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Ethnic Conflict in Kenya: Kalenjin vs. Kikuyu

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Chane Jones

on 16 March 2011

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Transcript of Ethnic Conflict in Kenya: Kalenjin vs. Kikuyu

Ethnic Conflict in Kenya:
Kalenjin vs. Kikuyu

Yasmeen Aslami, Knight Beltitane,
Chané Jones, Rachel Doane Is There a general explanation for the presence of nationalism within the region? What are the features of the Nationalist movement? Is Ethnic/Social Nationalism in Opposition to Official Nationalism in Kenya? Yes Social and Ethnic Nationalism are in Opposition to Official Nationalism in Kenya: why? Due to the fact that social and ethnic differences between tribal groups such as the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin are the root cause of conflict, division, and overall instability within the state.
Due to the fact that social and ethnic differences between tribal groups such as the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin are the root cause of conflict, division, and overall instability within the state. Same Country, Different Nation Kenya: A Multiplicity of Ethnicities A Brief History Kenya, a former British colony, underwent a bitter struggle for independence, culminating in a racial conflict between the Africans and colonialists
The indirect rule administered by British colonialists culminated in a “divide and rule” strategy, polarizing the various ethnic groups in Kenya
This has since contributed to the inherent incompatibility of these ethnic groups, especially as political actors
-Early political parties championing the nationalist struggle [against
colonial establishments] were basically divided against ethnic lines
Kikuyu Central Association (KCA), Ukambani Members
Association (UMA), Luhya Union (LU), Kalenjin Political Alliance
(KPA) , Young Kavirondo Association (YKA)
The colonialists left behind scarce natural resources, inadequate infrastructure, inadequate human resource capacity, inadequate capital, education, and health facilities, among others Continued Once Kenya gained independence, a strong sense of nationalism evolved in an attempt to address these inadequacies, and more importantly, to unify the country
Ethnicity, however, was the main vehicle through which dominance and preservation of power and resources was attempted
Land is yet another source of ethnic conflict, with its roots in colonialism, with the colonialists “dreaming of making this part of Africa a white man’s country.”
The pastoral Kalenjin and Maasai were native inhabitants of the Rift Valley.
1915 - British colonialists forced pastoral groups off the land, to develop the area agriculturally - coercing thousands of Kikuyu, Kisii, Luhya, and Luo (all experienced farmers) to move to the Rift Valley to work on the farms as sharecroppers.
The first 20 years of the 20th century saw the forceful displacement of the traditional inhabitants of the Rift Valley, the Kalenjin and Maasai, from their homelands by the colonial administration. Soon, thousands of non-native Rift Valley dwellers with agricultural experience, like the Kikuyu, settled there.
This shift in ownership of Kenya’s most fertile land is a great part of the ethnic conflict. Ethnic tensions developed especially around the structure of access to economic opportunities and redistribution of some of the land formerly owned by the white settlers. The land in question was in the Rift Valley province and was historically settled by the Kalenjin and the Maasai

The crisis was aggravated during the mid-1950s when forced land consolidation took place during the emergency period, which benefited mainly the pro government group that had not joined the Mau Mau revolt when the state of emergency was lifted at the end of the 1950s, most of the detainees returned home to find that they had lost their land to the loyalists.

A large wave of this group moved as squatters to the Rift Valley in anticipation of what was expected to be land redistribution after independence from Britain. As the redistribution of the land formerly owned by the white settlers began, it is these squatters that became the instant beneficiaries of the allocations.
The policy of `willing buyer willing seller‘
The Government facilitated the transfer of 1 million acres during the Kenyatta Regime. the Kikuyu, took advantage of the situation and formed many land-buying companies. These companies would, throughout the 1960s and 70s, facilitate the settlement of hundreds of thousands of Kikuyu in the Rift Valley, especially in the districts which historically belonged to the Kalenjin.
The ethnic conflict in Kenya involved many ethnic groups, and deepened the political scheme in the country to a point where sometimes there were no return. Indeed many factors were involved, either external, such as supra-ethnic groups and countries, or internal, such as local ethnic groups and political parties. But since time does not allow us to talk about all of them, our study will be concentrated mainly on the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin groups.
First let’s take a look at the ethnic group chart of Kenya’s population, then we go deep into the features of the Nationalist Movement that pushed the country into a brutal conflict.
Population 34.5m, comprising more than 40 ethnic groups

