An Appeal from Kenya

The situation in Kenya is truly heartbreaking, especially since that nation has shown so much progress in moving past ethnic tensions and divisions. This message from an Indymedia journalist in has been circulating through Indymedia networks and deserves wider dissemination:

Dear Indymedia Colleagues,

Five days ago, on the 27th of December, I stood in a queue for six hours – from 5.30 AM to 11.30 AM, waiting for my turn to cast a vote in my country Kenya ‘s presidential, parliamentary and civic elections. When the votes were counted later that night, Raila Odinga, the opposition leader, began taking a near-unassailable lead. At one point, he led with almost one million votes. But somehow, Mwai Kibaki the incumbent president squeezed through a disputed victory. I can live with that. What I can’t live with, is that in the last three days, more than 200 Kenyans have lost their lives because of this disputed election results.

When the tension escalated, I had to move to my brother’s house because I stay in a neighborhood dominated by the Kikuyu, the biggest tribe in Kenya and also one that President Mwai Kibaki comes from. Tragically, Kikuyus around the country are bearing the brunt of an angry people and they are also beginning to retaliate. Just a kilometer from where I am now staying, a crowd of Kikuyus gathered at the police station asking for trucks that they can use to ferry their fellow kikuyus from different parts of the country. In the meantime, they are beginning to demand that all non-Kikuyus in this region should start vacating.

I recently talked with a close Kikuyu friend from Eldoret town and she was so scared. She is from the Kikuyu community while most of her neighbors are from the Kalenjin community. Due to no fault of hers, the president happens to be from her community. Due to his own fault, the president has greatly angered the Kalenjin community together with thirty eight other communities. Even the supposedly official results show that he only led in two provinces out of eight. Consequently, members of all other communities generally feel that the president has robbed them. Unfortunately, they are taking it out on innocent members of the three communities that voted overwhelmingly for the president – Kikuyu, Embu and Meru. It is becoming a ping-pong game of violence as members of these three communities are also starting to hit out.

I blame the people who commissioned and condoned the rigging of these elections. While I realize that most losers usually blame rigging for their losses, these particular rigging claims are not mere speculation. Samuel Kivuitu, the chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya has already admitted that he announced the presidential results under pressure from the President’s Party of National Unity. He also conceded that there were widespread irregularities which resulted in extended delays in announcing results from some forty eight constituencies. Both local and international observers have explicitly reported that while the actual voting process was beyond fault, the tallying of the votes was riddled with faults. Raila Odinga has refused to accept these results. Millions of Kenyans have refused to accept these results. Business has been paralyzed across the country and it is not business as usual. Lives have been lost and life cannot go on like this.

Kenya is now in a state of panic. Just yesterday, when the rest of the world was celebrating the New Year, thirty women and children were burnt alive in a church that they had sought refuge. They have died because someone found it fit to rig an electoral process and someone else found it fit to either facilitate or condone that rigging. They have died because there has been no concerted high level effort to quell a fire that is now consuming highways, byways and villages of this great nation. They have died because a subjective mass intolerance has been borne from massive political deception.

I hold all the aforementioned persons responsible for these deaths and any other deaths that may result from this tragic situation. The blood of these fellow Kenyans is primarily on the hands of the politicians whose legs have trampled on the fundamental voting rights of Kenyans. This innocent blood is also on the guilty hands of those whose acts of violence inflicted irreversible death blows. No injustice, however heinous, warrants murder of the innocents. As we learnt from the Rwanda genocide, this blood will also be on the hands of all those who will turn a blind eye on this simmering conflict. Which is why we cannot, and must not turn a blind eye on this violence and other violent situations around the world.

But what can you and I do to stop this violent, raging fire that is razing down innocent Kenyan lives?

1. Share this information far and wide: Send this piece to your local newsrooms and radio stations. When more and more people are informed, more possibilities avail themselves.

2. Volunteer as a web designer for the Kenya Independent Media (Indymedia) website: The Kenya Indymedia website can and should act as a platform for accurate and widespread expression. We need to publish dozens of first account stories that may not make it to the mainstream media. We also need to publish photos, audio and video. We therefore need volunteer web designers and programmers to work on it consistently for a period of 2 – 3 months as the Kenya Indymedia team builds its web designing and programming capability. As Kenya Indymedia, we now need to communicate to the world what is really happening and a vibrant website will be one way of doing this. We are liaising with national movement known as Million Youth Action to call and text people from across the country, moreso the worst hit areas of western Kenya and Rift Valley, so that we can in turn share their stories. This way, statistics will cease to be cold figures and they will take on a personal, human angle.

3. Host the Kenya Independent media website: In order to enable a download of videos, images and audio of this conflict, the website needs to have sufficient space. We would like to use this site to keep track of all the Kenyans who are needlessly losing their lives, getting injured, robbed and displaced in this post-electoral violence. We would also like to use it to keep track of who is instigating, undertaking and condoning this violence. Even more important, we would like to know the victims of this violence so that we can reach out to them one way or another, in our own small way.

4. Mobile phone communication: The only way that most endangered people can communicate and be communicated to, is through mobile phones. We would like to distribute mobile phone air time to as many people as possible so that we can enable them to communicate about what happened, is happening or may be about to happen. As already mentioned we will file all this communication on the website and pass it on to relevant authorities. One dollar will provide four minutes air time. These four minutes may make a difference between life and death.

5. Help relocate someone from a danger zone: This violence has taken on ethnic dimensions, which means that people from certain communities are now no longer safe in certain places in which they are the minorities. Property belonging to such individuals is being looted and destroyed. Even worse, their lives are in grave danger. Many of them are however not able to flee since many public means of transport have suspended their services due to rampant insecurity on the roads. We intend to relocate such people through any means possible. This includes tipping food delivery trucks, cargo trains, newspaper vans and any other vehicles that are moving from one point to another for whatever reason.

6. Help feed a relocated person: we have identified and are continuing to identify families in Nairobi and other parts of the country that can temporarily host relocated persons. As this is a grassroots movement with an emphasis on grassroots solutions, we intend to temporarily host displaced persons in host families. These families will greatly appreciate whatever food supplements we can give them.

7. Diplomatic missions: Contact your respective embassies in Kenya and seek to know what they are doing about the deteriorating situation in Kenya . Give them our contacts and forward this paper to them. Embassies can do more than issue blanket statements for people to ‘keep the peace’ as if don’t already know that!

8. Tend to a child: More than 75,000 Kenyans are now internally displaced. Most of them are women and children. What a tragedy when young children are caught up in such a mess. There is no perfect formula for reaching out to such innocent ones. We intend take to them toys, clothes, chocolate, drinks, books and more gifts that can cheer them up. We will particularly target children who have been displaced or those whose parents have died in this conflict.

9. Pray: For those of you, who like, believe in God, do whisper a prayer that peace will eventually prevail in Kenya .

10. Share your ideas: it will greatly help if you share any concrete ideas that you may be having. Most politicians are just telling Kenyans to keep the peace and not really taking any concrete action to address this situation. People power and solutions can make a BIG difference.

You can do any of the above by donating any of the mentioned things or what you would consider to be their monetary equivalent. Just go with your gut feeling and thanks for your thoughts.

– A member of Kenya IMC

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