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Friday, March 07, 2008

What Kenyans Should Do

What does Jeff Koinange's K24 Stand For?

By Wanjiku of Mombasa

Present Kenya is a battered nation albeit a hopeful one. But it is not bad luck or lack of resources that is plaguing us. Take Japan for example. About 70% of Japan is forested, mountainous and unsuitable for agricultural, industrial or residential use. Yet it is the second largest economy in the world and a world leader in technology. Is there any significant intellectual difference between their executives and our own? Is Japan any more blessed with resources than we are? Any reason why Kenya cannot hit those notes in future?

Our woes are an obvious result of poor leadership, weak institutions, selfishness and impunity among a myriad other evils that cannot be listed on a single page. Our leaders have stashed our hard earned money in Swiss accounts, bought property abroad and acquired more land than their graves and those of all their future generations can ever fill. In parliament there have been thieves, murderers, drunkards, wife beaters, rapists, warlords, name it. They came, they stole but they will not conquer us. So first, I say we get over them and show them the door. Every Kenyan can and should do their part towards this.

Second we should disconnect from our leaders and work to change our personal attitudes. Leaders cannot touch our attitudes towards one another unless we let them. It is not going to be easy considering these are beliefs and attitudes framed for years through education and culture. Besides, we’ve hurt each other real bad recently. But with collective willpower it can be done. Gradually, maybe slowly, but it can be done.

Third, I dare say we embrace our ethnicity. Tribe is an identity and tribal identities are here to stay. We would best serve ourselves using ethnicity positively for personal as well as national growth. Judging from the number of inter-tribal marriages and mixed race children, the battle against negative ethnicity has been well underway on the family level. Now we take it national. Instead of fighting ethnicity, why not foster vibrant healthy competition among different cultures? Why not support each other in trade? Or intellectually? Why not learn what other communities do best and let them also learn what we do best?

Fourth let us work on the children. Get them while they’re young. It is said that if you’re thinking 1 year ahead, till a field. If you’re thinking 10 years ahead, plant a tree. If you’re thinking 100 years ahead, raise a child. Let parents and teachers teach them to be proud of their cultures and appreciate other peoples’ cultures. Recently I watched sadly as displaced children were asked to express their feelings in drawing. Most of them drew fire, machetes, bows, arrows and blood. I shudder at the thought of what seeds have been planted in their minds. We need to mend these young minds for the sake of the future.

There must be many other brilliant ideas out there. What sayest thou?


Anonymous said...

What a lame piece. Unthought out arguments. Eg:

Why do you think Japan () works and Kenya does not? Main reason is: Japan is one, Kenya is many nations. That is the genesis if Kenya's and indeed Africa's ailments.

One way to deal with the problem then is to diminish the dividers (culture, language, etc),which you argue against, saying "Let parents and teachers teach them to be proud of their cultures and appreciate other peoples’ cultures.". That is utter nonsense. Embracing culture is one act of negative gain in todays world, especially since such cultures just cause more divisions.Open your eyes.

Anonymous said...

Hey Wanjiku of Mombasa you are one of the few Kenyans that still exist in a breed that was recently threatened with extiction due to negative ethnicity.
If only we built on the strengths of the different tribes and not hyped about their weaknesses the sky can be the limit for this country...

Anonymous said...


Kenya has a primitive capitalist system which kills. There are no morals among Kenyans.

Kenyans dream of money and how to get rich as fast as possible. Any chance to steal the public property will be taken ruthlessly. They risk to go to jail and later live as millionares. What Kibaki did to steal the votes was deliberate. He took the risk of causing chaos and deaths. This is the behaviour of Kenyans. No respect for humans, no scial responsibility, no feelings when it is about money.

Japanese and Germans are very different (maybe the world war shaped them). They only enjoy money for which they have sweated for. A Japanese manager earns less than a Kenyan MP. A German Prime Minister for 16 years has the same wealth equal to that of Kalonzo Musyoka.

Kenyans loot, Japanese work.

Anonymous said...

WANJIKU; Thanks for an excellent post. I have always felt that Kenya has the potential of becoming an "African Tiger" (like the Asian Tigers).

