Tests have shown that kinetic weapons are just plain bad, stat-wise. Cruiser Lasers and Ion Cannons stomp kinetics. That said, they can fill some very limited roles as low-energy weapons with decent firepower. I’m not sure that they’re worth the tradeoff, but they might see occasional use. I actually use frigate kinetics as low-power-requirement armor-piercing weapons (cheap substitutes for beam weapons, basically), but they’re specialty weapons rather than bread and butter firepower.
But the Tribe isn’t just about kinetics. The Tribe is about raw hit points. Rapair modules are part of their strength, but even more important is the fact that once shields and armor are penetrated, they’ll outlast any comparable opponent. Ironically, the Tribe are all about offense - make sure that you penetrate armor and shields, then pour on the raw firepower and watch the enemy die first. You don’t have to devote anything to armor or shields in order to have a huge hit point advantage, leaving you more space to mount guns and engines. Though I tend to mount Reflective shields on my Tribe cruisers anyway, just to provide basic defense against fighters (particularly rocket fighters, which can’t get under the bubble) and beam weapons. Also shifting to a single shield on my frigates, just to avoid being completely wrecked by high-DPS laser fighters.
Tribal frigate swarms are particularly devastating due to this. Add a backline of anti-fighter frigates, and Tribal frigate swarms will usually survive rocket fighter swarms simply due to having far more hit points than other factions’ frigates. The fighters will die to the anti-fighter frigates before they take out a decisive amount of attack frigates. This strategy can be even more brutal against capital-based fleets by stringing a bunch of cheap Tribe cruisers as a front line to soak damage, because Tribe cruisers have obscene amounts of hit points for very low costs. In all cases the focus is on mitigating the only threats that can out-DPS you (enemy fighters), then brawling the enemy into oblivion on the strength of superior endurance.
The Tribe also works well with EMP weapons. Repair modules are best at mitigating slow streams of damage; repair systems can be overwhelmed quickly with concentrated fire. Thus, anything that can reduce the amount of damage you’re taking will increase the effectiveness of your endurance advantage. My current favorite strategy involves fast Tribal frigates with EMP Missile Launchers and repair systems - unless the enemy is mounting point defense, my the frigates are incredibly hard to kill due to the rampant disruption. The odd hit or two generally gets repaired, leaving little or no lasting damage. Cruiser based fleets in particular get absolutely wrecked, since EMP strikes are at their best against fewer large targets.