Letter from Turkana: missionary priest writes from northern Kenya

Fr Stephen, who works With the St Paul's Missionary Community a remote mission station next to the borders with Sudan and Ethiopia, writes:

Greetings from Turkana and I would like to wish you a Happy New Year. First is to assure you that here in Turkana, we have been fine and that the violence has not spilled over. We are though affected since we have not been receiving supplies for the last days, since the roads leading to Turkana has been cut off, food truck burnt on their way. We envisage more a acute problem of hunger here in Turkana for lack of supplies, if the current political stalemate is not brought to nought.

I would like to share with you some reflections apart from the news you have been seeing on Kenya, a country that has always been seem as a beacon of hope, a haven of peace in Sub-Saharan Africa, where many countries counted upon it to prevent their own wars. But now we are the ones asking for international mediation. What went wrong, what has dashed very many hopes, killed many dreams and lives and brought the country to a brink it had never been witnessed before????

All these chaos was brought about by the just concluded General Elections, in specific to the presidential elections. It seems there was evidence of malpractice in the tallying of the votes and rigging was exercised. This therefore has turned the country into chaos.

There are different elements to be seen in all these chaos.

1. The most popular aspect is the poverty in the country. Many people have taken advantage of the situation to loot foodstores and shops. In a country where more than a half of the population is living with less than a dollar a day, poverty has accelerated the anarchy. This is seem mostly in urban areas where many people live on slum areas.

2. The political spectrum in this country is unfortunately divided between tribal lines. We have not yet reach the stage of political ideologies. We do not have left wing or right wing political thoughts. All there is, are tribes. Many people see the benefit of political power to benefit those of ones community. In this sense, therefore, tribal conflicts has been evidence in all these chaos. But again this division is more pronounced among the poor neighbourhoods, slums. and in rural areas where tribal attachment is more evident like in Kericho.

Many people are venting their anger therefore to the Kikuyus who are seen as the only ones who have benefited a lot for the last 40 years.

3. There are people who manifest and are bitter on how the whole business of the elections was done and they go out of the streets to protest. While many more are clued in front of their TVs masmerised by these unfolding events. I have friends from a cross-section of the country and I speak to them regularly, some live in mixed neighbourhood, of affluent background, and they have not witnessed any cases of violence among then. In neighbourboods like upper class Nairobi or even Eldoret, people live together without any tribal hatred.

4. The fact that our politicians are very highly paid, their own ambitions and need for quick riches, has made them power hunger and do not care how many people are killed before they attain their selfish goals. As long as a quick solution should be looked into, and this current political fall-out be addressed, a more permanent solution need to be addressed in situation of poverty and hunger in the country.

If we improve the lives of the people, I am sure we will make a yardstick in sustaining peace. My family living in Kisumu, Nairobi and Mombasa, some of the most affected towns. They are safe where they are. But they are cut off without transport and supplies. I speak to them often. Kisumu looks desolate and burnt out. Shops burnt, houses ruined and hospital full with children and women with gunshots from the police. Where my parents stay, its been safe so far but they mentioned that the trouble was brewing yesterday after Kibaki named his cabinet. What is happening to the mediations talks.

As we celebrate Epiphany, we have prayed that Christ be a true light to the people of Kenya. . We are lucky that where we are the trouble has not reached us, but many people have lost their lives and homes. The most uncouth being the killing of women and children in a church at Eldoret.

I would like to ask you to join us to pray for this country so that peace may resume. Wish you well in your endeavour and hope to hear from you.

Thank you for your concern. The children we are supporting were here in Turkana with me for Christmas holidays. They will be going back to Kisumu next week after we have ascertained that the road will be safe.

If you would like to make a donation to the work of the St Paul's Missionary Community please visit: www.newways.org.uk

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