The prize is ours to claim and we will as soon as we organise our instituions of government.

There will never be real economic development in the absence of proper political institutions. It all begins with the constitution.

Anonymous said...


I'm actually impressed that kumekucha finally has articles on how to build kenya, not just the usual domo domo of kenyan never ending politics.

Wnajiku, I like your article on how you compare us to japan and challenge us to take charge.

I'd also like to contribute by saying that in kenya, we're still trying to find ourselves. we need to "grow" and mature and with that will come the big improvements in the economy.

Japan has been "JAPAN" for quite a while. I think they all speak the same language-not sure, but they are homogeneous.

Remember, kenya came into being in 1890 when the british put boundaries and called it "kenya"
after independence, we were left with the challenge of building from this mixture of cultures.

we had kikuyus who were pre dominantly around central, but who'd been moved to other areas by the brits, w ehad Luo around Lake victoria, we had a group of pastoral tribes, grouped together by the british as the kalenjin, we had arabs who'd setteld along the coast for ages,we also had indians who'd been brought to ork on the railway and decide dto stay.

after independence the challenge was unifying all these disparate groups as one, a sone nation. we did choose to eb grouped that way but it's what we had to deal with.
We are still trying to emerge from that and as such, at the expense of national development.
That is where the west has overtaken us. they formed their countiires and nations long before kenya was even born. they also had their fair share of troubles as we're having but I believe we're dealing with them very fine.

Anonymous said...

I have observed ODMers for a long time now and as a very respected and renown student and professor of human behavior there is something very funny about them!
Whenever Raila is "defeated" or whenever Raila enters into a deal for his own good, then they fly into denial mode real quick. They call it "Tactical Retreat". Sample this

(1). Raila dissolves his own NDP and joins KANU, the party that jailed him and caused untold trouble to his father, wife and kids. He is now a friend of Nyayo and a Secretary General. For Raila fanatics, that is not JUDAS ISCARIOT, but it is "Tactical Retreat". Of course there is the spin that he did what he did so as to destroy KANU from within, no, he did that because he thought Nyayo was going to anoint him for presidency...wapi?

(2) Raila realizes that Nyayo had project in mind. Moves out, shelves his presidential ideas and goes to Uhuru Park to say "Kibaki Kina Tosea". To his followers, it is not JUDAS ISCARIOT but "Tactical Retreat". Ati to become Prime-minister. He did not know that those wazees would not allow. He was fired from the cabinet.

(3) The latest ODM Saga. Raila promises his people that he will not go for anything less than the presidency. Raila meets in the backroom and strikes a deal that will see him as the first Prime Minister since Kenyatta, what with full security detail, nice car, nice home. All good for Raila!. The spin of course is that this is yet another "Tactical Retreat". However, when Kalonzo did the "Tactical Retreat" move, he was quickly branded as JUDAS ISCARIOT.

Why do we have the shifting goal posts? ODMers need to come out of the closet and stop foolish denial. Raila has made a career out of Tactical Retreat, kwani when will he force somebody else to do the retreating instead of Raila doing it? Now, he has to work with Kibaki, a guy he called a "thief" and Kalonzo a guy he called "judas Iscariot" you wonder, in these cute picture, what is Raila then? Is Peter, the one who denied Jesus? As in Raila and his people in DENIAL????

Anonymous said...

Embrace ethnicity, embrace pan-Africanism. We have to get in into our heads that we within the Republic of Kenya are Kenyans and should nuture and protect our nation. No one else is obligated to do so

Anonymous said...


I couldn’t agree more especially on how we need to raise our children. After everything that went down this past few weeks, I believe that our elders have let us down big time, what with dismissing and plainly instilling in us a sense of one tribe being “superior, hardworking, entrepreneurial” than everyone else. I may not be a big affirmative action cheerleader but something needs to be done to ensure that one who is born in Alego gets as fair a shot of making it in Kenya as one who’s born, in say, Kiambu.
And as for the governance culture, I wish they could think a little outside the box, I’m talking something a kin to the Singapore model. Empower permanent secretaries and then pay them like money is going out of fashion. Here the rationale is, if they have enough authority - ministerial powers be damned, and a disincentive to be corrupt, by virtue of some obscene paychecks, there are bound to be real and tangible results. Of course this would require a lot of support from politicians and as we all know, the Idea of ceding any ounce of power to civil service would scare the bejeezus out of this political crop….

