Mo Farah is not a kalenjin. He just won a long distance race. What does it mean?
By Seth Dikembe
While in Kenya right now the accepted ‘truth’ is that only Kalenjins can do long distances; which is actually a lie, some of the great and scintillating athletes have come from other non-long distance runners ‘tribes’.
One man who comes to recent memory is Samuel Wanjiru. The other is David Rudisha.
Truth is Kalenjins are good runners. But running is not a historically Kalenjin sport. And it isn’t mutually exclusive to the Kalenjins.
What Kalenjins have done is to domicile long distance running between Kapsabet and Cheptiret and, worse, make it a ‘Kalenjin affair’. In other words, Kalenjins have tried to socialize and ‘culturize’ themselves as the foremost Kenyan long distance runners. This is fallacious. Worse, it continues to defraud other great runners whose surnames are not kipTHIS or chepTHAT.
There are no DNA facts to make long distance running a purely Kalenjin affair just as there are no facts to support the often repeated lie that Luos are bright or Kikuyus are entrepreneurial.
I’ve met a few dumb Luos.
There is nothing entrepreneurial in looting NYS and laundering the money in huge mall, or using it to set up a Bank, like Mwangi did. Ever heard of Trade Bank?
Be that as it may; it is time long distance running is democractized. Kenya has lost a great deal by institutionalizing ‘Kalenjin runners’ rather than institutionalizing ‘kenyan runners’.
Great athletes like Wanjiru and Rudisha are merely the exceptions rather than the rule. Often, they are the subtext, the footnote, of long distance running in Kenya which Kalenjin ethnicists have tried to make an ‘in house’ affair; and which we have come to accept as fait accompli.
In 1968 Olympics which Kipchoge Keino dropped out, it was Naftali Nabiba Temu, a Kisii, who won that 10,000m race and brought gold home. Temu, neglected and forgotten by a system that didn’t believe he would win, wasted in subsequent years and disappeared into oblivion.
I’m sure some of you are perhaps hearing of Temu for the first time. Kipchoge Keino on the other hand was mainstreamed and remain a ‘hero’ to date.
Mo Farah comes from that tribe whose significance in Kenya is a matter of conjecture. How many other Mo Farahs are wasting in Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Eastleigh etc?
How many other Naftali Temus have been wasted in Nyamira, Gensonso, Keumbu, Tabaka, Suneka, etc?
If there is anything we must learn from Rudisha and Wanjiru (R.I.P) then it is that no group has monopoly over the track…Eventhough one group wants us to believe so.