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Diary 25 – The obituary of Simiyu Barasa, written by himself


When you find yourself talking with several guests of the morbid situation of your country during the wedding of one of your friends, you quickly realize there is something wrong with your country. When your National broadcasters show men being dragged out of public service vehicles and hacked to death by a mob of young men who do not even hide their faces from the police a few metres away, and such scenes are repeated more than the advertisements and commercials, then your country is doomed. When you hear that people are chased from their homes into a church for belonging to a particular tribe, and then followed into the church where women and children are locked inside and then burnt alive, my friends, you are no longer in a country, you are living inside hell on earth.

The Swahili (oh, that language that was supposed to unite us and now has been rendered impotent in its intended super-glue powers) – the Swahili say that when you see your friend being shaved with a razor, start wetting your hair in preparation for your shave too.

I do not intend to go gently into that dark beyond without saying a word of goodbye. Friends, (and those who consider me an enemy because of my tribe or lack of it), being of sane mind and in charge of my mental faculties, I bid you goodbye. I chose to write you an orbituary, which you should read as a love letter to my country that has died in that critical moment when its dreams were giving birth to a beautiful bouncing future.

I know not the hour of my death, for no one knows the hour of their death in this country anymore. That man on Naivasha, who was dragged from the car and his speech as he answered questions betrayed him as belonging to a tribe the highway blockers were hunting down, he did not know his death. I have seen myself trying to run from the mob the way he desperately tried, machetes raining on his back, and yet he ran on, three desperate steps, before his body disintegrated into huge chunks of human flesh and fell down. Upon which they cubed him. I too, my friend, am about to face the same death. My tongue, when I try to speak, shall definitely betray me as a targeted tribesman when the mob does come to me. For I do not belong to any tribe.

My sister, Rozi, called me yesterday trembling with fear. She lives in Western Kenya, on the Eldoret/Kakamega border. They had taken a patient to Moi Referral Hospital Eldoret. On their way back, the ambulance was stopped by youths bearing all forms of crude weapons. They demanded to know which tribes everyone in the ambulance belonged to. The driver was of the local tribe, so he was told to step aside. As the others showed their National Identity cards, my sister realized that all around them were corpses of human beings freshly chopped to death. Her turn came and she said she was Luhya. They told her to speak in Luhya, but my Sister doesn’t know Luhya. “I really can’t speak it because my mother is a Taita!” she pleaded. She had to desperately show a photocopy of my mother’s National Identity card which she had in her purse, a photocopy my mother had given to her the previous week to use as a referee for the bank account she was switching to. That photocopy saved my sister. The only language my sister can speak, apart from English and the National Swahili, is Gikuyu. The tribe the youths were targeting.

My friend, I know no tribe. I only know languages. My mother is Taita, my Father is Luhya, and we were raised in Kiambu among the Gikuyu. It has never been important in our family to know which tribe we should belong to, my sisters and brothers have names from both sides of our parents communities. In this chaos, if the hunters of fellow humans were to find us in our house, would they really believe we are brothers and sisters from our names?

If I say am Luhya, the Gikuyu with whom I have lived and now am engaged to one of their daughters would kill me as they have gone on a mission to revenge the deaths of their kinsmen in Western Kenya. If I flee to my parent’s home in Luhyaland, the neighbours will barbecue me alive for I can’t speak their language and of course my mom is from a foreign tribe. Not to forget that the guy who sold us that piece of land where my mom and Dad saved so hard to buy is known to come and insist on grazing his cow on our compound claiming “my cows used to feed here, buying the land doesn’t mean I don’t own it!”

Now in this Nairobi where I stay, I am wary of my neighbours. The guy opposite my flat is a Luo with whom we argued amicably during the pre-election period on which party we supported. Maybe now, given that friendly neighbours have been the ones killing each other, he might remember our political chats over my litres of coffee and come chop me up?

That is why friends, I have decided to write this obituary. I know not my tribe, I have only known myself as Kenyan, and others as fellow Kenyans. In these times, belonging or not belonging means not being dead or being seriously dead. What chances does a person like me have?

My friends have their tribes mates to protect them. The cosmopolitan Nairobi has now been balkanized with residential estates being exclusive reserves of certain tribes. Complete with murderous gangs imported from up-country to protect their own. Mungiki for the Gikuyu, Chingororo for the Gusii, and the Baghdad Boys and Taliban for the Luo. Where, pray I, is the estate Balkanised for those of us of mixed heritage who know not their war cry of their tribal warriors? The only two tribes I can run to don’t have such armies. And claiming my Dad’s Luhya identity, and a Bukusu at that, is problematic in itself. The Gikuyus are hunting them down claiming they voted ODM together with the Luos, and the Luos are hunting them down too claiming they voted for Kibaki together with the Gikuyus. So such is my fate for my father belonging to this tribe that voted 50-50!

My friends, I have prepared myself for my death. I don’t know how it will be, but since as a Film and TV drama person I believe in rehearsals, I have rehearsed all possible scenarios so that when my moment comes, it won’t be so hard to take it. Chekhov’s method acting manuals are no longer needed. I just turn the TV on during news time or read the papers, and from the several images of people who have been killed in various ways, I choose one to dream and perfect that night. I have dreamt of being locked into a church or building with several others and torched alive. I have smelt the petrol fumes as its being splattered through the window onto our bodies and then round the building. I have seen the flash of the matchstick being lit, and smelled my flesh burning to ashes.

