Neighbors Kill Neighbors as Kenyan Vote Stirs Old Feuds

Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times, February 21, 2013


Ever since vicious ethnic clashes erupted between the Pokomo and Orma several months ago in a swampy, desolate part of Kenya, the Tawfiq Hospital has instituted a strict policy for the victims who are trundled in: Pokomos on one side, Ormas on the other. The longstanding rivalry, which both sides say has been inflamed by a governor’s race, has become so explosive that the two groups remain segregated even while receiving lifesaving care. When patients leave their rooms to use the restroom, they shuffle guardedly past one another in their bloodstained smocks, sometimes pushing creaky IV stands, not uttering a word.

“There are three reasons for this war,” said Elisha Bwora, a Pokomo elder. “Tribe, land and politics.”

Every five years or so, this stable and typically peaceful country, an oasis of development in a very poor and turbulent region, suffers a frightening transformation in which age-old grievances get stirred up, ethnically based militias are mobilized and neighbors start killing neighbors. The reason is elections, and another huge one—one of the most important in this country’s history and definitely the most complicated—is barreling this way.

In less than two weeks, Kenyans will line up by the millions to pick their leaders for the first time since a disastrous vote in 2007, which set off clashes that killed more than 1,000 people. The country has spent years agonizing over the wounds and has taken some steps to repair itself, most notably passing a new constitution. But justice has been elusive, politics remain ethnically tinged and leaders charged with crimes against humanity have a real chance of winning.

People here tend to vote in ethnic blocs, and during election time Kenyan politicians have a history of stoking these divisions and sometimes even financing murder sprees, according to court documents. {snip}

Now, the country is asking a simple but urgent question: Will history repeat itself?


But in places like the Tana River Delta, where the clashes between Pokomos and Ormas have already killed more than 200 people, the new emphasis on local government has translated into more spoils to fight over. And there are nearly 50 governor races coming up across Kenya, many of them quite heated.

“The Orma are trying to displace us so we can’t vote,” said Mr. Bwora, the Pokomo elder. “They have burned our villages, even our birth certificates. How are we supposed to vote then?”

The Orma accuse the Pokomos of doing precisely the same thing, right down to the burning of birth certificates.

On the national stage, two of Kenya’s most contentious politicians—Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto—are running on the same ticket for president and deputy president. Both have been charged by the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity stemming from the violence last time. Mr. Kenyatta, a deputy prime minister and son of Kenya’s first president, is accused of financing death squads that moved house to house in early 2008, slaughtering opposition supporters and their families, including young children.

He could quite possibly be elected Kenya’s next president and find himself the first sitting head of state to commute back and forth from The Hague, potentially complicating the typically cozy relationship between Kenya and the West.


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  • jay11

    “There are three reasons for this war,” said Elisha Bwora, a Pokomo elder. “Tribe, land and politics.”

    As America is being flooded with TRIBALLY-MINDED people from all over Africa and Asia, with a big mix of latinos who are BREATHTAKINGLY nationalistic about their own backgrounds and cultures, I will try to remember the mantra: “Diversity is our strength!”

    • StillModerated

      “Ignorance is Strength” “Strength is Die-versity” “Ignorance is Die-versity”. Freshman logic.

  • Eagle_Eyed

    If Obama had a third cousin he’d be practicing genocide in Kenya right now…

    • The__Bobster

      Actually, there’s a good chance that he has ….. and he’s far closer than a third cousin.

      In this Obama Family photo are: (bottom row, from left) half-sister Auma, her
      mother Kezia Obama, Obama’s step-grandmother Sarah Hussein Onyango Obama and unknown; (top row, from left) unknown, Barack Obama, half-brother Abongo (Roy) Obama, and three unknowns. (Sun Times)

      Barack Obama stands behind Kezia (stepmother) in a Kenyan family shot.
      Included in the photo is brother Abongo “Roy” Obama who is a Luo
      activist and a militant Muslim who argues that the black man must
      “liberate himself from the poisoning influences of European culture.”

      “Abongo’s new lifestyle has left him lean and clear-eyed, and at the wedding,
      he looked so dignified in his black African gown with white trim and matching
      cap that so me of our guests mistook him for my father,” Obama wrote in
      Dreams From My Father.

      Barack Obama’s cousin Raila Odinga is accused of ethnic cleansing and is currently battling for power in Kenya.

      • StillModerated

        Abongo Obongo! Mondongo Chimpcongo.

  • Bill

    I’m confused. We are told constantly that diversity is a strength, that color of skin is meaningless and we should all merrily meld together in a Kumbaya society despite our ethnic, racial, and cultural differences. Yet here, in this article and this country, people of the SAME skin color can’t get along…….what could possibly be the matter?

