“Najivunia kuwa Mkenya” directly translating to “I’m proud to be a Kenyan” became a popular statement during Dr Alfred Mutua’s stint as Government Spokesman. Now the Governor of Machakos County, his was a bitter sweet stint at the position, though ultimately the position was scrapped by the new government.
I have incredible memories of growing up in Kenya. I grew up in an incredible neighbourhood with all manner of kids, where our daily routine outside the classroom was made up of adventures and escapades that would make for one hell of a blockbuster. At the “appropriate” age I was shipped off to boarding school in rural Central Kenya where it was believed I would gain the necessary experience to be self-sufficient.
During my journey through primary school I was introduced to the 42 Kenyan tribes in my GHCRE classes. This created for me a new paradigm to what it meant to be Kenyan. Before that it never really crossed my mind. Not that the sense of national pride and patriotism wasn’t already instilled. Just that this was only limited to the loyalty pledge and the national anthem during Friday’s compulsory parade. I knew I belonged to a tribe and all but at such a young age it didn’t really matter.
I don’t know when I became infected but at some point before or during puberty I was exposed to one of Kenya’s biggest menace – negative tribalism. It was like a rite of passage – a kind of Kenyan characteristic. It became worse when I began having an interest in National politics. This became a seed that would breed hatred and mistrust but was shrugged off as just being Kenyan.
Thanks to my exposure to different communities and culture I had the strength to fight off negative tribalism and reach a certain point of self-actualization. I’m not cured off it completely but at least I can rise above certain stereotypic thoughts and conversations. With age and wisdom, you learn to see past certain stereotypes and go to basics of what makes you Kenyan. You learn about social class and realize tribe is but a tip of the icepack. It is unending process but unfortunately most never reach there.
Of recent it has been tough for me reading through updates on social media. We are at a crisis point in our short history and are fighting a war with forces of terror that want to tear the fabric of our society. But despite the fact that we feel we will be victors in the end, I feel we are losing a very important battle. It is saddening to see xenophobic updates toward a community that has every right to be Kenyan as any of us. Terrorism is a cancer that we must all face but turning on a certain community and blaming them will just lead to innocent people being caught in the net.
I have Somali friends and they are good people. They are loyal and patriotic and share the same pride in being Kenyan as I have. Just because a certain faction of their community are trying to wage a war and targeting innocent people doesn’t make them bad people.
As I watch the police round up Somalis and see other Kenyans support this it ultimately leads me to ask if we believe they are any less Kenyan than we are. Some were born and bred in the country and know of nowhere else to call home. I might be wrong and my argument futile thus I beg to ask – what makes one Kenyan?