Thursday, January 31, 2008
However, on Tuesday some expat wives were locked into shopping centres in our area for a short time, while riots threatened outside following the murder of the ODM Embakasi MP. Shop owners speedily closed doors due to fear of looting but reopened quickly when the threat had passed.
Another friend was frightened on the same day when she was driving down Ngong Road unaware that she was heading towards a rowdy crowd of protesters. Motorists shouted to one another through wound down windows:
‘There is a riot coming this way, turn back!’
My friend said that she has never come across so many drivers, buses and people so determinedly NOT wanting to be involved in a riot. She said it was quite scary as everyone struggled to do thirteen point turns to pivot around, but once they all started heading in the opposite direction, they took over the entire road and formed four orderly lanes of one way traffic straight out of there.
Many expats have been briefly shut into shopping centres before (including me a few times over the years) and though it’s frightening, once inside you are pretty safe and it’s just a case of waiting it out until the drama passes.
Lately, we have all dropped food and clothes into the Red Cross Donation pick up points at the supermarket and should continue to do so as more and more people are displaced from their homes each day and informal refuges camps are increasingly overwhelmed. Others are beginning to think of fund raising ideas for the crisis appeal.
Most housewives are reading the local papers and watching the local news a lot more than before, myself included.
We drop off and pick up our kids at school as we did before, and have restarted exercise classes. There have been a few days where we have been worried about to-ing and fro-ing due to unrest in the city, but in the event we have managed to get about safely eventually. I think it’s true to say that most housewives are staying closer to home and avoiding venturing out too far.
We are talking to the people who work in and around our house and listening to their concerns over personal safety in the places where they live. Since the trouble began in Western Kenya, the wave of unrest has been getting geographically closer. First we were concerned about family members of staff who live upcountry, but last week the Rift Valley ‘backlash’ against violence carried out by opposition supporters in the West started in Nakuru, then moved down to Naivasha and yesterday Kikuyu village was the target, with reports of disturbances even closer in Dagoretti market (only a mile or two from where we live).
As a consequence there have been rumours of ‘Mungiki’ gangs of youths being ‘bused in’ to Nairobi residential areas with the express purpose of flushing out, threatening and looting all non Kikuyus in acts of revenge. The people who work at our house are from Western Kenya.
However, in the midst of mediation talks, the Government stated that they are going to adopt a ‘new approach’ to the violence, starting today. They said they would also make some use of the military to secure roads to ensure safe passage around the country. My house keeper asked;
‘But, how can they possibly ensure the safety of everyone? Everywhere?’
Us expats are trying to feel more positive as talks are now underway to solve the political impasse, but no one is making plans to travel and most are looking at a lean few months in business due to the economy being so hard hit by the crisis. Another friend told me that her husband who is a Kenya Airways pilot has been told that his salary will be halved this month due to the loss of so much revenue and if he doesn’t like it, quite simply he must: ‘take it or leave it.’
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Last night when we went to bed we thought: 'what will we wake up to tomorrow?'
This morning my husband got out of bed, sighed heavily and said:
'I'm just so sick of worrying all the time.'
Our house helper who lives nearby said that her friend has been chased out of the poor area where she lives, 'Karangware' solely because she is from Western Kenya and therefore is the wrong tribe. There have been lots of reports of threats and ultimatums for outsiders to leave in Ongata Rongai too, a suburb outside Nairobi on the edge of Langata/Karen. There are rumours that bus loads of Kikuyu 'mungiki' terrorists have arrived in town to 'clean up'.
Death threats seem to be the 'in' thing at the moment and a highly popular form of intimidation.
MPs have said they received death threats in order to manipulate their parliamentary votes, civil society leaders have received death threats and ten are now in hiding, numerous journalists have had death threats for reporting stories of foul play within government, one political editor Paul Ilado has now officially gone into hiding. One of the text messages he received read:
'Mr Paul Ilado, we have known you for long. We want to let you know that if you don't stop publishing stories of people who have betrayed us like Githongo, Kiai and Wainaina, we will cut off your head and bring it to Kiss FM.' Very Nice.
The national media have come forward to report this problem and police are currently investigating.
I, personally have been fighting the urge to send 'hate' text messages to Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki for selfishly masterminding the destruction of Kenya in one month - but sadly I don't seem to be able to put my hands on their personal mobile phone numbers.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Police and television crews were outside MP Were’s house early this morning, and GSU (General Service Unit police officers) were quick on the scene to prevent unruly crowds from gathering in the area. From the breaking news footage, it looked like the gate of the MP’s house was swinging open and outsiders were going in and out of the driveway freely. TV camera men were boldly poking cameras in through the windows of the house, while random protestors blew whistles and shouted waving their hands in the air excitedly around the victim's parked car. A tyre was set on fire on the road just outside the entrance to the compound. Then, sadly, a police officer ill advisedly threw a tear gas canister into the garden of the murdered MP, presumably to disperse the media and demonstrators, but also causing the victim’s traumatised widow and family to then hurriedly evacuate the house as choking smoke wafted in through the open windows. The head of the Kilimani area police said that he ‘deeply regretted’ the action of this one officer who was certainly not acting under orders when lobbing tear gas at the grieving family. Overall the incident came across as being in extremely poor taste.
Later, Raila Odinga visited Were’s family and made a mixed statement pointing the finger directly at the Government for being the culprits in carrying out cold blooded murder, but also asking his supporters not to stage any violent reprisals.
There was a small flare up in our suburb of Karen outside the supermarket, causing concerned Mums who had just dropped kids at our kindergarten by 9am, to turn around immediately and return to school to take children back home again, leaving teaching staff at the school bewildered. Other Kenyan mothers speaking on the radio in Nairobi said that their children had been sent home from school by staff, as they had been worried by the appearance of many informal groups of demonstrators wielding sticks and pangas (machetes) out on the streets.
After this morning’s antics, the entire day has had a strange atmosphere and we were all wondering if things were about to come to a dramatic head in the midst of the apparent feeling of lawlessness. Due to the ban on live broadcasting, rumours were flying via text messages warning of an imminent coup, or simply stating: ‘Kibaki is handing over to army now’. In addition the Nairobi Star newspaper reported that; ‘alarming text messages warning that criminal gangs were headed for the city from upcountry have been circulating since last week’ but police today said that these rumours were unfounded and that the police had the situation under control.
The head of the police, Major General Hussein Ali said 1,777 new case files relating to the perpetrators of post election violence have been opened, all of which have now been handed over to the Attorney General for clearance before charging the suspects. There are also claims that certain politicians can be clearly implicated for orchestrating violence and even planning much of it before the election took place, but whether any witnesses are brave enough to stand up in court and give evidence to this effect remains to be seen.
This afternoon a lady in the supermarket (who I know!), bold as brass, took all twelve cartons of semi skimmed milk off the shelf leaving none for me! Panic buying resumes.
As this post is published, Mwai Kibaki, Raila Odinga, the majority of their followers, plus the African mediation team: Kofi Annan, Graca Machel and Benjamin Mkapa have all convened at Nairobi’s County Hall for talks. Let’s see how it goes – but let’s be thankful for now that at least they all turned up!
Monday, January 28, 2008
There appears to be a predictable backlash going on in Nakuru and Naivasha against those that voted for the opposition. The Kikuyu reportedly said that they wanted all ‘foreigners’ out of the area (meaning non Kikuyu). Their ‘beef’ was along the lines of;
‘Who is Kofi Annan? We don’t care about the politicians; this is our fight now, for our land and our people!’
