Archive for the ‘Election Violence’ Category

The Ol’ Kenyan Boot

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Sorry about the delay in this blog, I wanted to surprise a number of people first. But in essense, this blog states that I am now back in the ol’ Seattle area. That’s right, Kenya decided they didn’t want me, or rather, that it was best if I wasn’t around in case things got worse. Surprise!

Arrived back home last Sunday to be exact, Feb 2nd I do believe. Surprised my parents and brother rather well as they didn’t know I was coming back. Dan and Dad just stared at me for a couple seconds with a good look on their faces, Mom naturally had some tears and complained about how skinny I was (I think that was the first thing she said!)

Story:
Jan 31st
So, this may seem a bit sudden, and it seems that way because it is. From my being notified that we were leaving to arriving back home was a span of about 100 hours. Jan 31st started out as a normal day, and I was in the orchard with some of the boys working with a hoe around the trees. We were working some cow manure into the ground for fertilizer. Steve, a German gent, came by and picked me up in the Tractor saying “we’re leaving this weekend”, which was news to me. Within a couple hours “we’re leaving this weekend” turned into “volunteers leaving tomorrow” to “all Westerners leaving tomorrow” to “get ready tonight, you got 1/2 hour”. What we ended up doing was riding to a ministry (DOM: Disciples of Mercy) in Kisumu with a military guard. Not armored vehicles or anything, just a couple guys in camo with rifles; rifles meaning guns with 2inch bullets. Just on the outskirts of Kisumu we switched vehicles to a DOM van with no guard and entered Kisumu. We switched as a road block was set up and I guess the DOM van was allowed to pass back and forth. The primary reason for the fast exodus was because a 2nd Member of Parliament was killed within 36 hours of the first one. The Farm manager was in Kisumu when the news hit and the people in Kisumu weren’t too fond of hearing that a second MP of theirs was killed. Kisumu wasn’t the best place to be. I guess within 5 minutes of the news hitting, Kisumu had road blocks everywhere and more burning. Given that there’s a decent chance that the MPs were killed for political reasons, and that it was unknown if more were going to be killed; it was decided that we should leave while we can. Thankfully, it appears that things haven’t gotten much worse, and no more opposition MPs have been killed, but Kenya is still in turmoil.

Feb 1st:
So we stayed the night at the DOM compound and the next morning around 5:45, under cover of darkness, bogarted it over to the Kisumu airport. From Kisumu, we took a half hour flight to Nairobi where the others got flights out. Unfortunately, as Seattle is asleep when I’m awake, and awake when I’m asleep, I wasn’t able to get a ticket for that same day and ticket changing was somewhat difficult (send an email one day, get reply back next day kinda thing). The travel agency was thankfully very flexible and got me a ticket for Feb 2nd, in the evening. I got a ride to a 20dollar a night hotel in the city center and spent a couple hours before dark in the city center. I had a rough night though. I went to bed around 9:30, a little early, but not to abnormal of a bed time for me while in Kenya, but only slept till 12:30 and was awake till 5 when I fell asleep again till 7. Those 4.5 hours my mind was awake and racing I couldn’t fall asleep again no matter what. Not like I had anything else to do either so I was bored out of my mind as well. Sucked hardcore.

Feb 2nd:
Spent the morning in the city as well, enjoyed some good city food, talked to some of the local shop owners about politics and all that jazz. Funny, people always wanna know how America does democracy and how come we aren’t ours isn’t corrupt like their government is. I think my response to that was “American democracy is corrupt as well, and we rig elections too, but we do with with style so the people don’t care so much”. Which is true and sad, but I still thought it was ironically humorous. I got a ride back to the airport around 11 and confirmed that my tickets existed, then had to sit around till the 6:10pm flight. I got their so early, because I wasn’t sure at this point of I was actually ‘on’ the 6:10 flight, and if I wasn’t, I wanted time to get on it.

So, only a short 2 hour flight to Ethiopia with a 2hour layover and I was on my way back to the states. Granted, from Feb 2nd, 6:10pm Nairobi time to Feb 3rd, 3:45pm Seattle time is 32.5 hours, which is a lot of time on an airplane. A LOT! Sucky flight, bored out of my mind most of the time and as I couldn’t sleep (can’t sleep much on an airplane) I was also sleep deprived which meant mentally unstable. Thank God for movies. But still, on a 32.5 hour flight, the 3 movies I watched only account for 15% of the time, which is too small. Anywhoo, I’m relieved to be home and no longer crammed on a plane.

