Our family visited Kenya during a lull in the riots under the watchful eye of legendary mountaineer and guide Iain Allen. Except for the Mara and the Swahili island of Lamu, we saw virtually no other tourists. During a visit with the Samburu tribe, cousins to the Masaii, we were allowed to watch the tribe’s warriors dancing with their ritualistic girlfriends.
The warriors were indeed that; the group we saw had killed warriors from a neighboring tribe a week earlier. Our visit coincided with a furor over clitorectomies, called female genital cutting in the West. Because of western contact, many of the tribe’s young adults were choosing to protest the age old ritual. Conflict was raging amidst the tribe. The council of elders had just decided to hear arguments and make a ruling.
I was asked repeatedly for information about clitorectomies, how they are viewed in Boston, and for my opinion. I was uncomfortable giving ad hoc advice to an African tribe living in traditional conditions with whom I had no relationship other than short term visitor. I wished I could have sent MacArthur Prize winner Dr. Nawal Nour who heads the African Women’s Health Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to Kenya.I wished I could have stayed and helped the country in its lurching path toward healthy democracy.