Local NTV news reported tonight that farm workers are split into two highly tense groups along the Naivasha South Lake road with only a few hundred metres and a flimsy police line between them. The media is at great pains not to mention the names of tribes in their reporting, using phrases like: ‘certain communities’.
While Kofi Annan is caught up in a whirl of meetings, unbelievably both Kibaki and Odinga’s sides are still shifting blame between them over who is responsible for the violence. A spokesman for Odinga’s ODM is still whingeing over wanting to hold mass rallies. Neither side has shown any willingness to ‘share’ power, or any softening in negotiations. Annan has hinted that he may not be able to fulfil his promise of staying in Kenya until a lasting solution has been found, which is not a good sign!
The agriculture sector of the economy are struggling badly with workers fleeing or at each other’s throats, the country’s infrastructure is failing with mobsters erecting illegal road blocks, vandalism and the empty hotels of the tourist industry having to lay people off, having initially given staff a month’s early leave in the hopes that the situation would soon blow over.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
This blog post is a little ‘off the point’ and I’ve written about ‘food miles’ before but I couldn’t help feeling my hackles rise yesterday when, whilst channel surfing, I saw Tamasin Day-Lewis, a TV cook and food writer on ‘BBC food’ mention the ‘horrible’ foods that are flown thousands of miles to UK at this time of year as ones to be avoided. To put this in context, she was referring to the months of January and February in England being pretty spartan for those trying to prepare local food that is ‘in season’, due to the fact that you can only grow ‘roots’ in these months. She said something along the lines of:
‘There is a strong urge at this time of year to go out and buy those horrible exotic fruits that have been flown thousands of miles to our supermarkets, as one is craving the acidity and taste of them – however, I am quite a puritan about this and try strongly to resist.’
Fair enough? I hear you say.
Also, A Telegraph weekend supplement article by Tessa Boase entitled ‘Shop of things to come’ pronounced ‘Food miles in general’ as ‘going down’ in 2008.
When my sister was staying with us over Christmas, she and her husband exclaimed, as we tucked into beautifully fresh green Kenyan beans at supper time:
‘How lovely, guilt free beans!’
When I asked her what she meant, she said that in England you feel too guilty to buy beans from Kenya, due to the miles they have been flown to get to the supermarket. They are not ‘environmentally friendly.’
Well, I wish people would stop feeling guilty about buying vegetables, flowers and fruits from Kenya and please BUY MORE!!
It seems so unfair that when, current crisis aside, around 60% of Kenya’s population live on less than a dollar a day, that so many people are boycotting their produce and thus doing them out of a livelihood! It seems that in the developed world, people are being brain washed to believe that buying ‘local produce’ is their major contribution to the prevention of global warming – but in fact they should be taking lessons from countries like Kenya who are world leaders in concepts of ‘recycling’ and ‘make do and mend’ and where comparatively people own so very few possessions.
The UN target for developed nations is to give 0.7% of their Gross National Product to developing countries in what they call ‘Development aid’ which is aimed at alleviating poverty in the long term (rather than given as short term humanitarian aid). The Norwegians are leaders in this giving almost 0.9%. In 2004 USA gave 0.16% of their GNP to developing countries, which although seems low as a percentage, was the largest worldwide contribution at $16 billion. The UK gave 0.36% of their GNP in the same year. In fact in the past three years the British Department for International Development has spent over $330 million in Kenya. This money is not given to directly to Governments as ‘budget support’ but they try to do what they call ‘targeted spending’ on projects linked to education, health care, HIV/Aids prevention etc. in developing countries (from what I understand).
I may be a layperson on this subject, but surely supporting economies in the developing world should be encouraged not shunned by people in the West otherwise how are, in this case, African economies ever going to grow?
I also asked my sister what she thought people in UK really felt about carbon emissions, global warming etc and whether they worried about it a lot?
‘Not really,’ she said ‘people switch off a light bulb or buy local produce and then they think that that is enough – they are not actually making serious changes to their lifestyles.’
Well I would argue that rather than feeling guilty when buying imported food and flowers from Kenya (which have been carefully and economically packed onto a freight plane using every available inch of space), please buy more Kenyan produce and do feel good about supporting the people in the developing world who have so little! Instead, why don’t you start feeling guilty about the quantity of stuff you throw in the bin, about the amount of plastic wrapping on everything and the frequent high street purchases that you really don’t actually need?
Food writers and the trendy foodies - please take note…
Apologies for not writing many posts lately – my computer (and phone) suddenly conspired not to give me access to the internet, so the former is currently in the hands of an expert. I try to snatch my husband’s laptop when he brings it home from work and we usually have a little tussle over it.
Re: Dialogue in Kenya – it is ongoing and we are waiting impatiently for an agreement to be reached.
Kofi Annan visited worst hit areas of Kenya today visiting those displaced in Eldoret, flying over Molo district and lastly Nakuru, which has been experiencing a wave of violence over the last 24 hours, with many more people dead. He expressed 'shock at the extent of the destruction' and (to quote the BBC News online) said: ‘Conflict may have been triggered by the disputed elections but has turned into ‘something else’.’
There are reports of pockets of violence in Naivasha today. All this in spite of the fact that we saw Kibaki and Raila Odinga shaking hands on television on Thursday evening as they expressed their intention to find peace for Kenya soon and a lasting resolution to the crisis.
It seems that the beast that has now been irrecoverably unleashed is now firmly out of control. Still, unbelievably, more thousands of Kenyans are leaving their homes due to the ongoing violence. The numbers of those displaced are causing chaos for the aid organisations.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Our ayah (nanny) says that her eleven year old daughter, who has only just braved going back to school this week, has had tribal orientated ‘threats’ from fellow students. There is still a lot tribal tension sadly and while the Government has recently been trying to close camps and insist that displaced Kenyans go home, they are unwilling to as there is still a lot of fear and uncertainty. The 2,500 displaced Kenyans from the North Rift and Western Kenya now camping in Nakuru show ground have been given a further 15 days grace period before being sent home. They have formed a committee with a nominated speaker to put their concerns over safety forward to the Government, hoping that they will be addressed.
The press are insisting that the ‘live coverage’ ban is lifted within 24 hours. Two ODM organised mass funerals took place yesterday in Kisumu and today in Nairobi were allowed by PNU to go ahead, which has been the first sign of the Government side ‘softening’ their approach. However today the police threw gas canisters at demonstrators moments after Raila left with his ‘Pentagon’ team and rioting ensued. Protesting youths surrounded and set an office building on fire with fifteen people inside, fortunately the police managed to disperse the crowd and quickly evacuated the building so that no one was hurt.
Although Kenya has dropped off the international news headlines for now, its problems are by no means over. There has been no resolving of any issues to date. The business community and all leaders of the economy are appealing to Kibaki and Raila to seek a solution fast and put their country before their thirst for power. Our Zimbabwean friends say:
‘Please don’t tell me that it can’t happen here and that people just have too much to lose in this country. We lost everything once and it was just the same.’
‘It will blow over, it’s just a blip.’
Peace in Kenya is something that we have taken for granted in Kenya for a long time.
We continue to hope for the best….
Monday, January 21, 2008
I asked if he had managed to get any food or aid from the Kenya Red Cross - he said;
'we got one bag of rice but it's very difficult, there are just too many people scrambling.'
