Kenyan N.C. State Professor Says 'tribalism' Cause Of Riots

This story was written by Keith Kennedy, Technician
Riots among the population in Kenya after the reelection of its president Mwai Kibak in December continue, and Joy Kagendo-Charles, North Carolina State University health and physical education professor and native of Kenya, said the violence is rooted in tribalism.

According to Kagendo-Charles, this violence was caused by clashes between two tribes: the Kikuyu and Luo. The Luo tribe has always lived in more impoverished conditions than their rival Kikuyu tribe, she said. And when the Luo's choice for president, Raila Odinga, was defeated, they revolted.

"I don't see any peace any time soon," Kagendo-Charles said.

The Luo tribe was convinced that Mwai Kibaki cheated, she said, and to retaliate, they took their political fight to the streets.

So far the Kenyan government has reported between 600 and 650 deaths, but it is rumored that over 1000 people have been killed since the reelection.

These deaths are from both tribes killing people with machetes in the street, she said, and protesters are burning down farms and houses outside Narobi.

One reason the Kikuyu tribe could never accept the Luo's Raila Odinga is because of the Luo's different customs, Kagendo-Charles said.

When a boy turns five in the Kikuyu tribe, she said he is circumcised and he becomes a man. Odinga doesn't follow this Kikuyu tradition and according to Kagendo-Charles, the Kikuyu Odinga still thinks of him as a boy.

Kagendo-Charles said she feels sympathetic toward the poor in Kenya.

"It's the uneducated [people], who have nothing to lose, who are the ones fighting for better lives," she said. "But they are just making [lives] worse [by harming others]," she said.

Kagendo-Charles said she was surprised the violence in Kenya hasn't caught more media attention with college students.

"[Students probably say] 'Oh well that's Africa, always slashing one another'," she said.

Kenya, which she said has made large economic strides in the past twenty years from tourism, is now going to be set back by four or five years because the country isn't safe.

Peter Umstead, freshman in First Year College, said the incidents in Kenya are surprising because it was known as a stable country.

"That just goes to show how volatile things really are," he said.
© 2008 Technician via U-WIRE