Monday, January 07, 2008

Kenya Troubles -- A View From ... Utah!

Bella McFarland is a Kenya-born author living in Logan, Utah. She was visiting home with her daughters at the time of the election.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007 - Pre Trip
I'm so looking forward to going home...YAY. I haven't been back in ten years(I always have my family visit us instead), so this journey back is quite the occasion. I'm still shopping for the trip and will start getting shots(eew) from our local health department. Frankly speaking, I'm thinking of skipping some but my ten year old daughter who's traveling with me for the first time must definitely get them.

This morning I showed my 5 year old photos of Nairobi and had to deal with her crying because she must go and see those cool places...please...please...too bad no crying is going to make that happen. If you have time, enjoy these beautiful pictures of Nairobi, where we'll be staying. God-willing, we might also visit Mombasa, a coastal town, and see some of the ruins from ancient Swahili Civilization. Here's the entrance to the town.
Thursday, January 03, 2008 - I'm back
Thank God, my daughter and I made it back!!! The trip was wonderful (photos later) until two days before our departure.

I've never cared much for politics or politicians but after I saw the wonderful changes in Kenya, my people's determination to improve our country, the stride they've made since the former president and dictator was ousted--free press, entrepeneurs in media and businesses, mega supermarkets and 6-storey malls with escalators (my daughter couldn't believe her eyes), I was blown away.

I sat with my brothers and sisters and watched the five T.V. stations covering the elections live, didn't sleep. People were lining up at four in the morning waiting for polling stations to open at six so they could cast their votes. The turnout was amazing (over 10 million of 14 million voters). Then came the delay in presidential results, media blackout, fear that someone was about to hijack the presidency via election rigging... Kenyan's worst nightmare.

Concerned, I called KLM offices the morning of the 31st, was told yes the flight was on schedule. My brother drove me into town even though the radios mentioned rioters in the slums of Kenya. Surprisingly, downtown Nairobi was safe, the police kept rioters from the city center. I mean there were abslutely no pedestrians. But along the way, we saw people hurdled in groups outside their apartments, along the road, waiting and worried.

Smart shoppers hurried to supermarkets to replenish their supplies. Soon shelves were empty.

Meanwhile, more riots broke out all over the country...people looting, burning of people seeking refuge in a church, gangs targeting people from other tribes.

My own brother was beaten and cut up by a mob. He'd left to go shopping at seven in the morning and this was the day before the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) announced the presidential results. Unfortunately, he teaches at a college in the middle of Kikuyu land...Kikuyus are the majority in Kenya and the present president is from this tribe. In fact, Nairobi is surrounded by Kikuyu land. The mob took one look at him and decided he wasn't from their tribe.

They took all the money he'd withdrawn, his ID and ATM card (unfortunately the withdrawal slip with his PIN number was in his pocket too) the food he'd bought, tanks of gas for cooking, everything including the radio in his car, beat him up and cut his least they didn't carjack his car or kill him. He barely had enough gas to make it back to his place, couldn't go see a doctor and ended up by stitched by a nearby butcher (a Kikuyu who knew him). The same butcher also gave him pounds of beef on credit...

I was crying so hard before I even saw him. I wasn't at his house when all this took place but at another brother's (a preacher who lives in the outskirts of Nairobi, also right in the middle of Kikuyu land but is married to a Kikuyu woman). This mess goes beyong tribal loyalties.

For the first time in the Kenyan history, we're having a civil war, the stability we've enjoyed for years down the toilet, the demons we saw loose in Rwanda are awakening in my own country. You may ask why the craziness, the senseless killings and mayhem?

Emphasis on the right to vote and the empowerment of the voter has been a major thing in Kenyan politics these past five years. Kenyans believed they had the power to shape their destiny, choose their leadership, the very thing their forefathers fought for and one they've strived for all these years. They did exactly this in the 2002 elections and kicked out Moi who'd ruled the country for over twenty years. This time, they turned out in colossal numbers to vote (better than in 2002), believing they had a voice that would be listened to. What they saw was betrayal, the ballot didn't matter, their voice silenced.

They don't believe the judicial system will work to resolve this, not when the present president appointed several judges to the bench before elections. Beside, the Chief justice and the Attorney General were grinning like a well-fed cats during the shot-gun inauguration of the president.

What do Kenyans have now? They believe they have only one voice left — protest.

I left Kenya with a heavy heart, crying and worried about the rest of my family. I hear now that there are refugees from Nairobi in Nairobi, Kenyans fleeing their own country, a first in the history of the I know what Alan Paton meant by the title of his work... Cry, The Beloved Country.

God-willing, things will calm down and we'll be back on the right path, the path to better the country nd the lives of all Kenyans.


Happy to be home yet sad and worried.


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