Tribe based Contracts and tribal hostilities in Kenya; Revealing the nexus

By Vanquished Vanquisher

Ancient tribal pacts and unions are usually the fuel for the present day inter-tribal warfare in Kenya. Most of the communities involved in hostilities trace the cause to some historical bond and brotherhood gone haywire. The fatal infighting between Pokomo and orma, Samburu and Rendile, Turkana and Pokot people, to an outsider, all look like brothers’ feuds. They are all like the two houses, Montague and Capulet, which Shakespeare prologues in Romeo and Juliet as follows,
          Two households, both alike in dignity,
          From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
          Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
          And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
         Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove

There was once love among the feuding communities mentioned above. Either, the love was unappreciated by most probably, breach of an agreement thus triggering enmity in perpetuity. Are ancient romances the cause of present day grudge?

A man conducting an ethnic ritual in Kenya

Tribal pacts
President Uhuru has sworn his jubilee juggernaut intend to maraud the political scene like a colossus for two decades. His basis being that the merger of Kikuyu and Kalenjin power base has sired an invincible political monster. What Uhuru does not appreciate is he has mortgaged his tribe. Kikuyu’s political title is now charged with a promise, their political will cannot be exercised due to this encumbrance. Kikuyus’ vow to reciprocate the Kalenjin vote is promise which failure to honour will certainly brew a grudge and spur a new mutiny. And the grudge will run in perpetuity. Has Uhuru not caged his tribe?

Turkana and Pokot have a hobby of butchering each other. It seems their grouse has to do with grazing area. It has to do with cattle. It has to do with river Turkwell. It’s either one of these communities violated a mutual code on usage of these resources or abrogated the ancient pledge not to raid and steal cattle from each other. Seed of discord was planted with the violation, which has mutated to current day bloody feud which present uphill task to halt.

An outsider may not distinguish between Pokomo and Orma. They may be like one tribe, only that the underlying aversion of each other is so strong to have an odour, and not once, there has been reported cases of massacre and counter massacre between them. The former are farmers and the later keep cattle. The loathing seems to be a derivative of some dishonoured promise, most probably on usage of resources. The ancient accords just mutated into fiendish banes.

The above illustrations are classical examples whose effects rage to date. In current day Kenya, it’s the tribal leaders who unwittingly lead their filial into making these unholy bonds especially in the political arena.

There is in and out dual legacy of the Luhya-Luo political love. This may have been partly inspired by Masinde Muliro’s purported prophecy that the Luhya supremacy to citadel of power will originate from the Luo land. Hence, Luhyas have had reflexive tendency to favour a luo candidate during the general election. Their various attempts to prop a presidential candidate have failed with loud bang. Various drives calling marshaling for Luhya unity have been more numerous than presidential task-forces on this and that. But when and if they get that unifying man with balls to boss the Luhya, will they demand Luos to reciprocate and offer them support? And in case luos fail, will that be a source of friction between the two tribes?

From this discourse, we can discern that dishonoured social and economic pacts have more likelihood of causing tempers to flare as compared to political ones.

No strings unattached support; the Kikuyu wiles
Yet some communities have managed to get favours from others without necessarily bonding to reciprocate. Kikuyu tribe ably demonstrates this altruism. She has always gotten favours from others without being beholden, making her produce presidents and entrench her dominance. The community has had various relations with the Maasai, Kalenjin, Indians and their so-called Meru, Embu cousins without being cornered to making a promise to them. The interaction has been that of one night stand.

Everybody seems to owe the Kikuyu a favour. But the Kikuyu have never demanded return of favour from anybody. The tribe has efficiently conducted her relation with other tribes in a mode of “let’s do business and part.” That explains even with its deep interaction with others, it never seem to harbour any ancient grudge.

                  Legacy of Kikuyu and Meru unions
What has been the relation between Kikuyu and the Meru? Meru leaders have been sulking not to be benefiting from Kikuyu tenor in power despite their unflinching support. The relation between these two communities is queer, is always on and out. The Meru leaders vow to severe links failed as it never resonated with the masses. What did Meru want the Kikuyus to do for them? There was never a promise. Merus are natural political lackeys of the Kikuyu.

The legend says the father of the Kikuyu tribe, Gikuyu, had nine daughters but no sons. To procreate the tribe, Gikuyu would have to commit incest. But being a virtuous man, he would never have followed this path. It’s most likely that he imported a man from Meru to have his daughters give birth. That may explain some uncanny cultural resemblance between the two communities. Kikuyu tribe is the first son of the Meru.

The two communities do not seem to have had any interaction in pre-colonial days. However, they co-operated closely during the colonial days when they jointly joined forces in Mau Mau efforts. It’s said General Mwariama from Meru was the most trusted ally of Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi.

                      General Baimungi

But when independence reckoned, the first casualty of President Kenyatta’s dictatorship and streak of assassination was Mau Mau General Baimungi from Meru. The poor General was reluctant to put down his arms until his soldiers were given some compensation in form of land. Kenyatta moved to silence the dissident and is said to have ordered his killing. Kenyatta had turned into a bitch that ate her puppies. And having tasted blood of a kinsman, more and more killings characterised his regime.

In the year 2006, Kenyatta’s son Uhuru paid Baimungi’s family a visit, perhaps to recompense the sins of his father. It therefore seems Merus are cosy and naturally inclined towards the Kikuyus, but not towards the Kenyattas. The union between the two has no strings attached hooks. This explains the absence of animosity between the two tribes.The peace is entirely due to the reason of there being no historical grudge between them.

In conclusion, tribal pacts always mutate to tribal grudges which invariably translates into hostilities. These pacts and tribal unions ought to be abhorred. It’s why the Kikuyu-Kalenjin contract to dual exchange power is recipe for future resentment. The two communities have no historical cosiness, have been involved in infighting and this pact ought to send alarm bells. The danger here is one tribe is held in ransom of having to reciprocate the support. Formation of tribe aligned brotherhoods ought to be abhorred and deterred. Why did Uhuru Kenyatta unwittingly mortgaged his tribe?


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