Are Kenyan runners stoking violence?
John Gichigi/Getty Images 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 ...
John Gichigi/Getty Images
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.
Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009-2016 and was an assistant editor from 2007-2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP
More from Foreign Policy
America Is a Heartbeat Away From a War It Could Lose
Global war is neither a theoretical contingency nor the fever dream of hawks and militarists.
The West’s Incoherent Critique of Israel’s Gaza Strategy
The reality of fighting Hamas in Gaza makes this war terrible one way or another.
Biden Owns the Israel-Palestine Conflict Now
In tying Washington to Israel’s war in Gaza, the U.S. president now shares responsibility for the broader conflict’s fate.
Taiwan’s Room to Maneuver Shrinks as Biden and Xi Meet
As the latest crisis in the straits wraps up, Taipei is on the back foot.