Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Update from Malesi - Jan 8 - There is hope

January 8

Dear all of you,

Today I have been able to access the internet. That is a point of joy. Petrol has come back to the petrol station and today it is costing 90 shillings per liter unlike 2 days ago when it was 150 shillings per liter. Public transport has resumed work. Those going to Nairobi have to go in a convoy with heavy police escort. People who booked to travel back to Nairobi on Dec . 27th began going yesterday. The old bookings go on till 16th January because there are no night buses. Those of us who had not booked can only hope that we can travel after the 17th!!!

Today the ODM party called off rallies planned for the whole country. Negotiations are beginning. This is a point of hope.

In the midst of the chaos many of us became paralyzed. Then we remembered that we are peace makers. So putting on my hat at as member of an organization called "Friends in Peace and Community Development" we called each other and began to look at ways we could use our experience in dealing with crisis situations (that is me helping the others to look at what we could do). We went to the IDP camp that had 3,000 people near us. We were asked to identify ourselves so we went and wrote letters of introduction. Then we printed T shirts whose front reads "Friends in" and the back reads "Peace". The first day we wore them we were scared because things were still tough here in Kakamega so we put on shirts to show only part. We went to the IDP camp and started talking to those displaced to see what they needed most.

We then wrote to the Red Cross giving them figures at the IDP. We wrote to a coalition of churches based in Nairobi that is helping displaced people. Then we wrote to as many churches around Kakamega as possible. On Sunday we distributed these letters. I was invited to preach at the Friends Church Amalemba and did I pour out my heart!

Anyway now we are wearing our T shirts very openly. Some churches have contributed funds and AGLI gave us some funds so we were able to join the Red Cross in distributing food. They had only brought dry maize so we bought rice, cereals (Ndengu), milk and cooking oil specifically for the children. I was asked by the DC (local leader) to address those in this place and I shortly shared my experience during the clashes of 1991and my experience in Burundi and Rwanda and to give them hope. This morning we have been there. The youths from the Friends Church Amalemba are digging toilets. We have just bought plastic sheets to cover the toilets and build some bathrooms.

I put on my Uzima hat yesterday and wrote to all boda boda (bicycles) taxi leaders as well as manamba (the touts). We want to meet them on Friday at 2pm. One of the things that caused such intense reaction is that people feel excluded in their own home towns as well as in the nation on the whole. The youth fund that was given by the government is not really reaching these highly frustrated young people. Anybody who says the youths were incited lives in a different Kenya. We who work and walk among Kenya youths encounter youths WHO ARE ANGRY. Sometimes we receive this anger like if we say we are giving them loans and we delay. The youths voted in their thousands and they feel their dream was stolen. I have heard some talk as I pass in town. They say "if Raila concedes defeat then we shall deal with him."

So I want you to pray for us as we talk to these youths who were the ring leaders of the violence here. We want to ask them what caused the anger and where they are at this time. We want to see if we can help them think through serious business plans so they too are part of the business people in town not just "touts and idlers".

We hope that we shall soon begin some healing workshops [HROC program of AGLI]. But at this time we must earn the right to be heard. Today as we walked around in our peace T shirts many people made comments like "WE also want to wear those T shirts. We want peace". We heard some young men say "These mamas really want peace. We join you." So just our T shirts are making a loud statement. I wish we had money to print more so that the highly negative atmosphere is replaced with the peace message. When we just arrived at the IDP camp, those waiting for food just read aloud ..."Friends". That too made a powerful statement.

Back at the camp I attended a meeting between the Red Cross and the IDP Committee. The Red Cross wants to move them to the show ground some 2 kms from town. They said interesting things. "We don't want to move. From here we are meeting those who burnt us. And we feel old relationships are rebuilding. Some of us have actually gone back home and we feel safe." One said "the maize I was given by the Red Cross was taken by a friend who ground it and even put onions, tomatoes and vegetables for us."

My mood today reflects this hope.The fact that David Zarembka and the Lumakanda Friends Church have a committee that is reaching out to the IDPs there. That Florence Machayo is reaching out to those in Turbo and many people are reaching out. In Nairobi the Friends Church has just been talking to the press about the Quaker Peace Testimony and how as church we can be involved in seeking for peace.

And also that on the bigger scene the Law Society of Kenya has taken some serious steps. That the African Union chairman has at long last been allowed to come by Hon. Kibaki and his team. That Hon. Raila and Hon. Kibaki are going to meet.

You know what I want? A repeat of the presidential elections. This would bring peace back fast if the repeat is better handled that the sham tallying that put us where we are in the first place.

We are in place. As Uzima Foundation and as Friends in Peace and Community Development. My Uzima team in Nyanza with whom we have done so many workshops on Alternatives to Violence are at the displaced people there. They are rearing to move in the reconciliation field. It is wrong for one to say "let peace come then the youth will move". The youths are the ones to bring that peace. Youths are not moving from Nairobi to Kakamega. They are working in their communities.

What along letter --I better be going.

1 comment:

Babette said...

We are holding you in the Light. Blessings on you for your work.
May peace prevail

Elizabeth Roebling
Asheville (NC, US) Friends Meeting