Friday, January 18, 2008

Kenya's tribal problems

Much of the news about Kenya's post election riots emphasize the violence.
Frontline explains the problems.

Most Kenyans are not tribal fundamentalists, as they have been portrayed in foreign media coverage of the ethnic violence that broke out after the December 27th presidential election. Since independence from Britain in 1963, Kenyans from different tribes have lived together in peace. Intercultural marriages and relationships, once taboo in many tribes, have become increasingly common. In Kenyan cities, people do not live in segregated neighborhoods. Most people in Kenya respect each other. There are no groups anywhere in Kenya publicly claiming tribal supremacy.

During election years, politicians work night and day to make sure that Kenyans replace their religious faith and political beliefs with tribal extremism.

What Kenya does suffer from are some politicians who use the poor for political gain, including the two men on top of the current political gridlock. Raila Odinga, a Luo and the man who says the presidency was stolen from him, is a loudmouth tribalist not afraid to utter ethnically divisive remarks to advance his career. The other, a Kikuyu, Mwai Kibaki, the man who is said to have rigged his victory to a second term as president, is a soft-spoken tribal chieftain, but who is just as lethal.

The seasonality of ethnic violence in Kenya is evidence that politicians have a lot to do with it. During election years, they work night and day to make sure that Kenyans replace their religious faith and political beliefs with tribal extremism. This helps them disguise their ineffectiveness by blaming the tribe that holds the presidency. Before Kibaki came to power in 2002, the scapegoat was then president Daniel Arap Moi's tribe, the Kalenjin, to whom he gave top jobs when he succeeded Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first president.

Sadly, the disenfranchised, especially those living in rural areas and slums, do not have access to information that would contradict their leaders. For example, one of the reasons Kenyans were so disgusted by the last Parliament was the fact that the members gave themselves enormous raises and allowances that made them among the highest paid in the world, while the wages of the poor remained unchanged. A majority of MPs from all tribes, including Odinga, voted for the salary increases and Kibaki approved them. Yet when the 2007 election year came, Odinga led a countrywide crusade against the Kikuyu, calling them "the enemy" and accusing them of enriching themselves...

(go to link for complete story)
(headsup from baldilocks)

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