Friday, 20 June 2008
After have a very successful mission to Uganda [for Friends United Meeting--FUM], I received a telephone call from the [Turbo] District Commissioner (DC) at mid-night on Sunday asking me to join them get the IDPs from the Eldoret show ground to their homes. The DC told me that he had been to the camp and the IDPs were hostile to him because he has not been with them at all. The IDPs told the DC the only people they know who have been very helpful in ensuring that they resettle to their homes are the District Officer (DO) and the Friends Church. He was given my number by the DO and the IDPs would like to meet me from the Friends church and the DO on Monday morning. I was very tired and I needed a rest after a long week full of activities. I tried to give excuses not to go or sent someone else, but the DC said, "You have done a lot for these people and I believe you are the only person who could make this day a success. I accepted reluctantly but at the same time I asked God to give me energy and wisdom on how to deal with the situation.
I left very early in the morning on Monday 16th for Eldoret show grounds. I met the DO and DC waiting for me. We went to the camp and met with the people and when I talked and prayed for them, they willingly went and started pulling down their tents ready to leave to their new station closer to their houses which had been destroyed. Lorries (trucks) were provided which carried them to the place. As they were pulling down their tents, we went to see the place where they were relocating. We found that there were no rest rooms and water nearby for the people as they move there. At this time the DC had left us with the DO. We called the DC and asked him to provide funds for the toilets and water, but he never came to us again. Time was moving and nothing was taking place, I felt frustrated and I called Eden [Eden Grace from FUM's Kisumu office] and asked her to send me Kshs.40,000 [$667] to use for the process. Eden responded very fast, and I started rolling things in action. The toilets were put in place, water was also connected after buying pipes that pulled water which was 200 meters from the location. I also provided food to those people who worked on it. I also enable the connection of electricity from a nearby hospital which provided light for security. I got a wire that was also 200 metres and its accessories. It was as if I had calculated the exact amount that was required for the work available. I left the camp at 8.45 PM when the camp was having water, rest rooms and lights in a very short time. The IDPs and the DO felt encouraged and supported and the people felt that indeed the Friends Church is a true peace church that cares for the people. They commented that we have been very helpful in the process and they have seen that we are the only church that has not taken the process for granted but as a duty. They saw integrity in us and wished this church could stay with them all the time. I also used the same money to buy fuel for a government vehicle the DO was using when it ran out of fuel and were using it to carry logs and other things. They could not get the money from the DC to do anything. I felt encouraged and energised to see that we could offer a new life of hope to people who have been feeling hopeless.
I slept in Eldoret unexpected because I came knowing that I will be going back to Kisumu. The following day we went to the show ground to see those IDPs from the same place who had remained. As I arrived in the camp and went round the makeshift tents, all those who had remained came out and started pulling down their tents in readiness to join their counterparts who had left the previous day. Since everything was already in place I blessed them and asked them to move in peace to the new place. At this time I was needed for another meeting in Kisumu at 2.00pm. I left Eldoret at 11.45am and I was in Kisumu for the other meeting.
The program which the Friends Church Peace team has been doing has caused a big impact to both the communities of the Kalenjin and Kikuyus. These communities had no clue before that the Friends Church had such values in peace and reconciliation. The DO continued to say, If it was not the Friends Church which I have hidden in their wings, I would not have penetrated or made any progress in resettlement of the IDPs."
Friends, your prayers and support has been seen and heard and we encourage that we continue with the same spirit of support. There is a lot of responsibilities remaining to ensure that we continue with bonding relationship activities between the communities. The resettlement continues this week and next week.
After a very successful resettlement of IDPs on Monday and Tuesday of 16th and 17th, there was a more than successful resettlement of IDPs at Jua Kali in an area which was very bad when we visited them. The District Commission (DC) and Joshua Lilande called me and told me how the plan they had put in place was unnecessary when the receiving community took them to their houses rather than camping in their neighborhood waiting to rebuild their burnt houses. There was reconciliation sprit in the air as their neighbors received them with joy.
When the Friends Church Peace Team (FCPT) visited the Jua Kali receiving community to listen to them, they were very hostile to them and never wanted to see the Kikuyus back in the area at all. But as they continued to listen to the team they soften although they remain adamant about not receiving them, but when we visited the area with the District Office (DO) they were willing to accept them back. Therefore, on Thursday when Lilande and the DO took the internally displaced people (IDPs) to their place, the community accepted them with jubilation. This was the opposite of what we experienced earlier when we were listening to them. The good news is that the gospel of peace and reconciliation is in the air propagated by the Friends Church.
