Land of confusion

The risk of stereotyping is always there, but in some ways this continent will never cease to amaze me. Traffic of course is an ‘easy’ topic. Driving on a highway here is an experience when there are ‘temporary zebras’ in place with big speed bumps in front of them. The Chinese who build the roads haven’t finished fly overs for pedestrians yet. And, yes pedestrians crossing a highway is something still quite common across this continent. So at least they’ve tried to come up with a ‘relatively’ safe solution.


Or the little signs on almost every tree, with offers of ‘To get back a lost love, solve marital problems, get more money etc.’ A friend managed to share that some pastors here offer the same services for ‘women with lack of children’. If you pay them, and sleep with them, your problems are sure to be over.


Or driving through what resembles still for a large part savanna. Then finding a sign in the middle saying ‘Hope Africa University’ and there’s no sight of any significant building for miles on end as this is the land where the Masaai roam with their cattle.


It is however a sign of one of the key issues here. Land, or better said land grabbing. Throughout its independence history the distribution or redistribution of land between different tribal groups has been a key issue dominating Kenyan politics and has been a base for power struggles. The Masaai are at the losing end of the battle. Their land is often offered for sale, without them knowing they didn’t even ‘own’ it anymore.


Talking to my lovely host Njeri yesterday I asked her also: ‘Who would gain if the violence would happen again after the upcoming elections?’ Her instant reaction was: ‘No one.’ I agreed from a human perspective, yes nobody gains from violence, but I pushed a little and said, ‘But there’s always somebody that gains something, there has to be a reason.’ Then she said, ‘Land, when people are chased away, and some of your relatives have been killed by your neighbours, you won’t come back.’ Next thing you know, your former ‘neighbours’ take over your business and land for free.


Kenya’s population has grown (like almost all of the world’s population) explosively over the last 40 years and this has intensified the already existing politics of defending ‘own’ tribal lands. The constituency still are ‘attached’ to their land. For this reason as well Kenyan political parties are often divided by tribal lines, and then again, by where you will find the most power to control this. Hence, in the run up of the elections, over a hundred parliamentarians changed parties, to make sure they have a shot at re-election and holding on to power. It makes me all the more confused, and I’m sure Kenyan voters as well, whom they should actually vote for. Perhaps the politicians involved will continue to defend ‘their land’ interest, but will they also defend all their other rights to actual peace and prosperity in the interest of the whole country?

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