Tuesday, Feb 19, 2013
Less than two weeks before Kenya’s general election and everyone is anxious about a possible repeat of the ethnic fighting that marred the last one. On a trip to Kibera, one of Nairobi’s largest slums, I was told that many people have left their homes and are travelling upcountry because they’re scared the vote will trigger more violence. Kibera was one of the worst-hit areas in the 2008 post-election violence. Neighbour turned on neighbour and now some areas of Kibera are completely segregated along ethnic lines.
On the way back to the office, I heard some of the casual tribalism that still plagues Kenya and its politics. The taxi driver told me that members of a certain community are lazy and will seize other people’s property if one of the leading candidates, and current prime minister, Raila Odinga wins the presidency. I despair at Kenyans’ tribal prejudices. How can people say such things openly and feel there is nothing wrong with it?
I came home to another worrying sign. I got an email from my eight-year-old daughter’s school telling me that the children are being taught the “duck and cover drill” in case there is rioting near the school or “someone who has a gun or a weapon” enters the compound. Given that her school is closed for the whole week around the election, this seems a bit alarmist.
There’s a vague sense of an impending Armageddon. But, meanwhile, life continues as normal.