Tribal politics in Kenya

At the core of Kenya’s election brouhaha are two mind-boggling questions: What to do with Kenyatta’s war crime charges and secondly, are Kikuyus the only people fit to be president of this multi-ethnic country.

For those who don’t know, Uhuru Kenyatta, son of the first president of Kenya, was declared winner of a contentious March 4th presidential elections. The results, however, are being challenged by the second runner-up, Raila Odinga, who alleges that the electoral commission fixed the outcome. Kenyatta’s camp insists that the election was free and fair, but they can’t be as dismissive about the Hague’s assertion that he orchestrated the mass killings that marred the 2007 election. Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor at the Hague is unwavering about her commitment to have Kenyatta and his cronies stand trial. He has vowed to fight the charges and clear his name.

How does the president of the most economically powerful country in East Africa subject himself to the rigorous examination of the International Criminal Court without losing his international credibility? Most importantly, how can he successfully govern a country bitterly divided along ethnic lines? Kenyatta is a Kikuyu, Raila Odinga is a Luo. Kikuyus are the dominant ethnic group in the nation of 39 million people. Although there other tribes like Kalenjin, Luo, Kamba and Maasai, since independence, every president, except for Arap Moi has been a Kikuyu. This has led to allegations that the country’s political and material wealth is disproportionately concentrated in the hands of Kikuyus – a sentiment that readily lends itself to violence during elections.

It is not entirely clear how Kenyatta who is at the centre of ethnic cleansing charges will unite the entire country. Amongst Kikuyus, he is regarded as a saviour, the rest of Kenya is  waiting to see how he will heal the deep tribal wounds and move the country forward.


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