The Luo-Kikuyu divorce is well underway. At least most of them are getting away from each other without huge numbers of deaths.
Kenya used to be considered one of the most promising countries in Africa. Now it is in the throes of ethnically segregating itself. Ever since a deeply flawed election in December kicked off a wave of ethnic and political violence, hundreds of thousands of people have been violently driven from their homes and many are now resettling in ethnically homogenous zones.
Luos have gone back to Luo land, Kikuyus to Kikuyu land, Kambas to Kamba land and Kisiis to Kisii land. Even some of the packed slums in the capital, Nairobi, have split along ethnic lines.
The bloodletting across the country that has killed more than 1,000 people since the election seems to have subsided in the past week. But the trucks piled high with mattresses, furniture, blankets and children keep chugging across the countryside, an endless convoy of frightened people who in their desperation are redrawing the map of Kenya.
Western countries will refuse to let Kenya officially break up. Countries that break up create precedents. Other countries could follow. A redivision along ethnic lines cuts against faith in liberal universalism.
The convoy joins its army escort on the road out of Nairobi as it starts its 150-mile journey in the verdant highlands where sheep and goats graze next to vegetable plots. Soon, the bus descends to the dusty savannah of the Rift Valley, passing occasional herds of zebra.
Along the way, it overtakes run-down cargo trucks crammed with other fleeing Luos and their furniture, clothes, goats, chickens. The passengers stare in silence when driving by burned out homes, which they assume belonged to Luos.
Hours later, as the bus barrels past tea plantations, safely out of Kikuyu territory and now in hills dominated by ethnic groups aligned with the opposition, they pass more burned-out homes. This time they presume the charred wrecks belonged to Kikuyus, and they start chattering.
"We are glad," says Christina Odhiambo, a 39-year-old who used to clean houses in Nairobi. "It is what they deserve."
Is Kenya finished? It looks like Humpty Dumpty to me.
Nobody knows how many people are moving across Kenya to seek the safety of ethnic numbers in this country of 38 million. But it's not just the rural poor; there are many reports of Nairobi landlords renting only to the right ethnicity, and businesses taking care about which staff are sent to which jobs.
For many ordinary Kenyans, the new reality is sobering.
"Sure, we all made jokes about each other, the Luos and Kikuyu, the other people," said Victor Gitonga, a 24-year-old Kikuyu Red Cross worker who was helping at the Luo camp.
"But that was joking. If people cannot live, work, stay in any place in this country, than is this a country? We are finished," he said.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2008 February 17 10:50 PM Ethnic Conflict|