Archive for the 'How to help' Category

Kenya’s Path to Peace

I am reproducing Jacqueline Klopp’s article here, link for link but if any don’t work please check the original posting below:

Kenya’s path to peace

Ms. Klopp has assembled together a number of non-partisan grassroots organisations which are working under very difficult circumstances to do something that Kenya’s political elite are incapable of doing.

Amid violence and displacement, Kenya’s relief agencies and citizens’ groups are working to aid their compatriots and repair their country. They are the hope for Kenya, but they need help, says Jacqueline M Klopp.

7 – 02 – 2008

Many people and forces are feeding Kenya’s current crisis: politicians and their informal militias, intellectuals disseminating hate on the internet, police shooting at innocents, young men at roadblocks killing people with machetes. Who will move the country back towards the rule of reason, institutions and a civil national society?

This is a key question as Kenya faces a “tipping-point”. The daily toll of the dead has not let up; it has come to exceed 1,000, and there may be many more uncounted. Whole regions of the country are off-limits to people with certain names on their identity-cards. Arms continue to circulate and revenge-killings persist. If weapons continue to flow and are obtained by informal militias, if the police continue to take sides and the military fractures, if politicians fail to stop their orchestration or exploitation of violence, then maybe much more horror is yet to come. Kenya could even degenerate into civil war.

Jacqueline M Klopp is an assistant professor of international and public affairs at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University. She is currently working on a project on democratisation, civil society and the internally displaced in Kenya

A torn fabric

A political agreement bringing resolution to the disputed presidential election held on 27 December 2007 will be key to averting this frightful prospect. But in itself it is not enough. Angry youth need to lay down their weapons. They need calming and diversion into constructive activities. Agents of violence must be brought to book. The tens of thousands of displaced people, often bewildered and traumatised as well as dispossessed, need immediate assistance and counselling and a plan for a future life. Moreover, deep divisions created by the current violence require healing through measured and empathetic dialogue, national mourning for all the dead and creative conflict-resolution and peacebuilding.

This demands not just national but local action and a strong network of peacemakers. The potential for such a network is visible in the many Kenyans, alone or as part of community groups, who have sheltered and protected their fellow citizens regardless of the name on their ID card. It is visible in the tireless advocates for the multi-ethnic collection of victims of current and past violence such as the national Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) network and its supporters. If Kenya is to move forward and beyond the current cycles of violence – backed by deep angers linked to past wrongs, real or imagined – these voices of reason and compassion must grow stronger and ultimately prevail. Rather than counting on politicians to lead the way, initiatives from below need support now.

Besides a complete investigation into the violence and an end to impunity, dampening and eventually ending the cycles of violence is absolutely necessary to avoid a civil-war dynamic. Yet ending the killing and displacement is no simple task. As people are forced to flee their homes to some imaginary “homeland” they take their trauma and tales of terror. They also create stresses on existing services and scarce resources in many local communities. This generates new tensions and feelings of rage, which translate into revenge-attacks that push more people out to new areas – and so the devastating sequence gets repeated. This must stop.

Fortunately, despite the current propensity to blame and hate whole cultural communities for election-rigging or economic “domination” or violence, many Kenyans refuse to indulge in this pernicious discourse. Stories of human decency are little lights in Kenya’s dark times. A friend tells me of how his brother, a Kisii schoolteacher, and his Kikuyu colleague were courageously sheltered by their Kalenjin friend and fellow teacher in Eldoret as youths with machetes threatened him. Another friend tells me of a kind Kalenjin teacher who had adopted a “Kikuyu” child as his own son. With heavy heart, he had to send the child on a truck convoy out of Eldoret with written instructions to some unknown kind soul to take care of him. One displaced Kikuyu woman entrusted her precious children to a Kisii neighbour who was lucky enough to get space on a truck out to her “homeland”. Another story tells of a Kikuyu bus-driver who was a passenger in a bus that hit s a roadblock. Even though he was not the target of the youth, he calmly replaced the terrified driver and drove everyone back to Nairobi, saving many people in the process.

As Simiyu Barasa, who has written his own moving obituary, points out, Kenyans also do not fall into any neatly bound and defined communities. Rather, they are woven together into a rich social fabric through love, friendship, professional relationships and common interest. Although this fabric is under enormous stress and is torn apart in many places, it is worth emphasising that during this time of troubles many Kenyans have reached out to each other with great humanity. The idea of Kenya has not yet unravelled.

