Wednesday, April 30, 2014


A lot of rumble was generated by Kalonzo Musyoka's gaffe last week when he dismissed a reporter's question allegedly on account of his tribal name.

Immediately after the Nairobi event, the entire Fourth Estate and critics in social media platforms went on an offensive. Some called him a tribalist unfit to lead Kenya while others claimed his remarks amounted to ethnic profiling. At least one labelled him a bigot.

Kalonzo, who is the co-leader of the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy, CORD, comes from Eastern region while the snubbed journalist is from Central Kenya. Kalonzo was incensed because the scribe asked a question that hinged on the opposition's perceived inability to police the government.

"That betrays it all," is what Kalonzo responded once told of the journalist's name, common in Central Kenya. The perception created was that since the journalist hailed from the Mt. Kenya area he was automatically a supporter of the ruling Jubilee Coalition of Uhuru Kenyatta, who also happens to be from there. And as an arch enemy of the government, Kalonzo's answer was seen to be an assault on the journalist's ethnic background, and indirectly on the government.

As far as I am concerned, Kalonzo was guilty only of denying the journalist his constitutional and professional right while performing his work, not of tribalism or bigotry. And this is why.

Whether we want to admit it or not tribalism is real and is embedded in the blood of the majority of us. What Kalonzo said cannot therefore be earth-shaking. I still have to meet a Kenyan who is free of this social iniquity.

And it's fueled by ourselves; by the way we talk to each other; how and where we live; and even what we eat. Comedians make fodder out of ethnic issues and have no shame in making jokes about customs and behaviours of communities; and when they engage in what is clearly ethnic profiling, we laugh hilariously and enjoyably.

Also, look at the ethnic segregation we have imposed on ourselves. How many Kisumu ndogos are there in this country, localities that are deliberately made to be dominated by members of one community. We have areas in the fringes of Nairobi where only people of certain tribes reside. In Mombasa, one location on the airport road is a domain of one community. There are many Mogadishus where people from one community reside. Eastleigh, once a multi-ethnic neighbourhood, is today the home of largely one community.

Even religion is ethnicised. There are faiths in this country that worship and sing in their own mother tongues, shutting out everyone else.

So, before condemning others, we must first admit that tribalism exists in its most foul manner and then collectively work to eliminate it. Tanzania did it, We can. Let us de-ethnicise our neighbourhoods. Let us fight stereotypical tendencies that tend to label some communities as inherently criminal and others as lazy or immoral.

Since many of us agree that ethnicity is not all evil, let us find a common ground from where we can launch a concerted effort to fight what my friend Koigi wa Wamwere calls negative ethnicity. HAPPY LABOUR DAY EVERYONE.

And that is my say.