One of my favorite bloggers for the Nation, Peter Ondeng, wrote a pity blog about the upcoming elections. “ The way we are going, he says, “No one should rule out another orgy of bloodletting.” (link to article below) Wow! This is not a US paper using scare tactics, this is a Kenyan Paper.
While I fear that there will be some bad times during elections, a headline like this is all that Americans need to say (as someone asked me yesterday)”What’s wrong with their leaders?” To this I reply, Africa only threw off the tyranny of Colonialists at best 50 years ago. Where were we 50 years after the Brits left?
First we had the battle of 1812, but that didn’t compare to what happened on our shores 80 years later. As folks flock to see the film Lincoln, let us not forget what a real orgy of bloodletting looks like. They call it the Civil War.
I am not for Civil War, I am not for Election Violence, but I am for taking a less judgmental attitude towards Africa and Kenya in particular. And I wish that newspapers here and abroad didn’t emblazon a headline of “An orgy of bloodletting” sensationalizing the gruesome and ignoring the good.
The tragedy of the last week in India is on all of our minds that either are women, or work with women and girls. For me, I fall into both categories. While the violence and brutality of that rape has stunned people, do not be naïve. It is a daily event in all countries around the world.
They are building Freedom House in Kisumu. Our partners at KMET know from elections past, that young girls are particularly at risk of a raping during elections. And elections in Kenya are only a couple of months away. So, because we cannot stop it, we build a safe house where girls can be medically treated and stay safe. And hopefully, in time, heal.
I don’t have the answers to rape. I saw a cogent observation on Twitter today about rape. “It is not a certain kind of woman who gets raped; it’s a certain kind of man.” But as election time comes closer and closer in Kenya, I realize I’m on my way to a raping of the girls we care for.
If you would like to help these kids, donate now so we can keep them safe.
It’s been a while since I checked in. I wish I could say it’s more stable in Kenya, but alas, this morning’s Washington Post reports that our Ambassador has been recalled. The Nation reports there is continued terrorism in Kisi, 17 killed in churches in Garissa, and an editorial in the same paper calls for keeping its people safe from harm on the highways, in the cities, and walking the roads. But it is still my heart home.
I have made my plans to go back soon. I have mixed feelings about this. The injuries I sustained last time and the time it has taken me to recover remind me I’m 65. It’s funny how one always counts on a quick recovery and then you get to an age where it just doesn’t happen that fast. Now that I can walk with minimal pain, I notice it.
Yet our work is not done. We are fine tuning our program. We are going to welcome a new school in Sept. which is the last term of the year for school children in Kenya. We will begin our training then so that when school opens in January they will be, more or less, on equal footing with the other schools. I believe that this will be crucial to the continuation of our work and the way forward.
I will get the reports from the second term in a few weeks: I am anxious to see how they are doing. I want to get back to see Monica and the staff at KMET. I want to go to our deaf school and sign with the children. I want to finally take some time to visit Lake Naivasha. I want to go home.
I know there will come a day when I will have to stop. I know one day I will either turn over the reins or pass it on. But for now, I guess I am really looking forward to getting back.
I had dinner with a friend the other night. We both come from the land of misfit toys. We still believe we can make a difference in Africa, but it is getting harder and harder to explain ourselves to our peers. Going to places where grenades go off and people are routinely killed with machetes is not for the AARP set.
It goes from bad to worse these days. I follow Kenya the most since that is where we are working. But South Sudan is up there, as is Somalia. Corruption in governments, tribal differences killing men women and children. This week has been particularly disturbing.
Last week I called out saying that childbirth should not kill. This week, not only are more women dying in childbirth in Kenya than ever before, but also the reason is almost incomprehensible. 25,000 health workers went on strike. The government in their own insanity then fired them all and tried to get retired workers to take their places.
They don’t have enough health workers or equipment with or without the strikers. And the situation only worsens as the days go by. Healthcare in developing countries is a crapshoot at best but in Kenya right now it’s a shot with a 38.
This week the Nairobi bus station was also hit with grenades. Nine are dead many injured. Kind of tough to have that happen when there is no one in the hospital to take care of the victims. That was due to El Shabbab. CNN indicated it was the beginning of tribal violence, which sent Kenyan Bloggers into rocket land. How dare CNN call this tribal wars? It’s bad for tourism to say that, even though it’s true
The very next day Kenya’s paper reported Odinga (the Prime Minister) speaking out about tribal animosities and their danger as elections come near. All of Kenya and many of us who were stuck in the violence remember that. Things simmer so close to the surface over there. I’m not optimistic about elections there (or in the US for that matter).
So why will I return as soon as I can? Even a misfit toy doesn’t want to lose its stuffing. I go because I can’t imagine giving up. I think there need to be some stalwarts who will go and try and help because turning their heads and running in the opposite direction won’t make the problems go away. I go because maybe just maybe one life will be changed because I went.
Remember Francis my driver? Despite the grenades going off when last I was in Kenya, he reassured me that El Shabbab was nothing. I can’t tell whether that was wishful thinking or meant to keep my tourist dollars over there.
