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Assessment for Kalenjin in Kenya

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Kalenjin in Kenya, 31 December 2003, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
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

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 Kalenjin are being targeted in anti-corruption sweeps. Attempts by the new government to end corruption and be more inclusive may lessen the risk of protest.

Analytic Summary

The Kalenjin are indigenous (TRADITN = 1) 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 = 2) and culture. They are mostly animist (RELIGS1 = 8) but have multiple sects – some of which are different from the dominant group (BELIEF = 2). Kalenjin are relatively distinct from other ethnic groups in Kenya (ETHDIFXX = 5). However, they are not different from the dominant group in terms of general customs (CUSTOM = 0).

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 (POLDIS03 = 0; ECDIS03 = 0). They also do not appear to face discrimination due to the loss of KANU's political power. However, the Kalenjin have recently faced dispossession from their land by the government, as the government seeks to undo past last transfers that favored the Kalenjin.

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.

The KANU party is the main representative of the Kalenjin people (GOJPA03 = 1). 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 has risen (PROT00-02 = 0, PROT03 = 3). 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 (COHESX9 = 3) and there was disagreement about how to proceed once Moi retired, and disagreement about how to go about having their interests represented. The group does not receive any transnational support that would be of assistance.

The current relationship of the Kalenjin with the government is adversarial as a result of their perceived lack of involvement and discrimination against their group. The Kalenjin experienced conflict with the Kikuyu in 2003, attacking the Kikuyu because they feared they would be evicted from their land (GCC203 = 3). They also experienced conflict with the Kisii over incidents of cattle rustling (GCC403 = 1).


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