• Cross-cultural understanding and communication then should ideally take precedence, especially in our very diverse Kenyan society.
• Leaders in politics, religion and business, should strive to advocate recognition by merit and not their tribe, religion, sex or any other brands of social construct.
"Because my culture and my people do it this way", and other stories, are common phrases on these streets.
The key to many of the Kenyan problems today is identity. Identity and diversity questions are everywhere, right from the grassroots to the global levels.
Francis Fukuyama, an accomplished scholar, explains identity as a subjective construct: ‘’It is what people perceive themselves to be, and what others perceive and label them, which principally establishes it.’’
An individual or a group can have more than one identity.
Identity issues bring about divided societies and some of these problems can be highlighted using three theories as suggested by Fukuyama on his book Contemporary Identity Politics and the Struggle for Recognition (2008), whereby theories of politics have typically been built on top of theories of human behaviour.
These theories signify the quest for human dignity, namely: Thymos, whereby people struggle for recognition and self-worth; Megalothymia, in which people belief is their positional good based on class and race, ethnicity and Isothymia, which demands that we recognize the basic equal worth of our fellow human beings.
With all these theories having their merits and demerits, they belong to the third part of the soul, and should be treated with caution.
In making sense of identity, all human beings belong to different categories and singularity can lead to misunderstandings. An identity approach thus needs to be plural, bearing in mind we are equal under the law and that exclusion causes unnecessary violence and even war.
Cross-cultural understanding and communication then should ideally take precedence, especially in our very diverse Kenyan society. Leaders in politics, religion and even the business front, should strive to advocate recognition by merit and not their tribe, religion, sex or any other brands of social construct.
To reduce barriers of cross-cultural communications and to acknowledge different identities, one can take the effort to develop listening skills. This ensures parties hear the real meaning of what is said instead of understanding at face value.
Becoming aware of our perceptions towards others will ensure we take steps to not prejudge or stereotype. Accepting people and their differences and acknowledging that we don’t know everything helps in overcoming culture shock and cultural stereotypes.
Seeking feedback, opening up channels of communication and being responsible for our feelings and actions will go a long way in mitigating miscommunication.
In Kenya, peace education has in different ways been delivered from primary to secondary level since 2008 following the 2008 post-election violence. The system is, however, exam oriented. There is need for curriculum review and trainers should also be trained on cross cultural communication to change the framed attitudes of the students.
The Ministry of Sports and Heritage through Magical Kenya should incorporate more items on different cultures as a central task and not as a devolved unit and make modern, distributable, promotional materials with wide reach across the country and through Kenyan embassies.
The government should develop caravan programmes on cross-cultural awareness to ensure wider reach to schools and the community. The media should promote wider airing of cultural programmes for different audiences.
The government should also enforce existing policies on cross-cultural awareness to promote peaceful coexistence and a sense of nationalism. Civil society and players in peace and security in Kenya, as well as other institutes peace and security in Africa, should recommend to respective Education ministry the best practices for embracing diversity and peace education.
Vera is a part time lecturer and a communications researcher