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