South Africa has nine provinces, among them the Orange Free State. In the Apartheid era, many joked that it was the only state that was neither free nor had oranges. Of the many towns in the state is Bethlehem, which lies north east of the state’s capital Bloemfontein along Liebenbergs river.
Now, why was Jesus Christ not born in the Bethlehem of South Africa? I guess it is because they could not find three wise men here! Could Mary and Joseph have simply travelled north to Kenya? Can we find three wise men here?
We have and continue to trail-blaze in technology, innovation and sports among other fields. At the best of times, our economy does not do badly. We hold our own in diplomacy across the continent and beyond. But our politics suck.
We stumble from one huddle to the next. It is our Achilles’ Heel. When the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Rev Desmond Tutu, visited Kenya at the height of the post-election violence in 2008, he made a caustic remark: In Kenya, he said, even God has a tribe.
It is a challenge we live with, a prism through which Kenyans generally see their world. On coming together, introductory sessions are more than rituals for opening up the speech act and breaking ice. Instead, they are interrogatory moments that serve as opportunities for pigeon-holing others.
The first letter of your name and the accent immediately situate you in a particular part of the country which too often determine what people find safe to say in your presence, influence how they will attend to you and the opportunities that may be open to you.
With elections poised for just a dozen and a half months away, the sense of foreboding that faces the nation is amazing. There is little trust in our institutions. A large section of our society has little faith in the electoral commission.
The Opposition, the Law Society of Kenya and part of the Church are among other institutions openly asking IEBC to give way for, hopefully, a better one to be put in place. The Judiciary does not appear to be doing any better.
The wisdom of several officers throughout the judicial system has been brought to question at different times. Logic would have stated that in the event that one disagreed with the IEBC then they could turn to the courts, but that is assuming the courts enjoy public confidence.
It is difficult to fault Tutu’s contention that in Kenya God has a tribe. Worship in the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, at the Methodist Church and at the African Inland Church, among others, could easily be conducted in one language. But even with the churches that have a national following it is obvious what dynamics inform their internal politics.
The Anglican Church is in the process of conducting leadership elections and eavesdropping on what God could be telling the electors could offer an interesting study of the Kenyan Christian. So, where can we find three wise men at Kenya’s moment of crossroads?
One would think that the businessmen and women—with the same capitalist blood group running through their veins—could offer an alternative. But that, too, is only until you drop in their conversation and engage the values that inform their thinking.
Not too long ago a group of well-oiled businessmen came together and, within a matter of minutes, raised a whopping Sh50 million for attending to one cause or the other. It is a demonstration of deep pockets that fill many with pride.
Yet, what difference would the gathering of these men of deep pockets make if they had, rather than turn to their pockets, turned to their better selves and explored the possibility of raising ‘three wise men’ who could form an alternative ‘court of chiefs’ to which the nation could turn in moments of crisis?
Is it too difficult to look through the breadth of this land and identify from every region a sober head whose allegiance is to the nation state of Kenya and not to the tribe, and bring them together to form a great council of chiefs, who would be informal but operate above the fray of local politics and tribe?
These could provide the great council to which the nation could turn for arbitration instead of turning on itself to tear itself apart. Writer is Dean, School of Communications, Language and Performing Arts at Daystar University