Letters to the Editor - Issa Shivji comments

Volume 14, Issue 2  | 
Published 27/10/2017

Dear Jill and Zarina

I just read your piece on the Presidential Proclamation proclaiming "Asians" in Kenya as the 44th tribe. Shameful! It is a shame on those who petitioned - it is even more shameful for the head of state who proclaimed it. In this day and age, and in the concrete conditions of Kenya, nothing could be more divisive than tribal flag-waving.

On the part of the leaders of the petitioners, in my view, it was politically opportunist to adopt a tribal fig-leaf to defend their property while offering security to their community - "tribalism" does neither. For the one who proclaimed, it was politically purposeful perhaps to reinforce some kind of elite alliance - to reinforce power by mobilizing property. For the working people of both communities, tribalism does not give them either security or solidarity. They become cannon fodders in the struggle of elites.

I am pleased that you came out with such a clear and sober analysis and critique. One would have thought that by now we would be over with the colonialist naming and labelling - to define and rule. In the debates of 60s and 70s at Dar, 'tribalism as an ideology' was thoroughly demolished (see an excellent 1971 piece by Archie Mafeje).  Nyerere did a lot to put it to rest politically. Unfortunately, with neo-liberalism, it is beginning to rear its ugly head as he himself lamented towards the end of his life.

Colonial ideologies die hard because it is in the interest of neo-colonial and neo-liberal political classes to keep them alive in their own class interest. We have to continue struggling...

A luta continua


Prof. Issa Shivji
Director, Nyerere Resource Centre
Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH)
P. O. Box 4302
Ali Hassan Mwinyi Road, Kijitonyama (Sayansi)
Dar es Salaam - Tanzania

L/line: +255 22 2927540
Cell: +255 754 475 372
email:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.