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