Being Dominican
Preachers Resources
Justice and Peace
Faith and Film
Groups and Organizations
Latin America

Free Update

Can't open PDF format files? Click on the link to download the latest Adobe Reader. It is safe and secure and free. Really.
Dominican Life | USA
| Sisters | Associates| Friars | Laity | Nuns | Link to Groups| DLC
| World OP
free email subscription
Coming Events

Kevin Kraft, OP: on power sharing agreement
A Great Day for Kenya

KISMU, KENYA-- FEBRUARY 28, 2008---Today was a red-letter day for Kenya, when (at last!!) Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga signed a several page political agreement of real hard-nosed power-sharing which is unprecedented in the nearly 50 year democratic history of the country. MORE

Dominicans in Kenya Continue to Witness Unrest

KISUMU, KENYA- As the process of power sharing and a hope for a return to calm emerges in Kenya, Dominican friar Kevin Kraft, OP, shares his perspective on the agreement and continues reports on local instances of strife and instability in Kenya.

FEBRUARY 17, 2008

Keven Kraft
Kevin Kraft, OP

We had the monthly Dominican Laity meeting today after our 10:00 AM Sunday Mass, and we had a good attendance of 10 laity plus myself. We had a good meeting with an hour and a half of formation themes, and then nearly a two hour business meeting, reviewing plans for a variety of activities coming up during the year. But the most interesting was the informal sharing in between those blocks of time, and towards the end of the business part of the meeting some questions and sharing which led into prayer, where I discovered that at least half of them are quite involved with the IDP’s (internally displaced persons) here in Kisumu.

I found out from them that the flood of refugees continues to the tune of some 1,000 per day that arrive in Kisumu from camps in various parts of the Rift Valley and center of the country. That’s been going on for at least 2 weeks now, which means somewhere around 15-20,000 Luos have fled the violence in other parts of the country and are returning to the ancestral homeland, hoping to be received by their kin. There has been a similar sad movement of peoples in the other direction: Kikuyus and other ethnic groups fleeing from the violence in Luo lands…

Kenya TruckOne of the Dominican laity is a member of the Kenya Red Cross and has been driving around town at his job even when the violence was high in Kisumu; he’s now working in a program for total orphan IDP’s (children and minors among the refugees who have no adult relative with them) in order to get them settled, in school and with financial support for at least the present school year.

Another, a professor at Maseno University where we have a chaplaincy (but which will open 3 months late due to fears that the multi-ethnic student population could provoke violence both on campus and in relation to the local community) has been a number of times to the IDP processing headquarters at the Anglican cathedral compound. Another lady is some sort of a counselor / social worker, and sounds like she’s been there on a daily basis for weeks, counseling the traumatized adults and children... Others had their own stories to tell. Even with the thousands of people coming and going, they could talk about individuals by name and situation, and discover that some of them had been both dealing with the same people from different angles.

It was extremely heartening to me (and humbling) to see how on their own initiative so many of these Dominican laity in formation have been working with the waves of affected people that have been coming through our city. I felt like we (in the novitiate) have done nothing, and indeed we have done nothing for those people, but then this evening I realized that none of us here in the novitiate have been in Kisumu for even a full year, that none of us really knows Dholuo (Luo language), nor are we that familiar with Kisumu and environs. Certainly these folks who have lived here all of their lives, most of them, and are Luos themselves, are the ones who can best receive and refer them to other specialized sources of help. I asked them if they could write up each one either a few lines, a couple of paragraphs or a page on what they’re doing, or of some story they’have been privy to, or of their impressions of the IDP’s situation, so that we can share it with others around the world, and they can know not only that we’re “safe and sound”, but can also see what the Dominican family is doing in the face of the very desperate situation of so many people.

Another very moving moment was when one of the coordinators shared that she had received letters or e-mails of support from various countries. An woman from the Dominican Laity in the U.S., unknown to her, wrote her (having found her e-mail on a web page) to tell her that many, many people are praying for us, that she wished she could count how many rosaries have been said for our safety and for the peace of Kenya. Then upon hearing that others at our meeting also shared correspondence they had received, and it turns out that in one short month we’have received (just the OP Laity, from the OP Laity, apart from the friars) letters of solidarity and promises of prayers from Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, Nigeria, Cameroon, the U.S., the Dominican Republic and Peru! We really feel supported by so many people that are praying for us, and we ask them to continue, because we’re not out of the woods yet.

Kenya childrenThere were also the horror stories of the traumas people had been through before arriving in Kisumu, and one of the people said that it seems there are many many more still coming from at least 4 different cities or major towns of the interior. Just this morning, as I took a couple of sisters to the bus station, we passed a huge truck loaded to overflowing with small furniture, mattresses, bags, jerry cans and people, which (sadly) is now easily recognizable as a truck of IDP’s stopping at different sites along the way to let off people where they can locate their relatives or ancestral home.

