It is not for nothing that Nigerians say a man who insults his mother when he is drunk shouldn’t blame the alcohol.
During an election year, Kenyans retreat to their tribal cocoons and bare their ugly bums. The smartest Kenyans say the dumbest, most hateful things. During an election period, most of us become Kalonzo Musyoka, former vice president, who when unable to answer a journalist’s question, told the shocked journalist that his last name betrays him. He dismissed the journalist by saying his question was motivated by his ethnicity. In this time of high political fever, people are judged by their surnames which, in Kenya, indicates one’s tribe.
Election fever is like alcohol; it removes the tolerance mask that Kenyans wear throughout the non-election years and our true character is revealed. Christians, Muslims, Hindus, even atheists, all show our true colours. We drop all the pretense of loving our neighbours.
We abuse other communities and start shouting from the rooftop about how important our tribe is. Online discussions are toxic. Adults can’t restrain themselves anymore. They vomit insults and diarrhoea hate all over the place. Friendships and marriages break. Those whispered tribal conversations in pubs and homes become public.
Election time is officially the hate season in Kenya. Even corporate leaders will hold press conferences and their remarks will favour the side where their financial interests, and sometimes tribal allegiance, lies. In all this hate and confusion, anyone who attempts to bring in sober conversation isn’t spared because Kenyans, in their parochial thinking, assume everyone must be pro or anti Raila-Uhuru
In fact, our leaders are a reflection of who we are as Kenyans. If they’re tribal, corrupt and self-seeking, it is because we elected our own.
In these dark days of tribal politics, l have been wondering if there exists any one person, one voice, a person who commands the respect of the entire country, and l can’t think of anyone. Who is that person who can call both Uhuru and Raila, have them sit down and talk? Who is that one Kenyan who commands everyone’s respect?
We can even go further and look around our region. None of the East African presidents command respect or admiration in Kenya. Africa, as a whole, doesn’t have an elder statesman we can invite. The only name that comes to mind is Bishop Desmond Tutu, but he is too old and ailing. Kenya, and our continent at large, has a shortage of honest, credible, non-polarizing leaders.
So how do we move from here? If our leaders have refused to lead, then we, the people, must set the standard. By rejecting tribal leaders, teaching our children values and calling out those who share or post negative tribal messages. We must stop forwarding and sharing hate messages.
My wife and l decided to give our three children non-Kikuyu names. My son who was born before the 2007-08 election has a Zulu name, my daughter has an Arabic name (because Muslims are profiled for their names) and my last born has a Luo name. It is my small way of making Kenya a better, warmer and more inclusive society. It is time to stop the hate and spread the Love.
By Activist Boniface Mwangi