While speaking at a Gotab Minnesota conference in Minneapolis, MN during the Summer of 2011, Martha Karua, also known as the ‘the Iron Lady’ from the slopes of Mt. Kenya made a plea, that unless the Kenyan middle class joins political parties, there will be no peers to hold (to pressure) the politicians to be responsible. She made her assertion that it was the poorly managed and undemocratic political parties that were the main avenue of most vices plaguing the government. She made a desperate, but a genuine call ‘for an active participation from Kenya’s middleclass (within & outside) in guiding and holding Kenya’s political process and its leaders to account.
This thought concurs with what I am about to briefly discuss, on the role of misplaced tribal peer pressure or the alternative voice of reason that has been a culprit of quite a number of ills as well in the Kenyan society at large and more specifically among the Kalenjin dialects, wherever they reside. With Election to be held in the course of the year (2012 or 2013), there is a dire need of change in tact, on who makes the tribal call. It necessitates that the tone of political discourse be managed and driven by the human rights precepts of inclusion of all beyond tribe. This can only be attained if at the helm the leadership is level-headed, rational, from the middle of the tribal class who cannot be bought nor sold for a thirty pieces of silver. The level headed independent class is critical in the guiding the process, and survival of a people that are in the midst of identity and leadership wilderness as we speak. However, some hope can aspired if the peer pressure within this class skews level headedness to a more sober direction.
There are a number of similarities between religious or ethnic peer pressure and peer pressure in general; the main difference is the driving force of the former is ethnicity or religion, while the later is often driven by environmental factors which can include religion and or ethnicity. It is fair to claim that either kind of pressure is driven by a constant denominator, the sense of belonging also referred to as the sense of acceptance or the sense of inclusion. For a peer this sense is very critical for it defines their sense of place in the context to time. Ones age mates are just as crucial as ones family of origin when defining ones norms and taboos in a snap shot in a given group. It is the cumulating of those snap shots over time that define or re-define the ethnic or cultural norms and taboos. This impact often is easily manifested in design, dress, lingual vocabulary, lingual accent, mannerisms and the likes. Could it be that the Kalenjin DNA is constituted to an irrational sense of self, thus often the resumes include ‘rants and raves of war and destruction of property’, when such an opportunity avails itself?
When a certain age group sag their pants, often it is a call not thought through in totality, for it arises from an unspoken decree from one’s peers. For most of us who do not belong to that age bracket or grew up in a different geographical setting, we often get uptight and wonder what went wrong with the generation in question. I am reminded of this young American gal who had just graduated from high school, declining a job offer simply because one of the requirement; her work environment required her not to wear makeup. To her, presentation among her peers was more important than a 400 dollar weekly paycheck. Yes! Such are the snap shots of a given group in time.
Observations are also made of peer behaviors that are dictates of certain religious views. During the wee moments of the Bush II presidency while visiting Iraq, one of the journalists threw a shoe at him. Based on both Jewish and Islamic belief that was of the most demeaning act towards a person he passionately hated. For the shoe represented not only being the least pampered of one’s attire, but it is as well a medium believed to accumulates all kinds of dirt and impurities. For other cultures, spitting at, or flashing the middle finger would be a similar way to register a despicable hate or dislike towards another person. Ever wondered why to some groups, males do not shave their facial hair? Or, why they do not allow their long pants to touch the shoe (this is common practice among the Muslim sect)? I would think it is because of such religious and ethnic peer dictates.
Back to the question, why peer pressure has effectively made the Kalenjin sub-tribes to have the right to maim, kill and displace other human beings who just like themselves are trying to make their ends meet? Could Karua’s view hold a recipe that will stop this archaic and hideous practice? Kenyans especially Kalenjins have been crying foul over land allocation in post independence for now nearly a half a century. Even while a Kalenjin was at the helm of country’s leadership for nearly two and a half decades, their own leader used land as a political carrot or enticer and had absolutely no moral desire to resolve the so called “land injustice”. Based on Karua’s view the middle class were absent then and may be still absent now, in holding the political class to account. How come it is only during a candidacy of Kalenjin that we think will resolve our concerns? Can we learn from our recent past? We can have another quarter a century residency at State house, yet as long as we do not have a body of citizens who are patriotic enough to fight for fairness across the board and hold our institutions to account, the songs name will change but the meaning will remain constant.
It is common knowledge that with the current crop of leaders among the Kalenjin there is NO room for any logical discourse. They have infused their constituents with so much drunken hype and rants similar to those who are possessed by the spirit of Pentecostal. The spirit has the possessed the community to speak only in tongues understood only by the deranged. I am suggesting that the opiate has to be managed for tongue speaking fiasco to recluse. The call to change is long overdue. The speech spoken should be two way, not Odinga way only. The ones that can speak such a language are those that have no desire for elected office but the establishment of systems that have integrity in sorting out the wheat from the chuff. It is this category of non-politician middle class that need to call the house in order, with a collective Rushwa! Pepo ishindwe! In exorcising the demon! - Off course the politician gone rogue.
Lessons from Our Recent Past on Poor Leadership
Fortunately Gen. Koech of UDM came out as that voice of reason, talking for the middle class. For likes of WS Ruto should not be party owners, but the people. Reading the dailies Gen. Koech of UDM began a discourse that can enhance holding the so called political leaders to account. As a matter of fact politician have to be vetted; if they lack reference(s) from their previous employer(s) or political affiliations, then any party is justified to kick out such a leader for lack of integrity or not meeting the desired job qualification. If there is a time when the Kalenjin people should stand up and defend their destiny from marauding political gangsters it is now.
