Friday, February 1, 2008

Talking Points - 2/01/2008

The post-election crisis in Kenya:
Talking Points for Friends

Patrick J. Nugent
Member, West Richmond Monthly Meeting of Friends
1st of Second Month 2008

These talking points are provided for those who are asked, “Why is this happening?” They do not answer the question “What is happening?” or summarize the train of events in Kenya. Rather they outline the patterns the events have followed and some widely-identified root causes. It is hoped that they will supplement reporting in the mass-media with some perspectives that are difficult to capture in briefer radio and television news reports.

Summary: Talking Points

1. The “tribes” referred to in the news as being in conflict are ethnic groups who are differentiated by the differing languages they speak (though they generally have Swahili and English in common) and by related differences in culture and custom. “Tribe” means nothing more than “ethnicity.” Kenya has numerous ethnic groups and sub-groups, with a diverse population that has been distributed heterogenously throughout the country, particularly in urban areas.

2. Kenya has around 50 ethnic groups. The ones most involved in the current conflict are the Kikuyu (Mwai Kibaki’s community), the Luo (opposition leader Raila Odinga’s group), the Kalenjin (the group of former president Daniel arap Moi, who left office peacefully in 2002), and the Luhya (to which most Quakers belong).

3. Kenya is fairly well-developed African nation with a comparatively high degree of education, a robust economy, and developing traditions of democracy (which have not been without setbacks). However, the fruits of that economy are not as widely and deeply shared as they might be, and the rates of poverty and unemployment are high, especially among young adults. The HIV/AIDS crisis is serious, but not nearly as severe as in southern Africa.

4. The chief causes of the violence are extreme poverty, lack of opportunity, hunger for arable land, and historical resentments arising from the perception that some communities enjoy privilege and advantage while others are economically and politically disenfranchised.

5. The incumbent president’s Kikuyu community is often thought to have profited disproportionately from economic and political power, and land ownership, since independence in 1963, and the opposition leader’s Luo community is often thought to have lagged far behind.

6. The fact remains that most of the wealth of Kenya is concentrated in a very few hands, that the income gap between poor and rich is greater than in most other countries of the world, and that the vast majority of Kenyans of all ethnic groups live in poverty.

7. Most of the early violence seemed to be spontaneous, being carried out by mobs of young, unemployed or under-employed men, armed with crude weapons, intent on destroying property and driving out members of rival communities. These young men see very little future for themselves and feel that the election was stolen by the president, thereby depriving them of the possibility of economic improvement.
Yet there is growing evidence that the violence is not spontaneous, but centrally-instigated, controlled, and planned by political figures at all ranks.

8. Until the last week of January, the majority of deaths were inflicted by the poorly-prepared, poorly-trained, poorly-equipped, poorly-paid, multi-ethnic police force. More recently the roaming gangs of youths have been killing in greater numbers. But it is irresponsible to use the term “genocide” to describe the violence. “Ethnic cleansing,” in the strict sense of creating ethnically homogenous zones by killing or displacement, may be more accurate.

9. The immediate occasion for the violence is that the December 27, 2007, presidential election—widely hailed as free, fair, and rigorous in the execution—was skewed in the central tallying. The head of the election commission admitted that he was pressured to announce results long before the tallying was ready. The margin was razor-thin, the constitutional requirements for declaring victory were complex, and when the incumbent president (Kibaki) was controversially pronounced the winner, he was sworn in behind closed doors within the hour. The opposition candidate (Odinga) then declared the election stolen.

10. The post-election violence has led to widespread displacement of one ethnic group by another, creating a humanitarian crisis of refugees or IDPs (internally displaced people), numbering at least 300,000 [UN and Red Cross]. Kenyan Quakers began responding right away by providing shelter, food, and supplies to displaced families regardless of their ethnicity, sometimes at risk of their own lives. At the same time, some Quakers living in ethnically-mixed areas have been victimized. All major ethnic groups have been suffering from displacement in places where they constituted an ethnic minority (for example, Kikuyu have been displaced around Eldoret where there is a Kalenjin majority, while Luos and Luhyas have been displaced around Naivasha where there is a Kikuyu majority).

Analysis: Some Questions and Answers

• Is this tribal violence? Is tribe rising up against tribe?