I asked if there were any kiosks or shops (dukas) now open in Kibera. He said they were almost all destroyed or burnt and the one or two that are now open are selling at very high prices (i.e. 50 shillings for a loaf of bread v. 30 shillings normal price).
I asked if he has managed to get his anti retroviral drugs from the HIV clinic. 'Yes' he confirmed that he had drugs but they gave out enough for only two weeks rather than the usual two months, due to lack of supplies.
We agreed to stay in touch.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka hopes that Kenya can sort out this crisis without help from outside and has been nominated as the head of a committee, put together by Kibaki to facilitate dialogue, but Raila Odinga has already discredited this team and refuses to speak to the Government without an impartial mediator. Louis Michel, European Union commissioner for Development was playing his part in mediation yesterday hoping to encourage dialogue between the two leaders.
Just to clarify the main players in the quagmire of Kenyan politics, in case of any confusion:
PNU (Party of National Unity) - This is the party currently in power headed by the President Mwai Kibaki, 76 ('referred to as Kibaki'). Kibaki has been President of Kenya for 5 years already. PNU were accused of shamelessly rigging the 27th Dec election when early figures indicated that the opposition might be in the lead.
ODM (Orange Democratic Movement) - Main opposition party who believe that the election was snatched from their hands and they they were the true winners. Raila Odinga, 63, the party leader (referred to as 'Raila') therefore refuses to recognise Kibaki as Kenya's President. Though he lost the presidential election, his party did win a large majority of seats in Parliament making him a strong opponent. ODM have also been accused of rigging election results to ensure voting went in their favour.
ODM - K (Orange Democratic Movement - Kenya) - the third party who were perceived to have had a chance to win the election, lead by Kalonzo Musyoka, 54 (referred to as 'Kalonzo'). In the event, he soon dropped out of the running for President as he won far fewer votes than his two main rivals. Since the election results were announced, President Kibaki appointed Kalonzo Vice President (the previous vice president lost his seat in Parliament). He is now attempting to act as peace maker in this crisis but has lost his impartiality by accepting the post of vice Presidency. Raila has; 'described Kalonzo as incompetent and least qualified to negotiate with ODM' (quote: The Sunday Standard - 20th Jan 2008)
There are many other political parties in Kenya of course, but the above three were the main contenders in the December election. It is worth noting that all three parties are also relatively new, with MPs switching allegiance and forming groups before the election campaign began, in order to garner the most votes. This means that party policies are not necessarily very clear and loyalty within parties cannot be guaranteed.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
‘They don’t care if 500 are killed or 5,000, as long as they get what they want in the end.’
It would be nice to be able to give the politicians the benefit of the doubt. Particularly sad was the news that a 13 year old was among those shot dead in Kibera yesterday, presumably caught in the cross fire. Police have also been personally threatened with violence and death by ‘peaceful protesters’.
As last week went on, international pressure mounted on the police to allow the political rallies to take place, though the more one read behind the news headlines, the more sinister the suspiciously organised demonstrators seem to become, unflinchingly intent on causing chaos and destruction in the various towns and cities across the country.
Sadly the rallies degenerated quickly from initially being peaceful ‘mass’ shows of support for the opposition party and an unfair election, to small gangs of youths terrorising, looting and attacking innocent people with pangas and sticks, whilst goading police who are simply out doing their difficult task of; ‘protecting lives and property’. The rallies recently have resembled unlawful mob justice. Absolutely nobody I know, or have spoken to in Kenya expressed any interest in attending the ‘mass action’ demonstrations. This may be because they had jobs to go to and a living to earn, but also they have expressed shock at the violence, disillusionment with the ‘leaders’ and downright fear. Simmering under the surface it seems that tribal antipathy has been purposefully stirred up with hate text messages and hate emails circulating, even intertribal death threats too leaving Kenyans feeling terrified.
Having said all of the above – it is also important to stress that violence in Kenya has thus far taken place in town/city centres and slum areas. Tourists who have been brave enough to visit to the country since the problems started would have been largely, if not entirely unaffected, only possibly aware of disruption during transfers between game parks and hotels, or being shuttled to and from airports. For the intrepid few, it could be the ideal time to visit Kenya, with knock down prices for some safaris and beach holidays plus relatively empty hotels! Tourists and foreigners are still not in any way targets in this political drama and we still have high hopes for some sort of resolution soon.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Kiss and Easy FM radio has taken up playing over and over again anthems like: Black Eyed Peas ‘Where is the love?’ (‘People killing, children dying…’) and Alicia Keys ‘Everything’s gonna be alright’.
My husband heard something on the radio about Mass Action being called off by ODM today but I daren’t believe it because the station I listen to say demonstration is set to go ahead with Najib Balala (ODM) planning to lead a march after Friday Prayers from the main mosque in Mombasa and there is a heavy police presence now in the CBD here in Nairobi. There was also no mention of protests being called off on the 11am NTV news. Looting and violence has been reported to have taken place in Kisumu already today, also demonstrators have blocked the main road out of Eldoret, bringing traffic to a complete standstill.
My eldest daughter’s school will close early this afternoon, in the hopes of avoiding parents getting caught up in heavy traffic diverted from the cordoned off town centre. The school say that the week has been quite chaotic, with children either staying home, or if they have been attending, parents have been arriving to pick them up early at completely random times from lunch onward. The headmistress wrote;
‘I realise that we would all have wanted to finish the week on a more positive note, but I am not sure that we can.’
At least our kids can go to school unlike so many thousands of other children in Kenya.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
I was amused to see Nagib Balala, one of Raila Odinga’s team and an MP, dashing though the streets of Nairobi with tear gas in his eyes, flagging down a four wheel drive vehicle with blacked out windows, dressed in his smart suede coat as usual– under the caption on BBC news; ‘even the middle classes got caught up in the clashes yesterday’. They obviously didn't realise who he was. Joking apart someone we know did get slightly tear gassed after a meeting in the city centre over ran time and he had to dash through the thick of it to get to his car.
14 donors are now threatening to suspend aid to Kenya if the political situation is not resolved pronto. The UN are launching an appeal for 2.2bn Kenya shillings in a relief effort for the quarter of a million (or more) displaced Kenyans and have said that most of that cash will be spent on food. The radio this morning stated that the estimated figures of those displaced, wounded and killed since the 27th December election are unreliable and figures could be much higher, it’s very difficult to get accurate information.
While we in Nairobi are slightly inconvenienced by not being able to buy fresh fish (normally Red Snapper sent up from Mombasa or Tilapia from Lake Victoria) and the price of lemons and limes has gone up sharply (now that they have arrived in the shops at last), the real tragedy is the number of people camping out having been driven from their homes. The Radio also said that people are STILL leaving and still seeking refuge in churches, schools and police posts. 6,000 left Kenya and gone over the border into Uganda.
I hope that Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki cast their eyes to the television screens occasionally and see how desperate their plight is – in fact it is fast morphing into a humanitarian crisis. It’s a shame that all international media eyes are trained on the sporadic skirmishes between police and protesters on the city streets, rather then more on the makeshift camps. Perhaps an apolitical or a-tribal high ranking official or overseas celebrity should visit to exert pressure and highlight the question; ‘what will become of them – sort it out!??’ (UNICEF/UN representatives: Angelina, Ginger Spice, Ewan McGregor – if you’re not busy we would be most awfully grateful!?)
