June 1, 2008
I hope you are interested in finding out what happened to the listening
sessions that the Friends Church Peace Team (FCPT) counselors have been
doing for the last two weeks in the local receiving communities. To remind
you, for seven week days the FCPT counselors went to seven different
locations (local communities) with the Nandi (a Kalinjin group) on the
Uasin Gishu (Rift Valley province) side of the main road. Then we were
going to do one listening session and an ecumenical service the next
day on the Lugari side of the main road.
How did these go? The visits varied. One was cancelled because the President
was visiting Eldoret and it was inappropriate to have a meeting with
him so close by. Another one succeeded past our expectations. Mili Nne
(Four Miles--meaning it is four miles from Eldoret) was extremely successful.
The people were willing to receive the internally displaced people (IDP)
who were at the Eldoret showground. The team there escorted the local
District Officer and Chief to the IDP camp to talk to the people there
about returning--this is the first time since January that these officials
had gone to the IDP camp in Eldoret to visit the IDP's who came from
At the two worst--Kipkarren River and Sugoi--, the people said that
if the Kikuyu returned they would kill them. The Sugoi people had an
interesting story. Sugoi is the home town of William Ruto, the leader
of the Kalinjins in Parliament, and one of the main members of the ODM
opposition. His house was about half a mile from where the meeting was
held. One older woman got up and said that on December 30 when the violence
escalated, two of her sons armed themselves to go out and hunt the local
Kikuyu (kill them?). She barred the door and crying told them not to
do this. She called some elders and together they decided to rescue and
hide the 15 Kikuyu in their community. This they did for three nights
moving them from place to place. Then they became afraid that they would
be discovered and so they escorted the Kikuyu to the IDP camp at the
Turbo police station. They said that they had helped out the Kikuyu,
but if they returned, this time they would kill them! My thought: everything
is a shade of grey.
Yet in Sugoi and also at another place called Kapsabey, the people asked
FCPT to come and hold peace seminars! At Kapsabey the people said that
no other church had done anything like what the Friends were doing, asked
them to build a church in the community, and offered two acres of land
for the church! The team members said that they would tell the church
leaders (Lugari Yearly Meeting) and they would have to come another time
to discuss the idea of building a church there.
Even at Kipkarren River, in the end, the people decided to form a committee
of ten elders (men), ten women, and ten youth to discuss on these matters.
They met without FCPT for the first time last Thursday, but at present
no one has a report of what happened.
At a place called
Jua Kali ("Hot Sun" for a place were workers
manufacture things in small scale enterprises), the people asked for
a joint meeting with the IDP's. So this was arranged for the following
Thursday. Unfortunately this did not go very well. The local people gave
all their complaints to the Kikuyu, but when the Kikuyu spokesman began
to respond, the crowd began to leave, interrupted him, and shouted him
down. The next day I talked to George Njoroge, the Turbo IDP camp leader
who had been the speaker, and he was very upset, indicating that reconciliation
and return was a long way off.
The other three listening
sessions were in between. In each of them there was a lot of hostile
talk. Yet on the other hand, in every case
even the most bitter were pleased that someone (Friends Church Peace
Teams) had come to listen to them. There were a few negative comments--at
one meeting someone (the son of a Quaker) said that the FCPT was bad
because we were being sent by the Government to trick the people into
receiving the Kikuyus back. At Kipkarren River I understand there was
a sign which said, "Peace Team don't come back." In another
case we were challenged why we didn't bring any Kikuyu with us.
On the Lugari side of the border (where most people, like the Friends,
are Luhya), the meeting was also quite hostile. The listening session
was at a place called Mbagara, the most hard hit interior part of Lugari
District. In this case I understand 5 Kikuyu were killed by the community
and at least 9 youth from the community were killed by the police. The
people attacked the Kikuyu and carried off their maize (corn). A few
days later some of the Kikuyu returned with the police, pointed out where
they suspected their stolen maize to be hidden, and the police then confiscated
all the maize--stolen or otherwise--so that now the people in the area
are short of food.
The hostility from all of this was clearly expressed in the listening
session and most people did not want to welcome the return of the IDP's.
This was attended by 13 members of FCPT including Gladys and myself and
perhaps 40 leaders of the community including many pastors. Most of the
speakers were not the pastors. The most sensible representation was from
the youth leader of an organization (I think promoted by Florence Machayo,
a leading Quaker politician in Lugari District) called "Youth Forum
for Peace and Justice." Among other things, he said, it was the
older men unable to carry the bags of maize that gave money and alcohol
to the youth to steal the maize for them and carry it to their storerooms.
Therefore the youth should not be blamed. The ecumenical service the
next day was attended by many more people. It really didn't end up being
much of a "service," but rather another listening session.
Here are some of
the kinds of comments heard at various of the listening sessions. Remember
you are "listening" and not judging.
1. "Good" Kikuyu will be allowed to return, but the bad ones
can't. "We will tell the District Office which are the bad ones
who can't return."
2. The Kikuyu can't
return because we have their cooking pot and if they return they will
ask for it back. Another said that he had taken
the door, windows, and iron sheets (roofing) from a Kikuyu house and
if they returned, "They will point at my door and want it back."
3. Kikuyu have long
tongues and they should cut their tongues to be short. ("Long tongue" means
that they talk rudely to others).
4. One quoted a passage from Acts (sorry, but I can't remember the chapter
and verse) which indicates that this land is ours and others should not
come into our land. There were other examples where participants quoted
passages in the Bible to justify their expulsion of the Kikuyu. For example,
the Jews were 400 years in Egypt before they left so the Kikuyu have
only been around for 40 years before they left.
5. Kikuyu who had
title deeds to land would be allowed to return but the "squatters" (those
who have no land and therefore have to do petty trading or work as
day labors for others to earn income)
would not be allowed back. Note that this contradicts the concept that
the Kikuyu are all rich from being good businessmen.
6. I heard one man
describe how three of his nephews had been beaten or killed by the
Kikuyu in Naivasha and Nakuru. When families are as
big as they are in Kenya--particularly in the days before 1980 when Kenya
had one of the highest birth rates in the world--everyone has hundreds
of close relatives (siblings, parents, cousins, etc) and thousands of
distant relatives (2nd, 3rd, and 4th cousins which in Africa are still
all considered "cousins"). Therefore when one person is displaced,
beaten, or killed, thousands of relatives know this story and take it
7. Many complained that the Government gave aid to the displaced people
but not to the local people who were also affected by the violence.
Yesterday we had a debriefing session at Friends Peace Centre-Lubao.
After we covered the material above (and much more), we assessed how
we did. Here is what we said:
1. We succeeded because in every case people were willing to talk to
us even if they were somewhat cautious at the beginning. We went out
to listen and that is what we did.
2. While we had hoped that this would lead to acceptance of the returning
community, this was not the goal of the listening session. The fact that
in one case the receiving community was willing to bring back the returnees
was an extra success.
3. Even those who were most bitter and said that they would not accept
(or would even kill) the Kikuyu if they returned, our listening was not
in vain since they were expressing their feelings and this in itself
is a step towards healing and reconciliation.
4. As I noted above, the Friends Church and its FCPT was received with
gratitude even in the cases that we felt were most negative.
5. The requests for a meeting with the IDP's at Jua Kali, the two communities
who requested peace seminars, the committee formed in Kipkarren River,
and the escorting of the local government officials in Mili Nne to the
IDP's in Eldoret were all resounding successes.
Is the task finished? Obviously not, as it really is only beginning.
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