Raila lost his innocence during the referendum

By Koigi wa Wamwere

The recent statement that ODM-Kenya presidential aspirant Mr Raila Odinga is unelectable because he is a Luo is the smoke from an atomic bomb of negative ethnicity. Unless it is defused, it will blow the country into smithereens. But who cares? Most of us are too busy to notice. Behind the statement lies a severe, vicious and reckless struggle for power.

The statement, however, belongs to the same genre as: "This Government is ours, we must never let it go" or "it is the turn of our community to eat".

It is the desperate struggle for power that brings out the worst in us and marries us to negative ethnicity. Because the Luo and others are unelectable, we argue, only we qualify to lead. The argument is meant to disqualify not just Raila, but the whole community from power.

But if belonging to another ethnicity disqualifies the Luo from power, it could also be used to disqualify other communities by those who believe only they have the right to ascend to top leadership. But when we join the chorus that others are unelectable because they are ethnically different, we forget that could also be used against us. The unelectability of others is our own unelectability.

Yesterday, we disqualified the Kikuyu; today we disqualify the Luo and tomorrow we shall disqualify the Kalenjin, Kamba, Luhya and people from the Coast. But as founding Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere correctly argued, embracing tribalism is as unstoppable as eating human flesh. Even after the ogre in us has eaten the Kikuyu, the Luo and others, it will not rest when all the communities have been eaten. It will demand that we feed it with clans, families, brothers and sisters.

The Somali call negative ethnicity that "war against my brother". And they put it very amply: It begins with my country and I against the world, then my clan and I against the country, my family and I against the clan, my brother and I against my family and then my brother and I.

Pursuit of individual dreams, greed and interest disguised as collective survival is what has destroyed Somalia, unleashed genocide in Rwanda and will, some day, destroy Kenya. The problem of negative ethnicity and power seekers calling others unelectable did not start with the so-called ODM-Kenya luminaries telling Raila that he is unelectable.

It started with colonialists pitting African communities against one another. After independence, Kikuyu leaders killed and detained enemies of their rule — Pio Gama Pinto, Tom Mboya, Oginga Odinga and JM Kariuki, among others. After Kenyatta, Kanu institutionalised the call of "all against one", rallying other communities against the Kikuyu until it came to all other communities against Kanu.

Since Narc came to power, Raila has championed the rallying of other communities against the Kikuyu whom he called the enemy during and after the referendum on the draft constitution. As Raila mobilised anti-Kikuyu forces, he did not understand that anti-Kikuyuism is just an offspring of tribalism, the monster that now wants to devour him.

Calling Raila unelectable is unacceptable, but also a case of poetic justice, the hunter being the hunted and Raila reaping where he sowed.

Raila lost his innocence when he joined hands with tribal hyenas, thinking they would escort him to State House. Now that the crocodile that Raila reared to eat others is baying for his blood, will he change and fight or all he wants is a sympathy vote?

Raila might say that by defending himself, he is fighting tribalism. To fight tribalism, however, one needs to do more than defend oneself. One must defend oneself and all others against tribalism.

But can Raila fight tribalism within ODM-Kenya? Though the party is not more guilty of tribalism than the rest of us, its ideology and compass are ethnic hate. It used anti-Kikuyu tribalism to win the referendum.

It is now using anti-Luoism to pick its presidential candidate. Thereafter, it will revert to anti-Kikuyu tribalism for the General Election. Raila cannot, therefore, fight tribalism from within ODM. He plans to gain from the anti-Kikuyu tribalism of ODM should he be picked as its presidential flag bearer.

It is amazing that Raila was surprised when ODM-Kenya’s tribalism sprang upon him. He should have seen it coming. How can a person of Raila’s political experience and intellectual acumen have failed to know that there is no way ethnic hate can stop at one community?

How can it stop when ODM-Kenya promotes majimboism as opposed to non-ethnic devolution; when ODM-Kenya presidential candidates, including Raila, have been selling themselves as ethnic presidents?

Raila must have thought anti-Kikuyu tribalism was good because it won ODM-Kenya victory in the referendum on the draft constitution and can easily win him victory in the elections.

But tribalism is a boomerang. It comes back to whoever throws it. It is also a saw. It cuts both ways. When you ride the tiger of tribalism to take you to victory or power, you must not complain when it turns round and shreds you into pieces.

By embracing negative ethnicity, we dig a common grave for us all.

The writer is the Assistant minister for Information and Subukia MP

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