By Koigi wa Wamwere
I welcome the debate on negative ethnicity and ethnic discrimination. It is crucial for our collective survival and well-being.
Every Kenyan should join this debate on negative ethnicity. This ideology is a rat trap that is everybody’s problem – mtego wa panya unaonasa waliomo na wasiokuwemo.
Negative ethnicity is the worst hindrance to our good leadership, national unity, peace, development, survival, and success against terrorism. Debate on it deserves priority.
To understand negative ethnicity, we must not define it merely in terms of which community has more jobs in the government.
Kikuyu elite may have more jobs than other ethnic elites may. However, the Kikuyu community does not eat through it or the community would not have most jiggers, most criminals, most prostitutes, and most dead in mortuaries.
Majorities do not always imply guilt or the innocence of the minorities.
Fundamentally, the Kikuyu elite does not have more jobs than other elites do because it is more tribalist than other ethnic elites are. Rather, it is because it is bigger, has held power for longer, and therefore had more opportunities to allocate itself more resources and jobs.
Despite inequalities, all Kenyan elites and communities have entangled themselves in the web of negative ethnicity. Hence, three other ethnic elites – Kisii, Kalenjin and Embu elites are in excess in the public service. Somali, Turkana, and Maasai tinier elites are severely under-represented.
To end ethnic hate and discrimination, we must have a more comprehensive understanding and definition of negative ethnicity or tribalism.
All Kenyans are victims of tribalism
Negative ethnicity is an ideology of defining ourselves with stereotypes that claim more humanity, superiority, brains, beauty, and entitlement for us. Similarly, it defines others with lesser humanity, more inferiority, lesser beauty, lesser brains, lesser entitlement, and lesser right to life.
Beneficiaries propagate and attack others with aggressive negative ethnicity. Victims of negative discrimination propagate and defend themselves with defensive negative ethnicity. Generally, however, all Kenyans are tribalist who are dead sick with negative ethnicity and are its moral or economic captives.
While negative ethnicity or tribalism is universal, progressive people refer to ethnic hate as negative ethnicity rather than tribalism. This is a term that racist colonialists invented and reserved as a special demonization for Africans.
Yet ethnic hate in the mind of a white person is as evil as ethnic hate in the mind of a black person. Avoiding the term tribalism is not being clever but correcting a colonial misconception. It is saving Africans from a racial insult that is no different from calling Africans Kaffirs, boys, natives, or niggers.
Part of defining negative ethnicity is the realisation that somebody’s ethnic nature or ethnicity is innocent and harmless and we call its celebration positive ethnicity. However, we call and fight the demonisation of others’ ethnicity as negative ethnicity.
Communities can share in the propagation of negative ethnicity as they did in Germany and Rwanda. However, their benefits from negative ethnicity are at best bitter and at worst poisonous and fatal.
Common folk in all communities benefit nothing from negative ethnicity. Yet, they come to believe such benefits exist when they do not. Instead of benefiting from negative ethnicity, the poor are always victims of exploitation and oppression by own or other ethnic elites. The elites are the first and last beneficiaries of negative ethnicity.