I travelled to Kenya once again in the summer of 2008. My wife, daughters, and I found ourselves in a unique position. We seemed to be amongst the only travelers in the country. In our hotel in Mombasa, which had just reopened, we were amongst the only guests. Tourists were almost non-existent, sacred away by the political violence that had swept the country earlier that year.
Most of the violence was tribally based. Our orphanage is in the mountains of Mbooni district in an area that is known as “Kambaland” because its inhabitants are almost exclusively members of the Kamba tribe.
It’s too easy to impost our own cultural lens and values in situations like this. I twas a dangerous, desperate time and people reacted in ways that reflected those realities. Those men, in their own way, were trying to stop the storm from spreading to their community.
If I was to look at the “themes” of this book, one of the most important is the concept of being “Kenyan.” While Kenya, its people and culture date back to the beginning of human history, the country itself is relatively new, just celebrating 50 years of independence. It is composed of a multitude of cultures, linguistic groups and “tribes,” which have historically and through colonial divisions and amalgamations have been at odds with each other. It is one of the challenges of this evolving country for its people to see themselves as “Kenyan” as opposed to being a member of a tribal/linguistic grouping. The words spoken through “the Sergeant” are my heartfelt hopes for the country.