Pain without Suffering
this week's UPI - several days late
So There I was...
Before me were a group of teenagers. Kids who had been expelled or dropped out from the local high school. Tough boys, a few pregnant girls. I was the guest speaker at a mandatory lecture at the alternative school.
My job was to leave them some tools to deal with abusive relationships. I have done this a hundred times in the last dozen years. It was a topic these kids knew as well as I did – probably better. They just hadn’t found any solutions yet.
I always start with prediction and choices. If you can see what is coming next, you can sometimes step out of the way. This works, and it is usually where they are at. Victims or perps - and I always have both in the room - know what happens, but they lack models for dealing with it. They think victim and perp are the only two choices. So I give them other choices.
However, making new choices is still often a form of reaction not pro-action, or prevention, so that is why, if I have time, I always do a little exercise that spins their heads. I demonstrate, and so expose them, to the virus of invincibility.
It goes like this.
I start at the place in the talk where I explain that one of the predictors of an abuser is that they blame other people for their feelings and behaviors. And then I appear to take a little tangent.
“You know kids, nobody can ‘make you’ feel anything. – You do know that right?” (they look confused)
“No, seriously,” I say, “ You can be, if you choose, in control of your feelings. Nobody can make you angry, nobody can make you sad, unless you want to be.”
They scoff, and without fail, one of them says, “My parents make me angry” – or even better - “I can make people angry” Oh, how I love that one.
“Really, son? You have that power – you can make people angry – just with your words?”
“OK,” I say, acting surprised. “Let’s try a little experiment.”
“ First we need the blessings of the teachers.” Then I make an amnesty deal where the young man will be allowed to use any words he likes, even the ones that get you detention, even the ones that get you expelled, for the length of the experiment.”
The room fills with tension – I have their undivided attention now – and they are rooting for their peer.
“OK, son. The feeling is ‘angry’. You have one minute to say anything you like to me – ANYTHING – and try to make me feel the feeling ‘angry.’ I promise to be entirely truthful about what I feel. Go.”
Now we find out how much nerve the young man really has. Some just bail right there. But many make a valiant effort. This boy did. He took a moment for observation and then went for what he thought was the weak spot of every female – looks. He detailed my physical imperfections. Not as brutally as he might, because I was standing as he sat, and slowly moving in closer, and staring him straight in the eyes with a smile on my face and this was starting to unnerve him. But oh, how he tried.
“One minute up” calls the teacher.
I report on my feelings.
“I am feeling slightly amused, and proud of you, young man, you showed courage, you gave it a good try. You didn’t flinch. I respect that. I like you. – I am not, however, in the least bit angry.”
Then I ask the class if they can figure out why he failed. They are smart. They say things like “You had time to get ready.” “You knew what was coming.” “You set the thing up.” but they come around to “You didn’t want to be angry. You made up your mind that you weren’t going to get angry.”
“BINGO Kids” – it is one of the things that separates you and I from the critters. Kick the dog and he is going to snarl, or cower – perp or victim. But you and I have other choices. And I have been practicing, and I have gotten pretty good at picking what I am going to feel. At least when I am ready for it.
And at that point about two out of ten think an entirely new thought – and the virus has taken.
I call this problem the Myth of emotional cause and effect. It is the mistaken idea that there is a mechanical linkage between other people’s words and behaviors and our feelings and then our words and behaviors.
The tyranny of this myth is all around us. It is the thinking behind the notion of a ‘crime of passion.’ It ends relationships. It enslaves people. It starts wars.
The applications are legion:I cannot control my lust, so you madam, need to cover up better.
I was afraid, so of course I had to lie.
He hurt me, so I had to hurt him back, I had no choice.
He cheated - I was so devastated, I just had to drink.
He/She/They were asking for it.
It is impact not intent that counts.
The Lie is that there is a hard connection between the external world and your feelings. The truth is that there are default settings, and something like emotional cruise control, but that we can take our emotions off cruise anytime we want. This set up is necessary, it is smart, and it is God-designed. I mean really, it would be too much work to have to think it out every time “Now, hmmm, what feeling shall I use here? – I have so many to choose from.” It is efficient to have some default settings where certain feelings pop up in certain settings.
But default settings are set in childhood, and so many of our childhoods were severely faulty. The people who raised us didn’t have much range, so we fall back on some pretty simple, often reptilian responses. Or they had all their wires crossed and then so do we. Or they had no governors on their motors and every little thing was HUGE. So we over-react.
If we are lucky, as adults we get the chance to learn how to reset our buttons. This is called healthy detachment. Buddhists tend to be much better at it than most Christians. We really should invite those folks over more often. They have the notion that you can do pain without suffering. The idea being that you can notice your pain, be honest about it, treat it if need be, but not make a federal case out of it. Spare the angst. Disengage the drama clutch, and leave it in neutral for a minute while you decide what to do.
Just because people are offensive does not mean that I have to be offended. What a time-saver – that one is.
Booker T. Washington got it; he said “I permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.”
It is Yoda, not the Three Stooges.
It works. It is efficient. It is anything but boring.
I recommend it to your attention.
I am voting for this man
When I was in Africa last winter I told my African friends that I thought that the next president of the United States was going to be a black man. They knew who I was talking about, but they laughed at me.
They did not believe that this was possible in America.
Especially the ones who had been to America.
My friend Niyonzima has sat in a restaurant in Newberg and not been waited on because he is black. He did not have much hope for the son of a Kenyan.
But my friend thinks that I am a prophet of sorts, and so he he asked me if I thought this, or hoped this, or knew this from God.
I never claim prophet, but I am hoping I am right.
I will vote for this man
I will throw him a few bucks
I am PRAYING for his emotional, spiritual, moral and physical Safety.
This is the link to his sermon at Ebenezar Church this month. It is 34 minutes long. It starts out slow and quiet, but he gets it going. It is worth watching.
Win or Lose, Barack can ride in my posse, any day.
State of the Church Report
Freedom Friends Church
For the year 2007
Approved for general publication January 13, 2008
To Friends Everywhere:
Freedom Friends Church is 3 years and 9 months old! With God’s help we have successfully formed a community where the default setting is grace, inclusion is a functional reality, and where all are ministers.
We represent 18 households and having sent a couple of folks on to different locals we have maintained our size of about 30 attenders. We took in two new full members by convincement, making 16; at the end of the year we had two more in the membership process. Most of our attenders are new to Quakerism.
We often make new Quakers through the process of resurrection, We reach out to those who were on a path to death and walk with them on a better path; we make a place for those who have been dead to the Church and the life of the Spirit, and make faith community possible for them.
Our worship continues to be lively, honest and Spirit led. We are learning to settle down and center down even when physical stillness and quiet are not entirely possible.
Our community life this year was seasoned with potlucks, movie nights, occasional Arts nights, a Men’s retreat and a six-week study on the Sermon on the Mount. We had music several Sundays from Derek Lamson of West Hills Friends, Portland. It was the year of Peterson Toscano; he was here three times and brought theatrical ministry that was deep, stretching and humorous.