I have rehearsed how I will smile when I am dragged out of a public vehicle and hacked to pieces by the marauding youths who pop up in our numerous roads. I want to die smiling bravely, but just like the guys I see on Al Jazeera and other International TV channels, the moment I get to that part where a red eyed bearded man pokes his head into the bus and shouts “everyone wave your ID cards in the air!” I wet myself and start screaming for mercy, instantly easing their work of identifying foreigners for the blades to work on.

I have rehearsed how best to gasp when a barbed arrow strikes my chest. Or a club smashes my brain out of my skull. Or a spiked plank of wood is driven through my mouth. I have died so many times, my friends, that now I must be immune to the real death when it comes.

I used to laugh at tourists buying maps of Nairobi. I bought one recently. It is stuck in the wall of my bedroom where small pencil marks indicate all the escape routes I will try to walk in to get out of town once the mayhem knocks on my door. Unfortunately, to the west are roadblocks where my Luhya name will mean instant death. If I go Mombasa Road I might run into a roadblock where Kamba’s and all coast people are being cubed. To the North I can’t even dare. To the south I might pass, coz I can speak Gikuyu, but my name would be my passport to the grave yard. That map, my friend, directed me to writing this obituary.

Maybe if I was a famous poet I would go down in history alongside Chris Okigbo, the Nigerian poet who went to Biafra seeking to actualize his poetry but found bullets instead. My friends abroad are asking me if I am safe. Maybe if I had been bright of mind like they were I would have faked a bank account statement immediately I cleared my o-levels and fled to the United States to wash toilets in between my degree courses, but no. When they told me America is the land of dreams, I swore to them I am an Africanist, a believer in the African dream. When they filled scholarship forms to get away from this dark continent, I laughed at them. Now my faith in my country has faded faster than the newness of the news year.

So, friends, some of us never really thought that our tribe was that important. Simply because we were from the tribes that make up Kenya. Some of us have lived in every province of this once great nation and learnt the local languages, drank the local brews, danced the local songs-so well that the locals even gave us the names of their tribes to fondly call us by. I have been called Kamau, Mwanganyi, Wambua, and even Bayelsa in Nigeria. (I should have known, when Dudun told me that Bayelsa is the troublesome state of Nigeria where the Delta is, that it was a premonition of the war in my country.)

I have nowhere to go. No tribe to run to. No tribes men to protect me. Except the grave. Which is what my fellow country men are intent on sending all those who don’t belong to their tribe. Goodbye, friends.. Seeing that all fast food restaurants have a notice ‘pay in advance’, let me take the cue and say Goodbye in advance. When you see a pulp of human flesh in the tarmac with youths dancing round it waving their bloody matchetes, look closely. That ear might be mine. That grinning upper lip might be mine. I loved you, my fellow countrymen. I loved without thinking of your parental lineage. I loved Kenya. But look what this country has done to me: sodomised my sense of humanity and pride.

49 comments to Diary 25 – The obituary of Simiyu Barasa, written by himself

  • Eleanor

    This is easily the most moving piece of writing I have read about the situation here in Kenya. I sincerely hope that this obituary of yours will not be needed.

  • Mzalendo#2

    Simiyu and all KenyanPundit readers:

    Beautiful sentiments all around, but now that another ODM MP has been shot dead http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L31621168.htm, where do you think we’re headed? Is there likely to be an end to this crisis?

  • Honorary Kenyan

    Moving. I cried through the entire obituary. Although I may seem presumptous, but I promise you it will never be needed.

  • prou

    Where indeed are we headed as Kenya.
    That would be collective obituary of Kenyans.

    Lovely writing.

  • Mil

    Its really sad wen one gets to this point.
    Funny that my dad is Luhya and my mum Taita as well.
    I keep asking them who i am.
    Wat tribe should i say i belong to when the hour comes?
    I feel you but i also have hope that we shall outlive the violence.
    Keep safe!

  • Simiyu,

    I echo what Eleanor has expressed. Your obituary is very powerful, and has had an impact on me. I will link to it on my blog.

    You have illustrated how some of our lives are now in danger because of our tribal origins.

    There are certain places in Kenya that I no longer feel able to travel to. It is very sad.

  • I feel you. Unfortunately and sadly, “as a man thinks, so is he”

    On a bright side, here is a sure way out to deal with this:
    -find a new Father, be born again into a new “tribe”, so when the merchants of death approach, you may boldly say:

    “My tribe is not of this world. If it were, my Father would send his angles to fight for me. Father, into your hands i commit my spirit!”


    ‘I once knew a man who said that Death Smiles Upon Us all, and all we can can do is smile back’. Emperor Marcus Urelius – and I say, only when it is time…. only when it is time… until then, I am not a Luhya, but a Kenyan until such time that I can smile at some other form of IDENTITY

  • Pilipili

    The sun does not shine everday, yet it does most of the time and has to set. The rain does not pour everyday, yet it is a blessing when it does. Let’s join hands in prayer, for all this turmoil that our beloved country is going through, it too will come to pass.

  • …and you wonder where to run to when you have grown knowing languages not tribes….good piece

  • JKS Makokha

    No doubt that many who are offsprings of inter-ethnic union in Kenya today find themselves in a very precarious situation Their ethnic identity defined as a form of in-betweeness (and which can possibly be the futuristic base for a transethnic Kenyan society) is now the Achilles’ heel of the “Gikuyu-Luhyas”, “Nandi-Merus”, the “Luo-Kambas” and many many other urban-dwelling Kenyans whose parents are in mixed ethnic union.

