Over 200 people have died in this year alone as a result of violence between different ethnic communities in Kenya.
This includes in Tana River delta, Mandera, Borabu, Moyale counties, etc. some of the reasons given by those in the know are the fight over scarce resources, politics and spillage from neighbouring countries. (Ethiopia). As usual, this has led to well-choreographed responses from Kenyans and their government.
Shock. Anger. Sackings. And then the usual promises of investigations. And then we move our shock to the next disaster. And everything is forgotten.
But don’t we have a national cohesion and integration commission (NCIC) meant to ensure that this very violence doesn’t occur? I asked myself. Some little research afterwards, I have discovered that the NCIC actually has even a well-researched and well written forty page policy on this very issue. It is aptly named the Kenya Ethnic and Race Relations Policy, and it can be found on their website.
So why are Kenyans still killing themselves, despite all the peace meetings, government policies, education by NGOs, and experiences Kenya has suffered since 1992, and most recently in 2008? It turns out, we are not learning from the past, we are not implementing the Kenya ethnic and relations policy, and we are not changing the same conditions that led to the bloodletting of 2008. In short, we are being very stupid in how we are handling this ethnic relations business.
The Kenya ethnic and race relations policy, is set on the principle of ethnic and racial inclusion, that is, the idea and practice of deliberately ensuring that people from all ethnic and racial groups resident in the nation are represented in
- governance structures,
- development initiatives,
- public deliberations,
- democratic arrangements,
- and national educational institutions
I will leave you interpret how successful ethnic and racial inclusion has been carried out in your county, and country.
The country remains deeply divided among ethnic lines. As the respected British historian, Professor Niall Ferguson put it in his popular BBC 2012 Reith lectures; there are two types of countries: the inclusive, and extractive. An extractive society is one in which, the government is used by the ruling elite to grab the economic produce from the country and proportionate it amongst themselves. Indeed, in an extractive society, the government is a tick that feeds on the labour of the people. The society cannot develop to its full potential unless people stop seeing control of the government as essential for their employment prospects, economic wellbeing, security and happiness.
There is little doubt in my mind that Kenya is an extractive society. Many kikuyus believe that losing the control of the government and its coercive arms such as police and military will be the beginning of their end, economically and politically. Other tribes also believe that unless they can ascend to the highest pinnacles of power in this country,the perceived poverty, unemployment and insecurity they suffer in comparison to the tribes in power will not be eased.
What does this have to do with tribally instigated violence in Tana delta, I hear you ask. In my opinion, the new constitution has created 47 bastions that will be under the thumb of the majority tribe after the general elections of 2013. 15% of government revenues will be distributed to all counties, and this money will be under the control of whichever county governments will be in place at the time.
It is this control of the county resources, and the contracts, tenders, jobs and influence that is being fought over. Whichever local elites control counties with the resources such as the richly endowed Tana delta, Lake Victoria, oil resources in northern Kenya etc., will be in a prime position to benefit economically beyond their wildest dreams.
Hence they are prepared to shed blood in their quest for power and riches. In my humble opinion, devolved corruption, impunity, balkanization of the country and power is part and parcel of the new dispensation, although no one wants to talk about it.
Not much can be done to stop this, but the national government has a responsibility to ensure that no Kenyan’s life is lost as collateral damage of these power games. It is this wanton destruction of property, and loss of life that must be stopped. Idealistic peace meetings and other policies such as intermarriage, social contact between tribes and national dress etc. will take time to make a dent and promote cohesion and integration, if not complemented by other “realistic policies.” Power sharing arrangements are another potential solution to violence in the counties. The NCIC has advocated for power sharing in no less than 27 counties in next year’s elections. Some of these counties include Nakuru and Lamu.
In the meantime, the national government should be prepared to put out all stops to enforce security and peace by arresting all local militias, those guilty of hate speech and murder and other crimes, and forcing people to be peaceful in this election period. Unfortunately, one suspects that the central government mandarins are more concerned in securing their immediate and midterm political and economic futures to do much.