Thursday, February 28, 2008

Giving Peace a Chance!

Today was meant to be yet another demonstration followed by what would have inevitably been a violent onslaught but instead...


It is a giant step for politicians but let's hope it will be a giant step for the rest of us Kenyans too!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Exodus

A recent report by the UN News Agency, IRIN, states that almost 10,000 people have moved back to their ancestral homes in western Kenya. The previous posts have been highlighting what Ladies in Action and others are trying to do about this. The other issue is that more or less all Kikuyus have been forced to get away from Western Kenya due to persecution. Many are not able to even afford the bus fare so Ladies in Action purchased 11 tickets to add to the 56 that were purchased before to get people to places like Nairobi and even as far as Lamu.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Resettling the roots 2

With a strong link back in their home areas in western Kenya, these ladies just needed a supporting hand to get started. Seeds for to plant, a few items such as salt, cooking oil, and sugar to sell will get hopefully get them on their feet again. Good luck to all of you!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Resettling the roots

As mentioned in previous posts, Ladies in Action are focusing on helping as many Internally Displaced People as they can. Thousands of Luos have been forced to come to the safety of Kisumu while thousands of Kikuyus have been forced to flee Kisumu and Luo dominated areas. It struck me that my own heritage has similar incidences. When India received independance in 1947 and Pakistan was created, hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Hindus moved in either direction and tens of thousands if not more were murdered during this exodus. The same happened earlier when the Ottoman Empire came to an end and Turkey was formed as a nation and Greeks and Turks who had lived as neighbours in peace had to flee their homes and find sanctuary amongst "their own kind." We never learn. History is indeed a relationship of mutual enslavement.

"On Wednesday, 20th February 2008 Ladies In Action visited a group of about 50 women and their children who were forced to flee their homes in Nakuru and Naivasha areas. They came to their home areas in Sinyolo, but did not have anything to live on. We felt that they best thing was to give them a start to stand on their own feet as quick as possible. They were given supplies like paraffin; grocery; omena (small fish), and jembes (hoes) as well as maize, tomato and sukuma (kale) seeds. We discussed how they can start a small business and earn their living. School going children also received bicycles and items for school."

Thank you for everything you are doing for our country. Thank you...


We are in for the long haul

I have never been confident in political processes and now I am even less so. While Ladies in Action are far too busy assisting people to resettle (hence, they have not been able to send an update but we will certainly put something up towards the end of this week), our leaders are still as confused as always. There was a window of hope as Kibaki's government agreed to some form of power sharing. The opposition have taken a hard stand and given the government a week or else...The violence (which I am certain never really subsided) is getting more media attention
and the images are resurfacing.

As we everything else, the further we get into it, the more we realise the scale we are dealing with. ReliefWeb provides solid updates. The IDP situation is not easing beyond the nationwide efforts to help as many people as we can. I spoe to my father about what Ladies in Action are doing at the moment regarding the IDPs. As far as helping people to return to their tradtional homesteads, things are very organised. Transport has been arranged, people are being fed and looked after. Ladies in Action contributed about $300 to the fund and are now focusing on helping people get back on their feet. The crucial factor is to help resettle people as quickly as possible.

Friday, February 15, 2008

And a big thanks from the children of Lake Victoria!

Cookies for Kenya

"I am pleased to tell you of the success of our Cookies for Kenya fundraiser. I am the Vice Principal of a large elementary school in Toronto, Canada. After hearing of the tragic events that have taken place in Kenya, as a result of the political uprisings, we wanted to do our part to help the people who are in need.

I approached our student council and educated them on some of the recent events. They were horrified to find out that there were so many people who have been displaced, are starving, or have been killed. Their hearts went out to the children who had been abandoned by their parents for their own safety. After hearing of these events, my students were compelled to try to help.

For a week, we sold 1500 giant cookies and I am proud to tell you that we raised almost $700 CAD ($339 GBP). We wanted to thank you so much for all the work that you and your family have done for the people of Kisumu. We also wanted to let you know that the students of Mary Shadd Public School in Toronto, care about the people of Kenya. Our prayers and thoughts are with you.

Sincerely, Lesley Reilly Vice Principal Mary Shadd Public School"

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Kisumu Residents help returning displaced

Ladies in Action are working with other Kisumu residents to help displaced people from upcountry get back to their traditional homes. There are thousands returning. Funds collected from the blog will help pay for transport homes, food for displaced when they come to the camps and medical check-ups. We will post a list of costs and how much is being spent on what.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Second Crises

The following briefing was sent by Lucy Hannan, an international journalist who followed a convoy of displaced people across the country:

Thousands of people are on the move. It continues during the ‘wait and see’ period of mediation. People are seeking safety in their ancestral homeland while there is an opportunity. In many of the towns I passed through, ethnic segregation has effectively been completed. Post ‘cleansing’-violence, there is a new phase of aggression which is less overt but bold and uncompromising. Armed gangs patrol urban and rural areas, issuing threats and maintaining segregation.

