Thematic Green Messages

Author: Dr. Isaac Kalua

2nd May 2021 at 01:15 pm





For decades, Kenya has been undergoing a silent pandemic that has robbed us professional contribution from millions of talented Kenyans and billions of shillings from increased workplace productivity. In the last two weeks, I have experienced the firsthand effects of this pandemic.

The first instance was in a Nairobi supermarket where my wife Susan and I had gone shopping. As we walked down the aisles, we kept hearing whispers and murmurs in a certain vernacular language. It occurred to us that there was barely any Swahili being spoken by the attendants. Evidently, most of them were from one tribe. This confirmed the employment custom of the institution.

Let any Kenyan private or public sector employer who is not afflicted by this tribalism sin cast the first stone at this Nairobi supermarket. Before we cast that stone, we must pause and reflect on similar tribalism not just in other corporates but also in Government.

The second instance that I experienced the tribalism pandemic in employment was in my own village. Over a span of several days, several highly educated young people sought my help in securing jobs. Most of them told me how they couldn't secure jobs due to lack of their community person in high places.

This unfortunate tribal pollution of recruitment was experienced at Moi University a few years ago. As soon as a vacancy for Vice-Chancellor arose, leaders in the Great Rift Valley were categorical that the new vice chancellor had to be from the Kalenjin community. It didn't matter if there was another qualified candidate for the position. The same is true for many other universities that are based in other regions. In many of those universities, the vice-chancellor is always from the dominant tribe in the region. Meru University is a rare exception to this tribal rule, which states a lot about the overall non-tribal mentality of the Meru community. I suggest that we borrow a leaf from them.

The same way that sanitizing our hands helps in fighting Corona, transforming ethos in our recruitment process shall enhance the fight against tribalism in the job market. When tribalism taints the job market, the expectations of our youth are dampened.

According to International Labor Organization (ILO), discrimination occurs 'when a person is treated less favorably than others because of characteristics that are not related to the person's competencies or the inherent requirements of the job.' As an ILO member State, Kenya is required to ensure that Kenyans are free from discriminatory employment practices. This requirement is enshrined in the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Even our own constitution in Article 27 is very clear that no Kenyan should be discriminated against on the basis of their ethnic origin.

Further to this, the Employment Act, Cap 226 states that an employer shall promote equal opportunity in employment and strive to eliminate discrimination in any employment policy or practice. As such, tribal discrimination during job recruitment is a violation of our constitution, our laws and ILO conventions. Should we therefore tolerate employers who violate these laws?

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Robert Kovach warns that workplace tribalism results in a blame game between colleagues even as it erodes responsibility, initiative and unity. Every time you employ someone largely because of their ethnic background, you are signing up for these kinds of negative dynamics. In the same vein, whenever you deprive someone an employment opportunity because of their ethnic background, you are depriving your institution of potential growth and flourish.

In this regard, let us sanitize our job market because not only is embracing tribalism during recruitment illegal and unethical, it is also a bizarre way of breeding a toxic work environment that kills our workforce and economic growth.

~ Think Green, Act Green!

by Dr. Isaac Kalua, the founder and chairperson, Green Africa Foundation ~ 1st May, 2021.


Leave a reply

First sample avatar image
Dr. Isaac Kalua

Author - Thematic Green Messages

Dr Kalua's Commentary on the Standard


Weather Update

As at ,

RealFeelĀ® °

% Precipitation



  • 4AM
  • 8AM
  • 12AM
  • 4PM
  • 8PM