Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A house divided

The threats abound, rumors of Mungiki warriors in the forest, armed and ready to harm anyone who has an inconvenient name we listen to the rumors or do we ignore the threat? If they are true, we rest uneasy, hoping that the combination of fervent prayer, reinforced by Masai steel and iron and double padlocks will keep the threat at bay...and if the rumors are false, all we have is an embarrassing story to tell about our paranoia. But yet, somehow we must keep hope alive, even in the face of machete's and guns, of fire and stones, of insult and hatred. This nation has survived to this day despite the odds...surrounded by strife and unrest, a haven of relative peace. A nation constituted as a result of locational and logistical convenience; numerous tribes, brought together because of enterprise, a producer of raw materials for the industries of the crown. Yet despite our forced amalgamation, despite the continued push towards development engineered (to some extent) to continue to support certain interests, we began to discover interests of its own. So now we are more than just producers, labour, a seat of power for some apathetic force. We are a people, forged together by shared life, shared experience, shared land, even shared ideals. So when they threaten me, my family, my own, they threaten more then just a statistic, a faceless girl, they threaten themselves, for how can a house, divided against itself survive?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sweet Comfort

The street is busy, the dust unavoidable, kicked up by the thousands of feet treading to and fro, going here and there, making deals, selling things, meeting people, making a living, striving to keep busy in a world gone mad. Walking down the street, I have to weave in between the tight squeeze of people, fighting for space between matatus and hawkers, darting out of the way of oncoming traffic, determined to get to my destination in one piece. Finally I arrive, the smell wafting through the dark corridor a testament that they’re still in business. Thank God, there’s still hope in this dark world! The sweet smell of freshly baked concoctions of flour and sugar, margarine and chocolate, nuts and spices, all mixed into an array of heady flavours that are carried by a dusty breeze onto the sun baked street, tempting passersby to investigate the source, to see, to taste, to fill themselves in the comfort of sweetness, or so the crowds that darken this corridor with me testify.
After the bustle of the street a few feet outside, the silence inside is eerie. At least twenty people fight for space at the counter, quietly jostling one another in a bid to get the attention of the girls on the other side, hoping to be out of the stuffy room sooner rather than later, the faster to enjoy whatever treat tickles their fancy. The silence is uncanny for a tiny shop in the city centre packed to capacity. Everyone if whispering, so when my turn comes, I whisper too, pointing at my choice in the glass counter to indicate my order, then silently stepping back, nodding to person behind me to indicate they can take their turn. Everyone avoids looking at one another in the eye, the tentative smiles usually shared by strangers are gone. I squeeze my way to the register to hand over my cash, watching the girls behind the counter, attempting to remember which one took my order, as they quickly take turns, spooning and measuring at the weighing scale, dividing up the spoils for the hungry sea of customers. Finally the girl with the high pony tail catches my eye, and with a nod of her head directs me to a relatively empty corner of the counter so she can hand over the goods. The cheery thanks I am about to give is halted by the tired, dull look in her eyes; instead I mumble a quick thanks, grabbing my slightly warm brown bag of chocolate chip cookies. I walk out back onto the sweltering plastic bag littered street, looking forward to finding a safe haven to enjoy the sweet bliss of melting chocolate and crumbling sugary flour; as I join the rest of the silent masses in a short reprieve, filling my breaking heart with temporary relief from emptiness, with sweet treats and empty notions of normalcy.


As Kenyans have been fleeing for their lives over the last month, many have sought refuge in Uganda. As they are now being moved into refugee camps deeper in the Ugandan interior in places like Tororo, the reports coming through are decidedly heartbreaking. The Ugandan residents of the area are complaining that the Kenyan refugees are busy misbehaving! According to a report on the BBC, inspection of the heavy jackets of some Kenyan teenage boys in the refugee camps revealed cigarettes and plastic bottles containing a strong local brew. Loosely reiterating what the Ugandan authorities said yesterday (not verbatim); ‘Prostitution has been banned, all smoking of Opium has been banned! Alcohol abuse and carousing has been banned!’ As my good friend Shem would say...My goodness! These reports bring to mind the devastating stories I have heard of child soldiers in Sudan and Sierra Leone...stories of children numbed of their pain; able to kill, hurt and maim, time and time again, fuelled by alcohol, illicit drugs and hate speech. There is no escape for the people from the results of violence and mayhem that the people have sought to run away from, these results are still there. The despair of those who have no hope has led them to further degradation, ruin and despair through empty pursuits. Even when we run away and are saved from certain death, we can remain hopeless even in relative safety. Our refuge does not come from the porosity of the borders of our neighbours and the goodwill of friendly states, our refuge must be in something more, for we cannot escape ourselves.