    • The__Bobster

      If it were true, they wouldn’t need to constantly tell you that.

    • Shattered

      I guess you didn’t see the outsiders… greasers vs socs.

    • StillModerated

      Just rub the magic lamp faster and harder, and a skosh to the right –a little a genie will pop out and grant you 3 wishes.

  • Howard W. Campbell

    Change the name to Bloods and Crips from Pokomo and Orma and you have the exact same thing here in the US.

    “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” – The Who; “Won’t get fooled again” (“Who’s next” album 1971)

    • Ever since vicious ethnic clashes erupted between the Pokomo and Orma
      several months ago in a swampy, desolate part of Kenya, the Tawfiq
      Hospital has instituted a strict policy for the victims who are trundled
      in: Pokomos on one side, Ormas on the other.

      This reminds me a lot of any given long time NFL rivalry.

  • Pelagian

    We should repeat the Amren subtitle to this story over and over again until we’re blue in the face: “Diversity doesn’t work in black Africa, either” (and keep this link to the Original Article handy).

  • David Ashton

    I expect Whitey is to blame somehow.

  • Jss

    In other words Africans are killing Africans because they are Africans. Just keeping it real like they do everywhere else in the world.

  • Katherine McChesney

    obama’s family.

  • APaige

    Two questions:
    1. Does diversity work anywhere?
    2. Does anything work in Africa?

    • Kronolog

      1. Ethnic diversity never works.
      2. Only that which is run by whites.

      • Lygeia

        And if we don’t run it right, God help the world. It is, as Rudyard Kipling said, the white man’s burden.

        • Ice

          The only burden of a white man is his own mistakes.

      • pcmustgo

        White, European ethnic diversity worked in America… it doesn’t work when the unassimiable non-whites are thrown in. America was a melting pot- for white ethnics.

    • Yorkshireman.

      Remember Rwanda? All same-same.

  • PesachPatriot

    Why should Kenya be any different than Chicago, Detroit or Atlanta? I’m sure that this violence will somehow end up being blamed on good old boys with loud pickup trucks, gun racks and confederate flags, at least on the campuses of Harvard, Yale, Berkeley and Columbia.

  • Rational Being

    It’s not just tribalism. It’s African tribalism, which makes it worse. These Africans are scarcely more advanced than our Stone Age forebears. The only reason they seems less savage is the veneer of civilization brought to them by the Arabs (such as they are) and then Whites. But the savagery in them is only subliminated — covered it. Scratch the surface, and the inner savage comes out. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Africa or in Detroit. Biology is destiny.

    • IstvanIN

      Colonialism kept the tribes from waring. Independence brought a whole new set of problems. Unlike European immigration to the new world, such as to the US, Canada and Argentina, where whites could put ancient rivalries away, for the most part, the Africans couldn’t do that.

    • newscomments70

      I disagree with you. If you research the stone age in detail, you will find that stone age societies were more advanced than modern Africa. Not only could they survive a brutal ice age, but their inventions were the foundation of modern civilization. Modern Africans seem to be the opposite of this….people who destroy civilization.

    • JohnEngelman
  • NeanderthalDNA

    Crimes against humanity?

    But they’re killing each other.

    • UK Expat

      What? I never thought for a moment that would ever happen … don’t they have a moral code?

      I will have to stop watching Charlton Heston movies!

  • ConcernedYoungAmerican

    Tribalism and ethnonationalism will NEVER disappear, which is why national self-determination and freedom from race-mixing is the most viable solution for a peaceful world.

    • Kase

      Yes, but this ethnonationalism has been tried in the past. We still fought and killed each other over petty things. None of these things can cure greed or thirst for more power. The simple truth is, there will always be evil on this planet. It’s what balances our world, or even the universe.

      • ConcernedYoungAmerican

        Samuel Huntington (bless him for his genius and prescience regarding what the modern world would look like) said that both World Wars were ‘civil wars’ within the West. One dominant ethnicity within the white race was destined for control. It turns out that America, an amalgam of white ethnicities, would control the West, therefore healing old wounds by means of its sheer power……the problem is that we helped throw it all away via the 1965 Immigration Act, which led the Europeans to open their borders as well in the name of multiculturalism. Churchill said sometime after World War II, “I’ve slaughtered the wrong pig”, in reference to Hitler. I’m beginning to think he’s right.

  • Barrack Osama

    I kept seeing the word “Pokemon”. Maybe because a democratic African civilization is a fantasy.

  • bigone4u

    Unfortunately, Kenya is where so much rare beautiful wildlife resides. The survival of the lions, tigers, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, etc. is my only concern. Without the homo sapien presence, the balance of nature would prevail. With the savage short-sighted homo sapien element, that balance is being upset to a terrible degree. BTW, loved the part of the article mentioning the burning of birth certificates. Obama learned how to destroy a birth certificate from his stone age relatives. Ironic, I would say.

