The Kalenjin people dominate the world of long-distance running. The Kalenjin are Nilotic people who are traditionally pastoralists. They keep cattle and run after them in the highlands. Some say it was the environment, coupled with the food and upbringing, which made them natural runners.
The Kipsigis are one of a number of Kalenjin sub-clans living in Rift Valley Province; others include the Tugen (former President Moi's community), Nandi, Pokot, Marakwet, Keiyo, Sabaot, Endorois, Njemps and Ogiek.) The shedding of human blood is a taboo in the Kalenjin community. Juxtaposed with this taboo, however, is a strong traditional warrior culture.
Male circumcision and coming-of-age ceremonies, which usually take place in December, emphasize the importance of having the skills and strength to defend one's family and community from hostile outsiders. As an introverted people who dislike bargaining, the Kalenjin are at a disadvantage in a competitive world. Most of them are farmers, he said, and are vulnerable to economic exploitation when selling their produce to other communities. This exploitation can create additional resentment towards "outsiders" with whom the Kalenjin must do business.
After independence in 1963, Jomo Kenyatta and his mainly Kikuyu inner circle steadily plundered the country, ensuring that their fellow Kikuyus and closely related Meru and Embu groups, together comprising some 28% of Kenya’s people, acquired an ever-larger slice of the land. After his death in 1978, his successor, Daniel arap Moi, who hailed from the much smaller Kalenjin-speaking group of tribes, reckoned it was their turn to eat. The pattern of Kikuyu dominance over Kenyan politics was altered in 1978 when Moi, a member of the Kalenjin minority, became president. Under President Moi, Kalenjins were overrepresented in the senior ranks of the military, and to a lesser extent, the police forces.
Moi made determined efforts to reduce manifestations of ethnic politics at the national level. A complex of wealthy businessmen, large landholders, and high government officials formed a community of interests that largely transcended ethnic factors. Popular discontent and demands emanating from the educated middle class, the unemployed, and the rural poor were not perceived as ethnic issues. In any event, many of the ethnic categories lack cultural homogeneity, and some are largely artificial combinations of smaller groups.
Eventually, in 2002, in what looked like a pan-ethnic revolt against Mr Moi’s lot, Mr Kibaki, another Kikuyu, won a multiparty election amid hopes that Kenya would at last have a decent, reasonably clean administration in which merit rather than tribe would be the way to advancement.
When President Kibaki first came to power in 2003, one of his first actions was to fire a number of high-ranking military officers (many of whom were close to retirement), as well as some police officers from the senior and mid-levels of the security forces. Some of these ex-officers, having returned to Rift Valley, remain extremely bitter about the circumstances under which they left the security forces.
Tension and mistrust between communities, particularly the Kalenjin and Kikuyu communities, still exists. The youth leaders accused the provincial administration hierarchy of ethnic bias in favor of the Kikuyu community, noting that all the MPs and the District Commissioner in Molo district, which was heavily affected by post-election violence, are Kikuyu and were not objective in keeping the peace between the communities. They said that Kikuyus have "taken over the Kenyan economy," leaving no room for other communities to succeed in business. In pursuing their tribal agenda at the expense of others, the activists said, the Kikuyus had "sowed the seeds of hatred toward their community."
Unresolved land rights issues are the biggest source of conflict in Rift Valley, and due to "historical injustices," the Kalenjin were driven out of their traditional homelands. The Keiyo went east, the Nandi west, and the Marakwet and Pokot north to very marginal rugged terrain. One community leader said "What hurts, is the attitude of the (Kikuyu) people occupying the land, who ignore and condescend to us, the original owners."
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|