Ongala Maurice

To Inspire is to Empower

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We Live in a Post-Saitoti World

Ongala Maurice Speaks remains this real. Many are the times when the tale gets hilarious. Not meagre are the instances when you read and leave with a prize of laughter, a smile or for the tougher of you, a grin. This is contrary. Yes, contrary because we now live in a Post-Saitoti World.

J.M. Kariuki and Bruce McKenzie of old had their lives taken away at this spot. I’m also told The Late Kipkalya Kones and Lorna Laboso, some really prominent legislators in the Government of Kenya shared the date – June 10 – of yielding up their lives with this Internal Security Pair. As many of you as believe that all these are but bad coincidences, I charge to take a second consideration, this time a more objective one. This country Kenya, my brothers…

But speaking of the Internal Security Pair, to whom you will allow me to refer as ISP, could there have been something transpiring under cover? Is there anything Kenyans need to get acquainted to that is being purposefully held away from them? Or better still, how possible could this be, that the Minister for Internal Security and his equally powerful assistant could somehow find themselves aboard a chopper with ‘unforeseen’ mechanical problems? Pertinent questions round one.

Honestly the human side of me permitted me to shed a tear or two as I watched the Vice President, Mr. Wiper tell the tale of these two great men of our land and their body guards. He was struggling with tears and in disbelief paired with enormous difficulty, he almost brushed the journalists’ mics aside from his face. He chose his words with great care, yes I noticed him do. Hon. Musyoka is one composed guy in such an occurrence, you know that. Rt. Hon. The Prime Minister and his men weren’t left behind. Political rallies cancelled and their hype almost instantaneously replace with shock waves. It didn’t matter whether it was UDF or ODM, URP or TNA, PNU, the legendary KANU, et cetera; fact is all these rallies were cancelled by the very people who organized them!

But wait, before we come to terms with the painful loss of the very intelligent minister – Prof. George Saitoti and his Assistant, the very zealous Hon. Orwa Ojodeh and their security details – take a moment to ask, why did Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere and the Permanent Secretary who were also meant to be in this same flight, decline to fly at last minutes? The Captain and the co-pilot must have not foreseen any peril early enough, with all their experiences and the many missions they have carried out successfully with the ISP? I ask. Wasn’t this not a case of a too-sudden-to-be-salvaged fate? The Euro-copter AS350, was a new aircraft tested over Nairobi for one hour by the same pilot who flew it at its crash, also having clocked only 230 flight hour since purchase. How possibly credible could this crash be? Ok, why the ISP and not any other pair? If the ISP was this unsafe within the country, how unsafe are you and me blabbing on Ongala Maurice Speaks right now? Pertinent questions round two. Lots more stunning facts are in existence pertaining to this tragedy, perhaps you know some more (…).

Bottomline, I shudder. I utterly render myself feeble enough not to entertain the episodes of this movie-like country which I love. Love hurts, now I know. We love this country this much, no wonder the tears drop. Life and death in Kenya both happen really incredibly. Lord I’m too feeble to imagine this. Are we enemies of our own selves or what? Ok, I will be patient with you. From the noble writers like myself and the folks in upcountry to the elite and the political class in the cities and places of high authority; are we our own enemies? Pertinent questions round three.

Some parting lines could go like this: People never know when they give their last speeches, case in point Prof Saitoti at the Mombasa Peace Conference on Friday June 8. You never know what will be counted good of you after your demise, case in point Hon. Orwa Ojode and his loyalty to his boss and zealous debates in Parliament. And lastly, you never know when your loved ones and colleagues will be taken away from you perhaps forever, so learn to love and appreciate them while they last case in point, fellow legislators and kin of the deceased. Meanwhile the 3 day national mourning period declared by His Excellency the President ends Wednesday 13 June.

The conclusion of the matter is: we live in a Post-Saitoti World. Sad for Kenya, reality to the world.