    What a shame.

  • Isindu Mwangaza

    “I used to laugh at tourists buying maps of Nairobi. I bought one recently. It is stuck in the wall of my bedroom where small pencil marks indicate all the escape routes I will try to walk in to get out of town once the mayhem knocks on my door. Unfortunately, to the west are roadblocks where my Luhya name will mean instant death. If I go Mombasa Road I might run into a roadblock where Kamba’s and all coast people are being cubed. To the North I can’t even dare. To the south I might pass, coz I can speak Gikuyu, but my name would be my passport to the grave yard. That map, my friend, directed me to writing this obituary.” Simiyu Baraza.

    Worth repeating for lack of composure on my part at this juncture.

  • Human Rights Watch has said that Europe and the United States increasingly tolerate autocrats posing as democrats out of pure self-interest — in countries such as Pakistan, Kenya, Nigeria and Russia — as human right abuses go on.
    (AFP/File/Tony Karumba)


  • D

    My heart goes out to you, and to your tribe! The tribe many might feel has never existed indeed does, and it is called Kenyan! How many do belong, how strong are its numbers? I don’t know. But quite possibly quite larger than thought by some. The time may have come for that tribe to stand up and make itself heard. I cannot help but think: not all is lost! And you are not alone. Not at all.

  • JKE

    Still “post election violence” or rather genocide now?

  • Tracey L

    I’m writing from Canada..this brought tears to my eyes. We are just sick to hear what is happening in your country. I pray that the killing stops and you and others stay safe..
    You did a beautiful job of putting your feelings into words.

  • Njamba

    very moving! Our hope is that this won’t be needed and will be used to eulogize those many innocent souls who have died

  • zizi

    That piece is something and tells much of the tribulations some of us go through. Let it not be.

    I deeply share. I wish more people can read it and feel the dillema.

    But above all, Kenya will rise again and all of us shall live as free peoples who can make choices freely on what we wanna be.

  • Nasser from Sydney

    Unbelievably moving! Having lost one of us (“Somalia”) to tribalism I sincerely feel for u and hope that common sense will prevail. On another note it is ironic that what was meant to bring us together ( tribe ) will be our demise.
    Peace and Hope from a sad horn african

  • Jogoo wa Shamba

    😥 this is by far the most moving piece I’ve read in recent times. it hadn’t hit me how deep our dear country has sunk…

  • simba wa Yuda

    This is a very inspiring piece of orbituary. Sad but very sentimental. It depicts loss of hope for future in Kenya. Unfortunately, most Kenyans are forced to resort to being worried about death hitting the door any time. I am a luhya, raised in nairobi but cannot speak my mother tongue. It was not necessary I thought since I embraced one language called Kenyan. You see, the Kenyan language is understood by all. Recently I have been steadily practicing how to communicate in Luhya. What a shame. I have to do this just to justify my self when encountered by a blood thirsty hulligan, who is trying to identify which Kenyan I am. Simiyu Barasa, I agree with you. KENYA is a divided country. How safe is Nairobi though?? I wonder what this country will yield??

  • Mimi


  • Ray

    I have heard the questions asked, “What can we do?” or “How do we make the common wananchi realize that they are the losers?”, etc.

    Here are two articles highlighting peace-making initiatives by ordinary Kenyans on the ground. In my opinion, this is the way to actually answer these questions, not in words but in actions. This is indeed food for thought and a challenge for us all.


  • Oroho

    Does any one have details of the purported agreement that Annan has just announced?

  • Me

    Awesome writing. Hopefully we’ll look at it from this very simplistic yet wholesome viewpoint.

  • Kamau

    Wow this was so touching. I have been the whole of this week working on a theme I call
    “I come from the tribe of Kenya”. but maybe to be honest the gravity of where we may head did not hit me till i read your blog,

  • simba wa Yuda

    I only know that an allied government has been proposed with Raila as the PM. We are yet to see howthis will be effected.

  • sam dc

    Ms. Okolloh, it is about time to say thanks to you for your user/friendly blog forum that keep us coming again & again, especially at this critical moment, mostly for being open minded enough to allow various views from different walks of life to express our views.

    Brother Simiyu, thanks for your earthly touching obituary. Many can relate to it, unfortunately. You touched the right nerve of many.

    Whereas this forum is not for attacks, Ms. Okolloh, allow me to address the issue of the statement I read by one of the commentetors that says: ” as a man thinks so is he”.

    To me, I say, such statements are what got us into this mess in the first place. This notion that I’m the one who knows or the chosen one to tell you the “Absolute truth” be political, tribal or religious leaves all loosers. Come down to this planet especially KENYA and read about the research and conclutions made by 2002 about those who are surposed to know and practice the Religious “Absolute truth” in the light of what has come to pass, check out this link:

    To sum it all up, I say: This misplaced opportunistic connotation which insinuates that disasters & calamities be natural or man made are a result of the corporal punishment from high above to mankind, tantamounts to stating that “You get what you deserve because of what you think”. Such, gets us to where we are.

    How then, do you escape the enevitable wrath, curse & sin of practicing tribalism with this “Absolute truth tribe” of yours into whch you invite me, with its conditions and boundries and dares to send me to burn endlessly in a church of a burning hell with those that either fear or can’t refrain from belonging to another tribe as well as yours?

