Jealousy 'leads' to unrest
Naivasha - Although they are from different tribes, Peter and
Sospeter have much in common: they do the same job, are roughly
the same age and practically share the same first name.
Now Kenya's ethnic clashes had landed the two men - one a Kikuyu
of the tribe of President Mwai Kibaki, the other a Luo like
opposition leader Raila Odinga - in hospital.
There, thanks to a shortage of space in the midst of a flood of
violent injuries, they share the same bed.
Sospeter Odipo, a Luo, said he didn't mind sharing a bed with
fellow flower-farmer Peter Ndungu, a Kikuyu, but he said he could
no longer live alongside Kikuyus.
He planned to return to Kisumu in his western tribal homeland.
Outside the hospital gates, their communities fired arrows and
chucked rocks at each other in the latest post-election clash.
A month or so ago, few could have believed the tension exposed by
elections in a country best known for tourism, would prompt
conflict that had killed 1 000, displaced 300 000 and been called
"ethnic cleansing" by the United States and others.
Paul Brennan, a missionary who had worked in Kenya for the last 30
years said: "It was there the whole time, but people didn't want
to acknowledge it.
"It is about land. It is about jealousy, exacerbated by politics -
the spark was the election."
The trigger was disputed polls, that returned Kibaki to power.
Odinga said Kibaki rigged it. But the seeds of the conflict were
sown long ago.
Politics, land and ethnicity had combined before to spill into
violence. Clashes in the early and the late 90's also caused the
deaths of hundreds, mostly Kikuyus, in the Rift Valley.
Resentment of the Kikuyu stemmed even further back, to perceptions
that they were favoured by colonial power Britain and - as shrewd
businesspersons - then emerged from the country's 42 tribes as the
most influential, analysts said.
Crowded in central Kenya, and encouraged by the independent
nation's first president, himself a Kikuyu, they moved on to and
bought land from other groups in the Rift Valley.
"They say we stole their land. We didn't. We bought it," said Jane
Nyaga, 55, a retired Kikuyu teacher, as she sat on her only
remaining possession, a sofa, near a police station sheltering
A mob from another tribe, the Kalenjin, burnt her house.
"I have a title deed to prove it, but they don't care. They think
only Kalenjin belong here so we somehow stole it."
Brennan feels the violence had taken on a new dimension: "Of
course (previous clashes) were serious to those affected, but
there wasn't the targeting and the revenge we are seeing now."
What started as the opposition's rejection of the election had
spread - fuelled, many said, by politicians or elders mobilising
gangs to protect their local interests.
Protests in urban areas were as much about the gap between rich
and poor as they were politics, some Kenyans said.
When the violence reached Naivasha - just north of Nairobi - last
week, it was mostly Kikuyus who were retaliating for attacks on
their own in western Kenya after Kibaki's victory was announced.
Hundreds of youths from the Kalenjin and Kisii tribes battled last
Sunday in Chebilat, near Kericho town, shooting arrows and
slingshots as each side accused the other of chasing them off
So much hatred
The result, said Francois Grignon, Africa Director for the
International Crisis Group, had been the collapse of state
He told Reuters: "The institutions of the state are being rejected.
They are not playing their role so people are resorting to
Many Kenyans, disgusted by the bloodshed, pin their hopes on talks
between the two leaders' parties in Nairobi.
But, Grignon warned it could get much worse if those meetings fail:
"We could see fighting on a much larger scale."
Meanwhile, in Eldoret, also in the west, a successful Kikuyu
businessperson who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals
said he was tearing up plans to retire there and heading home
generations after his family arrived.
"It has been devastating," he said. "The change has happened so
We lived with these people and we shared our lives together. We
never imagined that they harboured so much hatred."
When clashes permit, buses, trucks and cars loaded up at makeshift
camps, piled high with furniture before crisscrossing the country,
ferrying thousands of Kenyans back to homelands.
Kikuyus from the west were heading to Central Kenya. Luos, Luhyas
and Kalenjins and heading back westwards.
As much as the displaced might consider these ethnic tribelands
home, Grignon warned they might face more struggles if many
returned to over populated regions, where unemployment was high.
"It is going to be a major issue that will require some serious
political negotiations and people with large tracts of land giving
some up," he said.