Ethnicity and Nationalism: A Scholarly View

Ethnicity and nationalism are twin words, not to imply that they are synonymous, but rather that they are so pertinent to each other that at the mention of one, the other seldom fails to pop up. At the same instance, it is scholarly to note that the two words are not opposites as they may appear from a shallow perspective. Let us take an intrusive look at some of the parallels of these terms.

By definition, ethnicity covers a smaller scope than nationalism. According to Thomas Hylland (1991), ethnicity refers to the social reproduction of basic classificatory differences between categories of people and to aspects of gain and loss in social interaction. Ethnicity, he says, is fundamentally dual, encompassing both aspects of meaning and of politics. This means that ethnicity plays the role of binding people of a common ancestral origin and sharing commonalities in cultural, social, religious and other aspects of living. For instance, the Baganda of Uganda can be classified basically as an ethnic group of Eastern Uganda, period. Nationalism, on the other hand may be vaguely characterized as a sentiment based on common cultural characteristics that binds a wider scope of population and often produces a policy of national independence or separatism from the other nations or countries and their territories. For example, the Baganda, may be clustered with a couple more ethnic groups in Uganda like the Banyankole, the Luo and the Acholi to be identified as Ugandans.

Levels of Identity
It is a fact that both ethnicity and nationalism are aspects of identity of individuals. Depending on the prevalent system of socialization in a given region, people may address each other in reference to their ethnic groups of origin or their nation of origin, especially if that community or nation has some outstanding feature of identity, either positive or negative. The parallel comes with the level of identity. Ethnicity, in most cases identifies the ethnic group at a country level. It is more internal and its relevance makes the most sense to nationals or insiders of a given country. Nationalism on the other side has a higher level identity. Once two or more Kenyans leave their country and converge in a foreign country, their ethnicity usually tends to fade off as they identify among people from other countries as Kenyans and not as Kikuyus, Tesos or Giriamas.

Patriotism versus Racism
Nationality, being that strong relationship between a person and his country of origin, connotes the attitude that the members of a nation have when they care about their national identity. This amounts to the feeling of deep love and concern for one’s country, commonly known as patriotism. Patriotism is a virtue of nationalism. It is the epitome of all that is positive about nationalism. Ethnicity, if not guarded against, easily slips into the negative and amounts to racism. The more the Luos identify themselves as the peacocks of Kenya and possibly any other attribute, for example, they risk being too engrossed into their ethnocentrism and cultural norms to the extent of feeling superior to the rest of the 42 plus ethnic communities that make up Kenya. This is racism or otherwise, tribalism when it extends to giving unmerited favours to kinsmen and tribesmen.

Membership also varies between ethnicity and nationalism. One has no choice of which ethnic group to belong to just as he has no choice of biological parents. One is born and enculturated into a given ethnic community by default. A Maasai Moran for example, is taught all the nitty-gritty’s of the Maasai culture and before he knows it, he is already as engrossed into the community and its way of life as the old Maasai man in his exit years. Membership in ethnic tribes is involuntary. As for nationalism, one always has a choice of which nation to belong to as it is guided by legal precepts that enable one to belong to a country of choice having satisfied the pre-conditions of the country’s constitution. I may be a Kenyan by birth but decide to register as a citizen of another country and drop the Kenyan nationality.

Difference in Dualism
Often times, one cannot have dual ethnicity except for ambilineal communities which trace their descents from family lineages of both parents. Otherwise most people belong to only one ethnic community all their lives. As for nationalism, one can have dual citizenship especially if the parents of such a person hail from two different countries.

Nationality being controlled by legal precepts, has a legal government, well structured with each arm performing a specific set of roles e.g. the judiciary, the executive and the legislature while ethnicity is usually governed by traditions and beliefs.

Positive ethnicity can complement the attributes of nationalism but if used negatively, ethnicity becomes a thorn in a nation’s flesh. Nationalism binds a larger group of people and is more broad and far-reaching as compared to ethnicity.