Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Quaker Service - Background on Friends in Kenya

Subject: AGLI -- Report from Kenya -- #12a -- Quakers in Kenya
[Excuse poor formatting. For a better version, try Dave's blog in the right sidebar, News out of Kenya, AGLI]

Dear All,

I have been asked to discuss the issue of how the violence here in Kenyais affecting the Quakers in Kenya.

Friends United Meeting (then Five Years Meeting) sent missionaries to Kenya in 1902.They trekked up country and settled in Kaimosi which is in the Western Province ofKenya. Western Province stretches from near Lake Victoria about a hundred miles northto Mt Elgon, along the border with Uganda. The British divided up the provinces byethnic groups. Western Province is the home of the Luhya: the second to largest groupin Kenya after the Kikuyu. Almost everyone in Western Province is Luhya. Of course,over time, many Luhya have immigrated to other parts of the country. Partly due to theexcellent education the Quaker missionaries promoted during colonial rule, the Luhya tended to go into the educated professions--teachers, managers, government civil servants,and similiar occupations.

There are more Quakers in Kenya than any other country in the world. FWCC says 137,000. [Mary Kay's input: Kenyan Friends estimate at least 10,000 per yearly meeting, with 150,000 or more total.] FUM-Africa office is trying to get a better count, but this is going to be difficult for such large numbers. I think that the total is considerably higher. If there are 3,000,000 peoplein Western Province and 100,000 of them are Quakers, then 3% of the population is Quaker.While still a small percentage, it is probably one of the highest concentrations of Quakersin the world. Quaker churches and Quaker schools can be seen everywhere. [NB: The influence of Quakers in government and social services in Kenya has been enormous.]

At the time of independence all the Quakers were in one very centralized, yearly meeting--East Africa Yearly Meeting. But due to mismanagement at the center, sub-ethnic groupdifferences, beginning in the 1970's East Africa Yearly Meeting began to split apart untilnow there are 15 Yearly Meetings. Much of this division was very acrimonious. Note how parallel this history is to the history of Kenya that I reported previously. Most religious groups in Kenya went through similar conflicts and divisions. Now all the yearly meetings are members of FriendsUnited Meeting. All, except a silent worship group at Friends Church--Nairobi, Ngong Road,are programmed Friends, with singing, vocal prayer, preaching, an offering, choirs, etc.

Starting in about 1999, the many yearly meetings began to settle down and re-develop normalrelationships among themselves. Now the Friends Church of Kenya includes all the yearlymeetings. During the time of conflict, the Quakers were not represented in the NationalChristian Council of Kenya because they could not agree on who would represent them. Nowthe Friends Church has a representative there.

Politically the Luhya have been seen as the political "plum" that would allow someone else torun the country. If a polititian could get the votes of the second to largest tribe, he wouldhave a nice voting block. Consequently there have been many Luhya vice-presidents. Kibaki'svice president was a Luhya, Moody Awori, and there was obvious resentment against Kibakiwhen Awori was unable to even hold his own seat in Busia--he was defeated badly by theODM candidate. In Moi's last government, Musalia Mudavadi was vice-president for only ashort time. In the 2002 election the Luhya were determined to oust the Moi government andMudavadi, like Awori in this election, lost his seat. He soon recognized his mistake, joined theODM campaign against the proposed constitution in 2005, and returned to the good gracesof the Luhya. He is now Raila Odinga's vice-presidental running mate. I cover these detailsbecause Musalia Mudavadi is a Friend. I am told that he sometimes attends church at NgongRoad in Nairobi. I have found him to be level-headed, a calmer speaker than most politicians, and he carried the ODM campaign very well when Raila was in the United States raising funds.

As part of the larger population of the province, the Quakers have been directly and indirectlyaffected by the violence. I mentioned a Luhya who was killed in Nakuru (I don't know if he wasa Quaker or not). The shop of another prominent Quaker in Nairobi was looted and burned. Ifa Quaker lived in a Kikuyu's house, they were burned out. If they rented a house to a Kikuyu,it was also burned. There are probably many more examples of death, looted shops, and burnedhomes among Kenya Quakers that I do not know about. Of course indirectly everyone has beenadversely affected. Prices have gone up, transport has been almost impossible, and anyone witha business has experienced decreasing sales. On top of this is the tension, the uncertainty, ofwhat will happen; the retreating into the home and interacting with trusted neighbors only.Then there are the questions, "How can our society have fallen apart like this?" "Where havewe gone wrong?" "Is this going to happen again?"

In my daily reports I try to highlight those things that I hear the Quaker community is doing:digging latrines at an IDP camp, caring for people in Eldoret Friends Church, our beginningattempts at reconciliation here in Lumakanda, attempts to dialogue with the looters in Kakamega.All these are small initiatives in hard times. As the conflict here in Kenya is no longer "news,"and you hear little about what happens, I hope that you can stay informed about our Quakerbrothers and sisters in Western Kenya.



David Zarembka,
CoordinatorAfrican Great Lakes Initiative/ Friends Peace TeamsBox 189, Kipkarren River 50241 Kenya--phone 011 254 726 590 783Office in US--1001 Park Avenue, St Louis, MO 63104--phone 314/621-7262

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