A linguist I know—she has a PhD in English Linguistics—once told me that Kenya has more than ninety distinct languages—which is the reason she does not subscribe to the idiocy of reducing Kenya's nationhood to forty two tribes. She must look at the recent scandals about "representation" in the public service. In Kenya it is presumed that that the forty two tribes, designated so because of linguistic identification, represent the only ethnic communities in Kenya worth recognising.
The imperial project of the British colonial government in Kenya is alive and well, fifty three years after Uhuru. I have no idea how many tribes there are in Tanzania but, unless you are the uncharitable kind, you will not argue that Tanzania is a collection of tribes; you will recognise it for the nation that it is today. Tanzania has its problems for sure—the raging fires in Zanzibar will not be put out any time soon, and despite their progressive politics, Tanzanian politicians are the fuel in the anti-albino fire in Tanzania—but it isn't riven through with self-doubt about how to affirmatively assist marginalised communities the way Kenya is.
One of the strangest things is the self-righteous stone various public actors adopt when they talk about the "face of Kenya" in public appointments. Depending on where they stand, you might be forgiven for thinking that "representation" is the only problem facing the public service and if only the forty two tribes were "well-represented in the public service"—whatever that means—Kenya will never ascend to the status of a nation.
One of the pernicious effects of British colonialism still felt today is the need for tribal competition among Kenya's ethnic communities that ignore the little inconvenient truth that were we to truly identify ourselves because of our ethnic identities, the total number of communities would far exceed the piddly forty two, and true representation would mean that public service jobs would take on the Herculean difficulty of classifying all Kenyans properly, something Prof Kobia and her Commission will never achieve, not even if they had a decade and a billion dollars to do it.
This is not the tail end of the nineteenth century when Kenya was a massive hostile territory on the way to the source of the Nile. This is the twenty first century where one of the most difficult identities to wear without a tinge of melancholy is that of a poverty-stricken, opportunity-denied Kenyan. The poor have more in common with each other than they have with the wealthy of their tribe and that they don't know it makes their situation more tragic because they are frequently lied to that their poverty and lack of opportunity are because of some other tribe or tribal warlord. The people doing the lying control capital, media and access to opportunity, and their wield these assets like nuclear weapons.
Ever since section 2A of the former Constitution was repealed in 1990, Kenya has been fed a simple lie: you are poor because of tribe X; your land was stolen by tribe X; Kenya is in the shitter because of tribe X; that if your tribe ascended to political power, your life would improve immeasurably. Micheala Wrong, the author of It's Our Turn To It, captured it aptly in the title to her book. They will never admit that the lives of the poor will improve if they have an equal chance of access to capital and opportunity, especially opportunities to education, because that would liberate the people from the self-serving interests of the elite. Equal opportunity should be a fundamental right, but it will never be seen in that light because it would fundamentally reform Kenya and, horror of horrors, turn us into a nation. They don't want that.