Thursday, January 10, 2008

Report 14 - Jan 10

January 10

Dear All,

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

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