Please join me in praying for peace in Kenya. I’m sure many of you have seen or heard some bits in the news, but here’s a quick overview.
Kenya’s presidential and parliamentary elections were held on Friday (Dec 28th), and the presidential race especially was igniting a lot of tribal division between the current president, Mwai Kibaki, who is a Kikuyu and Raila Odinga, a Luo. The first president was also a Kikuyu and there’s a lot of feeling around the country from other ethnic groups that the Kikuyus have benefited infairly as a result. Thus, many non-Kikuyus feel that it is their turn to have a president and that another Kikuyu president will only solidify Kikuyu domination. The Kikuyus are the largest ethnic group in Kenya, followed by the Luo and Luhya in western Kenya (my home in Kenya is in the Luhya area).
It sounds like there was almost definitely some fraud involved. I’m not sure of all the details surrounding the release of the election results, but I think most people expected Raila Odinga to win from the prior polls and initial returns, and were very upset when Kibaki was declared the winner after several days of delayed results. After the results were released, violence erupted across the country between Kibaki supporters and Odinga supporters, but mainly in Nairobi, Kisumu, Eldoret and Mombasa (the main cities).
I’ve been hearing today’s count that at least 250 people have been killed across the country. Yesterday, they were saying 150. Many homes, shops and kiosks have been looted and burned down. 35 or so people were killed in Eldoret when the church they were sheltering in was burned down. In Nairobi, it seems that most of the unrest is in the slum areas, which is really sad because the many, many good people living there are already so vulnerable. This means that hundreds of people have lost their lives and thousands have lost family members, homes, livelihoods, and really, all that they have. I know people who live in Nairobi, Kisumu and Eldoret, although I think many of them may be home in the rural areas for both the Christmas holidays and the election. I have a number of messages out to family and friends and am waiting to hear back on how they are doing.
Kenya has been a fairly peaceful country and, despite some local conflicts in various places, has not had much widespread ethnic violence. But the ethnic tensions have been simmering for a while and there is so much at stake with this election. Today has been pretty calm. It could very well settle down from here and come to a peaceful resolution. But it could also escalate and explode further. Odinga and his supporters are planning a peaceful rally on Thursday, which I dearly hope will be peaceful, but I know could easily turn violent with just a little provocation from police or opponents. There is a lot of international pressure for a fair outcome, but I’m really not sure how it will play out. I am praying hard for peace and stability and a good outcome. Please, please pray with me.