Thursday, March 03, 2016

The false promise of ethno-chauvinism

Every now and then, when the planets align and the stars are bright and there is a blood moon in the night sky, the gods do what gods do: they grant me a favour. Being that it is a Thursday, and I completely forgot my Woman-Crush Wednesday duties, I will not be pooh-poohing this gift that today's favour has taken. A respected member of the Kenyan Bar has had this to say about the nation and the tribe,
Open letter to Kalenjin Nation
Ill will is blowing against our nation, the Kalenjin Nation. Kalenjin Nation?? Yes. Kenya is made up of 42+ Nations. A Nation is an ethnic group that shares same or near same language, culture and beliefs. Ethno-nationalism and ethno-centrism has been discussed and written about by such outstanding scholars as Herodotus (484-425 BC) of Ancient Greece to Prof. Hans Kohn (1891-1971), Jewish American Philosopher to Prof. Francis Fukuyama, the current world top Professor of Political Science: nation-states as we know now are artificial constructs. The real nation is the tribe that share an ethnic language.

Before Kenya is, are tribes that are separate nations. To build a strong Kenya, each tribe must have self-unity. It is for this that I call on the Kalenjin nation to rally behind H.E. William Ruto. We must protect him from those that may want to destroy him or his power. He is the pre-eminent and the only leader of the Kalenjin nation. Kalenjins have a sacred duty to protect and support him. And we must begin in the Kericho by-elections. His candidate has to win. Kalenjin culture abhors those that expose their nakedness to outsiders. Before we engage other tribes, we must be united first under our only leader.
This would be an uncontroversial and unremarkable screed if it wasn't for the startling declaration,
He is the pre-eminent and the only leader of the Kalenjin nation. Kalenjins have a sacred duty to protect and support him.
Mr Ruto is the senior-most political leader after the President, Uhuru Kenyatta. Does this automatically make him the "pre-eminent and only leader of the Kalenjin nation"? Does the Kalenjin nation, according to this lawyer's screed, share the "same or near same language, culture and beliefs"? I recall reading somewhere that "Kalenjin" was cobbled together by the colonial government and includes the Elgeyo, the Marakwet, the Kipsigis, the Nandi, the Pokot, the Terik, the Tugen, the Sebei, the Endorois, the Ilchamus, and the Sengwer, and speak a family of a dozen Southern Nilotic languages spoken in Kenya, eastern Uganda and northern Tanzania. When was pre-emindent sole leadership of the "Kalenjin" bestowed on Mr Ruto and by whom? And do the Elgeyo, the Marakwet, the Kipsigis, the Nandi, the Pokot, the Terik, the Tugen, the Sebei, the Endorois, the Ilchamus, and the Sengwer have a sacred dutya holy dutyto protect and support him?

Much has been asked of Kenyans on account of their ethnic identities, but very little has been given back, in kind or in any other way. Take the case of the Endoroisthey have been kicked off their land in the name of environmental conservation and tourist development, scattered to the four winds, and have been denied compensation by not one but three governments, of which all three had pre-eminent Kalenjin leaders in positions of great power. The less said about the ongoing trials and tribulations of the Sengwer and Ilchamus, the better. Suffice to say, these are members of the Kalenjin nation whose sacrifices have gone unnoticed and unrewarded. Pray tell, what holy duty do they have to anyone who has done nothing for them or their welfare?

You can tell that the lawyer has a dim view of other institutions that wield power among the people, concentrating as he is only on the political realm and the levers of governmental power. He is just another Kenyan who imagines that in Kenya the only power worth having is the power conferred by a political process, such as an election, and the office to which an elected leader ascends. The moral power commanded by faith leaders or the economic power commanded by business leaders are of no use to him. Real power is political power, and the senior-most elected politician of an ethnic "nation" is, ipso facto, the most powerful and, ergo, the pre-eminent and only leader.

The people may be slow to the ways of the political world, but they are no longer sheep to be led by the nose. The twenty-first century, which this lawyer enters with trepidation, is built on the ability of the peoples of the world to connect on levels other than the nativistic. The political world will bow down to the commercial one because the people, with access to untold founts of information and knowledge, are free to associate with whom they desire, without immersing themselves in the mudpits of one of the most dysfunctional political environments in the world. That there are apparently well-read and educated men incapable of seeing this simple truism shocks the mind completely and weeps for those swayed by the false promise of ethno-chauvinism.

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