Wednesday, January 18, 2012


The following is a transcription of a telephone conversation I had the misfortune of having this afternoon with a prospective landlord (hereinunder, PL):

ME: My name is Susan... is the advertised house still vacant?

PL: Yes it is. Eh, my name is Brigadier Mutisya of the Armed Forces.

Assurances are exchanged: He informs me that he is the property owner (truth be told, I have no desire to deal with crafty agents, and neither does he). I quickly lay his fears to rest, and with the preliminaries sorted, our convo continues merrily. The gentleman proceeds to unleash a mega self-intro, on my air-time mind you, and I listen patiently. Then he interrupts his monologue to ask the all-important, deal-determining question.

PL: Susan, what is your name?

There is nothing random about that loaded surname question. It goes beyond identity. It's almost always the camouflaged 'ethnicity' issue. (Ok! I have blinders too... such a blanket assumption (lo!). I hope he can prove me wrong). So, on this occasion, I 'go blonde'.

ME: Susan

PL: As I said, my name is Mutisya, and as you can tell I'm a Kamba (really? oops sorry, I hadn't stopped to connect the tribal dots). What's your name? (he repeats )

Typical! I know his type! But, why jeopardise my chances? Besides, I figure, a certain level of disclosure is necessary when entering into these Tenancy Agreements. So, I blurt out my surname (That singular response brings the convo to a screeching halt).

PL: Kikuyu Sitaki!

Tribalism is the 'enfant-terrible' of Africa's diversity (BTW, some Indian landlords, unlike Mutisya's nude overtness, take the trouble to cloak their biases. Their version of the story goes something like this: "Sorry, vi vont wegeterians only!" (that standard script, complete with the head-movement and a blank oriental-look marks the end of that 'non-Indians not-need-not-bother' conversation).

Questions: If a public servant like Mutisya can be that blinded by the dizzying reality of our ethnic animosity, who will take on the harrowing task of transforming our 'sick-and-sour' selves? Who will build ethnic-bridges? I have to wonder about the thoughts and sentiments being pedalled among the illiterati in far-flung counties on this issue. This being an election year, I pray for divine wisdom, cohesiveness and national reconciliation (I dare not get started on the TJRC).

This is a battle we (Brigadier and the rest of us Kenyans) must fight. And win!

Later, I had a good mind to call this soldier fellow and respectfully show him the error of his ways. But, before throwing myself to the High Priestly duties of exorcising the demons of tribalism that plague his soul, I was filled with compassion for this burdened man - demonizing a whole tribe must be a heavy load to bear! I wondered about his ability to think or see clearly through his blurred, myopic 'tribal lenses' - what poor vision.

P.S: My heart goes out to the poor troops in his battalion... especially those whose mother-tongues are foreign to the good Brigadier:(.

P.S II: It would be pretentious to say that any of us is blameless. So, before I hurl another huge boulder at the Brig., I'll take a nice, long and hard look at myself... and, as MJ put it, 'make the change!'. Ouch!