Sunday, 01 June 2008

That GEMA 'Leaders' Get-Together is Not Sawa

OK, OK! One more political rant and I promise myself to be (almost?) done with politicians and the stuff they do for a living. It was with great disgust that I learned that the GEMA community 'leaders' recently got together to discuss 'our' political future. We aren't even done mourning those who died, nay, were brutally murdered during the tribally charged post-election violence, or tried the perpetrators, and these people are already at it, including (former) Church leaders?

Much as I respect people's freedom to associate with whomever they choose, I think in this context it does our country more harm than good. I long for that day when we shall be united and divided by our ideologies and opinions as Kenyans, not loyalty to our tribes. I understand it's gonna be a while before we totally divorce ourselves from our history, but my humble opinion is that tribal alliances for political mileage should be disbanded kabisa. As in illegalized. Down to making tribal chiefdoms illegal political tools. Yaani if you are a tribal chief, be one huko kijijini but do not represent your tribe politically huko mbele. The business of tribes voting as blocs stinks and should be done away with. This does not apply to GEMA pekee, as we all know. Remember the way we were mostly in agreement that there should be no special Muslim interests in a political party, or in the constitution? How about making these leaders ashamed of the tribal interests they represent? Where are the Christians that took to the streets then?

Full Disclosure: I'm still proudly Kikuyu, probably will always be. There is precious little I can do about that- just don't ask me to vote as GEMA, or Kikuyu. We are a country of 42 or so micro-nations with diverse backgrounds but we can peacefully, happily and proudly co-exist as one. It can be done people. But most certainly, not by killing all Kikuyus :-)

Disclaimer: This piece shall not be taken as proof of defection or an endorsement of 'other' politicians. My political perspective, if ever I had one, still holds.


Kn said...

I am not yet willing to give up on the concept of tribe. I am unwilling to grant that colonizers were right in their claims that tribe was a limited concept that had no place in the modern world. I am unwilling to accept their definitions that my history and heritage are small and uninteresting, lacking in depth and complexity, beauty and joy.

I am not yet willing to give up on the concept of tribe.

Tribe lets my friend say, “my name means one born at night,” and my other friend to say, “I belong to the people who shape metal,” and yet another friend to say, “I bring rain in the dry seasons.” Tribe marks the changing of generations, Maina to Irungu, Kamau to Peter.

Tribe celebrates how we have lived, how we have loved, how we have suffered, how we have mourned. We are the descendants of Gatego, the generation riddled with syphilis and Ngige, the generation decimated by locusts. To say these names is to claim that our stories are not yet done. We are not yet done. We are here.

I am unwilling to relinquish tribe.

To say tribe is to recognize the diversity of who we are. To say that women from that ridge discipline their men. Men from that hill are bowlegged. Children from that place run like the wind. To say that people from that place make the best ũcũrũ (porridge), from that other place the best mũratina (an alcoholic drink), from that other place the best mũtura (a dish made from stuffed animal intestines).

To say tribe is to say people from that place talk fast, they sing their language. And people from that other place are tall. And people from that other place are dark. And people from that place like the dark taste of burnt beans. And people from that place like the iron-rich veins of green weeds.

I am unwilling to relinquish tribe.

There’s too much left to discover, too much left to explore, too much potential to be realized. The past remains an untapped ore, myth, a rich vein, the present a fertile, fallow field. Songs remain to be sung, stories written, dramas acted.

We have much creating to do.

Tribe is not simply an inheritance, but untapped potential. It is the material we can work on, work with, transform and translate.

For me, tribe is Wamũyũ, Gikuyu’s tenth daughter, mother of an illegitimate child, founder of a hospitable clan. Wamũyũ, who embodies the mystery, wonder and potential of intimate hospitality. Wamũyũ, whose unnamed and unnameable lover fractures any sense of insularity, Wamũyũ, whose intimate welcome illustrates the best of tribal hospitality, tribal love, tribal openness.

