The Kenyan Constitution of 2010 recognizes culture as the foundation of the nation and as the cumulative civilization of the Kenyan people and nation. Article 11 reaffirms the value of culture and heritage in the governance architecture.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines culture as “the common beliefs, social norms, and material characteristics of racial, religious, and social groups” and as “an integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends on the ability to learn and impart knowledge “. to the following generations. ”
This intergenerational aspect of culture gives people their unique identity and provides a basis for regulating human relationships through accepted norms, habits and practices.
Culture distinguishes one human society from the others. Kenya has 43 ethnic communities that practice different cultures. The reality is that we are a nation with different races and cultures.
Article 11 of the Constitution recognizes this cultural diversity. The state has a duty to promote all forms of cultural expression through literature, art, traditional festivals and other cultural heritage.
But is there such a thing as a Kenyan national culture? The truth is that there are as many cultures as there are ethnic groups in Kenya. On a personal level, most Kenyans tend to identify with the cultures of their ethnic communities. This ethnicity and the culture of enlargement play an influential role in shaping their political decisions.
Perhaps that explains our ethnically charged national and local political competitions. This is not an exclusively Kenyan phenomenon. As Prof. Christopher Coker of the London School of Economics argues, culture has become an important factor in modern politics.
As an example of how culture shapes the politics of a nation, he cites identity politics that extend across many countries. The political culture, ie the beliefs, opinions and emotions of the citizens towards their system of government, is strongly influenced by their culture (s).
In Kenya’s political culture, this is reflected in the way voters choose their leaders on the basis of ethnic or tribal considerations. This tends to undermine the pursuit of a nation-state, that is, a state made up of people with a common identity.
A nation state is anchored on two basic principles. First, the principle of state sovereignty, which recognizes the right of states to govern their territories without external interference. Second, the principle of national sovereignty, which recognizes the right of communities within a nation to govern themselves.
Kenya is a multiethnic and multicultural nation. Although many Kenyans feel they belong to a nation called Kenya, they still maintain a strong personal bond with their ethnic and cultural identity.
These multiple identities are at the heart of our highly ethnicized political environment and, to a large extent, fuel the ethnic divisions on which our dysfunctional political culture thrives.
The transformation of this culture requires the strengthening of existing cultural institutions within the meaning of Article 11 of the constitution in order to build an authentic Kenyan nation-state that is anchored on cultural foundations.
Three things have to happen. First, we have to accept that there is nothing wrong with accepting our cultural or ethnic identity. Culture should be used to highlight each community’s unique contribution to national development and to our cultural heritage as a force for social progress.
This includes reinforcing the positive elements of our rich cultural heritage, for example by devising measures to help integrate our traditional knowledge systems into the formal economy. This requires the protection of traditional intellectual property rights.
Second, we need to promote cultural values such as respect, tolerance, love, peace as building blocks for national cohesion and as a path to a less polarized political culture free from ethnic stereotypes, distrust and hatred that constantly fuels hostility and violence among our communities .
Third, we need to rethink our approach to leadership and governance by promoting cultural institutions like the elders to build interethnic and intercultural bridges to foster a common national cultural identity necessary to build a truly Kenyan nation-state.
Mr. Choto is a legal and political analyst. Email: [email protected]