Future visions, present conflicts: the ethnicized politics of anticipation surrounding an infrastructure corridor in northern Kenya

Release date: 2021-12

This work analyses the politics of anticipation and ensuing fears, tensions and conflicts in relation to Kenya’s Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor which is to pass through several previously marginalized counties in the north of the country. Isiolo county, in the centre of Kenya is home to several different ethnic groups of whom some are perceived to be better informed about LAPSSET than others, or have certain advantages in terms of claims to indigeneity, ethno-political dominance, land tenure security or access to markets, which help them to position themselves accordingly. This anticipatory positioning – actions people take in anticipation of the future – is raising fears and heightening the claiming of land and ethnic boundary-making, leading to heightened tensions and exacerbating existing conflicts of which three specific cases are considered. We show how ethno-political divides on a national and regional level become effective at the local and county level, but at the same time, how the positioning of actors in anticipation of future investments impacts on ethnic boundary-making, as division lines are re-enacted and redrawn.

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