Links and Quotes: It all depends on where you are in Kenya

Business Daily (click for full article)

Whereas calm appears to have returned to the capital, Nairobi, the spectre of brutality and bloodshed continues to eclipse the rest of the country, especially in the violence-stricken areas.

Traffic jams have returned, business on the streets is booming and workers have returned to their workplaces, giving the impression especially to outsiders that all is well.

But this state of affairs only serves as a blinding factor to residents of Nairobi when the areas that are the traditional food baskets to the city are wasting away. Soon, it may be difficult to, for instance, to understand why there are food shortages when the country has returned to calm.

Kenya received a paltry 8,000 tourists instead of an expected 100,000 last month.

The Economist quotes young Luo as saying: “What we are saying is give violence a second chance.” (click for full article)

Across Luoland, from the unlettered to the university-educated, they tell the same tale of woe: that they have been politically and economically maltreated since independence. Provision of electricity and roads is far worse than in Kikuyuland. Many government projects in Nyanza, including cotton- and rice-growing, have failed. It irks Luos that the fish they catch in Lake Victoria are processed by Kikuyus in distant Central Province. A brain drain of able Luos into Kenya’s civil service has dried up. Luos say that a Luo name is sometimes a handicap in getting a job in business. Poverty among Luos has risen, even as Kenya’s economy has grown.

. . . The UN recently chose Kisumu as a “millennium city”, with plans to turn it into a kind of hub. Now many of its streets are gutted and charred. Thousands of jobs have been lost; nearly three-quarters of Kisumu’s people are out of work.

Luo bitterness has deep roots . . .

And from the Middle Class (NYTimes) (click here for full article)

Of all the election-related conflicts that have cracked open in Kenya — Luos versus Kikuyus (two big ethnic groups), The Orange Democratic Movement versus the Party of National Unity (the leading political parties), police versus protesters — none may be more crucial than the struggle between those who seem to have nothing to lose, like the mobs in the slums who burn down their own neighborhoods, and those who are deeply invested in this country’s stability.

The well-established middle class here is thought to be one of the most important factors that separate Kenya from other African countries that have been consumed by ethnic conflict. Millions of Kenyans identify as much with what they do or where they went to college as who their ancestors are. They have overcome ethnic differences, dating between groups and sometimes intermarrying, living in mixed neighborhoods, and sending their children to the best schools they can afford, regardless of who else goes there.

The fighting that rages in the countryside, where men with mud-smeared faces and makeshift weapons are hunting down people of other ethnicities, seems as foreign to many of these white-collar Kenyans as it might to people living thousands of miles away.

. . .

James Shikwati, a Kenyan economist, estimates that of Kenya’s population of approximately 37 million, about four million are in the middle class, making between $2,500 and $40,000 a year. The number of Kenyans enrolled in college has more than doubled in the past 10 years, to more than 100,000.

“There are sizable fortunes in the hands of people of all ethnic backgrounds,” said Richard Leakey, the noted Kenyan paleontologist. “I think the middle class will ultimately prevail on the government authority in one form or the other to just pull itself together and get on with business.”

Warigi takes issue with the Economist article I linked to a couple of days ago. (And probably several others I’ve linked to too. I think his second paragraph is referring to a NYTimes article, but I don’t have time to chase this.)

The simple stuff has a predictable backdrop to it, never mind that it is often full of fiction. As with the newspaper I was reading on the internet, the narrative is always about a well-to-do guy and another from the slums. For some reason the former is always said to be “associated with the regime”, or to be from Central Kenya.

The other, who is always fished out of some place like Kibera, is more often than not made out to be from Nyanza. In one story the “rich” guy was supposedly being interviewed while playing golf at the Windsor Club and sipping some unnamed “iced” drink. I assumed whatever that iced drink was must be damned expensive. As for the other fellow, he got interviewed in a city slum appropriately called Baghdad which I have never heard of.

Stereotypes have their uses, especially when you are in a rush to explain a story quickly and simply. More so if you have to explain such sagas to the homeland of George W. Bush, where things are best kept crisp and brief. A dirty slum crowded with unemployed youths is supposed to smell trouble, especially right now in Kenya.

More on the Land issue

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