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Kenya Reports

Report #41
April 9, 2008

I guess we can label this report after the cynical American proverb, "No good deed goes unpunished." We can start with my speeding ticket. On Tuesday last week Gladys and I went to court in Eldoret. There is the civil court side and the criminal court side--your dear coordinator was a criminal suspect at this point. We got to court about 10:30 a.m. and were told that the police from Turbo had not yet brought in the report. We should come back at 2:00 p.m. We returned at 2 o'clock and there was still no report. No one was at the court for speeding tickets, but rather for multiple infractions mostly by matatu (mini-bus) owners and drivers. I was one of three people who were given a ticket that day so one would presume that the others would be in court also. At least ten vehicles were stopped while we were being given our ticket including a white sedan that speedily passed me up right before the stop. The rest did not get a ticket. Were they just let go? Did they pay the police a bribe?

At this point the court clerks stamped our ticket and told us to go back to the Turbo police station to talk to the police. This we did. The officer in charge was very nice and polite. As soon as he heard that we were returning from giving relief supplies to the IDP camp, he indicated he would void the ticket. I was most surprised when he asked one of his subordinates to go get the 2000/- bail we had paid. He returned this to us and I signed the form. It then became clear that here in Kenya people don't go to court, but just forfeit their 2000/- and therefore the police don't bother to take the case to court.

It was not out of our way to go to Turbo because we had received a call from the leader of the IDP camp that the Red Cross was suspicious about the AVP workshop we had organized for the Kikuyu youth in the IDP camp. Gladys and I, along with George Njoroge, the camp leader, visited the assistant Red Cross official. As soon as we explained what we were doing and gave him some of the AGLI AVP literature, he was most supportive. In order to cover all bases, we then went to visit the local District Officer who is responsible for the IDP camp and whose office is right behind that of the camp leader. He also was most supportive. He told us that things were improving because members of the IDP camp had gone back to church in the home community. Njoroge quickly informed him that we are affiliated with Lumakanda Friends Church and that this is the church that had welcomed back the refugees. The lesson here, I think,
is that even small actions can have profound effects when people are searching for something positive and hopeful.

Julia O'Conner, a young British woman who is already in Kenya, had phoned me to say she wanted to participate in some of AGLI's work. Since Julia said she had experience in photography and I needed some good pictures for the next issue of PeaceWays, I invited her to attend the AVP workshop with the youth at the Turbo IDP camp. The first two days went fine, although at the beginning the IDP youth, not too surprisingly, were rather aggressive towards the facilitators, letting out their anger and bitterness. The workshop was being held at the National Youth Center next to the IDP camp and on the third day the group was outside developing their role plays. Julia was taking some pictures of the youth when she was arrested for taking pictures! In the end, they deleted some of the pictures from her digital camera and the whole group moved out of the National Youth Center area and back into one of the classrooms (poles with plastic tarps) at the IDP camp and completed the workshop. In the end we got some nice pictures.

Last week the political parties had agreed on a cabinet of 40 ministers. Many civil society organizations felt that this was a bloated number in that 24 ministers would be more than enough. The cost of these extra ministers would be more than what the Kenyan government was asking the international community to donate for returning the internally displaced people to their homes. There was a demonstration in Nairobi led by Wangari Maathai, among others. Donald Thomas, a Quaker, who has been in Kenya since 1957, is the leader of the unprogrammed Friends meeting in Nairobi and the organizer of the AVP program in Nairobi, was also at the demonstration. The police tear gassed the demonstrators when they wanted to walk down the street to present the Government with their petition against the bloated cabinet. The Standand, the second largest newspaper in Kenya, had a picture of Donald Thomas crouching on the ground trying to avoid the tear gas. He was later taken to the hospital and soon released.

A number of people have complained to me about my April 4 discussion on Safaricom. They think that I should not have tarred everyone in the country with the label of "greedy." I am sorry that I did not write this more clearly. What I wished to convey is that those people who are participating in the Safaricom frenzy (as the papers here call it) are the ones who are greedy and not everyone in Kenya.

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