Sayra said...

I believe our problem as Kenyans comes from the attachments we have had from our childhood years. Attachments such as only politicians can give us leadership, having one from my tribe in state house equals to been happy or prosperous, some people are economically advantaged than others, some people are intellectually better than others, etc, etc. Attachments that seem to have been engraved to our hearts due to our ethnic and cultural background, educational & environmental perceptions, economic and social standings.

Sadly even when we grow up we continue affirming these attachment and we recent and hate upon those who don’t follow or approve of them.

We need to outgrow such attachments and have an open mind that will let us see clearly what needs to be done on all level starting with the smallest unit the family all the way to the president. By an open mind I mean you open up yourself to the ideas of others ... be they ridiculous or crazy or just outrageous ... just listen and be curious. Let go of the attachments that you have been made and trained to believe. That way we will start to appreciate all without looking to details that don’t matter such as where they are from, how old are they, how schooled are they, etc, etc

With an open mind and lack of attachments it will be just in a matter of time and all the solutions that Kenya needs fall in place.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


Wanjiku - Mombasa said...

Toiyoi what we need is to strive for the many nations in Kenya to work for the common good of he country. We will spend more years trying to diminish culture and language than we will take to unite the different tribes. And just how do you diminish language and culture anyway? Ban all native languages, ban schooling in the province of birth, give incentives for inter tribal marriages and design and implement a whole new different naming system. At this rate the next generation of Kenyans might have names like Yorimoto and Toyotomi.

And to think of it.... Toiyoi....

Wanjiku - Mombasa said...

Sayra, Anons, it can be done. With good will and the right attitude we can do it.

Taabu said...

@Toiyoi you missed the boat by a river in hollowly dismissing the main post as lame. Your response fits the bill instead. Pragmatism requires making lemonade when presented with lemons. Our cultures are here to stay and eradicating them is wishful thinking. You took Japan analogue out of context to advance avery unrealistic and narrow view. Think again becuase even Tokyo prospered form the ashes.

Ciku I couldn't agree more. Our problem as a country needs two items from two quarters. One cultural appreciation is a must. We are different and stand to gain from our diversity if we accept that basic fact. Granted all African cultures advocate RESPECT, HARDWORK and RESPONSIBILITY among others. We have allowed ourselves to be roped into hatred fro each by providing our backs for politicians to ride. We must deny them that privilage to think for us NOW. Yes we need leaders and we must hold them to account to advance our selfless interests and not the other way round. This can be done at personal level.

Then we need the next FAIR level of engagement - CONSTITUTION. This must be done as fast as yesterday to fairly reflect our aspirations as a nation. Upholding the tenets of this new constitution demands HONESTY. As we have seen since 1963a katiba is as good as the leaders entrusted to uphold it. Ours has been serially raped to appease egos and ethinic interests.

Your analogy with Japan was more than apt. They may be homogenous in their language but we can learn two attributes from them: HONESTY AND HARDWORK. Ours version of these two virtues is laughable to say the least.

It takes a crisis to stop and think. Kenya and Kenyans can seize the unique opportunity provided by the recent criris to rise from the ashes like a PHOENIX. You don't get such opportunities twice and we squander it and it melts from our grip forever.

Tribal identity is no sin but it turn into one when we use it to denigrade others. Until and unless we accept other Kenyans as equal and make our familiy and comminities as useful building blocks for a stronger Kenya, I fear we will be merely pleasing our egos with red herring and academic engagements. The onus is on us to start it small at personal level to reshape the Kenya we want.

Jemo said...