But hell broke loose when they took the other IDPs to Sugoi from Eldoret Show Ground. Sugoi had been one of the most hostile communities when the FCPT held a listening session with them. The DO called me today and wished that I had been with him. They were almost killed by the community people who never wanted to see the returning community coming back. They asked me if I was available to accompany him but I was not available. He told me the community need the Friends Church Peace Team to be back in the area. The DO had to re-route the returnees to Turbo camp where other IDPs are. But on reaching there, the IDPs at Turbo did not want to accommodate their friends at all. The DO had to return them back to the Eldoret Show Ground for safety. The DO was very frustrated to the point that the DC ran away and never came closer to help the DO. He has organized a meeting with elders and opinion leaders in the area to talk with the them and hear what they need before the IDPs can return to their farms. The community is asking the government to release the youth who were arrested during the violence and especially those who were demonstrating against the rigged election. He is asking me and the Peace Team to be available with him to listen and encourage them to accept their brothers who are innocent return back. Please I am appealing for prayers, because the DO sounded scared because he said they petrol bombed them but nobody was hurt. The community is very hostile to the Kikuyus coming back. As we celebrate the successes, there are also challenges in the whole process.
I am encouraged by the following. So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time. There are many things that work to keep us from completing our life-missions. Over the years, I’ve debated whether the worst enemy is procrastination or discouragement. If Satan can’t get us to put off our life missions, then he’ll try to get us to quit altogether. The apostle Paul teaches that we need to resist discouragement: “So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up …” (Galatians 6:9). I believe God has a purpose for our ministry here in Kenya.
I am still thinking whether to join the DO tomorrow Saturday with the elders or to send others. Please pray with me.
God bless you friends.
John Muhanji, Director of African Ministries for Friends United Meeting (FUM)
Monday, 17 March 2008
The conference came out with a plan of action as a guide to the committee. The committee embarked on business immediately convening meetings on the following dates:-
1st February 2008
9th February 2008
19th February 2008
The following work has so far been accomplished as a result of the committee meetings.
POLITICAL CRISIS INTERVENTION
- A pastoral letter from the conference was written on 27th January 2008 to president Mwai Kibaki and Hon Odinga requesting them to speed up the process of reconciliation and peace building to avoid more blood- shed in Kenya.
- An effort to ues the media to publicize massages of peace and reconciliation has been made, particularly when the media covered occasions of distribution of humanitarian items to IDPs at their centers.
HUMANITARIAN CRISIS INTERVENTION
The committee put itself in groups and visited various IDO centers on specific dates, distributing humanitarian items to the displaced.
THURSDAY 7th FEBRUARY 2008
GROUP I: Visited Machewa Chief Centre in trans-nzoia District, valley Province, which had 360
GROUP II: Visited Kiminini Market where IDP had camped at Deliverance Church with 1,270 People and Toba Vunja Church with 80 families. This was also in Trans-nzoia District, Rift Valley Province.
GROUP III: Visited Sabata Shopping center in the same district as above where there were 1,858 People.
Most displaced people in all centers came from Mt Elgon. Items distributed at every centre were maize, beans, rice, cooking fats, salt, sugar, soap, blankets, water filters and clothes donated by Kenyan friends. The amount depended on the number of the people at the centers.
FRIDAY 15th FEBRUARY 2008
The Committee decide to revist the above three centers on this date due to overwhelming needs at the centers. In addition to the above, Milembe Friends Church was visited where 3,200 people were staying on 3 farms, i.e Milembe farm, Rengecha farm, and Meso farm. Same items of varying quantities were supplied.
TUESDAY 26th FEBRUARY 2008
Two Centres were visited on this date:-
ELDORET: Joshua Lilande, Seth Chayuga and Sammy Akifuma visited the place and found 50 families. Maize, beans, rice, cooking fats, salt, sugar, soap and blankets were given out. Eldoret is in Uasin Gishu District in Rift Valley Province.
CHEPTULU CHIEFS CENTRE: Had over 1,200 people driven away from Rift valley where they had bought land and settled. Their houses were burnt to ashes, cattle taken away and are now housed by relatives and friends. The centers are in Kakamega District, western province. Maize, beans, rice, cooking fats, salt, sugar, soap, and blankets were distributed by John Muhanji, Glady’s Kang’ahi, Dorothy Selebwa, Rose Imbega, Eric Lijoodi, Wesley H. Sasita, Joseph M. Makokha and Friends Theological College Principal, Lecturers and students plus Juddy of Kaimosi Friends Hospital. Clothes donated by Kenyan Friends were also given out.
