The right to be


Posted by kikuyusworld on August 7, 2007

Socio-economic failure threatens Kenya

By David G. Maillu

Kenya, by nature, is a federal state of tribes. That is where we should start. We could as well rename the country and call it the Federal of Kenya. The nation is deeply estranged in tribal traditional values. And lately, we have acquired a new tribe which we should name the “tribless-tribe,” which comprises the urbanised generation that has almost no affiliation with the “mashambani” values. Add to that the Indian tribe too.

Within those tribes, there are some which are more powerful than others. There are some of them which are more disadvantaged than others. Some which are louder and more visible than others. The rest of the details are obvious.

If we begin by acceptance that we are a federal state, we can take the next step of balanced development to address the socio-economic imbalances among those “states” or tribes.

Kenya has reached a stage in which some individuals have started wishing they were born in that “other-tribe” than in theirs. Why? Because their tribe has almost been ignored in the development. Talk about the nomadic communities and you are close to that. But the problem is deeper than that. In fact, we are buried in individual tribal values and afflictions.

Unless the national planners put into consideration a blueprint of development related to the psychology of the values and sentiments of the individual tribes, we may be destined to socio-economic failure for the nation. In other words, since national development is in solving problems that affect the nation, we could be awfully wrong in trying to solve the complete national problem by using a common mould. Let me explain this by taking the tribes individually, starting with the major tribes:

The Kikuyu problem

Kenyans know the history of the Kikuyu people. From the outside view, it may look as if everything is going very well in Central Province, the home of the Kikuyu community simply because the Kikuyus, the most populous tribe in Kenya, kicked off luckily because they got first-hand economic support from Jomo Kenyatta, the first President of Kenya who was a Kikuyu. And, as if that is not good enough, now the Kikuyus have a second round of President in Mwai Kibaki at a time many tribes have never got even a Vice-President.

Economically, the Kikuyu community is the most powerful. It is the community which is the biggest employer in Kenya. There are countless stories of success in Kikuyuland.

But, lucky as they have been, the Kikuyu people have one horrifying problem. Insecurity. That insecurity has penetrated deeply into the Central Province so that it has really become a nightmare for the “material” Kikuyu to live in the countryside. Big homes and estates are being abandoned and owners are running to live in towns seeking better security. That says a lot about the diminishing rural employment and development, adding to urban migration. It is too difficult for anyone to enjoy his earnings in the countryside. You can be killed over a night through robbery with violence because of the success of your hard work.

Robbery with violence is shockingly everywhere. Kikuyus robbing, maiming and even killing Kikuyus. Why? What has gone wrong? Have majority of Kikuyus lost their sense of morals? Has the human value lost meaning among most Kikuyus?

Of course that insecurity is experienced in other parts of Kenya, but not at the rate found in the Central Province which, of course, spills into Nairobi.

Indeed, something is awfully wrong in the Kikuyu community. It is a psychological problem that must be addressed by the nation immediately before it is too late. The community is in the process of destroying its own integrity.

Kikuyu’s second problem is with the extraordinary number of landless people. At a time there is enormous idle land in other parts of Kenya, there are Kikuyus who do not own even a square yard of land. And even majority of those who have land, have ridiculously small sizes. Part of that insecurity stems from their sense of helplessness. But the Kikuyu problem is the problem of the nation.

The problem of the Maasais

The Maasais are still locked up in their traditional nomadic and pastoral values at the time their population is increasing without the land increasing too. Their biggest problem is little land and lack of water. But they have another monster devouring them. Their land is being bought out by outsiders, usually Kikuyu and Kisii people.

The Maasais are quietly being wiped out from ownership of land. They are resistant to social changes outside their traditional values. While other communities are doing their best to conform with modernity and adjust to modern living demands, the Maasais remain stagnant and vulnerable. Conditions of the modern life are rendering the Maasais poor, unemployed and irrelevant to modern development. Their culture knows nothing else except investing in traditional values which are losing meaning in the modern world. Given time, the Maasai culture is going to be wiped out.

This is a national issue which should be addressed.

The problem of Luos

The Luo community is a politically oriented and militant community. Luos have a long history of political confrontations with the regimes. They are against bowing down for favours instead of demanding their right. For that reason, the regimes have opted to punish them by ignoring developments in the Luo areas. The Luo country has remained permanently at a slow-development pace while the Luo population has been on the increase.

Generally speaking, Luos are not cut out for business but for administration and places of prestige which they perform very well. The increase of their population within that snail-speed development is the devil eating the community in big chunks. They have another problem in which they are imprisoned into their social and family values which they defend aggressively, unfortunately some of which are destructive. The Aids epidemic has struck them gravely.

Luos do not control the economy of Kisumu, which is controlled by outsiders. Commercially, they are being bought out by the more business minded and aggressive tribes. If the modern trend is let to continue, it is not difficult to see them being swallowed up by those other communities in the future.