    • Rational Being

      One of nature’s most appealing creatures is the elephant. Among animals, it is one of the most intelligent and diligent. Its complex brain manifests the basis for its high cognition and character. It is a nurturing creature, taking care of its young and of one another, forming lifelong family units, and protecting and rescuring the vulnerable from harm. It recognizes the value of life, even of those who are not of their own kind; there is a story of a hardworking elephant who uncharacteristically refused to do its work placing a stanchion into a hole, solely because he saw a sleeping dog within that its handler had not. And yet poachers kill these magnificent animals just for its tusks, and now the elephant population is a small fraction of what it was. Sometimes I think that creatures such as these are nobler than some kinds of people I could name. Nature has brought forth four-legged animals that put some two-legged, lazy, and violent ones to shame.

  • LHathaway

    “The survival of the lions, tigers, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, etc. is my only concern”

    If survival of the wildlife is your only concern, you should look around the world and then see it would be best to keep whites out of Africa.

    • hastings88

      Whites are the ones working to preserve wildlife in Africa. If whites left Africa alone, every rino and elephant would be killed off. Whites are the people who even thought of preserving species. So, what is your point?

      • Lost

        No it isn’t. If Whites are in Africa, then Africa will be transformed into a metropolitan concrete jungle. Whites only took the initiative to conserve, after the formation of WWF. For your information, poaching started because of the demand from your countries for animal products. Sure, now it’s banned in the name of conservation, but it still goes on illegally. The Chinese are the new Whites, I think. They just keep on buying elephant tusks and rhino horns. They’ll exploit this continent more deeper than Whites ever had. Either ways, we’re doomed, unless our corrupt governments wake up.

        • hastings88

          Chinese are not the new whites. They are not whites and have no conscience about wildlife. At least whites have evolved to the point of attempting to preserve wildlife. China will never get there. Africans don’t think about anything except grubbing out their daily survival.

        • Alex

          Your corrupt governments won’t wake up. They’ll continue to exploit you (and your people will lap it up because all they understand is dictators) and eventually whichever dictator(s) will be overthrown and then the happy cycle will start again just with a new warlord.
          The Chinese will use the African dictators to do their bidding and will make use of some of the world’s richest land in a way the African never could and let’s be honest, never would. The Chinese man is not stupid and will have no compassion for you the way we Whites foolishly have. It would only have been manipulated against him as the Africans view kindness as weakness.

  • GeneticsareDestiny

    But…but I thought Africans were peaceful, gentle people who value diversity in their communities and celebrate their differences!

    • Morris Thecat

      no, they are the same whether they are in a chuck-e-cheese or mudd-y-village

  • white savior

    No wonder Obama wants to be in a rich white nation rather than his birthplace home native black nation. Shockingly no other blacks seem to want to return to their root home of Africa either and in spite of how terribly “racist” whites are in America, they prefer the free gumint comforts of living here rather than in their “beloved” African cesspool of wretched 3rd world poverty uncivilized savagery . Besides its much easier to steal kill and rape whites 24/7/365 and the take is a 100 times better notwitstanding Africans kill each other at the same rate.
    Slavery was the savior of the black race in the western world and they all know it as they splurge gouge and feast on it. Thank you Mr White man our white savior.

  • anarchyst

    It’s a shame that the o’bama and his relatives aren’t back in kenya (where they belong). We might “get lucky” . . .

  • SintiriNikos

    When there are no Whites around and blacks cannot identify along racial lines to create conflict, ethnic and religious lines will do just fine. See Hutu/Tutsi for another example.

  • Morris Thecat

    Black behavior is the same in chicago and kenya, it is the same everywhere. they are stupid violent animals.

  • Unperson

    “The Orma are trying to displace us so we can’t vote,” said Mr. Bwora

    I feel your pain Mr. Bwora: African tribes sure can be a pain. Nothing but trouble, in fact. Here in America for the past few years we’ve our hands full coping with constant attacks on us from the Luo.

  • Greg Thomas

    Instead of exporting humanitarian relief, perhaps we should be exporting mandatory
    diversity indoctrination, er… I mean educational courses. The USDA could
    probably recommend a few for export.

  • MobyWhite

    Brittny Watts’ murder calls White Community to action: “We refuse to let this one, isolated incident that had nothing to do with race allow prejudice and bigotry to raise their ugly heads. We are passionately committed to embracing all different kinds of people, just like Brittny was. Diversity is our greatest strength, even when it doesn’t act like it is.”

  • Pelayo

    They’re not happy unless they’re committing butchery. Let them go. At least the wildlife gets a break.