Today I read an extremely cogent article by Ken Menkhaus of enough project.org. His best sentence is this: Intervention strategies that plan the war but not the peace will fail. That should by the byword for all countries.
It’s not just Kenya, but imagine of Bush had thought about planning the peace in Iraq or Afghanistan.
What is so wonderful about this article is that he painstakingly spells out the problems of Kenya’s incursion into Somalia. Now campers, I wish you would read the whole thing and indeed here is the link:http://www.enoughproject.org/files/MenkhausKenyaninterventionSomalia.pdf
But since I find that folks don’t like to read lengthy articles I’m going to give you the highlights
Kenya’s military capacity to wage war. Kenya’s military has very limited experience in direct combat, and, with the exception of some peacekeeping deployments, has never waged war across the Kenyan border. Some analysts worry that Kenya’s untested forces will fare poorly in clashes with Somali forces on Somali terrain. Related to this concern are worries that Kenya initiated this attack in the early weeks of the dheere rainy sea- son, when track roads become impassable and heavy military equipment gets bogged down. This is one of the reasons Kenyan forces moved so slowly in the first two months of the campaign. This gave many observers the impression that the Kenyan offensive was not adequately planned.
Unclear objectives. Kenyan officials have expressed divergent goals. They have at different points claimed the aim is to prevent Shabaab from engaging in cross-border abductions of tourists, defeat Shabaab, capture the strategic seaport of Kismayo, and to secure the border area.
Shabaab terrorist reprisal attacks in Kenya. Kenya is exceptionally vulnerable to Shabaab terrorist attacks. Shabaab moves freely in and out of Kenya, where the group does business, recruits, and engages in fundraising. A major Shabaab terrorist attack
in Kenya would have devastating consequences for Kenyan tourism and business. Observers have expressed alarm that Shabaab could make good on threats to take
the war to Kenya, and that Kenya would be less secure as a result of its offensive into Somalia. As evidence of this, foreign embassies have elevated security alerts for Kenya. Two grenade attacks in Nairobi, carried out by a professed Kenyan Shabaab member and recent convert to Islam, have amplified these fears. Shabaab leaders have implored their followers in Kenya to launch jihadi attacks in Kenya, a tactic that could produce “lone wolf ” terrorism in addition to planned Shabaab attacks. The actual threat may beoverstated, however, as Kenya’s value to Somali interests makes it risky for Shabaab to launch a major terrorist attack there. But the danger could grow larger the longer Kenyan forces stay inside Somalia.
Kenyan offensive as tool for Shabaab recruitment. Observers have raised concerns that Kenya’s military operation into Somali territory could work to Shabaab’s advantage,
by rallying Somalis against a foreign occupation, in much the same way that Shabaab enjoyed significant popular support when Ethiopia occupied Mogadishu in 2007 and 2008. Though Somalis are exhausted from war and are devoting most of their resources to assisting relatives affected by the famine, a sustained Kenyan military presence, with inevitable reports of civilian casualties, runs the risk of generating a new wave of Somali jihadi recruits and fund-raisers for Shabaab. The ill-advised public announcement of Israeli counterterrorism support to Kenya was exactly the kind of misstep that Shabaab could parlay into propaganda to turn the Jubbaland intervention into a jihadi cause.8 So far few Somalis and Somali Kenyans appear to have joined Shabaab in response to either the Kenyan or Ethiopian military offensives in southern Somalia; Shabaab appears instead to be relying more and more on forced conscription.
Prospects of quagmire in Kismayo. Questions have been raised about how Kenyan forces will fare if and when they take the city of Kismayo. In a crowded urban setting, Kenya’s military will lose some of the advantage it enjoys from its armored vehicles and heavy weapons, and will be more vulnerable to urban guerilla warfare and the use of roadside bombs. It could become bogged down in counterinsurgency warfare that Ethiopian forces and now African Union peacekeepers, or AMISOM, have faced in Mogadishu since 2007. There is reason to hope that local populations are so furious with Shabaab policies—especially forced recruitment and heavy taxation—that they will turn on Shabaab and prevent it from waging insurgency attacks in the town. But most communities in Somalia today are so fearful of reprisals that they are more likely to lay low and do nothing.
It’s a really good article folks.
Every time I prepare to return to Kenya there are those who think that joining me would be great fun/education. And each time I invite the person to join me. I’m always up for company. Once they hear about the accommodations, the shots, the lack of food that they would eat and the potential for danger they find a reason that they can’t go.
Today, while reading the Nation, I see that Kenya actually could get dicey before the elections. Kenya has sent troops into Mogadishu, and the terrorists are PISSED. So now the threat is that they will bomb Nairobi. I’m not saying they will, but it does give me pause. I forget to think about those things.
I wonder, though, if 11/11/11 will mean anything to terrorists in Somalia and Southern Sudan. Cuz I’ll be in Nairobi then and I’d prefer not to dodge falling debris. Oh yes I’m still going, but it did have a weird affect on my psyche.
So I’m off to see my kids this weekend. A new granddaughter awaits. I always like to see them before I go. It’s not that I’m not planning to be home for Thanksgiving, but just in case, I will have had a chance to say I love you one more time.
And if you’d like to read the Nation Article, here’s the link.