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DIVIDE AND MISRULE
Stephen Derwent Partington
What does dug earth care at all about ethnicity?
A Mwangi fits a six-foot hole
as snugly as Owuor.
And tell me, where’s the corpse that anyone
can teargas with success?
Or did you do it to augment the tears of mourners,
out of kindness?
Can you tell a foe from how he skins a cow
or peels a spud
or guts a fish?
Are these enough to skin his hide?
Perhaps it’s speech, the way she shrubs?
And who’s the carrier, his mother or his dad?
Can we locate the gene for Enemy?
Today, can we condone the fact
Kikamba’s only got one word for ‘enemy’,
Reflect: that family you killed,
it had as little land as you.
Or did you see the old machete used to cut you?
Dented, rusty, cheap, like yours.
Reflect on this.
This warped deflection of your anger
it’s a coffinful of shit.
*Stephen Derwent Partington is a Kenyan poet.
This poem was posted on Pambazuka which you should check out if you aren’t already.
I remain completely in admiration of Githongo. One of Kenya’s true patriots!
I also am fascinated by his definition of ethnicity in contemporary Kenya. He says, “Today, ethnicity in Kenya means politicised kinship more than it does anything else; a kind of overpowering identity informed by grievance, a sense of being wronged, of being under siege”. He further adds that, “Politics caused the violence, and the violence has deepened the politicised ethnicity – but the politics came first”.
Another interesting take on ethnic identity is Kenya comes from one of my favorite writers, Binyavanga Wainaina. I have assigned this essay as the first assignment in my African Politics class.
His recent essay in the New York Times titled “No country for old hatereds” is phenomenal.