August 7, 2017
I haven’t written much about the Kenyan election and possible violence because I didn’t want to alarm my readers. I knew there are articles in the US press about it. In fact someone sent me one such from the SJMN with the suggestion that perhaps I should come home early. I knew about the possible violence well before I came and briefly considered skipping this year. I hearkened back to summer 2008, just a few months after the conflicts that left 1200 dead, many in Naivasha.
I remembered an August 2008 front-page article in The Nation, one of Nairobi’s largest newspapers, regarding a meeting of bishops of some pretty radical Protestant Christian churches. In that meeting they discussed their part in fomenting the racial hatred that fueled much of the violence that occurred in March 2008. It was an amazingly honest public confession containing a promise never again to urge their members to kill people of another tribe.
I understand there has been a lot of hate circulating on social media (I don’t see it of course), but I’ve also seen articles about authors of same being arrested and prosecuted under laws enacted after the 2007 election making hate-speech illegal.
A very good friend of mine has spent these past 10 years working to keep down the violence, most of which is tribal in nature and most of which is based on anger over land when the British left in 1965. We can thank the Brits for much of today’s problems. My friend lives and works in Nakuru, another center of violence and death in 2008. She approached the chiefs of the various tribes living in and around Nakuru, brought them together and helped them make the decision to solve their issues in a non-violent manner. She has developed a forgiveness and reconciliation program and has taken it to a number of boys high schools, with amazing results. She has brought her program to Naivasha as well, working with Wanjiru, one of Life Bloom’s officers.
Not only the members of the Naivasha Catholic parish, but members of churches all over the country have met to pray for peace. Pastors have publically called for non-violence responses to the election by those who are unhappy with the results.
Do I think there will be no violence? It may happen—there are always hotheads—but I don’t think it will be widespread. Moreover, since the genesis is tribal disagreements, mzungus are not targets. To be sure, if I were to wander into a conflict, probably no one would grab me and drag me to safety, because most of those involved last time were young men, angered by hate-mongers and pretty much liquored up. Needless to say, I will be within the compound tomorrow and until it seems clear that all is well. I’m not alarmed, nor frightened, but of course I will be alert. The parish compound is well guarded (with extra guards at this time). Within that parish compound is the Mji Wa Neema compound, surrounded by a high wall. Within that inner compound lies my “house”, made of stone, with a stout metal door, which I lock at night. It has metal bars which would be very hard to break down and there is no reason for that to happen since I don’t belong to any tribe.
Do send your peace prayers to Kenya. Some of you pray, some of you send light, some of you send positive energy. All are welcome.
August 8, 2017
This is the big day. In Kenya, election day is a public holiday. When a citizen votes in Kenya the small fingernail is painted purple to prevent multiple voting. People are showing off their purple nails to proudly announced “I voted.” Curiously there was no newspaper published today (or at least I can’t find one) and the streets are very quiet. Shops are closed and people are staying home.
As I read what I wrote last night (above) I thought back to the situation in 2007-08. Election day was in late December, possibly 27th. The violence occurred in February or March. It was all over by the time I arrived in June and people were shaking their heads in disbelief. “How had this happened?” Partly it was because it takes longer here to count the ballots. I believe it all still paper ballots—pictures of boxes of them in yesterday’s Daily Nation. Then the results were taken to court, much like Gore vs Bush, so the final decision wasn’t announced for several months. It could still fall apart here, because people are either passionately pro Uhuru (current president) or passionately pro Railla (3-time challenger and I think a bit of a Bernie Sanders type). Were I a citizen here, I think I would probably vote for Railla. The tribal factor is that Uhuru is a Kikuyu (largest tribe), while Railla is a Luo (not a tribe friendly to Kikuyus in elections) The rhetoric has been as inflammatory and full of distortions and lies as in the US.
It’s now 6 pm and all is quiet. More tomorrow