The re-emergence of Kamatusa conjures up frightful memories on the herd instinct and the politics of ethnic mobilisation. Those behind this week’s Kamatusa meeting may wish to reflect on what the association signifies to the rest of the Kenyan nation. They may also wish to reflect on the impact of the herd instinct on the national fabric.
Elechi Amadi’s portrait of the herd instinct in the volume Sunset in Biafra ranks among the most poignant, anywhere. We operate in a universe in which there is comfort in the languor of the herd. If, perchance, we came under assault by some sea monster such as John Whyndham has discussed in The Kraken Wakes, we should easily find ourselves rallying together in defensive solidarity.
Mercifully, The Kraken Wakes remain stuff that fiction is made of. We need not fear, therefore, that we shall wake up to invasion by Martians. Nevertheless, we do not need Martians to make us afraid. We have one another to be afraid. We fear and hate each other because we are different. Slain South African reggae superstar, Lucky Dube says, "The White man says it is the black man, the black man says it is the white man . . . ." Such is the curse of humankind. The buck is passed on from one class to the next. No reasoning is required, beyond the fact that "He is different because he is not one of us."
You cascade all the way down to the village and to the family. It is puzzling that the white body cells do not engage in civil war against the red cells in the same body. Perhaps the body cells "recognise" that they need one another for the good of the whole organism. We must ask why this simple logic escapes us. We are not able to consciously embrace what our corpuscles have "subconsciously" embraced. Dr Martin Luther King has said in the essay A Knock at Midnight that you cannot be what you want to be unless I am what I want to be. Conversely, I cannot be what I want to be unless you are what you want to be. It must be a win-win situation. Pursuit for a win-lose situation is the perfect recipe for chaos and disaster.
The organisers of ethnic based mass movements as platforms for political mobilisation have clearly missed this point. In their mobilisation on the ethnic platform, they alienate the rest of the nation. The history of ethnic-based mobilisation speaks for itself.
Kamatusa first emerged in November 1991 in Kapkatet in Kericho. This was a platform for ethnic exclusion, indeed ethnic cleansing. It came out with a frightful edict, dabbed the Kapkatet Declaration. The consequences were dire.
The Kapkatet meeting was the harbinger of disaster. The meeting was essentially a Majimbo rally. Kalenjin politicians issued threats against detractors of the Kanu Government, following repeal of Section 2 A of the Constitution. They vowed to eject ‘non-natives’ (read ‘non-Kalenjins’) from Rift Valley Province because of introduction of multiparty politics. Violence followed very swiftly.
The first sparks were on Miteitei Farm. They targeted the Luo, Luhya and the Kikuyu. Politicians from these tribes were seen as the main agitators for political change. In this first attack about 10 people were killed and 50,000 displaced. And youth closed the road leading to Kisumu in the west of Kenya. The Luo community launched a counter-attack, leading to death on both sides. Fighting continued throughout the region bordering the Kalenjin community. David Throup and Charles Hornsby record in Multiparty Democracy in Kenya that the greatest devastation occurred when Kalenjin youth attacked the Bukusu in western Kenya. During the first six months of clashes in these regions about 100,000 people were displaced.
The second phase targeted Kikuyu residents in Molo, Narok North, and the three Eldoret constituencies. Once again the objective was bolstering Kanu’s prospects in the then forthcoming elections. Many Kikuyus fled from the constituencies for safety. Elsewhere, in Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu, the Luhya also fled to Bungoma and Kakamega districts, Throup and Hornsby recall.
They record that the third wave of violence took place in the immediate run-up to the elections in December 1992. Kanu leaders got into high gear in their attempts to maximise votes in the remaining ‘ethnic marginals’ of Molo, Eldoret South and East, Cherangani, and Rongai. This ploy was to succeed everywhere, except in Molo constituency.
Molo MP Njenga Mungai alleged that Kalenjin youth were being transported in Government trucks to the Menengai Forest to attack Kikuyu "settlers." The Provincial Administration denied these claims. But a local politician, William Lasoi, acknowledged that some youth had moved into the forests ‘to prepare for circumcision rituals.’ Leaflets were meanwhile circulating widely throughout Nakuru and Kericho Districts, warning non-Kalenjins to leave the area. Several Kericho tea plantations ceased production before the election when their Luo, Gusii and Kikuyu tea pickers fled.
The final wave of ethnic violence took place soon after the elections, in 1993. It mainly targeted Kikuyus who had failed to heed the warning not to vote for the opposition. It was time to punish them. A parliamentary committee that was set up to investigate and report on these clashes, led by Kennedy Kiliku, identified nine separate clash centres. The attacks were initially concentrated on the Nandi-Elgon-Bungoma border.
They spread to the Mau escarpment, where they were concentrated in the Molo and Olenguruone areas. Some 14,000 people were displaced in Bungoma, 12,000 in Trans-Nzoia and 13,000 in the two Nakuru divisions of Molo and Rongai. On the whole, after the election, clashes intensified and kept recurring on a small scale at different times, in various places through 1995. As the next elections approached, the country witnessed a resurgence of conflicts starting in 1996.
It is against this background that Kenyans must reflect about the re-emergence of Kamatusa, even as subsequent events unfold.