Kenya Violence: A Little Too Close for Comfort

Post a Comment » Written on January 30th, 2008     
Filed under: News
NAIROBI, KENYA (January 30, 2008) – The moderator of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Kenya (ECCK) and a former Covenant missionary got a closer-than-expected look at the violence that has gripped the Rift Valley, including the town of Nakuru where they were distributing, food, clothing and other items.

Moderator Dickson Mwati and Lindy Lindquist, a former Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) missionary to Congo, were in Nakuru distributing goods purchased with money from Covenant World Relief.

“We had a night of fear in a guest house amidst gun shots in the air,” says Mwati. A curfew was imposed, but the violence continued the next day. Mwati reported stones hurled at the bus in which the two men were riding en route back to Nairobi after canceling their planned visit to the north valley area of Eldoret.

Tribal conflict that began in December following a disputed election has continued to mount and claim the lives of hundreds and forces thousands of others from their homes. President Mwai Kibaki, the winner of the disputed election, is Kikuyu, and the opposition leader Raila Odinga is Luo.

Much of the initial tribal violence appeared to have been directed against the Kikuyus by other tribes, especially the Luos and Kalenjins. The Kikuyus, who control much of the political and economic power, “seem to have decided not to sit back and suffer,” Mwati says. Every major town is now being affected by the violence, Mwati says. “Killings are on the increase, and refugee camps are receiving trucks full of displaced people daily.”

Wally Coots, a former Covenant youth pastor now working with missionary children in Kijabe, says, “Most Kenyans are peaceful and don’t participate in the violence. It is usually hired thugs that get things rolling. Then the riots escalate to the point where police are helpless.”

Medical care is being hampered at the mission hospitals in Kijabe, Coots says. “There are no
longer anything but Kikuyus on staff, as all other tribes have fled to avoid outsiders coming for them.”

Once considered an example of democracy at work in Africa, the nation is descending into chaos. “This is not the Kenya that we are used to,” Lindquist says.

Despite relative calm in the country for years, resentments that had been building over various issue, including land distribution, are now erupting, Mwati says.

ECCK congregations continue to minister to refugees. “Our Nakuru church has to cater for more than 70 displaced people who fled to a small town where our church is located in the outskirts of Nakuru town,” Mwati says.

See Violence and Congregation Responds for previous Covenant News Service stories about the conflict.

To learn more about the political and economic backdrop of this long-running conflict, read a special BBC report (British Broadcasting Corporation).

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