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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ethnic Diversity In The Workplace

By Shiko Of Mombasa

A Kenyan complained in the Daily Nation recently that out of 421 short-listed applicants at the State Law Office, 124 (30%) were from the same community. We may not expect every office to accommodate every tribe but the arithmetic in this case is rather off kilter. If the 70% balance is to be shared by even a half of the other tribes, do the arithmetic and you’ll know why Kenyans are so bitter with one another. This situation is duplicated in many other instances. In the recent clandestine police recruitment that was later nullified, 80% of those accepted were from just 4 regions. Kenyans have no problem being from different tribes. They have a problem with inequality and such anomalies must be redressed if we are expected to live together as one happy family.

What Kenya needs is not war cries and machetes but civilized mechanisms to fight the tribalism monster. One idea would be the formation of a commission mandated to oversee balanced ethnic, age and gender diversity in employment, both in the public and private sectors. Career progression could also be thrown in the mix to curb discriminative promotions. The commission would have to be well legislated with a strong constitution, otherwise some elites might use it as an avenue to enrich themselves and incubate worse bitterness among wananchi. With a head office plus regional offices country wide, and a strong database, it should periodically monitor recruitment and dismissals. At any one time it should be able to avail to Kenyans a general report on the ethnic, age and gender balancing of workers in organizations like KRA, Treasury or Local Government for example. Needless to say, the commission must itself be a representative of all the ethnic groups in the country and be completely autonomous (free from politicians and other interested groups). It should also have some powers to name and shame as well as impose fines on employers who do not tow the line.

The commission would obviously have to take things gradually, starting with government and other public offices, and spreading to the private sector in the course of time. With time, it should have all major and not so major organizations in it’s database with the support of the law so that it remains in force even with change of governments. I’m not

by any means suggesting firing and replacing of workers en-masse but I see no reason why it’s first job should be to oversee a thorough audit of the ministries and then a balanced inter-ministerial reshuffling. There are some government offices where everyone is considered Tribe X and addressed in language X until proven otherwise.

It’s a behemoth task and a logistical nightmare, and I’ll be the first to admit that such a feat is not easy, but what is? A repeat of the recent fighting in future, albeit worse? Kenya does not lack for brilliant men and women who can run an organization of this kind. We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations. Kenya can choose either to use the opportunity to mend herself or bury her head in the sand and let things smooth themselves out. They’ve been smoothing themselves out since independence and see where we landed.

The benefits of such a move will obviously not be immediately felt. Rather we’ll be laying good groundwork for our future generations.

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.

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mrembo said...

shiko dada, 100% la kuongeza wala la kupunguza!!

Taabu said...

Spot on Shiko. They have ears and eyes but don't hear neither see. You are stroking an hornet's nest but no matter how long they take to sort this monster, it will surely come for our souls lest we collectively and bravely confront it. We have a golden opportunity and we either seize it or ignore it at our eternal peril. Truth must be told whatever the cost and tribal tension is one bomb that will explode very soon. Tell it till it assumes a song dimension.

Anonymous said...

A very good posting. Let's start talking about issues.

Yes there is one community which has dominated ministries and state coperations. (Education Ministry, Treasury,Injustice Ministry,OP,Police, etc).

The community is now panicking. The community wants to take as many students as possible to the university so that they have better chances in employment. Why were results of Mangu, Njiris, etc topped up while those of Friends, Lugulu, Rapogi, Yala lowered down? This is another stealing resembling the infamous vote stealing by Kibaki.

We can create PM positions and change the constitution, but if we can not point a finger on this community and punish their corrupt members, then Kenya will always BURN.

The criminals like Kibaki, Kivuitu, ECK, KNEC should not expect amnesty.