We sent our Pastor to Burundi for two months at the beginning of the year, representing our concern for the healing and peace in the world. During her absence the community shared pastoral duties, and the meeting did just fine, but we were glad when she came home to us. In June our pastor was asked to open the State Senate with Prayer, and kept the Senators of Oregon on their feet for a full minute of Quaker silence. Our pastor also spoke at a regional Quaker women’s conference in Oklahoma. Our pastor is a Quaker diplomat and we enjoy that.
Two of our favorite traditions have become our birthday party on the last Sunday of March, and a candlelight Service on Christmas Eve. This year’s Christmas Eve miracle was the gratitude of a mother of a 13 yr old autistic boy. She told us that she had two children in their 20’s who had spent every Christmas Eve of their childhoods in Church, but that this boy was having his first such evening because there had never been a church that would let him sit in service, because of his vocalizations. We were so pleased to have enlarged our silent worship to include him. This is the reason we exist.
We spent a lot of business meeting time on the continuation of the writing of our Faith and Practice. We revised the outline and read, seasoned and approved six new sections. Friends owned this process and contributed much to the writing, taking the liberty of sending things back to the task force for further work if need be.
We had our first wedding in the community with the marriage of Megan and Bart. It was a fabulous Quaker hybrid wedding in a grove of firs west of Salem, and the whole community attended filling up an entire section of the forested ‘church’. Their joy was our joy.
We helped our Friends T. Vail Palmer and Izzy Covalt celebrate their 80th birthdays.
We worked for equality this year, seeing anti-discrimination legislation, and a bill that will allow same-sex couple to have legal unions pass the Oregon legislature. At the end of the year we still await the implementation of the second law, but we trust in the triumph of truth and justice.
We were visited by Quakers from many places, but were especially pleased by the visit of Margaret Gottlieb, of Seattle, a mother in Israel, and a Quaker mother of our meeting who blessed us from our conception. She died in the fall, and her visit to us was one of her last public appearances, and we were honored. Later in the fall we were visited by Hubert and Vivian Thornburg, from Newberg, spiritual parents to the pastor and the clerk, Vivian served on the clearness committee for the birth of our meeting. Another member of that committee, Pamela Calvert of Oakland, CA, also visited with us twice this year.
We ended the year financially in the black, even after having our rent increase in the middle of the year to 1400. a month. Our budget for the year was about 23,000.00. We have 6,000. in savings at the present time. We start to dream about having our own building.
Actions of 2007
We met for worship 52 times and another 12 times with attention to business.
We had 11 movie nights
100 pounds of food were donated to Marion Polk Food Share
We sent two donations to groups outside our meeting.
We furnished a room for children.
We celebrated our 3rd birthday
We had three Arts nights
We improved our worship space with cabinets and furniture
We approved seven sections of our faith and practice
We sponsored three performance ministries by Peterson Toscano
We received two new members by convincement
We had a table at the Capitol Pride Picnic
We had a six-week Bible study
We had a weekend Men’s retreat
We hosted a gathering about justice with the Mennonite Church
We celebrated our first wedding
We celebrated Christmas Eve
Good and Fun
Thanks to Robin for this one.
I have been having fun with the word game
where every correct answer donates rice
to the United Nations relief fund.
I can't seem to break level 47, and I only got there by a lot of guessing. If you click on options you can run a cumulative rice and vocabulary lessons.
Vail Palmer is going to clean up on this.
Today's UPI column #92
So There I was...
The missing link and I didn’t even know it yet.
It was late fall of 2001. I had just finished a multi-day training with J. Eric Gentry one of the top trauma healers around. Post New York, disaster training was all the rage. I was just putting in my continuing education hours – or so I thought.
Dr. Gentry teaches like he’s fattening geese for foie Gras - rich and fast. I found it to be fascinating. I found it to be challenging. I loved the idea of being an agent of change in a really bad place and time. I thought I had the right stuff.
Then I went back to my rather mundane counseling practice in Salem, Oregon. Mostly middle class people, with manageable middle class disasters. I wondered if I would ever have the chance to use what I had learned about mass trauma. It wasn’t really the sort of thing you ought to wish for.
A couple of months later I met a man. An African. I was editing an anthology of Quaker writings. This African Quaker had an essay that I needed to pick up. Fascinating fellow - David Niyonzima of Burundi, Central Africa. He was studying mental health at a Quaker university. He was within a couple of months of finishing his degree. He had gotten a good education – if you were planning to be a psychotherapist in Portland. But he was planning to go home where a simmering war between the government and three rebel groups had killed 300,000 people in the last decade. He was about to become the only man with a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology in a country of seven million trauma survivors. I asked him if he felt prepared to go do the work that was ahead of him. He gave me a look that signaled that he was trying to decide whether to be polite or honest. He chose honest.
“I am leaving with no tools. I do not know what to do.”
I asked him a few more question. It was clear that one-on-one paid insight focused therapy was not going to cut it in Burundi. Freud vs. Jung was not going to matter. Diagnostic codes for insurance companies were going to be useless. Feel good personality profiles would be culturally irrelevant. And the people who had sacrificed to get him this fancy degree were waiting for him to come home with the answers. He was a worried man.
Then I realized what my role was – I was to be his supply line.
We spent a lot of time in those last couple of months. I downloaded everything I had learned from Gentry to him and then I figured out how to get him some more. I started studying and making connections in order to pass it on. I have traveled twice to Burundi to teach teachers. David has taken what I gave him and multiplied it like loaves and fishes. He has made connections with many others in the field of traumatology. Tens of thousands of lives have been affected for the good.
I have learned the value of solid functional supply lines. No army of any merit can function without them. David and I are volunteers in an army of peacemakers, justice builders and fear-fighters. We are recruits to what Quakers call the war of the Lamb. It is a good fight. It is a good army. We may look at bit rag-tag to some observers, but my supply line has never gone down. I have never run out of ammo or food. The medics always show up when I need them.
I am praying today for a young man that I know who is not as well-supplied as I. He works for a different army – The United States Army. He is serving on an outpost in Afghanistan somewhere near the Pakistani border. He is doing his best. He is serving honorably. He has been told that he is fighting terrorism. He is about as far from civilization as you can get on this planet.
His army is an expensive one. We pay billions per week to support him. One of the things it gets him is a satellite link to his family. They can drive up to Fort Lewis every couple of weeks and get fifteen minutes of near real-time chat with him. One of the things the billions haven’t gotten him is a winter coat. The other morning his grandmother noticed that he was shivering. He reported that it was two degrees Fahrenheit. He also reported that the Army had not gotten winter coats to his unit. He told her that he was recently reprimanded for wearing non-regulation gloves while on a dangerous convoy mission to re-supply food to the unit. His bare hands got the food. They did not get coats.
I am absolutely sure that someplace the United States Army has a warehouse full of winter coats. That they cannot put one on this boy’s back halfway through an Afghani mountain winter is shameful. This is not rocket science. It is not even satellite technology. It is basic army 101.
And it makes me very glad that I work for a very different army.
Burundians helping Kenyans
So, you may have wondered How are our Friends in Central Africa responding to the news of violence in Kenya. Here is an e-mail from my Burundian friend David Niyonzima that I received a few days ago. I had not heard from him since Christmas, and I was not surprised to hear that he had been up to Nairobi. He and his wife Felicity and their children were refugees in Nairobi, leaving the violence in Burundi in 1993 after his name was put on a deathlist. They have many strong connections with the Kenyan Friends who harbored them during their time of need. I shared my traumatology training with David in 2002 and have been to Burundi to teach for him twice since then. He is one of my heroes. The news out of Kenya has not been great, even since he wrote this last week. Constant prayers for the cessation of violence are needed to undergird those who are doing the work of peace-making.
