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Going Against The Grain: Ofafa residents’ quest to conquer negative ethnicity.

More than a hundred people from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds on Saturday converged in Thika’s Ofafa Estate to celebrate decades of living together harmoniously and advocate for the unity of all tribes in Kenya.

In a luncheon organised to embrace diversity for harmonious and peaceful coexistence for all, men, women and children from different communities dined together as a family regardless of the current political tension in the country.

Samson Njau Kariuki, the convener of the fete and a businessman at Jamuhuri Market Thika reckoned that ethnic polarisation and political power struggles had unfortunately culminated in tribal tensions and ethnic conflicts in some parts of the country each election year.

This he said bore mistrust between neighbours form different communities and at times social and communal segregation along tribal lines. 

However, he acknowledged the resilience exhibited by Ofafa residents over the years to prove critics wrong, describing their Ofafa as a close knit community where neighbours shared everything including, water, food, schools, hospitals and even intermarried.

“My pride as a resident of Ofafa is that our diverse political and ethnic differences have never broken the strong bond that has glued us together for decades. We have always been united by love for one another and have shared dreams, aspirations and our thirst for growth as citizens,” said Njau.

Area MP Eng. Patrick Wainaina Wa Jungle, who later joined the residents, acknowledged the resident’s effort for unity noting that a nation of socially conscious, ‘tribeless’ and development focused people would always triumph.

“There is nothing absolutely wrong with our diversity. This is God’s plan. As a people, we need to move beyond the politics of ethnicity seek ways to use our differences as tools to empower and grow each other,” said Wainaina.

The first time MP reckoned that ethnic animosity was triggered by high levels of poverty and this situation could only be overturned through economic empowerment.

“To cure this vice once and for all, we need to empower the poor by improving their socio-economic conditions through carefully designed programmes,” he explained.

Lawrence Omollo, a descendent of Siaya County, has lived in Starehe Estate for the last 25 years. He reckons that all his children, who were born in Thika, have known no other home. He points out that he and the locals have lived as siblings ever since, sharing all their good and bad times.

“We have lived here as brothers and sisters for all those years. In fact, my neighbours helped me raise money for my dowry and actually escorted me to my wife’s rural home in Kisumu for the ceremony,” says Omollo.

He warned politicians not to interfere with the lives of the common wananchi as negative politics really affected their co-existence with their neighbours.

His sentiments were echoed by Benson Muli and Lilian Awuor Otieno from Machakos County and Kisumu counties respectively.

Muli, who has been a resident in the area since the year 2005 recognised the fact that all communities in Kenya were interdependent on each other and there was no way any of them could isolate themselves from the rest of the communities.

He dismissed the call by NASA that their supporters boycott products from certain companies pointing out that this was tantamount to sabotaging the country’s economy.

“If you tell me to boycott say Bidco products. What are you trying to say? That those of our kins who work there get fired? That was a very irresponsible move by NASA and it is tantamount to rendering our people jobless in the first place,” said Muli.

As for Awuor who has been selling mandazi in a makeshift structure near the PCEA church in Ofafa Estate for the last eight years, recalls that recently when she fell ill, it was her neighbours from other ethnicity who came to her rescue with her children.

She advised her natives in other counties to replicate this gesture as tribalism never helped anyone.

“My advice to my kins in Nyanza, let’s not be misused by politicians to create animosity with other tribes. Poverty and hunger knows no tribe and we suffer the same way people from other tribe do. Let’s not allow politicians to mess with our lives and those of our children,” said Awuor. 

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