Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What happened in Kenya?!

I posted this on Jesp's blog, then I realized I had gone on and on so I thought I would post it here (and bore the rest of you as well). Lucky you.

To rehash an overused simile the troubles in Kenya are like an iceberg. What the world saw -- people supposedly rioting because of a flawed election -- is but the tip. As most Tanzanians will tell you (and me and everyone else) we Kenyans been pretty challenged when it comes to trying to forge an national identity over a tribal one. (As with any family the only exception to this is when there is an external threat e.g. Osama's 1998 bombing.)

No matter what politicians say this emphasis on tribe is promoted by them because it suits their interests. Our leaders have traditionally been very corrupt and the most of the patronage/largess has been typically bestowed on their ethnic communities to ensure a solid core of support, so the losing community saw this as a "missed opportunity to eat" at the corruption trough.

To further exacerbate things there is the Gikuyu issue. The Gikuyu (frequently referred to as Kikuyu) don't have much land around their traditional Central Kenya area so they have migrated to other less densely populated areas. Much of this migration has been subsidized by Gikuyu lead governments at the expense of other communities.

In the build up to the elections the opposition -- primarily Raila and Ruto -- stoked these sentiments of Gikuyu domination in their supporters. So after the results were announced the opposition publicly cried foul and claimed that Kibaki had "stolen the election" and that set off an unfortunate series of barbaric ethnic-cleansing type acts. It was a powder keg waiting to explode, and explode it did.

I am confident that Kenya will not descend into a Rwandaesque situation. This is all about poverty, resources and equity. If we build our institutions and address corruption and inequity much of this will go away. We are a resourceful people and we will find a Kenyan solution to this very Kenyan problem. Kenya will emerge stronger for it. But that will be hard work and there are many powerful people who are benefiting from the status quo who will want to keep things the way they are.

I think I have talked for too long.

-Silaha

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