With some excitement I have expected the interview with Prof. Dietmar Herz, who holds the chair for Comparative Government at the University of Erfurt, on this radio show of public German broadcast, namely of the state of Bavaria.
Annonced as expert for Kenya, one could expect some fresh knowledge of a studied insider about the country's affairs. Summarizing it, I can agree to almost all he forwarded in his analyis. This is possible, simply because he offered commonplace knowledge. A lot of newspaper infos and only little professorial opinion. The news content about the Kenyan elections of 2017 was manageable.
|Photo by courtesy of Muhammad Mahdi Karim|
I would like to add some completion to his meager comments, which I understand as necessary. In turn Prof. Herz was talking about the portent of the riots on the occasion of the 2007/08 elections. It was the wish in Kenya that these bloodshedding conflicts with more than 1,000 casualties would not repeat again. One could observe that young people are less and less interested in tribalism and the country was able to overcome it more and more. In my understanding both findings are critical, because they are inapplicable and only offer a very shortsighted view on the matter.
Violence and the Elections of 2012/13
It seems as if Prof. Herz has forgotten about the atrocities which orchestrated the elections five years ago, e.g. in Kisumu or at the coast. Yet we do not see the search for the reaons and we miss the serious efforts from the official side in Kenya to go to the roots of the problems and at least to introduce something like a minimal research, isn't it? Didn't we miss it after 2008, after 2013 and what will be the case after the current election is widely unclear, isn't it?
In the same moment conflicts are latent because of displacements in connection with the struggles. Still for more than 100000 displaced Kenyans there is no solution. The unrest during the 2012 elections saw innumerous persons of Kikuyu descent being expelled from the Western Kenya area, the homeland of the Luo population. One might call it tragic, but the culture of the Kikuyu does not allow a simple coming back of its own group members to the area in Central Kenya. A simple "I am back again" is not possible and cannot work in this society. There is no will or interest to share land and property. Once gone, forever gone is the motto. One also would have to consider the situation between displaced Kikuyus and Kalenjin, but this would be too far leading in this post.
What are the roots of the quarrels?
It was an expression of wishful thinking to simplify the problem and state that tribalism is disappearing, while the young generation is affirmative about eradicating it. Thinking about the roots, one realizes that tribalism is not the root, but only the blossoming plant on the surface, which we all can see. The roots are lying much deeper and are somewhat invisible for the quick reader. I am not claiming to have the full list, let me just highlight two aspects for the further discussion: the unemployment of the youth and the more or less traditional clashes for land between pastoralists and farmers.
The antagonists are not tribalism versus young views. In a country, which has to fight with a high unemployment rate it is about the haves and the not-haves, it is about future against lack of prospects, it is about urban versus provincial. The young people are not stupid. They are sensitive and understand that jobs too often are distributed along ethnic lines. This creates disillusion.
On the other hand, with Kenya being a country on the upswing, part of this success story is its well trained young generation, also with an education and university diploma from Europe or North America. In the long run this might be the cause for trouble: they form the future generation in Kenya with a fight against the hopeless trying to get a share of their hard earned money.
Mobilizing the youngsters during the violent clashes is not that much of a difficulty. Each political camp finds allies in rivaling youth gangs, who take sides depending on their own political or ethnic disposition. Look at the case of Kisumu and its protagonists American Marine favoring Raila Odinga and China Group, the supporters of Uhuru Kenyatta.
Traditional clashes in the struggle for land
These fights are legend. I was surprised not to hear about them during the radio show. Take for example the dispute between Pokomo, agriculturalists and the Orma, pastoralists in Tana River in 2012/13. The strategy of the politicians was to let it happen and a lack of activity by police to intervene and monitor. Several eyewitnesses of both camps, confirmed that politicians involved in the elections started collecting money to have finances for firing up the conflict. Sadly enough: scores of casualties and approximately 34000 displaced persons.
Most important factors for peaceful elections
Stereotypes alone will not do in this complex situation. In my understanding Kenya will never be completely free of incidents, such as described above. It should be recognized and understood what and who is behind the violent clashes to give it the correct framework. Education, steady jobs and financial stability of the people are key to the future development of this country. The peaceful collaboration of the different ethnic groups, which works almost perfectly in daily life, should be empowered through programs and educational work for the better understanding of the cultural and material needs of the other groups. This would be an investment in the future of this East African country.