Essay on The Civil War in Kenya

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In early 1964, less than one month after independence, Kenya found itself in the midst of a civil war. Riots, attacks on police stations, and assassinations quickly placed the Northern Frontier District (NFD) under a state of emergency as pre-existent conflicts escalated. British political decisions from the colonial era played the largest role in dividing the country between the newly formed Kenyan government and the Somalis of northern Kenya, who desired to unite with the Somali Republic. In an attempt to marginalize the secessionist movement, President Jomo Kenyatta coined the term shifta, or “bandit” in Oromo, to classify the military wing of the Northern Province People’s Progressive Party (NPPPP) in charge of anti-government raids. The stigma this created effectively widened the gap between full Kenyans and Kenyan Somalis, although only portions of the latter were actually involved in incidents of violence. Kenyan authorities responded to shifta threats by forcing all Somalis in Kenya to abandon their lifestyles, and assimilate with dominant traditions. By 1964, political, economic, and social clashes between shifta and Kenyans led to a four year conflict that challenged the nation’s unity. Today in the Philippines, the Muslim minority group residing in Mindanao is forming a similar secessionist movement. Their situation is reminiscent of Kenya in its antebellum period, but with proper governing the Filipinos and Muslims still have a chance at peaceful…

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