Anonymous said...

kumekucha-this is a brilliant post because of the suggestion forwarded on how to get out of the problem
i guess we should say this has been the trent from kenyatta more kikuyu's in cushy jobs and government and parastatal offices were then filled by the kikuyu's more than any other tribe!! then come Moi who decided to counter and remove the kikuyu's and place his own tribe so the circle continues when kibaki com into power in 2002- removed the kalejins and replaced yet again with kikuyu's so do you see in this century why the other tribes with the help of the kalejins voted him out?

the other tribes got tired of being marginalised- from the 60's till 2007 that is a very long time to wait for proper employment in without FAIR SYSTEM IN PLACE- AND TRIBE GETTING RICHER THROUGH UNFAIR PRACTICES WILL BRING AS YET AGAIN TO ANOTHER CIVIL UN-REST - TODAY THE YOUNG GENERATION IN KENYA ARE NOT PATIENT.

kenya population majority are the young generation - old generation has faced out and this generation will fight if not treated fairly

i agree with kumekucha- the coalition government must find a way to address this un fair distribution of jobs and deal with it or else it will be a waste of time- they will be same unrest down the road
a job means -food=shelter=health and without all the above people become unhappy in the society

dmutai said...

Great article!

THE EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION champions equality and human rights for all, working to ELIMINATE DISCRIMINATION, reduce inequality, protect human rights and to build good relations, ensuring that EVERYONE has a fair chance to participate in society.

THE EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION is an answer to racial (and other) discrimination in the UK; a similar example could be an answer to the Kenyan ethnic problem.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission acts not only for the disadvantaged, but for everyone in society, and can use its ENFORCEMENT POWERS where necessary to guarantee people’s equality. It also has a mandate to promote understanding of the Human Rights Act.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a non-departmental public body established under the Equality Act 2006 (UK)– accountable for its public funds, but INDEPENDENT OF GOVERNMENT.

Following our current difficulty, Could we follow this example?

As Shiko rightly said, pessimists sees difficulty in every opportunity. Could we then be the optimists who'd see opportunity in our current quagmire?


Anonymous said...

What is your take on the proposed Ethnicity bill that will make it criminal for people in positions of power to hire predominantly from ethnic groups they favour?

kalamari said...

Shiko, under Kibaki, you should not have expected to see any type of fairness in any institution, public or private. Hiyo ni masaa ya wasapere

Now ODM is also in. Provided they do not get overly co-opted, we should see some changes in hiring/recruiting practices. If ODM disappoints (and they sure can), then Kenyans have no choice but to wait until I run for the presidency (or premiership if it's more powerful).

Chicity said...

Shiko, it's a herculean but not insurmountable task. First an anti-disrimination statute should be passed. It should also give the body tasked with enforcement teeth to investigate and prosecute violaters or provide injured employees with "right to sue letters" so that they can file civil complaints against their employers - where discrimination is evidenced. I think an establishment akin to the US EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) would help. All employers should also have to file a monthly/quarterly report providing a breakdown of all jobs advertized, filled, the tribes and gender of all considered, hired and how the indentified candidates meet the criteria for employment.

The challenge also lies in transforming not just the institutions but the culture of the citizenry as well. How do we get all Kenyans to understand that we all lose (i.e. crime, corruption, unemployment, poor standards of education, low life expectancy, etc) when we have a large segment of the population held back and denied access to resources and opportunities?

Anonymous said...

An Equal Opportunity Employment office that is totally autonomous from government, its officers appointed by Parliament and answerable to it. Auditing and vetting hiring practices within government and also in the private sector and they should have a number where abuses such as ethnic discrimination can be reported anonymously and people held accountable. Only when we realize and can effect something similar to this, can we expect change. But the key and operative word in Kenya that people really need and have started to embrace is ACCOUNTABILITY from the top down, and I mean, from the TOP down.

Anonymous said...

Quota System will help

The oppressed Kenyan people since independence must be given a larger share in ministry jobs.

University and college places should be reserved for tribes who have suffered. Schools in these regions should pay less fees.

