Kenya: A prayer for peace and reconciliation in a war-torn nation
Against the backdrop of peace negotiations, World Vision staff members in Kenya continue relief and peacebuilding efforts, even as they deal with their own shock and grief over the bloody violence that has engulfed their country.
Updated February 28, 2008
By Janet Root, Web Writer/Editor
This just in ...
- Hoping for an end to two months of violence, Kenyans rejoice as a political deal is signed between the feuding government and its opposition. (Feb. 28)
Please note: If a sponsored child is directly affected by a crisis or disaster, it is World Vision's policy to notify that child's sponsor as soon as possible.
A mother watches over her sleeping child at a camp for displaced Kenyans who have fled their homes in the wake of recent violence.
© 2008 World Vision staff
Conflict-weary Kenyans are beginning to steal moments of cautious optimism. Reports of progress being made in mediated peace talks are watering tiny seeds of hope.
Weeks of widespread violence — following highly contested presidential election results announced in late December, which uncovered deep-seated ethnic divisions — have left more than 1,000 dead and 300,000 displaced.
Hundreds of thousands of Kenyans are still in shock, struggling with a deep, confounding grief after witnessing the bloody turmoil that has engulfed their nation — previously one of Africa's most stable, prosperous democracies. Among them are World Vision staff members, who are praying for a peaceful end to the violence.
'Tears welled up'
"It is my prayer that Kenya, previously the icon of Africa, rises above ethnic parochialism and strives for true national identity," said Joseph,* a World Vision employee who has worked in war-torn regions across Africa, including Darfur, Sudan."Within 20 minutes of the announcement of the final presidential results, chaos in my hometown reigned supreme. Tears welled up as I saw Darfur replayed before my very eyes.
"Neighbors turned against neighbors, hacking one another to death. Armed youth battled police, who fired live bullets and teargas. A once-peaceful area was plunged into an orgy of violence … Kenya was ripped apart with talk of one ethnic group betraying another.
He was on holiday in his beloved homeland of Kenya in December. Recently, he shared his personal response to the violence:
"My heart bled for my people, knowing firsthand the destruction that comes with civil war. I wept as I realized what Kenyans were consciously plunging into.
"They have never known war as I have seen it — images that came to my mind: the hunger, hatred, disease, lack of water, and armed men, waiting to defile and create mayhem in camps for the displaced in Darfur that shelter up to 250,000."
Video: The cost of conflict
Watch footage of internally displaced children and families in Nakuru, Kenya, and the World Vision staff members who are there to assist them. (Running time: 2:18)
Plans to build peace
A World Vision staff member took this picture of a scorched van while traveling with 200 other vehicles to Nairobi, Kenya's capital city, in mid-January. "I counted the scorched metal remains of more than 70 torched vehicles along the highway," he says, noting the prevalence of burned buildings as well.
© 2008 World Vision staff
Yet even as they grieve over their nation's recent bloodshed, our team members in Kenya also are working hard to address the deep-rooted ethnic issues that have contributed to the country's violence.
Efforts are underway to establish long-term plans for peacebuilding and tribal reconciliation. One such plan includes organizing sports leagues
to help heal the deep divisions.
"Right now, children are hearing messages of division and conflict, and we fear seeds of discord are being planted," says Patterson Siema, World Vision's emergency response communicator in Kenya. "These leagues will allow tribes to come together and find common ground by participating in organized sports."
World Vision also plans programs in music, arts, and writing to further promote messages of peace and healing among Kenyans. May such efforts be the answer to the heartfelt prayers of many, including Joseph.
February 28 update: Deal signed
Excitement gripped the Kenyan people as they witnessed the public signing of a political deal between the government and the opposition. It is hoped that this deal by President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga will end two months of violence and political uncertainty in the country.
The deal will create a coalition government with both parties sharing power equally. In addition, the post of prime minister has been created and will be reserved for the party with parliamentary majority.
"This is an incredible outcome; it is a miracle of God and answer to the prayers of God's people. I feel like God has visited us in a new way and we need to continue to support programs that address injustices, inequality, and governance that led to divisions among Kenyans," said Professor Wilfred Mlay, World Vision's vice president for Africa.
The government has promised to assist those displaced in the post-election violence. There are still more than 300,000 displaced people living in camps across the country. They are still in dire need of resettlement assistance.
The deal also will assist the people of Kenya as they start the healing process, and it paves the way for long-term peacebuilding and economic empowerment programming. "We are happy that the two leaders have demonstrated willingness to work together and called on all Kenyans to emulate their example," commented Girma Begashaw, World Vision's national director in Kenya. "We trust this will lead to a speedy recovery process and enable us to move on with our day-to-day program implementation activities."
<p><span style="font-size:8 pt; font-style:bold; font-style:italic">*The World Vision staff member's name in this article has been changed for security reasons.</span></p>
>> Read more about peacebuilding efforts
that World Vision is planning in Kenya.
>> Read the latest updates
on the post-election violence in Kenya and how World Vision has responded.
Three ways you can help
>> Praise the Lord for the signing of the political deal that could bring about sustained peace following months of post-election violence that has devastated children and families across this East African nation. Pray for the continuation of positive steps toward a resolution and end to the deadly conflict.
>> Donate now to World Vision's Disaster Response Fund. Your contribution will help World Vision deliver aid to desperate families and children affected by disasters and crises, like the post-election violence in Kenya.
>> Sponsor a child in Kenya. Your support will help foster long-term strength, enabling that child to grow into an adult capable of reaching his or her God-given potential.