Back to my Roots- Robert Thuo
On Sunday, the world celebrated Father’s day. I could not help but wonder what being a father means. In that day’s context, people of all walks of life celebrated male figures, biological or non-biological who brought them up. Most African societies are paternal, and men play a significant role in society. To this day, they hold senior positions in government and society because we all believe that they are capable.
Men in most Traditional African Societies held the position of tribal chief or sat at the council of elders. Young men were warriors while at the family level, the man headed the family. Last Sunday, as I scrolled down my Facebook wall, I could not help but wonder “if my forefathers came back to life, would they be happy with today’s men?” From an African perspective, heading the family does not only mean providing for it. It goes further to keeping the family as a unit. These small cohesive units would then make up the clan. The clans made up the kingdom. Strong African kingdoms like the Buganda, the Ethiopian Empire, the Zulu Kingdom, the Songhai Empire among others relied on these units to keep their Kingdoms safe.
These societies were cohesive, the reason why they became strong and were able to expand. The men of the day understood that it is easy to break one or two sticks but those in a bundle cannot be broken. That was the beauty of these societies; realizing that there is strength in union. As we struggle through harsh economic times and civil wars, I cannot help but think that men have failed Africa. Charged with the responsibility of guiding society to be a bundle of sticks, they have done the complete opposite. Fuelled by personal and selfish interest, they have divided communities that once lived in peace. They have led their families to kill each other tearing many communities down to the point of once strong and resilient nations falling into the category of failed states. Somalia, South Sudan, Libya and many more are victims.
What happened to the clan that solved disputes? What happened to the father who taught his children to love their neighbors? Have we lost our way? All these questions race in my mind to the point of utter confusion. As I write this, Kenya is headed for elections, and everyone is preaching peace because we all fidget when election period begins. Is it time to tie the bundle? Every Friday and Monday, all school going children recite the famous line of the National Anthem “…may we dwell in unity, peace, and liberty.” When they head home, they are told; “we will vote for so and so because he is ours.” They grow up knowing that one votes for “his people.” Men, both leaders, and our fathers tear us down based on family, ethnicity, tribe, religion, and clan. The result has always been tensions that often build up to violence.
We need to go back to our roots and do it as our forefathers did. Men need to stand up and give Africa what it deserves. Peace and unity. They need to tie the bundle of sticks straight from the family level, to the clan, tribe, and country. This is the way against Western imperialism, poverty, poor governance, tribal wars, civil wars, underdevelopment and everything else we all agree needs to change in the continent. Back to my roots; back to our roots.