Tuesday, January 29, 2008
I am feeling very discouraged.
Over the weekend (which now seems so far in the past) I was at the Quaker Leadership Peace Conference in Kakamega. If you would like to see the documents from the conference, please ask Dawn at firstname.lastname@example.org or by reply email. [Editor: they are pasted into the blog below.]
It was an excellent gathering. Almost every yearly meeting and Quaker organization sent their representative(s). There is no doubt that Quakers in Kenya will now give prominence to the Peace Testimony in this time of chaos, destruction, and death. The participants were very concerned about the situation and serious in their efforts to respond to Kenyans, to Christians, and to all Quakers. They affirmed that the Quakers needed to be neutral in the political situation. I was surprised to find that I was appointed to the Coordinating Committee for current and long-term actions since Gladys and I played a rather quiet role during the conference. But AVP is on everyone's lips.
Getry Agizah, the AVP coordinator, was also put on the committee, along with Hezron Masitsa (AVP coordinator in Nairobi). The committee is supposed to meet in Kakamega on Friday but who knows if we will be able to travel.
On the way to the conference those who took the bus through Nakuru saw the Total gas station on fire. This was the beginning of major fighting in Nakuru which later spread to Naivasha and then on Monday to western Kenya. This morning on the BBC news, I heard the spokesman for the Kenya Police say that everything is calm now, while the next report was the BBC reporter in Kisumu talking about all the tires burning, total lack of movement, roads cut, etc. Is the Kenyan Government in the same country that I am in?
I was going to report some news from last week when my laptop crashed. Kaimosi (the major Quaker center in western Kenya) has been quiet as I have reported before. It is along the boundary between the Tiriki (a Luhya group) and the Nandi (a Kalenjin group). But on Wednesday someone stole a cow; the other group retaliated by burning some houses, including the kiosks by the road leading into Kaimosi, and everything got out of control. Six people were killed and at least 70 houses were burnt. Kaimosi Hospital was receiving lots of people with cuts from machetes, arrows stuck in people's bodies, and other injuries from the violence.
There is absolutely no political explanation for this violence since both of these groups voted overwhelming for ODM, the opposition party.
Yesterday Gladys told me that one of her relatives was going to Eldoret to take another relative who had a broken leg. When they reached Turbo he was forced to show his ID card (by name, people can tell he is not a Kikuyu). He put his relative on the side of the road while he was forced to dig up the road until he got tired. He was then required to return to Lumakanda with the relative with the broken leg rather than proceed on to Eldoret.
Only eight people out of 40 showed up at the listening session in Kisumu yesterday and they were distracted by the events going on around them. We have canceled the workshops for today. Otherwise the Sunset Hotel where the workshops are taking place and the facilitators are staying is quite safe and they have not experienced any violence nearby.
We were supposed to go to Kaimosi tomorrow to talk to the Friends Theological College students about organizing AVP workshops in their home churches during the April vacation, but we have put this off until next week. We have been making a weekly delivery to the Lumakanda IDP's now living in Turbo, but I don't see how we can do it this week. Florence Machayo who lives only about 5 miles from us wants to have a meeting tomorrow of all the AVP coordinators and others involved in peace work in Lugari District, but I don't know if Gladys and I will be able to go even that short distance!
So you can see why I am so discouraged.
David Zarembka, Coordinator
African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams
P. O. Box 189, Kipkarren River 50241 Kenya 254 726 590 783
1001 Park Avenue, St Louis, MO 63104 USA 314/621-7262
Monday, January 28, 2008
On Thursday, when I was going to send you an update, my laptop completely crashed. Later in the day Gladys and I went to the Quaker Leadership Peace Conference in Kakamega. Getry Agizah (AVP coordinator) has lent me her laptop and so I am back in communication. I can't respond to emails I got before Thursday and I don't have any names in my address book; but Dawn sends out these reports and I can remember her email address.
Things are getting really bad. At 8:00 AM this morning, Eden texted me, "I'm hearing that they are already burning and slashing near the stage [bus station] in Kisumu." Five minutes later she texted, "Hearing gun shots now." By 10:00 AM she wrote, "They have closed all the roads and the airport. We are hearing much gun fire." Florence Machayo came by early this morning because we were going to visit one of the more hard-hit villages in Lugari District. When she got here, she said that people were already congregating in Kipkarren River and she had been told that in Turbo the youth had dug a trench in the road stopping all traffic to and from Uganda, Rwanda, and beyond.
Gladys called the leader at the IDP camp in Turbo and he said that the IDP's were fine, but that the road was closed. Later Florence called and told us that the youth in Kipkarren River had cut down a big tree and blocked the road. So we are not going anywhere!!! (Lumakanda is between Turbo and Kipkarren River.) We also heard that a Kikuyu house in Malava was being burned (this is on the way to Kakamega) and that Kakamega is "wild." Getry says that right next to where she had fled they burned a Kikuyu's house (but were able to rescue the three children in the house), a school in town, and many other buildings.
This is all in response to rising ethnic gang fighting over the weekend, first in Nakuru and then in Naivasha. The paper says 90 people have been killed. This is mostly Kikuyu "revenge," but also included Kikuyu on Kikuyu violence in Naivasha as one gang accuses the other of voting for the wrong political party. The police are reported to be just standing by as all this happens as they are unable to control the events. The army has been brought in to Nakuru to control the town. In Lugari I had heard that the army had been deployed in some areas and as soon as I was told this, I was told they were abusing people. They would accuse someone with a bag of maize (corn) of having looted it and then seize all of that person's maize. Nobody knows where the maize goes! The army is not supposed to be involved in internal policing, but clearly as the police have become overwhelmed, the army has been brought in.
Gladys has a good friend, Jacinta, who has started an orphanage and school in Campi ya Moto, a small village near Nakuru. This is in the area where the violence is most extensive. Gladys lived there for four years while working for Jacinta's brother. She therefore knows everyone in the community. Campi ya Moto and all the houses around the orphanage have been destroyed. All the neighbors Gladys knew (and I met on our two visits last year to the orphanage) are gone to "who knows where." The orphanage which normally had 40 children now has 200. It survives only because it is being guarded by the police. They have no water and little food.
There is a glue that holds a society together. It consists of many things -- customs, culture, respect for others and their property, laws and their enforcement by the police and courts, etc. The glue in Kenyan society was always weak. There was much on-going violence before the voting -- for example: the clashes on Mt. Elgon that AGLI had begun working on; others in Molo/Rondai; continued deadly conflicts in the pastoral areas; and many acts of violence including the common practice of lynching suspected thieves.
The police are noted for being very corrupt--I watch them collect bribes from the matatu conductors every time I am in a matatu. The courts are also known as being corrupt. Within the culture there exists great jealousy of any one or any group which seems to be doing better than others.
I am afraid that the little glue that Kenyan society had is disintegrating and that chaos is overtaking normalcy.
Much was made of it last week when Kofi Annan got Raila and Kibaki to shake hands. While this was a good, positive first step, my feeling now is that the situation is "out-of-control" of everyone. As the Open Letter to Leaders and Citizens of Kenya from the Quaker Leadership Conference I just attended states (I will report more on this at another time):
"We invite you to join us in praying for deliverance from evil spirits which are at work in our country, and continue to intercede for Kenya."
David Zarembka, Coordinator
African Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace Teams Box 189, Kipkarren River 50241 Kenya--phone 011 254 726 590 783
Office in US--1001 Park Avenue, St Louis, MO 63104--phone 314/621-7262
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Plan of Action
27 January 2008
Immediate crisis-intervention measures
- Issue a public statement from this Conference
- Use the media to publicize messages of peace and reconciliation
- Document and disseminate stories of people acting in courageous non-violent ways
- Engage in non-violent direct action to stop violence and retaliation in our communities
- Shelter, accommodation
- Food, water, fuel
- Medication, first aid, health care
- Security and safety
- Trauma counseling
- Bible distribution
- Activities, games
- Access to schooling
- Mediate in situations of acute conflict
- Assist in reconciliation between displaced people and those who threatened them
- Reintegrate displaced people into the community, rebuild trust between neighbors
- Crisis-intervention counseling
- Train primary school teachers on the effects of trauma on young children
- Offer trauma counseling for IDPs
- Reach the “disaffected” youth, e.g. boda boda drivers, touts, the unemployed
- Scale up AVP to reach as many places as possible
- Establish “listening programmes” for people to tell their stories in a safe environment
- Preach the gospel of peace, educate our own people on the teachings of our church
- Begin a pilot programme for civic and peace education in Quaker schools
- Organize youth work camps to help with humanitarian work and rebuilding
[Editor: we lost the formatting of the document but will soon repair the structure of the remainder of this content]
Establish a national coordination body for the short-term work
Address need for personnel, including placement of volunteers
Networking and communications
Guarantee integrity and transparency in use of funds, to maintain our good reputation
Possible cluster areas for longer-term work, and potential activities:
Create a fund for youth empowerment
Youth programmes, e.g. volunteer training and action, work camps, vocational training
Seriously examine the involvement of youth in the structures of the Friends Church
Re-engage with our Quaker schools
Peer-mediation and AVP in the schools
Income generating activities
Teach practical business skills, entrepreneurship
Relief Fund for future disasters
Peace, justice and non-violence – a movement for social transformation toward a culture of peace
Peace Research Institute (at the University)
Peace Radio, other publications
Workshops, mediation, trauma healing, AVP, listening
Restorative justice movement
Peace curriculum through the Ministry of Education
Training for non-violent direct action for social change
Establish an organization which can organize the Friends voice on Public Policy matters
Build the capacity of Friends to be involved in the civic agenda at all levels
Use the model of QUNO “quiet diplomacy”
Spiritual development of the Peace Testimony
Review and improve the content of the membership class curricula
Strengthen the peace and justice programmes at Friends Theological College
National Management Committee – develop institutional capacity
Network with other peace organization in Kenya and around the world
Friends United Meeting and Friends World Committee for Consultation are both active in raising overseas funds for relief and reconstruction. The Conference urges all Kenyans to raise local funds and to deposit them in the account of Friends United Meeting, Barclays Bank, Kisumu Branch #2007332. All money will be used efficiently and effectively, with transparency and integrity.