Greetings. I hope you are doing fine.
I wanted to share with you how what I learned from you is being utilized to help even the situation in Kenya. I have been away in Kenya to help train people on how to do a quick therapeutic intervention for the displaced people.
I came back today Saturday Jan. 12.
Did you hear of the violence that followed the presidential election on December 27, 2007? How at least 400 have been killed and thousands of others got displaced? Even though the situation seems to be being brought under control, thousands of people are seriously traumatized and many, including church leaders have a feeling of shame for what Kenyans did to each other.
I was invited by the Agape Fellowship Center in Nairobi to train people who can help. I spoke to over 60 pastors, clergy people, counselors, representing 20 denominations. I spoke on the trauma healing issues and trained them on how to do a quick therapeutic intervention in time of crisis. I spoke from my experience in Burundi and shared with them the techniques of defusing and debriefing which were very helpful to them according to their comments. Two of the participants were professorial counselors with private practices.
During the group discussion where we applied the teaching to ourselves I realized most of my audience were traumatized because each of them shared their fears, nightmares and many other emotions as they experienced or witnessed violence in some suburbs of Nairobi.
We prayed for the talks which were going on in the state house as we did in Burundi when we prayed for the cease-fire to be agreed upon by the Burundi politicians.
You might have heard that so many diplomats and formal African presidents such as those of Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania are now visiting the Kenyan politicians so that they may help in mediation. Koffi Annan was expected to come and kick start a formal dialogue after Presendent Kuffuor of Ghana failed to bring together Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga to an agreement on Thursday.
It was a little bit hard to condense the teaching of a week or three days to only one day but thank God it was possible and the participants were all happy and very much appreciated what they have learned. They will be helping the 700-1000 people who usually come at the center from the slums of Kibera and Mathare to get the flour, rice, greens, oil and other things to help them in their displaced camps. The participants will use the technique I shared with them to help stop an eventual vicious cycle of revenge that usually comes because of the unhealed trauma or the lack of a therapeutic intervention during a violent situation when blood has been shed.
On Friday I was taken to Nakuru, 150 Km from Nairobi where I met with 80 people representing 10 denominations. I had a brief awareness raising session with 8 bishop who have churches in the affected areas to sensitize them about the importance of responding to the trauma issues of the population in order to avert more violence and other disorders among the community. They appreciated the teaching but of course the time was so short and but since some of them had been exposed to counseling teachings what I shared was an added material to what whey are doing for their people.
Before returning to Nairobi on Friday evening I was able to visit the Nakuru Showground where an estimated 10,000 of mostly Kikuyu People displaced people are being helped by the Red Cross. Vehicles were still bringing more survivors of the violence. My host, Bishop Kabachia who is coordinating the church leaders's initiative to help the victims, told me that some of killed people were shot by poisoned arrows and others were burned. He said that some houses were still burned in remote areas where the military has not yet arrived. You might have heard of the 24 people among whom 34 were children who were burned in the Assemblies of God church where they had sought refuge.
We shall continue to pray that God may continue to restore order and bring peace in that nation.
With lots of appreciations,
Out of Africa
The Pastoral Letter out of Friends Church Kenya is, in my opinion, a truly amazing document. One for the ages. We read the first three pages aloud in meeting for Worship on Sunday at Freedom Friends. It has been noted elsewhere that it is a good thing that this is written on behalf of all Kenyan Friends, all 14 yearly Meetings. I do not know how much actual consultation was involved, but it grieves me that I do not have much optimism about the similar number of Yearly Meetings in North America being able to write or sign onto any similar document speaking to Our government/s.
However, let us celebrate the voice of our Kenyan Friends.
My favorite sentence - A universal sentance - a simply TRUE sentence.
A sentence that each of us can heed this election year.
Faith-based institutions should continue sending
that resonate the life affirming,
truth and justice-guided,
confession-based messages of their faith.
Amen and Amen
Last Week Freedom Friends hosted Ruah and Lewis, Quakers from Vermont doing a John Woolman walk talking about enrivonmental concerns. It was a good presentation. It caused me to remember one of my own Woolman moments. With deep respect for my Burundian Friends, here is...
Today's UPI column, #91
So There I was...
Insulting my friend by talking to her about her garbage.
I was a long-term guest in an African household. My host’s socially appointed role was to make sure that all my needs were met, and that I was adequately protected. My role as a guest was to be effusively grateful, and to bless the household spiritually and materially, as I could.
I was being a bad guest, and I knew it, but truly, I could not help it. My hostess, my sister in the Lord, my fellow mother was unknowingly endangering her children, which I now loved as if they were my own. If nothing else, the rules of the International Union of Mothers required that I speak up.
My friend ran a well-ordered household. It was hers to rule. Lower middle class though she was, she had a cook, a gardener and a night watchman, as well as a couple of younger sisters from up country who worked for their school fees and board. I, as a guest, had my own young female helper. This was completely normal and pro-social behavior; to have the ability to employ people and to not do so in a country of vast underemployment is seen as selfish.
My friend had a lovely vegetable garden inside the compound walls. She also had a system for dealing with trash, as the city of Bujumbura did not have anything like trash collection services. The trash went out to the far corner of the compound, and the heap was burned and turned once a week, when well broken down, it was mixed with the droppings from the chickens and rabbits and spread over the vegetable garden. Nice and orderly. Except for one thing. The toxins.
Imports from China and Eastern Europe have made it to the third world. There are the ubiquitous plastic grocery bags. The universal cheap plastic lawn chair. Cell phones are cheap. Many things including food now come in colorful paper and plastic packaging. And battery powered toys, radios, and other devices are now common for the middle class. And no way to dispose of any of it.
It was when I saw the double A batteries, broken by fire, in the compost around the maize that I investigated a bit. I thought about it. I prayed and I took my sister aside privately and did my bad guest behavior. I praised her housekeeping skills. I praised her first world education and professional demeanor. I added as a very slight aside that as busy as she had been with the good work of God’s Kingdom that she might not have had time to learn about the contents of batteries. I offered my information as a trifling aside. Heavy metals, toxic chemical, damage to the soil, her plants, and the beautiful food that she grew and fed her babies.
She laughed at me. Silly paranoid concerns. Irrational beliefs. Could I not see how pretty her corn and beans were? Had I not tasted the food? Was it not delicious? Could I not see how fat and healthy and smart her children were?
I praised effusively her cooking and her progeny. Then I very gently asked her if she would break one of those batteries open and let her youngest suck out the contents. She looked at me with horror. I suggested every so gently that to break them open and put them around her beans meant that the contents went into the beans and into her child even if the beans tasted good.
I suggested that she separate her garbage into two groups, one pile for food waste and animal waste and plant waste; and another place for plastics, colored paper and such. I suggested that only the food and animal waste go onto the garden. I suggested that the batteries be put into a storage container and just left alone – forever if necessary.