I think we ought to try having regional shifts of power like the Swiss have. It's no question just reading these blogs how people generally are still talking along ethnic lines. I can always tell who is a kikuyu based on their pro PNU comments and who is, um, the rest of kenya based on their pro ODM comments. OF course there are exceptions to this but there's no point pretending: we are still divided, always will be because we were never one, the colonists made us "kenya" and we don't have it in our blood to be what we were not. So to make the best of the situation, I advocate for decentralizing power and letting regions have a turn at the central presidency every so often. I'm sick of pretending.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Wanjiku for your piece. You, together with mrembowaodm and Ivy give Kumekucha a feminine touch which is welcome.
Comparing Japan and Kenya is like comparing Sahara (hot) and Siberian (cold) deserts i.e two extremes. Japan for one is an island. It is a monarchy i.e ruled by a royal family. It is monolingual and fourthly it turned the tragedy of the hiroshima bombing into a stepping stone to self sustainability and national pride. By the way, 50 years ago, Japan was just on the same pedestal as Kenya in terms of GDP. All they needed was the bombing and a king who said "NEVER AGAIN." Japan for instance has exploited their being an island to stamp out several diseases (both human and animal) and keep them at bay. They obey monarchial decrees almost 100%. When the king says "everybody should bring their animals for vaccination tomorrow" the response is 99%. Enough about Japan.
You seem to be a strong advocate of "unity in diversity." Me too. But Kenya cannot practise this due to unfortunate historical circumstances. If this had been instilled in Kenyans immediately after independence, maybe it would have worked. If the colonialists had not employed divide (ethnically) and rule tactics, and Kenyatta had not inaugurated the "it is our time to eat" culture, maybe Kenya would not be so ethnically conscious. I cannot think of one multi-ethnic country which has successfully practised unity in diversity. USA is the closest, but ethnic undertones still run deep in all national endeavours in that country. Obama is banking heavily on the black vote in his quest for presidency.
I think the best way to run a milti-ethnic country is to devise ways of reducing or even eliminating ethnic consciousness. Nyerere tried it in Tanzania by stressing on kiswahili. Kamuzu Banda of Malawi and Mobutu sese Seko of Zaire tried by making citizens drop their English names (this failed miserably because the indeginous names directly identified ethnic origins-I would rather they would have dropped all the indiginous names and adopted English names, Liberia style). Let us not delude ourselves that we can still stick and follow our cultures. We have swallowed western cultures line, hook and sinker. We cannot undo this. Moi encouraged Kenyans from different tribes to intermarry. I think this is the way to go. The goodness with this is that you will find a Kamau who is actually a Kisii and an Atieno who is actually a Taita. With time, names will cease to have tribal attachments to them, but they will still identify us as Kenyans. Si hii ni sawa?

Nyachae the Turkana

Anonymous said...

As anon @ 8.37 says, we need to get the politics (government) straight and everything else shall progress accordingly.

Anonymous said...

Ata we Chris umezidi, toa hii moderation if you want to fika 2million hits....aaarrrggggghhhhh

Anonymous said...

This is a nice discussion
I may not agree with wanjiku, but at least there are some amongst us thinking beyond today.into the future

HONESTY,JUSTICE,HARD WORK,DECENCY are the key words that we must get into all Kenyans brains.

JUSTICE superceeds all-for it talks of Honesty,hard work respect etc
The present "semi-capitalist" attitude in Kenya is the problem.

Everybody talk of DEALS-Quick money without genuine hard work.That is the problem we have.This, as easily seen is the corruption we have.All the way in the social spectrum.

All said, we may keep our cultural identities and yet prosper. We need a CONSTITUTION THAT guarantess real justice.Justice that ensures all see fruits of their hard work.

It is JUSTICE THAT WE NEED and it is only a good constitution that can deliver this.

UK is prosperous,yet has good pride in cultural diversity,not only as it affects immigrants,but the constituent members of the UK (Scotland,wales,Ireland,England). This is just an example. Same can be said about Swiss and USA as examples.

Another crucial are is seperation of the arms of government- we dont see any significant changes when elections are held in UK.This is because the civil service,Judiciary etc are intact.
Elections should affect the Legislature,not the other arms of government
Perhaps what is happening in Kenya will help us to look into these issues! Te Crises is a good opportunity for real and patriots to see what is really good for Kenya as a country (nations are many now within our borders!)