  • sam dc

    Correction, the right link should be:

    Years back, the reseach concluded what we see today.

  • Simiyu,

    Faint not nor fear, as we were told in happier times. One of the people (Opoti, or perhaps Wanyama) at KenyaImagine once said that there were only 500,000 true Kenyans. One of the very few good things about this whole mess is that we’re beginning to find each other. It’s good to meet you.


    The linked article, which extensively quotes Eunice Karanja, is seriously vitiated by her apparent ignorance of even very recent history.

    Ms Karanja claims that the Church did not stand up to Kenyatta. This is absurdly false. The clearest counterexample is the controversy over oathing in Kikuyuland in the late 60’s and early 70s. After the death of Mboya, ethnic violence broke out between Luos and Kikuyus. Oaths began to be administered, sometimes violently, in Kikuyuland. The Church – the Presbyterians and Anglicans in particular – very forcefully repudiated the oathing. Presbyterian clergy in Kikuyuland mobilised more than 200, 000 worshippers to protest. Henry Okullu wrote an editorial more or less accusing Kenyatta himself of organising the whole mess. Pastor Samuel Gathenji was murdered for refusing to take the oath. (See here)

    It’s absolutely amazing that something which is within living memory can so easily be overlooked. And not only is it within living memory, it’s even well-recorded: I think Jeremy Murray-Brown’s biography of Kenyatta has, as one of its appendices, the letter of admonition the Churchmen wrote him.

    To return to present times. In the Rift Valley, Bp Cornelius Korir has been utterly magnificent: sheltering refugees regardless of ethnic origin, denouncing violence, and generally making himself a candidate for beatification. At the Coast, after the first few days of rioting, SUPKEM called for an end to the mass action; they’ve since formed a reconciliation committee that’s supposed to go round the various districts in Coast.

    Its is premature to give up on the religious organisations, especially since they’re pretty much the only Kenyan institutions that remain unapologetically universalist.

  • Catts

    😥 Very touching……….

  • ratoz

    Truly…where has our identity gone?????? I still know my self as a Kenyan, am I denying a reality of whom am??????????? God knows the answer. Simiyu… You will not be hacked with those bloody machetes and you’ll live to tell your grand kids what Kenya was in the year of invention of tribes if so may exist. As a Kenyan I pretend to deny tribalism to superceed racism that was and has been considered a major catostrophee in history in the so called the TRIANGLE TRADE where the Africas( now known as NEGRO) suffered more. Well t’s not my session but i TRULLY hope that for the 1st time if so you are a future,have read an OBITUARY of a living man. Am a LUO and what has become of Kenya presently has left me with no word to even spit a thick mucuos salivour to Curse the ELECTIONS OF 2007. I still hope that we have not began 2008. I so long for a New Year 200* if so be. What a year end to remember in Kenya(2007). Keep your spirits UP HIGH and my doors are open to welcome you if you need a place to belong. I’M a Luo but not an an enemy. I csp well consider my self a Kenyan and I hope that your orbituary is not real but just an article to spread the rays of the beutiful Kenya we are looking as a PAST. When shall we long to be Kenyan again??????????????????????? I rest my pleaa.

  • Live for your country, don’t die for it


    Publication Date: 2/3/2008
    I am a displaced person. Originally, I refused to move. After dispatching my family to various places, I locked myself up in my house to go on with my work. I had convinced myself that finishing the books I am writing was much more important than my safety.

    Moreover, I thought that, at 70, if I died I would have lived a full life. But how illogical I was! If a fanatic killed me, how could I now dedicate my books to society? I recalled the philosopher’s admonition that no cause at all is worth dying for.

    If you are so convinced that an ideal is vital for your society, then shouldn’t you make it your duty to live long enough to help your society to realise it? Once you are dead, of what use are you?

    Thus only dastards can join battle with such swashbuckling as: “I am ready to die for democracy,” or: “I will die fighting for Kibaki.”

    Nobody denies you your right to fight for Kibaki (or Odinga, Musyoka and Ruto).

    The point is to do it intelligently. None of these individuals is worth your life.

    Isaac Asimov, the American biochemist, once produced what he called “Three Laws of Robotics” to be written into the logico-mathematical pathways of each of his “positronic brains” to ensure that robots served human beings absolutely safely.

    The third law is that a robot must keep itself intact every time it is deployed — unless this contradicts the first law (which is never to cause or allow any harm to a human user).

    All the laws are actually central to all tool-making in human history. The third one makes the boomerang of the Australian native the most ingenious of all the tools ever made.

    But, clearly, a soldier is much more important than a tool. That is why the law on self-preservation is even more significant to humans. Sure, a good soldier fights bravely in battle. But his bravery must include every stratagem that helps him to return to base unharmed.

    Only then can he be available for another battle. Hence the saying: Live for your country: never deliberately die for it.

    Patriotism is mental and manual commitment to one’s country for as long as possible. To die willingly, even in your country’s name, is treason.


    To go to battle with chest-thumping carelessness – making yourself an easy prey to the enemy’s shrapnel — is to succumb to Shakespearean resignation: “Come what come may/Time and hour runs through the roughest day.” This is fatalism. Time has become your master, whereas time must flow in your own terms.