At a more systematic level, many organisations and their leaders – Keffa Magenyi Karuoya (IDP Network), Father Feiliyx Otieno Atinda (Koru Catholic Mission), and Aggrey Omondi (Ugenya [Ugunja] Community Resource Centre) to name only a few I have professional knowledge of – are working to protect and assist citizens regardless of their ethnic affiliation. Under enormous stress, these remarkable people engage aggressors in dialogue, help protect and tend to the displaced (often while the aggressors hover around) as well as assist the displaced from other parts of the country coming into their locations with tenuous historical links but no real families or friends. These overworked peace activists are facing deep and multiple problems: among them where to put the newly-arrived, how to collect information on them, how to prevent even more conflict between newcomers and the community, how to feed everyone as a food crisis looms, how to fit displaced children into local schools, how to promote peace and reconciliation.

“Non-violent peace forces” as they are called in Ugenya are found everywhere in the country. Mwamko in Central Province, Upendo Peace Committee in the Coast, the IDP Network and the National Council of Churches of Kenya in the Rift Valley, the Civil Societies Coalition for Peace, the Jamii Bora Emergency Fund and Ecosandal’s “Kicks for Peace” in Nairobi’s slums all represent important efforts to bring people back together to solve the difficult problems faced by communities affected by violence and the impacts of forced migration.

Kenya’s local peace groups need to be encouraged and supplied with moral and material support. Donors could help here rather than simply cut off aid. Father Feiliyx and Aggrey Omondi both emphasise the importance of support for programmes targeting unemployed and angry youth, helping them get involved in constructive ways in their communities. Further, a role exists for Kenya’s diaspora – to stop hate speech circulating on the internet, to avoid lending resources to destructive politics and instead support the internally displaced and peace activities. As Aggrey Omondi points out: “The Kenyan community abroad raised large sums of money for political campaigns. Now, we need all their effort to help communities in Kenya manage this crisis”.

These local peace groups need help to get coordinated, to share information and strategies and raise broader awareness of all the victims of Kenya’s current humanitarian crisis and their continuing plight. As a network they can also more effectively pressure politicians to negotiate and do all they can to stop the violence.

Finally, the way forward will involve puncturing the impunity of perpetrators of violence through painstaking investigations into the violence; a commission for truth, justice and reconciliation; institutional reforms that strengthen transparency, accountability and the rule of law; a meticulous strategy for the internally displaced that reflects their voices and priorities; and conflict resolution efforts in the worst hit areas.

This is the path to lasting peace and for Kenya to move in this direction, many more of us will need to join Kenya’s peacemakers. It is just too important to wait, as Kenyans say, for “orders from above”.

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How to help Kenya

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If you are looking for ways to help Kenyan relief efforts Mamamikes is an excellent place to start. Donations can be made straight to the Red Cross and there are other ingenious methods of helping Kenyans such as sending mobile phone credits straight to their own mobiles and which can used as credit to barter for goods. It is also possible to pay for electricity bills for family or friends who are struggling right now to make ends meet. Shopping vouchers to be used at Kenya’s main supermarkets are also available.

Shailja Patel also brings to my attention Sukuma Kenya who work with displaced people in Kenya and says

Sukuma Kenya was set up a few weeks ago by Dipesh Pabari, close friend, dedicated Kenyan journalist and activist. It’s the charity I recommend to everyone who asks where they can donate to ease the suffering of displaced Kenyans. First, because I can personally vouch that EVERY PENNY you donate, beyond transaction fees, goes directly to the relief effort. All those involved are volunteers – no overhead costs.

Secondly, because it channels the relief efforts through a Kisumu organization, Ladies in Action, that has been in operation for several years. The Ladies in Action are all long-term Kisumu residents (many were born there) who have chosen not to flee the crisis. They know Kisumu better than any outside relief organization.

While Rachel Wambui Kungu of Pyramids of Peace reports that together with a team of Kikuyu peacemakers she has successfully met with member of the feared Mungiki in Naivasha who have agreed to participate in peace talks.

They have given their names and phone numbers to participate in the Pyramid of Peace and to engage the violent Mungikis who have moved onward to Nairobi. They agreed to remove the road blocks for the next seven days. They will organize a large meeting in two days or so to meet with leaders from the Catholic church and with the local head of the police. Afterwards, they wish to meet with the Kalenjins for dialogue. They are ready for a permanent peace upon three reasonable conditions: 1) that Kalenjins and others stop fighting and free the roads as well, 2) that the opposition leaders tell their people to stop fighting, 3) that the youth be involved in the decisions affecting them.

…Rachel and her team of Kikuyu peacemakers from Nairobi arrived in Naivasha at 11:30 am by public transportation. The morning was tense, but all went well in Naivasha. Their local contacts told the women not to wear their jeans, but rather to buy some scarfs and kangas (dresses), which they did. This is so that they would not be confused with men from a distance, and not be perceived as a threat. [This does appear to be dewey-eyed. The Standard reports that women are being chased and intimidated for wearing trousers in Naivasha by the same gangs -Athenæum]

Soon they were talking with the local youth, and afterwards with the real Mungikis, a clique known for their violentness. They had a very productive conversation as I described above. They spoke with more than thirty people, many of whom were key Mungiki leaders, and received excellent cooperation. They agreed that they would each speak further with five or ten people and invite them all for the great public meeting they will organize in the next two days along with Rachel and her team. They do not want to deal yet with the police in the area because they accuse them of much harm to their people, including their women, but at the meeting they will invite the local head of the police. They have confirmed their intent by providing their names and numbers to post publicly in our Pyramid of Peace.