To the Leaders and Citizens of Kenya
The Quaker leadership of Kenya gathered together in Sheywe Guest House in Kakamega between 24th and 27th January 2008.
The Friends Church in Kenya and Friends around the world are concerned with what has befallen Kenya in the last one month. As a peace church, we are horrified by the continued wanton destruction of human life and property.
Kenyans need to learn that any violent action they take against their neighbours is an act against God’s way. Our actions and thoughts therefore must be rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In our last communiqué to the leaders, we implored upon them to uphold the principles of truth, justice peace, simplicity and humility (Psalms 85:10) and to forgive each other.
We cannot be blind to what is happening to this country and its citizens. During the deliberations and reflections, representatives of the Friends Church realized that the underlying causes of the current conflict have been present since long before the general elections of December 2007. We note in particular: economic injustices, youth disempowerment and frustration, and cleavages of religion, ethnicity, class, gender and age.
To our leaders:
We thank our leaders for starting a process of negotiation, and we believe and trust that they will follow up in earnest with a negotiated settlement. In this context therefore we say to our leaders:
- We do understand your anguish at this time, and we ask you to approach the situation prayerfully. We urge you to relax your “hard line” political demands and dialog more deeply for the benefit of the country, that no segment of Kenyan society emerges as “losers” but we all may “win” in a peaceful society.
- We urge you to reopen schools that have not opened, in order to allow students to continue with their education.
- We urge the leaders and elders of various communities not to incite or manipulate their youths to perpetuate terror among the citizenry, but to encourage and guide them to act responsibly.
- We denounce the instances of excessive force used by the police against the citizens.
To our fellow Kenyans:
- We appreciate the courage and passion that you, our fellow Kenyans, have shown since the beginning of the post-election violence by contributing and supporting the victims of violence, and we urge you all to continue with the same spirit.
- We appeal to you engage in reconciliation among and rehabilitation of displaced people, integrating them back into the places from which they were displaced, not sending them to other parts of the country.
- We remind you that this country and its land belongs to all of us. Let us not destroy it for by doing so, we put our own future generations in jeopardy. We need a negotiated social contract to live together as Kenyans.
- We urge you to resolve problems in a peaceful way, because we know that there is hope for peace in this country.
- We warn you to desist from rumour-mongering which increases hostility and uncertainty, and urge you to use modern means of communication for positive ends.
- We know that those most affected by this conflict and violence are women, children, disabled and the aged. We must address their suffering, and protect and care for them.
- We encourage every Kenyan to look for “that of God” in every person and to treat life as sacred.
- As Kenyans, we urge you to uphold our core national values, practice forgiveness and embrace reconciliation.
To our fellow Christians and other Religious groups:
- As people of faith, we must not engage in violence and revenge because if we do so we betray our faith in God.
- We invite you to join us in praying for deliverance from evil spirits which are at work in our country, and continue to intercede for Kenya.
As a peace church, we are involved in humanitarian, spiritual and social/economic empowerment of our people. We urge everyone to take time to assist his/her neighbour in order to bring normalcy to the affected people, affirming truth, justice, peace and reconciliation in our nation.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
David Zarembka phoned me from Africa this morning. Sadly, his laptop has completely crashed. He will not be able to send messages as regularly or as frequently as he has been. Now he will need to trek to cyber cafes to read and send email. His response time to emails he receives will be much slower.
From today until Sunday Dave Z is attending the Consultation for Quaker leaders in Kenya which was spearheaded by Friends United Meeting (FUM) -- Africa Office. Attendees will consider the Quaker response to the current violence and crisis. I don't know whether the schedule for the Consultation will allow him to communicate with us.
Be sure to visit www.aglionline.org to learn more about African Great Lakes Initiative's peace work, and about service opportunities in Africa.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Shortly after the first Quaker missionaries came to Kenya in 1902 and had their first converts to Christianity, the requirements of being a Christian were at great odds with traditional society. I know (or rather knew since many of these have died) some of these original converts and they are not like your every-day Christian that we know. They had to make major life changes to become Christian, usually over the complete objection of most of their family members. These folks are/were stout Christians. As time went on many others converted, and living separately was no longer necessary.
By now almost everyone in Kenya considers him/herself a Christian (or a Moslem). But like the US, and many other places, many of the nominal Christians rarely go to church except for weddings and funerals and it plays only a little part in their lives.
On Sunday at Lumakanda Church the preacher was the wife of the pastor. She lives in Eldoret and is having to move because she rents a house owned by Kikuyu. Many of the houses around her have been burned down. She took as her text, Mathew 5:20 which reads, "I tell you, then, that you will be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven only if you are more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires." She started out by saying that Christians don't smoke or drink alcohol (all Protestant religions in Kenya forbid smoking and alcohol consumption). But then she went on to the main part of her sermon, namely, that Christians do not take up weapons to use on their neighbors. She gave the example of a man who is a pastor and took a spear to join in on the violence in Eldoret. This man, she clearly indicated, was not a Christian.
Note that this was the sermon in a small church in an out-of-the-way place. But I think that this is a common feeling among those who go to Church. While this is a Friends Church, I think that this message could be heard in many Christian churches here. In other words, the God-fearing Christians are against the violence. But that division between the "God-fearing Christians" and the nominal Christians is huge. The church-going Christians shun those who do not attend church and make little outreach to them. This is particularly true of the youth. Consequently, when violence came, the God-fearing Christians had no points of contact with the looters. They were cowed down by fear, many expecting to be the next target of the wrathful crowds.
There is no political settlement in sight. One newspaper columnist stated today in the Daily Nation that the longer that things drag out the better it is for the Kibaki side: so, they have little incentive to genuinely engage in mediation. On the Raila side this means that time is against them so they might turn to drastic measures.
Although there were no demonstrations over the weekend, the violence did not subside. Once the genie of violence gets out of the bottle, it is very hard to put it back in. The papers report 10 or 15 deaths on Sunday. Eden Grace texted me that two people were killed in Cheptulu, the market right next to Kaimosi Hospital (which had formerly escaped the violence). Most of the deaths are in Rift Valley where the various Kalenjin groups feel that outsiders have taken away their land. This is not only Kikuyu, but also Kisii, Luo, Luhya, and other groups. This happened before in 1992 when 1000 people were killed and 100,000 or more displaced. Many people (like all those who said Kenya was such a stable country) seem to have forgotten this. As we have learned from Rwanda and Burundi, when these kind of clashes occur and nothing is done about them, a renewed, more vicious cycle of violence will occur. This, I think, is what is happening in the Rift Valley (and I live only 3 miles from the Rift Valley). As Job, my son-in-law, told me back in about 1992 when he was in fifth grade, the Kalenjin warriors came all the way past Lumakanda attacking the Luhya--this was in the days before Lugari was a district with a police station in Lumakanda.
To summarize, the election results were the spark for the violence. The tinder was all the alienated youth in Kenyan society. As time goes on the ethnic dimension will increase and attacks will lead to counter-attacks. As attacks become successful in forcing people to leave the Rift Valley, the violence becomes self-reinforcing leading to more attacks. At this point we must be thankful that the attackers have only traditional weapons -- clubs, bows and arrows, machetes, and spears. If they had guns (which, if the violence continues, they will soon acquire in one way or another) the the death toll would soar and soar. Even now I am not sure that a political settlement will end the violence in the countryside, although it would give the security forces a greater chance to deal with it.
Tomorrow Gladys, my wife, and I go to Kisumu (for the first time since the violence began) to help plan the series of 40 listening workshops for the 900 employees of the Center for Disease Control. We plan to begin conducting AVP workshops at various sites in Western, Rift, and Nyanza Provinces. We have hired two more AVP facilitators to help organize this work -- Peter Serete from Kakamega and Bernard Onjalo from Bondo, Nyanza Province near Kisumu. They will work under our energetic AVP coordinator, Getry Agizah. Malesi Kinaro, Gladys and I will give direction and, of course, I must raise the necessary funds.
David Zarembka, Coordinator
African Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace Teams Box 189, Kipkarren River 50241 Kenya--phone 011 254 726 590 783
Office in US--1001 Park Avenue, St Louis, MO 63104--phone 314/621-7262
Saturday, January 19, 2008
I have not written for the past two days because mostly I stayed home. This was partly because I needed to catch up on my email and other work at home and partly because with the continued demonstrations by ODM, many people were not going anywhere as travel was so uncertain. My son-in-law who is a motorcycle taxi driver here in Lumakanda told me yesterday he earned only 200/- while he usually earns 800/- to 1000/- on a normal day! [NOTE: /- is the symbol for Kenyan Shillings, 65-70 to the US dollar.]
