During a recent show by country music maestro Elvis Otieno in Limuru, one nagging observation compelled me to summon myself to a meeting.
Yes, I floated away from Kenya’s version of the Grand Ole Opry and was deeply immersed in exploratory thought as to what really ails us as a country.
Look, here we were in our hundreds, in the heart of Kiambu County, chirpily singing along as Elvis pinched his guitar. There was no tribe. There were no regional groupings and neither was there room for ethnic stereotyping. All I could see were happy and affectionate Kenyan families out to have a good time.
This is the exact cordial atmosphere that we savour when cheering on our footballers, athletes or rugby team, and in many other day-to-day activities.
Surnames don’t count for much in these scenarios and where ethnicity must be applied, it mainly takes the form of enlivening stereotypes.
From my corner on the green lawns in Limuru, I felt miserable when I related the prevalent harmony to the dark scenes that characterized this country as the bile of hate took its toll on the citizenry at the height of last year’s general elections.
At the time, I wondered, would it have been easy for Elvis to perform in Limuru, Central Kenya? Certainly not. He is likely to have been unwelcome and faced resistance based on his tribe; his amazing musical prowess no longer relevant.
Kenyans could not wine and dine together or have a good time then. Instead, we were busy hating, isolating and even orchestrating violence against those we don’t share tribes with. Some were busy unfriending their best colleagues and friends on Facebook as they no longer ticked the right political boxes.
As a society, we instantly realized we had a cardinal responsibility to teach or remind our children that they are Luhya, Digo, Luo, Kikuyu, Turkana or whatever other tribe and that Kenya should be secondary. The media helped us pass this test with flying colours.
Being the super hypocrites we are, all this now sounds like tales from a bygone era. We are back to our normal lives just because politicians are done with misusing us. They incited us to hate, and rode on it to power. We are now Kenyans all over again, eagerly waiting to jump onto our communal entitlement as tribal warriors come the next election. How sad!
I strongly feel that the youth in particular have to be wiser and know that nothing good will ever come out of negative ethnicity, an evil politicians have mastered the art of employing to advance their selfish interest.
Being super ethnic mobilisers, this is their best bet to get Kenyans to abhor or even harm their neighbors, and capitalise on the resultant emotional blindness to get votes.
Once elected, they exit their tribal cocoons and proceed to dine with tribal kings from the other regions (the supposed enemy), some avoiding their voters like a plague until they need their votes again.
This is how we end up complaining about poor roads and other problems for years on end.
It is a gambit we must consciously guard against, or else it will ultimately consume us. We have to be wary of these divisive tribal demagogues and realize that they mean no good, and understand that what unites us is way bigger than what divides us.
Likewise, we should endeavor to instill a positive attitude of patriotism in our children to enable them appreciate national values and cohesion in their future lives. Churches and schools should rise up and play this critical role they have apparently abdicated.
They must make our youth appreciate the value of harmonious relations between different tribes, and the perils of the converse. In doing so, we will have guaranteed our future generations a peaceful country devoid of the highly-damaging ethnic conflict, and in the process set Kenya on the path to even greater prosperity.