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Today the promise of yet another ODM mass demonstration hangs over the country, it was due to start at 10am in 41 venues country wide and is set to be repeated on Thursday and Friday too. Proffessor Anyang' Nyong'o, oppositon party Secretary General said:
'There is no backing down......The aim of the rallies is to make a point to the public and the world that the presidential vote was stolen and we are ready for a re-run.'
In many areas, freight has been taken off the road, armed police presence is heavy and many school children are spending yet another day at home as so many parents fear violence breaking out. However, we ruthlessly pushed our daughter onto the school bus this morning and hope not to run into any trouble later today when trying to collect her!
Since Christmas, Nairobi has been extremely dry and dusty with no rain, which has been fortunate for all those internally displaced Kenyans (IDKs) who have slept rough on the ground at the police posts, schools, public event grounds and churches. When the post election violence kicked off, it was hot and very windy – at the risk of sounding a bit like a white witch, I’m sure that I read somewhere that more crimes are committed in windy weather than in any other. Last night was the second night where the weather broke and we had heavy downpours. Normally I would feel glad that our brown grass would finally be getting a drink but have my usual guilt about the poor night watch men who stay up all night to patrol our property. This time I thought about all the refugees in Nairobi who still cannot go home after three weeks, if indeed they still have a home to go to. The rain started falling at about midnight and is still falling now it is mid morning. Hopefully these are not the right weather conditions for mass demonstration in the capital.
The Standard newspaper today states that the European Union (EU) has threatened to reduce aid to Kenya if a solution is not found over the disputed presidential elections. Louis Michel, EU Development Commissioner said:
‘It is difficult to continue on the same level of budgetary support if we see that the election has not been fully respected.’
Jendayi Frazer also hinted at the same when she stated that the US could not conduct ‘business as usual’ in Kenya in the absence of a negotiated settlement between the two leaders.
Kenyans are also beginning to count the cost as all the uncertainty continues and business is disrupted across the board.
As we watched events unfolding in Parliament on Nation TV last night my husband said: ‘I don't think that I have ever been so politically aware in my whole life!’
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
The job of Parliament this afternoon is to elect a speaker of the house and swear in 207 new MPs. There are four contenders for speaker. PNU are pushing for Kaparo who has been speaker for the past 15 years and ODM are voting for newcomer Marende. In the first round of voting (which can go to three rounds) Marende came up top with x104 votes v. x99 for Kaparo. The other two received a couple or no votes, so the contest goes on being head to head between two parties. The second round is ongoing because in the first, the majority vote was not clear enough. If there is no clear majority in this second round, a third round will take place where the candidate with most votes will win the position regardless of margins. The TV cameras are showing frantic discussion taking place between MPs in the wings. It’s already 6pm so it looks like it’s going to be a long session. Imagine if you had won a seat in Parliament for a smaller party and now were unsure of which team to back? It could be all or nothing, which will be the winning side?
Roads in the centre of town have been closed off and shops closed in the CBD this afternoon, presumably in order to prevent crowds gathering near Parliament. Our schools have been a bit up in the air and confused about how to play things this week, with Parliament convening today (people feared an explosive outcome) followed by three days of mass rally planned, but still banned by police in spite of heavy international pressure to ‘observe the people’s right to assembly’. My daughter’s kindergarten closed at lunchtime and my eldest daughter’s school sent a letter out yesterday saying; ‘we quite understand if at any stage you do not wish to send your child to school this week, but please let us know in advance of your decision.’
Meanwhile, the children included in the number of x300,000 displaced Kenyans have not been able to return to school (local newspapers say approx 30,000 kids) and others have returned to find schools burned out in the post election violence (at least x12 schools were torched in North Rift region). In addition, many schools are being used as refuge for people who have fled their homes and other schools and colleges remain closed 'until further notice'. I received a text just now from a school mum who was trying to organise her daughter’s birthday party; ‘Lets hope this week goes without any riots…’
So far today, I have to hand it to those in Parliament now for keeping their heads, acting responsibly, managing to keep a bit of a lid on their anger and putting bums on seats (ie actually attending). A small triumph for Raila Odinga’s party today in the house perhaps could help a little in diffusing the unresolved situation. It continues to be a case of ‘watch this space’.
Monday, January 14, 2008
'Dear beloved Kenyans,
Whatever you do during this trying period, please resist the urge to spread hatred no matter how fertile the ground might be!
When I lived in Kibera some years ago, I shared my modest crib with Onyango, Kimani, Kipngeno, Mutisya and Abdi. Abdi and Kimani shared a bed because Abdi was new to the city and was hiding from authorities since he had no legal papers. The only thing that separated our bedrooms was a leso and old dirty bed sheet that Mutisya had picked on his way from industrial area. We shared everything and we showered in shifts and on alternate Sundays. Life was hard but we were happy. Kimani pushed mkoko at Marikiti and in the evening he would come home with a mixture of almost everything that was sold at the market. From it, we made a stew. Everyday it tasted distinctly different and authentic even though the ingredients remained the same, the quantity varied. Sometimes the pilipili or Dania would be in plenty hence the taste of the day. We listened to 'Kameme', 'kas' and 'KBC salamu za hodi' together and shared ‘ushindi’ bar soap for washing and ‘geisha’ soap for bathing. We played draught on weekends.
In short we were more than brothers, and we remained so for 5 years until the elections were called. It was time to part ways. We got new identities jaluo, msapere, mkale, mkamba, walalo and banye (i.e. names of various tribes). Identifying ourselves with the rich politicians we shared a language with was the thing, not the poor we had lived with and shared everything for years. The wealthy man from my tribe won the election I headed to the same room I had shared for five years with people of my class, albeit with some election posters to deco our crib. Mheshimiwa (the Honorable President) headed for Grand Regency to celebrate. That night we slept without food. After a while things came back to normal we were back to sharing everything with Abdi, Mutisya, Onyango etc.
Whenever there was bereavement amongst us, we all attended. Just the poor people. Mheshimiwa (the President) was busy at the beach. But when mheshimiwa (the President) got bereaved I mourned for him for weeks, even though I wouldn’t be let to go past his gate (i.e. State House gate). When he engaged in Corruption, I defended him fiercely just because he spoke my Language. When he incited us against the people we have always lived with, I was blinded to believe it was for my own good just because he speaks my Language. To cut it short, I voted for mheshimiwa (the President), he lives big but life for Onyango, Kimani, Abdi, Kipngeno, Mutisya is still the same if not worse! What if we had voted for one of us regardless of his tribe! Could life be different?????
Identify with your own true tribe. RICH or POOR are the real tribes of Kenya. However the latter are the majority and are ruled by the minority. Did you know the only common thing between you and your much-cherished Mheshimiwa (President) is the language. Nothing else, NOTHING! However, the list of common things you share with Onyango, Kimani, Abdi, Kipngeno, Mutisya is endless.
DIVERSITY IS BEAUTIFUL. WE MUST LEARN TO SEE THE GOOD IN OTHERS. DO THE RIGHT THING BY STOPPING THE VIOLENCE AND PREACH PEACE RIGHT FROM YOUR OWN VILLAGE TO YOUR WORKPLACE.
IF YOU ARE NOT AT PEACE WITH FELLOW MEN, YOU CANNOT BE AT PEACE WITH GOD.
