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Kenya is nearing its first elections since 2007, and rival ethnic groups are beginning to take up arms once more as they fight out their differences. The violence more than five years ago left over 1,000 dead, but reforms since then (including a new constitution) had left many hoping that Kenya can proceed through its voting process in peace. Unfortunately, members of both the Pokomo and Orma tribes have been fighting each other in the Tana River Delta, and so far over 200 people have been killed.

Both tribes claim that the other has victimized them in many ways, including the destruction of homes, villages, and identification documents which prove the bearer is able to vote. And all over the country, the various governor races are prompting discord among Kenyans, many of whom have spent the past few years focusing on building a vibrant economy.

An article in The Daily Nation, the largest newspaper in Kenya, criticized the way Kenyans were behaving as the elections draw near. “All the tribal prejudice, all ancient grudges and feuds, all real and imagined slights, all dislikes and hatreds” are brought out, the journalist argued. To break the cycle of violence flaring as Kenyan elections approach, it will take this kind of honest accountability on the part of all Kenyans to put a stop to the violence before it goes too far.

President Obama has spoken out in favor of cooperation between all Kenyans, but the United States can do even more to help ensure the safety of these people by providing more aid for those Kenyans in poverty. It is far easier to live in peace when there is no need to worry about losing basic necessities at the hands of a government targeting a specific ethnic group. Kenya has experienced surprising economic growth over the past half decade; doing more to extend those gains to all citizens should be a major priority for all parties involved.

Jake Simon

Source: The New York Times