Now Back Home:
Since this will get read by a decent (I think) number of people, I’ll take this chance to also throw out that I will shortly be looking for a place to stay again. If anyone knows of a place that has a garage or workspace that I could also rent, let me know. I’m very keen on finding a place that allows me to work on little pet projects. Everything else is pretty much negotiable (room size, roommates type, blah blah), heck, I don’t even care if I gotta sleep in the garage/workshop. While that’s probably not legal, but I won’t tell if you won’t tell! đŸ™‚ As for me as a roommate, I can be a hermit a majority of the time, quiet, clean, and all that. If you need a reference, with my ex-roommates permission, I will give out his contact info to those that ask.

Also, I got my old phone back up and running. Same number and all.

Oh, and yes, it’s friggin’ cold here. but now after about a week I’m starting to re-adapt to it. but those first few days were pretty harsh, I thought I couldn’t get warm. In fact, I was only really warm after a scalding shower, in which, like a snake, I would absorb heat energy with which I would stay warm for about an hour after words and then freeze again.

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On my Soapbox – Forgiveness

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

So I was asked to give the ‘sermon’ for morning devotions last Thursday (1 week ago). We have a morning ‘devotion’ monday through friday at 7am. Fairly short, less than 20 minutes. Usually it’s just a couple songs, a short “sermon” or talking point that someone gives, and announcements for the day.

The subject I chose for the devotion was on forgiveness. Props go to Mr. Mike Saia for giving me my initial teaching on this. I didn’t do it justice in 4 minutes, but hey, the basics are easy enough.

But anyways, let me get on my soapbox and get all “into yo’ face.” I gave my devotion on Forgiveness because I think understanding forgiveness is huge. Especially for areas where violent behavior and tribal warfare is occuring. With the way some Kenyan’s treat eachother, no one forgiving anyone, generationally not forgiving others, it’s easy to see how tribal violence could escalate from a stupid election. The key point I gave was that is is equally important to ask for forgiveness as it is to accept forgiveness. If one doesn’t ask for forgiveness, you can’t be forgiven. And you can’t forgive someone without them asking you for forgiveness and repenting.

Some people disagree with that conclusion, that you can’t forgive someone unless they ask. But whether you agree or not, I am not saying that it is okay to be bitter and hold it against someone. But to be like the Lord as quoted in Psalms, “ready to forgive”. God doesn’t hold things against me, He isn’t bitter about what I do, I have consequences for my actions, but by asking for forgiveness, mercy is available.

Psalms 86:5
For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.

Forgiveness is huge I can’t express how big it is. I believe unforgiveness is one of the root causes of the violence in Kenya, one of the root causes of tribalism, racism, and many other ‘isms’ and such bigoty that seperates man from man, woman from child. When you don’t forgive, and aren’t willing to forgive, you do no harm to that person who wronged you. That is another key point. Worth repeating.

When you don’t forgive, and aren’t willing to forgive, you do no harm to that person who wronged you. People often don’t understand this. They think, “they hurt me, I’m not going to forgive them”. Makes me laugh. They hurt you, so what do you go and do? Continue to hurt yourself? Idiot. What does it matter to the person who wronged you? If they repent, then they’re in the clear, it helps them significantly if you accept their forgiveness and repentance, but if you don’t, they’ve done their part. They can go about their life. They’ve repented and are now back on track with life and improving it therein. Yet you’re stuck with this unforgiveness which creates all kinds of unpleasantness in you. You hold on to unforgiveness and you’ll be a bitter old rocking chair man, or a bitter old hag. Don’t be.

Maybe not even a hag or old bitter man, maybe instead you transfer your bitterness towards one man to your son, and he applies that to that man’s tribe/race/color/fingernail size/whatever. It’s common enough to hear about something that so and so did to your father’s father’s aunt’s cousin. So you want to kill their entire tribe.

Seriously, following Christ’s example of forgiveness will cure you of your hate. And for those Christians out there who practice such bigotry, shame on you. Re-read the Bible.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
-Matthew 6:14-15

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Election Fun Times!

