rest of the Kenyan people.
We are not even talking about who has benefited from what, as clearly you will find Kikuyus living in abject poverty in Central and elsewhere, just as much as you will find Kalenjin’s living in abject poverty in RV and elsewhere, despite the fact these are the two communities from among where all of our presidents in our country’s history have come from.
Is there a disproportionate per capita wealth accumulation from among members of these two communities owing to the fact that all of our presidents have come from among them?
Of course; but that’s not the issue here.
We are not talking about pay-back time.
Rather, all we are saying, is simply let’s end tribalism as a factor in electing our future presidents and demand that the presidents we henceforth elect and national leadership is fair and just in the distribution of national resources.
Other than perhaps in cases of provable theft or illegal accumulation of wealth and such, the past must be let go.
Fourth, you say, “it is always a class thing and unless such groupings as Kikuyus for Change are made up of victims of political manipulation and the economically marginalized Kikuyus who have to contend with jigger infestation because they are too poor to afford basic sanitation and hygiene, I would advise the founders of Kikuyus for Change to rethink the philosophy of their outfit”
I have completely missed the rationale for this argument therefore the best I can do is to simply ask the question, why? Why would an organization like Kikuyus for Change limit itself as such? Would that not be self-defeating as to the objective of moving our country where we are united by our shared common values and not divided by tribe?
When you say, “they must rethink it because had Dedan Kimathi not been for Change, had all the Mau Mau freedom fighters not been for Change (majority of who were Kikuyus), Kenya would not have attained independence as early as it did,” you confuse me. But Kikuyus for Change stands on the same principles as did Dedan Kimathi, except the underlying and driving force is not revenge for exploitation of the House of Mumbi but a desire to spread brotherly and sisterly love or at least unity across the nation?
When you say, “they must rethink the philosophy because my suspicion tells me that the surviving remnants of Mau Mau are not members of the so called Kikuyus for Change, yet they are the pioneers for the Change that we enjoy today,” you confuse me even more. An organization like the Kikuyus for Change stands for the proposition its time progressive Kikuyus to lead the community into the 21st century Kenya where tribalism and negative ethnicity is not a factor in how we live or elect our national leaders.
The surviving remnants of Mau Mau are therefore by definition included by virtue of being Kikuyus, in the Kikuyus for Change or whatever other group for change in the same fashion.
Finally, you say, “Why anybody would form, at this late hour in Kenya’s history of struggle, a group calling itself Luos for Change when their predecessors have immortalized change or become the change in themselves, would be the height of hypocrisy and selfishness only designed to earn oneself a special place one does not deserve.”
I agree with you for the reasons I stated first above.
I hope this moves the needle in your mind toward supporting Wambugu’s group, Kikuyus for Change, which needs all of our support.
Peace, Love and Unity
Samuel N. Omwenga, Esq.