Joint World Conference on Social Work and Social Development Stockholm, Sweden 8th-12th July 2012 FACILITATING SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT IN MULTIETHNIC REGIONS IN KENYA By Pius MutukuMutie, PhD Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology and Social Work, University of Nairobi, Kenya
Methodology • Data is based on literature review and anecdotal narratives from social workers and social work students
Introduction • According to Kenya’s 2009 Census Report, the country had a population of about 38 Million people-now its about 40 million. • Kenya has about 42 distinct ethnic groups. • The main groups are Kikuyu, Luhya, Kalenjin, Luo and Kamba. While the Kikuyu, Luo and Kamba are largely homogenous groups, the Luhya and the Kalenjin are an amalgamation of several sub-groups with relatively different dialects and cultural practices. • Most of Kenya’s ethnic groups live in distinct territorial areas.
Introduction cont. • Such territorial areas are relatively calm except at the borderlines where there might be occasional conflicts with neighbouring groups. • There are also multiethnic regions, that is, areas inhabited by different ethnic groups. • These of course include the major towns such as Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru • Rural multiethnic regions/counties include Nakuru (Kikuyu, Kalenjin and Kisii); Kajiado (Maasai, Kikuyu and Kamba); UasinGishu(Kalenjin, Luhya and Kikuyu), Bomet County (Kisii and Kipsigis); Tana River (Pokomo and Orma); Sondu area (Luo, Kipsigis and Kisii), Kwale (Digo, Duruma and Kamba).
Introduction cont. • In terms of governance structure, the country remained centralized from 1964 to 2010, when a new constitution was adopted creating counties (47). • As shown above, most of the counties host virtually homogenous ethnic groups; but there are others that are home to many different ethnic groups. • Some of these multiethnic counties are ‘problem spots’ particularly during and immediately after a general election. Prior to an election, there is a lot of political mobilization along ethnic lines and development activities stall or stop.
Introduction cont. • Generally, Kenya’s ethnic groups have coexisted peacefully since Kenya’s independence from Britain in 1963; but there have been occasional ethnic conflicts. • Most of these conflicts arise from differences in land-use (e.g. pastoralists versus cultivators), perceived encroachment on ‘other people’s land’, competition over resources, and more importantly instrumentalization/politicization of ethnicity. • Some of the outstanding interethnic conflicts include the sporadic cattle raids among pastoralist groups, 1991 ‘land clashes’ (just before the 1992 multiparty elections and shortly after) and the 1997 interethnic conflicts (prior to and shortly after elections).
Effects of ethnic conflicts • The worst case was the post-election violence of 2008 which claimed over 1,300 lives. More than 300,000 people were displaced. Many of the victims were women and children. • The interethnic violence was so vicious- a Catholic priest of Kikuyu origin was killed by apparently Kalenjin youth, and about 35 people (mainly Kikuyu women and children) who had sought refuge in a church were burnt alive. Besides, ‘non-local’ lecturers teaching in Moi University (Eldoret), had to flee the area for their safety. • The violence affected social workers too working with government agencies as children offices, probation officers or social welfare officers. Those working with NGOs suffered the same fate. The absence of social workers meant that critical services needed such as counseling of the victims of violence (e.g. those raped) were curtailed • Following the Post-Election Violence, four Kenyan personalities await trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague for crimes against humanity.
Social development • Jacobs and Harland (1999), defines social development as the kind of development that goes beyond improvement in the living conditions (e.g. lower infant mortality and literacy) to the enabling conditions, strategies and public policies for achieving those results (such as peace, democracy, and social freedoms) as well as the underlying social process of development that determines how society initiates and organizes those things. • Sometimes social work is contrasted with social development where social work is traditionally seen remedial and rehabilitative while social development is seen as a more transformative, progressive and comprehensive approach. • Social workers are charged with the responsibility of facilitating social development; enhance human wellbeing, provision of basic needs, reduction of poverty and promote self determination .
Social development in Multiethnic regions • As a preamble, its is important to note the difference in the way government and NGOs deploy staff in Kenya. • Government-with the exception of teachers and subordinate staff, government officers are usually posted away from ‘home’-as part of a strategy to enhance the notion of “one Kenya”/nationhood, cohesion and unity in diversity • The government therefore posts children officers, probation officers and social development officers in areas where the officers do not originate from • NGOs-tend to recruit field workers from the local areas of operation- “knowledge of the local language will be an added advantage” • Data gathered suggests that doing social work “away from home” presents unique challenges.
Social dev. in Multiethnic regions cont. • One of the challenges social workers face has to do with language-while it is imperative that the social worker uses either English or Kiswahili (the national languages) some of the locals may not understand these languages. The social worker might be seen as aloof. • Ethnic stereotypes • The social worker may be considered an ‘outsider’ which and therefore one who cannot facilitate development ‘fairly’. • The locals may have concerns over domination-the worker could be a conduit through which ‘his/her people’ will come to work there or acquire property. • Socialising • Transport costs, home development, etc.
Social dev. in Multiethnic regions cont. • Ethnic hegemony-some local leaders say-“we have people here who can do this job”. Others ask: “Why do you work here and our people cannot work where you come from”? • Depending on the social worker’s ethnic identity or conduct, the worker may be considered impartial leading to resentment. If the social worker belongs to one of the local ethnic groups, then members of his/her ethnic group may easily identify with him/her making the other groups feel excluded. • A case in point is a social worker (children officer) posted to Nakuru County. As a Kikuyu, he belonged to the ethnic group of the President, and therefore members of other groups perceived him as an extension of “Kikuyu domination”. The posting was not seen as ‘normal’ but as part of a scheme to entrench Kikuyu ethnic control in the Rift Valley which is considered by the Kalenjin groups as ‘their’ homeland.
Social dev. in multiethnic regions cont • He had to flee to safety at night during the post election violence of 2008. He says that many other social workers had to flee as well (Kikuyu, Luo, Kisii and Kamba) while a few lost their lives. • Much depends on the area of posting (e.g. attitude of the local people to the worker or his/her ethnic group), gender could compound the problem, social skills of the worker and his/her attitude towards the local people, ability to identify entry points (e.g. gaining acceptance among local leaders), political parties and ethnic alignments, etc.
Actions/strategies • According to the children’s officer who had to flee from Nakuru-a social worker in a multiethnic environment has to adhere strictly to the social work ethics/principles. • Social workers have to be committed to help those in need irrespective of race, ethnicity, religion, etc. In some cases however, social workers have their own ethnic biases and have been reported to favour their groups in social service delivery. • In exercise of ‘self-awareness’ the social worker should in such cases consider referral or transfer to another area. • More importantly, social workers have not been vocal in challenging social injustice and those who instrumentalize ethnicity (especially political leaders). • There is need for increased social and political action. Social workers in Kenya should act to prevent and eliminate discrimination on the basis of ethnicity among other attributes.
Strategies/Actions • There is need for social advocacy to champion the rights of vulnerable groups (e.g. ethnic minorities or oppressed groups). Ensure there the “equity fund” reaches marginalized groups and the bill of rights is adhered to (Kenya Constitution, 2010) • Social workers are expected to appreciate social and cultural diversity. Ideally, social work training in Kenya prepares students for cultural/ethnic diversity. But this aspect is often not stressed in diploma and certificate training. And even for the university graduates, some may learn about cultural/ethnic diversity only theoretically. As practitioners, the experience may be different. • Besides, curricula are not harmonized so not all universities stress on cultural/ethnic diversity in their training. • This means that the social worker him/herself may have a problem working with people of diverse cultures.