NAIROBI: Ksh. 75,000 was sent to the clerk of Nairobi yearly meeting for the needs of the place. A report is yet to be given on what was bought and distributed.
WEDNESDAY 27th FEBRUARY 2008
Giachere Friends Secondary school in Kisii District, Nyanza province was visted by John Muhanji, Gladys Kang’ahi, Dorothy Selebwa, Rose Imbega. Wesley Harun Sasita, Joseph Mamai Makokha and Juddy of Friends Hospital Kaimosi. 160 students, boys and girls had run away from Nakuru, Njoro, Eldoret, Burnt forest and other places and were admitted to this school without fees payment, exercise books, text books, personal effects. This heavily strained the school resources. Many of the students were traumatized. One of the girls students could not complete her story of experience of the violence she witnessed.
We delivered 20 bags of maize, 5 bags of beans, 3 bags of sugar, 2 packets of salt and 2 cartons of soap all of which were not enough for the needs of the displaced students. Other needs the school requested for were desks, text books, school uniforms, counseling for trauma healing distinctly seen in students.
The next and 4th meeting is scheduled for Tuesday 11th March 2008 when we shall identify other IDP centers for our visits.
Apart from what was given, all the centers visited requested fro the following:-
- School fees for the displaced students.
- More food up to next harvest.
- Farm inputs incase they go back to their homes.
- Material to reconstruct their houses.
- More blankets
- Tents as they await resettlement.
- Sanitary towels for young and girls.
- Counseling and trauma healing
Unfortunately, we are limited with funds to attend to these genuine needs.
Spiritual Crisis and Listening Programme
- Before distribution of humanitarian items, each group gave the IDPs time to speak out their experiences of the violence as we listened. Then words of encouragement and advice against hatred and retaliation were given by committee members.
- The gospel of peace was preached from the Bible by pastors who had accompanied the groups. AVP and CAPP people had moments with individuals displaced person’s
60 AVP and CAPP members had a workshop on 23rd February 2008 and laid down strategies on when to visit IDP camps for counseling and trauma healing sessions. Right now they are in the field for “listening sessions” and counseling where people tell their stories in safe environment.
In three weeks time from 23rd, they will assemble back to asses the progress.
To guarantee integrity and transparency in use of funds the FCPT committee put the money at it’s disposal into vote heads. We eceived US$ 22261 (KSh. 1,58,620)
FCPT Committee expenses
Direct Humanitarian Aid
Peace making / Reconciliation activities
We are adhering to the above “crisis management" budget allocation as much as possible. The Committee sits, identifies what to be bought, it does the budget for what to be bought and John Muhanji gives cash to members who would have been identified for purchasing and all items are brought to one central store from where they are carried to IDP centers. Virement, where necessary, can be done by the whole committee. So far there is total respect to the budget allocation.
Mediation in situations of acute and persistent conflict.
An attempt to talk to Sabaot Land Defense force has started and is still at very infant stage. This is an armed group with powerful weapons who may be responsible for deaths of many people in mt Elgon. It is our hope that our talks with them will convince them to demand for their rights peacefully as we convince the Government to listen to their grievances without harassment. This attempt may bring lasting solution to the violence in the area that has persisted for more than two years now.
It may also, if successful, reintegrate displaced people into the community and rebuild trust between neighbors.
On behalf of Friends Church peace Team, I highly appreciate the assistance our overseas friends have given us. It has enabled us reach where we are and we hope to cover more short-term work. But long term work has to start now that peace in Kenya has been reached. Displaced people required resettlement. Houses will be required, farm inputs, youths empowerment, economic development, advocacy, spiritual development of the pece testimony and organizational capacity are the activities we have earmarked to do as long-term activities. We kindly ask for more financial support locally and from overseas for the above to be accomplished. We are strongly committed to integrity, transparency and accountability in use of funds.
May God Almighty’s Hand be seen in this work.
Joseph Mamai Makokha
Friends Church Peace Team
5th March 2008
Monday, 10 March 2008
Mwai Kibaki, the president, and Raila Odinga, the top opposition leader, sat down at a desk in front of the president's office, with a bank of television cameras rolling, and signed an agreement that creates a powerful prime minister position for Odinga and splits cabinet posts between the government and the opposition.
The two sides, which have been bitterly at odds for the past two months, will now be fused together in a government of national unity.
But there are still many issues to resolve, starting with how the new government will function with essentially two leaders who have tried unsuccessfully to work together before. The government must also deal with the delicate business of reassigning the choice positions already given to Kibaki's allies.