Yes, and no. Many observers use the word “ethnicity” and avoid the word tribe, as it has a pejorative connotation, suggesting Africans are somehow “uncivilized,” or organized and motivated—and divided—differently from Europeans or Asians.

o The Kikuyu tribe is distinguished from, say, the Luo tribe, by the same thing that distinguishes the German tribe from the French tribe: namely, language. If we refer to the conflict as an ethnic conflict, a conflict between different ethnic groups or communities, we begin to see its similarity to the murderous conflicts between French and Germans in the early and middle 20th century, the Serbs and Croats later in the century, or black and white Americans for the last four centuries.
o Even as the violence escalates and deepens, the perpetrators of the violence are young, hungry, un-employed or under-employed men: some of them wear uniforms and are called police, and others are not thus uniformed and salaried and are called mobs. However, there are many instances of mixed marriages, and of families of the ethnic majority in an area sheltering and assisting those in the ethnic minority who are under attack.

 The looting, burning of property and businesses, and expulsion of families from towns and villages are all being carried out by fairly small groups of crudely-armed young men; however, in Eldoret (Kalenjin majority) and Naivasha (Kikuyu majority) there is speculation that these gangs are more organized.
 Notably, some members of the majority ethnic group in any given area are sheltering and hiding members of the minority ethnic group, often at great risk to their own lives. There are cases of Kikuyus sheltering Luos, and of Luos sheltering Kikuyus, depending on the area.

o Most Kenyan Quakers are Luhya, residing in Western Kenya and urban areas; many Quakers are assisting with humanitarian efforts to assist the displaced of any ethnicity (usually Kikuyu) at makeshift, local refugee camps. Kenyan Friends are even sheltering and hiding members of the minority ethnic group in their homes, again at great risk to their own families’ safety.

• What are IDPs? Who are they?

o IDPs are “internally displaced people”, or people who have been made refugees (forced to flee their homes) within their own nation.
o The number of IDPs continues to grow, and has now surpassed 300,000 according to UN and Red Cross figures.
o Displacement is affecting all ethnic groups—whichever is a minority in areas of unrest.
o See UN and Red Cross figures on the Kenya News blog. Reuters AlertNet is a good website for accessing current data on IDPs and the camps where they are staying.

• What exactly are “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing”? Is either happening in Kenya?

o “Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction of an ethnic, racial, religious or national group. While precise definition varies among genocide scholars, the legal definition is found in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG). Article 2 of the CPPCG defines genocide as ‘any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.’” (Wikipedia)
o “Ethnic cleansing refers to various policies or practices aimed at the displacement of an ethnic group from a particular territory in order to create a supposedly ethnically ‘pure’ society.” (Wikipedia) There are indications that this is indeed occurring in Kenya, as over 300,000 people have been displaced and are “migrating to ancestral lands,” creating “ethnically homogenous zones,” according to numerous news reports.
o In Kenya, at least up to this point (late January 2008), the gangs of armed youths have been intent upon destroying property and driving out members of ethnic groups who have migrated or settled. They have not generally been intent upon killing all members of the minority group.
o Following her visit to Kenya last week, Jendayi Frazer, a high-ranking US State Department official, has referred to the displacement of hundreds of thousands in Kenya “ethnic cleansing”; other US officials have clarified that this was not an official US position but Ms Frazer’s personal opinion. Others, including Alfred Mutua a Kenya government official, have used this term.
o By the third week of January, the large majority of deaths were attributable to the police. However, as violence takes its toll on the human spirit, the anger may deepen to hatred and the mobs look as though they are turning directly to murder.
o The UN Security Council and the African Union have begun this week to voice concern that Kenya is moving toward genocide and related atrocities. Genocide is usually rooted in deeply-held, persistent hatreds. Genocide is the organized killing of as many members as possible of one ethnic group by members of another, simply because of their ethnicity. People of diverse ethnic backgrounds have lived peacefully side-by-side for decades in the post-colonial area, particularly in urban areas, in “ethnically heterogenous zones.” Kenya is not experiencing genocide. At least not yet.

• Is this a spontaneous outbreak of uncontrolled, primal violence? No.

o There is a great deal of evidence that the mobs set about their work at the behest of mid- and high-level politicians with the aid of local politicians and local elders, and in some cases even the police.
o In the Kenya news, and occasionally in Western news, pleas from members of all ethnic groups suggest that the majority of members of the affected groups have no interest in pursuing the violence and that peace-loving people are being victimized.
o At the same time, the results of the election tally have tapped into deep historical resentments which have been welling up for decades as serious problems of economic disparities and land distribution have gone unresolved.
o The situation is a testimony to the fact that poverty generates despair, despair generates anger, humiliation likewise generates anger, anger over time generates resentment, and resentment generates violence.

