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Sunday, January 27, 2008

BULLETIN: Fighting spreads in west Kenya.


History never dies. It is reborn every minute of every day.

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Killing spreads from the Kenyan Central Highland town of Nakuru to Naivasha on the road to from Nakuru to Nairobi.

As former UN chief Kofi Annan continues to try to mediate between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, members Kikuyu people near the Rift Valley have begun to retaliate for killings carried out against them earlier in the week by the Kalenjin. Now Kalenjin have been killed with machetes and burned alive in their homes by Kikuyu.

The ideal of a "one Kenya" with an African identity has been undermined over the years by the discrete persistence and periodic intrusion of tribal politics. British settlement policies in the colonial period were part of the cause. In the Central Highlands, the Kikuyu, the dominant tribe, farmed the best land and were expropriated by British settlers. Accordingly, it was the Kikuyu who took the lead in the struggle for rights, in the Mau Mau rebellion and in the independence movement. The main Kenyan African political association, KANU, was sufficiently dominated by the Kikuyu that another party, KANDU, was founded for tribes who felt they were not fairy represented. With the absorption of KANDU by KANU, right after independence, the Kikuyus mainained their grip on power. As Kenya's only political party, KANU contained a a great many disaffected members, many of them from smaller or competing tribes, still dominated by the Kikuyu leadership. The British, who had also expropriated the Rift Valley Kalenjin tribe, now sold their land to the wealthier Kikuyus. Jomo Kenyata, a Kikuyu and an otherwise great leader, made the mistake of encouraging the Kikuyu to keep buying up land at the expense of the Kalenjin and other tribes, causing ethnic grievances against the Kikuyu. When Daniel Tarap Moi came to power, he redistributed land and power back to his own Kalenjin tribe. It wasn't until the 1990s that Moi legalized a multi-party political system. The inevitable result was fragmentation of KANU into new parties, which, although they had western-style names like "the Liberal Democratic Party", inevitably carried a baggage of tribal grievances over land. It's doubtful that anyone in Kenya wants a tribal politics, but colonial expropriations and attempts to remedy them have inevitably been carried out along tribal lines.
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