- By P.J. Aroon
As anyone following the sport of running knows, a sizable chunk of the world’s fastest runners hail from Kenya, a country rocked by violence after a disputed December 2007 election. Now a paragraph in a report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) says elite runners there may be funding, training, and commanding militias.
Kenya’s speediest runners are chiefly from the Kalenjin tribal group. Coaches say Kalenjins have snagged about 40 percent of top awards at world and Olympic events, from the 800m to the marathon, since 1980. These top athletes have invested their running-earned riches in farmland and other real estate.
The Kalenjins have a longstanding animosity with the Kikuyus, the tribal group of President Mwai Kibaki. ICG, based on interviews in the region, says Kalenjins reportedly want to run Kikuyus off their farms and property. Kalenjin athletes, many of whom have a military background, are allegedly funding, training, and even commanding Kalenjin militias to attack Kikuyus. Lucas Sang, a runner in the 1988 Olympics, may have been killed while leading a group of raiders, the report says.
Athetics officials vigorously deny that the pride of Kenya, its beloved runners, are fueling violence. They point out that runners there have been involved in local competitions to foster peace. Paul Tergat, the Kenyan who held the marathon world record until last September, told Reuters, “I am sure that no athlete would want to finance or promote violence.”
But if they are, it’s a sad day for amateur runners everywhere. It’s hard to stomach the news that some of running’s role models may be running campaigns of violence.
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.| Passport |