Thursday, January 03, 2008

What's happening in Kenya?

Please note that this entry does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Empowering Lives International. This is a personal blog reflecting the writer's personal opinion.

Some people have been asking me why things are falling apart in Kenya. Here's how I understand it:

The former president, Mwai Kibaki, is from the Kikuyu tribe. They're the biggest tribe in Kenya. Often, people from other tribes don't like the Kikuyus, possibly because they're the most successful and most prominent in Kenya's business world.

Leading up to the elections (truly only the second democratic election in Kenya), things were getting tense. Most of the tension was along tribal lines. Though support for PNU (Kibaki's party) and ODM (the opposition party of Raila) wasn't strictly tribal, there was definitely some tribal division.

Raila, who is a Luo, the third-largest tribe, has VERY strong support from the Kalenjin tribe, who mostly live in Western Kenya (where I live).

From what I understand from all the leading news sources, there is evidence that Kibaki rigged the results and thus stole the victory. reports, "At one stage on Sunday in this nation of 36 million, Odinga was one million votes in the lead. Election officials in Kibaki's strongholds then disappeared with the ballot boxes, only to reappear with dramatically enhanced tallies for the President, who was promptly declared the winner and sworn in less than an hour later."

Officials of the ECK (electoral commission of Kenya) agree that they had been pressured to prematurely announce that Kibaki was the winner and swear him in as the president. Even EU observers have been saying that they saw Kibaki's votes mysteriously go up with tens of thousands of votes. Both the EU and the ECK have called for an independent investigation into the election.

Back to the tribal unrest: In Kenya's 44 years of independence, there has never been a Luo president. The Luo thus believe that their only chance of having one of their own as president has been stolen. Things are worse in Western Kenya (around Eldoret) since both the Kalenjin (the majority tribe of the area) and the Luo are strong supporters of Raila.

I also believe it's of spiritual significance that the West has been a hot spot in terms of tribal clashes. It is reported that thousands were marching to Burnt Forest, a town about 30 km (about 15 miles) outside of Eldoret. We're all watching to see what will be happening there... I am trusting that nothing will come of the march to Burnt Forest, nor of Tuesday's march in Nairobi. (That march was supposed to be held today, but after the police fired tear gas and water bombs, ODM postponed the march till next Tuesday.) One of the challenges of the march to Burnt Forest, though, is that Western Kenya is a very poor region. Many people live on $2 a day which they get for day labor. Most businesses have been closed during the unrest, leaving people with no source of income, and hence, no food. A friend with connections in Burnt Forest wrote me today saying that people have no food in Burnt Forest. Please pray against the tribal strongholds in the west of Kenya!

Effects on ELI's Centers
When I spoke with our director in Kipkaren two nights ago, he asked for prayer for the country, but assured me that they are safe. The town of Kipkaren, about 2 miles from our center, was suffering from divisions between people, and even while we were on the phone, shots were fired nearby. They weren't able to buy bread in town, but had enough maize to keep feeding our children. We also have large vegetable gardens where we can harvest enough vegetables for the children. "If we have to, we will slaughter our (dairy) cows," I was told. "But we'll have enough food."

At our center in Ilula, many people have been coming to seek safety. I do not know how things are in Ilula right now, but will be calling Samuel this weekend to hear.

What now?
Reports vary regarding the number of people who have been killed to date. Most sources agree that it's more than 300 people by now. That's 300 too many. One article quoted a man from Kibera (Africa's largest slum, in Nairobi) saying how he's not sure they've really gained anything by fighting. It was clear that he himself has been fighting in the struggle for true democracy, but he was somewhat disillusioned by the fact that the President has been quiet, many people have lost their lives, they've lost their homes and peace. The article quoted him as saying that he doesn't think the government (whether under Raila 0r Kibaki) will help them get their lives back together, that all the fighting is in vain.

I couldn't agree more. I do understand that the people are upset by the vote rigging. It is sad, however, that lives, homes, and peace has unnecessarily been lost.

There seems to be a stale mate in terms of peace talks. Raila won't talk to the President unless he steps down. Kibaki won't talk to people like Desmond Tutu who has gone to mediate. Nor will he talk to the chairman of the African Union.

To me, it's not clear what the way forward is. What is clear, however, is that millions of people have been hurt by two men's fight for power. Kenya will take a while to recover. Right now, it's not clear when it will be safe enough for the hundreds of thousands of displaced Kenyans to return to their homes.

Please continue to pray for peace and healing for the people of Kenya. This is obviously a watershed event in Kenyan history. I believe it is also such for the church in Kenya. This nation professes to be 80% Christian. I am praying that God will use the events to allow the church in Kenya to take a closer look at the life God calls us to live--including laying down tribalism.

The way forward is long. Kenya needs your prayers.


  1. Thanks for posting - I have been hoping you would share your take on things. I am glad your kids are safe and I'm praying for them.

    I invite you to visit my blog today - I've posted the Kenyan national anthem as the prayer that it is.

  2. This is really helpful; thanks so much for explaining.

  3. Adele - following your blog closely, praying for those kids and for your future as well. Love & Prayers, Betty