News 2008


SOMEWHERE IN AFRICA BLOG: Discrimination checklist


McClatchy Newspapers

Feb. 12, 2008

I'm in the market for a mechanic - the last guy having turned up for work drunk one too many times - so I asked Thomas, the office's driver, whether he knew anyone. He thought on it for a moment and replied, "There is a man. He's a Kikuyu, but he's a good man."

A few months ago, would Thomas, a Luhya (and a Raila Odinga supporter), have prefaced his endorsement with "he's a Kikuyu"? I asked him, and he laughed. Tribal distinctions, once rarely discussed in polite company, have leaped to the forefront of conversations in post-election Kenya.

For progressive-minded Nairobians, this is a cause of great consternation. So this week The Nation came out with a helpful checklist to tell whether you're guilty of discriminating based on tribe.

"The past two months have become tricky for all of us Kenyans," The Nation writes, with that characteristic Kenyan understatement. "We are quick to deny that we harbour ethnic tendencies while we indeed live it on a daily basis."

According to writer Mildred Ngesa, you know you're becoming a tribalist when:

- You have suddenly changed your hairdresser, mechanic or doctor because you resent the community they come from.

- You suddenly stop calling and talking to a once close friend or acquaintance because you strongly believe their community is responsible for the chaos in the country.

- You sneer or recoil the moment the passenger seated next to you answers his or her phone in a language that you perceive as the enemy's.

- You subconsciously try to gauge the tribe of the waiter who is serving you or the customer you are serving with the intentions of spiting them.

- You ask for the second names of those you are serving as a civil servant on the basis of favoring only those from your ethnic background.

- You stop watching a certain presenter on TV or listening to a certain broadcaster on radio just because they come from a different ethnic community.

- You strongly resent and protest the fact that your daughter or son is dating someone from the "enemy" community.