Two weeks ago, a close friend who moved to the US a few months back called me in tears. Tears of joy. We were actually chatting on phone via WhatsApp when she suddenly called. I thought maybe she dialed my number in error because she never calls me before texting to confirm if I am at a place where we can chat and laugh properly. I knew then that it must have been something extremely urgent to warrant her acting out of character. When I picked the call, she asked,
“Hebu guess what just happened?” she had tears of joy going on and pray, I couldn’t guess!
“I just met a Kenyan at the salon,” she said after it was clear I was blank.
I understood her feeling and I just smiled as she narrated the meeting with this Kenyan.
This incident reminded me of the many times when I am off the shores of this country and the simple fact that someone is a Kenyan is enough to make them my friend. During those times, I never pause to ask whether the said person is a Kikuyu, a Luo or Giriama. They are Kenyan and that’s huge! You know the way you feel an instant connection with someone who went to the same high school with you, never mind that they arrived four years after you left? Yes, that feeling that a part of your life is painted in similar colors is enough to straightaway create a link between you. So where am I going with this? Let us stop tribalism.
I sort of just gave up with our parents’ generation but I think that as young people today, we can work towards beating the tribal lines which, apart from teaching us to hate each other for no reason, serve no real purpose.
The politics of this country are complicated. And perhaps these complications would not be a big problem if they had not drawn our ethnic identities into them. I wanted to say that perhaps the political differences with each other would be easier to understand and perhaps reasonable had we been divided along the lines of ideology, but my friend reminds me that Kenya is a third world country with third world problems. So maybe I should just stick to what I set out to write – that ethnic violence and prejudices are unnecessary and dangerous. Kenya has been spoiling for war for a while now and I do not know why the lessons from the 2007/2008 post-election violence went unlearnt. One of my sociology lecturers once told us that, after we all said we could not sit for a quiz as we were travelling out of Nairobi in March 2013, that Kenyans need to fight properly because it is only after they feel the consequences of a serious war, that they will fear war and stop joking around with it.
I am of the opinion that only a fool learns from their own mistakes especially when they have a clear example to learn from. As a nation we are culturally diverse and this differences needs to be celebrated rather than be a source of pain and hate.
Anyway, I think that it is important for us to sit back and contemplate about whether we really can handle civil strife. When you have time, go to the net and read the effects that civil war has had on countries that have experienced it. Start with Biafra in Nigeria and the civil war in Sierra Leone. Yes, you can also read Kithaka wa Mberia’s book: Maua Kwenye Jua La Asubuhi or its English version: Flowers In The Morning Sun. If after reading that you still believe that a civil war is something that you are extremely enthusiastic about, then you can continue perpetuating hate against your neighbour simply because they belong to a different ethnic community. But if afterwards you agree that a civil war is not something we can handle as a country, then join me in insisting that tribes are a mark of our diversity not a vantage point from which violence is fueled.
But what really is making some Kenyans take peace for granted? I think I know three reasons. Help me create a longer list.
- Maybe some of them think that a war is a joke?
I think so because really, someone who fully comprehends what a war is has no interest in going near it. When a country is at war, nothing works. You will not graduate at the end of the year as you plan and you might actually lose all your papers that testify of your true identity and you will suddenly start being referred to as a ‘stateless’ person. There is just a hopelessness about that word… That is just one of the consequences that might happen. As I said, read more about allowing tribes to negatively divide a country.
I think that it is only ignorance that will make one hit another because they come from a certain tribe which for them translates to mean that they support a certain political party which annoys you. When did it really become a crime for other people to hold an opinion to that is different from yours? In my estimation, we live in a very progressive country where we all have a right to hold our own opinions. I think the educated youth need to step in and actively play a role in stopping ethnic violence.
Or could this ignorance stem from the fact that we do not really value ourselves as Kenyans because we take for granted the fact that we can meet on a daily basis and spew violence. Is it a case of familiarity breeding contempt?
3. Absence of a critical mind?
This point ties to the point on ignorance. If we all paused for a moment to actually think about why we are angry at our neighbour, we are likely to realise that the anger that we feel is mostly misdirected and unreasonable.