• Who is attacking whom? What are the parties involved?

Five major ethnic groups are involved in the violence: Kikuyu and Kisii; and Luo, Kalenjin, and Luhya.
o The Kamba may also be involved in some mixed areas, as Kilonzo who was appointed Vice President is a Kamba.
o There are around fifty ethnic groups in Kenya. None forms a majority. (See BBC link below for excellent maps and information on ethnic distribution as of 2007). Some are fairly closely related (think of the similarities between Italian and Spanish), others distantly (like the relationship between Russian, English, German, French, and Hindi), and others not at all (as Turkish, French, Navajo, and Japanese are all quite distinct).
o The incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki, belongs to the Kikuyu community, Kenya’s largest. The Kikuyu heartland lies in central Kenya, and extends to the cities of Nairobi, Naivasha, and Nakuru.
o The opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, belongs to the Luo community, the second- (or, by some reckonings, third-) largest community. The Luo heartland lies in southwestern Kenya, around Lake Victoria and the city of Kisumu. Large numbers of Luo live in Nairobi, especially the giant Kibera slum, which is Odinga’s parliamentary district.
o The Kisii are often mentioned in reports: their heartland lies in the extreme southwest of Kenya, south of Lake Victoria, adjacent to areas that have either a Luo or Kalenjin majority. They are (wrongly) thought by some to be allied as a bloc with the Kikuyu and President Kibaki. In places where they are an ethnic minority many have been expelled from their homes.
o More recently, the Kalenjin have become involved: their heartland is in the Rift Valley Province, including the city of Eldoret but extending far south and north of there. This is the ethnic group of the former president Daniel arap Moi, and they are closely allied with the opposition in this situation.

• Where is the violence happening?

Violence has been most intense where Luo and Kikuyu have settled together outside their traditional heartlands.

o Large numbers of Luo have migrated over the years into areas dominated by the Kikuyu, the Kalenjin, the Luhya, and other communities.
o Large numbers of Kikuyu have migrated and settled everywhere in the country, as they have been extremely successful at small business and shopkeeping, as well as dominating ownership and operation of the public transport vehicles (which are privately, not publicly, owned).
o In Nairobi, all the ethnic groups of Kenya live and work together. Some of the most intense fighting has been in the Kibera slum, dominated by Luos, where violent demonstrations were met by violent reaction from the police, who responded by sealing off the slum, creating unbearable conditions of hunger and bad sanitation.
o After the election, groups of Luo youth began attacking Kikuyus in areas where they live together in great numbers—Nairobi and Eldoret.
o At the same time, Luo gangs in Kisumu, where there is only a small Kikuyu community, have attacked and looted businesses in their own city, often aided, according to many reports, by the police.
o In Eldoret, Kalenjins are the majority and groups attacked Kikuyu businesses and vehicles and began driving Kikuyus out.
o More recently, groups of Kalenjin youth around Eldoret began targeting Luhyas and Luos who had settled in the town and in farmland for some distance around, forcing them to flee.
o In between those two cities of Kisumu and Eldoret lies a province dominated by the Luhya. (Most Kenyan Quakers, about 80%, are Luhya.)
o In Kakamega and some other majority Luhya towns, Luhyas together with Luos and Kalenjins in the first weeks of the violence were rooting out and expelling minority Kikuyus. However, in some other majority Luhya areas, the youth refused to join with others in expelling the Kikuyu minority (such as in Webuye, near Lugulu Hospital).
o In the Kikuyu-dominated cities of Nakuru and Naivasha, gangs of Kikuyu youth have taken to revenge attacks on Luos, Luhyas, and Kalenjins who have settled there.

• Are they fighting about tribe, language, and culture?

No. They are fighting about economics: jobs, land, food, poverty and wealth distribution, political opportunity, and privilege. The superficial manifestations are ethnic, as each group has had its unique history of settlement and development, and some groups have profited more than others.

