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Kenya's continuing tribal divide

21 February 09 12:27 GMT

Next week marks a year since Kenya's political rivals, Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, signed a power-sharing agreement designed to end the violence between their tribal allies. Pascale Harter went back to the scene of some of the worst violence to see if there really has been an attempt at reconciliation.

Golden fields roll past the window as you drive through the Rift Valley.

This is where Kenyans grow the maize that feeds the whole country - except that this year they are not growing it.

Nor did they last year.

Instead the farmers are packed together in their thousands, under tattered, once-white emergency tents - next to their fields.

'At risk'

Most of these families are too scared to go back to the farms they were thrown off a year ago simply for belonging to President Mwai Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe.

Some tend their farms during the day, returning to the camps to sleep at night.

But that is only if they have received a government grant to buy seeds, and most have not.

The government says it has run out of money to help, but urges them to go back anyway because the maize shortage is putting 10 million Kenyans at risk of starvation.

Anthony N'ganga is going back. He invited me to go with him.

We met last year, when his neighbours murdered his father and set fire to the village church where his wife and newborn baby were sheltering.

Mary survived - but only just. To save their baby from the flames she threw him out of the window. Mary's skin is rippled with scars from the fire.

The neighbours who did this to Anthony's family belonged to the Kalenjin tribe.

Convinced their leader, Raila Odinga, had been cheated out of his election victory by Mwai Kibaki, they took their anger out on any Kikuyu they could find.

Low profile

Anthony is excited; he is going back home for the first time.

"I want to forgive my neighbours," he says, "when I see them I will tell them."

I am nervous for him. The last time we went to Anthony's village, during the violence, we had to go with 20 armed police.

In the end when we arrive, there are not any of his Kalenjin neighbours around for him to forgive.

They are keeping a low profile. There is a shiny new police station on the Kikuyu side of the village.

It gleams green and white, like a warning to the Kalenjin. Isac, the taxi driver who takes us there, is the only Kalenjin we meet.

Being driven around by a Kalenjin was what kept Anthony and me safe during last year's violence.

As for Isac, the things he saw with us meant he could not insist, as other Kalenjin did - loudly and often - that his Kalenjin warriors have not harmed any Kikuyu women and children.

Kalenjin grievances

We spent so much time together during the violence, that Anthony and Isac agreed we should get a photo taken of the three of us, as a souvenir.

With the world suddenly taking notice of Kalenjin grievances, Isac could afford to be generous to a Kikuyu, and with his tribe brought so low, Anthony could not afford to look on Isac with the disdain his tribe usually reserved for Kalenjin.

If the two of them could get along last year, at the height of the violence, after a year of their leaders sharing power I am confused to find relations between them are much cooler now.

Isac did not take part in the violence. "If I had stayed at home other Kalenjin would have called me to fight so I took my children to town and hid."

But he had hoped that he would benefit from it. He showed me the gourds hanging from the gateposts of deserted Kikuyu houses.

"It's a sign to other Kalenjin," he told me, "not to burn the house because a Kalenjin is going to take it over."

But with the sparkling new police station standing guard, the Kalenjin have not been able to seize Kikuyu farms.

And Raila Odinga has done little for the disenfranchised tribes that brought him to power; instead he and his cabinet members are accused of making money out of the maize shortage.

'Ticket to power'

Anthony looks out of the taxi window, and in front of Isac, says to me: "Look how these lazy Kalenjin have neglected the fields."

He says this without seeming to realise just how much Isac and other Kalenjin resent his Kikuyu people.

We take photographs separately this year - one of Anthony and me together, one of me and Isac.

It seems to sum up the state of tribal relations across Kenya.

Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga have done nothing to reconcile the country.

Why would they? Ethnic rivalry is their ticket to power.

And without it Kenyans might band together to question why their leaders are doing so well while they go hungry.

And I worry that it won't be another year before my two friends are affected once more by a round of murderous violence.

From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday, 21 February, 2009 at 1130 GMT on BBC Radio 4. Please check the for World Service transmission times.

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