Much of the anger of the Nairobi population seems to have now dissipated as people struggle to go about their normal business but for those 300,000 Kenyans displaced both here and upcountry, the situation is still nightmarish. I gather that whilst the Red Cross are doing invaluable work, the relief effort is chaotic. For many, the flawed election acted as a trigger which brought old disputes over land and property that formerly were simmering beneath the surface, to a sudden head in a flood of emotional tribal loyalty. The burning of property, looting and violence forced the now displaced people to flee their homes in real fear of their lives and they cannot now return. The death toll is now up to around 600 but counting is still taking place.
Outside mediation efforts have, to all intents and purposes, so far failed – we now pin our hopes on former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan who arrives tomorrow. Meanwhile, the line of Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki remains hard in the pursuit of their goals in taking this country forward. Whilst we pretend to be ‘back to normal’, no one can relax until those leaders reach some sort of mutual (amicable would be pushing it!) agreement.
Friday, January 11, 2008
There seems to be zero progress on the political front as Kenyan political leaders continue their posturing and posing whilst willing outside mediators draw a blank. I hope that the 'further protest demonstrations' threatened to be staged by ODM following this impasse lack the high level of emotion and huge following that they did immediately after the catastrophic election.
PNU and ODM are still more concerned about playing the blame game, batting accusations of inciting violence and standing in the way of a peaceful agreement from one to the other.
Meanwhile, the huge pile of Red Cross donations waiting outside my local Nakumatt supermarket waiting to be transported to needy displaced people is a testament to how the majority of Kenyans feel about the desperate situation that has been created. I noted that the Red Cross are appealing in the local paper for the help of trucking firms and transporters to help take the donations to where they are most needed as they are increasingly inundated.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
However, there was a backwards step taken by the president yesterday, when Mwai Kibaki publicly announced his new Cabinet, having been advised by pressure groups that any appointments should wait until after peace talks had taken place with outside mediators.
It seems that with the players changing every day and more and more rumours of the re activation of various illegal political groups of thugs who have been the main proponents of violent crime, that the 2007 Election has opened a Pandora’s box. In addition, the damage that has already been done seems irrecoverable, with quarter of a million displaced Kenyans still not able to return to their former homes.
On a lighter note; The Daily Nation newspaper (article by Amina Kibirige) yesterday ran an amusing story of looters flocking to return stolen property to a timber merchant in Mombasa (there was even a photograph to go with it!). The owner of the business had given a seven day ultimatum for the thieves to return thousands of shillings worth of wood planks and said that if the goods were not returned he would; ‘invoke a special Islamic prayer’ known as 'halbadiri' in Kiswahili:
‘It is one of the most feared curses at the Coast as it is believed that it brings calamities to those it is directed at.’
The article quoted a man who named himself John Josh and was in the process of returning 20 planks of wood:
‘Despite the fact that I was turning myself into a laughing stock, I returned the planks that I had stolen for fear of what might befall me.’
‘What drove us to this point is a rumour that one man dropped dead as he carried away a stolen TV set from an electronic shop – why wait for such a fate to befall me yet there is a deadline I can beat?’ he said. Some even hired handcarts to return the loot.
A worker at the hardware said that word had spread fast:
‘They started coming in from Sunday at 11pm and have not stopped till now.’
Meanwhile our former night watchman told us today that prices of; charcoal, paraffin, carrots, green vegetables, oranges and soya beans had all doubled in Kibera slum since the election. The cost of water and maize flour had also gone up considerably. Lets hope that some of the Red Cross donations get fairly distributed so that everyone living in the slums gets a share.
Thanks also for all the kind things you said re: helping our former night watchman who lives in Kibera slum. As I said to him, it is a good thing to be able to help someone directly and we are aware that we have comparatively so many things, so to give some away is a pleasure. I spent a dusy hour or so this morning, raking through the contents of our clothes cupboards once again and hope that some of the things are of any use. I occurred to me that it might be possible for our nightwatchman to sell or swap things if they don't fit. Plus, I hasten to add, if I was that good and kind, I would be down at Jamhuri Park helping the displaced families myself handing out supplies. I just heard today that a fellow school mum and Kenyan friend of mine has been down there every day this week helping out and listening to the horrific stories, having been so moved by the crisis.
I am always impressed when visiting out local Nakumatt supermarket, at the great pile of donations ready for collection by the Red Cross. It seems that everyone is chipping in and trying to help. While you walk around doing your shopping, you hear over the blaring radio, appeals like the Kiss FM 'caravan of hope', asking for donations of food and sanitary towels, so it's easy to throw a few in your basket and take them with you to the check out.
Jennifer - the secondary schools have been affected and start dates moved back here because the PNU party promised, as part of their election campaign, free secondary education for all from January, which was a new concept. Now that the waters have been so muddied following the election and no one in politics quite knows what is going to happen next, they are stalling the start of term. Meanwhile, private schools have waited to re start school because of the insecurity surrounding the ODM rallies scheduled for this week. We are all getting a little stir crazy after a five week christmas holiday and hope that the kids can safely go back to school on monday.
(also, Indian food here in Kenya is very good, with none of the English classics like chicken korma or chicken tikka - it took me a while to navigate the indian menus here, but it is all delicious).
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Our ex–night watchman who lives in Kibera slum, managed to get out for long enough to come and see us at home today. He described the situation there in plain terms and it still seems to be a hell of a mess (unsurprisingly).
His house was looted when he went out looking for food and his children were alone in the house. They stood aside whilst looters took everything they could carry: clothes, shoes, mattresses, sheets, food, cups, plates, saucepans, flasks and a paraffin stove.
He said that the victims of violent attacks in Kibera since the election were made up of four tribes; Nubian, Meru, Kikuyu and Kamba. Their businesses and houses have been burned, many have been raped (two of his Kikuyu neighbours were raped and are now in a Women’s hospital, but men and children have been raped too). There are now no kiosks left to sell food in Kibera and each time our friend ventured out of the slum for supplies, he was turned back by police who blocked anyone from leaving Kibera on the assumption that they were on their way to one or other of the ODM rallys supposed to take place in the town centre.
Many areas where there were once kiosks have been decimated;
‘now there are parts of Kibera that just look like a desert, there's nothing.’ The second hand market called ‘Toi Market’ on the outskirts of Kibera (where I have shopped for mitumba clothes many times), has also been burned to the ground.
I asked about the Red Cross food donations and he said that he has seen a Red Cross truck delivering supplies twice, once today and once yesterday.
‘The problem is that people crush around the vehicle, even before it has stopped, preventing anything from being distributed fairly. The Luos get first pick.’ The picture above is from today's edition of the Standard newspaper.
I asked how old the violent protesters in the slum were and he replied;
‘They are very young boys, all boys, most of them between 15 and 23 years old. I can’t understand them; it is as if they have gone mad and they don’t understand that the people they are fighting for are comfortable and not at risk. I don’t know why they are doing this; they have spoiled Kibera for everyone.’
We gave him a mattress, plates, cups, mugs, thermos flasks and money but he explained:
‘I cannot bring too much into Kibera at once. If I carry two mattresses and lots of bags then people will believe I have been given them by the Government, and I will be attacked.’
He squirreled the cups etc. into a small backpack and made an arrangement to pick up a second mattress and some clothes from my husband’s office tomorrow. He said he thanks God that his family are all safe and as i gave him a lift back to near the slum he added;
‘Many people won’t help us at home, or even give us a shilling because they know we are HIV positive and they think we will just die soon. They don’t understand that we have already been living with this illness for 15 years and then you think of all those who died in the violence last week, who had probably had no HIV and were not expecting to die? You never know what is going to happen but we pray for ourselves and our future.’
