By Dorcas S
Violence – The Last Refuge of the Incompetent (Isaac Asimov)
“Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself.” – Lao Tzu
German Carl von Clausewitz for his part defined/described war, the application of violence towards an end, as continuation of discussions by other means while Chinese Sun Tsu offered the polar opposite of von Clausewitz’s definition: That the ultimate “art of war” is subduing the enemy without fighting.
I am not sure who said this but I have always believed that (ignorant) people default to violence when or because they cannot sustain an argument or discussion. They first start off with ad hominem attacks against one’s being – gender, race, tribe, physical attributes, marital status etc. And when the personal attacks fail, they escalate the verbal abuse to violence i.e. physical altercation including use of military power against the opponent.
I personally don’t believe in war though I also don’t believe that I am a pacifist. Maybe I am naïve or Pollyannaish but I also believe that frank and open communication almost always leads to solutions. The caveat, obviously, is that all parties involved are acting in good faith; a dangerous assumption but for me, a default starting point – until shown otherwise.
So I was going to write about kleptocracy and kleptocrats but decided that that would be too easy since most people I know believe that stealing (tenderpreneuring), from those in need no less, is just wrong, plain and simple. Show me someone who glorifies kleptocracy; oh, we already do that as a society! How else do we explain portrayals of the likes of Kirubi, Waiguru, Mwangi, Kavura, even President Kenyatta’s own family and an assortment of shadowy figures collectively known as “Mt. Kenya Mafia” as “moguls”, “industrialists” “astute businessmen” and “tycoons” etc.? This we do even when presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary?
The fact is: It is much easier to speak out against immoral and unethical behavior – stealing – where there is consensus than against behavior – violence (ostensibly against oppression and corruption) – that oftentimes forebodes change. Think the expression “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s extremist”.
Which brings me to the core question of this piece:
What is it with Luos and violence; with throwing stones at enemies – perceived or otherwise?
Just this past Monday April 3rd, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho’s bodyguard was shot and injured by a bodyguard attached to Migori Governor Okoth Obado. From news media accounts, Mr. Obado “made good his threat to prevent ODM from holding a rally in Migori town”. And as if that wasn’t enough, police had to fire shots in the air to disperse a crowd chanting support for Nominated Senator Elizabeth Ongoro while threatening destruction and mayhem at party officials who allegedly denied Ms. Ongoro “haki yake”.
And back in 2014, rowdy youths threw shoes and hurled insults at the same Gov. Okoth Obado, this time in the company of visiting President Uhuru Kenyatta who was in South Nyanza to launch an anti-malaria campaign.
While I agree that politics is a full-contact oftentimes bloody spot, I also believe that it is the art of the possible. It doesn’t always have to degenerate into violence, especially if one seeks it – politics – as a genuine public servant. As succinctly offered by Andrew Young, someone who has witnessed the ultimate act of political violence, the assassination (of ML King), “violence is not much more efficient than non-violence”.
The “Men in Black”, loosely described as “private security guards” are in the annals of Kenya’s cultural lore as judge, jury and executioner for politicians who rely on their crude form of disruption leadership and engagement.
The reputation of Gor Mahia, Kenya’s most storied football team is forever tarnished because its fans, predominantly Luos, have a penchant for unleashing stones and any projectile they can lay their hands on at officials and opposing fans whenever they believe that they’ve been treated unfairly. Rather than suck up the loss and live to fight (no pun intended) another day, Joluo take to stoning their perceived tormentors! This they do even as their acts of violence repeatedly cost a team they claim to love an expanded fan base, its reputation (as a team with violent and destructive fans) not to mentioned missed ticket, merchandise and sponsorship dollars.
It’s confounding that the tribe that gave America, arguably the world’s most “developed” country, Barack Obama, its first non-white male president, is also known for being “destructive”, prone to “violence” and “throwing stones”. And while one can make the argument that this article adds to the stereotype some have of Luos, let me point out that most stereotypes are predicated on some (nuggets) of truth.
For some context, let’s consider that just like Obama’s America has a people – African-Americans – who have endured historical injustices perpetrated by a corrupt and insecure status quo only to rise and excel in sports, entertainment and popular culture, Kenya has a people – Luos – who have endured historical injustices perpetrated by a corrupt and insecure status quo only to rise and excel in sports, entertainment and popular culture. Additionally, Luos have excelled in academics. And both, African-Americans and Luos, fairly or unfairly, have been saddled with negative stereotypes predicated on some truths.
Some have argued that the media is biased and has tended to portray Luos in a negative light; that Ferdinand Waitutu and Moses Kuria, both Kikuyus are (also) demonstrably prone to violence; that physical altercations in Baringo, Laikipia, Muranga and other non-Luo inhabited parts of Kenya do not generate the same intensity of press coverage as altercations involving Luos. Likewise, FOX News is notorious for presenting narratives of African-American and minorities in general that are almost always skewed – towards the negative. While the foregoing is true, I also think they deflect or pivot the discussion away from the central question:
What is it with Luos and throwing stones?
For a people who see themselves as sophisticated arbiters of class, culture and intellect, there is a glaring disconnect between that self-perception and the reality of their actions and behavior. The people who call Lupita Nyong’o, one of Hollywood’s icon of style and sophistication “Nyar gi” i.e. their daughter, have been reduced to destroying homes and businesses because their team lost a football match!
How can Luos offer the world PLO Lumumba, that walking/talking Webster, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia Britannica, at least when he is not plagiarizing, then default to calls of “mawe” interspersed with “haki yetu” when/because words fail them?
To reiterate an earlier post, sooner or later, the “whole world becomes blind” because in seeking to resolve conflict, society (Luos) appear predisposed to uphold the adage “an eye for an eye”.
We cannot laud intellect and excuse/justify violence.