One of the major problems of life here in Kenya at this time is to know what is true from what is rumor. I formerly reported on the 30 Kikuyu that were reported to have been thrown into the Kipkarren River (even though covered by AP, CNN, and Time, it was not true). Today we got a call from Janet Ifedha (AVP facilitator from Kakamega) asking if the Kipkarren River bridge was being destroyed by youth. It is not -- we just went over it.
So it was hard to tell truth from fiction with regard to the events of yesterday.
We were told that Nandi youth (a Kalenjin group across the road from us) were coming up the road to attack Kikuyu and burn Kikuyu houses up here in Lumakanda. Police were supposedly at the small bridge coming up the hill to Lumakanda, fired shots at them, and they fled. I didn't think this was very plausible since they would not know where the Kikuyu lived or had lived.
Then today we went out for a short trip (5 miles) to Florence Machayo's house for a meeting of Lugari AVP facilitators. At the Lumankanda junction, all the signs (except the Jehovah's Witnesses) were destroyed. Two tires had been burned on the road and we could see where the tarmac was burned and large potholes beginning to form. So what is the truth?
Then about 2:00 pm yesterday a man was walking by our house and talking on his cell phone. He said in Swahili, "A Luo has been killed in Lumakanda." Wow. So Gladys went out to find out. She was told that some Kikuyu had come to shell their maize (corn) off the cob and that it was suspected that they would spend the night and attack the local people. This is not really feasible as I think it would be certain suicide on their part to stay. But this is what people might believe. The violence in this region is frequently enhanced by the concept, "You are trying to kill me, so I will kill you first." Of course the other side thinks the same thing so preemptive violence occurs. We heard that crowd of local youth collected at the house and the police dispersed them, killing one.
Today our electrician told me that the person had been killed by the police when he was taking some things from his house and the police mistakenly thought he was a looter.
I am not even certain if someone was killed.
Our electrician told me that a person was also killed by the police in Kipkarren River yesterday. When we passed through Kipkarren River today, the normally very busy town was almost deserted.
Is this evidence that someone was killed?
The violence has reached a member of the family. The brother of Gladys's brother-in-law was arrested in Chavakali (near Gladys's home area) for setting vehicles on fire. What is difficult to understand is that he is not a youth, being somewhere around 50 years old. I'm certain we will hear more about this as time goes on.
There were about 12 people from Lugari District at Florence Machayo's house. They were there to discuss the situation and what they might do. It was quite interesting to hear various people's takes on the local violence. Most seemed to think that they knew who the attackers were although they said that local people were sometimes put in trucks and taken elsewhere to do the violence and others were trucked into Lugari area to do the violence here. If this is correct, this means that there is significant pre-planning of the violence.
In Chekalini, the area where Florence lives, the high school is now the internally displaced person's camp for about 1000 Luhya who have fled the violence in Nakuru and Naivasha. Like the Kikuyu IDP's here, they have lost everything. More are coming all the time as they are being forced out of Central Province for being non-Kikuyu. So soon we are having another humanitarian disaster. A man stopped me on the road during my morning walk through town and said that it was not fair that the Kikuyu were getting relief and the others were not. At that time I did not understand since I did not know that so many internal refugees had shown up in Lugari. Lugari is the closest Luhya District along the main road that goes through Eldoret so I suspect that many of these people will stop here.
None of this, of course, is reported by the media since no one has reporters of any kind in the area. Are those who have died in Lugari District accounted for in the national total which is now officially 850? I doubt that many of them are. There are hundreds and hundreds of little places like Lumakanda, Turbo, and Kipkarren River. What is the real truth of what is happening in all these communities?
While Eden Grace and her family have been evacuated from Kisumu to Nairobi because of the violence in Kisumu, the media reports that things are becoming calmer. Perhaps this is true in Nairobi, but my step-son, Douglas, who lives in Nairobi reported, "Some skirmishes early today. Life seems not to be usual because most people appear worried about their security. Leaflets were dropped warning some communities to get out." Has the media gotten "used" to the violence and a few people killed in Kisumu and a few more in Eldoret and some more in Kibera is no longer "news"? Yesterday definitely was the worst day in Lumakanda since we returned (we were not here the first four days after the election results).
So truth, the reality of what actually is happening around you, is difficult to grasp because all those normal markers you have about your surroundings are suspect. It is so easy to be "sucked in" by rumors. And yet, to understand the dangers around you, you have to listen to others.
Enjoy the Super Bowl if it hasn't happened yet!!! There you can watch reality on TV and get instant replay from many angles on anything dramatic or controversial. Here we live in a state of unknowing.
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