By the way, who is behind the escalating violence in the Rift valley/ I would not pass it beyond those unhappy with the recently signed Peace deal-The unpatriotic Kenyans who are not willing to give the deal a chance (as can be seen in the sad face on Martha wamugunda in todays Nation.Where is bila chuki?)

Anonymous said...

anon 9:05

on the other hand we can go a full out war

Daniel Waweru said...

Third, I dare say we embrace our ethnicity. Tribe is an identity and tribal identities are here to stay. We would best serve ourselves using ethnicity positively for personal as well as national growth. Judging from the number of inter-tribal marriages and mixed race children, the battle against negative ethnicity has been well underway on the family level. Now we take it national. Instead of fighting ethnicity, why not foster vibrant healthy competition among different cultures? Why not support each other in trade? Or intellectually? Why not learn what other communities do best and let them also learn what we do best?

It is not clear that tribe is an identity. Even if it were an identity, it wouldn’t follow that it was here to stay: fifty years ago, most mature Kenyan Africans identified more strongly with their clans than with anything like a tribe. Given that at least two of the bigger tribes in Kenya – Luhya and Kalenjin – were invented as recently as the 1940’s; that the unification of the Luo is an artefact of Odinga père’s efforts in the 40’s and 50’s (cf. Luo identity in Bethwell Ogot’s The Challenges of History and Leadership in Africa); and that the Kikuyu first began to think themeselves a unity not long before that, it is hard to see why you think that tribal identities, whatever those are, are permanent.

To institutionalise ethnicity by making it a basis for handing out state power would be a disastrous step, because it would be to give up on equality before the law, as well as the neutrality of of the state. (This is not to say that the state can’t recognise ethnic identities.)

As for Toiyoi, who thinks that Japanese indigenes are homogenous, say hello to the Ainu, Buraku, the Ryukyuans.

Abass said...

Why should airing of the parliamentary debates on TVs take a WHOLE 1 year? Is it really that difficult?

Abass said...

To have unity, you have to give people a reason to feel part and parcel of each other, to feel that they are all equal and all are Kenyans. I have no doubt, language, religion, culture among others make different ethnic groups feel closer to each other than others. But one thing is, it is the governement that can do a great deal of work to unite the people and make them feel part of Kenya. How? Mainly through equality and comepletely eradicating marginalisation of a certain part or community. You can't expect to unite yourself with a Luo when you believe he is inferior to you and believe he can't and shouldn't be president. I am saying this coz I am from Mandera and I know what it feels like to have the only thing that binds you to Kenya being Kenya. Still, I am really proud to be a Kenyan though according to Martha, I am not.

Anonymous said...


True true. You are very right.

Anonymous said...

Well done Chris for the moderation. I believe so many busy bodies have responded to anon 9.05 with a lot of negative epithets which could have drowned this positive and enlightening thread.

Lets try and ignore those who harbour selfish agendas meant on discrediting others so as to raise their own or their ethnic communities status high above the rest.

When we grow as "KENYA" we will grow together as one but when we always dwell on the negativities we will fall into pieces. What MK and RAO did was statesmanly based on the facts on the ground which pointed towards a disintegrating nation, there4 we need to take cue from our leaders to embrace togetherness by planting positive virtues to develop one nation.

For those who insist on posting garbage which wouldn't add value to our lives shame on you because you are wasting so many man hours for people who visit this blog to listen and learn from the incisive thread authors and most of the well thought out comments.

Al said...

Wanjinku, I agree with your thoughts on embracing tribe.

The tribal impulse and the global impulse are two sides of the same coin. Ignore the former and you get rudderless postmodern individualists. Ignore the latter and you get chauvinists.

The governance ills you mention can be eradicated if we have accountable institutions and tranparency. These two touchstones would eridate most if not all the corruption, embezzlemet, unequitable distribution and yes even selfishness.

This is why the work has only just begun.

Al said...

