Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Jan 30, What is True? Report 24, David Zarembka

Dear All,

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) if the Kipkarren River bridge was
being destroyed by youth. It is not--we just went over it.

So the events of yesterday were hard to tell truth from fiction.

We were told that Nandi (Kalenjin group across the road from
us) youth were coming up the road to attack Kikuyu and burn
Kikuyu houses up here in Lumakanda. Police were 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
Witnesses) were destroyed. Two tires had been burned on
the road as 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 they were 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. 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. A crowd of local youth then collected at the house
and the police disbursed them, killing one.

Then 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 also 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?

Then 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 the
various people's take on the local violence. Most seem 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 preplanning of the

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 as 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 showed up in Lugari. Lugari is
the closest Luhya District on the main road 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


1 comment:

Helen said...

Thank you, Dave, for your report on what's fueling the violence. Quakers in Ann Arbor Michigan are drafting a letter of support for Kenyan Quakers in this difficult time. We are trying to understand all the factors at play there, and especially how the larger economic picture -- youth unemployment, US aid (with strings attached) and other global issues set the stage for violence. Best wishes, Helen Fox