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December 10, 2018

Presidents Obama and Uhuru should address negative ethnicity

President Uhuru Kenyatta meets US President Barack Obama during former South Africa president Nelson Mandela's memorial service at FNB stadium in Johannesburg in 2013. Photo/FILE
President Uhuru Kenyatta meets US President Barack Obama during former South Africa president Nelson Mandela's memorial service at FNB stadium in Johannesburg in 2013. Photo/FILE

Now that President Obama, the highest product of racial tolerance and evidence that racism and negative ethnicity can be overcome is in town, Presidents Uhuru and Obama must address negative ethnicity alongside lingering dictatorship, growing corruption and menacing al Shabaab terrorism. After all, negative ethnicity would never have allowed Obama, the son of a Luo to be President of Kenya. That negative ethnicity is not on the table for discussion between Obama and Uhuru shows how sensitive the problem is.

But as a Swahili proverb says "concealing a disease does not prevent its exposure by death", putting on a face of national unity or Presidents’ refusal to discuss elimination of negative ethnicity, as a necessary condition for peace and growth of entrepreneurship and economy, will not eliminate our Achilles' Heel that students are exposing when they are expelled from universities and secondary schools because of ethnic conflicts that are fuelled by political leadership at all levels.

Negative ethnicity is a great ally of corruption and instigator of ethnic genocide, civil wars, massacres and insecurity that cannot be ignored where corruption, insecurity and violation of human rights are discussed. Failure to address negative ethnicity will leave development, democracy and peace exposed to a foe that is no lesser dangerous than Islamic radicalisation, and whose capacity to protect corruption and insecurity will leave these two enemies of the nation flourishing instead of weakening.

Yet, to understand why we are held captive by negative ethnicity, even as we deny our enslavement by it, we must remind ourselves that negative ethnicity is ethnic hate that provokes hate in equal measure for no other reason but ethnic difference. As victims of ethnic hate, there is no way we can unite to develop, live together or be at peace with one another.

The philosophy of negative ethnicity is to help those in power to divide and rule those out of power invented by minority British colonialists as a tool of dividing and ruling Africans, as indeed, other colonial subjects. Using differences in language, physical forms or even language, thousands of colonial rulers were able to rule millions of African subjects by pitting one community against another.

As in the jungle kingdom, one lion could conquer three cows of different colours – red, black and white. By accusing the red cow of provoking lions against white and black cows with its colour of blood, the lion was able to isolate two cows from one which it attacked and ate alone. Later, the lion isolated the remaining two cows from one another by convincing the white that the conspicuous colour of the black cow was a danger to it. Once separated from one another, the white and black were easily attacked and eaten alone.

Negative ethnicity always comes as a friend, an ally and a benefactor, never as an enemy who is always the other community. However, though negative ethnicity promises power and wealth, it always ends up delivering war and death both to us and our so-called enemies.

Basically, negative ethnicity means promoting within us four negative values simultaneously: Ethnic hate of others that provokes others’ hate for us, ethnic superiority that makes us think we are better than others, ethnic inferiority that makes us feel lower than others. Those who feel superior discriminate against those who are ethnically different.

In Kenya, we have made negative ethnicity the ideology of our politics, our political parties, political alliances, national and county governments, especially when it comes to sharing power, resources and jobs.

As people in racist societies define others by the colour of their skin rather than character, in Kenya, we also judge people by their ethnicity.

Equally we use ethnicity to define our leaders – all leaders from our community, however useless, are good; and all leaders from other communities, however good, are bad and to be rejected. Today, this is the primary reason why Kenya and most African countries have bad leadership. Because of ethnicity, we reject good leaders and embrace bad leaders.

Indeed, because of negative ethnicity, we have even redefined the essence of leadership. We elect leaders, not to serve and take us to greener pastures but to represent and protect us against other communities.

We also define all other communities as our enemies because of negative ethnicity.

Because all other communities are our enemies, we define our social norm, not as being at peace with others but as being at war with others.

Because of negative ethnicity, most of our communities are at war with one another. Indeed, negative ethnicity is Africa’s weapon of mass self-destruction, that has killed more Africans than any nuclear or atomic bomb.

In Kenya, the ideology of negative ethnicity ensures support by organising communities into ethnic dictatorships that elites use to attack leaders and people of other communities, and protects itself against dilution by urging its victims to reject nationalism.

Though negative ethnicity will eventually deliver war and death, in the meantime ethnic elites are its greatest beneficiaries and people its sure victims, especially when they are recruited as canon fodder for ethnic wars.

Because of its great capacity to antagonise and pit communities against one another, in Kenya, the danger of negative ethnicity to peace and security is as great as that of Islamic radicalisation and al Shabaab terrorism. Indeed, where negative ethnicity is virulent, uniting people to fight corruption and terrorism is impossible.

While prosecuting propagators of ethnic hate is a good place to start fighting negative ethnicity, to eradicate negative ethnicity, we must end ethnic discrimination, ethnically organising people and embracing negative ethnicity as the ideology of politics and capturing power. It is better to lose than capture power using negative ethnicity.


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