The Building Bridge Initiative (BBI) in Kenya is likely to redefine the country aiming at ushering in a new and positive approach to conflict resolution shall it succeed and meet its intended goals. Truly, the whole world’s watching what Kenya’s recently embarked on after two arch-foes entered in a dialogue after their famous handshake on 9th March.
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 relationships has a lot to tell on our past, present and future. Nobody can realistically conceptualise the future without looking into the past. We may ignore our past but we can’t escape its ramifications.
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 peacefully. Therefore, after the two protagonists underscore their roles in this impasse; and thereby came out of their cocoons, Kenya’s, once again, proved its resilience and broadmindedness matters of nation.
Since independence, Kenya has 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. It is a normal thing to hear some Kenyan politicians, academics and elites talking about the Maa nation, the Kamba nation, the Kalenjin nation, the Luhya nation. Such a mindset must be the first element the BBI should thwart for the creation of the super nation called Kenya.
Tribes might feel they’re nations, thanks to their organic formation and thinking. However, in the modern complicated and globalized world that needs unity more than anything, such a rationale is a logical fallacy. 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 neighbouring Tanzania provides an ideal example. With over 120 tribes, 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 peace in Tanzania, which Tanzanians like to refer to as the Island of Peace.
There is no way Kenya can get rid of such tribal nations without creating the system to do so. As a Tanzanian, I’ll 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 tunes. For true nationalism to exist, everybody needs to be on board. That’s precisely why I’m 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.
Laws that will make tribal politics to be illegal should be enacted, enshrined in the constitution of the land and enforced. Only then shall Kenya prosper, be secure and rise up to the occasion as a people and nation. 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’s been.
Kenyans must be educated about the importance of the unity of their country first through civic education and strenuous campaigns so that they can make a very sound decision on the matter. There’s no way Kenyans can aspire to solemnize the union of East Africa while they have failed in theirs. Charity begins at home. 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 East Africa.
Kenya has a very big chance of creating the super nation through the BBI shall it not be hijacked by tribal politics or skewed towards to serving myopic and narrow interests of some politicians. The BBI must serve all Kenyans instead of serving some Kenyans. The super nation guarantees peace and security not only to the country but also the entire region at a time when many parts of the world are creating regional collaborations 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.