Time to end ethnic jingoism; we thrive or die together

Monday May 27 2024

Kikuyu elders during the Limuru 3 meeting at Jumuia Conference Center in Kiambu County, Kenya on May 17, 2024. PHOTO | NMG


Earlier this month, some members of Kenya’s Gikuyu, Embu and Meru (Gema) communities met at the Limuru Conference Centre to discuss how President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua’s policies have affected them, and chart the political way forward.

Its organisers dubbed it ‘Limuru 3’ to indicate that it followed in the footsteps of two prior conferences held at the same location that defined the political direction of the communities and the country.

The first was held in 1966. Although given a national outlook by the presence of Tom Mboya and people from other communities, a Kikuyu agenda was at the heart of it. Kikuyu political elites used the conference to reduce the influence of Oginga Odinga in the ruling party Kanu and the country. Limuru 2 was held in the lead up to the 2013 elections.

It endorsed Uhuru Kenyatta as the Gema presidential candidate. The common denominator in all three Limuru conferences is a Gema tribal agenda.

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It’s not just Gema who have this kind of tribal grouping. Daniel arap Moi and Ruto used Kamatusa, an acronym for Kalenjin, Maasai, Turkana and Samburu, to further a tribal agenda.


Other groupings like the one bringing together historically pastoralist communities show the fear minority tribes have of big tribes.

The Mulembe nation movement tried to promote a “Luhya consciousness” among all the Luhya sub-tribes. What all these groupings show is that we are still fearful and hateful of one another so many years after independence.

Beneath the façade of national symbols, commemorations and institutions, we are still different tribes inhabiting an administrative unit called Kenya. We are first and foremost Kikuyu or Maasai or Somali and only superficially Kenyan.

Unfortunately, this tribal paradigm of seeing and interpreting the world, and organising, will take us nowhere. It is false and misleading
Gema communities are not the only ones suffering under the chaotic, wasteful and corrupt Ruto/Gachagua regime (a newspaper called them ‘A Cabinet of Blunders’).

All communities are affected. Ruto’s increasingly ruinous taxes do not exclude the Kalenjin.

We are all offended when billions are set aside to renovate palatial residences and replenish motorcades while school feeding programmes are left without funding.

Everyone is disgusted by the filthy displays of wealth by the new political elite. It is as if they are competing to see who wears the most expensive watch or belt, or who drives the costliest car.

Read: NGUGI: Values of Kanu oligarchy will ruin our state

We all look on in dismay as we witness officials — from the president to ward representatives — gallivanting around the world at a huge cost to taxpayers. We are angered to see billions budgeted for entertainment while street families are increasing.

Limuru 3, therefore, should have brought all Kenyan communities together to discuss the way forward. We have precedence in the Ufungamano initiative that brought all communities together to discuss national issues.

I am sorry to disappoint tribal demagogues, but there will never be a special destiny for one community. That option was forever excluded when the British cobbled us together in 1895.

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator