By Solomon Baraka Sudi
It has now become an accepted fact among scholars of the ethnicity question in Africa that the problem is not that ethnic differences exist but that the differences are not politically well managed in such a way that they bring out the best in a country and foster peaceful coexistence.
The Rwandan genocide was not for example because the Tutsis and Hutus had differences but that the differences were so poorly managed that they generated unimaginable hatred and anger that could only be vented in an unfortunate genocide.
These differences cannot be wished away for they are very real. The need to belong among humans is such a fundamental and powerful emotional force that it cannot just go away through mechanical presidential speeches or sloganeering like the #WeAreOne hogwash that was forced down our throats day in day out as if we are kindergarten kids. We cannot be ONE only when bearing the monstrous sorrows of this country but when it comes to the little joys it has to offer only a few elites from certain regions celebrate.
The 2007/2008 PEV when Kenyans came to blows and viciously went for each otherâ€™s throats in the streets and the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling in the 2013 elections when again swords were drawn on the internet reminds us that this problem requires an urgent answer lest Kenya again be brought to its knees in a matter of days.
How has it been tackled in the past? Kenyatta Sr. left it untouched perhaps because he was so busy â€˜not letting go what swam in his handsâ€™ to recognize the magnitude of the ethnic problem that was unfolding in the country he purported to lead.
Moi tackled it through sloganeering in KBC and political rallies. He was under the spell of the folly that saturating peoplesâ€™ lives with words like Peace, Love and Unity would automatically heal the ethnic rifts. Naturally nothing came out of it.
Kibaki, as usual, ignored the whole problem altogether until the horrors of the 2007/2008 PEV awoke him to reality. Thereafter in his usual uninspired style he tried dealing with the problem through occasional proclamations of unity, often perfunctory. Uhuru believes that through speeches the problem can be read away while at the same time being entrenched through his openly skewed appointments.
What about the opposition which ideally is the alternative to the government of the day? What is ODMâ€™s answer to the ethnic question of Kenya? Can ODM members and supporters hold their heads high and take sober satisfaction that the way the elections process has been conducted thus far provides a worthwhile answer to Kenyas ethnic problem? I think so. I believe that even though the elections are yet to be held the party has already overcome the main fuel for ethnic anger and hatred: exclusivity.
The roots of our ethnic problem are in the late 60s and in the 70s when political and economic elites from a certain region in Kenya took over the reins of power and started running the country as if they were the only shareholders in this enterprise. Whatever their hands could get hold of they grabbed it. Theft became a virtue. Feathering of oneâ€™s nest at the expense of public good was celebrated to an extent that the president himself openly scolded a minister for being so â€˜foolishâ€™ as to not steal enough when he was â€˜givenâ€™ a ministry to run. Whoever posed a threat to these treasure hunters was shortened by a head.
Whoever raised their voice was sent to rot in detention. No other community was allowed near the centre of power as if the Oracle of Delphi was located there. Thatâ€™s how the seeds of exclusivity were sown. Almost 40 years down the line it was Kibakiâ€™s attempt to replicate this â€˜exclusivity principleâ€™ that made otherwise peaceful people to take to the streets, machetes and in hand. A decade earlier the majority Hutu exclusivity in Rwanda had sent the minority Tutsis to the forests and the rest as they say is history.
It is in appreciating these profitable lessons from our past and the past of others that ODM has decided to sacrifice everything, ability and long term service to the party included, to achieve inclusivity; an enterprise where everyone can feel part of the scheme of things.
It is a known fact that the Luos are by the far the largest ethnic block in ODM. Luhyas might be more in Kenya than Luos but not all Luhyas are in ODM. In fact a majority of them in Bungoma and Trans Nzoia are not in ODM. If the Luos therefore wanted to take the majority seats in the party they would take them without having to break a sweat. But then such an action would be of no good to ODM in the long run for it would only leave it in the hands of people from one region the same way Kenya is returning to where it got its name from.
As soon as some ethnic groups feel excluded that would be the beginning of the end of the party. It therefore makes sense to prevent some Luos from running for some of the posts in the party to achieve inclusivity.
This managed democracy in ODM where priority is given to inclusivity is the answer to Kenyas ethnic problem. As long as there persists feelings of being excluded from the government from large swathes of the population, as long the Luhyas, Luos, Kambas, Coasterians etc feel closed from the centre of things the ethnic question remains open. If this question has to be closed then the ODM answer has to prevail- inclusivity, inclusivity and even more inclusivity.