Ongoing ethnic conflict in Kenya has started to influenced the way Kenyan parents name their babies.
Late last year, several mothers in a maternity hospital in Kisumu, Kenya, talked about choosing non-tribal baby names as a way to evade tribal discrimination.
The mother of baby boy named Santa Roby Aaron Sam said:
“I have been a victim of ethnic profiling and would not wish to have my children face the same. We have decided as an extended family that we want to avoid tribal names.”
The mother of baby boy named Fidel Daniels said:
“It is common these days for people to have all Christian names and for us, it is not a fashion but a way of just avoiding the stereotypes that come with the tribal names.”
The mother of baby girl named Rhiab Emmanuela said:
“People have gone overboard with tribal names and it is time we use neutral names, which do not stir any stereotypes at first sight.”
But other Kenyans worry that abandoning tribal names will contribute to the erosion of tribal culture. Opiyo Otondi, former chair of the Luo Council of Elders, said, “No amount of frustration should make our people abandon their culture.”
And Betty Okero, a Kisumu human rights activist, noted that non-tribal names can only offer a limited amount of protection against discrimination, as people’s home villages are recorded on their national identity cards.