Sunday, February 24, 2008

AGLI report February 24

February 24

Dear All,

The team lead by Kofi Annan was supposed to release the details of the power-sharing agreement between the two sides on Friday. That didn't happen. It seems like the Kibaki/PNU side is again procrastinating (they feel that time is on their side). So the Raila/ODM side has called for mass action on Wednesday (Feb. 27). Rather than just demonstrations, as in the past (which were broken up violently by the police), ODM is calling for what I would describe as a general strike. No one is to go to work; roads will be blocked, etc. Due to the recent history of violence this action will be extremely effective -- everyone will be afraid to travel or to go to work. Everyone will stay home and the country will shut down. On Wednesday we were planning to go to Nairobi for our flight to the US on Thursday. If the action is not called off by Monday, we will travel to Nairobi on Tuesday.

See how effective this threat is!

Yesterday Gladys and I went to Kakamega for a meeting with CAPP (essentially peace committee members) and AVP members from the various yearly meetings. During this meeting a woman from Chwele Yearly Meeting, which is right below the fighting on Mt. Elgon, told us that the previous night a member of one of the Quaker meetings was attacked by the Sabaot Land Defense Force (SLDF) which is responsible for much of the destruction and death on the mountain. His head was cut off and has not yet been found. (Note: Is it more "civilized" to attack people, say in Iraq, with heavy weapons so the body parts are all over the place?) Most of the Sabaot, who live higher up on the slopes of the mountain, have been displaced, so the SLDF is now moving further down the hill to steal cattle and goods killing people in the process. This area is very heavily populated by Quakers; every mile or two is another Quaker school. As the violence increases -- and the current political crisis has been a great "cover" for increased attacks and ethnic cleanings in the area -- the Quakers there will be more and more affected. Will the larger Quaker community in Kenya and the world take note of this and respond?

Yesterday we also bought goods in Kakamega for the internally displaced Lumakanda people who are now at the police station in nearby Turbo. We picked up four members of the Church including the pastor, James Majeta. As usual we delivered the food. There has not been significant rain in this area for almost four months. The IDP camp is at the top of a hill on fields that grew corn last year. The place is totally dry. The soil is very loose. The wind blows much of the time, sometimes very hard, and the dust blows everywhere. In an hour my hair (like everyone else's there) was covered with dust.

They told me that a cow dies almost every day because there is not sufficient grass to feed them. As I looked at the cows I could see that many were thin with ribs showing. Although some of the people have moved back to their houses (see the comments about Silas Njoroge below) and some have returned to Central Province (the Kikuyu "ancestral home"), those who remain do not have homes to return to (and perhaps do not even know where their "ancestral home" is.)

Here I will tell a story. You have to figure out the moral of the story. Gladys has a distant relative who works in Nairobi; but his wife and children live near us. These people are therefore Luhya, the dominant group in Lugari District. They are the ones who supply us each morning and evening with milk for our tea (and other uses). There are two older sons, Anthony, 21, and Nivan, 20. Both have completed secondary school and, as even they themselves say, are part of the "idle youth" who have nothing to do. About two weeks ago Nivan brought the evening milk about 6:00 pm. He went to the road, saw his brother and another friend, and they decided to walk over to Anthony's girlfriend's house. As they walked near the hospital and police station, there was a group of three Kikuyu boys following them. One of them came up to Nivan and started to attack him. The attacker then pulled out a machete and tried to strike him on the head. Nivan put up his left arm to ward off the blow and the machete cut through one of his arm bones and half way through the second. They rushed Nivan to the nearby hospital. About 8:00 pm the hospital called and told us to come and see him. This we did. By the time we reached the hospital he had been stitched up, given an antibiotic, and was doing fairly well considering the circumstances. Gladys paid the hospital bill. (It cost a little over $5. What would this have cost in the US?). Neither Anthony nor Nivan knew the attacker, but they did know the boys he was with. At this point it looked like this was an ethnic attack with a Kikuyu attacking a Luhya.

So then we went to the police station to report the incident. As soon as we arrived, the policeman said this was a case of a love triangle. If this is correct, then this is not one ethnic group attacking another, but "ethnic love" as two boys are fighting over the same girl (who is a Luhya). The only problem with this interpretation is that the girl is Anthony's girlfriend, yet Nivan is the one who was attacked.

Moreover, as Anthony said to me, "If I had a rival, I didn't know it." So you can decide, "Is this ethnic hatred or ethnic love?" As I have said before, if one investigated the details of many of these incidents, the results would not be too clear.

Last Monday Gladys called Anthony and Nivan's Mom and asked her to send them up with the evening milk. We talked with them more about the incident -- Nivan is recovered well enough. ("I don't want to be a cripple," he sometimes says. Then other times he talks about how lucky he was to put up his arm to ward off the blow since he probably would have been killed.) The attacker has fled Lumakanda area and no one knows where he is. One of the other Kikuyu boys had been put in jail but he was released since he hadn’t actually done anything that was a chargeable offense. We discussed with them the idea of doing AVP with the youth. Would they be able to assemble a group of 20 youth, male and female, of various ethnic backgrounds to have a workshop? They said they could so we arranged for five or six of them to come back on Friday to meet with us and Getry, the AVP coordinator; and they came. Five youth (2 female, 3 male; 4 Luhya and 1 Luo) came to discuss the situation with Getry. The result is that on March 3, Getry and two other facilitators will begin an AVP workshop with them which will include Luhya, Nandi (local Kalenjin group), Luo, and Kikuyu. They said they have known each other since they were kids in school.

But another interesting thought came out of the discussion. Getry had introduced the idea that the youth were being blamed for all the violence. Anthony responded that on Dec 30 (the evening the election results were announced and the violence started) many adults were telling the youth to attack the Kikuyu. In particular, the adults said to attack Silas Njoroge whose house was looted but not burned -- perhaps because it is close to the town and the police station. (He has now returned to his house.) If the youth killed someone, they were told they could come back for a reward. Anthony said, and the others agreed, that there was a lot of peer pressure to join in the attacks and the youth really faulted the older people for promoting this.

Ray Downing, a doctor at Webuye Hospital, (who formerly worked at the Quaker Lugulu Hospital up the mountain from Webuye) asked the question, "Why don't we study those areas (such as Webuye and Bungoma) where there was no violence?" In other words, rather than focusing only on the bad areas, why don't we try to understand the good areas? At one point I replied that I thought the Webuye/Bungoma area had not erupted into violence because the people there voted for Kibaki rather than Raila. (This voting was really anti-Raila, who they didn't like, rather than pro-Kibaki. Nonetheless, it got Kibaki the votes he needed.) Ray Downing replied that the older people in the area voted for Kibaki, but that the younger people voted for Raila. Later I was in a meeting where two parents said they had voted for Kibaki while their children had voted for Raila and that this had brought great tension into the family.

This led me to realize that it is the elders (Bush, Cheney, et alter) who send the youth to war in Iraq. It is the Kalenjin elders who send their warriors to attack the Kikuyu and the church which was burned down in Eldoret. It was the elders here in Lumakanda who encouraged the youth to attack the local Kikuyu. Where the elders did not encourage the youth, or perhaps discouraged the youth from attacking, the youth were not violent. If this interpretation is correct, then it is the older people who are responsible for the violence, death, and chaos in Kenya and not the youth who physically did the damage.

I guess this is enough thoughts for one day.


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

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