Psalm 91:2 'This I declare of the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I am trusting him.'
Psalm 119:114 'You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my only source of hope.'

Friday, January 25, 2008

Survival of the fittest

Despite our best efforts to convince ourselves otherwise, we are not in control. Life, in all its complexity is not determined by the individual will and determination. Life is multifaceted in its complexity...interactivity between the individual the environment and community present a myriad of joys and problems as different and unique individuals interact with themselves and one another, plotting and progressing towards various ends.
Some would propose this end being the survival of the fittest (Darwin...satirically portrayed to your left). Personally I am persuaded we are much more then complex multi-celled species trying to off another in order to get more for ourselves. Hearing reports of Luo's hiding their Kikuyu neighbours in their homes for days to protect them from harm; of people vigilantly fasting and praying, day and night in churches; of the rich and poor alike giving generously and sacrificially to those in need....those are not the actions of primal instinct but point to a higher possibilities and purpose for man. So I ask myself, what motivates me? what end do I act? just for me, my ego, my comfort, or something more? ..even my Christianity, is it 'opium' to make me happy, providing for my every whim?..or can it be something more? Do my actions today reflect my purpose? Hhmm

Proverbs 4:23 'Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.'

Fresh Air

Wow! We've been praying for something to happen...anything in fact, to bring an end to the impasse...After weeks of nothing but politicians and teargas, the despair and helplessness, I don't know if you're like me, but seeing Raila and Kibaki walk out of Harambee house smiling was a breath of fresh air! Watching the ins and outs of the game of politics has made me critically aware of the gift of leadership...and how much those who wield it influence the affairs of man. The fact that a whole nation, even those who do not want to admit it, is one way or another influenced by the decisions of these two people is to say the least disconcerting (let alone the impact on the region, and Africa as a whole). How I long for the time when Kenya will have a crop of leaders who lead to serve and serve as they lead.
Now the question many of us are asking is, what exactly is going to be put on the table as bargaining chips from both sides of this 'great political divide'?
Would give almost anything to be a fly on the wall in that conference room.

Proverbs 11:14 'Without wise leadership, a nation falls; with many counselors, there is safety.'

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wild Life

Yesterday on Money Matters on NTV the head of KTB Dr. Achieng was talking about the tourism industry and reassured the public that that no tourist had been hurt so far, and that the Wildlife reserves and parks all had heightened security to protect these areas. Not that I have any problem with our government protecting the guests visiting us, or protecting our natural resources and tourism industry infrastructure, but it pointed to a glaring disparity...While our animals are tucked safe and sound in their hidey holes and grass beds, doors are broken as the police search for 'criminals at large', our women and children continue to be attacked and raped by marauding gangs and in some reported cases the very people who are meant to be protecting them, and our men are being brutally cut down by gangs, or shot by the maybe the displaced or disenfranchised need to move into the national reserves, then at least all they have to contend with are lions...and my friend below....

Monday, January 21, 2008

Rebuilding the ancient ruins

Isaiah 61:3-4 "To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair. For the Lord has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory. They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities long ago destroyed. They will revive them, though they have been empty for many generations."
Noise has been a haven for me...when the world as we know it changed on the 30th of December 2007, personal dreams and ambitions, political opinions, short and long term strategic plans were suddenly shattered when faced with the possibility that even when you have a Plan B and contingencies in place for 'that rainy day', the impossible can happen, the inconceivable can be conceived...our assumptions can be blown out of the water and replaced with a nightmarish reality which is not only hard to swallow, but makes us question if the reality we thought existed was really reality or a comfortable farce we embraced because the truth was too difficult and time/resource consuming to tackle (ethnocentrism, tribalism, poverty, institutional corruption) and we eventually replaced the truth with the lie for long enough so that we eventually forgot what is true and what is false.
So when people began to die, when homes were burnt, when crowds took to the streets....confusion reigned...So like an ostrich who's head is in the sand, I hid...but instead of the earth, I hid in noise; even as I could hear the loud incessant stomp! thump! thump! of rushing steps, hurtling towards me at frightening speed, I surround myself with news, and conversations, and accusations, and rumours...hoping that the breaking of my heart would stop, that metallic taste of fear in my mouth would abate, that the 'comfortable reality' would return and I could forget the nightmare. But today I realise even if I return to the lie, that is all it is, a lie, that is so easily shattered with just a voice ignored, a politicians word, a wave of a machete. So truth wins out, real reality must be must be rebuilt, but not on a foundation of lies anymore, real change can only result from real introspection followed by real action...maybe I can't change the world, but I know someone who I continue the journey to discovering how I can partner with Him in rebuilding the ancient ruins.