Kenyan Politicians Peddle and Sanction Tribalism in Kenya

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Kenyan Politicians Peddle and Sanction Tribalism in Kenya

Most people blame tribalism in Kenya for the country’s failure to progress, alongside corruption and bad leadership. Tribalism in Kenya arises when one or more communities that are ethnic exalt themselves above other communities. This results from tribal consciousness and loyalty of the members who then exalt their tribe above the other groups. Tribalism in Kenya also emphasizes strong loyalty within the groups.

This loyalty to one’s tribe breeds strong negative feelings for people outside the group. This is the common characteristic of tribalism in Kenya that intertwines with negative ethnicity. Tribalism is sometimes a form of identity for people in a particular social group. However, tribalism in Kenya has many corrupting influences.

The colonial government institutionalized tribalism in Kenya

The segregationist policies of the colonial administration promoted tribalism in Kenya. They restricted Africans into native reserves. The ethnic communities in these reserves viewed the reserves as their exclusive domains. When communities from other parts came into these reserves, they locals viewed them as intruders. This created a form of ethnic nationalism, often centred on land issues. The ‘intruders’ had to be sent away by force at all costs.

The British used tribalism in Kenya to divide and rule the local communities and suppress their unity.

The British colonialists viewed the different tribes as a means to use ‘divide and rule’ against them. They discouraged the promotion of a common language of understanding (like Kiswahili) and used collaborating communities to suppress the resisting ones. This created hatred among the resisting communities for the collaborating ones.

The post-colonial administrations further institutionalized tribalism in Kenya. We thought that they could unite us and rub out the legally sanctioned tribalism at the time. They did not. They were preoccupied with looting public resources under the guise of their tribes. In fact, tribalism in Kenya became worse after the colonialists left and the black neo-colonialist leaders took over.

Tribalism is the centre of governance and politics in Kenya. The 2013 presidential debate showed this fact clearly. All the candidates agreed that it emanates primarily from poor and weak governance and leadership. Nearly all agreed that the elite propagated tribalism and ethnicity.

Political Elites Sanction Tribalism in Kenya

For example, presidential aspirant Mohammed Dida placed the origin of tribalism in Kenya from the 5% who form the oligarchy in Kenya. Other causes of tribalism in Kenya the candidates stated include corruption, poverty, inequitable resource distribution, and marginalization.

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The candidates gave various solutions to address tribalism in Kenya. They ranged from socio-economic empowerment, enacting and implementing the constitution, reforming leadership and governance, promoting equality in resource distribution and publicly auditing workforce on ethnic distribution.

The moderators of the debate questioned Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta for utilizing tribalism in their campaigns.

Uhuru defended the Jubilee Alliance saying it was a ‘platform of issues and unity’. He admitted that politicians used tribalism in Kenya in their campaigns, but denied Jubilee was tribal. Uhuru justified his statement with remarks he made in Meru that people ‘should not subdivide the vote’.  He said he meant that people in different platforms supporting one candidate should consolidate their votes.

The moderators grilled Raila on using tribalism in Kenya in the 2002, 2007 and the 2013 election campaigns. He defended himself by saying that CORD is a ‘coalition of regions’. Raila said he brought Kikuyu-Luo unity in the 2002 elections to support Kibaki. He added that the ’42 tribes against 1′ was a media creation and blamed his opponents as the originators of tribalism in the campaigns.

Kenyan politicians lie about tribalism in Kenya

However, it is obvious they lied. Two or more ethnic groups’ elite members dominate their political parties. For Jubilee, the Kikuyu and Kalenjin political elites dominate the party. Kamba and Luo political elites dominate the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD). They then use scapegoat propaganda and tribalism to fool their ethnic communities to support their political cause.

For Musalia Mudavadi and his concentration on Western block, he denied being tribal. He talked of having supported Uhuru and Raila for presidency in 2002 and 2007 respectively. ”Tribalism is not in my blood,” he said. Paul Muite, ole Kiyapi and Dida also advised for an end to tribalism in Kenya.

Peter Kenneth said politicians are economical with truth. He said the internally displaced persons (IDPS) showed the effects of tribal emotions since 1992. Martha Karua said the other candidates lied to Kenyans that there is no tribalism. She said Kenyans share the same needs but politicians divide them using tribalism.

No politician can accept to peddling tribalism – Martha Karua

Martha Karua further said that no politician could accept peddling tribalism. She promised accountability under the new laws for every leader for tribal deeds or speeches. Her message to Kenyans was ”Do not allow us (politicians) to mislead you.”

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Gĩthĩnji comments on current political and social issues in Kenya. He is passionate about devolved governance and public finance. He also writes for @PesaCheck and runs his own platform @UgatuziKenya.


  1. Ukweli..went to primary, secondary and College with all Kenya tribes….we cared and loved each other… For example A giriama would be good in history, a kamba I geography, a luo in English, a Kikuyu in biology, a borana in maths, a taita I kiswahili, a Luhya in literature.. Etc etc….we had Kenyans from all parts of this country with different talents….we shared our God given blessings with no boundaries… Why do we today hate each other? Why? Why? Today my desk mate Salim Mwadudu from kwale would die for me, I would die for him..yet we agree…he is in cord and Alvin Amani …


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