Wednesday, 11 May 2011


Kenya is a multiethnic country with about 42 ethnic groups. For some time now, we have not been able to successfully manage this cultural diversity and take advantage of our vast differences. The infamous post election violence that took place in Kenya in 2007 led to widespread hatred and animosity between ethnic groups which were otherwise living in peace and harmony. This civil unrest led to among other things internal displacement of persons. It was the first time I heard the term IDP (Internally Displaced Person) and now it has become a household name. Three years down the line, some of IDP’s are still languishing in the make shift camps.
Religious groups, political leaders, corporate C.E.O’s and the government through National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) undertook an intensive campaign to reconcile various ethnic communities. The reconciliation programme seemed to be successful since some of the affected persons were able to return to the places they used to stay without any problem from the neighbours. They made peace with their neighbours who once turned hostile towards them.
Unfortunately, the IDPs who are yet to be resettled have experienced strong resistance from the ethnic groups in places in which they were going to be resettled. The government at first was in a process of buying land in Ole tipis (southern Kenya) which is largely dominated by the Masaai ethnic group. The Masaai refused the idea of IDPs being settled there. They went ahead to protest that decision by staging a demonstration on the roads of Narok town. Meanwhile, they had no logical reason for rejecting the resettlement. All they said was that was their land but if anything the land was going to be paid for! In a surprising twist of events it was sad to note that some of leaders from that region also supported the residents’ idea which further made the resettlement program much difficult. The government had no option but to abandon the resettlement programme and look for alternative land for them. After a couple of weeks, the government identified another piece of land in Kitale, Trans-Nzoia District in the Western part of Kenya to resettle the IDPs. The region is widely occupied by the Luhya ethnic group The IDPs were glad to finally have found a place to call home and they were ferried to that place just to wait for individual land allocation. On their first night on the “promised land” they received threats from the community. Just like the first incident, some of area leaders echoed the sentiments of the residents. Once again, they were not welcomed but the matter is still pending.
This is a worrying situation; being rejected everywhere you go. This begs the question: did reconciliation really take place? People are just pretending to have forgiven each other but deep down their hearts there is much hatred. IDPs are human beings too who deserve a decent life and should not be treated as if they are some filthy animals. It does not feel right when one sleeps out in the cold despite of his/her ethnic group. Today it may be your neighbour but tomorrow it might be you who receives the harsh treatment. It is high time we change our attitude and commit ourselves towards sincere reconciliation.