Kikuyu are the largest tribe, mostly concentrated around Nairobi

Most of Eastern/ North-eastern regions sparsely populated with ethnic Somalis

Main ethnic groups are:
Kikuyu: 22%
Luhya: 14%
Luo: 13%
Kalenjin: 12%
Kamba: 11%
Kisii: 6%
Meru: 6%
Other African: 15%
“Usually the problem is between two biggest tribes, Luos and Kikuyus, but this time it is all other tribes against Kikuyus” [Christian Science Monitor, January 29th, 2008]

2008: this period can be divided into 3 periods

1- Post-Election violence: Kikuyus and their allies fighting against the Luos and the Kalenjins. Characterized by rapes and sexual violence.

2-Fighting Laikipia District ( located to the north west of snow-capped Mount Kenya, in Kenya’s Rift Valley Province.  It neighbors Samburu Dirstict to the North, Isiolo and Meru to the East and Baringo to the West.), between the Turgens, allies to the Turkana and the Kikuyus. Then it spread over to reach other tribes , the Massai, the Pokot and the Samburu.

3- Government crackdown on the SLDF in Mount Elgon for recruiting children to fight. Consequently both groups were accused of human rights abuses.
The SLDF or the Sabaot Land Defense Force, is a guerrilla group formed in 2005, in Mt. Elgon District. The Sabaot is a sub tribe from the Kalenjin , was 35000 people strong and funded its activities through “taxation” of local residents to defend the land and its people. Using torture, murder, rape, theft and infrastructure destruction.
RAPE, TORTURE, THEFT, MURDER, INFRASTRUCTURE DESTRUCTION, HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES, CHILDREN FIGHTERS, VIOLENCE. December 2007: In the first six months of that year, the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was leading the polls, then lost his lead to his opponent Raila Odinga, in the second half. After the elections Kibaki was declared a winner and was sworn it immediately. Odinga’s party the ODM(the Orange Democratic movement) won 99 seats of the Parliament while Kibaki’s party the PNU(the Party of National Unity) won 43 seats. The Parliamentary elections were held at the same time as the Presidential , yet the results were sketchy. Fraud was evident. Odinga went to the streets demanding a recount and riots followed. Hundreds of people died.

During Kibaki’s presidency corruption plagued the Kenyan economy. The NGO MS Kenya estimated that 42% of the country’s GDP consisted of fraud. Donors estimated that some $ 1 billion were lost to corruption in the 5 years of the Kibaki administration. His administration spent $ 12 million on new Mercedes cars in the first 18 months of the administration alone. Kibaki sharply increased the salary of members of parliament and divided almost all government posts among members of his own Kikuyu tribe. These people are called the “Mount Kenya Mafia” in Kenya, after the region where the Kikuyu originate. Kibaki even wanted to increase his own salary to $ 40,000 a month, s while half of the population makes only $ 1 a day, or less. Ethnic conflict in kenya existed way before the country’s independence from Britain. It has been influenced by external motives, through out blood related ethnic groups, from internal colonial ethnic division, land distributions, the creation of Kenya as a country, to forming a national government that is supposed to serve and unite all groups under one constitution.

Rokkan said it best in his theory of Regionalism: ” there is no simple centre-periphery polarity across culture, economics and politics. Peripheral predicaments and politicisation emerge out the incongruity between cultural, economic and political roles, an incongruity which has existed on the continent as long as there have been sates. While this remains unresolved, the potential for territorial problems remains, irrespective of the waxing and waning of individual parties or movement.” ( Rokkan and Urwin, 1983. p. 192 )

