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Only the EA federation can save Kenya from tribalism

By Vision Reporter

Added 26th July 2007 03:00 AM

Since Kenya attained independence in 1963, I have never heard of her soldiers crossing the borders of her neighbours in pursuit of cattle rustlers, bandits or rebel groups. Yet this has been Kenya’s lot with its neighbours from time to time.

Since Kenya attained independence in 1963, I have never heard of her soldiers crossing the borders of her neighbours in pursuit of cattle rustlers, bandits or rebel groups. Yet this has been Kenya’s lot with its neighbours from time to time.

JERRY OKUNGU
An East African perspective

Since Kenya attained independence in 1963, I have never heard of her soldiers crossing the borders of her neighbours in pursuit of cattle rustlers, bandits or rebel groups. Yet this has been Kenya’s lot with its neighbours from time to time.

If Ugandan soldiers are not killing Kenyan peasants on Kenyan soil for one excuse or another, Ethiopian soldiers are doing the same on the pretext that they are pursuing the Oromo Liberation Front fighters! Running battles with Somali bandits, otherwise formerly known as Shiftas was a daily occurrence in the first three decades of independence when the Greater Somalia ideologues based in Mogadishu, believed they could annex the Northern Frontier District through armed struggle against Kenya.

Why has Kenya never bothered to retaliate against these cross-border territorial violations? Does Kenya value the lives of its citizens or even the pride of its sovereignty and nationhood less than its neighbours? In retrospect, I think Kenya loves her citizens, sovereignty and nationhood just as much as its neighbours without being unnecessarily belligerent. But again, this non-aggressive nature, this non-militaristic nature is what makes Kenya different from her neighbours. Where there is a misunderstanding or where there are violent flare-ups across her borders, she has always resorted to dialogue.

I write this article in response to the latest raid on Kenyan borders with Uganda where 60 Kenyan Pokots were killed by Ugandan soldiers using Ugandan military helicopters. News reaching Kenya, including interviews with one local leader and a Ugandan soldier confirmed that it was true 60 Pokots lost their lives to Ugandan soldiers’ fire. They were killed because they had crossed the border in search of cattle.

Now, the question to ask is this, if the Pokot tribe occupies both sides of the border just like the Masaais and Samias of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, how would any intelligent soldier differentiate a Kenya Pokot from a Ugandan one? But even a more disturbing issue that Kenyans and Ugandans must ponder about is the issue of good neighbourliness.

If Somalia and Ethiopia conduct incursions into Kenyan territory, we can understand. But if a member of the EAC that is presently engaged in negotiating a federal regime involving not three but five states can unnecessarily kill citizens of a member state then we have cause to worry.

One member state that has been resolute in maintaining peace and discipline of its border security personnel is Tanzania. Since independence, even at the height of tension between Julius Nyerere and Jomo Kenyatta in 1977 when they closed their borders for the first time, there was never any exchange of fire at any of their borders.

The last time Tanzanian Jeshi la Ukombozi crossed into Uganda, it was purely to liberate Ugandans from the terror of Idi Amin. Amin had provoked Nyerere beyond limits.

During the sensitisation process over the proposed East African political federation, the issue of security kept coming up at various fora that were held in Kenya and even in Tanzania. The perception that some member states were too militaristic was not lost on many observers.

This latest senseless killing, this senseless excessive use of military power against civilians of a member state, have only reinforced the fear of citizens. Must the Ugandan government allow its trigger-happy military personnel derail the spirit of brotherhood in the region? Let us face it; Kenya already has enough of these senseless killings on her hands. The least that member states can do now is to see how to help Kenya eradicate senseless internal killings going on.

The Mungiki menace that graduated into opening fire on police personnel apart from ritual killings they have been meting out to their enemies, real and imagined, have caused fear and despondency amongst Kenyans and other nationals living in Kenya.

This wave of violence in Kenya has many root causes that we think can be a subject of concern at the summits of member states. Some of the causes of internal violence in Kenya are the raging ethnicity, unending poverty, land ownership and growing inequality.

If the Sabaot Land Liberation Front are fighting and causing mayhem in the Mt. Elgon area, it is because land allocation has been unfair. If the Mungiki are beheading innocent victims in some parts of Kenya, they say they are retaliating against a regime that used them in the past and betrayed them after coming to power.

Right now, an election year has brought the worst in us as Kenyans. The most educated and the most influential elite have gone ethnic in the most bizarre manner! Yesterday’s voices of reason have become today’s most vocal parochial individuals. Lawyers, doctors, teachers and priests are preaching tribalism as loudly as the lowly cane-cutter or coffee labourer in Nyanza and Central provinces!

Leading political leaders have retreated into their tribal cocoons to fight and undermine one another. In their quest for the presidency, they are so determined to be the ones or else they derail the collective ideological approach to competitive politics.

As I see it, the only way to save Kenya from imminent disintegration into tribal units is to speed up the East African political federation. It will be the surest way to kill tribalism in this country because Kenya’s ethnic problem is tied to political leadership. It is tied to the presidency and a faulty constitution.

Without fixing the national constitution, the presidency will always be the most attractive centre of power that every community will always be ready to die for.

jerryokungu@hotmail.com

Only the EA federation can save Kenya from tribalism

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