    That is why, in the destructiveness of the present battle, you must protect yourself. There is no cowardice in dashing into hiding when necessary. Whatever the immediate factor, you save your life and make yourself available for a much more worthwhile battle.

    If you die, I lose the chance to convince you that, at the moment, your weapons are aimed in the wrong direction. It is not the Kikuyu or the Kisii who have plunged us into Armageddon.

    And, whoever it is, his targets are not the Kalenjin, the Luhya, the Luo or the Swahili.

    No. Only individuals are guilty. Though they seek to hide under tribal labels, they have not done it to benefit their tribe but only themselves as individuals.

    By taking arms to injure other Kenyans on the basis of their tribes, you are only making it easier for the culprits to hide under those labels. If Mr Samuel Fulani is the culprit, why attack the Swahili?

    Indeed, you endanger your own lives. The crisis has revealed how desperately interdependent we are as tribes. Everything we do to another tribe boomerangs badly on us. However powerful its leaders may be, no tribe lives in a castle surrounded by a moat.

    Every time you attack members of a tribe living in your area, you are digging the graves of your own relatives living in other tribal areas.

    Once the revenge game begins, there can be no end to it. Why have we failed to learn even a single lesson from Somalia right next door? Yes, we wronged innocent Kikuyus and Kisiis. But, as Lewis Nguyai, my new MP, was telling my fellow constituents, a small spark of stupid reprisal is sure to turn into a national conflagration in which the arsonist himself is most likely to burn.

    In other words, not a single tribe can gain even pesa nane from it. That was why I ran into safety – to be able, through writing, to continue to offer such advice. Maybe Robert Frost had Kenya and myself in mind when he wrote:

    The wood is lovely, dark and deep;
    But I have promises to keep
    And miles to go before I sleep.

  • For those who understand German, here some stunning eye-opening article about the Mungiki sect being actively involved in the current clashes.

  • honeytamu

    Simiyu, your obituary is most certainly the most moving piece of writting that i have read in the recent past… i was alsmost moved to tears…..I declaire a long fear free, enjoyable and abandant life for you in Jesus’ Name!!! The gruesome descriptions in that obituary will not come to pass!! n when we finally have to read the real obituary of you, it will be far from the one above… It will read something like “he lived a long and fruitful life, was one of Africa’s most celebrated poets, who will be missed my many. Africa has most certaily lost a great man, who even in most trying times, held on to his love for her…A GREAT MAN INDEED!!” May God bless you and keep you. May he cause his light to shine upon you and instruct his angels to guard over you…. you are truelly an inspiration..

  • sam dc

    Mr. Waweru,
    The article linked
    is straight forword. This Christian lecturer’s article starts off pondering where religion is in this jigsaw puzzle of what is going on in Kenya.

    He acknowledges various postive contributions of various religious leaders, but he also says that, there is evidence that not enough was done to forestall the death and displacement of many people.

    He also stated that “Karanja argues that the Church did not speak out against Kenyatta’s favouratism towords the Kikuyu”.

    Mr. Waweru, why are you hung-up on that statement and going on a tangential misinterpreting it? What you talked about explains clearly what I was driving at.

    What I had stated was to the effect: “How do you escape the wrath, curse & sin of practing triblism when you have decided that it is only your Absolute truth tribe that is the answer as if other peoples’ Absolute truth tribes (spritual or not) are secondary to yours?

    Look, what the 200,000 christians came forword to oppose the “Oath”, they had not come out when Kenyatta was favouring the Kikuyu. They only came out once their “Absolute truth tribe” was threatned.

    When they were told to make an Oath to another tribe instead of the heavenly one they had sworn to and ready to die for, marching as soldiers of God to war, some were ready to die, just as Mr. S. Gathenji did. The question is, how does that make Ms. Karanja’s statement wrong? These Christians never stood up to Kenyatta because of favouring his tribe, but just because they could not stand sharing their Oath to another tribe( evil oath, as they claimed).

    About the current good works being done by religious groups, power to them. We need that and it very much inspering.
    The question remains, where was religion heading in this jigsaw puzzle when some men of the cloths got involved running for political offices? Or is that a question too sensitive to bring about? May be if we could have gutts to address that rather than being defensive, we could be in prevention rather than reactionally business as good sumeritans of Absolute truth tribe.

  • This is for the children who can’t use this blog. My heart cries especially for these innocent victims

    Kenya’s children scarred by violence

    Van is 13-years-old and comes from the town of Eldoret – one of the flashpoints of Kenya’s recent ethnic violence.

    As he talks about the events that befell his family a fortnight ago, his voice drops to a whisper.

    “My mother was attacked by men with machetes. I didn’t see it – when I arrived, there was only blood on the floor.”

    I went to the neighbour’s house – his leg was broken. I was so very scared. He told me to run for my life.”

    It is a story that could have been told by any one of thousands of Kenya’s displaced children.

    More than 60 of them are here in the SOS Children’s Home – an orphanage on the outskirts of Nairobi.

    For the lucky ones, there is a chance their parents may be missing, but still alive.

    The rest of them already know that the events of recent weeks have left them orphans.

    Nicholas Makutsa from the Red Cross is one of those tasked with tracing missing parents and children.

    “They’ve talked about seeing their parents being killed – they’ve seen people being shot, houses being burnt, even people being burnt alive. It’s been a traumatising experience for them.”


