Monday, February 4, 2008

Feb 3, Report 26, David Zarembka

Sent: Sunday, February 03, 2008 6:16 AM
Subject: AGLI--Report from Kenya-- # 26 - Feb 3

Dear All,

Moses Musonga is the General Secretary of the Friends
World Committee for Consultation--Africa Section. He
just buried his brother-in-law who was killed with six
arrows in his body in the conflict around Kaimosi between
the local Luhya and Kalenjin groups who both supported
the opposition candidate.

One of our brother-in-laws, Wilson, is an over the road
truck driver. He carried cement from Mombasa to the Rift
Valley and returns with tea for export. In the Rift Valley,
he was beaten up and all the cement stolen, but fortunately
they did not burn his truck. Again both Wilson and the
Kalenjin who attacked him were politically on the same side.

On Friday I attended a meeting of the Quaker Leaders
and yesterday (Saturday) I clerked a meeting with the AVP
facilitators from the western provinces. At this point no one
thinks that the situation in Kenya is about politics--that is,
about who won the election. The election was no more than a
"trigger" that unleashed all the hidden, covered-up
resentments that have built up over the years and decades.
Although the media (including the international media) seem
to report that things are calming down (ten people now
being killed is reported on page 8 of the Daily Nation), there
was no one in either of those two meetings who felt that this
was true. Perhaps things are calmer in the cities (but not really
in Kisumu) or perhaps the death of ten people is no longer "news."
Or perhaps they are tired of saying the same thing over and
over every day. Many doubt that a political agreement will calm
the escalating violence.

It was heart-wrenching to hear person after person tell of the
violence and destruction in their community. At least two people
in the AVP meeting talked about how they had voted for Kibaki
while their children had voted for Raila and this had brought a
great deal of tension into the family. Rather than the usual "tribal
explanation" for the voting, there is another one, that the older
people wanted to stay with Kibaki while the younger people
wanted change with Raila. But at least in the rural areas, it doesn't
seem like the youth voted very much (while their elders did). I saw
a statistic which said that 81% of the population in Kenya is below
31 years of age. Hard to believe, but with the rapid population
increase of the 1970's and 1980's this is a possibility. Of course it is
this younger population who feels left out of Kenya's future. There
is no doubt, by the way, that the MP's elected on Dec 27 last year
are much younger and better educated than those from the
previous parliament. Many "old" politicians who have been elected
decade after decade were defeated. In a breath of fresh air
(compared to the US where a politician remains in office until he
retires or moves on) only 80 out of 212 PM's were re-elected
(this includes the leaders such as Kibaki and Raila).

There were seventeen facilitators (including Gladys and me)
at the AVP meeting. After we finished the de-briefing mentioned
above, we discussed how we could reach the youth. We then talked
about the kind of programs we would like to do. My goal for the
next six months, pending raising sufficient funds, is to do 100 AVP
workshops with 2000 youth in at least five sites. We learned from
Rwanda that it is better to concentrate in a few areas with lots of
workshops to impact a community rather than spread them out
everywhere with little impact in any one community. We hope that
in the next week or two the facilitators will go back to their
communities and develop concrete plans for AVP workshops with
the youth (or as one person suggested, with the police!).

I guess I need to end with a good story. Henry Mukwanja, a Quaker,
works for the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) in the
North Rift Valley. On Dec 30, when the violence began, he and two
co-workers were in a remote place and they stayed inside for two
whole days. On the third day they ventured out but ran into a
menacing group of youth who were doing violence in the area. Henry
called out, "God loves you." One of the youth responded, "No, he
doesn't." And then what? Everyone started laughing and the tension
was broken and all was well with Henry and his companions.


David Zarembka, Coordinator
African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams

1 comment:

Helena Cobban said...

Mary, Dave-- first of all thanks so much for your respective roles in bringing this important witness to the general public. Dave: may you, Gladys, and all your friends be protected by God's love there.

Which brings me to your closing story, Dave. What a great and fabulous story! Thanks so much for sharing it with us. What a wonderful, inspirational, and quick-thinking personal Henry must be to have come back with that come-back. And then, to think that the whole confrontation dissolved into laughter... truly amazing.

Dave, I'm sure the situation is hard for you. Don't feel you "have to" find a good little story to end each of your letters with. But that one surely was beautiful.