There is also a deeply divided country to heal. More than 1,000 Kenyans have been killed and hundreds of thousands driven from their homes in an uncharacteristic burst of violence set off by a deeply flawed election in December. Much of the fighting, like the voting, has been along ethnic lines.
Kenya used to be considered one of the most prosperous and stable nations in Africa, known as an oasis of peace in a turbulent region.
The violence has cooled down in the past few weeks, but the tension and displacements have continued. Many Kenyans have said that the country will not return to peace until the dueling politicians agree to some sort of solution.
Annan took the lead in trying to bring the two sides together. For the past month, he has been meeting nearly every day with negotiators for Kibaki and Odinga, searching for a political compromise. More than anyone else, Annan has been the hope of this country. A baby rhino recently born in one of Kenya's fabled game parks was even named after him.
But earlier this week, Annan seemed to have run into a brick wall. Negotiators deadlocked over whether they would share responsibilities or share power, with the government refusing to give Odinga substantial authority or to amend the Constitution to create the position of prime minister. Annan then decided to bypass the negotiation teams and go directly to Odinga and Kibaki. He met with them behind closed doors for more than four hours on Thursday.
At 4:30 p.m. local time, Annan, Kibaki and Odinga emerged. The two leaders signed the agreement with Annan standing behind them, his hands clasped, as a crowd of diplomats, cabinet ministers and political supporters clapped.
Under the deal, the party that holds a majority in Parliament — currently Odinga's — will elect a prime minister to "coordinate and supervise" government affairs. The cabinet positions will be divided, based on parliamentary strength. Parliament will pass an act and a constitutional amendment guaranteeing all this.
Annan said the deal was Kenya's only way out of the crisis.
"Today we have reached an important staging post, but the journey is far from over," Annan said. "Let the spirit of healing begin today. Let it begin now."
Monday, 25 February 2008
The team lead by Kofi Annan was supposed to release the details of the power-sharing agreement between the two sides on Friday. That didn't happen. It seems like the Kibaki/PNU side is again procrastinating (they feel that time is on their side). So the Raila/ODM side has called for mass action on Wednesday (Feb. 27). Rather than just demonstrations, as in the past (which were broken up violently by the police), ODM is calling for what I would describe as a general strike. No one is to go to work; roads will be blocked, etc. Due to the recent history of violence this action will be extremely effective--everyone will be afraid to travel or to go to work. Everyone will stay home and the country will shut down. On Wednesday we were planning to go to Nairobi for our flight to the US on Thursday. If the action is not called off by Monday, we will travel to Nairobi on Tuesday. See how effective this threat is!
Yesterday Gladys and I went to Kakamega for a meeting with CAPP (essentially peace committee members) and AVP members from the various yearly meetings. During this meeting a woman from Chwele Yearly Meeting, which is right below the fighting on Mt. Elgon, told us that the previous night a member of one of the Quaker meetings was attacked by the Sabaot Land Defense Force (SLDF) which is responsible for much of the destruction and death on the mountain. His head was cut off and has not yet been found. (Note: Is it more "civilized" to attack people, say in Iraq, with heavy weapons so the body parts are all over the place?) Most of the Sabaot, who live higher up on the slopes of the mountain, have been displaced, so the SLDF is now moving further down the hill to steal cattle and goods killing people in the process. This area is very heavily populated by Quakers; every mile or two is another Quaker school. As the violence increases--and the current political crisis has been a great "cover" for increased attacks and ethnic cleanings in the area--the Quakers there will be more and more affected. Will the larger Quaker community in Kenya and the world take note of this and respond?
Yesterday we also bought goods in Kakamega for the internally displaced Lumakanda people who are now at the police station in nearby Turbo. We picked up four members of the Church including the pastor, James Majeta. As usual we delivered the food. There has not been significant rain in this area for almost four months. The IDP camp is at the top of a hill on fields that grew corn last year. The place is totally dry. The soil is very loose. The wind blows much of the time, sometimes very hard, and the dust blows everywhere. In an hour my hair (like everyone else's there) was covered with dust. They told me that a cow dies almost every day because there is not sufficient grass to feed them. As I looked at the cows I could see that many were thin with ribs showing. Although some of the people have moved back to their houses (see the comments about Silas Njoroge below) and some have returned to Central Province (the Kikuyu "ancestral home"), those who remain do not have homes to return to and perhaps do not even know where their "ancestral home" is.)