Monday, January 07, 2008
Meanwhile, having said that this situation has been making me feel sick, I discovered today that in fact I am sick - a touch of ameoba it seems. Hey ho.
Having said that, the reason it was found, within the context of all the horrific events and disbelief over Kenya’s December 2007 election, was perhaps not ideal. Having run the blog anonymously in the newspaper for a couple of days, I was asked if I’d mind being interviewed and I said no, as long as The Times make a donation to Red Cross Kenya, which they duly did.
Having done the interview, the temptation has been to quickly track back through the blog removing any flippant comments or anything that might cause offence, but I promise I haven’t, albeit at my peril! Writing a blog is, by definition, a fairly self absorbed exercise, so the idea for the ‘expat stereotypes’, based on the ‘social stereotypes’ written by Victoria Mather for The Telegraph magazine, was to lighten the ‘diary’, make people laugh and perhaps poke a bit of fun at ourselves. The intention certainly was not to cause offence and I did qualify all of them by saying; ‘there’s a little bit of me in each one.’
So happy reading if you like but I’ll understand if you don’t wish to continue because it is, afterall, only a blog. Hope to get back to the really mundane stuff soon.
‘Hi Sir, I have just employ a new president and the only problem I have is that I haven’t found the bus to Nairobi. So I’ll see you on Monday morning!’
He returned a couple of days ago and reported to work looking utterly defeated. When asked by my friend how things were at home, he choked up with emotion over the terrible things he had seen, but said that he could not begin to describe it to her. Even now he will not, or cannot discuss the subject and is attempting to carry out his work as normal; whilst back home his community has been torn to pieces over only a few days.
There is a threatening cloud over Nairobi now, which seems to symbolise the unresolved political situation. We are almost convinced that it will drift on overhead and leave us in peace, but also fear that there is a possibility of a full blown storm breaking which could engulf us all once again. Thank goodness for the arrival of International mediators and for the fact that so many eyes are trained on this situation, thus applying pressure to the political leaders make sure of a satisfactory and ‘fair’ eventual outcome. If there is a re run of the election, I'm not sure that so many Kenyans will have the heart to turn out and vote again.
Meanwhile, Kenya is on the verge of a humanitarian disaster and the Red Cross are working flat out to ferry supplies to displaced people who fled the post election fighting. Some wives in our area have organised a collection of children’s food, clothes, books, pens to take down to Kibera slum this week.
Saturday, January 05, 2008
Desmond Tutu’s presence on the ‘day of mass action’ I think served to diffuse the time bomb that was waiting to explode and Kenya owes a lot to him. A Kenyan mechanic, a friend of my husband, today said that after the first day of shocked demonstration when the election results were announced, most people who had jobs were keen to get back to work and normalcy. Sadly the situation was fuelled by so many public holidays and the fact that those who had no work to go to saw a window of opportunity to loot and use the chaotic, comparatively lawless situation to their own gain. A Kenyan mother on the radio yesterday said that 27th December 2007 was the first time her son had voted in an election and after recent events he now vows never to vote again.
Meanwhile, we ventured out to a fully booked Indian restaurant last night, which was buzzing with relieved customers. There is a very long way to go from here, not only with Kibaki and Odinga’s negotiations, but also with the rehabilitation of the country. All efforts must be made for those displaced by the crisis. In answer to the question; ‘can the tribes live side by side again after this?’ it must be unequivocal; ‘yes’ as Kenya is essentially a peace loving nation and everyone is keen to move forward.
Friday, January 04, 2008
Our children were due to be back at school on 9th January but this date has now been put back to 14th in the hopes that things will be more settled by then.
The Red Cross are working tirelessly to try to meet the needs of displaced Kenyan families who are now camping in Nairobi and sleeping on the grass having been left homeless. Many Kenyan individuals and businesses are donating food, clothes and bedding to the Red Cross who are taking donations directly to troubled areas. They have had an overwhelming response and are struggling to cope with the volume of donations.
We have been feeling pretty sick for a few days now, waking up with a heavy feeling every day. My husband says the feeling has been a bit like waiting for exam results. It’s difficult to drop off to sleep at night – but, in the spirit of ‘getting back to normal’ we have decided to go out and meet friends at a restaurant tonight…. all being well…
It’s difficult to know what to write today. The political stalemate continues, but at this point, after days of violence and the international media flooded with images of angry mobs torching and rampaging, it is important to paint a picture of how
Kenyan people are well educated, most speaking three languages fluently (English, a tribal dialect and Swahili). Although this crisis has sparked fighting along tribal lines, it is not a ‘a deeply tribal place’ as Sky News stated, or as has been described in the international press, because the majority of Kenyan people have been living side by side harmoniously for years. Intermarriage between tribes is very common and by talking too much of tribal tension in the press, there is a danger of it becoming a self fulfilling prophecy. Even demonstrators yesterday were beginning to ask themselves; ‘is this worth it? We are the only people who are getting hurt’.
The country is not simply made up of politicians, poorer people and slum dwellers. There is also a huge middle class, who live comfortably, own a car, earn a good enough salary that allows them to take frequent holidays, eat out at restaurants regularly, go to the gym. There is a free press who have not been afraid to speak out against corruption in the past, or openly criticise their politicians. Kenyan people have informed opinions and over all want things to be fair and peaceful. Their views have not been adequately illustrated by the press because they have been hiding indoors, waiting for the crisis to end. The expatriate community makes up only a tiny part of this scene and they certainly do not hold the wealth of this country.
What is clear is that many are losing faith completely with both Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga who are failing to act for the people in this, or for the greater good. They have not visited the people worst hit by this crisis, for instance, in Eldoret. They are not helping anyone by shifting blame from one to the other in a puerile manner and make press statements saying things like:
Raila: ‘I am not in a position to stop the violence’ and Kibaki publicly alludes to the violence caused by the actions of; ‘some leaders.’
On the radio they were calling for foreign leaders who have made statements like Condoleezza Rice and Gordon Brown and the chairman of the African Union, John Kufuour to actually come here to help.
Following other controversial statements, she said ‘If this is our last day on air, then so be it.’
Thursday, January 03, 2008
He fears going out of his home, as all Kibera residents are being challenged over which tribe they belong to by the agitated mob. He does not want to get involved in any violence, so has been too afraid to venture out for the last four days.
Thousands of people did turn out for the mass demonstration and the atmosphere was electric with many towns and cities in Kenya disrupted and business closed for yet another day. However, protestors were repelled by police in gaining access to Uhuru Park in the centre of town.
Following extensive talks with Desmond Tutu Raila Odinga and a show of effort to get to Uhuru Park, he has now asked that his supporters go home and wait, he has also agreed to speak with PNU leaders with the help of a mediator. Everyone is now waiting for Ks silence to be broken. On the outskirts of Nairobi people came out of their homes at 2pm to re open shops and businesses, looking visibly relieved with some hope restored of an end to this violence.
As things came to a head this morning, we were joking with our expat friends about making a dash to the Tanzanian border with as much tinned food as we can carry! Now we just need Kibaki to show his face and meet the people half way by admitting that the election was indeed flawed as the ECK chairman Kivuitu admitted. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen.
