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Kenya Reports

Report #26
February 3, 2008

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 in 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 2,000 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.

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