Three remarks from a recent BBC report encapsulate the conflict well (BBC analysis 1/28/2008).

o “...the root cause of some of the violence is hunger for fertile land.” Only 20% of Kenya’s land is arable, and 80% of the population lives on that land. Population growth, land consolidation by the wealthy, and migration (to seek new land or employment) have exerted nearly-unbearable pressure on the small supply of fertile land.

o “Displacement [of certain ethnic groups by others, following the colonial era] - or more accurately the historic resentment that politicians can extract from it - is part of the root of today's violence.” Different ethnic groups were treated differently by the British colonial authorities, and those differences continue to be remembered and felt. In particular, the Kikuyu are thought to have benefited more from Kenya’s economic growth and from business opportunities than other communities, although the vast majority of Kikuyu still live in poverty. Conversely, the Luos are thought to have trailed far behind the Kikuyu, and everyone else, and often attribute this to their political disenfranchisement.

o “Focussing on the Kikuyu is easy, … but it’s really about deep, long-running income inequalities in Kenya--and a rapidly growing population which sees land ownership as a means of survival.” The Kenyan economy has been dynamic and growing, but the vast majority of the wealth is concentrated in a very few hands—not only Kikuyu, but Asian, European, and African. Ironically, the opposition leader, Odinga, is a fabulously wealthy, European-educated businessman, a part of the same fiscal oligarchy which his people are attacking, for which the Kikuyu serve as a symbol—much as the Jews served as a symbol of European economic resentment in the 20s.

o Almost exclusively, it is unemployed, disempowered, angry young men who are turning to violence—an acute symbol of the gross inequality of wealth, the alienation of youth, and the impossible economic circumstances faced by most young men and their families—of any ethnic group.

• Is the opposition leader that powerful, that he can inspire such violence?

Yes—but the poverty in which most Kenyans live is likewise that powerful that it can inspire such violence.
o Recent economic growth has made Kenya the commercial hub of East Africa, but most Kenyans remain impoverished.
o The income gap in Kenya is one of the largest in the world.
o The World Bank rates Kenya as the 17th poorest nation in the world (1996).
o In 2001, the per capita income was 59 cents per day.
o The wealthiest 10% of Kenyans control about 40% of the wealth.
o 40% of Kenyans are unemployed, 50% live in poverty.
o One third of rural households are headed by women. These households have double the rate of extreme poverty compared to households headed by men.
o Paradoxically, during his many years of political activity including being a member of parliament and a government minister, Raila Odinga, self-declared champion of the poor, has achieved phenomenal wealth (like all other politicians in Kenya); but he has achieved very little for the people he represents either in his urban constituency (Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, home to one million people), or his home rural province (Nyanza, one of the poorest in Kenya, with the highest rates of HIV/AIDS).
o The Kenyan Quaker leader Oliver Kisaka articulated the point well: because of their extreme poverty and disenfranchisement, most Kenyans were not looking for a president, they were looking for a savior. The depth of violence is a tribute to the fact that they did not get the savior they hoped for.
o There are many excellent online resources to learn more about the economy of Kenya. For more detailed statistics, see resources listed below.

• Are there any signs of hope?

Yes, but you have to look to find them.

o Reports from Kenyan Quakers and others are filled with stories of families from one ethnic group sheltering refugee families from a hunted group, at the risk of their lives. These events are happening among all ethnic groups. Members of both Kikuyu and Luo communities have been harshly critical of their own leaders for sacrificing the lives of ordinary citizens for the sake of their own political advantage.
o During some of the worst fighting in January, Kenyan Quakers met in Kakamega for a national peace conference to begin to strategize for peacebuilding, reconciliation, and trauma healing.
o Hezron Masitsa, Kenyan Quaker and peacemaker, was interviewed by the Christian Science Monitor about his work in expanding the Alternatives to Violence Project initially sponsored in East Africa by African Great Lakes Initiative and supported by Friends United Meeting projects.
o Right Sharing of World Resources has ongoing income-generating projects for small groups of Kenyans, to enable them to gain greater financial and food security.
o Links to all these organizations can be found on the Kenya News blog online (see URL below).

• What role are the Quakers playing?

Friends in Kenya have responded by officially re-affirming and re-invigorating our traditional testimony that the use of violence has no place in the kingdom of God or in the life of a Christian.

o Kenyan Quakers held a National Peace Conference from January 24 to 27, 2008, in Kakamega, to discuss the unfolding situation and begin to strategize a way forward for peacebuilding, reconciliation, and healing.
o Kenyan and American Quakers are co-operating together to intensify local training efforts in conflict resolution and prevention (through Alterntatives to Violence Project trainings).
o The Peace Conference centered seven themes of peacemaking, the root causes of the violence in this crisis, and a constructive Christian response.
o From the very beginning, violence was taking place in areas where Quakers live—the territory between Kisumu and Eldoret, and urban communities in Nairobi—and Quakers were sheltering refugees in their homes, schools, and meetinghouses, organizing relief supplies and food for displaced persons, and seeking constructive solutions.

