Crying for Kenya

on Friday, January 11, 2008

I have met a number of Kenyans and two have been close friends. One of them, Mbithi, was a fellow colleague and student at my University in Canada back in the early 1990's. He is an incredibly hardworking and focussed individual. He was there for a couple years alone but with single minded determination, he studied, worked and saved enough to bring his wife and daughter over for the last part of his studies. He is currently a lecturer and a medical researcher at a University in Kenya.

I met Edwin while taking part in a study tour and although we were only together for three weeks, we grew quite close. He is a cheerful, thoughtful and altogether pleasant individual. At that time, he was working on reducing corruption within the Kenyan government that was resulting in medical supplies intended for rural hospitals from being hijacked and stolen before reaching their intended destinations and helping the people in need. More recently, he has joined the Kenyan Wildlife Service.

In both these cases, I was struck by the quiet determination of these men to make Kenya a better country and a better place for their people.....for all Kenyans. I grieve with them over the recent civil unrest, violence and murder that has been occurring across Kenya after the last elections. I have not heard from either and can only hope and pray that they and their loved ones are safe and well.

Below are excerpts from an interview with renowned Kenyan novelist and playwright, Ngugi wa Thiong'o with the BBC.

"The picture of men and women burnt down in a church where they had gone for refuge still haunts my mind. A child running away from the fire was caught and hurled back into the flames.

One of the few survivors was quoted as saying: "But they knew me; we were neighbours. I thought Peter was a friend - a good neighbour. How could Peter do this to me?"

I had heard the same puzzled cry from Bosnia. I had heard the same cry from Iraq. I had heard the same, same words from Rwanda: "We were neighbours; we'd married into each other. How could this happen?"

And now I hear the same cry from Eldoret North in my beloved Kenya. For me this burning of men, women and children in a church is a defining single instant of the current political impasse in Kenya.

And this must be separated from accusations and counter-accusations of rigged elections by the contending parties.

Rigged elections is one thing - it can be righted by any mutually agreed political measures - but ethnic cleansing is another matter altogether.

What is disturbing is that this instant seems to have been part of a co-ordinated programme with similar acts occurring in several other places at about the same time against ordinary members of the same community.

Ordinary people do not wake up one morning and suddenly decide to kill their neighbours.

Ethnic cleansing is often instigated by the political elite of one community against another community. It is premeditated - often an order from political warlords.

Or it may be the outcome of an elitist ideology of demonising and isolating another community.

Either way the aim is to drive members of the targeted community from the region.

Frantz Fanon, the intellectual visionary of the Third World, had long ago warned us of the dangers of the ideology of regionalism preached by an elite whose money can buy them safe residence in any part of a country.

A single instance of premeditated ethnic cleansing can lead to an unstoppable cycle of vendettas - a poor-on-poor violence - while those who tele-guided them to war through the ideology of hate and demonisation are clinking glasses in middle-class peace at cocktail parties with the elite or the supposed enemy community.

This crime should be investigated by the United Nations.

If it is found that a political organisation has run a campaign on a programme that consciously seeks to isolate another community as a community, then they ought to be held fully accountable for the consequences of their ideology and actions.

It is often easier to blame a government when it is involved in massacres. This is as it should be.

A government must always be held to higher standards, for its very legitimacy lies in its capacity to ensure peace and security for all communities.

But what about if such a massacre is inspired by a programme of an opposition movement?

This ought to receive equally severe condemnation from all and sundry, for being in opposition does not give an organisation the right to run on an ideology of isolation and hate targeted at another community."


Open Grove Claudia said...

Thank you for posting this. It was such an awful act. And, as you said, the violence came out of no where. It was a total surprise to everyone - except those who perpetrated it. Unbelievable.

Poor Kenya.

leslie said...

What is going on in Kenya right now is an abomination. My pastor's brother, wife, and family are missionaries there and we get almost daily reports of what's going on. Please pray, everyone, for a resolution to this terrible situation. Thanks for bringing it to our attention, LGS>

riseoutofme said...

When will man's inhumanity to his fellow man ever end?

When I read of the Kenyan atrocity my heart sank .... not because I have friends or relations there .. but from the "not again" feeling .... the wanton destruction of sacred, innocent lives ....the resurrected memories of Rwanda, Chad, Sudan to name but a few...

Thank you for posting this ...

ivan said...

I weep for Africa.

Janice Thomson said...

Ditto Ivan. With all the complaining we do I wonder if we truly understand how lucky we are. Thanks for the post Calvin.

patterns of ink said...

Wow. I knew some of this but not all that you shared. Thank you.

Happy Anniversary. Great poem.

I mentioned some time back that I would be going to Thailand on a medical missions trip. I am not a doctor, but I've been asked to make a documentary (something I used to do) of some work that has been going on in the far north hill tribes. We leave Friday. I hope to post about it this weekend and may be able to send updates from over there. Thank you for the helpful info about the region.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Neighbor against neighbor. Who would believe it but it has happened again and again. I think we have to admit that it could happen anywhere and we must always stand vigilant against the hate-mongers.

You are absolutely right. We need to humble ourselves and pray for Kenya and the world.

Indeed, it has happened again and again and in this time and age when we, the world, pride ourselves as being cultured and civilized. I could never understand how a people like the Khemer who were renowned as peaceful, even gentle people could have ended up with the Killing Fields of Pol Pot. It reminds me that humans are capable of great evil and we must always be vigilant.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Why is it so difficult to have peace?

It is important to be reminded that peace can be so fragile.

How exciting. I'll catch up on your blog but I wish you a safe and blessed journey. Don't forget mosquito repellent.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

This is a most dreadful situation and is reminiscent of Nazi Germany as well as the other horrors you mention.

What basic flaw exists in human nature that makes such acts possible even to consider, let alone perform?

My heart, too, cries for the innocent people whose lives are being destroyed in Kenya. Your excellent post should be widely distributed in every language because there will be no peace anywhere, ever, until people stop murdering their neighbors while the world looks away.

Claire said...

I truly and sincerely thank the Lord that I live the USA. I'm sorry but the United Nations is a toothless old dog. I don't know what the answer is though. I'm very cynical about anyone's ability to stop this killing.

Becky Wolfe said...

So heartbreaking, especially when it merits not much more than a blip on international news. Imagine what an outrage would be happening in western countries over something like this. Its terrible! My heart mourns for the Kenyans as well!

CS said...

So much sadness. It's easy for me to forget the level of horror that some countries have to endure. I hope your friends are safe.

Dave said...

Ethnic cleansing... How unthinkable... Something we have never had to worry about here in Canada but it is something we can pressure our governments to do something about it.

jmb said...

As others have said, there seems no solution for Africa because there are so many tribes. There is peace for a while but then it breaks out again. I hope you friends are OK, LGS.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I think we all agree that things like this are intolerable but yet as a world, we do tolerate them.

What makes a neighbour turn on a neighbour. We need to understand that and avoid it. Otherwise, it can happen anywhere and will.

I agree, there are too many tragedies that we are ignoring and the media are just pushing aside.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

we all tend to forget the tragedies that are occurring around the world. Having friends in Kenya makes it a bit more real for me. But as a world, we should collectively condemn these acts of evil perpetuated on defenceless civilians.

While I can understand why you feel it would not happen in Canada, I think we must stay vigilant or else it could happen in Canada or anywhere. The cries in Cambodia, Sarajevo and Kenya all echo; "He was my neighbor. He was my friend. How could he have done this."

I agree with you that there is too much tribalism. We don't celebrate our differences as cultural wealth and diversity, instead we see differences as threats. How sad.

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