    And even here, violence is not far away. As we speak, there comes a sound from beyond the gates that causes the children to stiffen with fear – gunshots from a neighbouring slum.

    It may be police, or a shoot-out between gangs. But after what these children have witnessed in recent weeks, it is enough to send them scurrying for cover.

    Since they arrived here only a handful of children have been reunited with their parents. Today, as they shelter in a classroom from the shooting outside, another one is about to get good news.

    Mary is nine-years-old, with a beautiful but troubled face. She stands apart from the other children and says barely a word.

    While we are here, the Red Cross gets word that her mother is in fact alive, and on her way to the orphanage

    We meet Rosalind at the gate. She tells us of the day that gangs of youths from another tribe set fire to homes in her neighbourhood.

    Mary became separated from Rosalind in the panic. For the past fortnight each has thought the other to be dead.

    There are no words between mother and daughter when they are reunited – only silent tears. Rosalind takes her daughter’s hand, walks out of the gate and back into a Kenya that has become a fearful place.

    They have no home, no money and only a promise of future peace from their feuding politicians.

  • candy

    regarding the oathing issue, ….the impact is still being seen today. The ones with power still believe in that myth hence their desire to stay in power at all costs.
    A whole community is held hostage by the spell that was cast during those oathing ceremonies.

  • Residents’ distress cry lost in caves


    Story by KEN OPALA
    Publication Date: 2/5/2008
    She grasps the rosary tightly, exhibiting defiance, not grief. Her two toddlers edge closer but she dismisses them tersely: “Go away, please.”

    They come back. “I said go away.” They freeze. “Why mum, we want to be with you?” “No,” she replies.

    Neighbours hastily keep the toddlers away from their mother, journalists, friends, relatives and curious people, for they don’t want the young ones to hear how she escaped from the jaws of death. They did not want them to hear how the mother was assaulted as her relatives were being killed.

    Depression and paranoia

    Ms Rita Nasipwondi, 40, a mother of eight, is hardly conscious of the way she is treating her children. Hers is a life of depression and paranoia.

    “I saw my people being chopped like dogs. It was ghastly, horrifying,” she says in her Kibukhusu mother tongue.

    She was next in the line awaiting her turn to be killed.

    Her eleven relatives were hacked to death at an open field on the hills of Mt Elgon as she watched – and waited for her turn. Her father-in-law and mother-in-law, wife, his brother and the wife, brother-in-law and his wife were all killed at the same filed.

    She is now accommodated outside Kimabole trading centre by a good Samaritan.

    Nasipwondi is among the latest victims the raging conflict in Mt Elgon instigated by the Sabaot Land Defence Force.

    It has targeted specific communities in a veiled plan to evict them from the district. Kirui Komon Matakwei, a 24-year-old Form One dropout is believed to be the commander of the rag-tag force that has claimed lives even in the neighbouring Bungoma and Trans Nzoia.

    According to sources, the first week of January was the bloodiest – in the calendar of the militia that has terrorised Kopsiro and Cheptais divisions on the mountain side.

    At least 50 people, 22 of them members of the Soy and Dhorobo clans have been killed between December 31, 2007 and January 7, according to survivors.

    Local district officer Phillip Tirop and the Kimama location chief Jamin Chemos told the Nation that 22 people were killed on New Year’s Eve.

    However, the they said the victims were killed in cattle raids.

    At a peace meeting last week convened by the district officer, Mr Chemos local residents ejected Mr Chebos accusing him of bias.

    Mt Elgon is tense. The Western Kenya Human Rights Watch, says it has documented 398 deaths at the hands of the militia since August 2006. Another 80,000–more than a third of the district’s population– have been displaced by the attackers who operate from caves and forests in the mountain.

    “But there are many people who have been killed and not documented,” says Job Bwonya, the executive director of the human rights lobby.

    They include politicians, teachers, students and police officers. Bwonya claims over a dozen police officers were killed last year although he has documented only seven.

    The militia overran Nasipwondi’s Kimama Village on December 31, 2007 as the rest of country descended into violence following the disputed elections.

    It appears the gang exploited the confusion in the countrywide protests to kill members of a perceived rival community. Many people have been killed in the village yet the story is lost in the caves and thick forests that have been turned into graveyards, according to survivors and human rights activists.

    Nearly all residents of Kimama lived as a close-knit family.
    Mzee Mafura, the 73-year-old elder killed together with his 12 relatives, settled with his family in Kimama in 1930. His father, Mzee Katila, joined two elders, a Mr Psongoywo and a Mr Sambruma, all Sabaots in 1930. Their families have co-existed since then. Because of its fertile soils, Kimama is notable for its high grade coffee and horticultural produce.

    Today, Kimama is an enclave of the militia, thanks to the conflict.

    Farms left behind by the deceased and those who fled have been taken over by sympathisers and members of the SLDF.

    “They want to create an exclusive enclave for their community, hoping to expand it by overwhelming other communities,” says Taiga Machanja, the coordinator of Mwatikho Centre, another Bungoma-based human rights lobby involved in rehabilitation of torture victims.

    Start training

    According to witnesses, the boys were trained starting last November in camps up the Chebyuk hill.

    They claim that police were aware of the training by had not taken action.

    “We used to see them disappear into the forests but it never occurred to us they were planning a massacre,” says Nasipwondi.

    For two weeks, this writer scoured Mt Elgon tracing the survivors, relatives and families of those massacred on December 31, 2008.

