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Religion and Society

Kenya, a country with fire in its veins

Kenya (Jamhuri ya Kenya) was a British colony with numerous farming settlements owned by the English. Before independence (12 December 1963), the country was called British East Africa and subdivided into eight provinces, the political boundaries of which include the triangle of Ilemi under South Sudan, where there are a number of transnational problems. The refugees present today come from the bordering countries like South Sudan, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia

 

 

Kenya became the subject of international interest after the terrorist attack against Israeli citizens in Mombassa on 28 November 2001. Suspicions fell on the Al-Ittihaad al-Islamiya organisation, now active for about ten years in Kenya and linked to Al-Qaida. This organisation is under a Somali group founded at the end of the 80s in opposition to Siad Barre’s regime (1919-1995), president and dictator of Somalia; in more recent times Al-Ittihaad al-Islamiya has allowed the militant cells of Al-Qaida to use its Somali bases for attacks against the embassies of Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. It also has training bases for terrorists at Ras Chiamboni, on the border with Kenya, and has been involved in money-laundering on the behalf of various clients.

 

In general the eastern coast of Sub-Saharan Africa today seems to represent, together with other areas frequented by western tourism, a new objective of international terrorism.

 

 

There are six million Muslims in Kenya (20% of the population). Their collocation in important areas from an economic and strategic point of view gives them considerable importance, even a political one. Along the coastal areas, in towns like Mombassa, Malindi and Lamu, the Muslims represent over 50% of the population. Another large Muslim group in Kenya is that of the Somalis (600,000), who live in the north-eastern part of the country.

 

Despite the role of mediation that it has always played, for the first time in 2011 Kenya invaded Somalia to counter the spread of violence and shows signs of wanting to expand on the bordering Somali beaches.

 

 

The Muslims of Kenya are Sunnis of the Shafi’ita school, to which most of the Muslims of the world belong. The government of Kenya, like other governments of Sub-Saharan Africa bans the formation of political parties based on religious motivations. There are however various religious associations working in eastern Africa which publicly express their opinions, even political ones. The Islamic presence in the Kenyan government has always managed to exercise considerable influence and the aspirations of the Islamic communities in the country appeared above all during the 1992 multi-party elections.

 

From 1969 to 1982 Kenya had a single political party: the Kenya African National Union (KANU). Yomo Kenyatta (1889-1978) of the Kikuyu group (22% of the population), led the country to independence and held office until 1978 when Daniel Arap Moi, succeeded him, today 88 and of the Chritian Kalenjin group. In power for 24 years, Moi was seriously involved in corruption. The elections held on 29 December 2002 definitively abolished the KANU and ousted president Moi. Mwai Kibaki, an 81 year-old economist, was the third president of Kenya, and representative of the opposition called the National Rainbow Coalition - NARC. Moi was left with seven limousines with chauffeur, a staff of 34, a villa with 24 rooms and a pension of over 500,000 dollars a year.

 

 

It seems that these benefits are the result of an agreement with Kibaki, in exchange for the respect of the result of the elections by Moi’s entourage. Corruption during the Moi era reached extremely high levels, with millions of dollars taken from the state coffers. Members of parliament have salaries of about 125,000 dollars per year (when the salary of an American congressman is about 180,000 dollars).

 

 

The elections of 4 March 2013 decreed the victory of Uhuru Kenyatta, confirmed also by the court of justice following the charges of vote-rigging by the opposition party. Born in October 1961, the youngest president of Kenya, he is the second African president – together with Omar Al Bashir del Sudan – accused of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. Njamba, meaning ‘hero’ in kikuyu, as the wealthy Kenyatta is known, won the consensus of the Kikuyu, an influential group together with the Luo, the third group of the country (to which moreover the father of the president of the United States Obama belongs). Raila Odinga, 68, opponent of Kibaki and Kenyatta, is a Luo.

 

 

The young Kenyatta immediately drew up an agreement with China to change the side of the road system and the road organisation which still today is like the British one. And while Nairobi welcomes the fourth president in its history, the nation is called upon to face all the challenges with ‘fire in its veins’, first of all the urgent need to bring the processes of truth and reconciliation to completion.

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