i awoke this morning, looking forward to yet another challenging day at the office, but found myself turning back halfway through the journey. what appeared to be impatient drivers on the highway who were turning back, ended up in breaking into the sad turn of events that again created tensions in the city of nairobi. the road i was using – around 8.30am – was suddenly clamped close by the anti-riot police who turned out of nowhere. it’s only when i got home that i saw on the news that just after midnight this morning, an elected opposition m.p. had been brutally shot dead right outside his home. this led to the city erupting into chaos – roads and schools and offices getting hurriedly shut. what an interruption of life we are now going through. what used to be africa’s most stable country is now on the verge of collapse as the politicians continue to bicker for their own selfish ends. the plight of the common man is now in the hands of God.
when an oak tree like kenya begins to burn, it’s the smaller leaves that tremble first. kenya is a multi-ethnic and cosmopolitan land and when ethnic tensions run high, the minorities begin to feel the heat as an uneasiness of insecurity hits home. whenever a country’s peoples are at unrest, that is when the minorities are most noticeable. part of these minorities in kenya are the south asians and europeans – and in today’s kenya, they are tucked away in fear. the greatest fear amongst the sikhs (and of the south asians in general) in kenya is becoming the unworthy targets of mass tensions. until now – thankfully – no asian or european has become the direct victim of riots and unrest but in areas where there is asian presence, there have been reports of loss of property and business as rampant arson of both homes and business have been recorded. one of those affected is a harbhajan singh sembi of kisumu whose 7 trucks were razed to the ground – out of sheer hooliganism. most of the attacks on property and on land have stemmed from decades of simmering inequalities between kenya’s 40 indigenous tribes. large tracts of land are today still owned by just a handful of people – the first president’s family owning over 40% while the rest is owned by the former president and current president. a few south asians and whites also own large farms that bring in precious foreign exchange to the country. some sikhs and whites own many coastal resorts and run successful business in the cities.
the sikhs have played a major role in the development of this country, both in the colonial and independent eras. they are known to be a highly respected and hard-working community who are fondly called ‘kalasinghas’ by the local africans. the other asians are the gurjaratis and muslim communities who together form less than 1% of the country’s population (comparable to the sikh population in india) – though kenya’s population numbers only 35 million – 3 million of which lives in nairobi.
it is this handful number of south asians and whites that have contributed immensely to the progress of kenya’s economy, though the african counterparts have fast added their space. the africans now own major stakes in the country’s top companies and enterprises. the country will soon be marking 45 years of independence, but the number of sikhs, other asians and whites have been dwindling ever since. surprisingly, during the colonial era, the population of indians outnumbered the british by a third – which prompted the colonial powers to keep the indians in check by slapping the ‘indian question’ tag on them which still sticks to the community today. this ‘indian question‘ culled the progress of the community and its effects are being felt to this day. every time an occasion arises where the asians come into the news (positive or otherwise), the ‘indian question’ pops up and the community begins to feel targeted. this uneasiness has led to the mass exodus in 1963 (independence) and silent ones ever since. the last major exodus was in 1982 when a failed coup plunged the asians at the receiving end – only because the community is a soft target for the trouble-makers. today is one of those days when those dark memories are coming back to haunt the minorities like the asians. if the current crisis continues for any much longer than a few more weeks, i believe, another quiet exodus is bound inevitable. already, the current population of asians and sikhs in kenya are in their few thousands and if anything unfortunate happens now, the numbers will fall further.the topic of the sikhs in kenya is indeed a lengthy one, but in conclusion to this post, i can only add the the sikh community at present is uneasy and insecure – like everyone else who is vulnerable to the political unrest. the community has been bound by unity and even now, they can only pray and hope that all turns out well – for whoever lives in kenya loves the country to the core and any such person or community would be troubled by the political and civil unrest currently prevailing in the country.
these are just my two cents of an opinion – i am no political analyst or history guru, but as a patriot of kenya, have only stated the current climate of my beautiful and God-blessed country.
God bless kenya and may peace prevail in the country – once again – this time for keeps.
Nanak Naam Chadikala, Tere Bhanay Sarbat Da Bhalaa
– Lakhvir Singh Khalsa