Which tribes or regions have suffered most? 1)Nyanza 2)Western Province 3)Coast 4)NEP have been left behind, but Luo Nyanza has experienced the cruel hands of tyranny from Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki. These people have been assasinated, unjustly jailed and detained.

It is time to bring back justice to the 4 Provinces.

It is not yet Uhuru until all these are met.

Anonymous said...

i dont understand why its considered a tribal affair yet its very clear that kikuyus are the only ones out of 42 tribes that are openly, hopelessly and eternally tribally partisan in their business, employment and social engagements while the remaining 41 tribes are a little more accomodating with reactionary tribal leanings in defiance of kikuyuism.

please note that when kibaki/pnu/kikuyus agreed to the peace accord, ethnic tension subsided, halloooo,

Anonymous said...

Kikuyus are like nigerians they are the most populous in kenya which explains why they are majority everywhere you go , from jails to churches,entertainment , business, crime etc.It is time we cut these guyz some slack ama nasisi tuanze kutombana zaidi ndio tuwafikie.

Anonymous said...

shiko niceeeee

my take on this we should have a commision similar to anti corruption commission, we call it somthing like anti tribalism commission whereby we can report any tribal affair in our public institutions and also in our work place to be investigated and this will fairly reduce incident of tribalism or what do you think guyz

Anonymous said...

I know many people who got jobs or promotion because they knew some influential person in or outside the organisation. This is not unique with employees from certain tribe but cuts across board. When I graduated, some of my well connected classmates got jobs with blue chip companies even before we got the final results. Most the blue chip companies were recruiting only 1st class honours graduates but some people with a pass and lower 2nd class honours miraculously got the jobs. I remember one guy who got a management trainee position before the final results were out but failed in two units and had to repeat the final year.

I was once in an interview panel where we had to ask candidates some pre-set questions. I realised that the questions were leaked to some candidates just by the way they recited well rehearsed answers. I know they are some interview frequently asked general question that any serious candidate would be well prepared to answer but not technical questions. What surprised me is after we summed the marks awarded during the interview, the other three panel members were pushing for certain candidates who incidentally were from their tribes though they were not the best.

Most people say there is tribalism and nepotism in employment whereas they would practise it given a position of authority. Let not preach water and drink wine. The equal opportunity most organisation try to sell is just a public relation thing. You will find tribalism in public and private sector and in military forces. The politicians call it job for the boys just to sugar coat it.

Anonymous said...

Ever wondered you go a simple pre-weeding in Nairobi, and mark you they are the ones who invited you, they need your chums, then for 6 hours they talk in their mother tongue....Shiko let us start from down here among friends, social gatherings pls just know you are addressing people from every tribe..Let us keep it swa or english

Mrembo said...

hehehehe anonymous 11.24 i know who you are............niceeeeeee

oh yes, shiko take up 11.53's suggestion ai.....mazishi-kikuyu!! harusi-kikuyu!! by the way i dont go to their functions na sio kwa ubaya!!

even campo!! they meet and cluster themselves into a kikuyu group and speak only their language....then they dont mix with other people much!!

someone suggested resocialization classes maybe you should open an 'institute for kikuyu reintegration' to teach them a few manners....we will share the fees hahaha.

Anonymous said...

We want A-Levels back.

8-4-4 is a corrupt system, expensive and helps only the rich. It is even now become 8-4-5. I suggest 8-3-2-3 as an education system which is less expensive and will give ALL kenyans a chance to get quality education.

This kind of system will even contribute to accelerate the national healing, when all Provincial and district schools are made national schools at A-Level education.

Anonymous said...

Good article. Let us all celebrate our diversity rather than use it as a tool of exclusion and divisiveness.

While many Kenyans are aware of the problem or issue of diversity in civil service, this problem exists in private sectors as well. We really need a law that not only discourages discrimination based on ethnicity, gender and or religion but also a law that seeks to promote diversity by giving tax breaks as incentive to companies that employ minorities(such as Turkanas, Somalis, Rendiles and women in general).

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