It is to the benefit of both the nation and the Luo community that this problem should be addressed. The community needs a different angle of development in order to save it.

The Kalenjin and nomad problem

In spite of having had a Kalenjin President for 24 years, the community has remained awfully undeveloped. Perhaps because it is thought, like the Maasais, their community is happy to live within their traditional lifestyles. Moving from the fertile lower areas towards the Samburu and finally the northern part of Kenya, the homes of nomads, can give you the picture of the backwardness in which the community lives.

In some places of the north Kenya you are likely to come across people asking you, “How is Kenya?” They don’t feel they belong to Kenya, or Kenya is synonymous with the Nairobi areas.

The nomadic communities have huge tracks of land to themselves which are, in any case, semi-desert and undeveloped, but which have enormous potential for development. The northern parts of Kenya, if developed, could turn the Kenyan economy round to great heights. Their greatest problem is water which, ironically, is underneath them and the rest potentially held by the rivers if dams were constructed.

In order to answer to the demands of their environment, the nomads are not doing anything to prepare themselves for the present and next centuries. In any case, they have generally been neglected by the past regimes. Their problem is in catching up with the modern world. In order to do so and fast enough, they need a special programme and a government plan for development.

The problem of Akamba people

The Kamba problem is well-known in Kenya. Lack of water and everlasting bouts of famine. The devil destroying the Akamba community is excellent in inflicting the community with abortive rains. Ironically, most of the main rivers cut across Akambaland. When it rains all that water is drained into the Indian Ocean. Hunger comes with many other evils which include crippled economy, unemployment, poor performance in schools, frustrated development, lack of environmental development.

The Akamba community has a unique flare for loyalty in governments. They are used to being exploited and being poor. They perceive what happens to them as a matter of fate whereby they would also engage in philosophizing on why they are what they are.

Increasing population and diminishing economic support is destroying Akamba people and making them paranoid. The past regimes have made them lose hope in government development. The terrible conditions are doing their best in producing a depressed, melancholic and paranoid community that seeks escape through drunkenness. The Akamba community is producing a terrifying populations of drunkards. What these drunkards do to their families anyone can guess and get it all right. The community is hard working but under hostile environment.

The problem of coastal people

As things stand today, there is something one could describe as the Pwani versus the Bara communities. The Pwani people, who form what we may call the coastal people, are at war with upcountry economic invaders who have been engaged in a systematic move of buying them out of the along-the beach land. When Kenya became independent, the economic headquarters were upcountry where everything good was launched. Mombasa remained in the shadow of Nairobi for a long time in spite of Mombasa’s vital importance in the economic development of the country.

Then the upcountry people with money discovered there was great business in the tourist industry. They moved swiftly to buy and even grab the beach land and built holiday lodges. There was no consideration that local people should be helped to acquire that lucrative business. It began to look even frightening for them to realize that they had not even any right to walk to the beach through those tourist lodges.

The coastal people feel cheated, exploited, ignored and mistreated in their own environment. They are not the necessarily the ones who benefit from the jobs thus created. Majority of the benefactors belong to the economic invaders. As it were, the Upcountry merchants replaced the colonials and, in some cases, started demanding pounds of flesh from the Pwani inhabitants who, as the result, began to perceive their government as a foreign regime.

How much can a frustrated community contribute to an inspiring development of a nation? There has not been any reasonable dialogue between the coastal people and the newcomers. What is the route to a conciliation and who should be on the bargaining table to give pride and inspiration to the coastal community? Who has the right over that part of Kenya?

The Indian problem

The Indian community is the second largest employer of the country. It controls the industrial manufacturing sector. How come that Indians who are not natives of this country have achieved that stage? History has the answer to that. During colonial times, the Indian was number two, and the African was number three. The British gave Indians a foundation and protection to develop commercially. It is not important at this stage to go into the details of how the British did that. In fact, a substantial part of the Indians were given British passports.

The Indian community felt that they belonged to the British more than they belonged to Kenya. They could very easily and proudly say, “We belong to the British who brought us here.”

Independence made Indians feel orphaned, whose survival was now left in business which they went about skillfully. Majority of them still feel like foreigners although they are citizens. But they are citizens whose cultural values create a giant wall to protect their social estates from Africans. In fact, white people have mixed with Africans much more than Indians.

There is a frightening social rift between Indians and the natives. To them Kenya has been merely a working place. But how long will they remain feeling like foreigners and Kenya simply as a working place? What are the psychological implications of that?

How does the Kenyan African perceive the Indian? In fact, words have gone round that the relationship Indians and Africans is a time bomb. Should we sit and watch the clock of the time bomb continue ticking for whatever consequences? Does the Indian feel secure in Kenya? Is the Indian justified in feeling an orphaned who is working to buy his ticket for going home?

Is the Kenyan Indian here to stay or is he here to work and finally go away? Should that be the case really and what are the dangers in it?


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