Pray for Kenya, pray for us

News from the Kenyan Foucauld family, written by Peter Mbuchi Methu, a member of the International Team of the Lay Fraternities of Charles de Foucauld.

Greetings from a Kenya, a country at war with itself, in the aftermath of the last General Elections held on 27th Dec. 2007!

All members of the Kenya Kenyan Foucauld family are relatively safe. We are able to communicate only through mobile telephone. Most other lines have been either broken down or vandalized. The Little Sisters of Jesus in Kibera community have been staying with their sisters at South B until Friday when they returned.

Last night, we here in the family and our neighbours slept late on account of gunshots from a neighbouring slum settlement. The victims of structural injustice have turned upon themselves. The gunshots sounded like fierce exchange of fire between armed combatants. They were not like the usual gunshots fired to scare off combatants or looters.

Poverty is the worst form of violence

"Poverty is the worst form of violence", said Mahatma Gandhi. The truth of his awareness is laid bare by what is happening next door, and everywhere in the slums here in Nairobi and countrywide. The rural areas where different ethnic communities have lived together for long are even worse. The empty rhetoric of politicians has activated our raw instincts of violence. I spent the last two weeks assisting at a monastery in Kipkelion (Rift Valley), to avoid an attack on over 600 internally displaced persons who have taken refuge in the compound. I learnt about their plight through a brother who had been trapped there when the monastery was invaded during his retreat.

Using our contacts here in Nairobi and by calling police emergency numbers, we were able to mobilise transport of food and medicine as well as extra security forces to contain the mayhem. Over the weekend 10 people were hacked to death in the neighbourhood of the monastery. Thousands of homes and property, including crops ready for harvest, have been burned down and thousands of livestock stolen. Tens of thousands of internally displaced people are sleeping in the open. The weather is not cooperating. January is usually a very dry and hot month: this year, especially during the last few days, it has been too cold for the tropics, and wet!

Here in Nairobi, violent clashes are limited to Kibera slums in the western part of the city and the Mathare slums and their neighbourhood in Eastlands. We live in the neighbourhood of Mathare and its environs, although our rented house is in an estate that used to be inhabited by lower middle class families. The anti riot police you see on TV screens seem to have been instructed to ensure that slum dwellers, especially the youth, are restrained from leaving their ‘homes’ to participate in the ‘peaceful’ mass action rallies called by the opposition. So far the slum village we work in, Kamande, next to Kiambiu, has refused to give in to violence. We thank God for that.

Kenya is a country torn between the rich and poor

Abject poverty has reduced millions of Kenyans, at least 8 million of them, into a subhuman level of material existence. So far, most of the rallies here in Nairobi and Kisumu in western Kenya have turned out violent. It is not clear how long the situation will be 'contained'. In any case, the factors that breed hatred, and result in violent confrontation remain.

By last Friday, there were reports that over 1,500 women and children have been raped in the mayhem. It makes one helpless and sick at heart to see all this violence. Yesterday the leader of the opposition requested the poor to stop the violence amongst themselves, but instead to direct it to the rich (sic). It is officially estimated that about 700 hundred people have been brutally killed in cold blood. It is a week since schools officially opened: Thousands of children from the poor families will have no schools to go back to. Hundreds of them have been orphaned.

Thousands of Kenyans have been rendered jobless as businesses close down. During the last three weeks, Kenya has lost the equivalent of one fifth of its annual national budget.

Pray for Kenya, pray for us.

[See an article that gives a fair analysis on Kenya for those of you who might feel the need for a deeper assessment of what is happening here.]