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 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 8-Jan-08
Kenya is almost -- but not quite -- on the brink of genocidal ethnic war

Web Log - January, 2008

Kenya is almost -- but not quite -- on the brink of genocidal ethnic war

There are hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced from their homes, and hundreds killed in ethnic violence in Kenya, according to United Nations estimates. The result is a worsening humanitarian crisis, as shelter, water, food, sanitation and protection are needed for the refugee camps.

These estimates, as well as the horrific church massacre that I described several days ago are definitely signs of an incipient generational crisis war between ethnic groups.

However, as I described, Kenya is just a few years early on the generational timeline for such a crisis war to occur, and so a crisis war is UNLIKELY at this time.

However, it's also quite certain that the nation is teetering on the edge of such a war, and a major "incident" within the next few years could easily push the country over the edge.

Marcy Kadenyeha, human rights activity, Luo tribe, Kenya <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: BBC)</font>
Marcy Kadenyeha, human rights activity, Luo tribe, Kenya (Source: BBC)

Although there are many ethnic groups (tribes) in Kenya, there are two major protagonists in the current violence: the market-dominant Kikuyu tribe, whose leader, Mwai Kibaki, won the Presidential election that triggered the violence; and the disadvantaged Luo tribe, whose political leader, Raila Odinga, was the opposition leader who lost the election to Kibaki.

The ethnic violence was started, according to many sources, by youthful activists in the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), an anti-government Luo ally supporting Odinga for President.

The BBC on Monday ran an interesting interview with a Luo woman describing how the violence started. The reporter started by saying that in her town there had been multi-ethnic living in peace for decades -- since the end of WW II.

The woman being interviewed, Marcy Kadenyeha, is a Luo, and so is a natural ally of ODM, whom she accused of starting the violence:

Marcy: "On the 29th, 2 in the morning, Kikuyus were celebrating while the other people were crying, and people were full of anger, because the majority here in Langata (sp?), the ODM by blood, said it [Kibaki's victory] can't happen like this - [because] we all know that most of the Kenyans voted for Raila [Raila Odinga, the Luo opposition leader who lost the election.]

So while the Kikuyus were celebrating, the other people were very angry and they were, like, going to fight them. It's the people who were living together who feel like they no longer have something in common. ... They were living together like one family, but now it [the Kibaki victory] split them.

Reporter: ODM's message was a poverty message, but Raila began to speak of something called "majimbo." It can mean redistribution of wealth, but on these streets, it meant something more.

Marcy: OK, on the issue of majimbo, Luo is saying that resources should be distributed according to all constituencies, that each constituency is even at home, all produce they should get equal shares.

But now, the people who are here, they said they want to start the "local majimbo." And what they meant by "local majimbo" is that if you are a Luo, you join the other tribes, but never should you make a mistake of joining Kamba and Kikuyus."

I apologize for the poor transcript; I got as much as I could understand. Note: "Majimbo" is a Swahili word for self-rule, and resistance to Kikuyu domination. (This paragraph corrected on 29-Jan.)

But what's clear is that Kibaki's election victory caused overnight changes in attitudes and behavior in both the Kikuyu and Luo people. It's these changes in behavior and attitudes in large masses of people that have the greatest significance to Generational Dynamics.

It's also pretty clear that these ethnic hatreds did not occur all at once, at 2 am on December 29. Obviously they'd been building for years, the people were in denial about them, and the election triggered a massive release of emotions that had been hidden up to that point. To put it another way, the Kikuyus and Luos had obviously been hating each other for a long time, but hid their hatreds until they were triggered by the election victory.

(Putting the above paragraph into another context, think about the euphoria over Barack Obama, and how infuriated his supporters will be if he loses an election under suspicious circumstances.)

Long-time readers of this web site may recall that on several occasions I've mentioned the following: that the Palestinians don't seem to have anything like the pure venomous hatred of Israelis that Hamas and Fatah have for each other.

In case there was a question in your mind as to what I meant, it's that I wasn't hearing the Palestinians and Israelis describing each other in the same kinds of terms that the Kikuyus and Luos have been using -- or in the same terms that Hamas and Fatah have been describing each other.

Now, of course, it may simply be that the right triggering event hasn't yet occurred. After all, it was Hamas' stunning Gaza election victory last June that led to the Palestinian factional violence. It may also be true that the "security wall," built under the direction of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, has kept a massacre from occurring.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, we're able to watch a number of examples of countries on the road to genocidal crisis wars. Pundits, politicians, analysts and journalists don't have the vaguest clue what's going on in any of these regions, but Generational Dynamics provides a methodology for analyzing their similarities and unique differences, as we proceed on the road to the Clash of Civilizations world war. (8-Jan-08) Permanent Link
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