I did go for a walk with Gladys yesterday to her sister's house about two miles down the hill. We passed the house of Silas Njoroge who is the Kikuyu leader at the IDP camp. His house was looted, but not burned. Further down the road his brother's house was looted and burned including all the maize (corn) he had in storage. They are considered the "richest" Kikuyu in the area, but neither one had a particularly fancy house -- much like many of the people around here.
Ray Downing is a Mennonite doctor working at the hospital in Webuye (the largest town to the west of us, towards Uganda). He asks this question: Why was there no destruction of Kikuyu shops and homes in Webuye? (This is also true of Bungoma and many other towns in the country.) He asks: "Why did these towns escape the violence? Who is studying the reasons why some places did not have violence?" I think these are really interesting questions -- any students out there needing a research topic?
AGLI and FPCD (Friends for Peace and Community Development, our Kenyan partner) will be doing 40 one-day AVP-style listening workshops with the 900 employees of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) from the US which has a major presence in Kisumu. The conflicts in the country have brought out latent ethnic feelings among the staff. We will be doing 2 workshops per day for twenty days. We are bringing one HROC facilitator and one AVP facilitator from Rwanda to be part of each 3 person facilitator team. It will be really interesting to see how this goes. Sessions begin on Wednesday of this coming week.
Friends United Meeting (FUM)--Africa Office has spearheaded the arrangement of a Consultation for Quaker leaders in Kenya next week to consider the Quaker response to the current violence and crisis. The consultation starts Thursday evening and will go through Sunday. Gladys and I will be there (so don't expect any reports during that time). This will be an opportunity for the Quaker leadership in Kenya to really assert themselves as a peace church. I hope they "grab it."
The ODM has not scheduled any more demonstrations but rather is now turning to an economic boycott of institutions controlled by Kibaki and associates. I don't know how that will go. The 3 days of attempted demonstrations resulted in 21 more deaths -- all but one, I think, killed by police including some clearly innocent people (a mother sitting inside her house). While there are always ups and downs about some kind of dialogue, I don't see anything significant happening yet so the stand-off continues.
David Zarembka, Coordinator
African Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace Teams Box 189, Kipkarren River 50241 Kenya--phone 011 254 726 590 783 Office in US--1001 Park Avenue, St Louis, MO 63104--phone 314/621-7262
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Yesterday I ran out of electricity because it has been cloudy for the last two days and my solar panel did not charge up my battery. It is cloudy again today, but I am writing this early before the little electricity I have runs out.
Last night the ODM candidate won the election for Speaker of Parliament and as soon as it was announced on the radio, we heard shouts of joy from the neighborhood. Today doesn't look so good. We had no problems in going to Kakamega (except the Supermarket, where Gladys was shopping, closed their doors and kept everyone inside when the police were chasing the youth through town). In Nairobi, Douglas Shikuunzi, my step-son, called to say that everyone in the central city was told to go home and there were no matatus so he will have to walk home.
In Eldoret today I have heard from a number of sources that things are really bad with the youth organizing to attack the police (and vice versa). Stores have all shut down.
Gladys (my wife) and I went to Eldoret yesterday with Malesi, Getry, and Shamala (our partners in Friends for Peace and Community Development). We went for a listening session with the staff of the Eldoret Prison with whom we have done a lot of AVP (and where we did two AVP workshops with the inmates). The group was very diverse (but no Kikuyu). My favorite image is of one of the guards, who is an AVP facilitator, indicating how good AVP was with his automatic rifle pointing right to his mouth! I have become so used to seeing police, guards, etc with guns, I didn't even much notice this until he spoke about AVP. The situation in Eldoret was really bad and everyone was affected. One woman, whose husband is a Kisii (it is not only Kikuyu who are being targeted), was threatened after she was seen helping some members of her family. Others talked about most of their neighbors being burned out. The situation in Eldoret seems quite different from elsewhere (Nairobi, Kisumu, Kakamega). A Kalenjin said that most of the destruction in Eldoret was done by villagers from the countryside. There everyone who is over 25 is required to join in a group with the old warrior mentality and these are the ones who did the attacking; such as at the church which was burned down. They can only be stopped by their elders: if the elders refuse to bless their attacks. This it seems is what happened to calm down the town. The same person told us that last time the violence was spontaneous, but now the violence is being planned and therefore could be much worse. The Kalenjins consider the area around Eldoret to be their homeland and everyone else is a "stranger" that can be sent back to their home of origin.
We went by Kakamega Friends Church and found that the 65 people who had fled to the church had left because school was beginning and there is a nursery school in the Church compound. We were told that not all of these refugees were Kikuyu. They had been given a small amount of funds to travel back to their place of origin, but most did not even know where they came from since they had lived in the area for generations.
We went to Kakamega today. I helped interview new candidates for an additional AVP position and Gladys went to town with Getry to buy relief supplies -- blankets, cooking oil, vaseline, tea, and sugar for the IDP's from Lumakanda who are now in Turbo. The funds for this were supplied by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). When we arrived in Turbo the police gave us a rough time. The head officer said that the food had to be inspected by the Health Department to make sure it was fit for human consumption. Two policewomen at the entrance asked Gladys why we were helping the Kikuyu when they were the cause of all the problems. So as Gladys talked with the police, I went and found the camp leaders who knew us well. One of the leaders and the clerk came and talked with the police, letting them know that we were their friends, etc. So we unloaded the goods and the clerk wrote down a list of what we delivered. It was late in the afternoon and they were pondering whether they could distribute the goods before night. I suggested that they at least give out the blankets since it would help keep people warm in the cold night (due to the cloudiness and rain two days ago). Of course, the goods were much appreciated.
One of the people we interviewed for the AVP position was a Luo from Nyanza province. He had many interesting stories. His brother is hiding two Kikuyu in his house. When youth blocked the road near his town, he got out of the matatu and talked with the youth and got them to remove the stones that were blocking the road.
All the matatus (and there were few of them) and trucks had green branches on the front and back. According to ODM, those who were going to their demonstrations (today is the first of three days of national demonstrations) should be carrying branches and not participate in any kind of violence. Those branches were a sign of support for ODM so that the matutu or truck would not be stopped by youth. When the matutu which we had hired to carry the goods pulled into the IDP camp questions came quickly about why they had the branches on them. The folks in the IDP camp clearly did not support ODM. The driver and conductor replied that they had to do this in order to move safely down the roads. Such is the ambiguity of the situation.
David Zarembka, Coordinator
African Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace Teams
Box 189, Kipkarren River 50241 Kenya--phone 011 254 726 590 783
Office in US--1001 Park Avenue, St Louis, MO 63104--phone 314/621-7262
Monday, January 14, 2008
I didn't really write an update yesterday because it was Sunday and I was resting (well, sort of resting). My "Hoodwinked" article seems to have drawn considerable attention and may get published.
When we went to church yesterday, we found about one hundred 200 pound bags of maize (corn) in the back. After church, I asked George, the owner, why they were there. He replied that he had a big farm on the other side of the road where the Kalenjin are the dominate ethnic group. He feels he is the next target. "When they finish with the Kikuyu, they will then come for me." He has moved out all his furniture and taken it to the homes of his relatives nearby. This is another small indication that the violence is not essentially political, but a chance to plunder and loot. Today I heard two reports of cows being stolen. In the past this rarely happened in Lumakanda.
This morning, Gladys (my wife), and I went to Turbo where the Lumakanda IDP's have been transferred. I had heard that Turbo had experienced a rough time during the violence; but it is another thing to actually see an entire block of shops burned out. Many other shops in the town were destroyed. Some were wooden and burned up completely. After viewing the destruction we climbed the hill to the police station and found our "refugees."
They were most happy to see us. "You have followed us here," was a common comment. The women, in particular, were very pleased and welcoming to Gladys who had been part of the contingent that had brought them the first allotment of food. The refugees have been placed in a just-harvested corn field so there isn't even any grass. For the first night(s) they were sleeping on the ground in the open. Now, men were building eucalyptus pole houses with plastic tops and sides. A few had found iron sheets (perhaps salvaged from their burnt shops or houses) which make a more substantial wall. The wind is blowing very hard, almost constantly, so the plastic tarps were flapping loudly. I would think this din would make it hard to sleep at night; I guess they will get used to it.
The people in the camp told us that they had not received anything since they arrived from Lumakanda two days befor . Not surprisingly, blankets were their first request. They had clearly enjoyed the rice we delivered previously. Predictably it had run out since there were only two 50 kilo (110 pound) bags. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has sent us a small grant for the Lumakanda IDP's. We hope to go to Eldoret tomorrow to buy more relief supplies; but then one never knows.
Parliament begins sessions tomorrow and both sides plan on sitting on the Government side of the building so this might lead to a crisis there. There are three days of demonstrations scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Desmond Tutu raised hopes which were dashed; John Kufour, the African Union president, raised hopes which were dashed. Now Kofi Annan is scheduled to arrive tomorrow along with a few other eminent Africans. People are not getting up their hopes again.
Human Rights Watch has issued a strong statement against the Kenyan Government for using excessive force ("shoot to kill" policy) during the crackdowns, restricting the media, and the illegal ban against demonstrations.
