Ethnic divisions following the 2007 elections drove some Kenyan communities to violence. Some now see the upcoming Olympic Games as a chance for national unity.
Training in the urban Karura forest just northwest of the heart of Nairobi in an attempt to retain the “strong lungs” that comes from breathing in the thin air of Kenya’s high-plateau altitude, the Kenyan Olympics team is preparing for the July 27 – Aug. 12 Games in London.
Most of the team members belong to a single ethnic group. Indeed, most of the athletes come from one particular town. Yet, the recent ethnic violence that has emanated from the town of Eldoret in the Rift Valley – driven by a combination of political ambition and ethnic resentment – makes the dominance of ethnic Kalenjins on the Kenyan Olympic team a matter of some concern. Will Kenyans set aside ethnic differences during the Olympic games, and unify as one nation?
“When the games begin, Kenyan will sit together as citizens of one country and cheer their runners,” says Ben Mutsotso, a sociologist at the University of Nairobi. “The games bring us a sense of pride, fame, and unity to all Kenyans regardless of their tribes, race, or class. That will benefit peace.”
IN PICTURES: Countdown to the 2012 London Olympics