She laughed at me again, but not so good-naturedly this time. She pointed out the obvious flaw in my thinking. The purifying fire of her little garbage heap. Did I not know that fire cleaned all things? I gently reported that I had been told that home fires are not hot enough to truly destroy all the bad things in plastic and batteries and such. She gently suggested that I put my hand in the fire and see if I thought it was hot enough.
I apologized profusely for my bad manners, obvious lack of knowledge about how things are done here, and let it be.
But the next week I noticed that there were two garbage heaps in our household.
Every other good mother of Bujumbura continues to burn her plastics and imported garbage. You smell it in the air every evening – purifying fires. And the babies mostly look fat and happy.
I want to thank all the readers of this blog.
I started blogging about two years ago mostly because of Martin Kelly. There were a few Quaker blogs, he knew where they all were, and you could read all of them everyday. The conversation was lively, and I eventually found that comments were not enough and I jumped into the pool.
Like a lot of other people I owe a lot to Blogspot.com, and my smart daughter Emily who gave my blog it's own look.
Quakerquaker cannot even keep track of all the Quaker blogs these days, but is still a great roundup. So is Quaker Zebby and the other sites that do a continuing roll.
With out the Quaker blogosphere, or the Q continuum as I like to call it I would not know Robin, or the term 'convergent.' I would not know Peterson Toscano, or Marvin Bloom. I would not have met Wess and Emily, I think Wess is going to turn out to be one of the influential Quaker thinkers of our day. I would not know my fellow Quaker Agitator who quits blogging more often than I post, but it's OK, 'cause we never believe him, because we can read his heart!
I miss Joe G, who quit and apparently meant it - come back Joe!
The 25 thousand visitors (well, visits, visitors would be some smaller #) have read 35 thousand pages of my ramblings. If I thought about that very long that would scare me.
I love having the sitemeter on the blog because not only can I have fun contests, but I get to see where you are all coming from. My guess is that less than half of my visits are from Quakers. That is because the most common referral is Google Search. Apparently my blog is fairly googleiscious, because it comes up on the top page for some pretty weird things. Like the probably spuriously attributed Confucian saying "He who seeks revenge should dig two graves." This is the number one google search that ends up on my page - it gets you to my post on my neighbor. The next most common search is "Hounds of Heaven". I bet most people searching this are really looking for something by C.S.Lewis, what they get is my post on Dog the Bounty Hunter.
I try and remember that when people end up on my sight, that it may be the first and only representation of Quakerism that they ever see. This does scare me. And inspire me.
I have regular readers from every continent and dozens of countries.
Hi Phil, hi Alex. I have had visitors from Mainland China, and Iran.
This blog has been a good posting place for my United Press International weekly columns. I am about to give that up at 100 columns. My columns or blog posts have been printed in Quaker Life and Friends Journal. Which I think is really cool and funny.
I know that this medium will morph and eventually be obsolete, but for now, it is still really useful.
Thank you, each and every one of you.
the pollsters are predicting a victory just post midnight. This favors the European early morning readers.
Quakers who are so cool
OK - don't tell me you don't have a buck-ninety-nine to help the youth of Kamenge Friends church, Bujumbura Burundi.
That's half a latte or 2 quarts of petrol.
Derek Lamson has put up on CD baby the Kamenge recording of Our God is an Awesome God.
You can sample the song on the site, but unless you download, you won't get to the part where the Kiswahili and Kirundi rap happens. You just do not want to live without Rap in Kirundi - trust me.
When Fabrice calls out " Mikono JU! that means put your hands up in the air. We do this a lot at Kamenge.
If you are Luddite enough to not have a use for the Mp3 download - despair not - you can order the four dollar CD. But if you were that much a Luddite you would not be reading this blog.
The Tembo (elephants) in the album art live in Kenya, not Burundi. But they would put their trunks in the air for this song.
As of 8 a.m.
Today's UPI column #90 of 100
So There I was...
Looking for Fresh Road.
I have to get pretty far from home to get any fresh road these days.
When I got my first motorcycle, one of the things I did was go down to the State Department of Transportation and buy the big map of the county that I live in. It was several feet to a side and showed every road and alley within about 30 miles of my house. I started marking off each road as I covered it. Soon I had to purchase the maps for the five counties around my county. At that point my map took up a whole wall of my house and I had fresh road in every direction of me. After ten years and two bikes, it became harder to find fresh road in the State of Oregon; and Oregon is about 300 miles tall by 500 miles wide.
So around the turn of the century I was offered a preaching gig in Idaho and decided to take the opportunity to knock off some out-of-the-way roads in very far northeastern corner of Oregon.
Perhaps you do not fully understand why fresh road is so important. There is nothing that prevents the miracle in your back yard. There is nothing that even slows down sister Serendipity from meeting you at the corner grocery store if she is looking for you. The kingdom is Heaven is within you and can erupt at any time. However, the major inhibitor of that eruption is your own soul sleepiness. It is way too easy to get stuck on spiritual cruise control. Common intimacy encourages entropy.
The best way I know to break out of this is to find fresh road. I do it quite literally. Riding a road where I do not know what is around the next corner requires a level of awareness that makes me feel very lively. I have to pay attention. I cannot daydream.
I know people who can find fresh road in a laboratory that they walk into every day for years. I know people who find fresh road on a blank piece of paper, or on the well-known strings of their favorite guitar.
Still, I like the wind. The unpredictability of the weather. So I was up in the country of Chief Joseph. His precious blue lake is still there. The Appaloosa descendents of his favorite ride live and eat this year’s grass. His Spirit and the Spirit of his people flow down off those mountains towards the Snake River.
I reached the edge of the Snake after a long descent down the backside of the Wallowa Mountains on an unpaved road. I had been counting on a bridge over a dam on the map. The dam was there but it was no bridge. So like Joseph, I turned north towards Canada and several hundred miles out of my way. Unlike Joseph, my steed could not eat grass. At least there was no cavalry at my back. My limits were the limits of a gas tank, not how far you could push the elders carrying the babies on their backs. I wasn’t worried, because although the ranch houses were few and far between at that point, I knew that the ranch people kept a fill of gas cans and kindness, and the worst I could face was a walk or a wait. I talked to God and to Joseph and to the Appies in the fields.
And just after I had switched my fuel valve over to ‘reserve’ meaning that I had less than a quart left of petrol, I saw a boy. About twelve. Walking.
“Hi Lady” blonde hair, freckles, big tooth smile, Huck Finn.
“Son, I need some gasoline and I need it pretty soon.
How much trouble am I in?”
“Well, I wouldn’t know about trouble, but if you take that next gravel road up there, you can cut through to the road that goes to the place where my dad drinks his coffee and Mrs. Wright, she has a pump in the back – you might have to ask.”
“Thanks. Really, I mean it. Do you need a ride son?”
“No, m’am, my Ma would switch my butt if I got caught takin’ a ride with no helmet. Ma’s pretty strict about the helmets. I don’t have far to go.”
“Sorry I don’t have a spare, son. You take care.”
“Bye Lady – oh, and the pie’s really good – have the peach if she has any left.”
The peach pie was fabulous. The shortcut got me there in less than ten miles. Mrs. Wright did indeed have a small reserve of gasoline. I described the boy to Mrs. Wright and the ranchers taking their coffee. I was hoping to speak a good word about him and his manners to someone who knew him. Maybe leave him a small reward – though I doubted any adult would convey a reward to a boy for just being neighborly – they would expect such.
