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Report from Nairobi, Kenya

Sister Catherine (Katie) Erisman worked with the Maryknoll Sisters in Tanzania, East Africa more than 26 years as a teacher and nurse during the years 1957 to 1995. She also has experienced working with refugees in the Sudan and Somalia and with Rwandan and Burundi refugees in Tanzania. Below is a report she sent on the situation in Kenya.

“I want all the Sisters to know how very grateful I am for your concern, your messages and your prayers. It has meant a lot. When I returned to Africa - after Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, and Burundi - I looked forward to being in peaceful Kenya. We knew the elections would be tense but such a degree of violence was not expected.

The trouble started immediately after the presidential winner was announced - and continues until today. Tutu came, the Ghana president came, now Kofi Annan and his team are here. They have a very difficult job. Neither side has given an inch. All know the elections were flawed, surely rigging on both sides, many believe the wrong winner has been sworn in. The animosity between the two tribes, Kikuyu and Luo is surely there, but it is more widespread - politically engineered violence, poverty, frustration. It is hard to understand what has been done, the destruction and suffering, the violence; such tragedy for this beautiful country.

For three weeks I have been going to Jamhuri Park here, where the displaced of Nairobi are camped. Now Janet Srebalus M.M. has joined me. We volunteer in the makeshift kitchen along with many others, mostly Kenyans from outside the camp, and some displaced who have volunteered to help. We've cut vegetables­ mostly thousands of peas, green beans, and some potatoes, tomatoes. We help giving out the noon meal which is brought by Hare Krishna. And listen to stories. They know us now, although what we do is very little. The Kenya government has said that the camps must close this week, but the Red Cross and the UN have tried to intervene and change this decision. We'll continue going until they close the camp.

The destruction in western Kenya, the Rift Valley, has been worse, with camps of 30,000 displaced. The people are upset and fearful - many have no place to go, have lost everything. There is no security.

We all have been fine, staying in touch, staying home when it seemed prudent. The World Section House where we live is located on the street where the opposition ODM have their headquarters. It gets full of cars and reporters when there is a press conference, but then we stay home. Twice, on days with protest rallies, the police were around, preventing people from going to the protest, and once they used tear gas on our street.

Kofi Annan and his team need the wisdom of Solomon. But there are hopeful signs. Yesterday, after meeting with Opposition Leader Odinga, the ODM Opposition cancelled the protest rallies planned to start today. And the Catholic Bishops yesterday issued a statement, calling on both parties to open their hearts and minds and to refrain from police brutality and demonstrations leading to violence. So we wait, hope and pray.

Again I send my deep gratitude and love to you all,

Katie Erisman M.M., January 24, 2008  (cf. update below)


(Update: February 4. Janet and I  are still going to the camp for the displaced. First they say it is closed, then they open it. Many groups are working for peace. We pray they can get the youth to stop the violence. Katie.)



Reports from Kevin Kraft:
January 28, 2008
January 27, 2008

Novitiate in Exile

Maryknoll Sister Katie Erisman, MM

A SPECIAL EYE WITNESS REPORT on Violence in Kenya from Dominican Friars

Why Is Kenya Bleeding?

Bert Ebben, OP (St. Martin)

Who are the Dominicans in Kenya?


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