Previously expat housewives like me were concerned mainly with running kids to school, doing a little gentle exercise at the nearby club and cruising around shopping and seeing friends. So confident were we of our comfortable life here, that we sold our London flat just before the Northern Rock crisis and were thrilled to have had the opportunity to pile all that money into buying a four bedroom 1930s grey stone house in Nairobi that sits on five acres of land. We congratulated ourselves on our excellent timing as we watched the UK economy wobble, whilst in Kenya it was booming.
In answer to a latest comment re: are Nairobi businesses operating today? Some offices are open but businesses in town will remain closed because of the rally today.
Our story is not dissimilar to many other expatriates in our neighbourhood who, in 2007, took advantage of new favourable interest rates offered on mortgages in local and foreign currency, and too the plunge by investing in personal property here. We were supposed to be travelling to the coast tomorrow to spend a couple of nights in a hotel. Quite apart from the embassy advice not to travel unless strictly necessary, I don’t think I could lie on a sun lounger at the moment while our future in Kenya hangs by a thread and more pertinently when 70,000 Kenyan people are internally displaced and others flooding over the border to Uganda, fearing for their lives.
‘The Government of Kenya advises you not to take part in any unlawful assembly that may result in violence!’
It is the day of ODM’s mass demonstration today. Sadly Raila Odinga insists the demonstration will go ahead but Government and police have banned the rally – creating an explosive situation before anything has even started. Neither party seems at all willing to back down. People all over the country are mobilising and if there is police resistance there is bound to be anger, frustration and violence as a result. On Monday when Raila first talked of ‘a rival inauguration ceremony’ in Uhuru Park, which was postponed as the opposition leader was placed under house arrest, the police and GSU (special forces or ‘General Service Unit’) had to fight hard to stem a surge of human traffic from pushing to get out of the slum of Kibera and into the town.
As we speak, thousands are walking into town carrying leafy branches and what looks like petrol containers?! Tear gas has already been used by police on some crowds.
The second text stated:
‘The Government of Kenya advises that the sending of hate messages inciting violence is an offence that could result in prosecution’
The media ban on ‘live broadcasts’ made a couple of hours after the election result was delivered by ECK was largely directed at local pirate radio stations who were broadcasting hate messages with an ethnic slant. Mob violence, in this case largely carried out by young males in Kenya, is fuelled by this kind of incitement. If you have watched the film ‘Hotel Rwanda’ you might remember that radio stations broadcast 24 hour hate campaigns directed between the tutsis and hutus, adding fuel to the flames of civil war that was raging.
‘Mr Kibaki, Mr Odinga - We appeal to you to talk. Only you know what to do in this time of crisis – unless you find a peaceful solution soon, there will be no country left for you to rule. We also appeal to all Kenyans to stop the violence and work towards regaining peace in our beautiful country.’
Then Kiss FM plays songs like; ‘Too late to apologise’ by Timbaland.
Also on the radio this morning, we heard local journalists at a PNU media briefing talk back angrily to ministers, whom they accused of entering into a blame game over the violence rather than addressing the problem and working towards starting a dialogue between the two parties. Both PNU and ODM are trying to push the blame for brutal violence breaking out all over the country onto one another, perhaps in the hope of bringing one or other to book for committing a crime?
A spokesperson from the Eldoret community appealed for help clearing bodies in the town that have now been left for three days on the streets and are now being scavenged upon by dogs. The morgue is full and the police and armed forces claim that they are too busy with issues of security to carry out a clear up job. The spokesperson said he is worried that this unsanitary state of affairs will lead to the outbreak of disease. There is a similar problem in the various Nairobi slums where fighting has been breaking out for four days now. Last night mob killings were reported in Mathare, Dandora and Huruma slums.
Last night I was unable to address a couple of comments on by blog, as my computer system slowed down to an almost total standstill. People do not have access to broadband at home in Kenya, but instead we use our land telephone lines or mobile handsets.
First: The Red Cross are doing a fantastic job here. We saw two of their white 4x4 landcruisers adapted to carry a stretcher in the back, flying a 6 foot red cross flag, heading down toward Kibera slum on Monday 31st Dec. They have been providing food and blankets for displaced people and have set up an initiative with one of Kenya’s largest supermarket chains, Nakumatt, to have drop off points in every store with donations of food, utensils, bedding, clothes etc. for Kenya’s displaced people who are now left homeless.
Second: If your daughter is planning to come to start work at Westlands Primary school on Saturday morning, I would definitely postpone her trip for a week. Our kids are due to go back to school on Tuesday, but that is not looking likely. The Rally today is going to be a catalyst to the current situation and we have to sit back and wait and see what happens. Kenyan secondary schools starting date has officially been put back a week to the 14th or 15th January.
Third: Expatriates and tourists are not being targeted in the violence in Kenya. The only concern is to avoid getting caught up in street/mob violence when travelling from A to B, as then targets are indiscriminate. An expat friend of mine said that she lived peacefully at Ivory Coast both during and for one year after the coup there. Expatriates only were endangered when French forces came into the country, after that, foreigners were targeted due to the fact that they were seen to be ‘interfering’ in the local political situation.
The news showed a British tourist in a Mombasa hotel, who said that the hotel staff had been kind, helpful and smiling, in spite of all that is going on in their country at the moment. That’s typical of Kenyans, they are fantastic.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Shops opened a little late this morning, but they opened nonetheless and deliveries were trickling in. Traffic was clear on the way into town, but by lunchtime the roads were bustling as usual. Enough pressure was exerted onto those in power by Kiss FM radio station to finally open Uhuru highway, a major artery in the town centre. (Nairobi's Uhuru Park is the venue for Raila's 'day of mass action' demonstration still planned for tomorrow). People were at last venturing out of their houses to go to work, relieved to have some sense of normality after eight days of national holidays on the trot and chaos deepening all over Kenya.
One of the ladies who works in our house lives not far away in a Kikuyu suburb of Nairobi, but she supports Raila and is from Western Kenya. She says that yesterday there were rumours of Kikuyus driving non-Kikuyus out of her neighbourhood by force. I keep offering her refuge here at our home, but she is afraid to leave her belongings and perhaps run the risk of the whole lot being looted. She told me that she does not want to go to the demonstration tomorrow, she would rather come to work:
'I don't like violence' she said.
Some friends say that staff who have arrived at work today, have stories of neighbours houses being burned down in Nairobi. Other employees have had problems travelling with roads blockaded up country and out of town transport coming to a standstill due to lack of fuel.
Another staff member at our house said she chatted with some Kikuyus at the local shops who told her; ‘we wanted to win the election, but not like this.’
The problem is not a straight forward tribal one, as the election was not centred on tribal affiliations and people have been rightfully reticent to reveal how they voted. I hope that it's possible that the true election figures will one day be revealed.
A Kenyan man in the supermarket said that they strongly feel that Kibaki will step down and peace will be restored. The election has now been roundly condemned as unfair and even those who were involved in the process are stepping forward to say it was flawed. This TV footage of the ECK chairman who spoke out from his home last night to say that he was under enormous political pressure to release a result, in spite of being aware of irregularities and repeated urges by the EU to delay giving out inaccurate information, was almost unbelievable. When he read out results from his office in KICC on December 30th after proof of rigging had been put forward, he had became a figure of hate for many.
The business community were also taken by surprise at this election outcome:
‘I had envisaged various outcomes from this election, but this was the 5% eventuality that I had discounted.’
There are now tens of thousands of displaced Kenyans who have fled the fighting with only what they can carry, to say nothing of those numbers who have lost their lives.
