Thursday, January 03, 2008

Help Restore Peace in Kenya

The past couple of days have been busy. It took me 11 hours to get home from Chicago on Tuesday. Yesterday, I was at a trial all day. On top of it, I've been battling a cold. But these challenges are nothing compared with what people in other parts of the world are facing. (photo credit)

Upon returning home, I was greatly disturbed by a headline saying that 50 people had been locked in a church and burned to death in Kenya. I was horrified but I was tired. I hoped it was an isolated incident.

Then, today, I read a message my cousin, Ariel shared with me. It moved me to write my representatives in congress. I want to pass the message along to you and encourage you to do the same.

Here's what my letter said:

Dear Speaker of the House Pelosi (San Francisco) & Congresswoman Woolsey (Marin County), I am deeply concerned by the reports of violence coming out of Kenya. Hearing about innocent people being locked inside buildings and burned to death is horrifying. That people are without access to necessary supplies and their lines of communication are down makes the situation even more perilous. Please take action to bring peace to this area and protect the people living there. Thanks for all you do.

Click here to write your representative.

Here is the message that prompted me to write:

Dear Friends, Family, and Associates, I am writing to request your assistance with an extremely challenging issue.... As some of you are aware my wife is from Kenya. Our family lives their now.. and are in grave danger... Within the the last 3 days there has erupted a huge campaign of violence, ethnic cleansing and tribal warfare from the alleged rigging of the presidential election leading to the re-election of Kibaki.

I will not relate the details as they are all readily available on the websites I include at the bottom of this email... but the basic reality is that the country is entering a state of warfare... Marshall law has been declared by the president... a curfew... riot police are out in streets throughout the country... if you are out past curfew you are beaten or shot... looting and rioting has decimated many of the shops in the town centers... many I and my family would frequent...leaving many without basic supplies to live. The President has shut off all the radio stations... all you hear is the eerie sound of static as you scan the airwaves... The television stations are only broadcasting un-interupted movies... no news.. no announcements... Everyone in Kenya uses pre-paid calling cards for cell phones.. and the president has ordered them to stop being sold... He has stopped all flow of information internally... We had to ask our mom not to call her friends and conserve what little credit she has.. we now have to call regularly to check on the situation... even the phone networks have been going down... He has shut the water supply off to Nairobi City (the largest and most developed city in east Africa)... There are frequent blackouts...

The two major tribes representing the presidential opponents are Kikuyu and Luo. My Wife and Family are Luo. Kikuyus are attacking and killing Luos en-masse throughout the country... and Luo are killing Kikuyu around the country... within the last day.. mass killings have begun.. In Lou towns Kikuyus have begun killing Luos.. locking Luo social clubs while people are inside and burning them down... over 50 Kikuyu women and children sought refuge in a church after their homes were burned and an angry mob of youth locked them in the church and set fire to it killing 35... those who escaped were met on the outside with the mob... beaten... and burned to death in a kitchen garden outside the church... decimation of neighborhoods, slums, and villages where supporters of either candidate are being burned to the ground.. with people inside.... This is only a small fraction of the injustices being committed....

Yet these atrocities are reminiscent of the beginnings of the Genocide which took place in Rwanda (The next Door neighbor to Kenya)...
My Mother In Law in Kenya received word from a friend in government that Kibaki was about to be announced the winner off the election and that she should rush to the grocery store because it was about to get very bad... she sent my cousins to the store to buy what food she could afford... that night 3 local social spots where my family would regularly hang out were locked up and burnt down with people inside... Luckily my family was all at home anticipating the violence to come...They are locked in their small apartment.. 2 small bedrooms in a stone apartment structure. They have a small security gate before the front door which they have padlocked shut... My brother in law... lost track of his family when their neighborhood was attacked, people killed, and burnt to the ground... he ran around searching all night and luckily he was able to locate them... they rushed to my mother in laws home... He, His Wife, and Small children had to pass through streets littered with bodies... there are now over 14 people in this tiny apartment... they only have food for a couple more days... the stores are dangerous if impossible to get to... most stores have been shut or ransacked so there is no food anyway... what food is left is being sold at very high costs...

Gunshots are heard round the clock and throughout the night...
I paint this picture to give an idea of the severity of the situation... I watch and feel helpless... Many who have watched Hotel Rwanda can remember that feeling of "What did we / could we have done to prevent this..." This is a similar situation... I am not sure of the best remedy for it.. but it is apparent that something needs to be done before the violence, civil unrest and massacres extend any further...

How can I sit by and watch another Rwanda or Somalia take place without so much as opening my mouth... and the fact that my family is directly involved impels me to act with determination. Things may get better on their own... maybe in a few days... a few weeks... a few months... but for each day it doesn't... lives are lost.. families shattered.. and we inch closer to genocide... how many times did people assume that it would probably work itself out in Rwanda or Somalia.... and thereby delay their own action... inaction enabled a spark to become a flame and a flame to become an inferno.

I am writing to my congress people in Los Angeles... imploring them to press the US govt. and the UN to intervene... The only way to ensure my family's safety is to ensure peace in Kenya...

Please take a moment to do something... write to your congress person or call them and urge them to address the issue of the unrest in Kenya with haste... Each day that passes people are dying and being ripped from their homes... only 250 people have been documented killed so far... thousands injured and over 70,000 made homeless in 3 days... This does not include those who are fleeing and are undocumented by the statistics.

I mentioned hotel Rwanda.. and the vivid picture it painted which brought us all a bit of shame... now picture your family in that hotel... being left to die as other countries get their own people out... this is more than a movie... My family is at serious risk... and I am praying for their safety.

Please take a moment and help be a part of bringing about peace... not only for my own families but for all of Kenya... And Above All Pray For Them...

Jon and Auntieclare

P.S. Please forward this to anyone you know and are willing to share it with....

Click here to write your representative.

BBC Africa
Daily Nation
Guardian Unlimited
CNN World

Click here to write your representative.

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