Derogatory language causing inter-ethnic conflicts in the country

Inter-ethnic language prejudice has been identified as one major factors triggering conflicts between communities during electioneering periods in Kenya.

Participants at a workshop on conflict management convened in Awendo town, by the civil Society groups cited the 2007 post-election violence as a clear case to learn from.

The forum heard that, charged members of different communities used bad languages against each other to drive a wedge between different communities, sparking violence that claimed more than 1,000 lives countrywide.

Jane Owino from Holistic United Community Based Organization (HUCBO), said that language can be a source of conflict and cited the use of word ‘Kihii’ used by Kikuyus against the Luos (meaning not yet adult) as foul language that caused disharmony among the two communities during the 2007 dark days.

Such name calling sparked rage among Luos and only assisted in fuelling what was previously started as a protest against the alleged presidential vote stealing, said Owino.

A participant, Matthew Chacha, admitted that prejudiced language and negative perception by members of different communities against their perceived political rivalries were to blame for the heightened tensions and conflicts during election periods and cited past election cases pitting members of the Kalenjin and Kikuyu communities.

The Kalenjins allegedly used words such as Madoadoa that elicited feelings that they were more superior than people from other communities living in Rift Valley, thus sparking ethnic brawls that we saw in 2007, he told the forum.

As a result of this, participants said there was need for concerted efforts to educate Kenyans on the proper use of language as one sure step to guard against raising discrimination among ethnic groups.

HUCBO’s Senior Legal Counsel Coordinator, Dr. Peter Owuor, said the forum aimed at providing civic education to participants on strategic ways on how to prevent and manage conflicts among communities.

He challenged communities to embrace serious dialogue amongst each other as the only means to avoid conflicts between them.

Pastor Lawrence Mwita of ‘Hand of Jesus’ Ministries claimed that the country still face a herculean task of bringing harmony among the four big tribes in the country, for meaningful national dialogue and challenged the government to ‘walk the talk’ in uniting the nation.

Source: Kenya News Agency