Saturday, February 16, 2008


It appears that ethnic divide plaguing Kenyans at home has been perfectly mirrored on to their brothers and sisters in the diaspora. In ordinary times,the Kenyan Diaspora from different ethnicities in Washington DC get along with reasonable civility. But on the whole, there is only limited cross-ethnic interaction except maybe at gatherings at the Kenyan Embassy and a few " Kenyan" entertainment places. Beyond that, the diaspora, just like those back home, stay mostly within ethnic or other comfort zones they create.

The crisis back home has exacerbated the divide and cemented the existing divisions. Political opinion closely mirrors ethnic origin, which is a reliable indicator of support for or opposition to the major political camps in Kenya. And the views expressed are strikingly similar to those heard from spokespeople of both camps.

Most PNU supporters in the diaspora valiantly say their man won fair and square, and that he is a victim of a well orchestrated smear campaign by people from western Kenya.

In the contrary,ODM supporters — and the less sympathetic to that line of argument — are quick to retort. They reel out figures and dismiss the PNU line as an exercise in phantom arithmetic, which cannot stand scrutiny.

They accuse the other side of playing fast and loose with 'facts’(lying) and of being in denial. Once in a while, decorum is cast aside and harsh words are thrown about. It can get tense. This scene is said to be playing out in many locales across the US,Canada,Europe and other foreign lands.

Non-Kenyans with friends on both sides are learning to navigate the tricky waters between the fissures. Sometimes, the mischievous among them transmit opposed points of view between the groups. They solicit views from one side and pass to the other in a manner likely to provoke a visceral response, which they duly report to other side.

The split is finding its way in American politics. Some PNU supporters have no time for Mr Barack Obama, the Democratic Party nomination contender. They prefer Mrs Hillary Clinton. ODM supporters in US are in the Obama camp. Those among them who have the vote, and some who don’t, have contributed to the Obama campaign repeatedly. They are all very proud of their effort. Whenever they get an opportunity, they nettle PNU supporters, who are less inclined to support Obama. According to a source, a similar situation obtains back in Kenya. At the end of the day though, lessened interface between the groups does not translate into much disruption of social relations because all along, there has not been much dealings between the groups.

This probably reflects the situation back in Kenya where people, including the middle class, tend to limit their social dealings within their own ethnic groups. Visit many entertainment places in Kenya’s multi-ethnic urban areas and you will see ethnic solidarity on vivid display.Especially now.

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