Slaying Kenya's Tribalism & Intolerance

Slaying Kenya's Tribalism & Intolerance

Opinion

On Wednesday, three hyenas shall be slain, no matter what the outcome of the vote will be. The first to be put out of contention will be fear.

Barely two and a half years ago, lives were lost, property destroyed and relationships poisoned. For many Kenyans at that time, one's ethnic background was all that was required to put one in harm's way. Fear stalked the land.

The post-election violence went further than that; it raised deep concern about the future viability of this nation. We had slipped so far towards dismembering the country that it was difficult to see how we could again live harmoniously as a nation.

With the referendum vote, we will be saying that we chose to live together, guided by a constitution we all want to uphold, be it the new or the familiar one.

No longer shall we have to put up with a lurking, numbing fear of ourselves and what we can each do to each other. The vote will also be a rendezvous with the hyena of violent dispute.

This time we will be reaffirming that matters national can, and should, be decided through a peaceful, free and fair voting process.

We will be acknowledging that even when we hold different opinions, an electoral process free of malpractices shall be sufficient to settle the matter.

The referendum will present an opportunity to cast off the stigma of adulterated elections. It is a chance to forever forsake bloodshed as a political tool for settling electoral contests.

With peaceful voting, we will be declaring that we shall neither soak our lives with blood nor stain our land with senseless death and disgrace.

We will be proclaiming, almost half a century since we gained independence, that we are a mature enough nation to hold a credible vote that will effectively settle our debates and disputes.

The third hyena to be vanquished will be that of tribal politics.

With choice phrases based on stereotyped prejudice, politicians have been able to whip up hordes of virulent supporters.

Even though campaigns on the proposed constitution have employed aspects of tribal regimentation, our politics has, on the whole, become much "cleaner"� over the past few months. It is certainly healthier than the last referendum which polarised the country along tribal lines.

In contrast, cleavages on the proposed constitution cut across ethnic and generational gaps, bringing us the closest we have been to an issue-driven campaign.

Significantly, new and passionate interest groups that are based on common perspectives about what is best for this nation are emerging. At the heart of such groups are concerns that transcend tribal issues and divisions.

Nonetheless, by Wednesday, some citizens will, sadly, be looking to their tribal chiefs for guidance on how to vote.

However, many will be taking a fairly tribe-neutral stand and will cast their ballot based on their judgement of the issues.

In short, on Wednesday, we will be stating that an electoral process is not a proxy war to be prosecuted by "warlords"� leading excitable tribal regiments that overlook the merits of the issues.

We will demonstrate that elections and referenda can be peaceful so that eventually, the most popular options carry the day.

Mr Muleji is a consultant with Upward Bound. (enquiries@upwardboundkenya.org).

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