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Tribalism is a middle class disease – deal with it at that level.

A close friend of mine this morning sent me this message, which I post here verbatim:

“Jana I was at a house party celebrating someones promotion decent people in decent positions. Conversations swing to politics and we share opinions then we drift to tribalism two of the most decent people on the table let lose everything turns personal I wonder why things get very heated if they both had guns they would have killed each other! Party turns into peace talks for like an hour.

“This tribal tension is really not a joke and even the most decent of us are just pretending but we all have the disease!

“We must get rid of this disease!”

I am struck by the word “descent” to mean here the most well to do of them.

Here’s a fact of Kenya that needs a critical mass of people to understand and internalise in Kenya: Tribalism is a middle class problem not a poor man’s problem. It is about power and the protection of turf in this country.

The poor in this country are too busy surviving and helping each other go through life that the ideology of power and tribe is more superficial.

They no more believe the phrase “our people” (to mean our tribe) than they believe that the English Premier League team they support is “our team”. For both however emotions can be whipped up adequately for them to kill others or themselves in a bid to “win”.

The middle class in Kenya is different. They actually use the exclusionary grouping of tribe to facilitate their continued growth. Having “our tribe” in power means to them that “it is our turn to eat”. It means access to political favours and patronage, government contracts, etc.

Here’s the thing: for as long as the middle class need to access power by having “their tribe” on the seat of power, tribalism will continue.

As my friend emphatically says, “We must get rid of this disease!” I add, we must focus on the middle class.

I am a writer first and foremost. I am passionate about social entrepreneurship, which I define by finding ways to innovate the world’s processes to make life better for people – whether in business or in the non-profit sector. I am professionally involved at the Open Institute, Thellesi Co and various agricultural ventures.

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