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How Kenyans carry over tribal politics to diaspora

She was born and raised in Nyeri County before she came to the US five years ago to attend a college at Goldey-Beacom in New Castle County, Delaware.

He was born in Homa Bay County and migrated to the US seven years ago on the now “endangered” diversity Visa program commonly known as the Green Card.

Stephanie Mugure and John Omogo (First names changed to conceal true identity) first met four years ago during New-Hires training in Newark, Delaware organised by Chimes Delaware — one of the firms in Delaware specialising in group homes (facilities that take care of people with both Mental and Physical disabilities).

After the training, Ms Mugure and Mr Omogo were posted to the same “house” but on different shifts.

Mr Omogo worked 3pm to 11pm while Ms Mugure worked overnight (11pm to 7 am) because she still attended college.


Over the years, as they exchanged shifts, the two developed what they both described as a “very close” relationship.

But the run-up to the August 8 elections and the fresh presidential ballot changed all this.

In Ms Mugure’s words, they often “heatedly” argued about President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

“Omogo believes Kikuyus and especially Uhuru (Mr Kenyatta) always steal Raila’s (Mr Odinga’s) elections victory. I don’t believe that’s true,” Ms Mugure told the Sunday Nation

But Mr Omogo believes she has a problem:  “It’s very hard to debate with Mugure because every time the name Raila comes up, she freezes! She believes Raila is a trouble-maker whose aim is to cause chaos in Kenya.”

It is assumed that by virtue of living abroad, in places where they are exposed to diverse world-views and sophisticated systems, the Kenyan Diaspora is somehow cultured and may have moved beyond ethnic, religious and cultural sensibilities.

But, as the past elections and indeed all elections in Kenya in the recent past have shown, Kenyans living abroad may have crossed oceans and seas but still remain trapped in tribal cocoons.


“There’s something about Kenyan politics that evoke deep mistrust among most Kenyans living abroad. Instead of being united by mutual issues of interest such as the need for the government at home to implement their constitutional right to vote and institutionalising organised systems, most Kenyans living abroad become completely disarmed by tribal politics,” says Jack Ambuka, a Kenyan resident of New Jersey.

Mr Ambuka, just like many other Kenyans living abroad, agrees that the hatred was unleashed during the recent elections between supporters of Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.

“I have heard cases where long lasting friendships have been discontinued, marriages broken and colleagues threatening to expose the legal statuses of their compatriots simply because they disagreed on whom between Uhuru and Raila should be president,” said Mr Ambuka.

Mr Ephraim Mwaura, a Kenyan politician from Nakuru County, who is currently living in Toronto, Canada, says that one of the most shocking discoveries is just how Kenyans in diaspora were sharply divided in their political views along ethnic lines.

He says: “What I have experienced is extremist tribal bigotry and exhibition of incredibly naive and parochial view of what is best for our nation.”