Kenya trough the lens of a Kenyan

Posted: May 9, 2013 in All Posts, Kenya

By : Konstantsa Karaleeva

Edited by : Natalie Bush

Kenyan topics from class through the eyes of a Kenyan


Readings, movies, culture, discussions and research are great tools for learning about the global world and places that are far away and very different from your own environment. But only you create your own perspective from all of your knowledge of a place, based on your vision, beliefs and culture. The best way to understand a place is to go to it. Even after visitng, you will still have a vision of this place through the lens of your culture and beliefs. For me the best resource for a place, which is far away, is a person from this place. Someone who has grown up there and has been witnessing all the processes that you have read about and watched regarding global media. If this person has another perspective different from his / her native land this will make the information subjective and objective at the same time. That is why I decide to find someone who is from Kenya.

After some research, I found a Kenyan student at Mizzou. Faith Ka…. who is a sophomore nursing major. She was born and raised in Kenya and after high school she came here to pursue better education. Faith is an athlete at Mizzou and is part of the track and field team. I asked her about her vision and opinion about almost every of the suggested topics for covering of a country that we had for class. I have written about many of them but I couldn’t cover everything. I think that this post can be a submission of my work on the Kenyan blog toward the semester, because it combines many topics. Instead of submission of my own research, I decided to submit my blog on Kenya, based on a real Kenyan’s words and opinions.

language and its effect on the culture

Faith :

–       Language definitely shapes the culture, but the culture also can shape the language. For example, the ethnic group of Nilotes people came to Kenya from Ethiopia. When they came they were originally speaking Sokethe language. This group of people divided into two tribes- the Luo and the Kalenjin .Luo went to the land near the Victoria Lake and they did fishing for a living. The other tribe, Kalenjin, where I belong to, went to the highlands and there were a lot of animals so they started doing farming. Due to the two very different lifestyles and areas where the two tribes were living, the language started changing. Now, many years later the language has totally changed. There are still some similarities,  for example some words have the same pronunciations but the meaning is different. I cannot completely understand someone who is Luo.


–       history: how has its history shaped culture and politics

To understand our political system right now, one has to know the historical context. The first president, after Kenya’s independence was Kenyatta who was Luo. The second president was Moi, who was a Kalingen. Many Kolinjen people were donating for his governance and during his presidency, many schools and universities were developed and many of them are named after him, Moi University for example. He was in charge for more than 20 years after Kenyata. After that Kebaki became a president and he is from the Luo tribe, the tribe of Kenyata’s tribe and now Kenyata. The problem with the tribal issues and politicians is that when the pesident is from certain tribe this tribe is favorited. Even though now it is different the bias that the tribe of belonging of the president is favorited and beloved with some more advantages that the other tribe remains. It is still considered that Kelinjin people are more educated and well developed.

–       3.      Relationship to neighboring regions and countries

–       Tanzania and Uganda are the most connected neighboring countries to Kenya. The other neighbors, Sudan and Somalia had some serious problems. Many refugees from there were coming to Kenya during the wars. Kenya is definitely the most westernized country in the region. Right now, the rising of GMO product is a very big concern. Recently there was discussion here at MU for NGO in Kenya and there was a guest lecturer. This lady was saying that the nearby countries are waiting for Kenya’s decision on GMO and if Kenya accepted it the other countries will follow this example. This only shows that Kenya is very influential for the region and can be considered as a leader.

–       4.    Relationship to the US

–       This is very funny because most people in Kenya truly and deeply believe that the USA president Barack Obama is from Kenya. Mainly because his grandfather came from Kenya and his sister has a Kenyan name -Oma, which is an important name for the LUO  tribe. There was one photo of Obama and his grandma in Kenya and people were saying, “See, the way he is dressed he is just a normal typical African boy.” His grandma is still living in Kenya. When he came to visit Kenya, people went crazy. During the USA elections people were very focused on Obama winning and they were so happy and proud of him. American culture has a very big influence on Kenya right now. For example even with gay rights. This part of the world is very conservative and homophobic but now you can feel that a very small percentage of the people are becoming ok with the gay rights issues. Only because the USA is gay friendly and Obama stood for gay marriage equality, last summer.  Nairobi is becoming very fast the American ideology. I saw a girl’s photo on Facebook and she was dressing just like she was in the USA and I thought that maybe she was here, in the USA, but actually the photo was taken at Nairobi. Then I realized that Kenya is very influenced by the western media and western culture.

–       Contemporary politics

–       We had a very bad political crisis in 2008 when there were elections for president. But right now it is ok. Before they had to have both of them and stop fighting and people saw the painful aspect in the last elections.  Many people suffered from the elections. You read the statistics and you think it is bad but you cannot imagine I have so many friends and I know so many people who lost close people and who suffered. From all of this pain, they came together and it is now stable . Now there is new government and the new constitutions and he is still the previous president and maybe it will be like that few years more.

–       Borders: who created them and when; any conflicts?

–       We have few countries that we border. One of them is Uganda and we had some issues with them. The conflict was over the Victoria Lake. Some people say it belongs to Kenya and some think it is Ugandan. The conflict is specified in the Migingo area island. They fought over it for  a long time and I think this is our biggest conflict with neigbohoring countries. Otherwise, we don’t have many problems with our neighbors.


–       Poverty level and food sustainability.

–       Specific parts of Kenya are poorer than others. Mostly the Northeastern side is poor. That is because it is dry and there are not a lot of things that grow. People there have cows and sheep but even they don’t produce milk for dairy a lot because it is dry. This part of Kenya does not produce a lot of food and that is why people are poor.

–       Climate change and sustainability issues

–       We have two seasons -hot and rain season. Lately there is more sun and less rain. Before, the rain periods were longer but now there are only two months. This is really bad for the planting because the dry weather has a bad influence on the plants, environment, animals and everything else.


–       status of minorities, women, old people, disabled

–       Women have the right go to parliament and many can be part of groups. In our culture there are certain beliefs and perceptions for women that Western people don’t understand. They think that women are discriminated but the truth is that the  majority of women are educated .

–       education and literacy- The primary school is free and everyone goes to school. However, there are high school fees. Women outnumber the men in the school. I think that we have a good educational and school system. I finished my high school in Kenya and when I came to the University of Missouri I thought that it would be extremely difficult for me because the educational system is so much better. I actually felt very well prepared. We really study and work hard.

–       global connections / effect of globalization- I definitely think that Kenya is globalizing and has some connections. Kenya is definitely the most developed country in the region, not only because I am from there but because it is true. If you are interested in Kenya you can visit:

– Here I find all the information about my country. I try to be connected and to be in touch with Kenyan family in friends. I miss them a lot as well as Kenya itself. It is a beautiful place.


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