Wednesday, January 16, 2008

AGLI report January 16

Dear All,

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

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