Monday, May 12, 2008

Quaker peace program in Kenya national paper - 5/12/2008

You know it's good when for over 2 weeks there is nothing tragic to report, and all the headlines in the news feeds are about sports!

But in reality, the problems are far from over for Kenya, and in particular for the IDPs (internally displaced people) still living with daily precarity & uncertainty in makeshift camps. The elements in Kenya can be harsh, with extremes of cold and heat, with downpours of rain, and with crowded conditions producing a public health nightmare of communicable diseases like cholera, typhoid and other diarrheal diseases. These have the worst impact on the youngest and oldest in the camps.

Meanwhile, ordinary Kenyans who managed to escape the worst of the violence are struggling against skyrocketing prices for essentials like food, fuel and transport--and trying to support a host of relatives who may have had homes burned, lost jobs due to the drop in tourism in past months, or young people thrown out of school for non-payment of fees... So all is not well in East Africa.

However, AGLI (African Great Lakes Initiative) has received great coverage in the Daily Nation, a newspaper read faithfully by virtually every literate soul in Kenya, and by the diaspora beyond. David Zarembka has passed on the text of the article and said it was mostly accurate, except that they are offering up to 20 (not 2) workshops in each location mentioned.

Kudos and hats off to AGLI and the team of facilitators providing the training in AVP (peace-building) and the HROC (trauma-healing) workshops. See below the section of the article in orange for more on AGLI in Kenya's Daily Nation!

More news & analysis appears below the Nation article.

Mary Kay

Leaders accuse state of hurrying settlement drive to please the US

Publication Date: 5/11/2008

The home-bound internal refugees have had mixed fortunes.

While many had a warm reception in places such as Molo, the same cannot be said of other areas in the Rift Valley.

The icy relations that sparked the flight from their homes in the aftermath of the election dispute last year are stillmanifest in some areas.

Many say they fear returning home to live with their “enemies”. Indeed, some have told the government to resettle them elsewhere.

Largely unplanned
Special Programmes minister Naomi Shaaban, who is playing a key role in the settlement drive, has assured the displaced families that no one will be forced to return home.

But some MPs from Rift Valley Province, which was mostly affected by the violence, argue that the programme is being implemented in a hurry, and is largely unplanned.

They say that although they embrace the return of the IDPs, there is need for reconciliation first before settlement.

The MPs, Franklin Bett (Buret), Julius Kones (Konoin) and Isaac Ruto (Chepalungu) want the government and other groups to be involved in a reconciliation programme that will help people live in peace.

The leaders argue that the most important thing now is to reconcile the people instead of using the provincial administration to force the IDPs’ neighbours to welcome them back home.

They say armed police escorts and more police stations in the violence-hit areas will not help reconcile the people.

Mr Bett says he is for planned and not “false” resettlement of IDPs.

“Resettlement,” he says, “must be in a manner that will give us a permanent solution. That solution is first through reconciliation, development of forgiveness between communities and reawakening of the spirit of love among the people. That will make resettlement meaningful.”

“I will not be party to false resettlement,” he told the Sunday Nation on telephone.

Mr Ruto accuses the government of hurrying the programme to please the international community, especially the United States.

“The government is in a hurry to remove an eyesore so the international community can give it accolades. It is what we call in Parliament playing to the gallery.“

"The government wants to be in good books with the international community,” he says.

The MP says the government should involve local political, religious and civic leaders in the province. It should also respect the wishes of the IDPs.

“We MPs from the region are ready and willing to provide leadership for reconciliation,” he told the Sunday Nation at Parliament Buildings. “The IDPs,” he says, “are in anguish. They are scared to go back home. It takes two to tango. They should feel happy and safe. There is need for reconciliation." [NB: Interestingly, Mr Ruto has been accused by many of fomenting and perpetuating the post-election violence & ethnic cleansing with "hate speech" and funding the militias that attacked minority communities.]

Conflict resolution
“The provincial administration should not be involved in reconciliation. They are very poor in conflict resolution. To them, reconciliation is force.”

He suggests that sociologists be involved in any programme to help heal the wounds among the affected people.

“University of Nairobi should provide experts to address the issue. This should be done after a proper census to identify genuine IDPs. We may be dealing with professional IDPs.” [ !!! ]

He also wants a solution to unemployment among the youth “to avoid a new cycle of violence.”

Mr Kones says settlement needs proper planning.

“People need to be resettled, but there is no proper planning. Let there be a process. Let people get to know why they are going to live together,” he says.

“The reconciliation process should have started first, where we bring together elders from different communities. This looks like a forced resettlement. I feel most (IDPs) were caught off-guard,” he says.

The MP says the underlying emotive issues, including land, should be addressed to find a lasting solution to ethnic conflicts. The land problem, he says, was compounded by the high rate of unemployment among the youth.

The government and the other organisations involved in the programme may need to borrow a leaf from the African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI) of the Friends Peace Teams, a non-governmental organisation which organises reconciliation workshops in Rwanda to help heal the wounds among the perpetrators and survivors of the genocide in the country in 1994.

The workshops, dubbed “Healing and Rebuilding our Communities (HROC)” have helped reconcile Rwanda’s main ethnic groups, Hutu and Tutsi, following the genocide that left nearly one million people dead.

AGLI was founded by David Zarembka, an American. Its main office is in St Louis, Missouri. However, Mr Zarembka operates from Lumakanda in Lugari District where he lives with his wife Gladys Kimunya. Mr Zarembka is also AGLI’s coordinator and the organisation has started reconciliation programmes in Western and Rift Valley provinces.

AGLI says on its website that it plans to conduct more than 100 basic and advanced workshops in various communities, many of which will involve young people who were involved in much of the violence.

