By Boniface Mwangi
I was born a Kikuyu. I didn’t choose where to be born. My grandparents were freedom fighters. My grandfather was in Manyani prison for six years, while his wife was in a British internment camp. She used to cook for the Mau Mau and the British burnt down her house for it. My mother was circumcised. So, I can proudly say that I am as Gikuyu as Gikuyus come. I come from the same area as Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi and Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai. I speak fluent Gikuyu and I am circumcised. That’s what tribal Kikuyus use to claim superiority over others.
Kikuyus did fight for freedom, but they couldn’t have succeeded without the help of other communities. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga refused to become Kenya’s first Prime Minister and demanded that Jomo Kenyatta be released to lead Kenya.
I have consistently fought tribalism, and I am not my tribe. My first child was born in May 2007, before Kenya’s post-election violence and my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) and I, had agreed to give our children names from other communities. Three children later, we have kept that promise. Some Kikuyus behave like Kenya is God’s gift to them, and them alone. Kenya belongs to all 44 tribes. I don’t speak Kikuyu in front of non-Kikuyus. I refused to ask for votes in Kikuyu as I campaigned for the Starehe MP’s seat — as long as there was one non-Kikuyu present. I refused to align with Uhuru. I also refused to align with Raila Odinga. I am tired of tribal alignments. Shallow people align tribally.
Today, some of the poorest people in Kenya are those whose sons have led this country. From Gatundu, where running water is a problem and unemployed youth drink cheap liquor, to Baringo where bandits and cattle rustlers reign supreme. Kambas have had a vice president, but running water is an issue in Ukambani as well. Luhyas had a vice president but are often referred to as the community where you get cooks and watchmen. Maasais had a vice president for a long time, but that didn’t stop them from losing their land. The bottom line is that tribalism is a creation of the elite for their personal benefit.
They incite you, they benefit. In terms of population, Kikuyus are the majority, and that has translated to more Kikuyus in slums, prisons, or as squatters, hawkers and prostitutes than any other community. So, Kikuyus may think they’re free and running Kenya, but it’s a lie. Uhuru Kenyatta’s family has large chunks of land, that they virtually acquired for a song.
Kikuyus often boast about being in power. You and who? Unemployment, insecurity and bad governance will still affect you. The bank will not give you a cheaper loan simply because you’re Kikuyu. The cost of living doesn’t have a tribal discount. Transport and food won’t be cheaper because your fellow tribesman is the president. In the struggle for independence, 1.5 million Kikuyus were detained, according to historian Caroline Elkins, and over 100,000 were killed or died in detention. So, it’s a historical fact that Kikuyus paid the heaviest price in the fight for independence, but only a few have benefitted. Kikuyus, you’re being played by sons and daughters of homeguards. They say you’re in power, but you’re the ones squatting in other counties, living in fear of being evicted.
Kikuyu militia, be it the Nairobi Business Community, or the people who blocked the Nairobi-Nakuru highway earlier this week, are foolishly blind. Don’t start an economic war with other communities; you stand to lose more than any other community. The government has allowed you to protest against NASA, or the lorry that was burned in Kitui, but I dare you to protest about the Ndung’u Report on land grabbing, the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) report, grabbed playgrounds, or unemployment and you will quickly learn who is really in power. Human values have no class or tribe.
A Kikuyu child will still suffer from the effects of poor education, or healthcare, and in a few years’ time, they will pay for the sins of their parents who protect bad governance.