Mrs. Wright and all the ranchers were of one mind that there was no such boy of that description or even of that age, living on any ranch within 40 miles of that diner. They said they knew by name, every child within that distance. I believed them.
I did another hundred miles of fresh road that day. Wide awake.
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Zarembka message 10b
Jodi Richmond (temporary Head of Friends Theological College, now in Nairobi) sent Gladys an SMS asking us if anyone was reacting in a Christian way to the chaos occurring now in Kenya.
Gladys and I went to Lumakanda Friends Church today; as we always do when we are in town. At first there was almost no mention of the conflicts whirling around us, but when the preacher for today, Daniel, gave his sermon, he based it on Hosea 14:1 "Come back, O Israel, to the Lord your God; for your sins have caused you to stumble." One of his main points was that Kenyans have to ask for forgiveness for what is engulfing the country.
After the offering, I asked the Clerk if I could address the congregation on peace and reconciliation and he agreed. So I gave about a five minute talk in Swahili indicating that our hands were God's hands and that we could show our Christian/Friends concern for peace on earth by responding to help the displaced people who were in the school. They immediately conducted a second offering, collected 1208/- (a little less than $20) and gave it to me.
After the service, I asked to meet with the church leaders and they set up a committee of six people including the youth and the women to develop a plan for how the church can be of assistance. We will meet soon. At the end of the first offering a woman was asked to say the prayer of thanks as is customary. I learned later that she is hiding a Kikuyu woman in her house. The woman was just giving birth on Sunday evening when the chaos began so this woman had her stay in her house with the new-born. If the rioters find out that she is harboring a Kikuyu, they will burn her house down.
Desmond Tutu came to Kenya, constructively met with both sides and THEN LEFT THE COUNTRY!!! I was soooooo disappointed.
While the reports on the radio say that things are getting back to normal, it doesn't seem that way here. Getry came from Lubao to Florence Machayo's house and reported at the junction of the Kakamega-Webuye and Eldoret-Webuye road, her vehicle was pelted with rocks. Keffer Mbale who lives in Kipkarren River reported that last night his next door neighbor's house was burned down.Ray Downing and Janice Armstrong, Mennonite doctors who used to work at Lugulu Friends Hospital nearby, are now doctors at Webuye Hospital. They contacted me through email and SMS so I have their contact information.
If we ever get to Webuye (not trying tomorrow after Getry's report of rock throwing) we will meet them. They had received my previous reports and confirmed that on Thursday night four patients were brought to Webuye Hospital from Lumakanda Hospital with gunshot wounds (i.e., they were looters shot by the police). One died.
Yesterday evening I went on my usual evening walk. At the school I found that the Red Cross had brought two trucks with 110 bags of maize (corn) and beans. I estimate that this will be enough for about a week to ten days. But Herman, the camp Red Cross coordinator, told me that there was no cooking oil, salt, sugar, toilet paper, hand or washing soap, and many other items. There was also a shortage of clothes since many people had run away in the middle of the night with only what they had on. I remember that the Lubao workcampers had brought some children’s clothing last summer and that some of it still was at the Peace Center. I called Getry and asked her to bring what she could and she has done so and taken them to Florence Machayo's house. Now I just have to figure out how to get it from Florence's house to ours.
In the meeting after church I opened up my calendar book and saw that I had 500/- of airtime that I had forgotten all about. Was I annoyed with myself! The 500/- of airtime that Dawn Amos sent me a few days ago finally arrived. She has sent a second 500/- and I expect it will reach me tomorrow. Do I feel wealthy! I even wasted a little of it looking at the internet news on Kenya. In that internet news, I found that Lugari District had the second to highest number (after Eldoret) of IDP's 18,200.
I also heard on BBC a report that Luo are also being attacked in Eldoret and are walking through back roads to Nyanza Province (which would take at least a week, I would think). Otherwise the Kenyan news on BBC has become old news and not much is being reported.
CoordinatorAfrican Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace Teams
Zarembka message 10a
Kenya and the Rwandan GenocideWhen the church was burned in Eldoret on New Year's Day, there began to be many comparisons made between the situation here in Kenya and the Rwandan genocide. Moreover a number of the politicians here in Kenya have been using the term "genocide."
Any comparison at this time between what is happening in Kenya and what happened in Rwanda in 1994 is ridiculous. Let us start with the church burning. In Rwanda churches were not burned. Rather the Tutsi who took refuge in the churches--sometimes by the thousands and even tens of thousands--were hacked to death by machetes. The church was surrounded by others so that anyone who tried to flee was killed.
In Kenya, at the church in Eldoret, there were hundreds of people inside when it was burned down. Most fled. While the papers indicated 35 to 50 people were burned to death, the Red Cross now puts the numbers at 17. Clearly unlike the situation in Rwanda, the intention of the attackers was not to kill the people in the church.
The papers state that 355 people have died since the election. While I think this is an underestimate, at least 850,000 people were killed in the Rwandan genocide. The official total here in Kenya is .04% of the numbers killed in Rwanda.
Also, in Rwanda the specific intention of the genocedaries was to kill Tutsi. They hunted them down for one hundred days. If the Kenyan looters had the intention of killing Kikuyu and others, the death toll would be magnitudes higher. Rather, here in Kenya, the intention of the rioters is to destroy Kikuyu property--vehicles, shops, animals, farms, and houses.
The most important difference is that in Rwanda the government in power at that time organized and implemented the genocide. This is one of the criteria for genocide--it is the government itself which implements genocide. In Kenya there is no doubt that the Kenyan Government is not organizing any killings. Government security forces are trying their best to restore order and stop the destruction of property. The fact that they have failed for so long is of major concern, but this has nothing to do with genocide. While the Orange Democratic Movement has been accused by the Government of promoting the violence, I see no evidence that ODM is organizing it and in fact, I think, that they have no ability to stop it. The ODM leaders have asked for the end of the violence, but this has had no effect.
I myself try never to use the term "genocide" unless it completely fulfills the legal definition of genocide as in the case of Rwanda. In Darfur there is a major debate whether the situation there is genocide or not. This, to my thinking, is a complete distraction from the real issue of solving the problem in Darfur.
If you are killed, you are dead regardless whether it is genocide or not. It is the deaths from violence, whether by a government or rebel groups, which we must focus on and attempt to end.
In the case of Kenya, the term "genocide" should not be used by anyone. If you hear the term being used, then you know it is propaganda.
CoordinatorAfrican Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace Teams
zarembka message 9b (day nine second message)
On the political front nothing much seems to be happening. Here we are the same with notravel outside the immediate area.We made our usual walk around the town this morning. At the school, we were told thatanother ten internally displaced people arrived during the night. Otherwise all was calm and well at the school.
Bainito Wamalwa from Eldoret called and said that the central city in Eldoret was better as a few shops were open and yesterday the banks were open for one to two hours. He said that they are bringing in the bodies to the morgue.
