The shooting to death of Trayvon Martin in Florida (2013) -and the following acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman, saw the rise of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter into a movement. And with the subsequent events in 2014, in various states in the US, this movement even grew far and wide. Police brutality and killings, racial profiling and a biased criminal justice system against African Americans -led to dozens of protests. The main aim, to protect the black identity – ‘which was under threat.’ This kind of arrangement was not new to America. About fifty years back, the Black Panther Movement was advocating and protesting against relatively the same kind of issues – vowing to police the Police. A movement that expanded to as far as United Kingdom and Algeria.
A decade before the emergence of the Black Panther Movement in America, freedom fighters in Africa such as Dedan Kimathi were fighting for the independence and respect of the African identity. A revolution that hastened the independence of African Nations.
Throughout history, the politics of identity was not confined to race alone. In the beginning of the 20th Century England, a movement advocating for women’s right to vote emerged. Women will write letters and petitions to the House of Commons -they will deliver speeches, and sometimes, they will engage in civil disobedience. These women came from respected families, and some were very educated. But still, the police will use force on them, arrest them and the magistrates will look at them with stern eyes while sentencing them. This never killed their resolve, as one woman would be on record stating, “I shall never obey any law in the making of which I have no hand; I will not accept the authority of the Court executing those laws; if you send me to jail, I will go, but I shall in no account pay a fine. I will not furnish any security either”
Today, the World over, various identities are competing within the Political World. Feminists here, LGBTI there, Youth here and there. Race and Ethnicity still ever present in this matrix -to the extent that individuals from the Arab race will question why some Hollywood production only portray them as terrorists -and would demand to know the intentions of those behind the sponsorship of such productions. Yes, some productions have been linked to America’s CIA, complicating further the politics between America and the Arab World.
Although identity in the past would revolve around oppressed groups challenging the status quo, today’s identities don’t seem to be as solid. Take for instance a youth advocacy group -being financed by powers that keep majority of other youth in poverty and hopelessness -then this advocacy group, will definitely not achieve much -and will collapse as fast.
Worse still, take the ethnic identity in Africa’s Politics.
In 22 days time, Kenya will be heading to the Presidential Election Polls. A number of issues at stake. Very high levels of youth unemployment, high cost of living, less representation of women, youth and PWDs in decision making, Increased inequality between the rich and the poor, Increased corruption practices by Government officials (Both at National and County Government levels) -chocking the environment for self-employment and other opportunities. But still, the identities -such as youth- which are most affected, have already been scattered like sheep without a shepherd. Reason has been switched off, and emotions switched on!
This can be evidenced by the levels of intolerance witnessed few days ago. Youth -who share an identity (youthfulness, unemployment, poverty, hopelessness) but come from different ethnicity, would disrupt Political rallies organized by opponents of their tribal chiefs. The good thing is that both President Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga have already come out to condemn such intolerance.
But such scenarios are not unique to Kenya alone. Kenya is only a mirror image of most of African Countries more than fifty years after independence. A closer look at the Political identities in Africa, one will find out that Captors of the State have fashioned a Political religion out of ethnic identity – pitting the poor against the poor, and entrapping them in ignorance.
State Capture in Kenya.
Towards the end of 2016 in South Africa, the damning State Capture report served as an example in the recent history on the relationship between Constitutional Governments – and shadow governments Where Jacob Zuma, the President, led a Constitutional Government highly influenced by a shadow government run by the Gupta Family. To the extent in which -allegations suggest- the Gupta’s selected cronies for Cabinet positions as well as strategic boards in State enterprises. This, to feed off multi-billion State deals irrespective of whether or not the deals will chock the economy. Take for instance allegation by former ANC MP, Vytjie Mentor who had rejected an offer to Cabinet from the Gupta’s – which, in return, she was to organize for South African airways to cancel it’s India route, to give room for Gupta linked Jet Airways to take the same route.
This best explains how State Capture works. And in Kenya, use of words such as –CARTELS- is way to common. Cartels are faceless, but lethal. And they remain the real Captors of the State.
The general populace know this too well. They know that big moneyed politicians are funded by the same, and after assuming office, they bleed the economy dry. But since they are deep inside this political religion fashioned along ethnic identity – they have by choice decided to remain blind and deaf. See no evil, hear no evil. And they are ready to elect, and re-elect, into office their tribal chiefs -who together with the State Captors, will oversee more unemployment, more hopelessness and more poverty. As they and their cronies continue to cut multi-billion deals.
Yes, State Capture is real, and it’s rubber-stamp is ethnic identity politics.
The question remains, will other forms of progressive identities rise above ethnic identity for the sake of Kenya’s development? If yes, when?
“A Nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people” Mahatma Gandhi.