Was there a memo that I missed on the day I was born?
Did a particular group of people sign a contract that I did not?
Why am I forced to feel like I am less of a Kenyan?
Growing up in Kenya has taught me that of all monsters, there is one that many have failed to conquer. It comes in the form of a friend but often changes face as it thrives in conflict. There were times I found myself surrounded by fiends who I had long known as friends.
“Where did my friends go to?” I asked, but often fell on deaf ears as if it were meant to be an unanswered question.
Tribalism is Kenya’s No.1 monster, created by an external force yet fuelled by our very own!
It robs us of everything we fight for, everything we hope for, everything represented by our national values – peace, love and unity!
A childhood friend once told me that we could no longer be friends after her father found out where my parents “came from.” I was heart-broken and thought that I had done something wrong to her that crippled our friendship.
My parents have always been liberal and thought it best to teach me to approach life with an independent type of thinking, unswayed by stereotypes. They knew that unlike their past, there was a chance for me to grow up knowing that people are their character and not their tribal clusters.
“Who does he think he is? Just because he is from Tribe X he thinks he can get away with anything?” I never understood why my teachers would avoid explaining this question to me. It often flew across the school environment like a spark from a wild fire.
“Why did the pastor preach in a language that doesn’t represent the entire flock?” I never understood why church folk avoided addressing this question. I often heard it escape from conversations after Sunday service.
“These are the only tomatoes we’ve got left! Who are you to demand fresh ones?” I never understood why the neighbourhood shopkeeper always shouted at me. She always sold fresh produce to a particular group of people, just not me.
“Usiniletee mathe! Lipa gari ama ushuke” (Woman don’t try me. Pay or step out). I never understood why the matatu conductor hurled this comment to my mother. She was forced to pay more fare yet some individuals paid less.
These are some of the issues I battled with for years as I grew up. But I have found a solution, and it begins with me!
I am so blessed to have parents who allowed me to grow up as an independent thinker. So much so that during the most recent general elections in March 4th, 2013, our household had a mix of candidates to support. We had fun analysing each presidential candidate while maintaining our respect for the individual choices we made. I believe that this was unlike many others, attested by the brutal conversations I watched going viral on Social media. It was sad that even relationships came to an end because of the monster.
In my home, tribalism is illegal! In my home, people’s characters are more important than affluence and political anarchy.
And though this is a slow process in battling the vicious monster, I shall carry-on the liberal tradition that my parents have taught me to my little ones – should God bless me with children in future. Despite the ugliness of the monster that stares at me every day, I shall hold on to the almost hazy dream that our forefathers desired for our nation. I may not know what made them thirst so much for that future, I may not know what their yoke felt like, but I know that there’s no way I’m going to look away from the blessing they gave us. It’s ours to cherish!
To those who are tired of the stink of tribalism in our country. To those who are strong enough to accept that the monster exists. To those who are tired of the hush hush reproach of the monster, this is our chance to shout and say, “No more!”
“Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed, by the masses.” ~Plato
The giants that play in the monster’s field may not even care what we do and laugh at our efforts… But I promise you, we shall conquer! Our children are the progeny of the Kenyan dream. Let’s ensure that with our sweat and blood, they’ll get to enjoy every bit of it.
Here’s to a great year of jubilee/ freedom/ revolution as our country Kenya showers us with her golden dust during her 50th year of independence.
God bless Kenya!
The Storymoja Hay Festival is on September 19 – 22, 2013 at the National Museums of Kenya. Follow @SMHayFest on Twitter, and Storymoja Hay Festival on Facebook for updates on guest authors, events, pre-fest events and tickets.