About the author:
Patrick J. Nugent is a Quaker minister currently living in Cincinnati, OH, and working at the Cincinnati Museum Center. He is a member of West Richmond (IN) Friends Meeting and an attender at Eastern Hills (OH) Friends Meeting. From 2002 to 2007, he and his wife, Mary Kay Rehard, served in leadership at Friends Theological College, Kaimosi Kenya. Previously Patrick was a professor in the Department of Religion at Earlham College, Richmond, IN, and founder of the Newlin Center for Quaker Thought and Practice.

The foregoing analysis and talking points rely heavily on excellent sources of reporting—both international media and Friends and others on the ground in Kenya. Special thanks are due to careful reporting, as much as possible, by the BBC (especially Adam Mynott), Reuters, National Public Radio, and, not to mention Kenya’s two daily newspapers, the Daily Nation and the Standard. Special thanks are also due to individual expatriate Quakers who live and work in Kenya and are accompanying Kenyans in the current sufferings: Eden Grace, David Zarembka, Jody and Ben Richmond, Bob and Hope Carter. Kenyans who are trying to be voices of reason and forces for peacemaking as well as sharing valuable information deserve special gratitude and prayers: Getry Agiza, Malesi Kinaro, Gladys Zarembka, Hezron Masitsa, Angeline Savala, Donald Thomas.

Disclaimer: These talking points and analysis have been hastily prepared by a single author, in order to give Friends Churches and Quaker meetings a starting point for discussion, writing editorials and letters to elected officials, and speaking to the media. The author is not an expert in international affairs and this is not a definitive, academic document, though some statistics and references have been provided. Readers should read and think critically about this document and the current situation in Kenya, exploring online and other resources to learn more. These talking points do not necessarily reflect the views or official positions of any of the Quaker organizations or media agencies mentioned.

A Quaker weblog has been created, Kenya News: Supporting Quaker Service and Ministry in East Africa – Learn – Pray – Share, with links to many online resources:

Other online resources (some of which are cited above):

Chronology of events (a timeline on the post-election crisis) on the Kenya News blog from Reuters (link is in the Welcome on the right sidebar).

Kenya country profiles on the Kenya News blog from many sources outline the geography, history, culture, economy and ethnic composition of the population.

For ethnicity in Kenya:
• see U Penn’s East Africa Living Encyclopedia (
• See also the BBC analysis and early articles with maps of ethnicity in Kenya.

For the economy:
• see ELCA (Lutheran church) website (
• see World Bank figures on ( and (
• see Earthtrends (
• see CIA World Factbook
• Rural poverty: (

On ethnic cleansing and genocide concerns:
• See Reuters, AP, and New York times reports posted on the Kenya News blog.
• For Kenya government spokesman Alfred Mutua’s comment on “ethnic cleansing,” see Agence France Presse: "The government of Kenya welcomes any support that will help unravel who was behind the ethnic cleansing that we have witnessed," Mutua told AFP.

Full story from AFP

View links on the right sidebar of the Kenya News blog for media and other news sources, and links to Quaker organizations working in East Africa.

To request a speaker on Kenya for your monthly, quarterly, or yearly meeting, contact Terri Johns at Friends United Meeting, Global Ministries at (765) 962-7573 or by email: terrij – at –

To receive special updates on the situation in Kenya, contact Terri Johns (above) or if you have feedback, questions or concerns about these talking points, contact Patrick Nugent and Mary Kay Rehard: nugent.rehard – at –

Be blessed, Barikiwe.


Max II said...

I'm not clear what you might mean when you say ethinic factions (actually I think you use the word groups and not factions). You point to language as a the barrier, or dividing but also say everyone more or less share Swahili and English and a common Kenyan culture.
I just wonder what other factors are underlying what appears to be tribalism. In other words, what other things differentiate the major antagonists in this conflict?

Anonymous said...

Well unknowing 'wazungu' this is the truth (I think!)(as a neutral who is a Chartered Accountant and holda Masters Degree in Business)

1)At independence there was a coalition of tribes who negotiated with the British. As soon as Kenyatta (a Kikuyu) took over the Presidency he effectively sidelined ALL the rest and the 'primitive' Kalenjin/Masai's land in Rift Valley was allocated to his kikuyu tribesmen (including a settlement as far as Lamu at the Coast) His cronies in the meantime ended up owning large tracts of Central Province of The Kikuyu.

2)40% of the GDP,jobs,capital,education etc is in and around the capital Nairobi. And the Kikuyus have had a disproportionate first bite at this cherry ever since independence due to their geographic and demographic proximity to Nairobi.

