Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Ethnicity abounds: Kenya’s identity crisis

But race is an issue I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now…’ Barack Obama, speech titled ‘A More Perfect Union’, 18 March 2008

When Barack Obama addressed America on the issue of race in March 2008, he could very well have been talking to Kenyans on the issue of ethnicity. For as he issued his penetrative analysis of the race question in the USA, the land of his father was awash with blood as a contested election result led to national conflict, ultimately costing close to 1,200 lives, displacing close to 350,000 others, and wrecking the lives and livelihoods of millions. The ethnic hue of the conflict was so strong that it led some to mistakenly suggest that what was happening in the country was either genocide or ethnic cleansing.

In sync with Obama’s ‘racial stalemate’ in the USA, Kenya has long been prisoner to an ethnic stalemate. A vast majority of analysts agree that had he run for the presidency in Kenya, Obama would have lost on account of being Luo, the ethnicity of his father. Some, however, have even observed that he is not Luo enough, indicating he may not even have garnered a local ethnic constituency; a current, sorry, prerequisite to engaging in presidential politics in Kenya.

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