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Kenya Reports

Report #30
February 8, 2008

I have not made a report for the last three days because each day I have been on the road.
Tuesday Gladys and I went to Kakamega to buy relief supplies for our Lumakanda IDP's who are now in Turbo. On Wednesday, I went to Kaimosi to the Friends Theological College to work out a plan for them to do AVP in their churches during April vacation. On Thursday, Gladys and I went in the north Rift Valley to distribute relief supplies with the Friends Church Peace Team; I have reported on this in another email.

While others think Kenya is calming down, I don't. I think that it has entered another stage where the dramatic headlines of burning buildings and multi-deaths is over and a more subdued, but perhaps a more destructive and deadly mopping up, has begun. I can call this "reaping the harvest of the prior violence."

Tuesday on our way to Kakamega we stopped by Florence and Alfred Machayo's house to deal with the maize (corn) that needed to be bagged for delivery in the North Rift. Alfred was not there because he was escorting a Luhya friend of his who was a magistrate in the Nandi (Kalenjin) area. The magistrate had been told that he had to leave Nanci in a week or his house would be burned down. So, he was looking at the plot he has in Lugari District and determining how he can live there with his family. In other words, one family quietly (as far as the media is concerned) displaced. I suspect he will be out of his job also.

In the last few days another home was burned near Kipkarren River. In this case the old Kikuyu had died, but his daughter lived in his house, which was burned down, and his nice cassava field was completely destroyed. In my report on the visit to north Rift Valley, I mentioned the considerable violence on Mt Elgon. The paper reports that over 1000 teachers have not reported for work in North Rift Valley and that many students have also not returned. When we visited the Lumakanda people in the camp at Turbo, they told us that their numbers have been increasing. Two communities in Lugari District, which formerly had not been attacked, were attacked last week during the unrest and more people had fled to the camp.

In other words, houses will be burnt here and there. The violence of the past will compel people to flee as soon as they feel that they are being targeted. The targets are no longer only the Kikuyu in the western provinces, but anyone who happens not to live in his/her home area; i.e., who do not speak the local language.

I has occurred to me that the situation in Kenya is exactly the same as in the region of Rwanda, Burundi, and North and South Kivus. But in this case the issue is within one nation while the other is international. Let us compare the Rwandans with the Kikuyu. Rwanda is over-populated and so the Rwandans immigrate to North and South Kivu (and also Tanzania and Uganda) where they are considered "foreigners" by the local people and by the Governments of the region; and therefore, by the international community. Almost all the wars in the region since 1990 have been based on whether the Rwandans have the right to live as citizens, with benefits and privileges, in one of these countries. The answer is "No," but the Rwandans don't want to leave so fighting erupts.

In Kenya, the Kikuyu were originally confined to Central Province which is much smaller than Rwanda. The number of Rwandans in Rwanda is more or less equal to the number of Kikuyu in Kenya. Since 1900 the Kikuyu have moved out of Central Province to other parts of Kenya under the assumption that they were Kenyan citizens moving within their own country. But others, particularly the Kalenjin and Maassi groups take the positioin that Kikuyu were given land that was stolen from them by the British and therefore they don't have "rights" of land ownership in these areas.

Since Kenya is itself a nation supported by the international community, the regionalists don't have the right to expel the Kikuyu as the Congolese, Tanzanians or Ugandans have with the Rwandans. I read in the paper today that Tanzania is expelling 220,000 Burundians who have been in Tanzania since 1972; 36 years! Burundians do not seem to be very welcoming of these returnees because they really have no place to put them.

In effect our concepts of who belongs to what nation needs to be questioned/considered, while at the same time we have to address the issue of whether a group that historically occupies a certain territory has the right to exclude others. And then there has be fights over the boundaries of these "indigenous territories"--this is essentially what is happening in the conflict on Mt Elgon. I am certain that almost everyone reading this report will come down on the side of the right of a person to live anywhere "in his/her own nation." But one must remember the great "ethnic cleansing" that happened at the end of World War II when millions of people were relocated to their "home country" whose boundaries had changed substantially so that Poland, Germany, Ukraine, Latvia, etc., all became ethnically homogeneous and the multi-national countries of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia had to be broken up into ethnic enclaves. The American (and now European) efforts to keep out illegal immigrants is no more than this same issue--if Americans don't like Mexicans in their borders, why shouldn't people from North Kivu not like Rwandans, or Kalenjin's not like Kikuyu, Luo, Luyha, and others within "their borders"? There have been suggestions (not considered seriously) that Kenya ought to be divided into two new countries with the Rift, Western, and Nyanza Provinces becoming Kenya II.

These are all hard issues. I don't see anyone in the international community addressing them at any depth. Surely the United Nations and all its constituent governments are committed to the current status quo. I would like to see some considerations of better alternatives.

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