Sudan has been in conflict for several decades with North against South. In my mind and in the minds of several people the conflict in Sudan had always been based on religion – the Muslim north against the Christian south. For some, the conflict was racial, Arabs against black Africans. Then after several years of blood shed, South Sudan was given a country. It wasn’t two years before the major tribes, both Christians and both blacks, started killing each other. The current conflict in South Sudan is being blamed on tribalism; Dinka vs Nuer; both of whom, apparently, come from the larger Luo community.
In a debate with a friend of mine I was of the opinion that the current conflict in South Sudan, similar to the decades of fights in Somali, are due to lack of education on the masses. I reasoned that proper education would liberate people from tribal or even clan hatred – that education would give a people the mental capacity to love one another and rationalize issues without having to kill one another. I told my friend that what governments in Africa ought to do is to educate their people so that the powers that be, be they local leadership or the resource hungry West or East, cannot hoodwink them into conflict.
But I take back my arguments and line of thought. Since independence, Kenya has been known as a peace loving country under both Kenyatta and Moi governments. During Kenyatta’s government where most of the ills that eat into the fabric of Kenya today were orchestrated, neighbors did not fight one another on the basis of language spoken, teeth colour or circumcision status.
Moi managed to promote the same peaceful co-existence among communities despite running down the country’s economy and filling all government offices with men and women from his backyard. The economy grew to the negatives (I remember the country’s economy was at negative four just before the 2002 general elections), but we were never afraid of how our metropolitan neighborhoods were constituted – ethnically.
Then came in the NARC government in 2002 that achieved two important things since independence. the NARC government and later PNU government managed to grow the economy up to positive six and more so took many Kenyans to school; not only due to the free primary education but also by making tertiary education accessible, competitive and thus affordable. It was also during the NARC’s and PNU’s leadership that many Kenyans were able to “freely” access technology devices for seamless communication and interaction.
Today, most Kenyans are educated with majority having acquired at least a basic certificate, diploma or degree course. Most of these Kenyans also have access to mobile phones, laptop computers, television sets, radios and other ICT technologies at their disposal. They use these effectively, too – use them to an extent where Kenya was ranked the second most tweeting country in Africa after South Africa.
Actually, most Kenyans are educated than an average South African. I remember when I was in South Africa and got lost I approached some farmers for direction to Durban. I was more than surprised to learn that the mid 30 year old women could not understand nor speak English, not even in the most basic form. But go to the rural areas of Kenya and you would appreciate how our middle aged mothers speak understandable English – and they also appreciate politics of the day despite watching the political events at 9 O’clock that is always broadcast purely in English.
One day my immediate neighbor who happened to be Kikuyu and I were analyzing the post election violence. We both held to the opinion that since more and more Kenyans are getting educated, tribal hatred and possibly war would be a thing of the past. We gave examples of ourselves, “do you really think that you and me can ever hold pangas against each other?” The answer was a resounding no.
But I’m sad to say that my neighbor and I were wrong, so so wrong. No, education and technology can never save us from our tribal selves. The educated ones who type in coherent and easily comprehensible English with perfect grammar, without an iota of a spelling mistake or a misplaced word, are still making Kenya trend on Twitter not for the positive opinions they have on how we can move Kenya forward or even push the government achieve vision 2030, but how they are angry against their neighbors simply because their neighbors speak Kikuyu or Luo. Peter Gaitho has summarized the messages educated and technologically competent Kenyans have been sharing on social media in the article Burn Kenya, burn. International media will gladly cover you dying in a refugee camp that is a must read – thus:
“Kill them, useless people,” “Hang all by the neck until they die,” “Circumcise them with a blunt knife,” “Washenzi, kill them all, your tribesmen think they are the best, we’ll finish them.”
As I write this from Nakuru, there are leaflets written (that means by people who can write), and not just written, but written in good English, warning a particular group of people against staying in Nakuru. The writers didn’t just write the papers but also used technology devices like computers to compose their messages and printed out the leaflets in good enough quantities for distribution.
You must have heard that a person was apprehended in Nairobi for operating an Al-Shabaab Twitter account in the wake of Mpeketoni attack. According to the police, this man is in a group of people who planned the attack. I don’t want to speculate much into this attack but given the President’s speech that blamed the attack on politicians, it clearly tells us that the Kenyans who orchestrate conflict among us are not the illiterate washamba that can be easily hoodwinked into hating a neighbor but they are those who have gone to school proper and have advanced knowledge including knowledge of hacking Twitter accounts.
If you are reading this then it is likely that you are one of those Kenyans who have expressed hatred on a blogsite, Twitter or Facebook either as a status update or as a comment to a status update.
It’s Okay you might have hatred against the President or against Raila for whatever reasons, but what has Uhuru or Raila got to do with Njunguna or Otieno your neighbors? I thought you went to school and learnt how to use your smartphone properly? To you spewing hatred on social media, I say, “shenzi types”.