Friday, 5 April 2013

The Truth About Our Ethnicity

Around 1902 or thereabouts, a colonial researcher wrote a thesis on the Ogiek people of Mount Elgon. He noted that linguistically, the Ogiek shared words with the Kalenjin people. But he was quite stumped as to where certain words came from as he could not identify them. It was only until recently when archaeologist Dr. Freda Nkirote M’mbogori took a look at the research that she observed that the unidentified words were actually Meru words.

The real meaning behind this finding is twofold. Firstly, that the Ogiek people at one point lived among the Meru people on the slopes of Mount Kenya and since then had migrated eastwards to Mount Elgon. The second crucial factor is this: that the Ogiek people most certainly acquired the words and integrated them into their language because of a consistent interaction between the Ogiek and Meru people. 

Why is this significant? The point is this. There is no single Kenyan ethnic group that can honestly call themselves a pure bloodline. Our forefathers consistently interacted and intermarried with other groups of people, they also migrated all the time such that we also cannot declare that certain parts of this country only belong to certain communities.

You know this, and so do I. It’s time to grow up. The only distinguishing factor in Kenya is our LANGUAGES. As I have demonstrated, even the languages are so intermixed that one cannot use that to segregate himself from other Kenyans.

Another interesting fact. Nearly 80% percent of the Kenyan communities circumcise as part of their cultural practices. All circumcision is inherently a Cushitic practice. That means all ethnic communities that circumcise either male or both male and females had at one point deeply interacted with Cushitic people. 

We share language, we share words, we share cultural practices and we even share societal structures. The age set system for example is shared by ethnic communities, all communities using the exact same name or variants of that name. So that is why you will find Maina among the kikuyu, and Maina among the Kalenjin and Maina among the Maasai.

There is no way to tell the difference between us. We actually have much more in common than we have differences. So when we latch onto ONE thing, just ONE simple thing called language and use that to polarize the entire country that just tells us how primitive our society has become.

100 years ago in the place now called Kenya, if you told your great, great grandfather that one day we would have peaceful elections but hatred that is this intense, he would have been amazed. Kenya is a land of bigots and ignorant racists.

The hatred that we are spewing all over the internet, all over the country in our homes, workplaces and schools is such intense poison it will surely disintegrate our social fabric. The saddest part is how we were raised to look at our fellow citizens through hateful eyes and are now raising a new generation that will hate each other even more than ever.

When a school play is banned from the nationals for alleged hate speech, and yet it passed the district and provincial levels, then the education officials behind the ban are entrenching their own bigotry and affecting our children directly. 

The ban was a throwback to the 1980s when Moi banned just about everything worth watching or reading in Kenya. We surely cannot have become such fascists overnight. If this trend keeps up even free speakers like me will soon be banned. Soon after that, free thinking will be banned and after that thinking at all will be a crime.

I keep saying there is no such word like “Tribalism” in the English language. This is politician speak for “everyone else”. What we have in Kenya is open racism and bigotry. Just like the race struggle between black and whites in the US; in Kenya our own tribal struggle is venomous and an offence to all our civil and human rights. 

We all are multi-lingual, capable of speaking our vernacular as well as the two national languages, English and Kiswahili. We have so much in common; a common ancestry, a common history and even common cultural practices and words. But that one small thing that we are using to separate us, our languages and ethnicity, which we are rather ignorant about, is the one thing that will suffer the most if we keep up this hatred.

I am saying that, if we continue separating ourselves ethnically, our own ethnicities will suffer greatly. This is because we need each other in order to survive and in order to thrive. Why did our forefathers intermarry and interact so intensively? It is because they needed to survive and to thrive. No ethnic community can grow on its own even in such “modern” times. We need each other to sustain and enhance our economy, to protect our heritage and environment and to provide for our nation. It’s very obvious, even to a child, but we teach our children to hate the butcher because he is kikuyu but to love the meat. To hate the pastoralist who is Somali but to love the meat. To eat the fish because it’s good for you but to hate the fisherman who is Luo.

We teach our children absurdities, because we choose to be absurd bigots. That is the truth about our ethnicity.

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