Westerners are relocating West, and displaced Kikuyus moving towards Nairobi. Trucks piled high with furniture and household possessions characterize traffic flow on all parts of the route, most concentrated around Nakuru, Kericho and Kisumu. Yet major camps for the displaced have not emptied, indicating the population shift is massive and continuous; costs and logistics are inhibiting movement of the poorest; and, fear of attack and reprisals have not reduced despite the recent calm. The Showground (Kikuyu) and Stadium (non-Kikuyu) in Nakuru were still full on Sunday evening, including new arrivals.
Quote from a victim (Kisii), Kericho; waiting three days on the side of the road with house contents: ‘I live in Baraka estate, which is mixed, where there have been problems of burning and threats since the time of elections….I am married to a Kalenjin and thought I was ok. There are gangs of Kalenjin in the estate who move around looking for Kisii and Kikuyu.. Three days ago (Wednesday) they came to my house and said to my face: we don’t want to see Kisiis here, and we don’t want to hear about being married to a Kalenjin. Leave or die.’
There is a politicization of transportation and assistance for the displaced. ODM groups and individuals are assisting Luos and Luhyas to move; with donated bus lines and trucks, and funds raised from allied diaspora groups. Displaced Kikuyus are pursuing promises by the government to rebuild or relocate. One gentleman, heading a group of displaced Kikuyus in Kisumu town, said ‘we are in dialogue with the DC, and have been offered a subsidy, we are making a claim for rebuilding. We have received no money but have been told it will take 7-21 days.’ He lives in Kondele police station and runs the gauntlet through town to the DC’s office in an atmosphere of threat. On Friday a Kikuyu was beaten to death in Kisumu town. Muturi says there is a case of a Kikuyu patient driven out of the hospital, and believes he as a Kikuyu no longer has access to the bank.
There is tangible bitterness from displaced populations that the ‘other side’ variously receives more assistance or sympathy. In Kisumu, this directly affects humanitarian assistance, with political divisions and accusations of partiality between NGOs. In the present climate in Kisumu, the Red Cross, for example, is considered government-allied. All arrivals are being taken to St Stephens Church run by local NGO, church and diaspora groups, despite better Red Cross resources and capacity. Heavy rain has exacerbated poor conditions for the displaced – many sit on plastic chairs all night in wet areas. There are problems with separated children, trauma, hunger, property loss, sickness - particularly respiratory diseases and diarrhoea as a result of long periods in police stations and previous camps. A small number say they have no ‘home’ to go to.
Kisumu town
Kisumu town is in a critical transition stage and has imminent potential to become ungovernable. The government and the security forces have lost legitimacy and respect. Raila Odinga/ODM has apparent ubiquitous support. Post-election violence has been through different stages: first, protest rioting and the targeting of Kikuyu businesses and property; next, ethnically-directed retaliation attacks; then, focusing on economic privilege or ‘discrimination’ within the Luo community itself.
It has entered a ‘wait and expect’ period. There is a widespread belief among the population that ‘mediation and negotiation’ means coming to the decision that Raila must be given what he was denied, i.e. the presidency. The process of mediation, at the moment, is considered legitimate and just: but time is likely to be a factor. Like the delay of the election results - which triggered the first round of violence in Kisumu – delays over reaching an agreement could have the same effect. In such a case, the local political class will also lose credibility and legitimacy. There have already been threats against Raila’s property (Molasses Plant and Bondo home) if he is seen to ‘betray or delay’.
‘Stolen votes’, and security force killings, are a general preoccupation, across the board. Government is generally held in contempt; and security forces are unable or unwilling to carry out their work, despite public fear of gangs and criminals who have moved into the vacuum. Security forces attempting to impose any sort of control or authority – like dismantling existing road blocks or shooting criminals – is seen as state repression, or political dissent. Bringing murder charges against the policeman filmed shooting two young men dead appears to have made no difference to this perception. The trial has the potential to become very political. There is suspicion that the officer charged – a Kalenjin – is in fact a ‘fall guy’ for a Kikuyu officer and the case will be a whitewash.
Ajulu, businessman, living in Polyview estate: ‘We organized our own security groups and patrol night and day. There were gangs who said they were looking for Kikuyus, but they would just identify an affluent-looking house, demand entrance, and then take what they could get. We had to actually fight these gangs…..I now have three pangas in my house …. We have become a target. It has been difficult at times for people like me to drive a vehicle, cars have been taken….for example, from town centre to Kisani there are about six road blocks and when things are bad you get charged about 100 shillings at each, harassed and threatened.’
Young boda-boda driver who has manned road blocks and demonstrated: ‘We are waiting for Tuesday to hear the result of the talks. If Raila is not president, we will fight…. We will kill each other.’