People in Mt. Elgon did not vote in 2007, the process was outright rigged for the incumbent by the SLDF powers that were. Yes! This coming election should be democratic. For as much as Unity government is weak, they constructed the first tarmac road in Mt. Elgon. What did Moi do? NDP brought electricity. What did Moi provide? There is very or no hope in tribe, but cooperation among the visionary like-minded.
In 2007 Nandi’s in Uasin Gishu and Nandi counties were held hostage by politicians who do not want to accept their role in the post election violence. The Nandi’s in the villages know that word went around that every family had to provide their sons for operations, many of which were fatal. The saddest incident happened in Mois Bridge centre where this recruits from ziwa expanse tried to attack the Kikuyu community that was armed with guns, using bows and arrows. Unfortunately quite a few did not make it.
While driving up and down between Ziwa and Eldoret, the boys manning the roads blocks would freely volunteer such information from the command centers on what needed to be accomplished, of what was to happen later. The process was based on language, the mistake of omission was that there are many no-Kalenjins who are fluent in Kalenjin, just as there were many Kalenjins youngsters who were caught between a rock and a hard place for not knowing to speak their mother tongue. Every Kalenjin knows that PEV was not traditionally planned as per se, but when the opportunity provided itself, the events that followed we organized by our very leaders. We can run but we wont hide.
The people who would have saved our investments in Eldoret are the middle class or the majority of our peers, who would have publicly distanced the community from the power, intoxicated political class then. But I am reminded to think about now, has anything changed? Maybe we learned a few lessons, such as: because of the events of 2007 Eldoret and Kericho especially lost a big chunk of investors. Simply because those very Kisiis and Kikuyus we heartlessly drove away, are the ultimate home grown business class with the heart to invest. In fact we became a blessing to surrounding cities such as Nakuru and Naivasha who welcomed those that we unceremoniously and illegally ejected. The bottom line is that Kalenjin community lost big time!
The people who would have saved our investments in Eldoret are the middle class or the majority of our peers, who would have publicly distanced the community from the power, intoxicated political class then. But I am reminded to think about now, has anything changed? Maybe we learned a few lessons, such as: because of the events of 2007 Eldoret and Kericho especially lost a big chunk of investors. Simply because those very Kisiis and Kikuyus we heartlessly drove away, are the ultimate, home grown business class with the heart to invest. In fact we became a blessing to surrounding cities such as Nakuru and Naivasha who welcomed those that we unceremoniously and illegally ejected.
Both our national and international good will, slipped away, into the doldrums. Some blind commoners thought that it was a plus to have Rennebeger mediating the most irrational and despicable acts that the political class had plunged the community into. During the height of this chaotic time the reference was not on non-Kalenjin leaders, but the Kalenjin ones, over and over again. They know themselves, those meetings, those resources, the directions given, some so primitive such as making arrows to from nails to protect the ethnic grouping against Kenya Air-force or the armed Mungiki? Yes! This was a true tale of the absence of an accountable system within the Kalenjin community.
The call was made by a prophetess from Mt. Kenya for the middle class peers to offer the alternative leadership or voice of reason which is - missing in this community – vetting and holding the fake leaders to account. She went ahead to describe the role of the middle class not necessarily wanting to be elected to office, but to provide the political parties with a genuine base of analyzing the resumes of those who have the intent to lead.
2012 or be it 2013 is beckoning, and still the gap exists. Ours is a society where the ego bloated politician leads the confused community to the slaughter house every election. If nothing was learnt or any regrets in place, it is just a matter of time and we will have newer version of 2007 or 1992 or 1997 human rights abuses all over again. The bottom line is the people will continue being helpless and poorer at their own peril, for there is a direct effect of ethnic pressure that makes many to bury their beaks for fear that the politicians of the day will punish you and your families, and relatives so severely if you open your voice. This is true because politicians in Kenya are the custodians of life and prosperity. Even with such ramifications let the middle class amongst these loose conglomerations called the Kalenjin, stand up and be counted as they become a mouth piece of the checks and balances. For not taking a risk is a long foregone option.
Let’s copy a faint line even so from the Political parties’ primaries here in the USA. There’s is a system where political party leadership vet all the candidates and as the process ensures all underdogs fall along the way side, irrespective of their eloquence, size of their bank account or height or skin color or size of their religious or ethnic following, or years of service; for if your resume does not cut it, you are cut out. It is a call to the Kenyan middle class and the Kalenjin middle class in particular; you and me, all the way from Eastern slopes of Mt. Ruwenzori in UG to the plains of Mara in TZ, to play a God given or Peer given role of helping the community in providing the much desired ‘alternative voice of reason’ for the good of the immediate posterity.
Let the next president be a Rendille or Duruma if he will allow us our human and democratic space to co-exist with all KENYANS, to vote freely, NOT to be boxed in Rift valley but encouraged to be citizens of the larger world, invest anywhere in the World including Othaya Nyeri, protect the water catchment zones, provide food security to all and , grow jobs in our counties, reduce crime, increase health access and implement and defend the new constitution to mention but a few of the items in my wish list.