3 Mar 2008

Kenya After The Clashes (1)

Donald Kipkorir’s articles are always entertaining and thought provoking but his “After the grand coalition” (March 1st) makes an uneven case for fragmenting Kenya into tribal enclaves as an act of “positive ethnicity”. Such positivism can only come from that which unites people of all cultures and races, not that which narrowly divides them.

One of his proposed tribal regions is the Kalenjin-Maasai -Turkana , a putative “Nilotic” jimbo.* Yet these tribes have historical enmity. Do Sudanic origins long ago make them suddenly compatible? Why not include the Luo in this “Nilotic” micro-state? Other proposals, like for a coastal “Mji-Kenda” state ignore the complication with numerous WaSwahili and Kenyan Arabs, the former slave owners.

North Easterners do not consider themselves one people, despite joint Cushitic origins and languages. Would “forcing” them into an instant micro-state really be better than prodding them, with all other Kenyans, firmly in the direction of Kenya first, tribe second?

And where can one find a place for the Kisii, Samburu, Taita and other large tribes? If they are not to have their own “micro-states” then they must be thrown in as perpetual minorities among larger groups. Where will all this dividing up start, or end?

The example Mr.Kipkorir gives of Germany is misleading. True Germany is federal, but the German tribes were historically and linguistically one people divided by regional differences or religion. They cannot be compared to the diverse and radically differing Kenyan ethnic groups.

Those who emphasize “ethnic diversity” rarely point out that federations, like the USA and Germany, are expressly designed to unify previously sovereign people by making them free to live, work and open business in any part of the federation. If the Kenya tribal proponents wish this, why bother with the expense and complexity of tribal regions? We already have this freedom in Kenya’s current law.

One would be happy to see a Kenya Federation where any Kenyan can work and live, own property and act in politics as they wish, all enforced by the Army and a Kenya version of the FBI. Try preventing a Californian from opening a business in New York and see how fast George W. Bush sends the Federal Marshals to lock you up. This is not what most “ethnic diversity” advocates have in mind but the opposite, namely perpetual superior empowerment of one group, based on where it was geographically circa 1898.

The unity of Kenya may not be a perfect solution, but excessive regionalization could lead to more negative tribalism. There are few signs enough people understand devolution except as a tribal “winner-takes-all” game, as post-election events have sadly shown. This is a trend Mr. Kipkorir probably deplores but is nonetheless a logical consequence of this ideology.

*jimbo - a region or province

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