For me, tribe is Wangũ wa Makeri, the leader who dared to dance nude in the moonlight. Wangũ, who let the moon’s rays caress her, her people’s eyes embrace her. Wangũ, who understood that leadership meant being vulnerable and taking risks that might compromise her leadership.

Against all logic, against all sense, I am in love with the concept of tribe.

It is, like all love, fraught with complications and ambivalence. At times I want to scream at what seem to be the limitations of tribal identification, the ways I am called upon to perform tribe: to sing, dance, or act in a certain way. I chafe at the constrictions that ask me to speak my language to gain certain favours. I worry that my positions are taken for granted, that my identity may be said to dictate my politics.

I am often seduced by the invitation to identify myself as national, international, or cosmopolitan. I am tempted by the idea that I can and should transcend tribe. I am compelled by the idea that I would be a better person if my allegiances were less local, less idiosyncratic, less wedded to nine clans that face Mount Kenya. But I believe in this love.

I believe in its potential. I want to see where it leads.

Proud Kikuyu Woman said...

@ Kn - I'm not dumping my tribal identity any time soon, either. What I abhor is its use for political purposes. While it was OK, indeed amazing, to have Njambas who had felled the most among 'rival tribes' installed as leaders not so long ago, hiyo mambo sasa imepitwa na wakati. Hii mambo ya adui wetu this, Luo that yakome. Seperation of tribe and state is what I'd call it.

Otherwise? Siasa or no siasa I'm one proud Mugikuyu. Munjiru wa mbari ya Hwai, to be precise.

KN said...

If you are a proud Kikuyu, then understand your people don't rush to be against GEMA just for the sake of it .its like paranoia is doing the rounds .People being worried just because people have decided to organize themselves.

1 what has Gema done that you are so against it .Their planned agenda looks ok to mE - Why are you assuming what their agenda is .

2. Gema leaders are not just politicians they are church leaders , business people etc

In fact their is a move to make gema more none political like the Luo KER so don't be against it because your non Kikuyu friends are against it. We are a free country and freedom of association is a right not a privilege shall we complain also when the Mwangi family has a BBQ simple because it is an association of known Kikuyu

Proud Kikuyu Woman said...

It is not just for the sake of it (what is 'it'?) that I oppose tribal politics. Rather, it is for the sake of our identity as a nation. My grandparents identified with bururi wiitu wa Kirinyaga twaheirwo ni Mwene Nyaga. Great, and I thank Him for it.

Let us admit,however, that now there is a Kenya that includes them that used to raid us, and others from far away 'countries' that are part of Kenya as it has existed after the colonialists drew the subdivided Africa, shall we?
Seeing as is that there was Kikuyu, Maasai, (you could even be stolen from one into the other, as is the case for my cucu), Mijikenda etc before there was Kenya. Taht is why I don't feel any guilt identifying as a Mugikuyu. But now that we have been forced to live together by 'circumstances', I urge us to one forge a national identity that transcends tribal identities. As far as political divisions are concerned, why can't we be separated by issues and not tribal affiliations? There is beauty in it, see?Take this, for instance-I don't personally have to tell you that I'm Kikuyu. My name, my pride in my language, where I come from and how I talk about it will do it. I don't even feel offended at all when people ask me what tribe I am. No, not even when I use my 'Christian' name and they ask about "jina lako la mwisho"

For the last time, KN, I'm one proud Mugikuiyu, but my political outlook and identity are not synonymous.

kn said...

I have not questioned your political views or pride . I for one refuse to reduce myself to shallow assumptions that we should all think the same and have the same political views .So rest assured i am not questioning your political views .As for 'circumstances' there are those of us who don't believe in circumstances being permanent . Nothing is permanent when it comes to Nations that are formed by circumstances one only has to look at the long list of nations that were and no longer are .

But again we are all entitled to our own opinions since we are products of different experiences . Respect other peoples wishes .

Dad Mzungu said...

