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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ethnicity sets the perfect stage for great leadership to emerge

I was at a party recently where people of all races had gathered to enjoy the season when one person sitting in a group suddenly called out to his tribesman in his personal dialect above the din of the group conversation.  They launched into a discussion of some matter that none of us could understand nor contribute to. The discussion in the room gradually quieted down to near silence as these two, who appeared to be enjoying themselves, completed their discussion then turned to their neighbors with no sign or sense of remorse. This overt display of "us and them" may not have been intended to communicate apartheid, but it did.

I wondered why I was so offended when the two were not even talking to me or near me. I wondered why a cold sweat and dry feeling of contempt attacked me. I wondered if anyone else felt the way I did or if they had simply run out of things to talk about. After all, it was a small thing. I tried not to feel excluded from the dialogue but I was.  For a minute, I was not part of that community. This little displaced display of disunity in community sent distressing signals. All of a sudden, people moved away from the area and found other things to do. That outburst, intended or not, had put a damper on the proceedings in the room. Ethnicity had won again or had it?

Ethnicity can create unity, but not common unity or community. While ethnicity can build unity, only leadership can build community. Leadership reaches out to the common elements of unity in a group, knowing full well, that disunity is easy to achieve. Ethnicity thus provides a perfect platform to display leadership in public. Next time you are in the community, you will have a chance to show disunity or lead common unity.

Allan Bukusi  

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