There is still conflict in some ofthe suburbs of Eldoret. Friends in England are sending 500 pounds to Bainito to help withthe IDP's (internally displaced persons) in the Friends Church there and I'll also receive500 pounds to help where I feel it is most needed. Getting the funds from the bank inEldoret to me will be challenge. Bainito sambaza’d me 200/- of airtime so he is now mybig buddy even though I haven't met him yet. He was going to drive by Lumakanda on his way to Kitale, but heard that it was unsafe to pass through Turbo.
A relative called from Nairobi who said things are calming down there, but a bus headedfor the west (i.e. with mostly Luo, Kalenjin, and Luhya passengers) was torched inNakuru (a Kikuyu dominated area) and everyone died.
At this point, since I have not heard anything about this elsewhere, I would consider the incident as not confirmed.The big event for the day was that our neighbors (five miles away but in Lugari District)
Florence and Alfred Machayo dropped by to see us. They had gotten a little fuel for their car--not enough to get to Kakamega and back--and decided to use it to see what washappening in the area. They went to Turbo: while there, they encountered a caravan offifty or so big trucks headed for Uganda with an army escort. Nonetheless the army people felt uncertain and inquired about the conditions on the road. Almost nothing inTurbo is open. They also said that anyone who rented a Kikuyu owned house was burnedout just like the others; so some of the IDP's are Luhyas and Kalenjins. They also told usthat on the night of the election a Kikuyu had parked a truck in their compound. Area youth informed them that they were sympathizers and if they continued with this, theyouth would burn the Kikuyu truck and as “punishment” their own car. A Kalenji nneighbor had agreed to take care of a few Kikuyu cows, but these were stolen along with his own as "punishment". Florence and Alfred have concluded that any relief work should be done through the Friends Church so as not to put people into jeopardy.
Joy (my daughter in D.C.) has arranged for me to be interviewed on WPFW on Sundayfor a program called "Africa Now." Since people can call me without cost to me, perhapsother people might want to arrange for radio interviews elsewhere. Our grandchildren, Eugene (7) and Danny (5), showed up for the weekend; their mother,Beverly, will come later today.
CoordinatorAfrican Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace Teams
Zarembka message 9a
Understanding the Violence in Kenya
Mwai Kibaki says that he will not negotiate until the violence has subsided. He is promoting the assumption that it is his opponents, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), that is orchestrating the violence. In fact the violence is counterproductive for ODM. Raila Odinga (Luo, Nyanza Province), Musalia Mudavadi (Luhya, Western Province), and William Ruto (Kalenjin, Rift Valley Province) had all called repeatedly for the end of the violence.
What are the factors that have made the violence occur? It is common practice in Kenya for a mob to kill a suspected thief. A case like this is reported in the newspaper every day or two. If a person calls out "Thief, thief" and a young man runs, a huge crowd will capture the accused thief and beat him to death unless the police are able to arrive quickly enough to save the person.
I was horrified in the late 1960's when I heard then President Jomo Kenyatta speaking in Machakos supporting this practice: "Catch the thief and put this face in the mud." I myself have seen a mob run after the thief--really he has no chance of escape.
When Joy (my daughter) was in Nairobi in 1994, she knew of a young man who was caught and a stone dropped on his chest--he died. Recently the papers reported that two supposed thieves were killed by a mob in Lugari District in an area far from Lumakanda. The explanation given is that the police are corrupt and if a thief is turned in, he bribes the police and is out on the street that same day. Therefore people turn to vigilante justice. I don't completely buy this justification. For this to happen, Kenyan society must condone the basic principle that it is okay for a mob to kill someone. This, of course, is a necessary condition for the rioting and killing that is now occurring.
In any peacemaking work that will be done in Kenya, one of the first concerns will have to be to confront the acceptance of vigilante justice.Another aspect is the fact that in the 1970's and 1980's Kenya had a very high birth rate. Men born during this time are now the youth; defined in Kenya as anyone under 35 years of age. When one looks at the tree of age distribution, one will find that for Kenya there is a big bulge during the youth years of 18 to 35. In other words, there is a proportionally larger number of youth in the society than would usually be considered normal. Another aspect is that a certain percentage of these youth have parents who have died of the AIDS epidemic in the 1990's and the 2000's. In short, the older generation -- which should be guiding the younger generation in constructive ways -- is much smaller than would be expected. The youth lack guidance and control.
One must also remember that, until 2003, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund pressured Kenya not to hire more teachers and not to promote education since this was considered fiscally irresponsible. Consequently many of the youth mentioned above have had inadequate schooling.
It was only in 2003 with the Kibaki victory that Kenya felt able to defy the World Bank and IMF and introduce free primary education. Approximately a million extra students enrolled in Kenyan primary schools. All the political parties in this election have promised to make secondary school education also free beginning this year.
In Lumakanda town there are a certain number of crazy people. One in particular, a rather tall, young man, speaks to me when he sees me: in extremely good English. Only his English doesn't make any sense. I once asked him his name and he replied with twenty or so names including "Kibaki" and "Mandela." One day he asked me if I wanted to go see the marijuana plants. Marijuana grows everywhere and is readily available. Likewise a cheap distilled local brew, called "changaa" in Swahili, is easily obtainable. In the last few years, Gladys has had an uncle and a cousin who died of "changaa" spiced with methanol alcohol. Although this could be considered a case of murder against the brewers who spiced the "changaa" it is not even seen as a crime since drunks are really no service to society anyway.
The point is that there is a lot of potent alcohol and drugs available to the youth. Even in peaceful times the consequences from this are devastating. Then, when the opportunity for violence arises, those youth in the drug/alcohol culture are the "troops" of the mob.
Then, as before, we need to return to the matatu (mini-bus) business where most of the conductors are Kikuyu. There are designated stops for the matatus along the road --Lumakanda is one. Each stop has five to ten (and in the cities such as Kakamega they seem uncountable) young people called "tauts" who escort you to your matatu, carry your bag (I don't let them carry mine), and put you into the matatu. They are "tipped" about 10 shillings for each person they bring in. But this is really extortion because, for example in my case, I know exactly which matatu to get into and the taut pretends to have brought me in order to get the tip. The relationship between the conductor and the taut is terrible. Sometimes the conductors refuse to pay, resulting in loud arguments. As the matatu pulls away, tauts jump on the doorway before the door is closed demanding their tip. I have seen the conductors throw the tip on the ground.
When the Kibaki government first came into power, they revised the rules for the matatus and tauts were abolished. But they quickly returned and are now as common as before. Usually these tauts are drunk, particularly in the later afternoon. But when the conflict begins, it is not at all surprising that the first target of destruction is the matatus being burnt by the tauts; I saw eight plumes of smoke from burning matatus in and near Mbale shortly after the election results were announced.
In normal times as you walk around the town and through the countryside, you see many small groups of young men, doing nothing. What life, what future, and what investment do they have in the status quo? Nothing. For these youth, it also must be remembered, looting is a very lucrative business.The violence seen now is always there, just below the surface, erupting frequently on a small scale. The political tension from the election is nothing more than an excuse to ignite the violence on a massive scale. The violence is done by a small percentage of the population, even by a small percentage of the youth. But people here feel as helpless about how to control this violence as you all do thousands of miles away.
Everyone I know here in Lumakanda condemns the violence. They well know that the violence against the local Kikuyu, whom they all know and associate with on a daily basis, is unjustified. People, including Gladys, say that it is only God who can bring back the peace.
