Kenya’s western farmers watch Kalenjin intruders harvest their crops

Kenya’s western farmers watch intruders harvest their crops

by Lucie Peytermann

NYAKINYUA, Kenya, Jan 25, 2008 (AFP) – Powerless, Stephen, a farmer from the Luhya ethnic group in western Kenya, watches members of the Kalenjin harvest his field barely 50 metres (55 yards) away.

“I’ve not harvested … I wanted to go today but I found the Kalenjin harvesting,” says the 35-year-old. “I’m depending on that (crop) for my livelihood and I can’t do anything.”

Last week attackers burnt down his home, stole his cattle and killed five of his neighbours.

Stephen lost everything in violence sparked by disputed presidential elections on December 27, that was exacerbated in the vast Rift Valley region by latent land and ethnic disputes.

This is the region where Kikuyus — the ethnic group of President Mwai Kibaki who won the disputed polls — acquired land in the 1960s but dispossessed the Kalenjin, leaving a grievance that has remained unresolved.

In the Molo district, some 160 kilometres (100 miles) northwest of Nairobi, tension is still palpable.

Hundreds of Kikuyu families still flee their villages in trucks piled with children, beds, cows, planks and tin rooves from hastily dismantled houses.

Many have left nearby Nyakinyua, which has become a ghost town with its centre reduced to ashes after being pillaged and burned a week ago.

The only former residents remaining are displaced farmers desperately trying to harvest maize and potatoes from their abandoned fields.

But Stephen and his friends are too afraid to go into their fields below them in the valley as they watch the silhouettes of intruders carrying out the harvest.

The Kalenjin mainly supported opposition leader Raila Odinga, who claims he was robbed of the presidency, and have taken advantage of the post-poll turmoil to chase other ethnic groups from the region.

“When we went to our shambas (farms), we found them harvesting and they called for reinforcements from their tribe,” says Dickson, who now sleeps in a displacement camp in a church in Molo. “There were around 30 Kalenjins.”

Witnesses say crop theft is carried out under the protection of militias often armed with machetes.

“There are no Kikuyus who are going to live in our shambas,” says one Kalenjin, declining to give his name. “Kikuyus have grabbed our land, so it should go back to the rightful owners.”

A local official from the National Council of Churches of Kenya says cattle theft, looting and vandalism have marked the past weeks.

“Now, because everything has been vandalized, they are looting what is remaining: maize and potatoes in the shambas,” says Kefa Magenyi, as local officials predicted future food shortages in a region normally known as the breadbasket of Kenya.

“This historical issue of land has never been settled in the country,” he adds.

Meanwhile, near Nyakinyua, three young Kalenjins — Ambroise, Melody and Ronald — insist that a burnt house they are repairing belongs to them.

“It’s our house,” says Ambroise. “There’s a misconception (about Kalenjin carrying out attacks) — there are also some Kalenjin that have been attacked by other people,” he says, looking around cautiously.

“The people who are coming to harvest and loot are from far away,” Melody says, smiling ambiguously.

“They are doing it because of hatred” for the Kikuyus, she adds.


1 Response to “Kenya’s western farmers watch Kalenjin intruders harvest their crops”

  1. 1 Gerald Baraza January 31, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    Yes, we can blame the Kalenjin or the Kikuyu or the Luo or the Luyiah or the devil himself, but here is the answer to Kenya’s current political crisis:

    1.Devolution of power: Change government structure and reduce the powers of the executive.Imperial presidency must be eliminated.

    2.Redistribution of resources: The land issues in Kenya especially in the Rift Valley Province cannot be wished away.

    3. Restoration of security: This will require building a professional police service and disarming the vigilante groups like Mungiki etc.

    4. Restoration of confidence in the judiciary: Not calculated “surgeries” that target certain tribes.
    5. Truth & Reconciliation Commission: Possibly incorporating respected foreign leaders.

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