Archive for the 'Relief Fund' Category

Kenya’s Displaced Children bear the brunt of the violence

Thousands of Kenyan children have been separated from their parents as they fled their homes following the recent elections according to Save the Childen. Some have seen their parents killed. Many others have been raped and beaten and are traumatised. Some in the very camps that are supposed to provide them with shelter and security.

This is a problem that really needs to be addressed quickly. How? Perhaps the army can maintain law and order in the camps. This is not the ideal way to deal with a situation as complex as this but what are the options? The people and children in the camps are Kenya’s most vulnerable and they need protection.
Maria Nahuka - Jamhuri park

Maria Nahuka and sibling – Jamhuri park; two of Kenya’s displaced and parentless children

“We have spoken to many children who have been victims of violence and abuse and spoken to many more who have witnessed it,” said Save the Children emergency coordinator Matthew Wingate.

“Some have been raped, many beaten up. All are struggling with the trauma of what they have experienced.”

Save the Children says that conditions in the displaced camps are worsening despite a lull in violence.

Maria came to Jamhuri Park camp in Nairobi to escape the violence in her home town, but life in the camp also varies from day to day. “I look after my brother all the time because I am his sister and I have to. Sometimes we go and make a line to get the food but when we get to the front of the line the food has run out so then we have to stay here without eating anything. Even now we have not eaten all day. Some people like fighting – like when someone comes with milk, they fight and break it so then no one gets any milk. That was why we did not eat yesterday. But sometimes in the camps the situation is good – we eat food together, some of the mothers cook it in the kitchen. We learn in the tents here and have a kind of school.”

“I left my home in Burnt Forest three days ago – we have travelled here (Nakuru showground) by getting lifts along the road. There is still violence in Burnt Forest and many people I know are still there,” said Jane Njeri, 28, as she comforted her crying 8 month old daughter. Jane has two other children with her in the camp; another 10 year old daughter, and a 4 year old son.

Jane said “I do not want to return home. I would rather stay here – we have to start again – all I want is a house and some money so I can start to make a living again. I don’t know who burnt my house but I am worried for the people who remain in Burnt Forest.” Her young daughter starts to cry again and Jane turns to comfort her once more.

Hat tip to Afromusing.

The problem is that tragically there are children who are not able to say where they are from or who their parents are. A Red Cross Missing Persons helpline has been set up for people to contact should they have been separated from their relatives and children or know of anyone who is affected.

Nairobi 0720 550581
Kisumu 0720 998321
Nakuru 0724 137097
Mombasa 0723 512350
Eldoret 0722 497876
Bungoma 0720 751815

Please consider dontating now to Save the Children and you could also give to Ladies in Action (how I love their moniker!) who are working on the ground to help feed and protect families and children who have lost everything they knew.

The frustration of the internet for me is that while I sit here in London, relatively comfortable, I am unable to do more than blog about the situation. We are living in a connected world but only if you are economically affluent. The internet is a luxury especially if you are sitting in an IDP camp. Imagine that! Knowledge has boundaries. I take my hat off to all those who are working at ground level and have not taken their eye off what needs to be done. I welcome ideas on action that can be carried out from here from those who are actively engaged in helping people affected by the breakdown of Kenyan society.


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”.

How to help Kenya

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.

Opposition Officials Helped Plan Rift Valley Violence

Human Rights Watch report on the (sotto voce) ethnic cleansing that has been taking place in Kenya. This report has some new information about how the violence against Kikuyus, Kisii and Luya was incited by elders and opposition Party officials after the election results were announced but it does not address the campaign to marginalise Kikuyu by certain ODM leaders. It is however a positive sign that these crimes against humanity can not and will not be swept under the carpet.

Opposition leaders are right to challenge Kenya’s rigged presidential poll, but they can’t use it as an excuse for targeting ethnic groups.

