Aspirants must think outside tribal cocoons
In the run up to the coming General Election, politicians gunning for national offices are mobilising among their people groups as a starting point.
The men and women seeking political relevance pursue framing themselves as heroes of their villages and champions of local interests. It seems that one has to identify with the locals in order to guarantee success.
A candidate for office from the former eastern province is running into headwinds in seeking an elective post in his region- his vast network of social capital notwithstanding, since he is being framed as an outsider. The reason for all his trouble is because his mastery of the local tongue is spartan.
The local tongue is a useful tool deployed to appeal to base emotions, to stir up local memories and to build up the perception of one as the defender of the community, a local warrior and champion of the tribe. It is also a useful tool in manufacturing trouble.
During elections, the perception of Kenya as a cluster of ethnic groups devoid of a uniting centre emerges strongly. Across the land there are those who champion the interests of the Luhya nation, the Maa Nation, the Mt Kenya interests and so on. It seems a popular thing to do and the sure way of being relevant.
Our devolved system notwithstanding Kenya is a unitary State. The accident of colonialism sew the 43 or so communities into this geographical expression running from Lodwar in the North West to Lamu in the South East, and across from Busia in the West to Garissa in the East.
Dotted through it all are deposits of beauty and wealth. The amazing expanse of Lake Turkana with its fine white sands, calm waves and the whispering sway of the palm trees is a dream for a holiday investor.
The rising peak of Mt Kenya with its snow kissing the skies and placidly embracing divinity, remains a wonder to scholars.
The plains that run down to the Coast are speckled with majestic wild animals that match across the Tsavo in search of water and pasture stamping the country’s DNA the sense of nature’s paradise.
Collectively Kenya forms a mosaic of beauty, wonder and awe, strength and wealth. But politics scantly takes note. Instead, politicians privilege their regions to the exclusion of others.
Indeed, there is a salient underlying expression of jealousy with the neighbouring county perceived to be privileged over others, almost as if the other county is not part of Kenya.
The analogy from the Holy Writ is in order. We are not copycat of each other rather the sum of us all makes the body which is the Kenyan real estate. The ear can’t be perceived to be less deserving, for then how would the hearing function be executed.
Lake Victoria should be perceived to be important to the Kenyan real estate; it is the physical gateway of Mt Kenya region to the great lakes territory.
There is a danger in living in a poor neighbourhood. The poor are not happy and neither are the rich whose wealth could be under constant threat. Comfort comes with everybody having their needs met and that calls for investing in all our country’s regions.
For this reason, leaders must not be so parochial and retain focus only on their region. The devolved system already recognises the local regions, so leaders should at the very least demonstrate some fidelity to the Kenyan State rather than see other parts of the Kenyan State as threats.
It would be lovely to hear leaders champion the development of the entire Kenyan real estate rather than this obsession with bringing development to the village at the exclusion of other villages.
The entire cake belongs to Kenya and a leader should focus on bringing only the portion that belongs to the local region home, so that there is equity in the sharing of the cake across the country. Political parties and national leaders of their worth should be committed to this. —The writer is dean, School of Communication, Daystar University