When I was young, I thought there were only two groups of people in this world, Jarateng and Mzungu. Jarateng is a Luo word to mean a black person while Mzungu means white. I was born and raised in a small town called Homabay. Nothing much happened there, no visible developments. I could watch Billy Blanks on TV and call him “Jaluo,” to mean a person from the Luo tribe. My parents protected me from the world so much that I never experience or heard of any terror activities or tribal clashes. I cannot recall anything about the bomb blast attack in 1998 in Nairobi, yet I was seven years old then. I grew up in a perfect world, with loving parents and siblings.
After finishing primary school, I managed to get a chance to join a national high school in Nairobi. That was my first-time experiencing diversity. There were girls from all the 42 tribes of Kenya. I started learning that tribe mattered so much to most people. Whenever I met my fellow Luos, they could get so excited. That is where I learned hatred too. Friendship and marriages are always broken during the campaign and election period. Every person supports their “own’’ candidate even if they are aware of his bad leadership skills. Nothing matters in Kenya than tribe.
I still remember post-election violence in 2008 like it was yesterday, how people killed each other due to election. Many homes were burnt down, shops looted and roads blocked. I was in Homabay during that time. All shops and supermarkets were closed for almost a month. We could wake up early in the morning, walk for miles away from the town center to look for food from the farmers. The air was full of screams and gunshots. I dreaded those days so much, and I prayed that Kenyans could learn from that mistake. Tribalism is still a major problem in our country. There is a silent hatred among us. It’s hard to get a job from an office where the owner is not from your tribe. People still support leaders from their tribe even if they are very corrupt.
One day, I was taking a walk with my son, and then we came by a group of kids about 5-7 years of age. They were arguing about their political stand and abusing other tribes. I felt so sorry for them. At that young age yet they already knew hatred? They were filled with so much bitterness towards the other tribe. Why do we do this to our kids? When parents repeatedly talk about politics and hatred towards a given tribe, the kids are always affected. This gets into their head, and with time, they will imitate what their parents are doing or saying. We can stop all this by bringing up a new generation that only recognizes love for Kenya, not tribalism.
By Augustine Okoth
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