Georgette Gagnon, acting Africa director at Human Rights Watch

Opposition Officials Helped Plan Rift Valley Violence

Police Should Protect Displaced Persons Camps

(Eldoret, January 24, 2008) – Human Rights Watch investigations indicate that, after Kenya’s disputed elections, opposition party officials and local elders planned and organized ethnic-based violence in the Rift Valley, Human Rights Watch said today. The attacks, targeting mostly Kikuyu and Kisii people in and around the town of Eldoret, could continue unless the government and opposition act to stop the violence, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch called on the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leadership to take immediate steps to stop its supporters from committing further attacks. At the same time, Human Rights Watch said the Kenyan police should urgently deploy extra officers to the region to protect displaced people and resident Kikuyu communities.

“Opposition leaders are right to challenge Kenya’s rigged presidential poll, but they can’t use it as an excuse for targeting ethnic groups,” said Georgette Gagnon, acting Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “We have evidence that ODM politicians and local leaders actively fomented some post-election violence, and the authorities should investigate and make sure it stops now.”

Research by Human Rights Watch in and around the town of Eldoret, which has borne the brunt of the Rift Valley violence, indicates that attacks by several ethnic communities against others, especially local Kikuyu populations, were planned soon after the elections. In some cases, local elders and opposition politicians appear to have incited and organized the violence. Since December 27, 2007, clashes between members of the Kalenjin and Luya communities and their Kikuyu and Kisii neighbors in the Rift Valley have left more than 400 people dead and have displaced thousands more.

Human Rights Watch interviewed members of several pro-ODM Kalenjin communities who described the ways in which local leaders and ODM party agents actively fomented violence against Kikuyu communities. A Kalenjin preacher in a village in Eldoret North constituency told Human Rights Watch that on the morning of December 29, 2007, a local ODM party mobilizer “called a meeting and said that war had broken in Eldoret town, so the elders organized the youth into groups of not less than 15, and they went to loot [Kikuyu] homes and burn them down.”

The following day, the village held another meeting and the youth marched to the nearby town of Turbo. They were turned away by police. But they returned early the next morning, catching the police off guard, “and burnt almost half of the Kikuyu shops in town, including the petrol station,” according to the preacher. Human Rights Watch visited Turbo and found that most Kikuyu-owned buildings had been laid to ruin by the attackers. Displaced Kikuyu seeking shelter at the police station in Turbo confirmed to Human Rights Watch that their homes and businesses were destroyed by groups of Kalenjin youth.

Human Rights Watch spoke to numerous members of Kalenjin commmunities around Eldoret who provided similar accounts. In many communities, local leaders and ODM mobilizers arranged frequent meetings following the election to organize, direct and facilitate the violence unleashed by gangs of local youth. In one case, an ODM councillor candidate is said to have provided a lorry to ferry youth to burn the homes of Kikuyu families in a neighboring community.

Many Kalenjin community leaders told Human Rights Watch that if the area’s ODM leadership or the local Kalenjin radio station KASS FM told people unequivically to stop attacks on Kikuyu homes, then they believe the violence would stop. “If the leaders say stop, it will stop immediately,” said one Kalenjin elder.

Human Rights Watch also collected accounts from several Kalenjin men present at community meetings where local elders and ODM mobilizers urged Kalenjin residents to contribute money toward the purchase of automatic weapons. Some communities have reportedly managed to obtain such weapons already. The same sources confirmed that plans have already been made to attack camps of displaced Kikuyu and the two remaining neighborhoods in Eldoret town where many Kikuyu homes remain intact – Langas and Munyaka.

The Kenyan police are already investigating responsibility for the violence in the Rift Valley, but its forces are overstretched by the nationwide electoral crisis. In the light of apparent plans by some groups to attack camps for internally displaced persons, Human Rights Watch called on the Kenyan police to ensure that all locations of displaced people are adequately protected against attack. Fourteen displaced Kikuyu and Kisii people sheltering in a monastery in Kipkelion were killed last week in an attack by Kalenjin warriors. The sprawling tent camp in Eldoret is now home to more than 10,000 displaced persons, with only a light police presence to protect them. Any attack on the camp would likely prove disastrous. Other equally vulnerable camps have been set up in other areas.

“The murder of people sheltering at a monastery in Kipkelion illustrates the need for better police protection of displaced people,” said Gagnon. “Protecting the thousands of vulnerable people chased from their homes across the Rift Valley from further attack should be a priority for the Kenyan police.”


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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.