News 2008


Nation building is worth the price


11. 02. 2008

What has happened has baffled many and a myriad on its causes have been postulated. Although, Kenyans have always asserted that Kenya is one nation and one state, it has always been otherwise.

The terms nation and state have been used interchangeably. The elements of nationhood include a common territory, a common history, a common public property or common resources, a population, a common language and aspects of common cultural heritage such as national dress. Therefore, nationalism is love of and pride of one’s own country.

In the light of this, the question that seeks to be answered is whether Kenya satiates elements of nationhood and nationalism. If that be the case, then it needs to be considered whether we have commenced or in the process, or have completed the nation building process.

One of the factors that have impeded nationhood is use of ethnic languages to reinforce the ethnic differences. It is not uncommon for Kenyans to seek to know one’s ethnicity in the first meeting.

This is different in comparison to Tanzania, where the citizens view each other as one. While Ujamaa has always been frowned upon as an impediment to development and an affront to private ownership, it ultimately bulwarked the nationhood and nationalism, the country enjoys to date.

There is need in Kenya for creation of an environment that will foster intensive interaction through education policy that will ensure pupils select secondary schools in districts other than where they sat their Kenya Certificate for Primary Education. This will encourage great appreciation and respect for different ethnic groups and improve perception of people with inherent dignity that should be upheld and respected.

It will also bring to the fore the question of distribution of resources. Ultimately, the areas that have been disadvantaged for a long time in terms of distribution of resources will develop astronomically.

WHY IS IT THAT WHEN CITIZENS have to be deployed in some parts of the country, the same are considered as either hardship area or as a form of demotion? It is common knowledge that distribution of resources is inequitable within the country.

The current environment has emphasised how urgently Kenya needs a new constitution to address the questions of distribution of resources and foster nationhood, nationalism and nation building.

What is the apparent reason that would compel people who are fluent in both English and Kiswahili, to hold conversations and transact business in their mother tongue in the presence of other people who do not understand their mother tongue?

One of the ways forward is for Parliament to invoke Section 47 of the Constitution to introduce directive principles that will address tribalism.

There is also a great need to criminalise tribal slurs and the same to be prosecuted. Although such a provision may take a long time for the results to be visible, the same could go along way to make tribal slurs and stereotypes anaemic.

There is also need for intensive education to be conducted and citizens to be instructed in the matters of nationhood, nationalism and true values of leadership. It is unfortunate that this has been the sole responsibility of the civil society. The Government has not take up the responsibility.

While striving to enhance nationhood, care should be taken so that the initiatives do not end up being national oppression. In this regard, lessons can be learnt from Napoleon and his dream of one state-nation.

Napoleon Bonaparte swept through central and Eastern Europe, capturing territory as far east as Moscow. Wherever he found a nation groaning under the yoke of a foreign emperor, Napoleon set up a national administration, and the people got a taste of some self-government. What they tasted, they liked, and after Napoleon’s final defeat in 1815, they were resentful when they were pushed back into the same empires from which they had recently been “liberated”.

Nation building may take a long time, but it is worth the price.

Ms Ongaro is an advocate of High Court of Kenya