The Caucasian Chalk Circle of Kenyan Times

The Caucasian Chalk Circle of Kenyan Times

By Andrew Mibei

The latest play, studied as a compulsory set book in Kenya’s secondary schools- The Caucasian Chalk Circle, touches on sensitive matters of land and tribalism that have plagued Kenya for years. It has not been an easy one for teachers but rather a sensitive moment in classrooms.

 The play’s prologue is set during summer in 1945 but still remains relevant to the current challenges facing Kenya to date- land issues, to be precise.

There are two groups of peasants tussling over land ownership; pastoralists and gatherers. World War two is over and the pastoralists want to reclaim land on a valley they originally owned. The gatherers too have interests, as they plan to annex the same to conduct their agricultural needs.  

There is a Government Delegate who has been sent to mediate and pacify the two parties. The peasants on the right side- Pastoralists, argue that the valley is theirs ‘historically,’ owing to the fact that they resided in the valley before the conflict. The group points at the ruins of what was once the foundation of their dairy unit as evidence to their claims.

Isn’t this what many communities have been tabling to prove? ‘Ownership’ of land in Kenya? Place names have been fronted by many to claim portions of land in the country.

The other group of fruit gatherers doesn’t relent but fights to present their side of the story. They claim to have drawn up irrigation plans that would allow them produce tenfold the fruits they grew earlier. They plan to convert 700 acres of infertile land into fertile land. The plans excite many present at the dispute resolution point. We have heard of a number of communities in Kenya, that have ‘lost’ their ancestral land to ‘enterprising’ communities, who use the pretext that natives of land do not know how to use the resource.

Later, the Delegate rules in favour of the gatherers due to the face value of their ‘plans’. It’s obvious, that the pastoralists are aware of the boiling injustice and hence their hidden despair.

In my opinion, the handling of land disputes has been the root cause of tribalism and disunity of citizens. Despite the ruling, the two are supposed to ‘celebrate’ together at a Club House, portraying the significance of signing ‘peace pacts’ between the previously warring communities.

After every session of tribal clashes especially in the Rift Valley region, the Government normally sends arbitrators to pacify the affected communities. We should formulate cosmetic peace agreements that are kept to the letter.

Land issue is a very sensitive topic in Kenya. Teachers should be advised to bring out the bigger picture of dispute resolution as they handle this book.

It starts from the classroom to the society.

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