3)Then came Moi who OVER 24 YEARS slowly infiltrated his tribesmen and other Kenyans into earlier Kenyatta regime Kikuyu dominated Civil Service,Army,Police,PCs and DCs etc.(over 24 years so as not to create enmity with the Kikuyu) His arrangement for harmony was simple - the Kikuyu has a full run of the commerce of the city of Nairobi and the rest of the tribes were 'eating' ambassdorships,PS positions,civil service etc.

3)Then he was overthrown by the ballot box by a grouping of tribes aginst his Kalenjin hegemony. Raila and Kibaki were the leaders. Kibaki took over as President and promptly reverted to the Kenyatta style of Kikuyu rule over the rest of the tribes including Army,Civil service,Ambassodorial.PCs and DCs appointments etc in barely 3 YEARS he sent all of Moi' Kalenjin packing. Not only that to add insult to injury,the Kikuyu in the lands office now started saying all the dregs of the Rift Valley land that Moi had issued as settlements to the Kalenjin population were null and void.

As a sub plot the sub tribe of the Luhya (the Bukusu) and the Kisii were enticed (and horse traded various positions in the Kibaki regime that gave it the guise of a GNU - 'government of national unity'. In effect these 3 were eating as the rest of the 40 or so tribes watched. Waiting patiently for the next election ie 2007.
4)The election came and the Kikuyus cheated clearly (they could not cheat parliamentary votes as each candidate was checking his votes in the counting halls but by a miracle the presidential votes cast in 'late constituencies' far exceeded the parliamentary votes (ie there were voters who came into the polling booths only to vote for the presidential candidates !!) This was of course the 'tally' rigging and cooking at the KICC headquarters by the Kibaki appointed ECK commissioners - Raiji,Kigano and Co. This was all pre planned right upto the dais at State House.

5)The poor,oppressed,salt of the earth saw red and chased every Kikuyu,Bukusu and Kisii out of their area as these 3 had gaged up again.

6)Proof - the Foreign Ministry given to a Bukusu Wetangual and the key Education ministry (scholarships and all) to a Kisii. They intend to continue this colonisation over the rest of Kenya.

But this time the rest were not going to take it lying down (and thinking of England). They threw these rigging devils who had partnered into one mass, into fire!!

Friends for Peace in Kenya said...

From the moderator of this blog: This most recent coment is anonymous, very angry and amounts to hate speech. This is disturbing, coming from a self-identified supposedly "well-educated," urban, professional Kenyan. Unfortunately, this is the kind of bias and vengeful attitude that has fueled so much of the recent violence in Kenya.

Friends for Peace in Kenya said...

From the moderator of this blog:
In response to the first comment by Max, read some of the other posts on the site to get a better understanding of the ethnic diversity and complexity of Kenya. On the right sidebar are numerous Kenya country profiles. The BBC provided excellent maps of ethnic distribution (now completely changed by the mass exodus of a half million people from their homes). See the Resources to Use with Talking Points, good Q&A from BBC and Guardian.

In a nutshell, Kenya's ethnicities are mostly defined by language. English and Swahili are spoken in public life, but each person is identified by the ethnicity of his/her father in Kenya (even if the mother is from another 'tribe' or ethnic group). So Kenyans are multi-lingual, speaking a minimum of three and often four or more languages--mother tonges, along with Swahili and English.

Economics--unemployment, poverty and land-hunger--is the driving force behind "tribalism," with the desire for power and craving for wealth causing politicians to manipulate the ethnic allegiance of citizens who share their ethnic background. Politicians make absurd promises to uneducated, umemployed "followers" who share their ethnicity, and these followers believe that they will be granted favors, or at least a better life--more than a dollar a day, a way to educate their children, the means to handle health problems.

Ethnicity is less prevalent now in US politics because there are a number of ways to acquire wealth and power; in Kenya, the principal way to secure power and wealth is through politics, with all the corruption and favoritism--nepotism in hiring and appointments, kickbacks and land-grabbing, graft--that historically goes along with being elected to public office in Kenya.

It's not to say that Kenyans are more greedy by nature than Americans--not at all. But greed is more prevalent in politics in Kenya, leading to a situation where Kenyans themselves say, "We have no true statesmen." What Kenya needs is a bright young leader to put the needs of the many before their own desire for power and wealth. Unfortunately most of the likely persons of that calibre have sought higher education abroad and are now gainfully employed in professions, sending support to their families at home in Kenya, rather than pursuing a career in politics in Kenya.