Saturday, October 22, 2011

Clan and Tribal Politics

By Joseph Lister Nyaringo-North America
We all belong to nations, communities (tribes) and clans but these leanings should not dictate the decisions we make in the pursuit of the general good of society.

I promised to provide my perspectives on clan politics when the subject came up in this forum.
Yes, we all belong to a nation called Kenya, originate from some clan, belong to some locality (village) and identify ourselves to an extended family.
All this gives us identity, originality, sense of belonging, and a tradition to rely on especially when trying to explore our lineages.

However, when it comes to the point of making choices on leadership representation, clan, tribe or family lineages should not be the determining yardstick.

Clannism begets favourism, corruption and tribalism, which is a recipe for the entrenchment of negative ethnicity in the national psyche. We fought each other as tribes in 2007/2008 during the PEV. The Hutus and Tusis clobbered each other in 1994 during the Rwanda genocide because of tribal animosity.

We are embroiled in a war with the Al-Shabab terrorist militants in Somalia because of their internal clan related conflicts which dates back to 1969 in the Siad Barre’s military revolution. He failed to nurture strong roots for nationhood which led to his overthrow due to clan rivalry in 1991.

Apparently, the Somali clan problems have spilled unto our doorsteps and our military are risking their lives to protect our territorial integrity.

Ideologically, we cannot divorce tribalism and clannism but we need to remember that, the best tribalist is usually the best believer in clannism and the best tribalist is also likely to be very corrupt.
Since both clannism and tribalism are deep-rooted in many of our Kenyan communities, we need to start taking stock of its negative implications especially on building successful democratic tenets in our society.

Since both clannism and tribalism goes hand in hand, they stifle freedom of choice especially during leadership contests and anchors favourism which destroys meritocracy in public life. In fact, clannism during the electioneering period holds voters hostage; making them support candidates just because they come from their clans and not what they are capable of doing after being elected.

People who don’t mind about clan or tribes are more likely to accommodate other people’s views and ideas; a clear way to mold a better society.

When we will accept candidates especially in democratic contests and discourses based on who they are and what they want to do for the general public, it will be the final nail on clannism and tribalism in Kenya.

We are in the 21st Century and we want to see diversity in the way we elect our leaders. For more than 4 decades, we have seen leaders elected outside their home area and this is an idea we need to continue embracing in order to tackle negative ethnicity.

In post-independence Kenya, Kibaki, Mboya, and Oneko were elected outside their home communities and although majority of the voters were from their tribes, I’m sure they attracted admirers from outside. This is a culture we need to let sink if we truly want to change Kenya by destroying the divisive monster of tribalism.

We want to see diversity of leadership in contests as reflected through the election of Philip Leakey in Langata Nairobi, Basil Criticos in Taveta, Fred Gumo of Westlands, Elizabeth Ongoro of Kasarani and Shakir Shabir of Kisumu town. With this spirit of tolerance which knows no race, tribe or clan and accommodating people based on their ability and contribution to society, we will build a proud nation.
We want a system where you go to any part of the country, sell your ideas contest for political office, lose or win and life goes on. If we let clannism and tribalism get ingrained in our minds, it will dent talents, relegate best leaders, demotivate people, destroy meritocracy, entrench favourism which will culminate to poor service delivery especially in public life.

Rather than looking at clannism for instance when electing an MP, or civic leader, we need to look at how the candidate’s ability will impact on the social-economic development in the community.
It’s not bad to identify ourselves through our tribes or clans, but we really need to start being like Tanzanians who are proud of their nation before everything else.

We are the strongest in the region but behind Tanzania and latest Rwanda, in terms of how we are nurturing democratic leadership concepts and this one has not earned us any respect.

While in a conference in Arusha in 2007 a friend, who is actually an MP from Kigoma North, for the Chadema party, gave us a lecture on the rigours he went through before being elected as MP. He was the youngest candidate as MP in the whole country. Had no name recognition, no riches, and a fresher from college in Germany. He went through hurdles- including clan politics but won the elections because most Tanzanians are not so much into clan or tribal politics. Today, Mr. Nzitto Kabwe is a shining star for the Chadema party in Tanzania’s parliament and shadow Minister for Finance.

If we can slowly eliminate warped prejudices of clannism and tribalism, especially during decision making in leadership contests, we are likely to build a great country where individuals will be voted not on the basis of their tribe but on what the Late Martin Luther King junior called “the contents of their character.”

Letting these negativities lead the way in building political power bases, lobbying for jobs and positions, havens for favourism and access for national opportunities, our Country Kenya will never move even a single stride.

As a candidate for Bobasi parliamentary seat, I know we come from 3 major clans- Bosansa, Bogetaorio and Masige but to me, this is only important for our identity as a people but it will never be the yardstick under which I will define candidacy or seek for your votes.

You will vote for me not because I belong to your clan but because you belief that I have what it takes to pursue developmental programs which will spur the people’s standard of life.

I’m proud of being Omogusii and a Kenyan citizen from the Western part of our country. I’m appealing to you to support me so that together we can face the challenges facing us while united. I have faith that when elected, I will do a good job for our people. God bless you.
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