Friday, January 4th, 2008

Voting Day!
On December 27th, 2 days after Christmas, 1 day after Boxing Day (I didn’t get to box anyone unfortunately) Kenyans turned out in record numbers to vote. All the weeks prior to this people have been going nuts about the elections. Signs are everywhere. Hats and clothing depicting their candidates are commonly seen. People in trucks often drive by yelling and screaming. It quickly become ‘part of the ordinary’. The primary candidates are/were

Mwai Kibaki (Incumbent)

Party of National Unity (PNU)
and

Raila Odinga (Primary opposition)
Orange Democratic Movement (ODM)

Note that both of these parties are new and their histories are complicated. If anyone is interested in knowing more specifics on the history behind these candidates and their parties, post a comment and I’ll write a blog about it. Otherwise I’m not gonna spend time on something that no one but me cares about. What can I say, I love politics. Well, actually I despise politics. I love political theory I guess, not politics.

Short History
Anywhoo, so the main driving force behind each Party was as follows. The Party of National Unity, PNU, was for the status quo. The Orange Democratic Movement, ODM (note that ODM is a different party then ODM-Kenya, incase you see ODM-K in an article, it is NOT ODM), represents a desire for Change. Thus, essentially those that liked the way the current administration did things, voted for Kibaki. Those who wanted ‘Change’ voted Raila. There is a long history for both Kibaki and Raila, but the basics are that Kibaki helped draft the original constitution of Kenya was drafted after Independence and Raila has been in prison multiple times for being a ‘revolutionary’. His first prison stay was for being suspected of collaborating with the plotters of a failed coup attempt against President Moi. At the time, Kibaki was Vice President.

Lots of history as you can see, but again, essentially a vote for Raila was a ‘vote for change’ (Offical slogan of ODM) and a vote for Kibaki was a ‘vote for staus quo’ (NOT the offical slogan. Offical slogan was Tano Tena, which literally means Five Again, but in context is Five More Years of Kibaki as a presidential term is 5 years). Kenyan politics has been rife with corruption from the start (but then again, aren’t all democracies?) with the presidents usually pandering to their Tribal base (Western democracies pander to their Party base, but pretty close). Kibaki is of the tribe Kikuyu (largest tribe in Kenya) which are commonly business people but are known as theives and cheats. If this has any basis, I dunno, but I guess a majority of the tax monies go to areas where Kikuyu’s are the majority. Raila’s tribe is Luo (third largest), which is one of the largest tribes in Kenya, and they are known for their zeal, passion, and sometimes violence. Interestingly enough, Barack Obama is of Luo descent as was born in the same provice as Raila. Kenyan’s are rather excited about Obama’s run for the White House. I try not to dissuade them too much even though Obama ain’t my type. Give me a Statesman anyday, those politicians can stick with their slimy crowd.

Voting Day
December 27th, 2007, Thursday
As all the Kenyan’s went to the polls with “Change” or “I like it the way it is” on their mind, I decided to join in the fun. Going to the polling station to stand in line for awhile with some people I knew, I was asked by a guard (guard in Camo, holding a hunting rifle) if I was an observer.

ME: “uhhh, yah I’m just observing, not voting
Guard: “Come with me“.

He brings me to the front and lets me into the voting room. I stand their for a bit looking suave I’m sure, just acting like an EU Observer would act I’m sure. Standing by the door with beady eyes looking over everything. One gent came up to me, introduced himself as the PO and asked who I was,

“I’m John Jolly, good to meet you”
Apparently that wasn’t quite what he was looking for
(he shoulda been more specific) as he tried again.
“Where are you from?”
“America, the United States
“Do you have a letter?”
“uuuh, no, no letter, sorry”
…. *pause* as he stares at me ….
“It’s okay, you can stay”
“Thank you, I’ll be done shortly

So I then proceed to observe for a full cycle as one guy is let in, gets his papers, ID record all that jazz, votes then leaves. Overall I was there maybe 10 minutes. Then I left and stood back in line for awhile, then left off to the town to go find a cyber cafe if one was open. Passing the guard by the exit (same guard who let me in to the voters booths) he asked if I was done with ‘this’ polling station. I said I was and proceeded on my merry way.

