Kenyans respond to clashes with aid, peace projectsBy Mennonite World Conference
In the aftermath of border clashes between Luo and Kalenjin ethnic tribes in eastern Kenya, Kenya Mennonite Church is providing aid to displaced people and participating in peace initiatives.
In late February and early March, more than 6,000 people were displaced when Kalenjin youth raided a number of Luo communities and burned crops and houses. The violence was touched off by incidents of cattle theft.
“It is hard and emotional,” wrote Gordon Obado, “to put down [in writing] the episode of what is now referred to as the border clashes … that shocked the whole nation, considering the post-election violence Kenya went through following the botched election results in 2007.”
As program coordinator for KEDHAP, the relief and development arm of Kenya Mennonite Church in the Kisumu East Diocese, Obado compiled a report in early April.
When the violence broke out, Clyde Agola, the Mennonite bishop in the Kisumu Diocese and the general secretary of Kenya Mennonite Church, informed Eastern Mennonite Missions and Mennonite Central Committee workers. Both agencies responded promptly with emergency aid. The money is being used to meet basic needs for displaced people.
“We continue to receive appreciation for their timely support, both from those who were affected and from the government,” wrote Obado.
“We saw the result of finished work on the cross as MCC and EMM walked with KEDHAP to respond to the people’s appeal for help … As a people, we saw God’s new society in these men and women. It is true they have become a visual aid before a watching world. Their action can be summed up as a response to 1 Peter 3:8-9.”
Now that the violence has abated, the focus is on continuing support for displaced people and also on addressing issues that caused the violence.
In a mid-April email to MWC, Bishop Agola wrote: “There is still a great need for settlement of 72 families who are still languishing in the rain and cold in the night and have need for food, medication and casual clothing. Usually February to June is the planting season for the long rains. There is need for purchase of planting seeds and fertilizers and farm tools such as hoes and machetes to ensure that these people can immediately engage in their farms once they are given shelter.”
The peace initiatives mentioned in Obado’s report include joint meetings of Luo and Kalenjin elders. They are petitioning the government “to resolve the boundary issue on a large tract of land which initially belonged to some Asian tycoons and whose leasehold had elapsed. The land is the target of a land [dispute] between the squatters, the Kalenjin community and the government.”
The elders are also resolving to be ambassadors of peace, to restrain youth from engaging in war and to initiate joint projects to engage idle and jobless youth. The elders hope to stage a “peace caravan in the area and eventually sign a peace accord that will bind the communities living in the area.”
The peacebuilding process, wrote Bishop Agola, “is a joint venture between several organizations, the administration, churches and the Luo and Kalenjin communities … We believe enhanced humanitarian support and peacebuilding initiatives will be the pillar to restoration of the lives of the communities around the area where the clashes occurred.”
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