CoordinatorAfrican Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace Teams
Message from Zarembka #8b
This is my second report for today.
The radio is saying that 355 people have died and150,000 have been displaced in Kenya since the election on Dec 27. I think this is a grossunderestimate, as I will indicate below. The radio also reports that things are calming down. While this may be true in Nairobi and the other cities, it is not the case here in the countryside, as again I will indicate below.
At 5:00 pm, Gladys and I went on my usual walk around town. Naturally we stopped bythe school where the displaced people have moved, as I mentioned in my email earliertoday. When we went in, we noticed that there were eight Red Cross personnel.Fortunately, we had met Herman, the Red Cross leader, previously -- in better times. So he was willing to be quite open with us and consequently the other Red Cross workerswere open as well.
Here is what we learned.I really am a bad estimator. I thought there might be a few hundred displaced persons. No, there are 2,506 at the school. There are a total of seven camps in the district. The one in Turbo (a hard-hit town near us) has 15,000 at the police station. Another camp has 5,000, another 4,000, another 2000, and then a few with only hundreds. This totals over 30,000 people and this is only one district; and not a particularly hard hit district as many in the Rift Valley are. So the total of 150,000 for the country must be an underestimate. I figure there are about 200,000 people in the district so this means that 15% of the population is displaced. I asked what the people would do when things calmed down. Would they go back to their homes or return to Nairobi and Central Province? The answer was that they had nowhere to go back to since they were born in Lugari District and had lived there their whole lives. Many had moved to Lugari District during the colonial period to work on the farms of the British settlers. The population in the camps had divided up according to the place they came from.
One section was for the men and the other for the women and children. There are about 25 classrooms in the school so this means each classroom will have about 100 people in it. There are a lot of children. I was also told that people are still coming in and that there are many still in the countryside who had not yet reached the camps. I also learned that some were not Kikuyu; if you are married to a Kikuyu (husband or wife), you would also be targeted.
Gladys and the Red Cross workers pointed out some of the Luhya in the camp.The Red Cross has not sent any assistance yet and there was a shortage of food in thecamp. A large truck drove up while we were there with many bags of maize. We weretold that someone had gotten these from his storehouse. But we were also told of one man who had over 100 bags of maize burned (along, of course, with his house). Most of the people had run away with just what they were wearing and had lost everything; so, there is even a shortage of clothing, cooking and eating utensils. Some children have been separated from their parents and one thing the Red Cross is doing is trying to reunite the children with their parents--in the meantime the children are being assigned to a new "family" to look after them.
They reported that there are cases of cholera which means unhygienic conditions. Therewere definitely not an adequate number of latrines at the police station. The school had a large number, although I'm not sure if they will be adequate, particularly in the long run.One of the issues for the Red Cross workers is that they didn't know how long this would last--would the situation be resolved in a day or two, a week or more, a month or even longer?
It is therefore difficult to plan. I wonder, even after the situation has calmed down, how long will it take for people to return to their homes. Herman, the Red Cross leader, said that they would return home because a home can be rebuilt. But how long will that take and will people have the resources to do this?
We then went to the hospital to see Festus Ngetich, the medical officer in charge, who we knew from the time when my mother-in-law was sick. He was not in. The women's ward, which had only a few people when my mother-in-law was sick, was now completely filled. As we were walking back to our house, the big transit goods truck parked at the police station slowly drove by on its way to Malaba and Uganda. I wondered why they waited until dusk to leave.We then met Festus (medical officer in charge) on the road. Yes, there were cases of cholera, but they were not too bad, but he expected them to get worse as time went on. He was working day and night. He had no blood supply so he was sending wounded patients in need of blood to Webuye, a town about 30 minutes away with a better hospital. The ambulance, he said, was going back and forth day and night, but what would happen when the tank of petrol (gas) was finished? This implied that people who needed a transfusion would the not survive.
On Sunday night there were many wounded at the hospital--some died, but he said, "There were many wounded people last night also" clearly indicating that the fighting was still going on in the countryside. He pointed in a northeast direction to illustrate where many of the wounded came from. He was clearly weary, doing as best he could in the circumstances, and as befuddled as everyone else as to how this could happen.Gladys bought some tomatoes and a half kilo of beef as we walked the last block to our house.
CoordinatorAfrican Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace Teams
Message from Zarembka # 8a
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?
CoordinatorAfrican Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace Teams
The Latest Zarembka e-mail - January 4
In Nairobi today it seems that the riot police, using tear gas and water cannons, stopped the rally planned in Uhuru Park to inaugurate Raila as president. The ODM called off the rally, but promised to do it another time.
Gladys told me that one of the reasons not many people are going shopping is that there are few goods left in the shops--particularly, I think, food. What is available is sold at inflated prices. The town is running out of "greens" which usually come from near Eldoret.
A woman went out to the fields and picked local greens and filled a gunny sack--Gladys says these were immediately bought up.
As to Eldoret, I received this from Bainito Wamalwa "As I speak now, the Friends Church in Eldoret has 62 families who are displaced by some of them having their houses burnt. They have no shelter, food and other basics. As I said earlier, there is no way to enter or exit Eldoret now. The food prices have gone more than tripple high. Things are not right here."
And Eden Grace reports on the situation in Kisumu:"Here in Kisumu, Kenya's third largest city, most of the shops and businesses along the main road have been destroyed and looted. Many are now burned-out hulks, and looters are pulling metal for scrap out of what little structure remains. The transportation network has been disrupted so many goods are no longer distributed. Queues are long to buy flour where people still can. Food and fuel are hard to come by. Cell phone air time has been sold out in Kisumu and elsewhere, so most people cannot even use their phones."There is a meeting tomorrow morning of all Americans citizens in Kisumu. There were plans for the Americans to evaculate to Uganda at 5:00 AM this morning under armed escort, but this did not work out. Since fuel travels to Uganda, Rwanda, and North Kivu from Eldoret, these countries are running short of fuel."
Barbara Wybar reports that in Uganda the cost of travel on buses/matatus has doubled.
In Lugari District, in a town far from us, 6 youth were killed by the police yesterday. Turbo is thenext town on the road towards Eldoret and we have been told that the violence there was even worse than Kipkarren River. We also heard that the police there have divided into two groups--a Kikuyu group and a group of all the others. If this really begins to happen, then an actual civil war becomes a possibility. The police have been on high alert since the day before the election so they must be getting worn out and tired people are less likely to show restraint.
Nobel Peace Prize winner, Desmond Tutu, from South Africa has arrived in Nairobi, hoping to mediate, but since he made his speech asking for the end of the violence from the ODM offices, I am not sure that he will be acceptable to the Kibaki side.
Tomorrow is another day and we will see what it brings.
CoordinatorAfrican Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace Teams
From the Silly Poor Gospel International Desk
is the Coordinator of the
African Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace Teams.
He is living in Western Kenya with his Kenyan wife Gladys.
He is writing daily on the situation there, although he may be about to run out of the calling cards that fuel his computer.
Here is his very informative background summary on the situation.
There are more Quakers in Kenya than anywhere else on Earth.
We have seven days of messages which will be posted if anyone comments on this post and asks for more.
I suspect that many of you do not have a clear understanding why a rigged election could produce such violence as burning women and children alive in a church. This email is to give a brief historical background of why Kenya has seemingly so suddenly erupted into ethnic violence.