December 28th, Friday
The next day was a slow day as we watched the TV most of the time for election updates. On a side note, I took a shower that afternoon, (african shower, which means you have one bucket of water that you use your hands to splash yourself with. See an earlier blog for a more graphic explanation) but after I had soaped myself up I accidently knocked the water over. Not a position I wanted to be in. Knocking the water over involved hurredly trying to get as much water off of the ground and into the bucket as I could. Not always the cleanest water. Using this I rinsed off as best as I could then had to suck down the ol’ pride, put on a towel over my soapy body and go get more water. Luckily for me everyone was entranced by the TV and no one seemed to notice my painfully white body sneaking more water from the big ol’ water tubs.

December 29th, Saturday
2 days after initial voting is when the violence started. People started getting irrated with some fairly obvious delaying and rigging of votes. Two were shot this day in Kakamega (town I was in at the time). These were police killings. Only Police and bandits have guns as owning a gun is basically illegal in Kenya. Overall the violence wasn’t too horrible anywhere but was very tense.

December 30th, Sunday
We had a small church service today. Most people stayed home for safety and the police wanted us to end early to ensure that everyone went home and didn’t stick around. The Police aren’t too fond of crowds. Peaceful or not, they don’t care. Later that day, Kibaki was declared president. This is when hell started to break loose. It wasn’t just because he was declared president, but because Raila when from a 300,000 vote lead to 300,000 votes behind with some very shady circumstances. Here’s an example of shady.

Shady Breakdown
At each polling stations, Political Parties where allowed to have an ‘agent’ there to make sure nothing shady happens. At end of the day after they observe the counting, they all sign a form (Form 16 and 16A) stating the number of votes for all candidates from that polling station. The Kikuyu tribe are primarily in 2 provices, Central and Eastern; and thus those provinces are primarily for Kibaki. A number of stations in Central and Eastern were 2 days late in turning in their vote records and often without form 16 and 16A. The where significant differences between the numbers reported on the ground and the numberes reported by the ECK, Election Commision of Kenya. In one example, Molo station gave Kibaki 60 thousand votes on the ground, but the number delivered, the “official” number was 95 thousand. A 35 thousand vote increase. Note that there were also 35 thousand people who only voted for the President and not for any of the other positions like Parlimentry seats or local officials. Shady. Anyways, a bunch of other things that were blatantly obvious.

So on the evening of December 30th Kibaki was declared president and half of Kenya exploded. Kibaki was declared president in a press conference with only the KBC media allowed (KBC is government owned). Only KBC was there because everyone else was escorted out by the GSU, (think Marines, special forces) after the Election Commission exploded into yelling due to modified voting numbers where actual proof was availabe that something had changed. At this point the road outside had a number of people on it, putting rocks on the road to act as blockaids, a big ol’ rusty trailor was dragged onto the road, some tires burned, all kinds of good stuff. But overall most people were just standing.

New Years Eve
December 31st
I saw my first soldiers/police today. I don’t know what they were but all the police I’d ever seen in Kenya wore blue. These guys were in camouflage gear with what looked like typical military hats and heavy hunting rifles. Officially the ‘army has not been deployed’ but I’d wager that was a lie. Where else did the get the troops to cover the entire country in police? The army guys searched a neighbors house but luckily did nothing. Another neighbor got his roof shot off with a ‘warning shot’. Most gunshots I heard were far enough away to just sound like fireworks that were somewhat close. I was actually surprised by how little of a natural reaction I had to the sound. No automatic ducking, and sometimes I didn’t notice the shots. But one shot was close, I didn’t see any soldiers or anything but a close rifle shot got me to duck quickly and get behind something. Which was nice to know that I do have some kind of defensive instinct. I’m guessing that shot I heard was the neighbors roof getting shot off. Neighbor as in less then a 10 second walk. Things quieted down by the evening, and for the last 5 minutes of 2007 I simply stood outside and listened. Quietest New Years I have ever experienced. In the far far distance I heard a lone drum beating. Other than that, nothing. Not even the crickets celebrated. I guess normally people are all over the streets yelling and beating drums, and generally a happy, noisy time. Not this year.

New Years
Jan 1st
Things are returning to some semblence of normalcy. Police are just guarding in the town no, no longer enforcing a “dont’ enter the town” policy. Very Very few shops are open, but people are now venturing out to see how save it is.

