May 27, 2008

Kenya - a time to heal and reconcile

After long protracted negotiations, Kenya has once again returned to relative peace and calm. Even though a National Accord was signed by the two rival parties at the end of February last, it took another six weeks before a Grand Coalition Cabinet could be named in which there was equal sharing of positions. The positions of Prime Minister and two Deputies have been created. We still have a President with executive powers and a Vice-President. It took some time to sort out the new arrangement; possibly better to do it at the initial stages, than having numerous political crises later. We eventually got a government of forty ministries; we even have a Ministry of Nairobi Metropolitan Development – hopefully it will address the city’s traffic issue! Recently a fifteen- minute journey took one hour and forty minutes, and that was not during peak time! We still have about 350,000 internally displaced persons in the country, to be sorted out. Family members of some of our Sisters are among them. Many of the displaced are still living in very difficult squalid conditions in temporary camps, while others are staying with relatives or friends. This is now the rainy season in Kenya, so many of the camps are flooded. Outbreaks of malaria, cholera and typhoid are rampant. Hundreds of children are still attending school in makeshift classrooms in the camps. Many of the displaced are afraid to return to where they left. Hate leaflets have been distributed in some places warning those who fled not to return on their lives. Others have said that they do not want to go back to where they left: it would bring back too many traumatic memories for them. Some have ventured to go back to their plots during the daytime to plant, but they return to the camps at night. This is the planting season in most parts of the country, but crops have not been sown in many areas, which in turn could lead to scarcity of food later in the year. The President had earlier promised that the Government will help the displaced to return to their homes and rebuild their lives again; now there are many false ‘displaced’ trying to get registered in the camps so as to avail of Government assistance; some people earlier burned their own houses so as to get help to rebuild better ones. Many people have lost their land documents and academic certificates as they had to flee their houses at very short notice. The President has also declared on a number of occasions and rightly so, that every Kenyan citizen ‘must enjoy the right to work and to reap the benefits of his or her labour anywhere in the country without hindrance’. Time alone will tell whether it will take place. Different investigative Commissions have been set up to try and unravel the underlying causes of what had gone wrong. A Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission is being set up. There is a lot of work to be done. Many healing and reconciliation initiatives need to be put in place especially in rural areas at grassroots level. The land issue is one major area that must be addressed. Hopefully the different initiatives will eventually bring about greater peace and harmony. Kenya has come through a very difficult few months. The killings and burnings have ceased. Somebody said: Kenya will never be the same again. Hopefully a better Kenya will emerge where nationalism and patriotism will replace the current tribalism and that the politicians will put aside their personal ambitions for the good of the country.

Written by Patricia Moran rsm

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