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  • Writer's pictureAkumu Fiona

Am I A Tribalist?

(March 2013, Kenya)


The Election hullaballo is over. We have a winner. A clear winner, might I add.

Though not exactly my preferred candidate, I have indeed accepted the win.

But does my being in a non-celebratory mood make me a tribalist?

I am Luo, as my name loudly announces. Luos are known to have a sense of pride in everything we do. We are known to be big talkers, pompous, English-y, intelligent….among many other (positive and negative) stereotypes.

These six days since the official election day and slightly before, have not only reminded me about my tribe, but they may have forced me to resort to some sort tribe-centric thinking.

For the most part, I thought that my thinking was within the Rational realm. Although I did not get to vote, due to my being away unavoidably during voter registration in December, I felt so involved in the whole process.

I had made my own decision about which candidate I preferred.

As you may have already suspected, I would have preferred Raila Odinga. Mostly because Uhuru Kenyatta is facing an upcoming ICC trial. Not that he is guilty. ‘Innocent until proven guilty’, of course. It is just that he is facing a pending trial. I had no other reasons to be wary about an Uhuru presidency apart from that.

My mind was made up.

Once the results started trickling in, and I saw some of my friends posting on social media about how happy they were with the Uhuru victory trend. I found myself thinking and saying things that shocked the rest of me.

I wondered why they were not thinking like I was. Why were they resorting to thinking like their parents? Why would they ‘blindly’ support Uhuru after knowing what implications the ICC trial might have? All such questions jumped in my mind.

I respect my friends. We usually agree on many things…but during elections, we(rather, I) stop talking politics to avoid arguments. It happened in 2007; and this year was no different. I found myself holding back when it came to political discussions with my Kikuyu, Embu or Meru friends. I knew it would bring unnecessary tension. I would say this, they would say that…it wouldn’t go anywhere. There’d be no point.

I kept most of my thoughts to myself or shared them with my family and some friends(Luos and those from other tribes). They would understand.

Plus, I shared some thoughts on Twitter and Facebook posts. It is a free-to-express-yourself space, right? I however might have ruffled some feathers or stepped on some toes.

And guess who retweeted or liked those particular posts? Yes Luos or non-Kikuyus. It was too predictable.

I guess by then, rationality was out the window. I had resorted to tribe-centric thinking. There I was: feeling sad that once again, my tribe was looking at yet another narrowly missed chance at leading this country.

Then the rumours mills worked overtime about a hacking/rigging attempt. My alternate way of thinking ragged on. Were ‘they’ going to ‘steal’ the election 'again'? I wondered.

A friend said something yesterday:

The difference seems clear.

Ethnic pride is meant to be normal and maybe healthy; Tribalism- abnormal, evil…etc.

So, was my thinking during these gruelling days of results- ethnic pride or tribalism?

I didn’t exactly ‘hate’ anyone. I just hated the outcome.

Does the fact that I am sad about CORD’s presidential loss, make me a tribalist?

Is my kind of thinking different from what my parents’ generation are assumed to have?

It somehow seems that Gen Xs of the 70s and Gen Ys of the 80s are just like our parents in terms of tribe-centric thinking. The only difference is that we hide it way better…until elections happen, of course.

Funny thing is that the younger Gen Ys, those of the late 80s and 90s are slightly different, as my younger sister demonstrated. They seem to be more independent in their thinking.

Does it mean that generationally we are improving?

Or will we unconsciously socialise our children and younger siblings to be the same eventually?

Yes, I accept the new elected President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta. He is ‘young’, vibrant and with great ideas.

And yes, I respect the decision of a majority of Kenyans.

Most importantly, it is a blessing as long as:

  1. the impressive TNA manifesto is followed to the letter

  2. the ICC case goes ‘favourably’ (whatever that means)

  3. Kenya remains united, continues to be prosperous and keeps on being a country setting exemplary examples for the rest of Africa.

So…. back to my question, am I really a tribalist in the true, TRUE sense of the word?

( Sure hope am not! :/ )

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