    The story that emerges is a well planned attack on members of a certain community by the terror gang to create an exclusive region for their clan, and hopefully expand it to neighbouring Trans Nzoia and Bungoma District.

    On December 31, 2007 the SLDF members moved from one homestead to another isolating members of a particular community. They huddled them together and spirited them to the hills where they killed them. The bodies were later transferred to mass graves at Kamachai Village of Kopsiro Division.

    The area is littered with human bodies and skeletons. Nasipwondi was among those isolated at 1pm.

    A group of 20 men well known to the mother of four rushed into her compound pelting circumcision songs as they wielded guns and machetes.

    An alarmed Nasipwondi rushed to hide her son in the nearby thicket.

    The raiders were looking for her, they made it clear as they hit her. “Why are you killing me” she cried out. “(John) Serut (former area MP) has taken away our land and you people are busy tilling your plots, as if you don’t care,” one of the youths replied. (SLDF claims that Mr Serut bungled land allocation in Chebyuk settlement scheme from where people were evicted in 2006) “Give us money, mobile phone and everything,” demanded one of the assailants who attends a local school and had visited Nasipwondi in search of water three days earlier.

    In her possession was a bicycle belonging to her husband who was out in the field tending to livestock, and a hose-pipe.

    They told her that she was “a prisoner” and frog-marched her to what they called “makaburini” (cemetery).

    Thick forest

    All along, they bludgeoned and gun-butted her until they reached an open field, next to the banks of River Malakisi. The thick forest disappeared into an open ground.

    “This is machinjoni (slaughter ground),” one of the boys told her.
    Suddenly she wasn’t the lone prisoner. Her neighbours were there too, so were her relatives, among them Mzee Mafura and his wife Emma, Mzee Nambobi (Mafura’s brother) and his wife Linnet. They were dead.

    Six of them were killed as Nasipwondi watched, waiting for her turn. The field was full of bodies, strewn on the thin grass. Some were rotting away, others had been fed on by dogs. The stench of death hung heavily in the air.

    Mr Bwonya claimed that the SDLF runs a Kangaroo court at Ng’atip Kong, about three kilometres north of Kaptoboi Primary School, and the many people it “sentences “to death” are slaughtered at this open field.

    As the killings continued, Nasipwondi lost consciousness at some point. When she came to her senses, a number of attackers had left and gone back to Kimama Village, to hunt down more victims on farms, in forests and homes.

    They zeroed in on Kimama Village, isolating people by the ethnic affiliation. (A man named Jackson was killed but his wife who comes from the militia’s community was spared)

    Previous week

    They caught up with Rita’s Std Eight son (the one who hid when they had raided earlier) and a relative, 22-year old Dickson Wanyonyi. The school boy tricked them with the Sh300 her mother had given him to purchase household effects. But Dickson, who had just married the previous week, was unlucky. They led him to the slaughter field.

    “Get up, come, it’s your time now,” one of the assailants shouted and pulled Nasipwondi from the ground. As she was being stripped (all victims are stripped bare before being killed) a mobile phone rung. The man on the side must have asked how many had been killed because she heard the killers leader answer: “Kumi na mbili boss. Bado kuna wawili wamebaki hapa (Twelve already, boss. Two are remaining.”

    He must have been ordered to stop the killing. The raiders escorted Nasipwondi and another young woman back to the homestead in Kimama. Not far away, another group of assailants were rushing Dickson to the butchering field, to finish the job away before sunset.

    Write to the author

  • Simiyu, I’ve linked to your blog. You could link to the one I started: http://www.updatesonkenya.blogspot.com/. I lived in Kenya five years, and the sadness I feel about the situation is unspeakable. Your obituary is a very clever instrument for sharing a vision for a Kenya united! Think about doing (and promoting) some constructive action or work for peace and unity to reinforce your hope and to bring change for Kenya–here is one group doing that: AGLI, African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams. Organized to respond to the crises in Rwanda and Burundi, they are training people in Alternatives to Violence all over Kenya. One of the trainers, Hezron Masitsa, was interviewed by Christian Science Monitor last week. You can find links to all that by googling or check out the links on the Kenya News blog. Choose life! – Mary Kay, tuko pamoja!

  • kalay

    Inequality, Not Identity, Fuels Violence in Kenya

    February, 07 2008

    By Yifat Susskind
    Yifat Susskind’s ZSpace Page
    Join ZSpace

    From day-one of the crisis that has gripped Kenya this year, much of the mainstream media has been quick to label the violence “tribal
    warfare,” while the top US envoy to Africa called the Kenyan clashes “ethnic cleansing.” The problem with those terms is that they don’t
    actually explain anything. Yet many people hear the words “tribal warfare” or “ethnic cleansing” and assume that people’s identity is the root of the violence in Kenya.

    We live in a time when the notion of a “clash of civilizations” passes
    for political science and an us-versus-them mentality (“you’re either
    with us or with the terrorists”) is the basis of super-power foreign policy. The crudeness of those ideas makes it hard to remember that,
    while identity can be mobilized in the service of hatred, a person’s
    “tribe,” ethnicity, or religion does not cause or motivate violence.

    So what does? In the case of Kenya, tribal categories are a short-hand
    for describing people’s unequal access to political power and economic resources.

