Kenya’s Violence – can we really blame the Colonials for this one?

One of the arguments presented for prevailing angst and turmoil in Kenya is the carving up of land by colonials with scant regard for tribal divisions and feuds.

Whilst this may be true in part, the colonial administration was careful to create buffer zones between warring tribes: they designated land for settlement separating tribes that had a history of long running battles. My grandmother lived – twice – and for most of her years in Kenya – on farms developed on these buffer zones. Whilst the colonials mightn’t have understood tribal divisions, they were aware of them.

But Tanzania has a colonial history, just as Kenya does. And here there is very little – almost no – evidence of tribal animosity.  Julius Nyerere, whose politics may have been questionable but were always sincere (he died a poor man), cannily smudged tribal loyalty by encouraging integration; he urged Tanzanians to educate their children in areas far from home: a child born in Dar would go to school in Iringa, one who was raised in Mwanza might be educated in Songea. He also promoted Kiswahili as the national lanuage: tribal dialect is almost never heard. A Tanzanian will describe his heritage in terms of where his home is, not what tribe he is from.

So whilst the colonial administration might have made errors, might have lacked tribal sensitivity, Africa has had in excess of forty years to put things straight – Kenya celebrates 45 years of Uhuru in 2008. If the first post-Independence president of Tanzania managed to unite his people nationally, why haven’t the three Kenyan presidents who have held office since 1963 aspired to do the same?

Sorry. Historical excuses just won’t wash anymore.

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7 Responses to “Kenya’s Violence – can we really blame the Colonials for this one?”

  1. Mzungu Chick Says:

    You kind of answered your own question with “..Julius Nyerere, whose politics may have been questionable but were always sincere (he died a poor man) … ”
    Noticed how rich all our presidents are! Funny that! Think sincere politics only comes second to how much cash you can stash and until that changes I think we may just stay in this sad predicament whoever our President may be.

  2. roberta Says:

    I try to steer clear of most political discussion these days. My complete disenchantment with American politics has left me feeling nieve and useless. However, I find your explainations and your arguments facinating!

  3. Subi Says:

    I still hope for that day when we will ‘overcome love of power with power of love ‘
    Siasa si hasa bali visa na mikasa!
    Key words: Love & Power!

  4. R. Sherman Says:

    Is the problem really that no one know what it means to be “Kenyan?” Stated differently, there is no central philosophy to which all adhere regardless of tribal affiliation, even if that philosophy is not perfectly put into action.

  5. Ian Says:

    I wasn’t aware that anyone was blaming the colonials but i’ll bite…who created this country we called Kenya and what considerations went into it? If that hadn’t happened, wouldn’t the Luo happily have chosen Odinga as their leader and the Kikuyu have done likewise with Kibaki without having to consult each other/share power,resources etc(which, really, is at the root of the current troubles)
    As someone who is (hopefully) well educated, you should know that social/political upheavals rarely happen in a vacuum, there are almost always a reaction to what came before!

  6. Ian Says:

    Oh, and Kenya and Tanzania are two different countries with different histories. You might try and exonerate the colonials from blame by talking about buffer zones and suchlike but it was not their responsibility to do such things and Africa, like Europe should maybe have been allowed to delineate it’s own boundaries! And you seriously think forty years is enough to put a society that has undergone a complete overhaul socially and politically to rights…c’mon, think about it for two minutes. As it were, I think we Kenyans have done quite well recent troubles notwithstanding!

  7. Random African Says:

    You really think Buffer Zones were a good idea ?
    That putting barreers and settlers between people can help integration ? I mean that’s the contrary of what Nyerere encouraged, isn’t it ? Why are you surprised it gives a different result ?

    And there are other historical reasons (related to colonial policies) why Tanzania is more integrated than Kenya. They’re simply not the same place.

    Not that it means that post-colonial policies get a free pass.

    (and I still have to see how turmoil over election rigging is related to anything ethnic)

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