Just like racism is synonymous with America, so is tribalism with Kenya. Most of the time Kenyans are very loving people, people will help other people in need regardless of their tribe. The only time Kenyans get to experience extreme tribalism is when at work, when applying for a job or in politics. At work, you’ll find one tribe more preferred than the other, like most appointments in the current government have people from the president’s tribe, it is no secret.
Politics in Kenya I would say is non-progressive. Kenyans align to politicians who come from their own tribes. Kenyans are very brilliant people until the election period, then we throw all reason out the window. We have been through so much, especially during the election period. It’s frustrating really, that a person who has the potential for sound leadership may never be elected because they come from the wrong tribe, so most of time, we end up with bad leadership everywhere in the country. The country is run down before our very eyes and there’s nothing we can do about it. Well, we just complain but we don’t take the complaints to the ballot.
Just like America ended up with Donald Trump as president, Kenya almost always ends up with bad leaders too. We don’t see change, all we see is corruption escalating, poor people suffering, some have no food, clothing, shelter, unemployment level is insane. We see people dying of hunger, in the 21st Century, the images are horrid. We are so complacent, we don’t hold the government accountable for these. We sit in privilege while others die because we are not them.
The police brutality we see in America is the same one we see in Kenya. We have seen police use excessive force on Kenyans during this Covid-19 period. It is very unfortunate. People have been beaten by police just because they were found outside their homes, during curfew hours or for not wearing a mask.
The police have used excessive force on Kenyans for years and no justice has been seen yet. The police maimed and killed several people during the 2017 election period. These people had only one mistake, they came from the wrong tribe, the Luo tribe, which was in opposition of the government. When Luos were targeted, people from other tribes were also affected because the police went to areas that are believed to support opposition, places where Luos are believed to live in large numbers, that is Kibra in Nairobi and Kisumu. Children, men and women lost their lives because the police indiscriminately used force, they justified it by saying that “THEY were destroying property in their riots”. Some people applauded police brutality, they callously said, “they are looting businesses so they deserve to die”. There are reports that there were people hired to loot and destroy property then blame it on the protesters, to show that this particular tribe is destructive. A six-month old baby Pendo was the youngest life taken by the police. The cop smashed her head with a baton, while she was in her mother’s arms. It was a peaceful night, Baby Samantha Pendo and her parents were just in their house, sleeping, when the police attacked at midnight, forcing them out the house with teargas and pouncing on them with any weapon in their hands. One of the cops, mockingly told the baby’s father to give her first aid. Baby Pendo’s death was so painful and so were other deaths that were caused by the police. They were causing a disturbance, so they said. The police attacked that area because Luos lived there. Another child who was sitting in the balcony at their home, died from a stray bullet. In Kenya, the police use live bullets to disperse demonstrators. Their actions always go unpaid for, some of them are just fired, most get away with murder, due process is not keenly followed.
It is very difficult to understand the pain that police brutality brings if you haven’t experienced it or if you don’t know anybody close who has experienced it. What is possible however, is to imagine the same treatment for yourself and ask yourself if you would allow it. It is called empathy. Even the police themselves can put themselves in those shoes, what does the law say about torture and ill treatment? what does the law say about arrest and detention? The Kenya police service has a motto; Utumishi kwa wote (Service to All), why the hell should a cop refuse to apply the law, as it should, to all people? Why should a police officer be so trigger happy? What good is there to cause extreme harm to someone they should be protecting? What kind of training do they go through? Good cops exist too, how are they helping?
There is a similarity between the racism in America and the tribalism in Kenya. The police brutality in America and the police brutality in Kenya.The similarities run so deep. In America, black people are targets, in Kenya, everybody is a target and during elections, an opposing tribe becomes a target. The police don’t act on their own through, however rogue they are, they follow orders. America seems to have had enough of it, judging by the #Icantbreathe protests that have been going on for days In Minnesota and spread over to other states. It’s good to see the united front displayed by the Americans, both black and white, even when there are still white supremacists watching and mocking by the sidelines, it’s good to see people show that they’ve had enough, their disapproval of the status quo, because change requires all of us to act. In Kenya we can also start doing the same, by uniting and calling out a wrong, yes, Kenyans do that, perhaps we need to be more persistent and consistent. Some positive changes are bound to happen when we all speak in one voice and also, when we let compassion guide our actions.