So many of you have written to say how grateful you are for news about Kenya and Kakamega and have asked to be kept informed. So I'd like to send up-dates as I hear news for you.
The picture I am sorry to say is not a happy one for anyone there. I had a lengthy conversation with Dorothy yesterday and her first words were "It has been grim." She is very shaken by what has happened. She says there has been a lot of violence in Kakamega, although things are calming down over the past couple of days. At the risk of repeating what you already know I'll do a one paragraph re-cap of why the violence.
You know about the elections and that Kibaki is Kikuyu and Odinga is Luo. What is important to add to this is that since independence, the Kikuyu have become the privileged class, holding the political offices, getting the good government jobs, having more land and wealth, owning most of the matatus (buses), and many shops. The Luo (and other tribes) have felt increasing frustration and resentment, despair and anger over the years. When Kibaki came to office 5 years ago, it was a "rainbow coalition" with many tribes working together to oust the previous corrupt President Moi; Odinga was Kibaki's strong supporter. But hopes turned to great disappointments as Kibaki did not share the political positions with non-Kikuyus, corruption continued at a distressing pace, and once more the other tribes became alienated and at the bottom of the economic and political heap.
Thus when it looked like Odinga would win the election hopes were very high, and having the election stolen from them was the last straw. That is why the rage is being taken out on Kikuyus.... and the police (who tend to be Kikuyu) are so violent against demonstrators.
Now to Kakamega: All the Kikuyu shops have been burned to the ground. The cloth shop where Tracy bought the material for the tunics this past summer is burned. The shop where John would get his water and safari-telephone cards is burned. The church on the corner of the road to the Care Centre is burned to the ground. Burned cars and matatus are everywhere. Many people have been killed. Homes all burned down. Kikuyus have run for their lives. Dorothy says it is pitiful that mothers with children on their backs have run without even their slippers for fear of being killed. Police were shooting indiscriminately in town during the turmoil and innocent passer-bys were shot and killed. The hospitals are overflowing.
Dorothy and most of the people in Kakamega are Luhya, a neighboring tribe to Luo, and generally a Christian people. They are appalled and many are hiding Kikuyu neighbors. Dorothy said that many Kikuyus have run to the police station, the only safe place for them. It is a large compound that filled up with 3500 people, matatus, trucks and cars. Those Kikuyus who tried to drive away were stopped and killed.
There has been NO transportation anywhere because of the man-made road blocks where you have to prove the right tribe or be killed. It is so horrible, everyone is terribly shaken up.
Because of this no food has been delivered anywhere. However, over the past 3 days there has been a calming in the streets with police with rifles patrolling at all times. And shops have re-opened for a couple of hours each day. But the shelves are empty of food. They don't know when food will be brought in.
Meanwhile the police are getting tired of taking care of this great mass of people at the police station, there is very little food left there and the sanitary conditions are terrible. Yesterday a convoy of matatus filled with around 500 people took off from the station with armed guard trucks taking them east to Nakuru area and Kikuyu territory. There are around 3000 people left. Sleeping outside or in tents in the cold with no clean water.
Dorothy is distraught that this has happened in her beloved Kenya. She says, "These are our neighbors, our friends. They were born here. This is their home. How can Kenyans do this to each other? I never thought my country would become a refugee camp." She has taken bags of food from her storage bin and went with her son and a village pastor to the police station. She explained that she wished to go in and extend a hand of friendship and pray with the people inside. So, with armed guards, she took the food into the police compound and stayed to pray with different groups and encourage them. She said the people inside were so grateful. "We much pray for one another and that God will intervene. The people here need to know we are a part of them." She asks us to keep praying with her. She said she will return tomorrow and is grateful that her sons are supporting her in these visits. Friends of Kakamega has ATM'ed $500 to her to purchase blankets or what she can to bring into to the refugees inside. "These people don't understand what they did to deserve this," she said. "They will have to start over completely, but without any little thing at all to help them get started." It is a very courageous thing for her to do, but she believes this is the right thing to do and doesn't question her personal safety.
On the hopeful side, there has been a loosening of positions of Odinga and Kibaki following Bishop Tutu's visit and the enormous pressure on them coming from the Kenyan press, the Kenyan people and the international community. They won't talk to each other yet, but just today BBC reports that they will meet on Friday. There will probably be some sort of interim government and then new elections in a number of months with international oversight. At this time, all the other tribes have joined in outrage against Kibaki. He is standing quite alone with his Kikuyu ministers (most have been voted out of office) and he is trying to hold on to some portion of power by offering a power-sharing situation. BBC news on the internet has a number of daily articles that are very helpful. The numbers of "displaced persons" is now estimated between 250,000 and 500,000. The number dead over 500-700.
I am receiving reports from other parts of the country that there has been a gradual calming, though it’s still very tense). Travel on the Nairobi east-west road was extremely dangerous because of deadly Kikuyu retribution. But some transportation is beginning to move with police guards. A 100-lorry convoy of international food aid got through from Mombasa to Nairobi yesterday. The stone roadblocks are being removed and police presence is everywhere.
The Care Centre children went home with food before Christmas and there has not been violence in the more rural areas, so they have remained safe. There is 2 months worth of maize and beans at the Care Centre so when things are safe and when there is petrol available, the children will be brought back. If things continue to calm, schools may re-open in a couple of weeks. Keep praying.
Dorothy wishes to convey to you deep appreciation for all the prayers that people are sending her and her country. She says that many Luyha homes are harboring Kikuyus, especially refugees who have run away from Eldorit (where the church was burned and many burned in it). She asks for prayers that their homes remain safe. She says, "We cannot see our friends suffer. They just want peace for their daily lives."
She said churches were open yesterday and they all prayed for their country. Many people were scared to go out and so the numbers were small. But people can see that things are getting less dangerous. Food is way too expensive and transportation fares far too high, which will seriously affect people trying to get back to jobs. It will be a long time..... But it is starting.....
So thank you for all your prayers and letters of concern. I have told Dorothy of all your letters that I have received and she says it encourages her so much. I have also been quite shaken up by all this as well and have very much appreciated your many letters of support. So please continue your prayers. I will send you some photos when I get them later this week.
Praying for peace and healing,