David Zarembka, Coordinator
African Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace Teams
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Hoodwinked: International Coverage of the Crisis in Kenya
On Monday, January 7, Elizabeth A. Kennedy of Associated Press filed a report, "Kenyan Rivals Make Concessions". It included the following paragraph:
"An official in neighboring Uganda said over the weekend, 30 fleeing Kenyans were thrown into the border river by Kenyan attackers, and were presumed drowned. Two Ugandan truck drivers carrying the group said they were stopped Saturday at a roadblock mounted by vigilantes who identified the refugees as Kikuyu and threw them into the deep, swift-flowing Kipkaren River, said Himbaza Hashaka, a Ugandan border official. The drivers said none survived, Hashaka said."
The next time I crossed the Kipkarren River which is in walking distance of my house, I saw that this "deep, swift-flowing" river was a rather placid, slow moving pool of water since there hadn't been any significant rain for over two months. If you threw me off the bridge into the water, I would have just stood up and walked up the bank. Moreover the "border river" is about 75 miles from the Uganda border and much closer to Eldoret than Uganda. Therefore it is not a river on the border.
If this story had been true, it would have been one of the biggest massacres in the current violence in Kenya. Even though the story was fabricated, it was passed on by at least CNN and Time. I have never seen any reference to it in the Kenyan media.
This ought to be a red flag not only for coverage of the recent events in Kenya, but overall coverage by the international media in Africa.
There are two stereotyped images of Africa. (1) The African is a happy, over-sexed, singing/dancing simple person who, as I was once told, "can't think in the abstract". The "noble savage" who has not been corrupted by the wantonness of Western Civilization is one sub-image of this. The media's obsession with the AIDS epidemic in Africa is another. (2) The African is a superstitious, violent savage full of ancient tribal hatreds. The current reporting in Kenya reinforces and is confined to this image.
Of course, people these days are too nice and they don't write this so crassly. The fact that it is done subtly, frequently by unwritten assumptions, makes it even harder to detect unless one is extremely critical of everything one reads.
Let's move on to another example. I'll leave it up to you to decide. Here is a January 7 story from Agence France Presse, titled "Police cheer as Kenya's witch-wary looters return war spoils."
"Dozens of looters who profited from Kenya's post-election unrest began returning or dumping their ill-gotten gains around the port city of Mombasa Monday, frightened of cursed goods, police said.
Television footage showed fearful, if not shameful, looters and their accomplices returning beds, sofa sets and other items after rumours that victims had deployed witch doctors to punish the thieves."
The Kenyan papers had other explanations for the return of the goods. First, the government had declared an amnesty period of two days during which anyone who returned looted goods would not be prosecuted. This was reinforced by the Imams who preached in their mosques that people should return stolen goods. The fact that this peacemaking effort by the Moslems also contradicts the violent jihadist stereotype that Moslems are not peacemakers is perhaps why this was omitted from the "witchcraft report." Christian preachers also advised the return of stolen goods. The Kenyan reports had no mention of the alleged witchcraft.
Now let us turn to a Christian Science Monitor article by Bob Crilly on Jan 9, "Kenyans forced to flee violence find ways to cope." The author interviews a man in Kericho who lost his wife in the violence after the election. The official count is that 486 people died--these numbers come from the people who died in hospitals or whose bodies were brought to the hospitals and morgues at the hospitals. It is likely there were many others who are therefore uncounted in this tally. As you read the articles, you assume that these were Kikuyu killed by their neighbors.
The Kenyan papers on the other hand were covering the clearly innocent people (a fifteen year old girl, a small boy) who were in the hospital in Kisumu after being shot by the security forces. The biggest "massacre" during the violence was the 43 youth rioters killed by the police in Kisumu during the weekend after the election. Kenyans are worried that a violent police state is being imposed on Kenya. Somewhere between a half and three quarters of the people killed were killed by the police and therefore were not due to "old tribal hatreds"! Have you heard this "take" on the events in the international media?
As things have calmed down, I have started seeing references in the Kenyan press about the biased, terrible coverage of this crisis in Kenya. So beware the next time you open up a newspaper or watch a news broadcast on TV about Africa. You are being told what the media thinks you want to hear and see.
As one American commented to me about the coverage of Kenya, "There was enough scary black faces in the coverage!"
Today is Sunday, so I guess I am entitled to preach my sermon.
David Zarembka, Coordinator
African Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace Teams
Saturday, January 12, 2008
The Friends Church in Kenya has issued a pastoral letter addressed to Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga. It is a five-page letter (see below). Below are my comments and insights regarding the significance of this statement by Kenyan Friends.
1. Five or so years ago Friends in Kenya were not united in one body so they would not have been able to issue such a statement. This letter shows that the Friends Church in Kenya can become a force for peace and justice in Kenya.
2. The letter indicates a strong position on the Friends Peace Testimony -- stronger than I think most people in Americans would subscribe to. Here is a quote from the letter:
Quaker Peace Testimony
We actively oppose all that leads to violence among people and nations,
. . . Refusal to fight with weapons is not surrender. We are not passive
when threatened by the greedy, the cruel, the tyrant, and the unjust. We
will struggle to remove the causes of impasse and confrontation by every
means of non-violent resistance available. We must start with our own
Hearts and Minds. Together, let us reject the clamor of fear and listen
to the whisperings of hope.
3. Unlike similar communications from yearly meetings in the United States, this statement is aggressive and bold. Not timid, evenhanded, wishy-washy, and jargon-filled like the ones I frequently see issued: Here is an example:
We call on all people 'to object to everything which leads in the
direction of war, preparation for it or supporting it! Our faith
challenges us as to whether we are now ourselves to become a divided
people, swept along by the streams of mistrust and fear, arrogance and
hatred which produce tensions in the world; or whether by our own
decision, confidence, and courage, we can become a bridge linking those
elements which promote truth, justice and peace.'
4. The statement may even challenge the northern countries' assumptions that this is essentially an old ethnic conflict with statements like this:
This battle is not about ethnicity per se, rather it is about economic
injustice, and the youth across the board bear the brunt of it. There is
an icy gap between them and the older age. There was hope and expectation
that this nation would be steered towards a more democratic, united, just
and prosperous society, where development would be experienced by ALL
hardworking Kenyans. That hope was rekindled, with their participation in
the just ended elections and the youth in particular saw the possibility
of moving forward for the betterment of their lives. They feel "cheated".
They are expressing anger that the rich are getting richer, while the
majority are living on less than one dollar a day. "A hungry person is an
angry person". Justice is what they long for.
Below is a quote which challenges the American (but perhaps not British) assumption that class in not an important aspect of conflict:
The hopes and opportunities for the poor (have-nots) for upward
mobility have been frustrated by continuing "joblessness" and false
promises by politicians. The underlying perceived injustices of our
economic disparities must be urgently addressed. A genuine honest and
sustainable commitment to redressing the imbalances should be made.
Otherwise we warn that the class "battles" will continue in one form or
other. The youth are desperate, angry and impatient. The ordinary Kenyan
does not feel or see the effect of the purported 6.5% annual growth of
the economy or the benefits of the foreign investors.
5. The statement ends with a litany of all the work that AGLI and others have been promoting for the last decade:
In conclusion, we as a Peace Church are committed to the process of
national healing. Already we have institutions and programs in place such
as: Alternatives to Violence Program (AVP); Trauma Healing; Change Agents
for Peace International (CAPI); the Quaker Peace Network, all with the
necessary skills, knowledge and experience to help bring about healing
and transform relationships.
Please circulate this as widely as you can.
Here is the original letter:
8th January 2008
PASTORAL LETTER FROM FRIENDS CHURCH (QUAKERS), KENYA.
"Righteousness exalts a Nation, but Sin is a disgrace to any People"
(Proverbs 14: 34)
TO THE LEADERS OF THIS NATION
His Excellency the President Hon. Mwai Kibaki Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga
Receive Greetings in the Name of Christ Jesus.
At this time, of pain, horror, sorrow, suffering, insecurity in our beloved country, We as Friends Church in Kenya, being a PEACE church, are deeply concerned for the safety of ALL Kenyans and friends visiting Kenya during this time of Political and Social Instability. May we start by referring to our Quaker values which have guided us over the past four centuries.
Quaker Peace Testimony
"We actively oppose all that leads to violence among people and nations, …."
Refusal to fight with weapons is not surrender. We are not passive when threatened by the greedy, the cruel, the tyrant, and the unjust. We will struggle to remove the causes of impasse and confrontation by every means of non-violent resistance available. We must start with our own Hearts and Minds. Together, let us reject the clamor of fear and listen to the whisperings of hope.
Our Principle is, and our practices have always been: "to follow after righteousness and the knowledge of God, seeking the Good and welfare of humanity and doing that which tends to the peace of all"
As Friends Church, our Goal is to have a Peaceful Society anchored in and as a consequence of the process Truth, Righteousness and Justice (Ps.89v14).
Our basic Principles and Values that under-gird our concerns compel us to make this call to you, our political leaders.
- Truth is critical to the establishment of legitimacy for the political class, that is, presidency and the opposition, if they are to enjoy the loyalty and respect of all Kenyans. This can only be achieved if the objective truth is that the Elections were "Free, Fair and Transparent". For us, "the Spirit of Christ, which leads us into all TRUTH, will never move us to Fight and War against any person with outward weapons, neither for the Kingdom of Christ nor for the kingdoms of this world". (Luke 22:49-51), (2nd Corinthians. 10:4)
Peace and Justice
- Kenyans are sad, angry and disillusioned today. We call on all parties to look back to 30th December 2002, when all Kenyans collectively celebrated the "hope" of a united democratic and prosperous society.
