Monday, January 14, 2008

Report 18 - Jan 14

January 14

Dear All,

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

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