Funds donated to Pyramid of Peace will help buy mobile phones and airtime for this budding peace initiative. A donation will also help to purchase a laptop for Rachel to file reports on the work they are carrying out.

Petition

Please sign a petition set up by Avaaz calling on the international community to not recognize any Kenyan government until it is legitimately established.

A presidential election tainted by vote-tampering – now Kenya’s future hangs in the balance, with over 600 killed and 250,000 made homeless. We need to act fast.

The world can play a crucial role, by supporting Kofi Annan’s mediation efforts and refusing to recognize any government until it is legitimately established – so let’s send a wave of messages to our leaders asking for this. To make sure Kenya’s politicians hear us too, we’re taking out a full-page ad in the East African Standard, a respected newspaper (see right).

You can sign the petition here

Kenya Relief Fund

Friends United Meeting has established a “Kenya Relief Fund.” Unrestricted gifts to this fund are vital at this time, as they can be allocated where they are most needed.

Give generously to FUM’s “Kenya Relief Fund.” Be sure to earmark your gift for this purpose.

Please also see Justice 4 Kenya.

Call For Volunteers to help with Rape Crisis

If haven’t already visited Sara Nics’ quality site please take the opportunity to do so now. Here she interviews Sam Thenya, CEO of the Nairobi Women’s Hospital which has been treating women and children following the sharp increase in sexual violence. He is calling for volunteers who can help with counselling and medical volunteer work at the camps that are being set up for women and children victims.

We’ve seen a lot of post-election violence. One of the most disheartening issues that we have been handling are gang rapes that are occurring in the areas where the skirmished are taking place. We are seeing women, girls, even boys sodomized in front of their families. People are breaking into their houses and gang raping these women and children. The women who have come to us are telling us that there are many other people who are unable to come to the hospital.

Currently, we have teamed up with the Kenya Red Cross and the Kenya Association of Psychologists to give psycho-social trauma counselling to these survivors who have been displaced.

The Red Cross is providing the food and all the other things that they need. St. John’s Ambulance is providing transport. We are providing counselling services.

We have set up camps within Nairobi. We have sent two people to rift valley to assess the situation and we will be setting up camps in Rift Valley and Western Province.

How many people do you have in your hospital?

Yesterday we saw at least nine survivors of gang rapes. We are providing emergency care and then we send them back, unfortunately, to the camps. We are also following them up for counselling.

I don’t think we have anybody physically admitted. We only admit those who have severe unjuries that need hospitalization. And, of course, children. They get severe injuries and they need to be reconstructed. It’s only in extreme cases, because we don’t want to crowd the hospital.

What are the patterns you are seeing in the people who are coming in?

They seem to be targeted, but I don’t want to give the details of who is targeting who, because I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. They are happening both during the day and during the night. These people are gang raping with impunity. They are not worried about anything. It’s really really bad out there.

What do you think needs to happen for that part of this conflict to ease?

The first thing, of course, the political crisis needs to be sorted out. And of course the violence has to stop. That is the only way we will be able to stop the gang rapes. It is very clear that the gang rapes are occurring because of the lawlessness that is already existing on the ground.

What are some of the long-term impacts that you would expect in communities and for individual women and children from this kind of violence?

When we went down to provide this psycho-social support, we discovered that women and even men who have been displaced, some of them are HIV-positive. They don’t have their anti-retoviral drugs.

We also discovered that in the places where they are camping, in showground and other places, there are no formal structures. The next thing you are going to find, there is also rape and a lot of HIV-transmission amongst those who are displaced.

The gains made in the country in terms of HIV control is going to be lost. The other thing we are going to have is resistance, because these people are discontinuing their treatment. So you are going to have resistance to anti-retroviral drugs. It’s a big problem.

Taking these people back to their homes later and resettling them is going to be a big, big problem. One of the things that they have told us on the ground, is that they are very, very worried. The hatred, they don’t know how to handle it.

We have gone into teaching them about conflict resolution. They are very bitter. They need to know how to live harmoniously with their neighbors, even after all they have witnessed. It’s going to be a big big problem but we are doing the best we can do in the given circumstances.

Who are you calling on to help you with your work right now?

We are calling on the media to let people know where we have set up camps to help. That’s an immediate need. We are also calling upon anywhere which has counselors, medical personnel who can volunteer, especially to go outside Nairobi for at least a week. We are working closely with the Red Cross. Any help that can also go to the Red Cross, we’d be very happy.