A local radio presenter said yesterday:
‘How fair is it that the poor people of Kenya who had so little, have now lost everything, whilst the politicians who started this trouble live behind a gate with three cars outside their house?’
The emotional roller coaster continues, with feelings of panic and of possibly having lost everything we have here in Kenya, to real hopes that a resolution will be found and all is not lost. Each day and each hour seems crucial.
As a British family living here in Nairobi, with a lot invested in the country, we are praying for a fast solution to this crisis. We are glad that overseas leaders have responded to Kenya’s pleas to come and help mediate between proud politicians who are under enormous political pressure to stick to their guns. Let us hope that the terrible death toll and murder of women and children in a church in Eldoret will shock Kibaki and Raila into starting dialogue. The local radio stations are asking: ‘Where are our great leaders now? Why are they keeping so quiet? Why are they not reassuring us of a resolution or visiting the troubled areas? We Kenyans only want peace’
This morning I was reading comments made on the Telegraph newspaper’s online ‘speakers’ corner’: ‘What should Britain do about the crisis in Kenya?’ There were some fairly unhelpful comments such as:
‘What can Britain “do” about Kenya? Who cares? I’m sick to death of whining Africa.
Kenya has been independent since 1964 for God’s sake. About 45 years. And has had billions of pounds of British taxpayers money in “aid” during that time, that would be better spent at home for the benefit of those taxpayers.’
(Posted by Verity on January 2nd.)
I can understand that Britain has its own domestic problems and it may feel galling to watch money siphoning off to Africa but Kenya is by no means a pariah. Last year the country needed only 10% of overseas aid money to balance its annual budget and watching the fast economic growth, it was predicted that the country would be economically self sufficient in 2008 (in spite of machinations and corruption in government).
Britain has a large number of business interests here and cannot afford to stand back and watch the place go up in flames. In the past five years in Kenya we have seen an explosion in the middle class sector of home and car owners. The majority of people in towns can now afford mobile phones and tvs.
The problem with the 27th December election was that those politicians involved underestimated the intelligence of the people in interfering with election tallying. Poorer Kenyans are showing force in their support of Raila alongside others who feel the Kibaki Government it too Kikuyu heavy and feel it’s time that their tribes were more fairly represented in the running of the country.
The city slums have been growing fast as the economy has thrived and increasing numbers move to major towns and cities to seek an income, but after empty promises their basic needs have not been addressed by Kibaki (or indeed Moi’s) Government and now they are angry having been cheated of their fair and democratic election. Having voted for change the young men (Swahili ‘vijana’) have felt compelled to fight for change.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Fuel has now run out in several parts of Kenya.
Well done US Ambassador to Kenya, EU representative and Gordon Brown for speaking out and trying to mediate. Well done Red Cross. Lets hope that something works soon and pride can be put to one side.
The Kenyan crisis just gets worse. Not only is the violence escalating, but it’s becoming wholly tribal, dividing the entire country and where are Kibaki and Odinga now? They are standing back to back with their arms folded, standing on principal, refusing to talk!!! Things surely must now have come to enough of a head with hundreds of people now dead, including over forty children burned alive in a church in Eldoret today, to compel some kind of political dialogue between the PNU and ODM to begin. If these politicians insist on sitting on their hands and keeping their mouths shut, then they will have genocide and a country neatly destroyed in the course of one week – they already have blood on their hands. The tribal killings and reprisals are continuing now for a fourth day countrywide. The news footage and photographs describe mayhem and lawlessness.
Meanwhile, in expat land, we go out (albeit within a small radius of our homes), get together, pool food supplies and Christmas leftovers, order chips at the club and shrug our shoulders when almost everything and anything else is off the menu. We talk of going back to work at some point, discuss safaris planned, of school restarting soon. We talk of the houses we are building or have bought; we talk of the whole thing ‘blowing over’.
'I don't mind about the food shortages, I could do with losing some of this christmas cheer!' we say patting our tummies.
We don’t admit that we could be on the brink of losing not just a little weight but everthing. That wouldn't be sporting; 'It wont come to that' I am assured.
We telephone friends out of town who are still on holiday. They say;
‘We're having a lovely time! We're planning to drive back to Nairobi on the 3rd of jan, do you think that will be OK?’
and I hear my husband shrieking;
‘But that’s Raila’s day of mass action!! Have you not been keeping up with the news – that really might not be a good day to travel when over a million people country wide are going to turn out on the roads in protest?!?’
Most of the rented holiday houses here are not equipped with TV or radio. Many people have stuck two fingers up at what is going on and have managed to get to holiday destinations without trouble, which makes 'alarmists' like me feel a bit stupid. There was someone buying fireworks in the supermarket yesterday for a new years eve party - 'that will frighten the neighbourhood' I thought, when the bangs that we've been hearing lately have been gun shots.
Old expat timers say;
‘I’m not going to let political rubbish this spoil my holiday! We will continue our plans as if nothing has happened; it’s really not that bad, I’m sure it will be alright to drive through Mombasa on new years eve at midnight - no problem!’
‘Hellooooo!' I feel like screaming; ‘sorry to spoil your plans but you may want to re think - we are on the brink of civil war or have you not noticed! People are dying on the streets every day and night in horrible ways!’
Then I think, ‘…. am I over reacting, should I be more of a stoic like them? what’s the matter with me? Am I going mad?’
Alll we can wish for now is please, please, please let some high level mediation take place tonight or tomorrow. Please let the day of mass action be called off and let a compromise be reached somehow (no idea how myself?). Please let the violence stop, then, in months to come, if it all stops now, we can look back on this as a bad patch, or a blip in Kenya’s political history. Hopefully the booming economy will not be affected too badly – if nothing changes radically in the next 48 hours then I feel we are all doomed. (or am I being too dramatic?!?!?)
‘This election has set Kenya back 15 years’ said a radio news caster this morning.
We have been holed up in our homes for three days of violence now, fearful of running into trouble on the streets. Planned New Year safaris have been cancelled and very few ventured out to party last night. It's difficult not to be snappy with the children. All these days with no work just encourages more law breaking and frustration amongst the population, but how to get things back on track? The only excursions we make are to friends houses or to the shops, where produce is running very low as the whole re supply infrastructure has broken down.
‘All the rich people have bought everything in the supermarkets, the small shops are closed, now we are beginning to starve, I will be giving my family boiled water with sugar,’ said one man waiting in a kilometre long supermarket queue yesterday. He may have been exaggerating slightly but the majority of people buy small quantities of sugar, tea, margarine, vegetables, lentils etc. from roadside stands. With these ‘dukas’ now closed for fear of looting, people are having to resort to walking miles for their basic essentials (few buses are running either). Supermarkets and ‘stocking up’ suggest large houses and piles of disposable cash of the privileged few.
The Sky news is reporting that there was vote rigging on both sides during the tallying process. The major problem is that none of us can see a way out of this situation or see how it can ultimately be resolved as the damage has now been done. Everyone is supposed to be back at work tomorrow, but very few will turn up. We now have Raila’s ‘mass demonstration’ hanging over us, scheduled for Thursday and the whole problem has is also now becoming frighteningly tribal. If outside mediators from other countries get involved, there may be a chance but quite honestly the whole emotive issue of the Kenyan election, where politicians had been campaigning for twelve months in the run up to December 27th, has created a pride filled impasse which will be very difficult to diffuse.