Prof @9:05, a professor, especially a renowned one, would never generalize. Not all Kumekuchan's are ODMers and not all OMDers are the same.

Al said...

Anon @ 8:16 you say:

"Kenyans dream of money and how to get rich as fast as possible. Any chance to steal the public property will be taken ruthlessly. They risk to go to jail and later live as millionares."

Actually Kenyans are no different that any other people in the world. People are people. The reason Kenyans risk going to jail for money is that they know that they can buy their way out. Haven't you been reading Kumekucha lately? Everyone knows that it's the flawed governance structure that ails Kenya.

Al said...

Nyachae the Turkana @1:16 PM, noble thoughts but a bit off the mark. We cannot rely on intermarriages to create a national culture. A civic sense can be engendered when individual rights are aggressively defended by the constitution and the courts. Let each person feel secure in their citizenship and tribal affiliations become irrelevant from a political perspective. Let us battle on ideology, not race on ethnicity!

Anonymous said...

wanjiku nice article!! as you correctly put it......this country has been plagued by the bad leadership syndrome and kenyans need to stop this. this coalition arrangement could not have come at a better time and it is now that we need to make laws that will rid us of leaders on a money-making adventure. if those mp salaries are ever going to be cut....they will be cut now!!! otherwise after this coalition forget that!! we will continue with this same breed of gluttonous fools!!

further, this country is badly in need of transparency and accountability from our leaders that is the minimum we shall accept... otherwise i dont see why 2010 we should not sweep all 210 of them off our tv screens and our parliament!! they should learn to start doing things right, we dont want any more of their false pledges.....they better start DOING what they promised us!!

kenyans, judging from the resources we have, the poor climate, the meagre infrastructure and all bad things in this country could be the most hardworking people on this planet for all we know!! all we need to do to prosper is to mix this hardwork with a proper governance structure and then tell me if kenya will not be 'heaven' then!! america and japan would be shivering in their boots!!

sorry, i disagree with you on the tribe issue.... do you honestly think that embracing our ethnic diversity will help?! i mean people got killed for this thing!! shoved out of buses and killed for not speaking the attackers' language!! am i the only one seeing how evil tribe can be!!

by the way experience has shown me that homogenity is the key to development-at least for many countries it has been, the britons, the japanese or maybe we should learn from the tower of babel guys.....ethnicity has never helped anyone with anything!! the minute people start viewing themselves as different then you start having favouritism and affirmative action for some groups!! if you ask me we should throw ethnicity as far away from kenya as possible.

and may i just pose this question to all those pro-embracing the ethnic concept, i am a cross-breed of two very different kenyan tribes and i dont speak either of my parents languages, am i missing something? really? english and kiswahili have served me well throughout my i any less kenyan than anybody who speaks their 'mother tongue'?

Anonymous said...

well said Shiko-we need to move from pretending to be civil to one another in public while discriminating in private to actually being civil in both private and public-mambo ya adui wetu tuachane na hiyo kabisa- the true adui wetu ni corruption, poverty, ignorance, disease, and bad/poor leadership
i like your quote about "if you’re thinking 1 year ahead, till a field. If you’re thinking 10 years ahead, plant a tree. If you’re thinking 100 years ahead, raise a child"- the bane of Kenya's existence from post-independence till date has been short-term thinking and poor future planning-we love to live for the moment and tomorrow we wonder why the annual drought and famine are back with us again
my idea is-let us introduce culture studies in our education systems-let our kids begin to learn a basic level about other cultures and this way we will eradicate fear of the unknown once they are adults

Wanjiku - Mombasa said...

Mrembowaodm thanks. You’re not any less Kenyan that anybody else. Your parents are among the stars who are killing tribalism on the family level. But I doubt your ID reads for example Jane Sarah or Michael Joseph. Chances are you have an ethnic name that points to a certain part of Kenya. There’s so much to be done and every one has a role to play in the new Kenya.

Lots of countries have used their homogeneity to prosper. Kenya shall use her diversity of cultures for the same. Being a hard working people, I believe in fact we have a distinct advantage to rise as high as any other nation.

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