The following article is an opinion piece by Jared Nyaberi. What it represents is not the opinion of Gusii.com. That is his mind. He did not take his medicine today and kind of went haywire. Once he started writing, things went downhill from there. Apologies in advance.
It happens every time. Someone completes research on a subject pertaining to ethnic tribes and as usual, the conclusions are that belonging to a tribe is bad. Yes indeed. Belonging to a tribe promotes tribalism and tribalism promotes hatred, fear, murder, rape, robberies, nepotism, strive and who knows what. The latest example is the just concluded Kenyan Population Census for 2010 whose results were released last week.
Nothing good in our diversity
Many organizations and individuals in Kenya have taken the government to task for indicating tribe as part of the census report. In an article in the Daily Nation, Kamau Mutunga and Mwaura Samora argue that there are many Kenyans who do not fit into the assigned ethnic groups and were therefore left out. This is a good point. However, this article, like many others I have read before attempts to degrade the various ethnic groups in Kenya. This article sees nothing good in our diversity as Kenyans.
We are not beige but many colors
This article hammers down point after point about those Kenyans who only speak English or Kiswahili and how they just want to be called Kenyans. Once again, belonging to an ethnic group is a bad thing, based on the information from this article. These individuals just want to be called Kenyans. Again, there is nothing wrong with that. Besides, I think all Kenyans of all ethnic groups feel the same way. There is no Kenyan in their right mind who wants to be called something else other than Kenyan.
Not faceless with no identity
The census was conducted in Kenya. The respondents were Kenyans. These are people who have origins. They are not a faceless group with no identity. They have certain ethnic characteristics that were recorded by the census enumerators. It is these ethnic qualities of the respondents that make them Kenyans. Part of the ethnic characteristic that was recorded was the primary language they speak. Oops! That was bad. Should not have said that you speak any other language other than Kenyan. In this case the Kenyan language being English or Kiswahili. Problem is, there is no government legislation as yet to command Kenyans not to speak their mother tongue.
Negative ethnicity police
Enter the negative ethnicity police. The negative ethnicity police see nothing positive in any Kenyan having any roots. To the ethnic police, the term "Tribe" is a bad word. No need to engage the brains here. To them, the term "Tribe" is synonymous with "Tribalism" and they associate it with racism, nepotism, ethnic strive of 2007 and the list could go on and on. Remember, the ethnic police still believe that tribalism caused the problems of the bungled elections of 2007. They have absolved the corrupt leadership which consisted of all Kenyan tribes of any responsibility for the debacle.
They do not want to look at the corrupt leaders of the time in the eye and say, "You did all Kenyans wrong. Kenyans of all tribes were wronged. Do not do like that again". Instead, they just want to summarize all Kenyan problems to just "Tribal". Put the blame somewhere quickly and then walk away. No further thinking needed. No need for personal responsibility. For me, that is too simplistic. To understand why, look at the mini elections we have had since 2007. The Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) is headed by a Kenyan of the Somali ethnic group. Remember again, he belongs to a "tribe". Mr. Mohammed Hassan. A bright young man. A True red-blooded Kenyan. Flawless and corruptless elections were conducted in South Mugirango and Bomachoge constituencies under his transparent leadership.
Love of country and being responsible
No strive here. No "Tribalism" my friend. Just the IIEC doing what Kenyans hired it to do. A job well done. It is called love of country and being responsible. You cannot say that about the leadership of the elections during the year 2007. You can choose to just speak English and Kiswahili all you want. It will not translate into good deeds towards your fellow Kenyans. I know many Kenyans who pride themselves in using English curse words. They take pride in being able to use those curse words towards others. If you do not love your country. If you do not love your people. You are capable of doing great damage to others regardless of the language you use. You see, English does not make you a good person. The goodness must come from your heart. Yes. That goodness from your heart. It is called many things.
Americans call it character. It is character that builds a country. And you do not build your country by eliminating culture. By tearing down your own kind. There are other great examples of good Kenyans doing great work to move Kenya forward. While the ethnic police have a field day promoting their agenda, there is a silent majority who appreciate and understand the meaning of "Tribe".
What is a tribe? It has been said that a tribe is any group that has certain characteristics and qualities. These characteristics could include culture of which language is part of, social, religious and so on. There are thousands of scholars in anthropology, sociology and other academic fields who can ascribe different meanings to the word "tribe". I am not an academician. However, I do not need an academic degree to know and understand my origins. I do not need anyone from another country to explain my identity either.
I know who I am
I know Who I am. I can feel my ethnicity. I talk my ethnicity. I eat more food from my ethnic origins that from any other ethnic group. No matter where I go. No matter which country I am in. I want my ethnic food. That automatically gives me away as Omogusii. Does this need a college degree to understand? I think NOT! I speak my ethnic language of Ekegusii without having a need to look for the right word to say. No dictionary needed here friends.
It was not always like this. It took me many years to regain this kind of freedom. Until four years ago, I was a slave to everything foreign. I despised myself. I hated myself if people heard me speak Ekegusii. When I broke free, I had a feeling colonialism had been passed down to my genes. Why did it take me so long to understand who I was? I am still debating on that one. I believe that at some point, we all grow and reach certain enlightenment stages. My stage to appreciate who I was did not happen until just a few years ago. I wish it had happened sooner but they say it is never too late. That is when I started understanding the concept of tribes.
