Kenya's Sad State of Affairs
Many years ago, when I was first living in Kenya, back when Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was barely alive but still propped up in the office of the presidency -- (He was literally propped up, sort of like Weekend at Bernies. They would drag him from place to place and have him photographed. My favorite ever headline in Kenya's Daily Nation was "Mzee Looks at Birds.") -- I met with a group of Kikuyu students at the University of Nairobi. These were, presumably, Kenya's best and brightest, a generation beyond the tribal prejudices that had torn their parents generation apart. This group of young Kikuyus, preparing for the day when Kenyatta, the Kikuyu president would die (it was actually illegal to speculate that Mzee might die)told me that they had been hoarding weapons, preparing for the war that was sure to come when the old man was gone. Kenyatta died shortly thereafter, and despite some real tensions, the serious violence never came.
It is now 30 years later. Yet another generation has adopted the destructive tribalism of the past. And though, I don't foresee Kenya becoming another Rwanda, it certainly has the potential to get much worse than it is now.
Yes, it is tribalism. But it is not, as some news reports have stated, age-old tribal antagonism. It is freshly minted tribal antagonism, the result of the fact that in Kenya, as in much of Africa, control of the government means control of the country's wealth and resources. It is the government, not the people nor the farmers nor the business community that control resources. So the stakes involved in running the government are much higher than they should be.
Part of the problem is the result of foreign aid. (It is the very definition of a resource that comes from the top down.) Aid causes corruption by empowering bureaucrats, not workers and farmers. Governments dole out the resources to their supporters in order to maintain a power base. In turn, their supporters are willing to kill an pillage on behalf of their government sponsors. Welcome to Africa.
Here's what you can do in the short term. Buy only Fair Trade Coffee. Especially if it's Kenyan coffee. Right now most Kenyan coffee is making the government's political cronies rich while keep farmers working just above a subsistence level. Starve the patronage system, and you'll be feeding the people.