Archive for June, 2009

#kenyan:the ultimate identity

June 28, 2009

The process of identity formation starts immediately a child is born and continually changes over time until one dies. The group one identifies with usually starts at the very basic level. At this level the child’s group exclusively consists of the person feeding the child, normally the mother.

 

The group then enlarges to include all those people the child gets into contact with on a regular basis. This group is usually made up of the immediate family, including the maid.

 

From the age of one year, the child has started taking tentative steps. This moves the child from the immediate family to the neighbors, who happen to be members of the extended family, and if the child is lucky to be residing in an urban area, the ‘extended family’ gets really extended to include members of different communities.

 

By the time the child gets to the school going age, s/he identifies with a large group of people who might even belong to different ethnic groups. Once in secondary school, and depending on the kind of school- local, district, provincial or national, one comes across and identifies with various groups of people these range from ones ethnic community members in case of  rural local schools, to  all members of  the Kenyan community. This situation also obtains in the tertiary education institutions-Universities, colleges etc-whose membership is drawn from all the communities in Kenya. The situation is later duplicated at the work place.

 

From the foregoing, it’s apparent that strong tribal identity exists at the very tender age in a child’s life-up to age 12- and only in very rural areas. It’s also interesting to note that all these identities arise out of the various social interactions a child engages in while growing up and it’s not a biological reality.  A child born of a luhya parents and raised by kikuyu parents will grow up identifying with the kikuyu community and vice versa.

 

The upshot: any Kenyan who has strong tribal ties is a ‘social child’ at the age of twelve, in a rural area, and needs to grow up.

 

I posit here that of all the identities in a person’s life the more varied the group one identifies with, the higher a persons state of social maturity.

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Principles of Democracy

June 18, 2009

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

 

There is no one universal definition and practice of democracy. Indeed, Democracy as practiced by USA, Britain, India and all the other great democracies in the world differ a great deal.

 

However, there are two basic tenets upon which democracy hinges, viz:

 

1) That all the members of the society (citizens) have equal access to power.

 

2) That all citizens enjoy universally recognized freedoms and liberties

 

In a democracy, access to power is mainly through voting. Thus, ‘equal access to power’ implies an assumed equality, in numerical terms, among the various groups of members of the society competing for the same. Any numerical differences among the members of the society leads to feelings of marginalization of the smaller groups which may ultimately be exploited by some people to cause strife … the second principle will not be worth the paper its written on, the assumption being that once a group is denied ‘equal’ access to power their freedoms and liberties will be tramped on by the bigger group.

 

Herein lies Kenya’s political and social problems.

 

First, the members of the society competing for power have numerical differences, so that there is this all pervasive notion that the political process is not fair; especially when it comes to the highest political office in the land, namely, the presidency. With the kikuyu at 22% of the Kenyan population and Turkana at about 1%, it’s understandable. This will always be used by politicians as an excuse to sow hatred amongst the various ‘marginalized’ groups, as it happened in 2007/2008.

 

Secondly, Most Kenyans equate power with the presidency.  Full stop.

Even well educated people in the society such as political analysts will be quoted in the media exhorting the president to do this or the other to save the country, never mind the fact that Kenya also has an executive prime minister as well as other leaders who could, and should do something about it.

 

Thirdly, the curse (some might call it a blessing) of Kenya’s ethnic differences (cultural diversity) and its attendant numerical differences. However, one should be cognizant of the fact that homogeneity might not necessarily be a solution to Kenya’s political problems: A case in point being Somali, with citizens of same tribe and religion and endless political conflicts.

 

An ignorant citizenry which “eat, drink, talk and sleep politics”