January 30, 2008
One of the major problems of life here in Kenya at this time is to know
what is true from
what is rumor. I formerly reported on the 30 Kikuyu that were reported
to have been thrown into the Kipkarren River (even though covered by
AP, CNN, and Time, it was not true). Today we got a call from Janet Ifedha
(AVP facilitator from Kakamega) asking if the Kipkarren River bridge
was being destroyed by youth. It is not--we just went over it.
So it was hard to tell truth from fiction with regard to the events
We were told that Nandi youth (a Kalenjin group across the road from
us) were coming up the road to attack Kikuyu and burn Kikuyu houses up
here in Lumakanda. Police were supposedly at the small bridge coming
up the hill to Lumakanda, fired shots at them, and they fled. I didn't
think this was very plausible since they would not know where the Kikuyu
lived or had lived. Then today we went out for a short trip (5 miles)
to Florence Machayo's house for a meeting of Lugari AVP facilitators.
At the Lumankanda junction, all the signs (except the Jehovah Witnesses)
were destroyed. Two tires had been burned on the road and we could see
where the tarmac was burned and large potholes beginning to form. So
what is the truth?
Then about 2:00 pm
yesterday a man was walking by our house and talking on his cell phone.
He said in Swahili, "A Luo has been killed in
Lumakanda." Wow. So Gladys went out to find out. She was told that
some Kikuyu had come to shell their maize (corn) off the cob and that
it was suspected that they would spend the night and attack the local
people. This is not really feasible as I think it would be certain suicide
on their part to stay. But this is what people might believe. The violence
in this region is frequently enhanced by the concept, "You are trying
to kill me, so I will kill you first." Of course the other side
thinks the same thing so preemptive violence occurs. We heard that crowd
of local youth collected at the house and the police disbursed them,
Today our electrician told me that the person had been killed by the
police when he was taking some things from his house and the police mistakenly
thought he was a looter.
I am not even certain if someone was killed.
Our electrician told me that a person was also killed by the police
in Kipkarren River yesterday. When we passed through Kipkarren River
today, the normally very busy town was almost deserted. Is this evidence
that someone was killed?
The violence has reached a member of the family. The brother of Gladys's
brother-in-law was arrested in Chavakali (near Gladys's home area) for
setting vehicles on fire. What is difficult to understand is that he
is not a youth, being somewhere around 50 years old. I'm certain we will
hear more about this as time goes on.
There were about 12 people from Lugari District at Florence Machayo's
house. They were there to discuss the situation and what they might do.
It was quite interesting to hear various people's takes on the local
violence. Most seemed to think that they knew who the attackers were
although they said that local people were sometimes put in trucks and
taken elsewhere to do the violence and others were trucked into Lugari
area to do the violence here. If this is correct, this means that there
is significant preplanning of the violence.
In Chekalini, the area where Florence lives, the high school is now
the internally displaced person's camp for about 1000 Luhya who have
fled the violence in Nakuru and Naivasha. Like the Kikuyu IDP's here,
they have lost everything. More are coming all the time as they are being
forced out of Central Province for being non-Kikuyu. So soon we are having
another humanitarian disaster. A man stopped me on the road during my
morning walk through town and said that it was not fair that the Kikuyu
were getting relief and the others were not. At that time I did not understand
since I did not know that so many internal refugees had shown up in Lugari.
Lugari is the closest Luhya District along the main road that goes through
Eldoret so I suspect that many of these people will stop here.
None of this, of course, is reported by the media since no one has reporters
of any kind in the area. Are those who have died in Lugari District accounted
for in the national total which is now officially 850? I doubt that many
of them are. There are hundreds and hundreds of littleplaces like Lumakanda,
Turbo, and Kipkarren River. What is the real truth of what is happening
in all these communities?
While Eden Grace
and her family have been evacuated from Kisumu to Nairobi because of
the violence in Kisumu, the media reports that things are
becoming calmer. Perhaps this is true in Nairobi, but my step-son, Douglas,
who lives in Nairobi reported, "Some skirmishes early today .Life
seems not to be usual because most people appear worried about their
security. Leaflets were dropped warning some communities to get out." Has
the media gotten "used" to the violence and a few people killed
in Kisumu and a few more in Eldoret and some more in Kibera is no longer "news"?
Yesterday definitely was the worst day in Lumakanda since we returned
(we were not here the first four days after the election results).
So truth, the reality
of what actually is happening around you, is difficult to grasp because
all those normal markers you have about your surroundings
are suspect. It is so easy to be "sucked in" by rumors. And
yet, to understand the dangers around you, you have to listen to others.
Enjoy the Super Bowl if it hasn't happened yet!!! There you can watch
reality on TV and get instant replay from many angles on anything dramatic
or controversial. Here we live in a state of unknowing.
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