- We call on all people "to object to everything which leads in the direction of war, preparation for it or supporting it! Our faith challenges us as to whether we are now ourselves to become a divided people, swept along by the streams of mistrust and fear, arrogance and hatred which produce tensions in the world; or whether by our own decision, confidence, and courage, we can become a bridge linking those elements which promote truth, justice and peace."
- This battle is not about ethnicity per se, rather it is about economic injustice, and the youth across the board bear the brunt of it. There is an icy gap between them and the older age. There was hope and expectation that this nation would be steered towards a more democratic, united, just and prosperous society, where development would be experienced by ALL hardworking Kenyans. That hope was rekindled, with their participation in the just ended elections and the youth in particular saw the possibility of moving forward for the betterment of their lives. They feel "cheated." They are expressing anger that the rich are getting richer, while the majority are living on less than one dollar a day. "A hungry person is an angry person". Justice is what they long for.
- Quakers believe in modesty, serving humanity in love and harmony. In Kenya, there are gross inequalities in terms of sharing the scarce opportunities and resources. The rich are "Very Rich", while the Poor are "Very Poor" and the gap is widening. From the looting that has been witnessed across the board, it's clear that the present up-rising is not per-se ethnic, but rather, to a greater extent, "a Class-Struggle". "Money bags", "Rich-ness", "Quick money-making" e.g. pyramid schemes, have been glorified. The affluent conspicuous consumption and obnoxious display of wealth of the upper class, in a sea of poverty, have not helped.
- The hopes and opportunities for the poor (have-nots) for upward mobility have been frustrated by continuing "joblessness" and false promises by politicians. The underlying perceived injustices of our economic disparities must be urgently addressed. A genuine honest and sustainable commitment to redressing the imbalances should be made. Otherwise we warn that the class "battles" will continue in one form or other. The youth are desperate, angry and impatient. The ordinary Kenyan does not feel or see the effect of the purported 6.5% annual growth of the economy or the benefits of the foreign investors.
- The unsatisfactory manner in which corruption cases (Anglo-leasing/Goldenberg scandals) have been handled are seen as unjust and discriminatory against the poor who get heavy sentences for petty theft, yet the greedy rich go scot-free. This impunity, lack of accountability and arrogance of the corrupt rich, has fostered a deep-rooted anger that has exploded and must be addressed meaningfully, openly and fairly.
Life is Sacred. "Stop the Bloodshed"
- As Quakers we value every person. We believe that "there is that of God in every person". "Our central faith requires that we should proclaim, in deed as well as in word that war,…. is contrary to the Spirit of God, whose name is Love. The same spirit must animate our business and social relations and make us eager to remove oppression and injustice in every form".
- As such, we renounce these senseless killings and urge the government, to take responsibility and restrain the security forces from using violent means of handling the "demonstrators". We urge all parties to give a listening ear to the people. Through their violence they are communicating a serious message. Please listen respectfully.
- Politicians should avoid using youths in their schemes to create mayhem in society.
- Supporters should stop being misused and abused by politicians.
- Party leaders must restrain their supporters from engaging in unlawful acts but should engage in peace building.
- The older people should be encouraged to counsel and dissuade the youth from violence.
- Faith-based institutions should continue sending clear non-partisan, non-inflammatory messages that resonate the life affirming, faith-filled, truth and justice-guided, peace-building, comfort-giving, reconciliation-oriented, repentance-seeking, confession-based messages of their faith.
In view of the above, we make the following proposals:
1. An independent audit should be done.
- Tallies from the polling stations for each of the 210 constituencies should be obtained and at least one agent for each candidate from each polling station be brought to Nairobi to verify the count and entries on Form 16A.
- All Forms 16 should be verified with Forms 16A to establish accuracy of entries.
- An independent group, possibly made of church leaders, local observers, international observers, representatives of the two parties and international leaders should be charged to verify the tallying and report their findings to the chairman of the reconstituted ECK and to the Kenyan people.
- Whatever the outcome of the verification, the two parties should abide by the verdict under the guidance of the international arbitrators.
Following the gazzettement of the MPs elect, parliament should convene and elect the Speaker so that business can be conducted to facilitate a mechanism for the urgent re-run of the Presidential elections.
3. Interim arrangements
- Hon. Mwai Kibaki should step down from the seat of the presidency to pave way for the interim arrangements suggested below.
- The ODM and the PNU affiliated parties must enter into meaningful dialogue for the sake of national interest.
- Establishment of an interim government comprising of all the parties proportionate to their Membership in parliament with the Speaker heading it for a period of three months.
- Electoral Commission
The interim government is advised to source expertise from recognized international institutions such as A.U, Commonwealth, European Union and others to assist in supervising the re-run. Due to the failure of ECK, the commissioners should immediately step aside to pave way for the re-constitution of the ECK, along the Principles of IPPG, to organize presidential re-run within the three months.
Commissioners of credibility with integrity should be sourced from LSK, ICJ, eminent persons from professionals, civil society and religious groups.
4. Activities during interim period and thereafter
- Peaceful rallies must be allowed and organized to facilitate the healing process
- Civil society and religious organizations should have forums to enhance reconciliation through dialogue, counseling and conflict resolution
- Losers of Parliamentary elections on both sides and former ministers should desist from giving inflammatory statements motivated by their personal vested interests.
- All God fearing people should acknowledge and repent their sins (such as bribery, false witness, murder, rape, pride, arrogance, dishonesty and others) of commission and omission. "If my people ,who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land". (2nd Chronicles 7:14) 5.
All presidential candidates have affirmed the need for a new constitution. We Kenyans are in dire need of a new God-centred and people based constitution. All constitutional institutions have failed us: the presidency, parliament, ECK, Anti Corruption, Political Parties, Civil Society, Civil Service, Constitutional Commissions and especially the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. The only institution that is still functioning faithfully is the people: they voted peacefully and in earnest, now they are in disarray because the existing constitution does not address the people's needs.
In conclusion, we as a Peace Church are committed to the process of national healing. Already we have institutions and programs in place such as: Alternatives to Violence Program (AVP); Trauma Healing; Change Agents for Peace International (CAPI); the Quaker Peace Network, all with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to help bring about healing and transform relationships.
We call upon the wider Body of Christ and other faith based institutions to share in the restoration of a healthy, peaceful and just Society.
God bless Kenya.
On Behalf of Friends Church in Kenya (FCK)
Midikira Churchill Kibisu
Friends Church (Quakers)
Nairobi Yearly Meeting
cc. - Chairman ODM
- Chairman ODM Kenya
- Attorney General
- ECK Chairman
- All Other Parties with Presidential Candidates
- Transparency International
- Kenya National Commission for Human Rights Chairman
- Citizen coalition for constitution
- Hon. Musalia Mudavadi
It's late since we went to Kakamega today. In the early morning I went to the school to see the situation. Most of the IDP's had moved to Turbo and only a few were left. The school was extremely dirty which is not at all surprising. School starts Monday!!! I hope to visit the IDP folks in Turbo on Monday. Tuesday I hope to go with Malesi, Getry, and Janet to Eldoret to meet with the AVP facilitators we have there.
Yesterday Malesi, Getry, and Janet met with about 25 of the bicycle taxi drivers in Kakamega. Here is a paragraph from her report:
'Yesterday we met the Boda boda taxi drivers (Bicycle riders) and the touts and small business young men in town. They began by being sorry and sharing how the violence had made them suffer. They slowly moved to deeper things. One said 'We are nothing in this nation. We are the ones to suffer. These rich people have fridges full of food. Even if the trouble goes on for a month they will not suffer. Let us just give up and continue with our poverty". Another said "Madam, these people here are being untruthful. The anger expressed by all of us Kenyans for one tribe out of 42 cannot be becuase of one incident. We have seen rigged elections before. The problem is the attitude of "these"people. They come to our town, to our homes and then they decide we are fools. I work in their vehicles and the way they treat you. We are just an angry lot and we hoped for change. They stole even that from us. Let us not cheat you that peace will come back. We want them out of here". Another said, "Our wound is real and deep.Then Martha Karua [Kikuyu minister] speaks as though we are nothing. When she talks we just feel like laying down our lives for change". We agreed with them that there can never be peace without justice.'
Gladys and I had a meeting with Dorothy Selebwa, the Clerk of USFW (United Society of Friends Women) in Kenya. I am hoping to get them more involved in the distribution of the relief aid (as a first step in reconciliation) that AGLI is receiving since this really isn't what we normally do. Since they have branches throughout the region, this will also be a good way of spreading out whatever funds we have. She will get back to me on Monday after she has contacted the USFW leaders in the 16 yearly meetings.
On the other hand I am beginning to get an overwhelming number of requests for AVP workshops. In fact I don't think we have enough experienced facilitators here to handle the load so I am thinking of inviting AVP facilitators from the US, Canada, Europe, and also English/Swahili facilitators from Rwanda and Burundi to help with the expected load.
