Central Data Catalog

Citation Information

Type Report
Title Kenya: Minorities, indigenous peoples and ethnic diversity
Author(s)
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2005
Publisher Minority Rights Group International
URL http://citizenshiprightsinafrica.org/docs/MRGKenyaReport-Makoloo.pdf
Abstract
This report documents the plight of minorities and
indigenous peoples in Kenya today. Minorities and
indigenous peoples are poorer than other communities,
their rights are not being respected, and they are not
included in development or other participatory planning
processes. Members of minority and indigenous communities
feel excluded. They are aware of, and resent, being
treated differently and having fewer opportunities.
The report shows how the poverty of marginalized
communities is compounded by the lack of official (and
unofficial) data disaggregated by ethnicity, which keeps
the problem of minority and indigenous poverty hidden
and unaddressed. The report examines some of the reasons
why this data is not collected and published.
The report discusses the use and abuse of ethnicity in
Kenyan politics, also raising the problem of the defensiveness
of many in politics on ethnic issues. Claims by
particular communities are often seen as threats to the
unity of the Kenyan nation, instead of opportunities to
make all groups feel included and to ensure that their
needs are recognized.
The report examines Kenya’s current Constitution and
the new draft Constitution from a minority and indigenous
peoples’ perspective. The author is critical of Kenya’s
budget processes. For example, he analyses budget allocations
(unfortunately there is no data for actual money
spent) in the Turkana district. As 94 per cent of the population
of the district are ethnically Turkana, this can be
used to substitute for the unavailable disaggregated data.
This analysis reveals huge disparities in budget allocation
between the Turkana district and Kenya as a whole. He
goes on to compare the allocation between the Turkana
and Nyeri districts, the latter being the home district of
the current President of Kenya, to analyse the extent to
which ethnicity in politics can favour certain ethnic
groups over others.
The report calls for immediate action to address
inequality and the marginalization of communities as the
best way to ensure Kenya remains free of major conflict.
It calls for disaggregated data, a new Constitution to
devolve power away from the centre, and measures to
ensure minorities and indigenous peoples benefit equitably
from existing and future development programmes.
Finally, the report argues that Kenya’s diversity is a
potential strength and opportunity. It need not be a threat
to national unity. The report is sympathetic to those who
deplore the abuse of ethnicity in politics; however, it
argues that to react to this by hoping that ethnicity will
disappear is both misguided and unrealistic. A new public
debate about diversity in Kenya is needed. Suppressing
and denying ethnic diversity, leaving minorities in poverty
and politically marginalized, is the quickest route to both
inter-ethnic conflict. Including and respecting minorities
and indigenous peoples, and making sure that development
reaches all of Kenya’s peoples are, on the other
hand, the only ways to lift the poorest out of poverty and
to deliver sustainable conflict-free development.
Inter-ethnic conflict in Kenya is not imminent but it
remains a real risk in the medium to long term. International
experience has shown that the slide into conflict is
very difficult to stop once momentum has built up. Preventative
actions are too often begun only when conflict is
looming. The measures taken are too little too late. Action
must be taken early, at a time when conflict is still unlikely.
Inequalities breed resentment and can ultimately lead to
violence. In Kenya’s case, action must be taken now.

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