Arrival of migrants
Returning migrant labourers are now forced to live with families that they were previously supporting. It is a ‘poor impoverishing poor’ scenario. A tea picker in Tigoni, for example, gets paid about 5 shillings per kilo, sending home about 2-3,000 shillings per month to an unemployed extended family.

A high population of Western migrant workers resided in Central Province because Nyanza is a consuming rather than producing region, with poor economic indices. Nyanza migrants were described to me as an ‘underclass’ typically without property, credit facilities, job security or education. They are returning empty-handed. Many had lived for decades in Central Province, with a secondary, nominal relationship to their ancestral land.
There is nervousness among the Kisumu population what the impact of this influx will be. ‘They are coming to depend on us and we can’t afford it. We struggle, and they will struggle for what little is here, so we will be struggling among ourselves.’

Resentment for this is put in a political context: underdevelopment in Nyanza is perceived as deliberate economic and political marginalization and the failure of the government to give Luos ‘our turn’.

It would seem necessary to devise a practical strategy to explain the mediation and power sharing process in Kisumu town during this period, by civil society rather than politicians. Local politicians and leaders are held hostage by a hardline constituency who have an enormous sense of distrust and injustice over the election results – so politicians are under pressure to ‘perform’ to expectations rather than explain, as was the case this weekend by a visiting group of MPs. Taking into consideration the reaction in Kisumu during the delay of election results, there should be concern about any perceived delay in the mediation process – particularly during News Blackout. Since the December riots, Kisumu town has gone through progessive stages of violence, including unprecedented state violence. A new trigger could make Kisumu ungovernable.
Immediate assistance for the huge population of migrant returnees would seem to be an essential component of any solution, as, apart from humanitarian reasons, in the present context, its absence or inadequacy is perceived to be deliberate marginalization; and returnees are particularly vulnerable to the state and security vacuum.

12 February 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Children of the Crying Stone

Kit Mikayi means the rock of the first woman in Luo. Legend has it that an old chap named Ngeso so loved the rock formation that he would spend his whole day lazing under the stones. Everyday he would wake up in the morning and head straight for there and force his wife to bring his breakfast and lunch while he pondered about the meaning of life. Whenever someone asked about him, his wife would say he has gone to Kit Mikayi - his first wife.

Kit Mikayi is said to always be crying now (water trickles from between the rocks) and is considered sacred, having the powers to cure many diseases as well as help mothers who are having problems breastfeeding.

It is tragic that western Kenya has the second largest body of fresh water on its borders yet is one of the poorest places in the country with one of the highest populations of HIV infected people. The saddest thing about this scourge is that it has wiped out huge sections of the working population leaving scores of young children and elderly people unable to fend for themselves. The area around Kit Mikayi is sadly representative of this.

Thus, Ladies in Action (LIA) decided to come up and provide basic support for places like this often go forgotten and in times like this, will be even more neglected. However, as from now LIA will put all its focus on addressing the thousands of returning Luos who have been displaced from their homes up-country. One friend said that there are at least 4 buses arriving daily with displaced people. Assistance will be required for their immediate needs such as a decent meal and a medical check up after which transport will have to be organised to help them get to their traditional homesteads. There has been an amazing response from local residents of Kisumu to assist with the displaced people and Ladies in Action will join with various civil movements to help settling as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

We have collected just over £6,500 in total through this blog and about half has been spent. The rest will be used to focus on this issue now. We can’t begin to thank you enough for playing a critical role in getting our country back together.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Taking Time Out

After much discussion, I finally managed to convince my folks to get away from Kisumu for a weekend. It's so good to see them and though they look worn out understandably, they are in good health. Although they have not been affected directly by the crises, being at the epic center of a disaster takes its toll. As my mother says, they wake up to the problems around them, spend their whole day dealing with the problems and the evenings are spent talking about it or watching the situation on TV. It's exhausting!
But there seems to be a ray of hope as the rivaling political parties are coming to an agreement over power sharing. Unfortunately, for the hundreds of thousands of people that have suffered at the mercy of political incompetency, their problems will continue. And once again, Kisumu is at the epic center. In addition to the rising crime, hundreds of displaced Luos are returning to Kisumu for safety. This is going ot the main priority for Ladies in Action - helping as many people as possible to resettle or at least meet some of the basic needs.

I was born in Kisumu and many years and places later, I came back and settled down for four years and loved it. I met Elodie, the love of my life in Kisumu (I did not have to go too far - she came straight to our compound!). My memories of Kisumu are not covered in the blood of political incompetency and I would like to keep them that way.

As a good friend once said, "Ahhh, Kisumu - the center of the world!"

