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Kenya in the hands of the fickle and reckless!

Posted by Popular Ombudsman on March 9, 2010

Beginning last night, KTN shall be airing a three part series during its Prime Time News bulletin at Nine O’clock titled “Fears from the Future” which delves into the ongoing arms race in the Rift Valley province that is likely to culminate in a far worse orgy of violence than what we witnessed in 2008. Watching the first part of this very gripping documentary last night made me get this feeling that buying a firearm to protect myself and my family in 2012 may not be such a bad idea after all. It is very unlikely that I will ever put this thought into action but I know that there are thousands of Kenyans doing just that even as I pen this piece. The government may deny it all it wants but the truth is too plain to be pretended away.

The wheels of justice in the Hague are already turning – albeit slowly – and we all know that the main suspects in “Ocampo’s envelope” when eventually cornered will try to use their ethnic communities as shields to try and hold the process at ransom. The arms race in the Rift Valley is therefore not just geared towards ethnic cleansing in the run up to the 2012 elections but also towards the eventuality that is now all too definite – that the architects of “Operation Kuondoa Madoadoa” and those who arranged and funded revenge attacks by the Mungiki will be having a date with the ICC later this year or latest early next year. Our security forces may feign ignorance but revelations that senior government security personnel are involved in setting up ethnic armouries in the Rift Valley should be chilling enough to wake up our leadership from its stupor and into action. These revelations also bring into sharp focus, the subject of ethnic prejudice and the conflicts that arise therefrom.

There is no rating system, or clear cut definition that can accurately describe what constitutes tribalism leading to such terms as “negative ethnicity” and “positive ethnicity”. We all know that belonging to a particular ethnic community is an accident of nature that we had no power to determine. We also know that being proud of and loyal to one’s ethnic community is in itself not a bad thing. In fact, it is not only natural but also desirable. What however must be condemned is the discrimination, prejudice and bigotry that are based on our genealogical differences. In its worst form, such discrimination results in genocide or criminal acts of equal gravity. Kenya came dangerously close to a Rwanda like situation in 2008 but that – like Justice Johan Kriegler put it – “will look like a Chrismas party” if in 2012, something similar happens. This “if” that justice Kriegler used has now almost turned into a “when” and it may only be a matter of time before “2008 looks like a Chrismas party”.

All the signs that Justice Kriegler was right are there for us all to see. What with a huge cache of arms capable of arming an entire platoon being unearthed in a private citizen’s house in the Rift Valley recently. There was also the case of hundreds of youth that were nabbed undergoing military training on the farm of a Rift Valley politician that somehow just fizzled out without the said politician ever facing justice. Add that to the revelations that two communities in the Rift Valley are busy arming themselves with automatic assault rifles and other sophisticated weaponry and you get the picture of a country preparing for a genocidal orgy of violence far worse than Rwanda’s.

Tribalism, just like racism thrives on negative stereotypes perpetuated about other communities. A case in point is the tribal hatred that was being spewed out to the Hutu public in Rwanda through no less a medium than radio stations that led some shockingly ignorant rural Hutus into believing that the Tutsi were not entirely human and that they even had tails. Yes, tails! That is what. While at University in Asia, I lived in a city with nearly five hundred Rwandese students who were on Government scholarship. Most of them were the sons and daughters of “who is who” in Rwanda and many of their parents and relatives were senior members of the government and corporate community there. These young men and women had first hand information on every detail of the genocide and listening to them narrate the sad events prior to, during and soon after the genocide, led me to view those of our leaders who play up ethnicity for political reasons like naïve, reckless and stupid kids who play with fire unaware of the dangers therein.

There should not be any tribal hatred towards any community whether majority or minority. It is for this reason that I have often had to strongly differ with some of my kinsmen and friends who believe that to counter discrimination by the Agikuyu or Luo, we must “do unto them as they did to us”. It is also why I have disagreed with many in my community who believe that we are bound by ethnic loyalty, to defend “one of our own” who was recently found to have either embezzled funds from the FPE kitty or looked the other way as his juniors and friends did so. The best way to help in the fight against corruption – and by extension tribalism and impunity – is for us to deny corrupt politicians the cover of their political party or ethnic community whenever they run to us with that now tired line “we are being finished”. In the same manner, we must shun them when they try to turn their personal political interests, ambitions and differences into those of their communities.

Onyinkwa Onyakundi.


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