I would like to comment on Philip Ochieng’s column My People have lost their sense of genuine heroism (Sunday Nation 16th January 2011). The columnist tone and complacency shows how tribal stereotype is dangerously rooted in Kenyan society.
Mr. Ochieng’ begins by writing of growing up with a particular kind of ethnic arrogance showing the wide scale stereotype of the Luo community.
This typecast like for other tribes has a dearth of any intellectual input often dangerously lumping together a whole community in a presumed character pool. The Kikuyu are ‘thieves’, Akamba are ‘artists’, Luos are ‘educated’ and ‘stone throwers’, Abaluhyas are ‘gluttons’, Kisii’s love ‘bananas’, and so forth. The columnist Makau Mutua called the Kalenjins to Rwandan Hutu!1
Started from allocating ministerial posts based on tribal stereotypes by political elites it has percolated down to common wanainchi and even public colleges where student’s leaders are subjected to tribal bigotry in getting a post!
Equally, parents and students in this stupor often insist in developing careers through perceived tribal acumen. In many graduation ceremonies it doesn’t take rocket science to pick a tribal trend in the degree awards.
The greatest downside of these labels was felt in PEV. Often they are untrue and recipes to truculent debates making the hoi polloi to venture into different professions for fear of the unknown.
Mr. Ochieng’, though, creatively used the adversity affecting the Luoland; poor leadership, spineless elites and fake heroism to show why not only is Western Kenya underdeveloped, but the all country and the East Africa region.
As the author of Kenyattaa Succession and with expense journalism experience in East Africa and Europe (notably UN) Ochieng’ is truly elite whose observation of Luos and the community is often taken seriously. But when he wrote in the column “As such, there is nothing wrong with ethnic arrogance” my mind was triggered by to the forward of Mr. Ochieng’s book I Accuse the Press (1992) by Celesteous Juma as one of the most praise worthy I have read.
I hope Mr. Ochieng’ wont see it as a stereotype, or ethnic arrogance.