Undercurrents of Ethnic Conflicts in Kenya

Undercurrents of Ethnic Conflicts in Kenya

Undercurrents of Ethnic Conflicts in Kenya

Undercurrents of Ethnic Conflicts in Kenya

Synopsis

This book analyses the ethnic conflict that engulfed Kenya's Rift Valley Province at the turn of the nineties when multi-party democratic politics were being reintroduced in the country. Its central thesis is that ethnic conflict in the country then was a function of several issues, among them ethnocentrism, politics, the land question and criminal behaviour in certain circles. Both its determinants and consequences are demographic, economic, political and socio-cultural, implying the risks involved in oversimplifying issues.

Excerpt

During the struggle for independence, majority of African nationalists called for national unity as a precondition for national solidarity in the nascent nation states. It was inconceivable to expect ethnic strife of a people determined to sacrifice their ethnic origins at the altar of nationalism. The new Africans enjoying the euphoria of independence took their positions in the race toward dividing the national cake, an exercise that turned out to benefit some and elude others. Over the last thirty to forty years during which African countries have been independent, they have experienced social tensions manifesting themselves in ethnic, religious and other forms of conflict that have rocked the foundations of nationalism. While some of these have precipitated civil wars, others have caused unprecedented genocide, with one notable result: generation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) confined to national boundaries and refugees as well as asylum seekers forced to cross these boundaries in search of safe haven. These two types of forced migration are Africa's liability, which the continent ushered into the present millennium (Oucho, forthcoming). Conflict has ravaged almost every African country, which often is ethnic. The typical post-colonial African state is an amalgam of ethnic nationalities whose relations fluctuate from time to time, who strive for the national cake and who adopt conflict as a means of settling scores with each other.

Yet as much the media as by partisan political statements and United Nations resolutions generally explains ethnic conflict in Africa away superficially, without getting at the root cause of the problem.

Kenya, a former colony par excellence, which underwent a bitter colonial experience very, much like South Africa's apartheid and Zimbabwe's model, makes a good case study on ethnic conflict. The country's struggle for independence was bitter and explosive, then a racial conflict that pitted Africans against the colonialists. The slogan became uhuru na umoja (Swahili for freedom and unity), which rent the air in political rallies as nationalists urged the citizenry to repeat the same in a chorus and pull together to throw away the colonial yoke. Once Kenya attained independence, Kenyans evolved a strong sense of nationalism and soon put the country on a sure . . .

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