A Peace of Africa: Reflections on Life in the Great Lakes Region, By
Madera Press, 2011, 322 pp., $25
book: please click here
First published in Quaker Life, July-September 2011, page 40.
American Quaker, David Zarembka, is in a unique position to write
a primer for wazungu (Swahili for “white people” or “foreigners”).
It is the real deal. After having lived and worked in Kenya for nearly
20 years, Zarembka has been able to write a clear picture of the political,
social and economic landscape — the exotic and the highs and
lows. So often we extend the assistance we think is needed but our
good intentions amount to nothing because we are so ignorant of the
culture into which we are insinuating ourselves. A Peace of Africa
is a must-read for anyone, particularly Quakers, planning to work,
volunteer or visit in East Africa.
of colonialism today still affects almost all aspects of African
describes the significance and origins of tribalism
and land divisions that actually created “ethnic states” that
today are a root cause of so much corruption and violence. Because
Friends United Meeting was heavily involved with humanitarian relief
during and after the 2008 post-election violence, we Friends should
be particularly interested in learning more about why the violence
targeted those that it did. After having led Friends Peace Teams in
East Africa for so many years, Zarembka has been able to draw parallels
to Europe, including the Third Reich. His theories about why some multi-ethnic
countries survive and some do not are compelling.
In addition to sharing facts and figures, the author takes us on a
moral/spiritual journey as he describes his work establishing the African
Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI) for Friends Peace Teams. Included are
many personal vignettes that help the reader understand how AGLI has
been able to build a Peace Center in Kenya and establish throughout
East Africa teams that teach the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP)
and Healing Relationships in Our Communities (HROC). Their work and
Zarembka's commitment is impressive. The reader is confronted with
the horrors of ethnic cleansing as well as the many successes healing
the victims as well as their attackers. The author's experiences leave
many questions for missionaries. Clearly, A Peace of Africa would be
an excellent selection for a book discussion group.
American Friends who are led to work with farming projects in Kenya
particularly interested in the extensive data about agriculture
and rearing animals. Friends who are on finance committees need David's
insight into the wide differences that exist between how Westerners
and Africans think about money. American educators have little to no
idea how different attitudes and practices in Africa are compared to
those in the west. Even something like corruption, that we assume is
frowned upon, is looked at through an entirely different lens in Africa.
It was appalling to learn how much money the United States and other
governments donate but how little they actually “do.”
The lasting impression the reader is left with is David Zarembka's
commitment to the Quaker Testimonies of Peace, Simplicity, Equality
and Integrity. These values permeate his life, his work and this book.
Lake Worth, Florida
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