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We should indeed consider rotational presidency

By Sandra Ochola
Thursday, January 14th, 2021
Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Photo/Courtesy
In summary

Ngugi wa Thiong’o in, ‘Secure the Base: Making Africa Visible in the Globe’ decries the negative impact of tribalism in Africa.

His criticism is not so much on the concept of tribalism itself, but of its origin and application within the African context. 

He argues that ‘tribalism’ was devised by colonial regimes to oppress, segregate and dominate Africans.

Observably, during the struggle for independence the European and Asian immigrants could organise and mobilise nationally, while the Africans could only form political, social and labour unions within their ethnic confines.

Capitalism heightened this difference, creating class conflicts within and between different communities depending on nature and extent of their collaboration with the colonial regime.  

These absurdities suppressed our diversity and ingrained themselves in the spirit of African people.

Many of us have since embraced ideologies behind tribalism while others do not bother to understand its origins or impact.

Most revealing are structures that such segregation and domination perpetuated still prevail today. 

The uncomfortable truth is class and tribe play a key role in our socio-political organisation.

It is those with requisite education, high social mobility and sufficient liquidity that are likely to rise to positions of influence.  

It is this scenario that has been played out over the years where larger communities have dominated the political landscape in Kenya at the expense of the smaller communities.

Groups such as the Oromo and Dahalo are rarely made reference to in national political conversations yet; they still play an important role in shaping the nation’s narrative through their taxes and votes. 

Issues of class and tribalism in Kenya are further, distorted to suit personal and communal interests.

They are evoked when it is socially and politically convenient and swept under the rug when its gets uncomfortable.

We are yet to address these subjects to a point we can discuss them as dispassionately as we discuss weather or appalling traffic situations. 

At the moment, class issues are playing out in hustler versus dynasty narrative where the ire of the have-nots is being strategically directed towards the well-to-do, with the former convinced that the latter is the cause of their destitution.

This is despite evidence of rising economy, a diverse private sector and increasing investments in infrastructure. 

In past days, narratives around tribalism have resurfaced on whether it is time to have a rotational presidency to cater to our elusive need for ethnic inclusivity.

Both President Uhuru and Raila Odinga have intimated at need for this level of diversity in our leadership. 

Understandably, their suggestions have been received with both awe and scorn given delicate political environment.

This does not however mean they lack any truth as facts are that history and colonisation have favored the Kikuyu and Kalenjin socially, economically and politically.

The same might also be said about the Luo, Luyhia and Kamba communities, all which for a while have been collectively referred to as ‘the big 5.’

Leaders from smaller communities have repeatedly condemned this ostracism on contention that it perpetuates cycles of illiteracy, poverty and social stagnation amongst their people.

We have since legislated on these sensitive issues with some success. Our constitution demands non-discrimination, equity and respect for diversity as principles of governance.

Affirmative action policies have also been drafted and passed as negative ethnicity persists amidst scramble for presidency. 

We could consider a rotational presidency in the future to help strike that delicate balance between individualism and nationalism.

Some advantages of  this include that it addresses the issues of marginalisation and provide stability for political systems.

It saves the smaller tribes from political obscurity, quiets ethnic and regional conflicts while promoting interests of larger tribes through co-operation and collaboration within the political space.  — The writer is an Advocate of the High Court and comments on topical issues

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