Monday, September 19, 2011

The Situation in Kenya

I arrived in Kenya last Wednesday, September 14, after flying through Dubai in the Arab Emirates. Dubai itself was a fascinating experience. It's really almost like an "alternate pole" to New York, a meeting place of the east and the south. There were huge numbers of Middle Easterners, Asians and Africans - many dressed in robes not unlike my own (though much more elegant in color, fabric and style; by comparison I looked pretty shabby) - and relatively few North Americans and Europeans.

In my less than a week here, my perception of the situation has been dominated by three principal impressions:

1. The September 12 fire in the Sinai slums of Nairobi, caused by a gasoline pipeline leak, that killed more than 100 people and left many more injured and wounded. It was a horrific incident that underscored the plight and vulnerability of the thousands of Kenyans living in extreme poverty in the shanty towns scattered throughout the capital. 

2. The continuing drought and famine in northern Kenya and other areas of East Africa that threaten the existence of thousands of rural villagers who survive on subsistence farming and herding. This forms the climatic backdrop to the Somali refugee crisis unfolding on Kenya's western border. Approximately 450,000 refugees from Somalia are being sheltered in camps in Dadaab, with an estimated 1500 more arriving each day.

3. The ongoing political crisis that emerged in the wake of the inter-tribal violence provoked by the disputed presidential elections at the end of 2007. More than 1000 Kenyans died, and scores more were displaced, during months of rioting that swept the country. Several very prominent Kenyan political figures- including potential candidates for the 2012 national elections - have been indicted before the International Criminal Court at the Hague, for which judicial proceedings are currently underway.
    This is certainly not a complete picture of what's taking place here. Kenya is a beautiful country and its people are gracious and dignified - which makes the circumstances I describe above an all the more painful scar on a people who deserve so much better. Please remember those affected by these events in your prayers.

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