2008 Appeal Letter
January 31, 2008
Let me begin by thanking each of you who have emailed or called me during
this crisis and/or have said a prayer on behalf of all of us in Kenya.
Rest assured, I am safe and would like to share my thoughts on the situation
with you. (For those of you interested in further details, I have been
writing daily reports on the situation. If you would like to receive
them, please contact Dawn Rubber at email@example.com).
As an election observer for the Quaker Peace Network-Africa, it was refreshing
to see the large number of Kenyans who peacefully turned out to vote
for the elections in Kenya. In some polling stations including mine,
people patiently waited for hours in the hot sun to cast their vote.
Unfortunately, the orderly voting quickly transformed into mayhem and
violence a few days later when the “winner” was announced.
Personally, the violence was dismaying yet not very surprising.
Unfortunately, it felt like déjà vu and the emotions of
July 5, 1969 came flooding back to me. On that day, Tom Mboya, the powerful
Minister of Economic Development from the Luo ethnic group was assassinated
by a person in the employ of the Kikuyu ruling elite. At that time, I
was Principal of the Mua Hills Secondary School in Eastern Province.
People heard the news on the radio and rumors of all kinds through the
grapevine. I remember holding my breath, wondering if the country would
fall apart and the feeling that events that I could not control were
overpowering me as an individual.
My opinion then is the same as it is now: A country is not stable if
its politics is based on ethnicity, battling to have power in a winner-take-all,
On December 27, 2007, I observed the polling station from 5:00 am to
9:00 pm. The polling was very well run and orderly, watched by eleven
agents of the various political parties and two observers including me.
People in the Western Province where I live predominately supported Raila
Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). The vote counting in
my polling station, which was done with complete transparency, was 349
for Raila and 58 for the incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki, and 20 for
the other seven candidates.
The next day, my wife, Gladys and I travelled to the southern part of
Western Province to attend the memorial service for my mother-in-law,
Emali Selina, to honor her one year after her passing. The night before,
the tally of the votes showed Odinga leading by over 1,000,000 votes,
but by the morning his lead was down to 300,000. People in Western Province
were assuming that the voting was being rigged. Then for some reason,
the announcement of the results stopped for most of day. While local
radio reported all was well, Tom Paxson from St Louis Meeting emailed
me to inform me that BBC was reporting violence. We soon found out that
we could not travel to Kisumu, the third largest town which was only
forty miles away, because of extensive violence there.
On Dec 30 the Electoral Commission of Kenya announced the result that
President Mwai Kibaki had won the election. Within ten minutes of the
announcement, we were hearing gun shots from tear gas fired by the police
not far in the distance. We looked in the direction of the town of Mbale,
about three miles away on the top of a ridge, and saw eight plumes of
smoke. We wondered what was burning. My sister-in-law, Eunice, texted
a friend in Mbale who reported that the youth were burning the mini-buses
which are mostly owned by people from the Kikuyu ethnic group.
This outbreak of violence was totally predictable. During the 1992 election,
over 100 people were killed and approximately 100,000 were displaced
in election violence. One of the reasons AGLI decided to locate its headquarters
in Kenya was to further the preventive work needed after earlier conflicts.
Even the magnitude of the violence did not surprise me and I was grateful
that, unlike Rwanda and Burundi, the violence was directed at property
damage rather than the killing of people. More than half of those who
died in the violence were youth rioters killed by the police.
At no time did I feel unsafe. Once I heard drumming in the distance and
wondered if the youth were recruiting for another round of violence.
As it got closer, I saw it was three young boys beating on their cans
as they went to the river to fetch water. My senses were hyper-aroused
yet the actual violence remained in the distance.
In the last five years, the Kenyan economy – after decades of decline
or stagnation – was finally showing significant growth. But this
growth did not trickle down to the alienated youth in the cities and
countryside who did most of the destruction. The violence after the election
has cost the country at least $1 billion and, if some kind of political
accommodation is soon reached, it will take a year or more for the country
Our Lumakanda Friends Church has appointed a committee to help with assistance
for the 2,406 internally displaced people who are now living in the same
school where I did my election observing. They have delivered a small
amount of assistance as a token of reconciliation and peace. Sixty-five
people have sought refuge in Eldoret Friends Church and are being assisted
by the congregation there. Kakamega Friends Church has dug latrines at
another camp were sanitation was a concern. Friends for Peace and Community
Development, AGLI’s partner in western Kenya, is holding a listening
session for the bicycle taxi drivers in Kakamega who were responsible
for much of the destruction there. Many Friends here in Kenya have called
for us to greatly expand our Alternative to Violence (AVP) program.
Needs at this time are tremendous. While the Red Cross is bringing
basic foodstuffs to the thirty five thousand displaced people in
where I live, they are unable to cater to other simple needs, such
as foods that small children can easily digest and sanitary napkins
women. Everyday items, like salt, remain sparse. As things calm down,
we would like to work with the alienated youth who perpetrated the
We ask for your continued prayers and emergency support in this time
of crisis in Kenya. Please mark “Kenyan Relief and Reconciliation” on
your check or, if you prefer, on your donation through our webpage
at www.aglionline.org. I believe that Kenya, the country that I love,
recover and thrive. With your help, we can help with this recovery.
Thank you for everything.
David Zarembka, Coordinator
African Great Lakes Initiative
Friends Peace Teams