The Star (Nairobi)

17 December 2012

Kenya: Ethnic Equality in the Political Arena Missing

opinion

The recent political coalitions spearheaded by Kenyan political elites are to satisfy their gluttony for power and are not in the interest of the entire Kenyan society.

Though the Kenya Constitution and the Political Parties Act provide for both pre- and post-election pacts, these coalitions only portray the 'ethnic dominance' that characterises Kenya's political arena.

Since independence, Kenyan politics has been dominated by a few ethnic groups. Other tribes have been alienated. In Kenya, unless one comes from the big five dominant groups, ascending to power remains a challenge. Since independence, Kenya has been ruled by three presidents--Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel arap Moi and the incumbent Mwai Kibaki. Majority of the other leaders in government come from the top four ethnic groups and dominate power.

History has taught us that the main goal of ethnic mobilisation is assumed to be material and political gains and to increase economic difference between dominant groups and minorities.

It is worth noting the aims of the current coalitions are to establish ethnically based political movements whose objective is to increase economic hegemony and political well-being of groups or regions.

Such strategies of ethnic balkanisation lead to discrimination and disenfranchise minority groups within a nation which can inflame conflict because of deprivation and power inequality.

Unless we enhance the principle of equality in our political arena, Kenya's minorities will continue to be unrepresented and unheard. The Kenya's constitution enshrined the Bill of Rights that must be enjoyed by ALL Kenyans irrespective of the ethnic identity, socio-economic background and political affiliations.

However, in Kenya unless ones come from the dominant groups enjoyment and entitlement of such rights remains elusive. Equality of opportunity is what Kenyan political elites need to follow and adhere to.

Why can't these coalitions not be headed by a Maasai, Somali, Orma, Garba, El-Molo or Turkana? The simple reason is that these groups constitute the minorities in Kenyan republic and lack 'large' numbers to bring to the negotiating table. Kenyans need to shun ethnic dominance and ethnic hegemony so that socio-political rights are enjoyed by all Kenyans.

Hassan Osman is a consultant on peace and development issues.

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