Saturday, February 2, 2008


Where is Kenya middle class?

The killing, looting, burning and destruction has occurred as accusations have flown from one camp to the other. Background analysis and possible solutions have spewed forth from experts of every hue and shade. Many of these have emphasized the fact that the election dispute is really a spark that lit a smoldering ember into a tribal conflagration now consuming the country.

Not so has been said is the fact that the challenge to douse the inflamed passions is the hobbled impotence of those intellectually and socially best equipped and prepared to tackle the challenge – the educated, propertied -the Kenyan middle class!

It is not an excuse that their helplessness is a function of both the social and political system. They have unwittingly or not allowed themselves to be rendered irrelevant in the political equation and surrendered the stage to the players that have over the time made tribe the key lever to manipulate politics.

Kibaki and his GEMA-associates, who most of them grew up and identified themselves as the elites, sadly have been pre-programed to ride on Kikuyu tribalism every time there is a competitive issue to be decided nationally including elections every five years. The Luo-Kikuyu alliance has twice worked – at independence and in 2002 because both the colonialist and President Moi in 2002 presented a formidable challenge that called for the temporary submersion of narrow tribal interest. The alliances did not last because of rows over the sharing of the political spoils. NOT a surprise there.

Leaders from the other communities were not blind to the reality of leveraging tribe, but as none would alone be as dominant as either the Luo and Kikuyu, it is why President Moi organised the Kamatusa communities into a formidable political wedge during his dictatorial reign. This he further strengthened by activating a constellation of fiefdoms that he controlled through tribal “kings” like the Kamba’s Mulu Mutisya, Kalenjin’s Ezekiel Bargentuny, the coastal’s Shariff Nassir, and the Kisii’s Simeon Nyachae and their likes.

True- the Kenyan middle class is also the most unconscious of their historical role as instigators of change. They have been lulled by a false sense of security they have enjoyed and sheltered in their homes and clubs. Mostly they whine about everything that is wrong with the system and its leaders and yet remain content to do nothing about it.

Politics to this group has been dirty and cheap. The country is on her knees because of the middle class failing to step in early enough and try to right the wrongs in the Constitution, distribution of resources and general governance.

The crisis will escalate if this class does not pro-actively realize that whatever agreement that comes out of the Kofi Annan-mediated talks will only last if they move to take control of the centers of power and directly influence the way public affairs are run and the way the practice and use of power is communicated to the people.

Mind and ideology- Younger people that still believe that, tribe is the only way one can attain and keep power are just as dangerous as the independence-age dinosaurs cum Kenyan politicians.

Kenya is crying out for its sons and daughters from all tribes that have been liberated – even if only partially - from the shackles of tribe through an education and lifestyle that reduces tribe to merely the pseudo-identity tag that it is, not an asset that creates exclusive clubs not even of tribes, but of looting elites within the larger tribes.

Tribalists- While they may recognize that it is a dangerous ideology to try to construct a nation through a tribal eye especially in a resource scarce context like Kenya, the lure to horde for power by leveraging their tribesmen has been more powerful than the imperative to pursue the more painful and less assured path of building a foundation of nationhood by appealing to the commonality of taste, ideology, aspirations, fears, wants and a more fair society as Kenyans. -AMEN-

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