Jan. 2nd.
Some shops are starting to re-open. The local supermarkets are clogged with people. No bread on the shelves, no fruit, rice and flour will disappear soon. Ate cow intestine and stomach for dinner. See prior post for a more pleasant description.

Jan. 3rd
Decided that today was the best day to attempt a trek back to the Miwani Farm. Best day today because tomorrow a rally held by ODM was supposed to happen in the Capital City. Rumors are that Raila was going to be declared president. I figured the police/government wouldn’t let that happen and wanted to get out during the ‘quiet before the storm’. I took a Matatu (see prior post for description) from Kakamega to Kisumu. Overall not to eventful here. Though about a mile before Kisumu the Van pulled over and collecte a bunch of green plants that it shoved under the windshield wipers. This was to signify that they were Pro-ODM. Without those greens the Matatu would probably be mobbed, destroyed and the driver harmed or killed. The Matatu wisely didn’t enter Kisumu but stopped at the outskirts, which is luckily where I wanted to be anyways. That junction is where the Miwani road intersects. I immediatly started walking down the road and after about 1/2 a mile caught a bicycle rider and he took me the next 5-10 miles, to the farm. He wanted 400 shillings, which was twice what the Matatu was, but I ended up giving him 300 and a bottle of water. Still way to expensive, but whatever, I’m white so they always charge more.

Thoughts
Primary issues are continued violence throughout Kenya, between tribes and within tribes. People are starting to get exceedinly hungry as food is become very scarce in sections. Some of the villages nearby had a midday meal consisting of sugarcane taken from the sugarcane fields and water.

Not sure what to do about this yet. American Embassy has heard about me and wants me to register with them. Which I will do, but hope and don’t think it will come to where they attempt extractions. I don’t think this will turn into a Rwanda or Darfur, it could, but I doubt it. It would have continued to escalate but instead has seemed to maintain a painful simmer. A deadly simmer for some. If the government doesn’t screw this up anymore that it already has things could begin healing and fixing within a week or two. Stupid government. Necessary evil my ass. Evil is never necessary.

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Hakuna Matata

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

Copy of an email I sent out. and regarding the title, Hakuna Matata is actually Swahili for No Worries. Darn these Africans, making me giggle so. Now I got bits of the lion king song stuck in my head.

———-
Hello all!

First off, yes, I’m still alive and everyone I know is still alive.
I’m alive an kickin’! No injuries or anything either so no one has
touched me in a harmful manner… at least I don’t think so. If they
did, they really suck at doing harm cause I didn’t notice. Though the
same can’t be said for other Kenyan’s around me but luckily most
people I’ve met and know are fine. One Kenyan guy I met got the beat
down by the police, broken arm and ribs I believe, but he’s young and
he’ll be fine.

Secondly, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, Kenya has erupted
in violence after some election fraud where the sitting president
rigged the election when the opposition would have won. short
timeline available here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clashes_in_Kenya_%282007%E2%80%93present%29
and here’s an article i found from a guy in Kakamega which is the city
I was in for Christmas. I stayed there until today, the 2nd, biding
my time for the best time to travel. Which was today, no
transportation was available prior to today and after tomorrow’s big
event, who knows what will happen.
http://www.bdafrica.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5102&Itemid=5848

I’ll write more later on my blog talking about a fair number of things
that have occurred in the past weeks. Sorry it took me so long to
write but I was without internet access in Kakamega (or running water!
african showers and african toilets baby!) so now that I am back on
the farm here I am. Also, cellphone credits are severely limited as
most users (including myself) are pre-paid and now there are no
pre-paid cards to buy, just as other basic commodities are getting
difficult to purchase (like food in the city). I’m out of credit so
my cellphone is essentially a receive only device.

I won’t be coming home because of this as I think I now know why I
felt so strongly about coming down here before christmas, before
thanksgiving. If I had waited, I wouldn’t have come (for obvious
reasons). I don’t know what God has planned for me down here, but if
I felt so strongly about coming down this year before the holidays, I
think I can safely assume it was for a reason related to the recent
violence.

Again, I’ll write more later (tomorrow probably), with more indepth of
experiences and elections. Good night.

oh, and to end on a better note I just killed 2 spiders. sweet.

and even better, i got to eat cow intestine and cow stomach (or
something, i dunno, it had a lot of dangly things on it). mmm mmm
good! …. and chewy. veeeery chewy.

John

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