Anyone that thinks tribe is not an issue in Kenya is kidding themselves. I am not talking about the ethnic hatred but a political correctness that is doing more harm than the good it is intended for.
What stories are we telling about ourselves? As a writer, I’ve been shocked to find that most of our TV characters do not have authentic Kenyan names. They all have neutral names that are mostly in Swahili like Mali, Kazi and the like. Is everyone in Kenya from the coast? Why are we so afraid to tell authentic Kenyan stories with names like Omondi, Njuguna, Mutisya and the like in them? The only programs with these names are the slapstick comedies.
I must reiterate here that ethnicity is a wonderful thing and only becomes a problem when it is negative. We have adopted a ‘throw out the baby with the bath water’ mentality when it comes to tribe in Kenya. There is no healthy middle ground but the existence of two extremes. On the one hand, are the worshippers of tribe that believe their deity is superior to the rest and on the other, are the tribe atheists that believe not having an ethnic identity frees them from its supposed power. These two groups, in my opinion, are both wrong.
Ethnic identity is a complicated thing with numerous countries suffering horrific consequences because of it. It is not something that can be wished away. I do not support those calling for an ‘abolition’ of our ethnicity. We need a reprogramming of the mind yes, but so as to implant the idea of positive ethnicity and not get rid of ethnicity all together. Is it possible for people of different tribes to be proud of their cultural identity and still respect other tribes as well as learn something from them? I believe so. Perhaps then it can become possible to write for drama and name my characters whatever name I so wish without feeling pressured to be politically correct.