David Zarembka, Coordinator
African Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace
The major news of the day is that the internally placed people at Lumakanda School were being moved today to the IDP camp at Turbo. There are already 15,000 to 20,000 people there at two sites. The Lumakanda folks will be there together at the Turbo police station. I'll be able to visit them there, but this will be difficult: it is at least 5 miles down the road from us. So I'll have to walk to the junction at the main road and take a matutu to Turbo and back. Now there won't be two times a day visits. The school classrooms, as expected, are extremely dirty and I hope that someone will clean them up before school opens on Monday.
The biggest breakthrough for us today is that we (rather Gladys) has made personal contact with the Kikuyu side. Gladys's best friend over the years is Jacinta Latki who is a Kikuyu married to a Swede: they live in Sweden. Gladys worked for her brother, a member of the Kenyan foreign service, for twelve years including 3 in Pakistan and 2 in Zambia. Last September we visited Jacinta in Nakuru where she grew up (I think) and where she has started an orphanage for 40 children and a school for 110 children on the ten acres of her parent's plot: Phyllis Wambui Children's Home. Jacinta phoned Gladys today and told us the following: She was coming from Sweden to Kenya over the New Year's and when she reached Germany, everyone was in a panic and would not let her continue on to Kenya. I think she stayed at least a week in Germany. Last night she arrived and is now camping out with her orphans at the Nakuru fairgrounds which is serving as an IDP camp there. The orphans are of various tribes including two Kalenjin girls whom she was protecting from female circumcision. So now we have personal contact with the Kikuyu in an IDP camp. We will get more reports from her as time goes on.
In November of last year, I lent my son-in-law, Job, (Beverly's husband) the funds to buy a motorcycle so that he could go into the motor cycle taxi business. By now I know a lot about the motorcycle taxi business which in calmer times I might describe. There are 58 motorcycles and 67 motorcycle drivers and he has been elected chair of the motorcycle taxi drivers association in Lumakanda. He said that all the motorcycle taxi drivers stayed out of the violence, partly because they were charging double for rides and thus making a good income. Also the winning MP from this area, Cyrus Jirongo, had met with the drivers and told them not to participate in any tribal violence due to the election. According to Job, most of the bicycle taxi drivers also stayed out of the looting, but of course in terms of class, a motorcycle taxi driver is far above a bicycle taxi driver.
He told me that during the days of no transportation he would sometimes drive people to Webuye about 25 miles to the west of Lumakanda. Job said that he would be stopped at Kipkarren River (and perhaps elsewhere) and asked to show his ID and say something in his native language to indicate that he was not a Kikuyu. He started wearing his orange ODM hat to show where his loyalties were.
I told him that I wanted to meet with those who had done the looting in the area. While Job said that the motorcycle drivers did not participate, he thought they would welcome a meeting. Some of the bicycle taxi drivers would also come. He said that most of the looting had been done by the "idlers" who had nothing to do. So while I may not be meeting with the actual perpetrators, I will be close. I will ask the Lumakanda Friends Church for space, ask Malesi, Getry, and Janet for one or more of them to help, and set a time, probably next Tuesday or Wednesday.
According to my stepson, Douglas, who lives in Nairobi, there is "Lots of tension. Things aren't good at all, though guys are going on with routine work. We expect things to worsen next week."
Parliament is supposed to open on Tuesday and the hundred plus MP's on the ODM side (out of a total of 207) will demand to sit on the government side and not the opposition side. Kibaki's party, PNU, plus allied parties, will have only 57 MP's (one of the clear indications that ODM rather than PNU actually won the election). This will probably lead to a battle. Then on Wednesday through Friday, ODM has asked for rallies in fifteen towns in the country including Kakamega. These will be banned by the government and violence is very likely to ensue as the police attack demonstrators with tear gas, water cannons, and shooting in the air.
This is already a long enough report today, but as things have calmed down (at least temporarily), I have begun to see major criticisms by Kenyans as to the international reporting on the events.
I have received enough emails to realize that even some of you have been "hood-winked." So expect my analysis of this soon.
David Zarembka, Coordinator
African Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace
Thursday, January 10, 2008
This morning six out of the seven members of the Lumakanda Church committee met at the church. They got a local police vehicle to carry the goods--two 50 kilo bags of rice, two 20 kilo bags of salt, five 20 liter containers of cooking oil, and ten boxes of soap--to Lumakanda School. They were very warmly received and the Red Cross gave them a receipt for the goods delivered. Gladys requested that the rice be used for the small children because it is difficult from them to eat maize (corn) and beans day after day. I took pictures of them with the "Friends in Peace" T-shirts, but I could only send the thumbnail picture since the regular one was too large for my internet system. I think I'll try again early in the morning when the connection is faster.
When I went out for my afternoon walk, I met Silas Njoroge, the leader of the Kikuyu in the IDP camp. He is perhaps my age (64) since he has a lot of white hair. He has lived here since the colonial times when the British settlers controlled Lugari District -- perhaps he was born here. He had a large farm and a tractor, trucks, and other vehicles. His house has been thoroughly looted and burned since he is without doubt the wealthiest Kikuyu in the area. When I met him today, he thanked me very graciously for the assistance that Lumakanda Church gave to the IDP's. Many people seemed to know that I was connected to the relief, even though I was not part of the delegation: I was wearing my "Friends in Peace" T-shirt.
One need that we did not meet is vaseline. Except for a few light showers it has not rained here for about 2 and a half months. The sun is extremely hot now (great for my solar panel) and the wind howls all day. Consequently people's skin is cracking and they need vaseline to make it smooth. We tried to get some in Kakamega when we were there, but we could not find any wholesale.
The big question is what will happen to the IDP camp when school opens next Monday, only 4 days away. The Red Cross wanted to move the people to the large IPD camp in Turbo, but the people refused. It is too far away (more than 5 miles) and there is cholera in that camp as it has 20,000 or so people in two sites. If the school is evacuated for the opening of school on Monday, all the classrooms will have to be washed with disinfectant. Gladys knows the Head of the school who is the son of a member of Lumakanda Friends Church.
Today our electrician, Justus, came by. He is the youth leader for the ODM (Raila's) party in Lugari District. I asked him if it was true that he got beat up by the youth of one of the opposing candidates and he confirmed this. He and four other of his youth were going around the district, hanging up pictures of his candidate when two pick-ups blocked them, one in the front and one in the rear. Justus said he ran as fast as he could and was only hit a few times--he still had to go to the hospital. Others in the group were not so lucky as one perhaps broke his arm and another had a big bruise on his ribs. Both of them were hospitalized.
He confirmed that many of the looters in the community were the local bicycle taxi drivers (boda-boda). Many have had their bicycles confiscated by the police: there is a big pile of them at the police station. Some of the bikes were put there voluntarily by the Kikuyu bicycle taxi drivers. Justus believes that there were at least 100 people killed in the district; the vast majority being youth shot by the police. He knew of only 4 Kikuyu who were killed in Matunda where 6 youth were also killed by the police. He told me that when the police kill someone, they sometimes put them in their vehicles and dump them in out of the way places. Officially there are 486 deaths--these are the ones recorded in the hospitals. 62 of these were in Western Province: I know of 9 myself, all youth shot by police. According to Justus, no youth or Kikuyu were killed in Lumakanda itself.
The African Union head, John Kufuor, who is the President of Ghana, came to Kenya to mediate. He failed. Now Kofi Annan, the former UN General Secretary, is coming to mediate between the two sides. It looks to me like this is going to be long and drawn out -- procrastination is to Kibaki's advantage as he retains total power in the meantime.
David Zarembka, Coordinator
African Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace Teams
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Last night Kibaki named his cabinet, mostly filled with appointees from his inner circle. Shortly thereafter we got an SMS from Eden, who is in Kisumu, saying she was seeing fires and hearing gunshots. We had planned to go to Kakamega today, but then this made us doubtful. When morning came, we called Malesi and Getry and both said that Kakamega was calm. So we went to Kakamega and back. The matatu price was double what we usually pay. Matatus were few and very crowded. The drivers and conductors were all Luhya or Kalenjins--ie, no Kikuyu. People, including the conductors, were much more subdued than before as there was not much hassling even with the high fares.
We saw a number of burned houses and shops on our way in and a very large store next to the bus station which was completely burned out. The lines at the banks were very long and we could not get all the funds we wanted, but enough for now. We were also able to buy 5,000/- of calling cards at the regular price. This will last us awhile.
I had a good meeting with the Friends for Peace and Community Development folks--Malesi, Getry, Janet, and Shamala. We were looking at our short term and longer term strategies. It seems that they will meet with the boda-boda (bicycle taxi) drivers on Friday. You may recall from earlier reports that it is the boda-boda who were responsible for much of the violence in Kakamega. FPCD plan for this to be a listening session to hear what they have to say. I will be very interested to see what is learned.
We bought goods for Lumakanda Church committee to take to the School tomorrow. Fortunately we found Alfred Machayo in town and he carried the goods back to our house in his station wagon. We purchased soap, salt, cooking oil, and rice.
I got and read my first newspaper since Dec 28 and we bought two loaves of Kenyan bread. Bread, calling cards, and a newspaper--what a wonderful life!
David Zarembka, Coordinator
African Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace Teams
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Dawn Rubbert (AGLI Program Manager) sent me an Associated Press news article dated yesterday, titled "Kenyan Rivals Make Concessions" by Elizabeth A Kennedy. The article included the following:
"An official in neighboring Uganda said over the weekend, 30 fleeing Kenyans were thrown into the border river by Kenyan attackers, and were presumed drowned. Two Ugandan truck drivers carrying the group said they were stopped Saturday at a roadblock mounted by vigilantes who identified the refugees as Kikuyus and threw them into the deep, swift-flowing Kipkaren River, said Himbaza Hashaka, a Ugandan border official. The drivers said none survived, Hashaka said."
