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Intolerance in Kenya

From the Global Education
Partnership in Kenya, here are some
students' efforts to report on what is
happening there now. Many Kenyan
students have posted their
suggestions for ending intolerance in
their country. Special thanks to
coordinator, Jacqueline Jumbe and
her students for contributing.

[ Student Drawing ]

Fighting has been caused by different things which have lead to various problems. For example, because of fighting, many people have ended up losing their families and some have nowhere to live, since their houses have been burnt. Some of these causes are as follows:

Political Reasons

This cause refers to the formation of different political parties; hence, there has risen indifference among the leaders -- that is, they can not agree on one thing. For example, here in Kenya we have parties like K.A.N.U. and Ford Kenya. In politics, every leader will be supporting his own party.


We have various tribes in Kenya. These include: Kikuyu, Kalenj in Taita's Luo's Luhya, and others. With all these tribes, each one would like to be the leader of another, and conflicts begin.

Population Pressure

Because of high population, job satisfaction has become a problem; hence, some people have nowhere to live and they go to the extreme of taking other people's land and then they start to fight each other.


Some people are very rich, while others are poor. Thus, the rich start oppressing the poor and they start fighting. In this case, we also have some people going without food for several nights; so, in order for the poor to get something to eat, they have to use force and they start the fighting.

In order for people to live in peace, they should form only one party so that, in case they want to agree on something, it is for all people.

[ Map of Kenya ]

Ideas for Solutions

Cross-culture is another issue which should be put into consideration. That is, people should be free to mix with others, despite their customs and beliefs. They should also know that socialization creates more understanding of different tribes and then they will realise that there is no difference; only tribes differ, but all people are human beings.

Another solution is through the creation of more employment vacancies so that the number of people lingering around is reduced. Through this measure, many people will be able to satisfy their needs, thus ending up buying food for themselves.

- Lucina Wavua

Over the past few years Kenya has been experiencing different forms of intolerance, the major being tribal clashes. The first tribal clashes occurred in 1992 in the Rift Valley province around the Molo regions between the Luo's and the Kikuyu's. Ever since, these two tribes have been disputing. In 1997, the Mijikenda on the coast decided that all "non-people" should go. Many people were slain in Likoni and hundreds were displaced. Now the clashes have moved back to Molo areas, and they have spread since the beginning of the year.

Various reasons have been contributed to these clashes between different ethnic groups. Political reasons may be the major cause. Initially, the Kikuyu people fought other communities because they felt that, since they had a major part in fighting for independence, they should be given the opportunity to lead the nation.

In other cases, political leaders are believed to be inciting the people into fighting one another. For example, in the recent clashes in Moo, a strong debate is going on whether the presidential aspirant, Mr. Kibaki, is behind the clashes, after losing the 1997 election to President Moi. The Mombasa-Likoni clashes are believed to have been started by the governing party K.A.N.U., although no proof has been found. Social reasons may be another cause of these fights. Before independence, each tribe used to live in its own land, but after independence, things have changed. The Kikuyu tribe is presently found in most of the fertile lands of the country. Other tribes are now feeling threatened by this growing population of Kyu'ks and the only solution they have turned to is to force the Kyu'ks out by fighting and destroying their property.

Lastly, clashes are as a result of economic reasons. Some communities, like the Kyu'k, have grabbed all opportunities available from others, and now that these communities have awakened, they are now demanding what was initially theirs but is now no longer theirs. These opportunities include land and businesses.

The effects of these clashes are many. For one, numerous deaths occur. Hundreds of people are injured, children orphaned, and many people are left without any shelter. Some people are displaced from their homes and lose their property. As a result these people are left bitter and will, in the future, seek revenge. Moreover, political instability sets into the country. This discourages tourists from visiting the nation, leading to economic decline -- and we depend on tourism as a major foreign income.

This trend will be more fatal if areas so affected are also heavily relied upon for agriculture. Development is slow and difficult as investors are afraid to invest in a country which is insecure and unstable.

Kenya is a young and growing country. We cannot have majibolism, as some leaders are suggesting, whereby each province or tribe is on its own; otherwise, we will all suffer the consequences. Areas with low rainfall will lack food; areas with high rainfall, but which are densely populated, will lack farming land and experience food shortages. Areas with no industries will lack job opportunities and essential commodities, and, lastly, resources will not be explored to the fullest due to lack of finance, as well as ignorance and laziness.

Therefore, we need to seek for solutions to this problem. Leaders should solve their differences instead of passing them on to the people. They should emphasize unity among all people. Church leaders should preach harmony between people, of people accepting one another, and accepting their weaknesses. The present government should first ensure action is taken in the event of any clashes -- control their spreading and help the people affected. The government should ensure all persons who are found to disrupt the peace in the country, regardless of their position, should be punished thoroughly.

Unity is strength; we all fought for our independence, and no tribe should thus feel superior over the other. This trend of always craving for leadership should end, and we Kenyans should start a new era of peace.

-Annette Mbogho

Most cases of intolerance fighting occurring in Kenya today have resulted in many cases where people die during these fights in different ethnic groups. In most cases, the people who die are the innocents who have done nothing, while the people who are involved in the fighting have no compromise with the innocent.

In most cases, the likely causes of intolerance between different ethnic groups usually involves people from different ethnic groups. People from different tribes have some misunderstanding with people from other tribes. These misunderstandings occur because of the feeling created between some people; they cannot mix with other people from other tribes, which leads to misunderstanding once they come together. As a result, misunderstanding can lead to fights. Secondly, the issue of leadership is another cause of intolerance; most tribes usually like people from their own tribe to be leaders and when they fail, they might start fighting people who are of the same tribe with the leader. This leads to fighting within these two tribes, leading to people losing their lives.

The formation of different parties has also contributed to this issue of intolerance within the country. In most cases, people who are supporting a certain party are most likely to be from the leader's tribe. These people will tend to encourage others to join that party, and when a person is against them, they might start abusing that person and even abuse the person he or she is supporting. This kind of habit forces somebody to go ahead and inform fellow members about the issue and they will definitely decide to attack the other members of that party.

Surely, this issue of every person wanting to work or stay within his or her own motherland is not good, because in the cases of working, there are some jobs which are not allocated within some places. Regarding my own views, I don't believe in each person staying where she or he was brought up. People should learn how to accept different people and relate and live together peacefully.

- Elizabeth Mwalwala

[ AETI 1998 Table of Contents ]

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