|Beware! These are some danger signs to look out for that would indicate if you are slipping into that ethnic discrimination cocoon.
Before December 27 last year, these indications probably did not matter much to you. Suddenly, it seems they are the all important decision-making points. Snap out of it before it is too late.
Me? A tribalist? No way! Well, you probably have not thought of it but the past two months have become tricky for all of us Kenyans.
We are all increasingly guilty of allowing ethnic biases to cloud our judgement and guide our thinking. We forget that this is a destructive route to take in this one country that belongs to some 42 ethnic communities.
We forget that after all is said and done, ethnic groupings become meaningless since there is only one country to live in.
We are quick to deny that we harbour ethnic tendencies while we indeed live it on a daily basis.
You are becoming ethnically inclined if:
• You are suddenly considering evicting your tenants just because you have learnt they are from the perceived “enemy tribe”.
• You have suddenly changed your hairdresser, mechanic or doctor because you resent the community they come from.
• You suddenly stop calling and talking to a once close friend or acquaintance because you strongly believe their community is responsible for the chaos in the country.
• You sneer or recoil the moment the passenger seated next to you answers his or her phone in a language that you perceive as the enemy’s.
• You were about to tie the knot, but now you are hesitating because you are disturbed by the fact that your future spouse is from an ethnic background that is different from yours.
• Your conduct and perceptions as a teacher in class are guided by the second names of the students you teach.
• You carefully peruse the application letters in your tray and dismiss those from the “enemy” community without much of a second glance.
• You tense-up and go silent when a colleague from another community joins the lunch-table where you were having quiet discussions with your “own” people.
You cannot stand
• You strongly resent and protest the fact that your daughter or son is dating someone from the “enemy” community.
• Your pastor’s ethnic background makes you avoid church service.
• You are worried about your child’s kindergarten teacher’s ethnic background.
• Your friend’s ethnic background starts affecting your friendship.
• All the people in your “merry-go-round” team in the office are from your own community with an unwritten rule not to allow “foreigners” into the team.
• You ask your children to stay indoors so that they don’t play with the neighbours from the “enemy” community.
• You cannot stand someone speaking his or her mother tongue especially the one of the “enemy”.
• You wish your boss dead because he is from a different ethnic community.
• You cannot stand being in the same room with people from a different ethnic background.
• You refuse to attend a friend’s wedding because they are marrying from an unfavourable ethnic community.
• You use those derogatory terms to describe one from a different group — terms that you can never use to their faces.
• You subconsciously try to gauge the tribe of the waiter who is serving you or the customer you are serving with the intentions of spiting them.
• You terminate the services of your employees purely on ethnic grounds while pretending it is a cost-cutting measure.
• You stop watching a certain presenter on TV or listening to a certain broadcaster on radio just because they come from a different ethnic community.
• You are suddenly unnecessarily rude and resentful towards a neighbour from a different ethnic community, with whom you initially had no qualms.
• You want to know the ethnic background of teachers in your school before you can welcome them aboard or distribute different duties and privileges.
• You suddenly become nonchalant and negligent towards patients from a different community at the clinic or hospital where you work.
• You are hesitant to take in an internally displaced person (IDP) from a different ethnic background because you perceive him or her as an “enemy”.
• You are particularly selective of the IDPs you intend to help focusing only on those from your ethnic group.
• You ask for the second names of those you are serving as a civil servant on the basis of favouring only those from your ethnic background.
• You circulate hate mail and derogatory statements only to “your” people on your mailing list with the sole intentions of spiting another ethnic community.
• You experience this unrelenting bitterness in your heart against a different ethnic community because of things that you cannot clearly explain.
Scars that run too deep to heal
What is there to say to 50-year-old Bernard Ndege from Naivasha who watched paralysed from a fence as his two wives and eight children were burnt to death in the house ?
What language can you possibly use to console this man who survived the atrocities of ethnic instigated violence but has died inside with his entire family though he still walks this earth that scarred him so deeply?
Are there any words or compensation worthy enough for the 1,000 people who have so far died in the country in a war that is deemed necessary by unworthy politicians presumed to be leaders?
It is easy to stand from one side to condemn and castigate especially when you are not directly affected as someone like Bernard Ndege.
It is easy to sympathise and mourn along, pray a little, then retreat to our safer havens while people like Ndege stare the devil in the face with images that can never ever be erased for their entire lives.
We continue to watch the ping-pong of intellectual minds seated in expensive air-conditioned hotel rooms debating our fate as if we are a bunch of quails awaiting slaughter at the mercy of our captors.
We are told that there is a government in control and that this country is still a heaven that is coveted by many. We are told that the rule of law and justice still prevails and that the security systems in this country are alert and operational. We are told, contrary to popular belief, that the government of the day is committed to safeguarding the life of every individual and to ensure justice and prosperity for all. We are told so many things — things which people like Ndege and others like him really do not want to hear — things that it is too late for them to care for.
One thousand people have died without understanding why. Over 350,000 are clamouring for survival and beginning to understand why. Countless other people have sunk into empty shells like Ndege who will probably never understand why. Still they are here.
If I were the Government, I would be careful about empty rhetoric and playing meaningless politics to the masses who have been scarred too deep to care for much.
I would be worried — very worried indeed.
My heart blazes with desire to commit ethnic suicide
I hereby confess that I am a love and romance junkie. An overdose of the two has the guarantee of sending me on such an amazing high that you would be forgiven to assume that a light halo lives above my head.
Any woman with a heart will tell you that she just cannot get enough of these fixes be it in droves or in small doses sprouting out of nowhere. I have no red dress to wear this Thursday neither am I anticipate a lorry-load of Naivasha’s finest export to grace my table and blind my view, however my heart is blazing with the desire to commit ethnic suicide.
They call it lover’s day. Valentine’s day. Almost two months of madness have elapsed and many of us have forgotten what love is. Many of us might not even want to remember what love is. I choose to digress.
The country has burned – it probably is still burning. We know the score. You might be one who is embroiled in loving the other from the “enemy” tribe.
It could be the test of your life – the greatest hurdle of your love.
This Thursday, endeavour to commit that ethnic suicide. May it be the beginning or the culmination of a love that will mock tribalism with a hideous grin – a love that will be the symbol of healing this nation?
Prove your love
True, the strain of the post-election violence is now being felt even in the sanctity of the marital union.
Second names and districts of birth are now determining relationships.
However, it is time to test your sense of honesty, value judgement, integrity and dignity beyond ethnic boundaries.
Go ahead, commit that suicide and declare your love to your partner more than you have ever done before. Even if it means walking down that elusive aisle to prove your love. Go ahead, love him or her to death if you must, for these are desperate times for love – times to prove that tribe had nothing to do with it in the first place.