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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 January 2006, 17:40 GMT
Tribalism 'rampant' in Kenyan workplace
"No" supporters of the Kenyan constitution
Some saw Kenya's rejected constitution endorsing tribalism
The rise of tribalism in the workplace has become a major talking point in Kenya following a newspaper investigation.

A report by Anthony Ngare, a journalist with the country's East African Standard, argued that discrimination along tribal lines, albeit in a disguised form, is dominating the Kenyan workplace.

Mr Ngare told BBC World Service's Outlook programme that although many Kenyans believe in the principles of a meritocracy, where those with the right skills advance furthest up the career ladder, up to 80% of the workforce of some Kenyan companies often comes from the same tribal area.

"People will have to open up and talk about the situation," he said.

'Widespread' problem

Following Mr Ngare's report, Titus Naikuni, the Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Airways and one of Kenya's leading business figures, made a speech in which he condemned the practice of tribalism.

Mr Naikuni, told Outlook that he had made his statement "based on what you hear both from members of staff and also people seeking employment".

"If you do not have somebody in a position who is from your tribe, you will not get into particular organisations," he added.

Children of Kenya's Ogiek tribe
Once the younger generation is in leadership positions, I think tribalism will ease
Evelyn Mungai, Transparancy International
"I think it's widespread."

And Mr Naikuni warned that tribalism had the potential to damage Kenya's economic prospects in the future.

"When people start looking at each other from a tribal point of view, and you are not employed because of your own credentials, then it starts affecting productivity," he said.

"If I am employing someone because they come from a particular tribe and not because they are qualified, then the results would be disastrous for an organisation."

Kenya Airways is now implementing a policy of having committees for interviewing, and openly discussing the problem, he explained.

Mr Ngare, said that Mr Naikuni's speech meant that the subject could now be discussed openly.

"Previously it had been subtle," he said

Young hope

Evelyn Mungai, the chair of the Kenyan branch of anti-corruption organisation Transparency International, said the problem had got much worse in the last year.

In particular, she said tribalism is rampant throughout the public sector, where it is about "who you know".

"You appoint people from your background because you want votes, and that's why the public sector has been very much in the news," she said.

"Lately, what we have seen in the political arena is we have seen people from a particular tribe going to the president saying: 'you've got to appoint people from my area to such-and-such a position'.

"Now it's coming to a situation where it's become rather dangerous - in a few years' time what I see is a situation where meritocracy goes out of the window, and you're talking in terms of tribalism taking centre stage."

She added she believed that tribalism in the workplace has blossomed since Kenya became a multi-party democracy, with more people thinking in terms of their tribe.

But Ms Mungai also said she believed the younger generation were less inclined to think along tribal lines, which offered hope for the future.

"Once the younger generation is in leadership positions - whether in the public sector or private sector - I think tribalism will ease," she said.

"It is the older generation 'taking care of people back home,' as it were. That's why we've got hope for this country."

Kenya Airways CEO Titus Naikuni
"This has the potential to damage Kenya's economic prospects"


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