Thursday, March 1, 2012



Innocent  Villagers displaced following inter ethnic clashes  

By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
February 29, 2012

As we marked the fourth anniversary of the Grand Coalition, it looked like two communities in Western Kenya had no idea why we fought a bitter and devastating intertribal conflict that ruined our reputation and economy as a nation worldwide.

While politicians were congratulating themselves for having achieved a lot since the chaos of January 2008, somehow none of them was willing to send messages of condolence to the families of the seven dead Kenyans in fresh tribal flare ups. I guess the government needs to wait until the deaths are in their hundreds or even thousands before it sobers up.

The conflicts in Muhoroni, Songhor, Miwani, Chemelil and Nandi- Kipsigis areas are such a replica of the 1992, 1997 and 2007-2008 that we cannot help but recall the political pronouncements of those earlier years preceding the clashes.

Let no politician or government functionary lie to Kenyans that the clashes resulting in seven deaths so far with hundreds of homes reduced to ashes are all about cattle rustling. No, the issue is much bigger.

It is politics and the impending general elections. This fight has clearly followed the many prayer meetings the G7 have been holding in various parts of the country.

The G7 Alliance may have not implicitly told the Luos to fight their neighbors in Songhor and Muhoroni areas. However the fact remains that the G7 message has been clear. They are out to stop Raila Odinga, a Luo from becoming the president of this country. Conversely, they have inadvertently told their followers; the Kalenjins in this case that the Luos who will not vote with G7 are not their friends. In such circumstances, a fight between a Luo and a Kalenjin over a missing cow can easily degenerate into a village or even a communal free for all.

Ordinarily Luos and Kalenjins have been very good neighbors for centuries. Yes, in all those generations, they have lived with cattle theft from time to time. Indeed we have had cattle thieves from both sides of the border. In fact in ordinary circumstances, animals stolen from Luo homesteads are actually the work of Luo thieves in cahoots with their Kipsigis counterparts where they deliver the animals to. That is why ordinarily, when a homestead wakes up in the morning to find the whole herd gone, like my late father once discovered, known village cattle thieves are the first suspects and their thorough beatings always lead to their Kipsigis clients who might have received the animals. Yet, such encounters do not result in deadly skirmishes such as what we have seen in the last three days.

The legendary Lwanda Magere; he of Kano Plains fame was a respected warrior that singlehandedly handled the Kalenjin warriors of his time. He was so invincible and deadly a soldier that the Kalenjins feared confronting him. Folklore says that because they had no way of dealing with him, they finally seduced him with a beautiful Kalenjin woman in the same manner the Philistines did with Samson of the Bible.

Magee’s new Kalenjin bride had one mission; to find out the secret of his strength since their arrows and spears could not pierce through the body of Lwanda the rock.

When finally the woman discovered Lwanda’s weakness, the Kalenjin warriors killed him in battle but the body remained there where he was killed to this day!

This folklore illustrates that Kalenjins and Luos have peacefully coexisted even after several bitter wars.  At the border, both communities speak one another’s language, share common markets and even share food stuff during droughts.
In fact this animosity was never heard of for generations until 1992 when known politicians saw the return of multiparty politics as a Luo- Kikuyu- Luhya affair to remove them from power. It is the reason ethnic clashes were rampant in common borders between Luos and Kalenjins, Kalenjins and Luhyas and in Kikuyu settlement areas within the Rift Valley.

Having gone through all this painful period, set up a TJRC to dig up past injustices and the National Integration and Reconciliation Commission to reconcile us following the year of shame, can we allow these destructive skirmishes to flare up on the eve of another general election when the memories of the 2008 are still so fresh in our minds? Are we saying that we are so immune to the consequences of another internal displacement of our own people when The Hague trials have not even started?

These senseless killings are not unique to Luos and and Kalenjins. If the Pokots and Turkanas are not at war, there are killings in Isiolo and Moyale. If the Al Shabaabs are not terrorizing Garissa and Wajir towns, Masais and Kisiis are fighting in Kilgoris. This kind of lawlessness can only thrive in a country without internal security. In should not happen in Kenya.