This is total nonsense. The Kipkarren River is where my post office box is and within walking distance of my home. If anything like this would have happened, it would have been the talk of the town. Bodies or survivors would have been brought here to Lumakanda Hospital which covers Kipkarren River. If this had occurred, it would have been one of the biggest massacres in Kenya since the election. I have told a number of people about this story (Gladys, Florence Machayo, people from Lumakanda Church) and all have said it is "lies." I asked Dawn R to contact AP to retract this article and she has done so. If you would also like to email Associated Press, the email address is email@example.com. Unfortunately this misinformation has gone out throughout the world. I am sure that this story will be repeated over and over again, and particularly inflame the Kikuyu community towards retaliation. This is totally irresponsible journalism. So beware. Don't believe everything you read.
Back to the home front. The Lumakanda Church Relief Delegation went to the School this morning. At first the security officers would not let them in "unless they brought a little something." The Red Cross officials were not there. So they came back to our house and got the children's clothing, toothbrushes, and over-the-counter medicines that had been brought from the US by AGLI workcampers, then to the Machayo's house by Getry, and lastly by Alfred Machayo to our house. When they returned, they were warmly welcomed by the leaders of the camp. The delegation asked them what their needs were and were told "soap, salt, cooking oil, firewood, vaseline, sugar, tea leaves, and blankets." We don't really have any source for firewood. I have seen the kids going out to pick up small sticks for firewood and this is in an area with lots of trees, but 2500 people can pick an area clean of firewood in short order.
Gladys and I plan to go to Kakamega tomorrow and buy some of these items. We will then have to figure out how to get these back to Lumakanda. We are told that the banks in Kakamega are open, calling cards are available (but I don't know at what price), and the price for the matatu ride has increased from the usual 120/- to 300/-. [Note: /- is the sign for Kenyan shillings, 65-70 per US dollar.)
Florence Machayo came by today and we had a good discussion on the situation here in Lugari District. She came to see the District Commissioner who does not seem to be around. Florence thinks the Commissioner is afraid. Florence wants her to call a meeting of community leaders to discuss the situation, but if she is not available, how can this be done? Has the government here in Lugari District abdicated its responsibility to govern?
Today in Kakamega, Friends for Peace and Community Development (FPCD) has organized people from Kakamega Friends Church to dig latrines at the police station where there are many IDP's. There was concern about the sanitation at the site.
I just received 1000/- of airtime from Dawn Amos and I feel so wealthy!
Today I have been able to access the internet. That is a point of joy. Petrol has come back to the petrol station and today it is costing 90 shillings per liter unlike 2 days ago when it was 150 shillings per liter. Public transport has resumed work. Those going to Nairobi have to go in a convoy with heavy police escort. People who booked to travel back to Nairobi on Dec . 27th began going yesterday. The old bookings go on till 16th January because there are no night buses. Those of us who had not booked can only hope that we can travel after the 17th!!!
Today the ODM party called off rallies planned for the whole country. Negotiations are beginning. This is a point of hope.
In the midst of the chaos many of us became paralyzed. Then we remembered that we are peace makers. So putting on my hat at as member of an organization called "Friends in Peace and Community Development" we called each other and began to look at ways we could use our experience in dealing with crisis situations (that is me helping the others to look at what we could do). We went to the IDP camp that had 3,000 people near us. We were asked to identify ourselves so we went and wrote letters of introduction. Then we printed T shirts whose front reads "Friends in" and the back reads "Peace". The first day we wore them we were scared because things were still tough here in Kakamega so we put on shirts to show only part. We went to the IDP camp and started talking to those displaced to see what they needed most.
We then wrote to the Red Cross giving them figures at the IDP. We wrote to a coalition of churches based in Nairobi that is helping displaced people. Then we wrote to as many churches around Kakamega as possible. On Sunday we distributed these letters. I was invited to preach at the Friends Church Amalemba and did I pour out my heart!
Anyway now we are wearing our T shirts very openly. Some churches have contributed funds and AGLI gave us some funds so we were able to join the Red Cross in distributing food. They had only brought dry maize so we bought rice, cereals (Ndengu), milk and cooking oil specifically for the children. I was asked by the DC (local leader) to address those in this place and I shortly shared my experience during the clashes of 1991and my experience in Burundi and Rwanda and to give them hope. This morning we have been there. The youths from the Friends Church Amalemba are digging toilets. We have just bought plastic sheets to cover the toilets and build some bathrooms.
I put on my Uzima hat yesterday and wrote to all boda boda (bicycles) taxi leaders as well as manamba (the touts). We want to meet them on Friday at 2pm. One of the things that caused such intense reaction is that people feel excluded in their own home towns as well as in the nation on the whole. The youth fund that was given by the government is not really reaching these highly frustrated young people. Anybody who says the youths were incited lives in a different Kenya. We who work and walk among Kenya youths encounter youths WHO ARE ANGRY. Sometimes we receive this anger like if we say we are giving them loans and we delay. The youths voted in their thousands and they feel their dream was stolen. I have heard some talk as I pass in town. They say "if Raila concedes defeat then we shall deal with him."
So I want you to pray for us as we talk to these youths who were the ring leaders of the violence here. We want to ask them what caused the anger and where they are at this time. We want to see if we can help them think through serious business plans so they too are part of the business people in town not just "touts and idlers".
We hope that we shall soon begin some healing workshops [HROC program of AGLI]. But at this time we must earn the right to be heard. Today as we walked around in our peace T shirts many people made comments like "WE also want to wear those T shirts. We want peace". We heard some young men say "These mamas really want peace. We join you." So just our T shirts are making a loud statement. I wish we had money to print more so that the highly negative atmosphere is replaced with the peace message. When we just arrived at the IDP camp, those waiting for food just read aloud ..."Friends". That too made a powerful statement.
Back at the camp I attended a meeting between the Red Cross and the IDP Committee. The Red Cross wants to move them to the show ground some 2 kms from town. They said interesting things. "We don't want to move. From here we are meeting those who burnt us. And we feel old relationships are rebuilding. Some of us have actually gone back home and we feel safe." One said "the maize I was given by the Red Cross was taken by a friend who ground it and even put onions, tomatoes and vegetables for us."
My mood today reflects this hope.The fact that David Zarembka and the Lumakanda Friends Church have a committee that is reaching out to the IDPs there. That Florence Machayo is reaching out to those in Turbo and many people are reaching out. In Nairobi the Friends Church has just been talking to the press about the Quaker Peace Testimony and how as church we can be involved in seeking for peace.
And also that on the bigger scene the Law Society of Kenya has taken some serious steps. That the African Union chairman has at long last been allowed to come by Hon. Kibaki and his team. That Hon. Raila and Hon. Kibaki are going to meet.
You know what I want? A repeat of the presidential elections. This would bring peace back fast if the repeat is better handled that the sham tallying that put us where we are in the first place.
We are in place. As Uzima Foundation and as Friends in Peace and Community Development. My Uzima team in Nyanza with whom we have done so many workshops on Alternatives to Violence are at the displaced people there. They are rearing to move in the reconciliation field. It is wrong for one to say "let peace come then the youth will move". The youths are the ones to bring that peace. Youths are not moving from Nairobi to Kakamega. They are working in their communities.
What along letter --I better be going.
I have been asked to discuss the issue of how the violence here in Kenya is affecting the Quakers in Kenya.
Friends United Meeting (then Five Years Meeting) sent missionaries to Kenya in 1902. They trekked up country and settled in Kaimosi which is in the Western Province of Kenya. Western Province stretches from near Lake Victoria about a hundred miles north to Mt Elgon, along the border with Uganda. The British divided up the provinces by ethnic groups. Western Province is the home of the Luhya: the second to largest group in Kenya after the Kikuyu. Almost everyone in Western Province is Luhya. Of course, over time, many Luhya have immigrated to other parts of the country. Partly due to the excellent education the Quaker missionaries promoted during colonial rule, the Luhya tended to go into the educated professions--teachers, managers, government civil servants, and similar occupations.
There are more Quakers in Kenya than any other country in the world. FWCC says 137,000. FUM-Africa office is trying to get a better count, but this is going to be difficult for such large numbers. I think that the total is considerably higher. If there are 3,000,000 people in Western Province and 100,000 of them are Quakers, then 3% of the population is Quaker. While still a small percentage, it is probably one of the highest concentrations of Quakers in the world. Quaker churches and Quaker schools can be seen everywhere.
At the time of independence all the Quakers were in one very centralized, yearly meeting-- East Africa Yearly Meeting. But due to mismanagement at the center, sub-ethnic group differences, beginning in the 1970's East Africa Yearly Meeting began to split apart until now there are 15 Yearly Meetings (there is actually another one which hasn't been officially recognized yet). Much of this division was very acrimonious. Note how parallel this history is to the history of Kenya that I reported previously. Most religious groups in Kenya went through similar conflicts and divisions. Now all the yearly meetings are members of Friends United Meeting. All, except a silent worship group at Friends Church--Nairobi, Ngong Road, are programmed Friends, with singing, vocal prayer, preaching, an offering, choirs, etc.
