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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Kalenjin in Kenya

View Group Chronology

Kenya Facts
Area:    582,650 sq. km.
Capital:    Nairobi
Total Population:    28,333,000 (source: unknown, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

Kalenjin have two risk factors for rebellion: territorial concentration and high levels of group cohesion. However, absent other risk factors, the likelihood of sustained rebellion by Kalenjin remains small. The Kalenjin lost power in the elections of 2002, which has increased their risk of protest. They claim that the government is marginalizing them and feel that they are being targeted in anti-corruption sweeps. Other risk factors for protest include recent political instability in Kenya and the partial nature of democracy in Kenya. Kalenjin are perhaps most at risk for intercommunal conflict with other ethnic groups, especially over issues of access to land in the Rift Valley. Kalenjin were involved in the post-election violence of late 2007 and early 2008.


Analytic Summary

The Kalenjin are indigenous and semi-nomadic pastoralists who inhabit the central Rift Valley Province (GROUPCON = 3). The term Kalenjin, which was first used in the late 1950s, is a creation of the colonial period. They are comprised of several Nilotic ethnic groups (the Kipsigis, Nandi, Pokot, Marakwet, Keiyo, Tugen, and Sabaot) who share similar languages (LANG = 1) and culture. They are mostly Christian. Kalenjin are relatively distinct from other ethnic groups in Kenya (CUSTOM = 1).

Kalenjin were marginalized in the independence negotiations and alienated from their land by the colonial settlers. However, under KANU-dominated government, they faced no political or economic discrimination. They also do not appear to face discrimination due to the loss of KANU's political power (POLDIS06 = 0; ECDIS06 = 0). Furthermore, Kikuyu are represented in the Kenyan parliament as well as in cabinet-level positions (LEGISREP04-06 = 1; EXECREP04-06 = 1). However, the Kalenjin have recently faced dispossession from their land by the government, as the government seeks to undo past land transfers that favored the Kalenjin (DISPLACE04-05 = 1).

The main grievance of the Kalenjin against the government is their perceived lack of participation in politics at the central state level. There is a view among the Kalenjin that they are being marginalized as a result of their loss in the 2002 elections. Recently, they have also complained that the government has fired many civil servants from their community and have been underrepresented in civil servant positions (POLGR04-06 = 1; ECGR04-06 = 1).

The KANU party was traditionally the main representative of the Kalenjin people. In the past, since the Kalenjin held the presidency and a preponderance of ministerial positions, they were in a position to pursue their interests and were relatively immune from targeted government repression, although human rights abuses by the government were rampant. This changed with their loss of power in the elections of 2002. Protest against the government rose during 2003, but then declined during the period of 2004 through 2006 (PROT00-02 = 0, PROT03 = 3, PROT04-06 = 0). Although the Kalenjin complain about their lack of participation in politics at the central level, protest is difficult to organize. As mentioned above, seven different tribes comprise the group. There was disagreement about how to proceed once Moi retired and disagreement about how to go about having their interests represented. During 2004-2006, Kalenjin MPs disagreed even as to which parties should represent the group. Traditionally, KANU was the political party most representative of Kalenjin. However, following the departure of Moi, a Kikuyu, Uhuru Kenyatta, became leader of KANU. Some Kalenjin MPs were unhappy with this course of action and there was a movement during 2004 and 2005 to form a Kalenjin political party. Although an attempt was made with the formation of the Democratic Alliance Party of Kenya, the party never became strong enough to gain power and still does not have widespread support. Many Kalenjin still identify with KANU (GOJPA04-06 = 2). However, due to KANU's alliance with the Kikuyu-led administration of Mwai Kibaki, many Kalenjin supported the opposition Orange Democratic Movement of Raila Odinga in the 2007 elections.

The Kalenjin experienced conflict with the Kikuyu in 2003, attacking the Kikuyu because they feared they would be evicted from their land. Similar land disputes arose during 2004 when Kikuyu youths destroyed several Kalenjin houses, resulting in clashes between the two groups that led to several injuries. They also experienced conflict with the Kisii in 2003 over incidents of cattle rustling (INTERCON03-04 = 1).



Human Rights Watch/Africa Watch. 1993. Divide and Rule: State-Sponsored Ethnic Violence in Kenya.

Kipkorir, Benjamin. 1985. People of the Rift Valley: Kalenjin. Nairobi: Evans Brothers Limited Publishers.

Minorities Rights Group. 1989. World Directory of Minorities. St. James International Reference. London: St. James Press.

-Lexis-Nexis. Various news reports. 1990-2006.

Scarritt, James R. 1993. "Communal Conflict and Contention for Power in Africa South of the Sahara." In Ted R. Gurr, Minorities at Risk: A Global View of Ethnopolitical Conflicts. Washington: United States Institute of Peace.

Stewart, Frances. 3/2008. "Kenya, Horizontal Inequalities and the Political Disturbances of 2008." Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity. Department of International Development, Oxford University., accessed 4/9/2009.

U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Kenya. 2000-2006.


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Information current as of December 31, 2006