They will cover Bondo in Nyanza Province; Takatifu Gardens in Shinyalu, Lumakanda, Kakamega, Lugari District,and Vihiga District in Western Province; and Ndalu in Rift Valley Province.

“Each site will have up to two [correction: 20] workshops so that each area can be adequately impacted.”

AGLI is reportedly supporting reconciliation efforts on the border between the Kipsigis (Rift Valley Province) and the Kisii (Nyanza Province) where more than 30 people were killed and where hundreds of homes, a school, and numerous businesses were burnt down.

Mr Zarembaka seems to be doing what Bett, Kones and Ruto are agreed on: making efforts to reconcile communities.

“I have been at a meeting since Thursday with the Friends Church Peace Team determining how we are going to meet with the IDPs—Luhya and the Nandi in Turbo, Mwamba and Kipkappen River near where I live in Lumakanda. These were all hard hit. There are still 4,000 unhappy IDPs at the Turbo Police Station,” he told the Sunday Nation via email on Saturday.

Kenya: What Country Should Learn From Brown's Blunders

Business Daily (Nairobi)
OPINION11 May 2008

Posted to the web 12 May 2008
George Ogola


In a country as administratively centralised as the UK, local council elections are usually a political sideshow. Not so for this year's May Day elections which effectively became the mock primaries for the 2010 national elections for the two main party leaders, Labour's Gordon Brown and the Conservative's David Cameron.

The May Day elections have been fiercely fought around the country with Labour suffering humiliating defeats. Overall, the Tories built a 20-point lead over Labour. The London mayoralty, iconic in many ways was also won by the Conservatives with Boris Johnson's victory over Ken Livingstone sealing Labour's annihilation.

The May Day local elections and the manner in which they have defined the national agenda over the last couple of days in England point to their added import in shaping national politics. Indeed, it appears that at a time when voters feel increasingly alienated from the decision making processes at the national level, they can easily send clear warning signs to national politicians through the local vote.

Labour supporters have over the years felt their party was moving away from its traditional working class constituencies. Its defeat in the local elections could be explained as much on this disconnect and thus as a protest vote against the party, but also as a sign that the Tories are making in-roads with the working classes.

Like Major, Brown seems to have forgotten that a party stands on quicksand if it fails to retain the loyalty of its traditional support base. For Cameron, the Conservative white-wash is likely to install him as a frontrunner come the next elections. However, the party's failure to make in-roads in the North of the country will undoubtedly raise doubts over Cameron's preparedness to lead the country.

Some are already beginning to explain the party's performance more on Labour fatigue rather than a shift of support to the Conservatives. Cameron has come out to emphasise that this was not merely a protest vote, indeed an indication that it may very well be the case.

The two leaders are different. Brown, the consummate economist has found the political train a terribly rough ride since succeeding Tony Blair. He has consistently failed to show neither mettle nor charm during his short reign, playing into Cameron's strengths. A performing economy has always been the PM's only political weapon.

But as the world goes through an economic downturn, Brown's weapon has effectively been negated. Food and fuel prices are shooting through the roof in England.

Meanwhile, the housing market is tumbling with house prices falling while mortgages are increasingly becoming unaffordable to first time buyers. The collapse of the bank Northern Rock and the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US have all worsened the housing market in the UK.

Even though fate has played its part, Brown has also been his own worst enemy. Obstinate but oblivious of the fact, he has made several political miscalculations forcing U-turns on a number of policies which have exposed his brittle authority.

His recent admission which was effectively a U-turn on the effects of the abolition of the 10p tax ignited a backbench rebellion against him and most likely a voter backlash during the local elections.

He is now facing another monumental vote as he attempts to push to the House of Commons, a proposal to increase the detention of terror suspects to 42 days. Under Brown, Labour has moved away from its traditional political roots.

While under Blair the party still seemed capable of charming the working classes, Brown has been bullied by a powerful tabloid media and a cunning Cameron to move right.

For this reason, the country now has a voting block cut loose from the party and effectively forced to protest against that alienation. When the influx of Eastern Europeans into England became a political hot potato, Brown swallowed the bait, talked about creating British jobs for British people perhaps imagining that not many people were aware that this was against EU regulations.

Recently on the popular Today programme, he manufactured numbers about the number of children he had taken out of poverty.

When the withdrawal of troops from Iraq became a headline agenda, Brown talked about troop withdrawals quoting numbers that were later exposed to have been deliberately fudged.

To save his career and party, Brown has to find out where the rain began to beat him. To do so, there's need to publicly acknowledge past mistakes and to reconnect with the masses, a skill that former Etonian Cameron seems to do with enviable ease.

But there are lessons here for Kenya's political class. Against the background of the controversial presidential elections and the subsequent cabinet fiasco, there are indications that the disconnect between our political class and the masses, never ruptured during the elections, will no doubt come to boil.

Indeed, the warning signs are slowly emerging. During the recent Labour Day celebrations, President Mwai Kibaki faced the ignominy of a crowd walking out on him when he claimed that economic conditions could not allow for the pay rise that the workers were asking for.

Relevant Links
East Africa Europe and Africa Kenya

He might be right. But then again, when Kenyans see a Cabinet Bill that runs into hundreds of millions of shillings all in the name of political expediency, to expect them to add up the sums at a time when such a Cabinet seems to make a mockery of the global economic slowdown, would be to expect too much.

Yet, this may well be a pre-cursor to more turbulent times. Like Brown, fate may very well conspire against the current government. A number of by-elections are on the cards. They may very well be the harbinger for what may await the principals in the coming months. In politics, such warnings must be taken seriously.

Dr. Ogola teaches at the University of Central Lancashire.

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