As a mzungu who has only recently been immersed more than toe deep in tribalism, can I throw in my two-pennyworth?
Apart from the PEV, I have believed that tribes, their cultures, beliefs, traditions are important.
We don't understand them because we have lost them.
England was full of tribes with their different traditions, etc., but these have been lost. Are we better off for having lost them?
I don't think so. When I look at the rich culture of "developing countries", I look at my own. Whereis ours? OK we have "culture", classical music, poetry, plays, Shakespeare, Byron, Shelley, Elgar.
But this isn't tradition, belief, folklore.
I say, be who you are, be proud of who you are, but don't forget to be proud to be Kenyan.
Kenya, and Kenyans, you are wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Tribe as a cultural identity is one thing, tribe as a political grouping is another. I have yet to hear of a GEMA meeting arranged to fund say literature, preservation of songs, language, etc. Actually, a deep probing of Kikuyu culture, and history might not be in the intrests of some political leaders in GEMA, it might undermine their political positions.

Proud Kikuyu Woman your instincts are right it is political, and a gimmick used to hide naked greedy intrests.

It is organizations like GEMA that are holding Kenya back from realising it's full potential.

Maua said...

I am one proud kikuyu and patriotic Kenyan, but I'm sick and tired of the excuses of bettering our heritage to get into political arenas. These GEMA leaders need to know their time is up, and young blood need to come up. We need to be united as the Gikuyus, singing one song before we can seek to become united Kenyans, but how can we when the 'leaders' are teaching us to hate, not just the 'rest of Kenyans' but ourselves. GEMA it may be, but kikuyus are one divided community. It's just recent I heard 'cucu ajirire ndikanakire chania' (Kikuyu grandmas being against grandchildren's marriages between kikuyus from Nyeri, muranga, and Kiambu).

I do not believe there is anything we are learning when there's only hate being spread.

Ssembonge said...

GEMA is an avenue for enriching leaders. They are simply using the people.

savvy said...

i understand u on the concept of gema, i mean, what ideologies are they based on, if not tribe? it seems like a tribal organisation to me...

savvy said...

let me add, am not against tribes either, i believe they give me an identity, i now have roots or something of the sort..sometimes i wonder what my culture really is...

but gema certainly sounds very 'tribal politics' to me..

joyunspeakable said...

my tribe?
why ask me about my tribe? where do you come from? why ask me that question?

you want to know if i am want to know if i ever sent money by leaving it at the telephone post, cos thats what your tribesman told mine. you want to know if i ate cement cos i thought it was want to know why i have an heavy tongue...cant sing you say....

or do you want to learn my language we talk for real?

odegle said...

actually tribalism is normally used by the weak. i remember when i joined university, the young men who were unable to get girls simply retreated into what were called 'district associations'. these i later learnt were just tribal groupings. in one of those meetings, the girls later told us, they were warned against associating with loud mouthed luos.(of in other words, not to sleep with them) they were told all sorts of things to discourage them. funny thing, they then came to our rooms and gave us all the stories!

Catherine said...

I will not understand why we like politics that not an event goes by without lots of bickering.
I think its time Kenyans realise that we a 42 tribes and I stress tribes because we are and we cant change that. Being a kikuyu I never opted to be but I found myself born and brought up by my Kikuyu parents, others are from mixed marriages but in africa we take our fathers tribe to indicate our own.
Gema Leaders can meet and have their agenda but its upon us to either accept or disapprove what our tribe leaders ask us to do, lets do this individually because what I like is not basically what you like so each idea is fit if you get all its supportive facts.
I am a kikuyu who dont mind a Luo living, working, travelling with me.
There are buts and these buts are the ones that makes us politizes everything i.e. this has, those are and why me and why us? If we would all work hard and accept that we cant all be the same or equal then you will be proud of your achievement and I will too be pround of what I have done.

I join Kn in not giving up the concept of tribe, its God given just as our beautiful Kenya.