Imagine if this was the life we were living
January 30, 2008 4:17 PM   Subscribe

Reading the news, the violence in Kenya can feel distant. For Mission in Action/Nakuru Baby Orphanage, located in the heart of the Rift Valley, the violence is all to near, and extremely troubling. (the last link contains images that may be very disturbing)

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I should mention that this website was being updated by a former co-worker of my girlfriend[pdf], who left Whistler to volunteer at this orphanage for a second time.

When she left, in early December, there was no hint of the violence to come. Kenya was widely considered stable and MIA had every reason to be optimistic about the future for the children in their care. Since then, so much has changed. The orphanage has now committed itself to helping those forced from their homes by the violence, which has emptied the nearby town of Nakuru.

The children at this orphanage, some of whom have come to them severely malnourished, abused and HIV positive, were lucky enough to find rescue in a country unable to provide them with a social safety net. Now, if the situation continues to deteriorate, they may have no future.
posted by [expletive deleted] (15 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If anyone would like to help MIA, there are a number of ways. Currently, they are looking for donations to help buy blankets and mattresses for displaced people they have taken in. You can donate via paypal from a link on this page.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 4:19 PM on January 30, 2008

I feel like Barack Obama should be doing something about this, but I'll be damned if i know what he could do.
posted by empath at 4:37 PM on January 30, 2008

This is such a tragedy. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya in the 90's. The training was in Naivasha (Kikuyu country), and I was posted near Kakamega (Luo/Luyha country). I'm very worried about old friends. I don't know what can be done about this. Was the election really rigged? I would believe it - it was common to buy votes when I was there. Ugh.
posted by Smilla at 5:06 PM on January 30, 2008

Goddammit. I hate people.

Since the downward spiral in Kenya started, I've been thinking a lot about what happened in (what used to be) Yugoslavia. A country that seemed quite stable, with people from different religious/ethnic backgrounds going to school together, working together, marrying...and then something happens, and people turn into murderous partisan thugs. It's horrifying. It makes me so sad.
posted by rtha at 6:05 PM on January 30, 2008

Kenya: spaces of hope is an encouraging article and includes a round-up of openDemocracy's recent coverage of the crisis.
posted by Abiezer at 6:14 PM on January 30, 2008

empath, I hear Obama is keeping in close contact with Kenya's foreign minister, though I agree there's little he can do to quell the violence. There's no doubt he has a personal stake in it though -- his uncle is among those trapped by the conflict.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:15 PM on January 30, 2008

Abiezer, thanks for the link.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 6:36 PM on January 30, 2008

It is a very sad situation, indeed. I was in Kenya for two months beginning in September. There were scattered incidents of violence at political rallies during the campaign, but nothing to suggest the horror that has unfolded since. I'm worried for my friends and colleagues, some of whom came from slums such as Kibera and Mathare that have been engulfed in the chaos. I would note that I found tribalism to be very entrenched amongst Kenyans. They vote along tribal lines, they have prejudices against other tribes and there are no voices of reason questioning this. Somehow, in a country that is almost a quarter Muslim, the opposition leader was harshly criticized for signing a MOU with Muslim leaders simply saying he would not discriminate against them. A woman I sat next to on a long bus ride told me that this made her believe that he (Raila Odinga) was a devil worshiper! And as rtha points out, these irrational reactions fly in the face of years of peaceful co-existence.

I'm sad that people can actually do these things to one another, but I'm deeply depressed that they do it for such stupid, arbitrary reasons.

While I was in Kenya, I helped an organization called Jamii Bora put up their website. They are the largest microfinance institution in the country and they have a range of innovative programs such as health insurance and substance abuse counseling. They are currently working with the Red Cross and the UN to provide emergency food and shelter to those affected by the unrest. They have already spent most of their emergency fund that had been built up from small, regular contributions from their members over the years. Jamii Bora wants to re-open its looted offices and get its members back on their feet again so that they can return to their businesses and start providing for their families again.

If you'd like to help with a donation, you can do so through Unitus, a "global microfinance accelerator" based out of Seattle. You can also read the post on my blog with more of my thoughts on this, a letter from the Managing Trustee of Jamii Bora and the same link as above. (see profile)

In the meantime, let's all hope that the intervention of Kofi Annan (and perhaps Obama's phone calls with the foreign minister) will help bring a peaceful resolution to the situation.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 6:43 PM on January 30, 2008

Into the Valley of Death

A great recent article by Stephanie Nolen (the Globe and Mail's fantastic African correspondent) which sheds some light on some of the dynamics of the conflict as well as telling a harrowing story.
posted by Adam_S at 7:04 PM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

There's a young woman from Kenya that lives on my hall. We not quite friends yet, but certainly friendly -- she baked me blueberry muffins (from scratch!) when I helped her out of a minor situation. I don't know if she still has family there; I'm afraid to ask her. I think I'll ask her to dinner, see if she needs to talk -- even if her family has moved away, this has got to be weighing on her heavily. She's such a sweet person.
posted by LordSludge at 7:10 PM on January 30, 2008

Adam, I read that article the day it came out. Absolutely gripping.

Lately, I'm starting to feel guilty for living the way I do, where I do. I couldn't really imagine being happier than where I am, and I'm reminded daily of just how lucky I truly am.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 7:26 PM on January 30, 2008

What's happening is heartbreaking.

How can this sort of thing be avoided? Do all tribes (ethnic, religious, or whatever) have to have their own discrete territory? Is a deliberate movement of populations to create homogeneous nations the only effective way to avoid brutal 'ethnic cleansing' later on? I really hope not, but the evidence keeps pointing that way.
posted by Phanx at 2:24 AM on January 31, 2008

My daughter is a Sophomore at Michigan State and had signed up for a Summer semester in Kenya before this horror started. I've been gently, but consistently prodding her to shift to somewhere, ANYWHERE else.

Unfortunately, MSU, at last notice, was still planning on going. I read their "things are improving" email in disbelief. Most likely, they'll maintain this stance until the last minute, then cancel, but I still have a knot of fear thinking about her traveling there.
posted by cptnrandy at 6:05 AM on January 31, 2008

Thanks very much for that article, Adam; it gave me a real sense of what it's like and why it's happening. Pull quote:

A handful of politicians have seized on ethnicity ... as the most efficient way of mustering support, and incited people to "protect their own."

This is what happened in Yugoslavia, in Sri Lanka, in Rwanda, it's standard operating procedure in ethnically divided countries that have some form of democracy. No wonder I despise politicians. Sure, people have all sorts of primitive us-versus-them emotions, but under normal circumstances they're decently hidden. It takes politicians to bring them out and put them to work.
posted by languagehat at 6:44 AM on January 31, 2008

Ethnic cleansing in Luoland.
posted by adamvasco at 8:01 AM on February 10, 2008

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