Origin of Tribes
Where did tribes come from? The Bible talks about the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Genesis 49:28). They included Asher, Benjamin, Dan, Gad, Issachar, Joseph, Judah, Levi, Naphtali, Reuben, Simeon, and Zebulun. I am not sure if that is the origin of the word "tribes" but there are possibly millions of Bible history researchers who can shed more light on this. How about modern languages?
How about the English language that is spoken universally all over the world? According to Wikipidia, "English is a West Germanic language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Britain by Germanic invaders from various parts of what is now northwest Germany and the Netherlands. Initially, Old English was a diverse group of dialects, reflecting the varied origins of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England. One of these dialects, Late West Saxon, eventually came to dominate".
Reading further indicates that English was brought to the present day England due to invasion by other tribes from present day Germany. Based on this reading, I can see that the inhabitants of England were forced to accept and learn English. Forced down their throats. Without free will. Through force by being conquered.
British demonization of ethnic groups
And what did the British do when they colonized parts of the world? They did to us what had been done to them many years earlier by the Germanic Tribes. Talk about payback to the wrong people! And the result? Most Africans hate their tribal origins and culture. They demonized local language and culture. They stripped communities of their culture, way of life and language. They forced them to adopt English names and titles. In most British colonies, people of certain ethnic groups were forced to change their names and adopt English names. And we are still paying the price to date. We hate ourselves. We love everything foreign. There is no good in us.
The American Indians were the most affected. They replaced their names with newly assigned English names. Having been stripped of their culture, who they were, most American Indians are now marginalized and resorted to a life of abject poverty in reservations, feeling jaded, abused and robbed of their land and identity.
African Americans did not fair well either. Being in the slavery environment, they were forced to adopt their master's names and hence the English names now all over the place. There was no way a Black African from West africa could have had a name like "Smith". May God Bless the slaves. They did not have a choice. It was the way of the master or no way.
Languages are not permanent
Languages change through time. In addition to time, languages will change due to immigration or government policies. For thousands of years, Greek was the dominant language of the world. The almost-extinct Latin language enjoyed its time during its heyday. Now no one speaks it except the priests of the Catholic Church. Many of the languages we speak today may not be around in say, 100 years. This brings me to the issue of language versus tribe in kenya.
Difference between Ethnicity and Tribalism
Most ethnic language detractors fail to indicate that there is a difference between ethnicity and tribalism. How does a Kenyan get rid of his or her ethnicity? How do you all of sudden cease to be Omogusii, Luo, Akamba, Giriama or Agikuyu? Quit speaking your mother tongue or eating Ugali and Rinagu? How about the Maasai? Stop being a Maasai Moran? Do not teach Maasai men to grow up and become men? That is the problem I have. I want someone to show me how to get rid of myself being Omogusii and just be Kenyan. I know what I can do in order to stop tribalism on my part: Treat all people fairly regardless of how they are different from me. Love all Kenyans. But how do I get rid of this ethnicity thing? How do I cleanse myself of the fact that I was born Omogusii? How do you choose where you want to be born? Cut contacts with everyone in the village? Go dip myself in the Indian Ocean? Those are hard questions for me.
How about getting rid of tribalism? I want to be treated fairly by all Kenyans. In return, I want to treat all Kenyans fairly in my dealings regardless of ethnic origin, language, tribal food, custom, sex, gender, religion, wealth status and so on. The fact that I am Omogusii should not hinder me from becoming friends with a fellow Kenyan Kalenjin, Taita or Somali or any other tribe from any part of the world.
Treat all human beings fairly
You see. Getting rid of tribalism has to start at a personal level. You have to have grown to that level in order to want to get rid of it. It cannot happen by government legislation. Remember we are 38.6 million of us now. We have to change our attitudes starting from individual levels. How? Respect for others who do not look, worship, eat, talk, or even dance like us. Without this change of attitude, we will still have tribalism 100 years from now.
I want to be a good human being and treat all other human beings with respect. I do not want to confine my fair treatment of others to my ethnic group, city, county or country. I want to treat all citizens of the world fairly. In addition, I would prefer others treat me the same. I would prefer that they appreciate who I am: Omogusii, short, kenyan, loud-mouthed and hard-headed. Is that too much to ask? I do not think so.
Do not rubbish your own ethnicity
I want others to be, so I can be. In the process, I want to learn other languages and cultures. In learning about about other cultures and language, I do not want to rubbish my own. My mind is big enough to accommodate others who do not look like me. Who do not worship like me. Who do not talk like me. I want to teach my children their language and culture along the way too. That is not all.
I want my children to learn to appreciate others and come to the understanding that diversity is a good thing. We are a country of many colors and not a faceless ugly beige color. We are people with roots and want to learn to love one another. Yes. It is possible to appreciate others who are different from you. It is called growth and expansion of the mind. Not limiting ourselves to the language imposed on us by the colonial masters.
How do we do this? Stop hating ourselves first. Love who you are and where you came from. The colonial master does not like it that you now have the ability to speak more languages. Many more than he can. He failed to learn and document the languages while he was in Kenya. That is his downfall. He can take Agikuyu, Jaluo, Rendille or Kiswahili as a foreign language now if he wanted to but he will not. He is too proud. Speaking many languages. Understanding many cultures is an asset. It is not a bad thing as the colonial master would like you to believe. And to the ethnic police, please tell the truth or go away!
Kenyans of all ethnic groups and colors flock to kanda King concerts. No ethnic police needed here.Thank you.