Starting in about 1999, the many yearly meetings began to settle down and re-develop normal relationships among themselves. Now the Friends Church of Kenya includes all the yearly meetings. During the time of conflict, the Quakers were not represented in the National Christian Council of Kenya because they could not agree on who would represent them. Now the Friends Church has a representative there.
Politically the Luhya have been seen as the political "plum" that would allow someone else to run the country. If a politician could get the votes of the second to largest tribe, he would have a nice voting block. Consequently there have been many Luhya vice-presidents. Kibaki's vice president was a Luhya, Moody Awori, and there was obvious resentment against Kibaki when Awori was unable to even hold his own seat in Busia--he was defeated badly by the ODM candidate. In Moi's last government, Musalia Mudavadi was vice-president for only a short time. In the 2002 election the Luhya were determined to oust the Moi government and Mudavadi, like Awori in this election, lost his seat. He soon recognized his mistake, joined the ODM campaign against the proposed constitution in 2005, and returned to the good graces of the Luhya. He is now Raila Odinga's vice-presidental running mate. I cover these details because Musalia Mudavadi is a Friend. I am told that he sometimes attends church at Ngong Road in Nairobi. I have found him to be level-headed, a calmer speaker than most politicians, and he carried the ODM campaign very well when Raila was in the United States raising funds.
As part of the larger population of the province, the Quakers have been directly and indirectly affected by the violence. I mentioned a Luhya who was killed in Nakuru (I don't know if he was a Quaker or not). The shop of another prominent Quaker in Nairobi was looted and burned. If a Quaker lived in a Kikuyu's house, they were burned out. If they rented a house to a Kikuyu, it was also burned. There are probably many more examples of death, looted shops, and burned homes among Kenya Quakers that I do not know about. Of course indirectly everyone has been adversely affected. Prices have gone up, transport has been almost impossible, and anyone with a business has experienced decreasing sales. On top of this is the tension, the uncertainty, of what will happen; the retreating into the home and interacting with trusted neighbors only. Then there are the questions, "How can our society have fallen apart like this?" "Where have we gone wrong?" "Is this going to happen again?"
In my daily reports I try to highlight those things that I hear the Quaker community is doing: digging latrines at an IDP camp, caring for people in Eldoret Friends Church, our beginning attempts at reconciliation here in Lumakanda, attempts to dialogue with the looters in Kakamega.
All these are small initiatives in hard times. As the conflict here in Kenya is no longer "news," and you hear little about what happens, I hope that you can stay informed about our Quaker brothers and sisters in Western Kenya.
Monday, January 7, 2008
Since the blog link is getting around, I've had some suggestions. I changed the display template and hope it will be more easily read using less common browsers. Let me know if you have trouble reading the postings.
I was also given copies of Dave's reports from several weeks before the elections, which I will be posting shortly, but which will be out of chronological order (unless I can figure out how to change that).
In my opinion, Dave's prescience in those earlier reports gives additional weight to his analysis of what's going on in Kenya today.
Please also see Mary Kay's blog here. Her sidebar offers many ways you can help some of the half million internally displaced people in Kenya. The report #11 below shows how your support would be used should you choose to send it via AGLI.
-- Dawn A
This afternoon the committee appointed by Lumakanda Friends Church met at our house to discern the way forward. They decided that they would go tomorrow morning as a delegation to Lumakanda School to meet with the leaders of the camp and the Red Cross people. They will find out what would be the most suitable need that could be fulfilled given our resources. We have 31,200/- ($472) from Friends in Bristol, England, and the Sunday collection at the Church, which translates to only 12/- (18 cents) per person so we will have to focus on something doable. They will figure out what is best and then Gladys and I will go to Webuye on Wednesday and buy what is suggested. Then the Church members will go to camp, have a prayer meeting with the people in the camp, and give the donation to the Red Cross to distribute. Then we may do a similar thing the following week as way opens. Gladys is part of the delegation, but I am not.
Alfred Machayo dropped off the children's clothes, toothbrushes, and some medicines which will be part of the donation. Malesi sent a letter of introduction from Friends for Peace and Community Development and two T-shirts, saying on the front, "Friends in" and "Peace" on the back. Folks on the delegation will wear them.
In Kakamega, Friends for Peace and Community Development (Malesi, Janet, Getry, Peter, and others) are going to meet with the boda-boda (bicycle taxi drivers) who formed one of the main body of looters in that town. We will see what this brings.
When I was on my afternoon walk, I passed a young man, probably in his twenties, not very well dressed, who was trying to hawk a video. Of course I turned him down, but five paces on I realized that this was looted goods and he was probably one of the looters.
Yesterday evening, when I went to the School, I learned that most of the Red Cross workers had gone to Turbo for the food distribution that day. Turbo is the next town on our way to Eldoret and it was very hard hit by the violence. This is where it has been unsafe to pass for many days. I heard that the looters had cut down the big eucalyptus trees growing by the side of the road in order to block the road. Today I learned that the Red Cross workers had come back very late. They told me that instead of 15,000 IDP at Turbo, there were now closer to 20,000. Many were very "bitter" (the best translation I have for what was told to me in Swahili). I have also been told that this is the case at Lumakanda School. The food brought by the Red Cross was insufficient considering the large number of people in the camp.
I have been told that there is an IDP camp near Kitale with 21,000 people. While the paper said that there were 18,200 IDPs in Lugari District, the Red Cross worker, a woman full of the facts, told me there were almost 35,000 IDPs in Lugari District. The media has upped the estimate of those killed to 500 and the number of displaced to 500,000.
I hate to say it, but I told them so!!! (i.e., the numbers reported were too low). School was supposed to begin today, but was postponed until next week. What will happen to the IDPs at Lumakanda School when school starts?
I can no longer get BBC on my radio. I wonder if it has been jammed.
Prices in town for food have gone up 25% to 50%: except for meat. The town used to slaughter a cow every day, but now we are on the fourth day of the same cow so we are not buying. The point is that neither is anyone else so the price has not gone up.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Jodi Richmond (temporary Head of Friends Theological College, now in Nairobi) sent my wife an SMS asking us if anyone was reacting in a Christian way to the chaos occurring now in Kenya.
We went to our Friends Church today; as we always do when we are in town. At first there was almost no mention of the conflicts whirling around us, but when the preacher for today, Daniel, gave his sermon, he based it on Hosea 14:1 "Come back, O Israel, to the Lord your God; for your sins have caused you to stumble." One of his main points was that Kenyans have to ask for forgiveness for what is engulfing the country. After the offering, I asked the Clerk if I could address the congregation on peace and reconciliation and he agreed. So I gave about a five minute talk in Swahili indicating that our hands were God's hands and that we could show our Christian/Friends concern for peace on earth by responding to help the displaced people who were in the school. They immediately conducted a second offering, collected 1208/- (a little less than $20) and gave it to me. After the service, I asked to meet with the church leaders and they set up a committee of six people including the youth and the women to develop a plan for how the church can be of assistance. We will meet soon.
At the end of the first offering a woman was asked to say the prayer of thanks as is customary. I learned later that she is hiding a Kikuyu woman in her house. The woman was just giving birth on Sunday evening when the chaos began so this woman had her stay in her house with the new-born. If the rioters find out that she is harboring a Kikuyu, they will burn her house down.
Desmond Tutu came to Kenya, constructively met with both sides and THEN LEFT THE COUNTRY!!! I was soooooo disappointed.
While the reports on the radio say that things are getting back to normal, it doesn't seem that way here. Getry came from Lubao to Florence's house and reported at the junction of the Kakamega-Webuye and Eldoret-Webuye road, her vehicle was pelted with rocks. Keffer Mbale who lives in Kipkarren River reported that last night his next door neighbor's house was burned down.
Ray Downing and Janice Armstrong, Mennonite doctors who used to work at Lugulu Friends Hospital nearby, are now doctors at Webuye Hospital. They contacted me through email and SMS so I have their contact information. If we ever get to Webuye (not trying tomorrow after Getry's report of rock throwing) we will meet them. They had received my previous reports and confirmed that on Thursday night four patients were brought to Webuye Hospital from our hospital with gunshot wounds (i.e., they were looters shot by the police). One died.
Yesterday evening I went on my usual evening walk. At the school I found that the Red Cross had brought two trucks with 110 bags of maize (corn) and beans. I estimate that this will be enough for about a week to ten days. But the camp Red Cross coordinator told me that there was no cooking oil, salt, sugar, toilet paper, hand or washing soap, and many other items. There was also a shortage of clothes since many people had run away in the middle of the night with only what they had on. I remember that the Lubao workcampers had brought some children’s clothing last summer and that some of it still was at the Peace Center. I called Getry and asked her to bring what she could and she has done so and taken them to Florence's house. Now I just have to figure out how to get it from Florence's house to ours.
In the meeting after church I opened up my calendar book and saw that I had 500/- of airtime that I had forgotten all about. Was I annoyed with myself! The 500/- of airtime that Dawn A sent me a few days ago finally arrived. She has sent a second 500/- and I expect it will reach me tomorrow. Do I feel wealthy! I even wasted a little of it looking at the internet news on Kenya.
In that internet news, I found that Lugari District had the second to highest number (after Eldoret) of IDP's 18,200. I also heard on BBC a report that Luo are also being attacked in Eldoret and are walking through back roads to Nyanza Province (which would take at least a week, I would think). Otherwise the Kenyan news on BBC has become old news and not much is being reported.