Message from Zarembka # 8a

Dear All,

Gladys and I are doing fine, staying at home like newly-weds. I walk around town for exercise and observation twice a day, once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. It is dry season now and the sun is very hot during the middle of the day.

My biggest problem is funds/time for my cell phone and laptop. Long ago we stopped using the cell phone to call anyone since it uses up the little funds we have very quickly. I have also stopped looking for reports about Kenya on the internet. So we save the time for SMS [short message service] and email. By the way anyone can call or SMS us and we are not charged to receive calls or SMS’s. (edited some extra phone $ info)

So Gladys and I husband the little fund/time we have which is our connection to the outside world. Here in Lumakanda, we have a better radio and we are able to get BBC so we listen to it on the hour to see if there is any update.Unfortunately the stalemate continues and there is no improvement today. Nothing is moving and there is even less in the shops. The radio says that the US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs is due to arrive in Nairobi today to try to facilitate talks between Kibaki and Raila. Zawadi Nikuze from North Kivu, Congo, who was a QPN [Quaker Peace Network] election observer in Nairobi (I guess we can say she stepped from the frying pan of North Kivu right into the fire of Kenya), emailed me as follows:

"The situation is really getting out of hand. For us who are in Nairobi it's terrible. We can't get out of the house lest we get caught up it the riots. The last time I went out was on 28th Dec for the debriefing of the election with the rest of observers. Since then I have been indoors--it's like being under house arrest."

Bainito Wamalwa is a Friend in Eldoret and part of Eldoret Friends Church. He says that there are 62 families--some Kikuyu and some not (meaning that in Eldoret they are attacking people of various ethnicities)--living in the Friends Church. The Friends in Eldoret are doing what they can to help. Friends in Britain are collecting and sending funds to help. But how do we get it from Britain to Eldoret?

They are sending it to the AGLI account in England and I can withdraw funds from my own account IF I CAN GET TO A BANK. Then we still have to figure out how to get the funds to Eldoret. Bainito may come in his car to see me in Lumakanda: but I won't have any funds available. Bainito also said that houses are still being burned in the countryside around Eldoret. The town is totally shut down except for the queue at the supermarkets where you can buy some things.

One of Gladys's nephews, who lives in Eldoret, says that the Kikuyu and Nandi (Kalenjin group) are still fighting and killing each other. I just talked to Florence Machayo who said that "they" had threatened to burn down her house because she was "sympathizing" with the Kikuyu. She has talked to Malesi who has suggested that we print up T-shirts to identify ourselves.

Eden reports that US Embassy officials were supposed to meet with the Americans this morning at the Kisumu Airport--meaning they were unwilling to travel to town to meet the Americans. I guess "fly in, meet, fly out."

As I was on my morning walk, I saw that the internally displaced people (IDP) were being moved from the police station to the Lumakanda Primary School where I was an election observer. I had missed them before because I was looking for them at the police headquarters but they were a few blocks away past the hospital. The police station was filled with trucks, matatus, cars, pick-ups, and a tractor. This included one oil tanker and one long-haul big truck--I assume that they got stuck on the highway at 6:00 PM on Sunday night and decided to park in Lumakanda. Some of the trucks were filled with household goods--particularly bed frames. People were moving their goods to the school. At the school I watched men, women, and children all carrying things into the compound--clothes, mattresses, firewood, pots and pans, a car battery, etc. It is difficult to know how many people there were, but it was in the hundreds. While much is made of the wealth of the Kikuyu, these people moving into the school looked no more prosperous than the average Kenyan--many, particularly children, were without shoes or wore only flip-flops. At first a cow and a calf were driven, then a herd of 15 cows, a few calves, and about 20 goats, then another of six cows and a calf. A pick-up truck was pushed in (the driver saying he didn't have petrol--or perhaps he didn't want to use petrol when going downhill). It was full of food--mostly maize or maize meal for ugali. I was told that there would be police protection at night.

On my walk I met a policewoman who attends Lumakanda Friends Church. I talked with her a little and moved on. Later I found out something that really has bothered me--I guess because it makes all this abstract violence personal. I was told that on Sunday evening when Kipkarren River town was being attacked by looters, as one of the police sent to quell the rioting, she shot one youth in the leg and hit a second one who perhaps died. I really can't say I blame her for whatever she did since she was just doing her job and I can have no idea what kind of pressure she might have been under. Yet it is unnerving to realize how close I am to the violence. I am certain that some of the people I know in town--for example, the young guys who are at the matatu station, usually drunk, trying to get a tip from the matatu drivers for helping get someone into their vehicles--were probably involved in the violence. But when a violent mob rules, what do you do?


David Zarembka,
CoordinatorAfrican Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace Teams