Meanwhile, we wait with hope that some lasting good will come out of the top-level negotiations still going on, because if there is not some concrete result, violence and lawlessness may just break out again and then turn endemic. Fortunately though it seems that the entire country is reacting in a positive way to reject ethnic racism, human rights abuses, and governmental irresponsibility. There’s a healthy awakening of civil society, religious, business, artistic and political groups, and overall a blossoming of diverse initiatives aimed at the healing and reconstruction of the country upon more solid and humane bases. The outcome of the present crisis could be a major page-turning and a chapter of truly significant maturation in the semi-secular history of Kenyan independence & democracy; hopefully it will not be the chapter of its definitive demise, which is another, more somber possibility!

Further Update: February 18th

Just heard some ominous news from an eyewitness of the things he told us of, in Eldoret (maybe 2 hrs north of here): that the Kalenjins have sworn to not leave a single Kikuyu in Rift Valley (where there have been many, and for 40 years or so). This young man, a 3rd year student at the local technical college, told us of how one night –just this past Thursday– his family heard screams coming from the neighbors’ house opposite theirs, and when they went out to see their neighbors’ house was on fire, and they were escaping with their lives and the clothes on their backs, some in night gowns or shorts.

The neighbors are Kikuyus, who have lived there peacefully for 12 years, and after the violence in January, thought that things were quieting down, and so had just returned to their home. The student who spoke of this said the marauding gang, high on bhang or home-made liquor, wanted to oblige him to show them all the other houses of Kikuyus in the area. They were “poking” at his younger sisters’ breasts, and his mother’s breasts, and said they would rape them if he didn’t go with them to identify houses in the area. But this young man stood firm, not knowing what would happen to his family if he refused, but not wanting to be a party to burning of other houses. He said they couldn't’t even help their immediate neighbors, because they were told if they did they’d burn their house down too. He said his mother went down on her knees and pleaded that they take her, but not her daughter.

They were young men who have been living in the woods for a month and a half, with unkempt hair, unbathed for weeks, desperate men who have had no food for a long time, and complained they “had no women.” Apparently the parish priest was called or arrived on the scene, and with very persuasive words in their mother tongue managed to get the marauding gang to go away without harming anyone… The same student explained at another point how his family had received willy-nilly 9 families of refugees who just ‘moved in’ on them and whom they couldn't’t refuse (I imagine of their own ethnic group), and within a week had nearly exhausted all their food supplies, soap, toilet paper, etc. From what he said, things are really desperate in Eldoret, after the crowds burned the supermarkets (run or supposedly run by Kikuyus, who are known for engaging in successful trading). Now petrol is so scarce that they are rationing it to only 5 litres per customer, except for those like Red Cross or Church vehicles which are engaged in serving the people.

Another ominous element in what he shared with us is the ultimatum that the local gangs have given to those harboring refugees, including the Catholic cathedral in Eldoret which had 25,000 refugees (!!) in its compound, filling the cathedral inside and out, and spilling over into the street. They were told that they had 3 days to get the refugees out, or they would burn down the cathedral (that was only a week or so after an evangelical church had been barricaded shut and then burnt down with several dozens of people inside, so it was not an idle threat). The bishop apparently pleaded with the people making the threat, but he only managed to get one day more out of them. The fourth day, our informant said, there were jerrycans full of petrol in the street outside the church compound! [There were also 15,000 lodged temporarily in the minor seminary, and another 9,000 in a smallish church…] So they were all moved to the Eldoret showgrounds (large extension of terrain kind of like a fairgrounds in the U.S.), where they would have some sort of police protection. But the student told us that there too they were given an ultimatum that “they” (the local population who threaten them) want all of them removed by the end of February, “or else”. It apparently doesn’t matter what comes out of the Annan talks. They’ve said that has nothing to do with it. These people are perversely intent on ethnic “cleansing”. By the end of February they have to go, all the thousands of them!

Even coming here a few days ago by matatu, he said there were roadblocks where the driver was told to get out and stand over on one side 50 meters away, then the passengers were told to get out, with their ID cards (from which one can determine their tribal identity) and money in hand. Those who were of the “enemy” tribe were singled out; he saw a woman who had been a fellow passenger with him, about 50 years old, stripped of her clothes, and handed over to the police (there were 4-5 police standing at a distance of 50-100 meters of this gang of 25 armed youths which manned the illegal roadblock, impotent to impede them), and they were told: “take this woman away and put her on the first flight to Central [Province]”. And he said, when the Land Cruiser of the police was filled with people thus evicted from the vehicles in which they were traveling, the police could only “rescue” them by taking them to the airport and getting them on flights out of the area.

Our friend arrived in Kisumu to begin classes with about 7 dollars on his person, being ‘relieved’ of the other 20 dollars he carried “because we [so said the assailants] are doing our people a service”. Fortunately people had advised him not to bring his tuition payment with him, but to deposit it in a bank, to withdraw it in Kisumu, since they knew he would be robbed on the road.

So! That’s the state of our country, even though the news media are careful not to print too many stories of violence, in order not to provoke tribal hatred, and because the government is trying to indict them on that basis. Even though things seem calm in Kisumu, that is what some people have been through who try to carry on with their lives as college students!


Kevin Kraft, OP

For previously published stories on this subject link here





"...We wait with hope that some lasting good will come out of the top-level negotiations still going on."

Kevnin Kraft, OP

subscribe to and receive a free email update every two weeks. unsubscribe