Here I will tell a story. You have to figure out the moral of the story. Gladys has a distant relative who works in Nairobi; but his wife and children live near us. These people are therefore Luhya, the dominant group in Lugari District. They are the ones who supply us each morning and evening with milk for our tea (and other uses). There are two older sons, Anthony, 21, and Nivan, 20. Both have completed secondary school and, as even they themselves say, are part of the "idle youth" who have nothing to do. About two weeks ago Nivan brought the evening milk about 6:00 pm. He went to the road, saw his brother and another friend, and they decided to walk over to Anthony's girlfriend's house. As they walked near the hospital and police station, there was a group of three Kikuyu boys following them. One of them came up to Nivan and started to attack him. The attacker then pulled out a machete and tried to strike him on the head. Nivan put up his left arm to ward off the blow and the machete cut through one of his arm bones and half way through the second. They rushed Nivan to the nearby hospital. About 8:00 pm the hospital called and told us to come and see him. This we did. By the time we reached the hospital he had been stitched up, given an antibiotic, and was doing fairly well considering the circumstances. Gladys paid the hospital bill. (It cost a little over $5. What would this have cost in the US?). Neither Anthony nor Nivan knew the attacker, but they did know the boys he was with. At this point it looked like this was an ethnic attack with a Kikuyu attacking a Luhya.
So then we went to the police station to report the incident. As soon as we arrived, the policeman said this was a case of a love triangle. If this is correct, then this is not one ethnic group attacking another, but "ethnic love" as two boys are fighting over the same girl (who is a Luhya). The only problem with this interpretation is that the girl is Anthony's girlfriend, yet Nivan is the one who was attacked. Moreover, as Anthony said to me, "If I had a rival, I didn't know it." So you can decide, "Is this ethnic hatred or ethnic love?" As I have said before, if one investigated the details of many of these incidents, the results would not be too clear.
Last Monday Gladys called the Anthony and Nivan's Mom and asked her to send them up with the evening milk. We talked with them more about the incident--Nivan is recovered well enough. ("I don't want to be a cripple," he sometimes says. Then other times he talks about how lucky he was to put up his arm to ward off the blow since he probably would have been killed.) The attacker has fled Lumakanda area and no one knows where he is. One of the other Kikuyu boys had been put in jail but he was released since he hadn’t actually done anything that was a chargeable offence. We discussed with them the idea of doing AVP with the youth. Would they be able to assemble a group of 20 youth, male and female, of various ethnic backgrounds to have a workshop? They said they could so we arranged for five or six of them to come back on Friday to meet with us and Getry, the AVP coordinator; and they came. Five youth (2 female, 3 male; 4 Luhya and 1 Luo) came to discuss the situation with Getry. The result is that on March 3, Getry and two other facilitators will begin an AVP workshop with them which will include Luhya, Nandi (local Kalenjin group), Luo, and Kikuyu. They said they have known each other since they were kids in school.
But another interesting thought came out of the discussion. Getry had introduced the idea that the youth were being blamed for all the violence. Anthony responded that on Dec 30 (the evening the election results were announced and the violence started) many adults were telling the youth to attack the Kikuyu. In particular, the adults said to attack Silas Njoroge whose house was looted but not burned -- perhaps because it is close to the town and the police station. (He has now returned to his house.) If the youth killed someone, they were told they could come back for a reward. Anthony said, and the others agreed, that there was a lot of peer pressure to join in the attacks and the youth really faulted the older people for promoting this.
Ray Downing, a doctor at Webuye Hospital, (who formerly worked at the Quaker Lugulu Hospital up the mountain from Webuye) asked the question, "Why don't we study those areas (such as Webuye and Bungoma) where there was no violence?" In other words, rather than focusing only on the bad areas, why don't we try to understand the good areas? At one point I replied that I thought the Webuye/Bungoma area had not erupted into violence because the people there voted for Kibaki rather than Raila. (This voting was really anti-Raila, who they didn't like, rather than pro-Kibaki. Nonetheless, it got Kibaki the votes he needed. Ray Downing replied that the older people in the area voted for Kibaki, but that the younger people voted for Raila. Later I was in a meeting where two parents said they had voted for Kibaki while their children had voted for Raila and that this had brought great tension into the family.
This led me to realize that it is the elders (Bush, Cheney, et alter) who send the youth to war in Iraq. It is the Kalenjin elders who send their warriors to attack the Kikuyu and the church which was burned down in Eldoret. It was the elders here in Lumakanda who encouraged the youth to attack the local Kikuyu. Where the elders did not encourage the youth, or perhaps discouraged the youth from attacking, the youth were not violent. If this interpretation is correct, then it is the older people who are responsible for the violence, death, and chaos in Kenya and not the youth who physically did the damage.