Friday, February 22, 2008


What Happened While Kenya Dropped Off the Radar of the International News

The last number of weeks have been fairly quiet. I’ve been able to go back to life as almost-normal – using matatus to get around, not insisting to myself that I get home before dark, visiting friends, etc. But of course, it has not been the quiet of peace – it has been the quiet of a whole nation holding their breaths, waiting to see what will come of the Annan-led negotiations/mediations.

In the meantime, Kenya was on the move. Not ‘on the move’ in the sense of getting ahead. ‘On the move’ in the sense of everyone literally packing up and moving to ‘safe’ places. Throughout Nairobi, people switched neighborhoods for fear of being attacked or burnt for living in the ‘wrong’ part of town. Across the nation, people made their way “back to their ancestral homes” – a way to describe moving back to the part of Kenya that historically held the primary tribe you are identified with, moving away from the land you may have bought a few years ago or which your grandfather may have been relocated to when he came out of the forest after independence, whose original land was taken away already - divvied up in the immediate spoils of post-independence freedom.

While this was happening, militia have been solidifying their positions of authority in the rural areas and in the slums of the cities. It is the prevalence of these militia that I find particularly frightening, and where a lot of the potential for future violence lies.

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