The British colonized Kenya early in the 20th Century. The nature ofcolonialism was total control from a strong center. In the case of Kenya,there were British settlers, few in actual numbers, but each controlling large estates. To run these estates and have the comfortable life that they wished, they needed lots of labor; the cheaper the better. So the colonial Government put a tax on each adult male where he had to work six months per year to pay the tax which was then used for the benefit of the settlers.
The settlers were harsh and cruel to their African laborers.The Kikuyu homeland is on the slopes of Mount Kenya. The amount of land they had was small for the population and consequently many of them were forced onto the settler's estates to work for them.
But the Kikuyu, as everyone admits, are a very industrious, hard-working people who early onsaw the benefits of education. Others became the low-level functionaries that any Government needs. During the WWII many young men were drafted into the British army (my father-in-law was in Malawi and Burma!) and served wherever needed.
Their eyes were opened by what they saw and when they returned to Kenya after the war, they found that they were given the same menial, low-paying dead end work.
By the early 1950's this dissatisfaction gave rise to a protest movement called "Mau Mau." This was mostly among the Kikuyu. They forced people to take an oath to oppose the British rule. Perhaps 90% of the Kikuyu in Central Province on Mount Kenya took the oath, willingly and unwillingly. The remaining 10% were the loyalists who worked for the British colonial Government.
Although Jomo Kenyatta was jailed as a Mau Mau leader, they soon realized that he was really a loyalist--his son, Peter Kenyatta, with Jomo Kenyatta's blessing, was one of the leaders of the loyalists. Kenyatta was separated from the other Mau Mau leaders.The suppression of Mau Mau was brutal in extreme.
Percentage wise more people died during the suppression of Mau Mau during the 1950's than during the 1994 Rwandan genocide--torture was prevalent, women and children were put into concentration camps with little food and medical care. Large numbers died.
No one should be under the illusion that theBritish were "better" colonialists than the Germans or Belgians. The technique the British used here was to deny everything with massive cover-ups. Much of this history is only now being uncovered.
During this same time, the British implemented land consolidation inCentral Province. The result was that the loyalists received nice, large land holdings at the expense of the Mau Mau people who were in jail. When they returned they found that most of their land was lost. With only Small fragments of land remaining they were unable to support their Families And were forced either to work for the Kikuyu loyalists or to emigrate to other parts of Kenya which were not so heavily populated--in particular many went to the Rift Valley province.
Some of the most successful loyalists went into business, using the dispossessed Kikuyu to do the labor that they needed. In particular, the Kikuyu many times replaced Indian shopkeepers in small towns and villages. As I will discuss below, many more became the conductors and drivers of the matatus (mini-buses) that dominate Kenya land travel. By now, some of these businessmen have become tycoons.
The British, at the time of independence in 1963, handed the Government to their loyalist supporters. The Kikuyu business tycoons and the Kikuyu political establishment formed a strong bond during the Kenyatta presidency. When Moi, a Kalenjin, took over on Kenyatta's death, he quickly made a deal with the Kikuyu establishment that he would not bother their businesses and they agreed to let him on the Kenyan gravy train, which included gigantic corruption and looting of Government funds.
Kibaki was at one time part of both the Kenyatta and Moi Governments.When people -- including the Kikuyu elite -- got tired of Moi, they tried to replace him.
In 1992 and 1997 Moi divided and conquered the opposition. One of the techniques Moi used was to promote violence in his homeland of Rift Valley. In 1992 perhaps 1000 Luo, Luhya, and Kikuyu were killed by the Kalenjins and more than 100,000 were made homeless (including Malesi Kinaro).
As with the British rule, the Government closed the Rift Valley province to everyone and little is known of the details. When it was over, everything was publicly covered up, but everyone is still very tense, right up to now.
As we can learn from the developments that led to the Rwandan genocide, each cycle of violence increases over the previous one. I have no doubt that this is why the people were burned in the church in Rift Valley rather than elsewhere.
But in 2002 Moi was too old for another term and he selected Kenyatta's son, Uhuru Kenyatta, to run for the presidency. The opposition this time decided not to become divided, but united under Kibaki and soundly defeated Uhuru Kenyatta. At this point Kibaki had the opportunity to bring all Kenyans together as a real nation, but he soon dropped all the non-Kikuyu who had helped him into office and the controlling clique became a group of Kikuyu politicians and businessmen.
So, in 2007, the others (Luo, Luhya, and Kalenjin)who felt betrayed by Kibaki, joined together in the ODM (Orange DemocraticMovement) to oppose Kibaki. Musyoka, a Kamba, stayed out of the coalition and formed his own party--ODM-Kenya.
To summarize, since independence the Kikuyu have directly or indirectly controlled the Government and controlled Kenyan business. Through this time, they continued and promoted the centralized system ofGovernment given to them by the British. The President was all powerful,as he controlled the executive, legislative and judicial branches of Government. It was a hybrid presidential and parliamentary system withthe President being all powerful.
The 2007 election campaign revolved around "devolvement" meaning decentralizing. Naturally Kibaki and the Kikuyu opposed this since this meant giving up their power to the periphery.
Let us return to the matatu business. There are 80,000 matatus on Kenyan roads, most of which are owned and operated by Kikuyu. I estimate (I sit a lot in the matatus and have ample time to analyze the business) that a matatu has an income of $100,000 per year: on average each Kenyan spends over $200 per year for matutu transportation. The conductor rents the vehicle for the day, including the driver, and pays for gas and other expenses keeping whatever is left over at the end of the day. So, he has to push and push to make sure that he doesn't actually lose money. The relationship between the conductor-- who is always trying to increase the price of the ride, stuff more people into the vehicle, and get the driver to go faster -- leads to amazing antagonism. There is no customer service, but customer dis-service. The riders continually believe that they are being abused and taken advantage of. This happens almost every time one gets into a matatu.
So it is payback time. It is amazing how only Kikuyu shops and homes were burned and everyone else left intact. Those at the bottom are taking it out on those whom they feel are on top. They have no contact with the Kikuyu tycoons and politicians and so they are taking the pent-up rage of forty-four years of independence out on the average Kikuyu in their community. The Kikuyu are then retaliating by killing the other ethnic groups that happen to live in their communities. This also explains why Kibaki (read the Kikuyu elite) wished to stay in power by rigging the election--they will be the losers.
At stake here is continuing with the status quo with the Kikuyu on top or changing the essential nature of the Government so that everyone has its piece (but will the Kikuyu be allowed their fair share or will they be punished).
Malesi Kinaro will want me to throw in another part of the mix. With the large population increase in the past, there are many youth. Many ofthese have been educated to the secondary level or even above and then they are left with nothing to do, alienated from Kenyan society. These are the shock troops of the rioters and looters. They see no future so they can easily be turned to violence. This is the tinder and the spark was the announcement that Kibaki won what everyone in western Kenya considers was a rigged election. The youth waited until the result was announced on the radio and then immediately attacked matatus (I saw the plumes of 8 burning matatus), Kikuyu shops and homes, and then the Kikuyu themselves.
Hope this helps you to understand the situation some.
David Zarembka, CoordinatorAfrican Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace Teams