When I did an article denouncing the ODM tribal calculations for the 2017 elections published by Agnes Zani in The Standard on Thursday 24th November, 2016, I received accolades and vitriol in equal measure. It has become the story of my life. Then I received a response from a guy called Laban Mushiyi that took my breath away. He says he works as a clerk in a tea industry in Mombasa. Like many Kenyans who form a silent majority, this guy gets it! That tribalism is a narrative, peddled by politicians, and it is not the lived experience of a majority of Kenyans. That, in our daily struggles, we are not enemies, we are allies, until the politicians show up.
I asked for permission to publish his response in my blog because I felt that all my readers need to read it. Here is his response, unedited:
“When I lived in Kibera, I shared my modest crib with Onyango,Kimani, Kipngeno,Mutisya and Abdi. Abdi and Kimani shared a bed because Abdi was new to the city. The only thing that seperated our “bedrooms” was a “leso”, an old dirty bed sheet and a black polythene sheet that Mutisya had picked on his way from Industrial area. We shared everything and we showered in shifts and on alternate Sundays. Life was hard but we were happy. Kimani pushed mkoko at Marigiti and in the evening he will come home with a mixture of almost everything that was sold at the market. From it, we made a stew. Everyday it tasted distinctly different and authentic even though the ingredients remained the same, the quantity varied. Sometimes the pilipili or dania will be in plenty hence the taste of the day. We listened to Kameme together and KBC salamu za hodi hodi together and shared ushindi bar soap for washing and geisha Kubwa for bathing. Played draught at weekends.
In short we were more than brothers, and we remained so for 5 years.
Until the elections were called.
It was time to part ways. We got new identities jaluo, mkamba, kaleo, sapere,walalo and Banye. Identifying ourselves with the rich politicians we shared a language with was the thing, not the poor we had been with for years. The wealthy man from my tribe won the election I headed to the same room I had shared for five years with people of my class, albeit with some election posters to deco our crib. Mheshimiwa headed for Grand Regency to celebrate. That night we slept without food. After a while things came back to normal we were back to sharing everything with Abdi, musyoka Onyango etc. Whenever there was bereavement amongst us, we all attended. Just the poor people. Mheshimiwa was busy on the beach. But when Mheshimiwa got bereaved I mourned for him for weeks, even though I won’t be let to go past his gate. When he engaged in Corruption, I defended him fiercely just because he spoke my Language, to cut short…..I voted for mheshimiwa, he lives big but life for me, Onyango, Kimani, Abdi is still the same.
What if we had voted for one of us regardless of his tribe, could life be different???????
Identify with your own true tribe. RICH or POOR are the real tribes of Kenya. However the latter are the Majority and are ruled by the minority. Poor people, rise up and fight for your rights. Did you know the only common thing between you and your much cherished Mheshimiwa is the language. Nothing else NOTHING!!!!!!!!! But the list of common things you share with Musyoka, Onyango, Abdi is endless. ooh religion was never anything we took an issue with…we respected each one religion HIGHLY. Think and Educate other Kenyans THAT NOBODY OR NOTHING SHOULD DIVIDE US….WE’R ALL ONE UNITED KENYA. #Lovepeace”
(By Laban Mushiyi.)
For the tribal kingpins in Jubilee and CORD, this is the kind of story that they do not want to hear. The truth is, Kenyan’s live together. Tribalism is not their portion.
A Kenyan will rise in the morning to buy milk in a kiosk without caring the tribe of the shopkeeper. The housegirl would serve the tea without being bothered by the tribe of the employer. After taking the tea, the children will go to a school and listen to teachers from any tribe. The Kenyan would walk to the bus stop and take a bus without asking the tribe of the driver. The makanga will take the money from everyone without caring their tribe. The Kenyan would arrive in the office and work with colleagues and a boss from any and all tribes and at the end of the week go to a church with yet more of them, and a pastor from whatever tribe. When sick, the Kenyan will go to a hospital and explain himself to a doctor without being deterred by her tribe and be injected in unseemly places by a nurse from whatever tribe. When we are attacked by terrorists, we give blood that goes to help all Kenyans. We receive such blood when we are sick without asking from which tribe the donor was. We live together, marry each other, bury each other, celebrate with each other, share with each other, laugh together, cry together, sleep together (in hospitals, hahahaha) and die together, until these depraved politicians show up.
Then they bring us the tribal narrative. Because they all have nothing else to sell to the people. Like the ODM calculations published by Zani, the politicians need the tribal narrative to remain relevant. That is why they push it with fervor and with mad tenacity as if their life depended on it because, in actual fact, their political life depends on the single tribal narrative.
Fortunately, like Laban Mushiyi, many Kenyans are increasingly seeing through the tribal lie. He knows that tribalism is a narrative peddled by politicians for their own greed and glory. The narrative of the average Kenyan is different. It is that of life lived in a land called Kenya, with people called Kenyans whose loves, lives, longings, rituals and rhythms are strikingly similar.
They are realizing that hunger is Kenyan and tribeless, unemployment is Kenyan and tribeless, disease is Kenyan and tribeless, poverty is Kenyan and tribeless, hopelessness is Kenyan and tribeless. They are realizing that actually tribalism is a lie, politicians are tribeless, thieves are tribeless, their stolen money is tribeless and Karen & Runda, where they all live, is a tribeless neighborhood.
In this Kenyan brotherhood narrative lies the seeds of a new non-ethnic political narrative that will inspire the country differently. It is the kind of narrative that the tribal tingods in CORD and Jubilee do not want us to hear. For it is the stuff that revolutions are made of. And one is coming, as Robert Kennedy once said:
“A revolution is coming – a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough – but a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character; we cannot alter its inevitability”.