It certainly is our center and I hope one day that everyone can have as good as memories as these ones...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Kisumu’s perilous slide into anarchy

Today's Daily Nation (Kenya's leading newspaper) is running a rather despairing story about how Kisumu is slipping into gangster land. Kenneth Ogosia writes, "The criminals are now targeting the working class, business community and generally everybody trying to embrace order."

As you can imagine, I am very worried about my family and friends. We know that Kisumu's shops have been looted and vandalised and there is nothing left. It was only a matter of time before we were to experience the next level of violence...

There have been various reports about how humanitarian efforts are being compromised because of the violence. I know that Ladies in Action have not been able to get out as much as they want to. And the saddest thing about all this is that it is the very people that need help the most who are suffering because of the actions of gangs made up of their very own people.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Where we are

I spoke to my mother today who said that it was one of the first "normal" days they have had in a long time. It was a great relief to attempt to have a conversation about things other than what is happening in Kenya. The last time we spoke was on Thursday. I called around midday having heard that riots had broken out after the killing of another MP from the opposition.

My folks had gone out to distribute food to a community past the airport and had to drive back straight through town where gangs of angry and violent youth had gone on a rampage again killing 10 more people in western Kenya alone. Fortunately, they had escorts from the community where they were distributing the bare necessities. I hate to think what could have happened if they did not have the escorts.
I am having a hard time understanding things anymore. Hatred drawn on tribal lines is growing stronger all the time. People are fleeing from persecution all over the country. The BBC ran a story about a women who had to leave Kisumu despite having a Luo husband and having living there for the past twenty years.

When we started collecting funds about a month ago, Ladies in Action bought food items in bulk
which has get the distributions going for a while. We have raised a total of almost £6000 and about half of it has been spent. So much has been done. Hundreds have not gone starving and over 30 people have been able to leave Kisumu who may have ended up dead just because they are from another tribe. I know my Dad was buying tickets for another group to leave.
One of the things we discussed to day was getting people back on their feet. The Ladies in Action have decided to give out a sack of groceries to individuals which the mamas can sell and start to earn for themselves. People need to get back on their own two feet as they lost so much during the earlier and worst part of the post election violence.
Personally, I think this is a great idea and it is only these sort of initiatives that would help bring the society back to at least being able to feed themselves. In the next few days, I will let you know exaclty how much has been spent and what is left that can be put to this idea. I just hope our politicians will give us the chance to start again...

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Amnesty international petition for Kenyan human rights activists


Protect Kenyan human rights defenders from death threats

The results of the December 2007 Kenyan election are contested, and have resulted in significant political conflict in Kenya that has become divided on ethnic lines. There has been widespread violence in different parts of Kenya, including parts of Nairobi, Nyanza Province, Western Province, the Rift Valley and Coast Province. The violence was largely instigated by supporters of the opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), who believed the presidential election had been rigged in favor of President Kibaki. There were reports of excessive use of force by the police against protesters, including protesters being shot dead.

There have been many attacks on Kikuyu people, often with machetes, stones, clubs, and bows and arrows. The Kikuyu are largely perceived to have supported President Kibaki, while the Luo and Kalenjin are thought to have supported the opposition candidate, Raila Odinga. Recently the number of retaliatory attacks by Kikuyu gangs on Luo and Kalenjin people has increased.

All except one of the human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists who were threatened are of Kikuyu ethnicity. The threats they have received include accusations that they are “traitors” to their ethnicity, because they have spoken out about what they believe to have been irregularities in the election result, or about human rights abuses committed by the police and armed gangs, including gangs of Kikuyu people, throughout the country.

Four of the human rights defenders and activists are also named in an anonymously authored pamphlet that has been circulating within the Kikuyu community in Kenya by print and email in recent days. The pamphlet includes the four as part of a list of more 25 people of Kikuyu origin, who it calls “traitors (who) live among us in peace”, and included a veiled threat that they should be killed.

Over 600 people have been killed in Kenya’s post-election violence, and the UN has stated that over 250,000 people have been displaced from their homes. Thousands have crossed into Uganda and Tanzania as refugees.


Friday, February 1, 2008

Thanks from Thomas

Thomas is one of thousands of Kenyans who have become victims simply because they speak a different language. He managed to get his family back safely thanks to your donations and the Ladies in Action. Yesterday, when I was driving home I was listening to a BBC programme which interviewed several different people who have either lost their homes of family members or have been committing acts of violence. One was a young man barely 18, who admitted to setting a church on fire with two people inside. He said he felt guilty but would do it again if he was told to by the elders. The other was an elder who said that they would continue killing Kikuyus as long as Kibaki remained in power. The third was a Kikuyu lady who property was destroyed and she was trying to get to Uganda for safety. She said that she would return one day and would take back what was hers even if it takes violence. People are bitter, people are angry and now it is has broken down to tit-for-tat.
Today, the BBC reported on a mob that killed at least ten people
including the police man who shot the MP dead yesterday. Tit-for-tat. How is this going to end?