Reflections on a journey through the Rift Valley..
My main take-away from a visit to Kenya last month is that the ‘post-electoral violence’ has deep pre-electoral roots. While inter-ethnic violence is not uncommon, the legacy of the displacement of tens of thousands of people in early 2008 seems to have created a Balkanization of Kenya. There is so much poverty, so much hatred, so much fear, and so many politicians willing to exploit this, that I felt a long-term peace is still elusive.
Driving up the Rift Valley, ground zero for much of the violence that erupted after the disputed elections in December 2007, I got a chance to hear tale after tale of loss and disruption, and to learn about people’s hopes and fears for the future.
||Hoping for a better future. Photos © Nicholas van Praag
At first it is hard for me to remember all the ethnic groups and follow the history of decades of social and ethnic disparity. In many places Kikuyu were attacked by Kalenjin. In others, Kikuyu gangs killed and displaced Luos and Luyas and Kalenjins.
The outcome today is a redrawing of many towns and villages along ethnic lines. Most prominent of all is the town of Naivasha, reknowned for its flower farms that export roses and carnations around the world. Once home to many different groups, it is almost entirely Kikuyu now. Luos and Luyas have been kicked out, their jobs taken. None dare to return.