Kenya: BBI Must Create a ‘Super Nation’ Instead of ‘Tribal Nations’

Published on 8th April 2020

The Building Bridge Initiatives (BBI), if anything, is likely to define and redefine Kenya shall it meet its intended goals. The whole world is watching what Kenya embarked on after two arch-foes entered in a dialogue in what is now famously know as the ‘handshake’ of 9th March 2018.

Famous conflict resolution guru, Johan Galtung once said that “our problems are located in the past, in the present and in the future.” Indeed, our history of relationship has a lot to tell about our past, present and future. Nobody can competently and realistically conceptualise the future without keenly looking into the past. We may ignore our past but we can’t escape its ramifications. This is a natural law of things.

For Kenya as a nation that has refused to become a nation but a country, the BBI acts as the reminder that Kenya cannot run away from its past. Addressing past evils is sine qua non for Kenya to move forward competently and peacefully. Therefore, after the two protagonists underscore their roles in this impasse and thereby came out of their cocoons, Kenya has, once again, proved its resilience and broadmindedness on matters to do with the nation.

Since gaining its independence, Kenya can be described to have built the country but not the nation. This can be seen on how the communities or tribes (I hate to use this colonial coined word) have always regarded themselves as the nations. That is why it is a normal thing to hear some Kenyan politicians talking about the Maa nation, the Kamba nation, the Kalenjin nation, the Luhya nation etc. If anything, such a mindset must be the first element the BBI must thwart in order to create an opportunity for the creation of the super nation called Kenya.

While tribes might feel they are nations, thanks to their organic formation and thinking, such a rationale can be termed as a logical fallacy in the modern complicated and globalized world. It doesn’t work. If it does, it does so counterproductively. How can tribes allow the super nation to survive while it stands on their way? For the super nation to exist, tribal nations must die. The two cannot coexist.

The neighbouring Tanzania provides an ideal example. With over 120 tribes or three times the number of tribes in Kenya, it decided to butcher the tribal nation in order to allow the creation of the super nation known as the United Republic of Tanzania after the mainland Tanganyika united with the Islands of Pemba and Zanzibar in 1964. This is the history of the peaceability of Tanzania, which Tanzanians like to refer to as the Island of Peace.

As argued above, for the Kenyan super nation to exist, tribal nations must be intentionally abandoned. There is no way this can be achieved without creating the system to do so. As a Tanzanian, I will use my country’s experience. To begin with, Tanzania started with the politics of nationality as opposed to the politics of tribalism. Kenyans know too well how their postcolonial government hinged on tribalism in lieu of nationalism. Although Kenya’s founders sung nationalism, they danced to tribal tune. This does not work at all. For true nationalism to exist, everybody needs to be on board. This is precisely why I am saying that the BBI must not be politicised. If it is, many chauvinistic and Machiavellian politicians who thrive in toxic tribalism, will use tribal politics to sabotage the process of national building.

One thing is unavoidably important here. Create the laws that will illegalise tribal politics by seeing to it that those who break such laws receive heavy punishments. Such laws must be enshrined in the constitution of the land in order to give them prominence. Laws alone cannot solve the problem. National dialogue, granting on campaigns must be launched to educate the citizens about the importance of having a nation but not just a country made of trivial tribal nations as Kenya has been.

Additionally, Kenyans must be educated about the importance of the unity of their country first. There is no way Kenyans can aspire to solemnize the union of East Africa while they have failed in theirs.  A Latin sage has it that Caritas incipit domi or charity begins at home. This is very central. For, any country in the region that aspires to join the EAC needs to have something positive to bring to the table as far as relationship is concerned.  This is because birds of  the same feathers flock together. If Kenyans succeed in creating a super nation over tribal nations, it will be able to convince others that it is ready for the unification of the EA.           

Kenya has a very big chance of creating the super nation through the BBI shall it not be hijacked by tribal politics or being politicised to serve myopic and narrow interests of some politicians. The BBI must be made to serve all Kenyans but not some Kenyans. The super nation guarantees peace and security not only to the country but also the entire region, especially at this very moment when many parts of the world are creating regional cooperation and globalizing.

By Nkwazi Mhango

The author is a lifetime member of the Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador (WANL) and author of over 20 books among which are Africa Reunite or Perish, 'Is It Global War on Terrorism' or Global War over Terra Africana? How Africa Developed Europe and contributed many chapters in scholarly works on many issues of importance on Africa with the specialisation in the deconstruction and decolonisation theories he has been working on for a while now.


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