As Kellas said” The Kikuyu, for example, whose coherence is now so important to understanding Kenyatta and nationalism in Kenya, had no certain identity before the imposition of British rule and the alienation of land to the settlers…..”. Indeed, the notion of ethnic nationalism rose with the partition of the land and the alienation of some groups from others. Add injustice, corruption, disfranchisement , uneven wealth distribution, nepotism, regionalism and racism to that equation, and you have the perfect combination for the rise of ethnic nationalism; characterized by rape, murder, violence, corruption, fraud, property destruction, riots, theft, and children recruitment for war, to carry on the legacy. These are some particular features of nationalism in kenya. What conditions have been responsible for the evolution of nationalism within the region? Political Land
Regime Change: Multi-party System

Land Kalenjin were classified as the ‘Indigenous’ people by Ntimama

Kikuyu acquired much of the land and its resources Regime Change

President Kenyatta
- Settlement Schemes
Moi’s Era
- Policy:“[rectified] the structure of access to [the]
benefit of the Kalenjin at the expense of the
- KAMATUSA: Plan of Expulsion Reports December 1993- 1,000 dead; 150,000 to 250,00 displaced (US State Department)

2007-08: Waki Commission stated 744 killings were reported for the Rift Valley Post Election Violence Similar Cases and Supporting Theories The 7 Countries of Western Europe
- Deutsch: Social Communication
- Rokkan: The needs of everyone were not being met
- Smith: Continued relationship between ethnic identity and
Donald Horowitz Study Democracies don’t work for ethnically divided societies
Ethnic Based Parties
- Lean Towards interest of ethnic groups
- Interest & Demands are based on comparison of other ethnic group
The Kikuyus and the Kalenjin may coexist in the same independent state of Kenya; however they each have a different idea of what the nation should be.
- The Kikuyus and the Kalenjin each have their own basic interests
and expectations which frequently conflict with one another. This
makes the distribution of resources very difficult for the Kenyan
government as a whole and undermines the nationalism of the
After achieving colonial independence, the newly united Kenyan people quickly lost their sense of a united nationalism due to their ethnic and social differences.
- Within two years of independence Kenyan citizens started wearing the same badges
as they had worn during the independence struggle which identified themselves not
as Kenyans, but as members of specific tribes.
- Ethnic animosities stemmed from inequitable division of the national cake, land
disputes, political wrangling and so on; political marriages and separations/divorces
of convenience among potentially antagonistic ethnic groups; and a lack of inspiring
nationalistic and neutral political leadership.
Effects of Colonialism on Ethnic/Social Nationalism: When the territorial powers left Kenya, in a ploy to set the people against each other, they split the land unevenly giving one tribal group (the Kikuyus) the majority of the most fertile land (the Rift Valley) leaving other tribal groups with a feeling of deprivation.

The Kalenjins in particular view this land as their own and have consistently fought against the Kikuyus in an effort to regain control of what they view as their land.
Ethnic and Social Divides Led to a Divided Government: Until 1991 post independence Kenya was characterized by one-party rule and excessive centralization of power.
- The leader and group who capture the state have control of an enormous amount of resources and
can reward supporters, provide for group members, and create barriers to entry into political and
economic markets.
Violence in the Rift Valley can be traced back to this divide between the majority leaders (the Kikuyus) and the minority peoples (the Kilenjin).
Violence broke out in the early 1990s due to the political transition to a multiparty system which would allow for more than just the majority tribe to have a say in the allocation of resources.
Ethnic Divides Prevent the State from Prospering: Kenya’s traditional prosperity has declined over the past 15 years due to ethnic conflict, failed economic policies, and the difficulties of democratizing a multiethnic state.
This has led to increased antagonism between the Kikuyu and Kalenji.
If ethnic nationalism continues to flourish, the state will be held back in its ability to be economically successful.

Undercurrents of Ethnic Conflict in Kenya
By John O. Oucho

Ethnic Groups in Conflict
By Donald L. Horowitz








Politicized Ethnic Conflict in Kenya: A Periodic Phenomenon
By Walter Oyugi

UN Human Rights Council 11th Session Addendum: Mission to Kenya

Economic Reform, Political Liberalization, and Economic Ethnic Conflict in Kenya
By Oanda Ogachi

Courting the Kalenjin
By Gabrielle Lynch
Full transcript