    Since Kenya won independence from Britain in 1963, a small Kikuyu elite has dominated government and business opportunities. Meanwhile, most Kenyans have been dangerously impoverished by the debt crisis that began in the late 1970s. Like many countries throughout the Global South, Kenya was forced to sell off state-owned assets like major transport and telecommunications systems and to cut government spending to repay loans to big banks and rich governments (mostly in the US and Europe). As a result, millions of Kenyans have been denied basic resources and services, like health care, clean water, education, and decent housing.

    When Mwai Kibaki was elected in 2002, he promised to share power and resources more equitably. Instead, he allowed Kikuyu elites to keep control of the country’s wealth and governing institutions. That
    betrayal galvanized support for Raila Odinga’s opposition Orange
    Democratic Movement (ODM), especially among the poor. In December 2007, Kibaki’s party rigged national elections to prevent the ODM from unseating him and disseminating political power and access to basic economic resources more broadly.

    Those are the real grievances fueling the violence today. They have
    their roots not in any “ancient tribal rivalries,” but in government
    policies meant to enrich a few at the expense of the majority. Kenya’s
    poor majority includes members of the Luo, Luhya, and Kalenjin tribes, who initiated the protests in December, and most Kikuyus, who are not part of the governing clique but have been scapegoated in the crisis.

    Thinking of Kenya’s conflict as a class war rather than a tribal war reveals those aspects of the crisis that are about material things: a
    fight over access to farmland, housing, and clean water. But that
    explanation alone misses a more complex reality. Because identity is
    fluid, partial, and somewhat subjective, tribal or ethnic divisions can
    be calcified, even created, when identity is invoked to mobilize people
    for political ends. Both Kibaki and Odinga are guilty of goading people
    to violence in this way. And every time the BBC or the Washington Post
    utters the words “tribal warfare,” they help propel the self-fulfilling
    logic of identity-based violence. It’s a dangerous game: once violence
    is unleashed, it takes on its own momentum. We’ve seen that dynamic
    to grave effect in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Sudan. And that may be what we’re witnessing in Kenya now, as protest over a disputed election
    seems to have morphed into something uglier and more dangerous.

    The way that people define a crisis shapes which solutions they choose.
    That’s why a lasting solution to the crisis in Kenya requires junking
    the hollow concept of “tribal warfare.” Tackling the poverty and inequality that politicians have perpetuated by manipulating ethnicity
    may prove a lot tougher than resolving an electoral blow-out. But there
    are Kenyans who are paving the way forward.

    On January 25, the “Kenyan Women’s Consultation Group” addressed peace mediators Kofi Annan, Graça Machel, and Benjamin Mkapa. The women call for “comprehensive constitutional reform that would ensure equitable distribution of national resources,” as part of their far-reaching peace proposal. Like many progressive Kenyans, the Women’s Consultation Group recognizes that while inequality in Kenya runs along tribal lines, it’s the inequality, not the tribal identity, that is fueling the violence today.

  • sam dc

    Yifat allow me to quote you “The way that people define a crisis shapes which solutions they choose”.
    Thanks for your article.

    Fergal Keane wrote “Kenya’s poor at each other’s throats”, in which these two words “Tribal Violence” to the Western mind means: people driven to kill each other by irrational atavistic hatred. Link

    Mary Rehard, thanks for your initiative and concern, however,
    while I believe that most NGOs are well intentioned and do help in crisis such as the current one in Kenya, their roles are limited to emergencies such as medicine, food, shelter etc. because they are in the host countries at the mercy of those governments that are the root cause of the problem in the first place. So they become hostages of those governments and can’t confront the root cause of the problem and we keep seeing violence in one country after another.

    What I find troubling, is that the Kenyans are being viewed as a violent people who need to be trained in alternative ways to conflict resolution. To use their mind rather than their spears, knives & machettes etc. The last time I heard this slogan “Choose life!” used, was war against AIDS, telling people to use condoms.

    Kenyans are not members of savage & uncivilzed tribes that don’t understand what violence or alternatives to violence are.
    The question is, why did or is violence taking place now among tribes that have lived together and intermarried with each other?

    Violence is a consequence, not the root of the problem. The root has alot to do with our greedy leaders. check this out:

  • Wafula

    Dear Simiyu Barasa,

    I have bumped into this this site so late in the year, not because I was trying to update my memory on the ugly happenings, but because I wanted to get in touch with my culture. My only association with the luhya (banyala) is my name. I can pass for any bantu community in Kenya, and across the borders. It may be late but there is comfort in numbers. I am equally of mixed heritage-omunyala and omtachoni, both very proud of their language that they gave us no space to learn one or the other language. That we were born and raised in the capital city did not help either. Indeed, I knew I was Luhya because my History teacher in class 4 told me so, and I believed him. What a genius he was! When we meet as brothers with their families at my father’s house in western Kenya, as was the case in December 07, we could as well be back in the city. My brothers have wives from the Kamba, taita, borana, and the latest addition, Acholi communities. Diversity turned into dilemma.

    Thank God my Dad who is widely travelled, still has a bunch of faithfull buddies, and we were all safely whisked to safe zones-amidst tears. I still have hope that we can still turn diversity to strength.

    Anyway, the reason I bumped into this conversation. I am looking for a video recording of males being circumcised according to the luhya tradition, so that I can show it to an expartriate family who are keen on their son being circumcised traditionally, at my father’s home in western Kenya. I missed that part as I was in the damned city. Can you help?

  • Thank you ever so for you article post.

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