(AFP) – Jan 19, 2008
ELDORET, Kenya (AFP) — Members of Kenya's dominant Kikuyu tribe living in opposition strongholds feel they are paying the price for the tribal rhetoric that plagued last month's disputed elections.
"It's inhuman to ask somebody like me to go back to my 'real home land', I don't even know my real home land," said Nancy, a Kikuyu woman from the Eldoret area in western Kenya.
The Kikuyus are the country's largest tribe but in a minority in western Kenya, where people overwhelmingly voted in the December 27 presidential election for opposition leader Raila Odinga, from the Luo tribe, who lost to incumbent President Kwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu.
Nancy, 47, said she had no intention of leaving the area where her family has lived for more than three generations to move to the Kikuyu heartland, in central Kenya.
"I'm not going anywhere, I was born here. My family came in the 1930s, they bought a piece of land, I have no relatives anywhere else," she explained.
When Kibaki was declared the winner of the election on December 30 despite mounting evidence of fraud, several tribes turned against the Kikuyus.
Dozens were speared and hacked to death in raids on villages in the Eldoret area. Refugees were also targeted, notably when a church in Eldoret housing displaced Kikuyu families was deliberately set on fire, killing at least 35 people.
Local residents and observers have argued that in regions where feelings of marginalisation were strongest, tribal vindication was encouraged by campaigns using the long obsolete term of "majimbo".
Majimbo -- a Kiswahili term which implies a form of federalism, decentralisation and devolution -- featured in Odinga's campaign, although it was never clearly defined.
Most of the attacks against Kikuyus in the Eldoret area were carried out by Kalenjin, one of the dominant tribes in the area, who squarely supported Odinga and are represented in parliament by his right-hand man William Ruto.
Many of the country's tribes rallied behind Odinga, amid resentment at Kibaki and his Kikuyu entourage, seen as an arrogant and corrupt elite.
Stephen, who was displaced by the deadly violence that followed the elections and now lives in a camp some 20 miles from Eldoret, said that majimbo was understood by some as a license for ethnic cleansing.
"They did not understand that the term majimbo means sharing of resources and power, brought to people on the ground," he said.
"According to them, it's cleaning and removing tribes from Kalenjin ancestral land," Stephen added, quivering because of the cold.
Kenya, a mosaic of at least 42 tribes, has been relatively spared the kind of ethnic strife that has plagued other countries in the region such as Rwanda and Burundi over the past decades.
Many of Eldoret's Kikuyus settled the fertile region after the 1963 independence, with the support of their leader and the country's first president Jomo Kenyatta.
John, 44, who lives with 10,200 other people displaced by the violence in a tented camp in Eldoret, only two miles from his home, said the opposition politicians had a slogan: 'Kalenjins, with no other tribes remaining'.
"It's not what they told the media, which was 'equal distribution of national ressources'," added John, a nurse.
But Reverend Maritim arap Rirei, from Eldoret's Anglican church, said that the ethnic dimension of the conflict only surfaced on the back of deeper underlying problems.
"We have been having a potential conflict for several years, just waiting for a spark," he said, adding: "In Kenya, we confuse calm and peace."
"Kikuyus are seen as the privileged in terms of access to resources and protection of the governement, and when there are problems, they become an easy target," he explained.
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