SOCIETY TALK

We must abolish all tribal stereotypes

We use tribes to divide and conquer

In Summary

• If we keep insinuating an entire tribe is bad because of one character, we are doomed

Sarah Wairimu the wife to the slain Dutch tycoon Tob Cohen at the Milimani law court in Nairobi on September 12
Sarah Wairimu the wife to the slain Dutch tycoon Tob Cohen at the Milimani law court in Nairobi on September 12
Image: ENOS TECHE

Unconfirmed reports say some foreign embassies have warned their countrymen against marrying women of certain tribes in Kenya. This information is allegedly being circulated to warn foreigners from marrying Kenyan women as a warning after the murder of Dutch businessman Tob Cohen. Cohen was reported missing since mid-July and was found murdered in an underground tank at his Kitsuru home.

As we all know from watching too much crime-TV, the first suspect in a murder is always the spouse. Cohen’s wife Sarah Wairimu seems like she has everything to gain from the death of her husband. Sarah and Cohen were in the middle of a nasty divorce, whose details reveal the ugliness of the marriage. Even though the DCI has presented incriminating evidence against Sarah, the court of public opinion has already deemed Sarah guilty. Not because she is the prime suspect but because she is Kikuyu. Somehow, the case went from being about the Cohens to how women from the Kikuyu tribe would do anything for money.

If there is anyone to blame for the foreigners judging us on tribal grounds, it is us. We, Kenyans, have been playing the tribal games since the colonialists left. We have been propagating tribalistic stereotypes to propel the underlying hate we have for other tribes. We use tribes to divide and conquer. One of the darkest times this country ever saw was during 2007-08 post-election violence. The seemingly harmless stereotypes that we used against each other became the burning coals that set the country ablaze.

Words carry a lot of weight. If we keep insinuating an entire tribe is bad because of one poorly formed expression, then we are doomed. If we keep propagating stereotypes like “Kikuyus love money”, then it is only a stone’s throw away from “Kikuyus would kill for money”.

As it is, a socialite on Twitter received heavy backlash after insinuating that rich men married to Kikuyu women die mysteriously. This was only a few hours after the death announcement of Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore. While we find it ‘harmless’ spreading such nonsense among ourselves, it is evident that we are setting a dangerous precedent for the entire global community to perceive us according to the stereotypes.

As Mombasa residents, we see a lot of beach boys and young girls throwing themselves at foreigners. When we see this, we assume (although some are proven) that these relationships are driven by financial motives. But does that mean we should jump to the conclusion that our fellow Kenyans are capable of murder for money? Absolutely not.

Murder is not something to be taken lightly. Murder is not inherent of tribe. Just because we assume somebody loves money doesn’t mean we should equate it with the ability to murder.