Kenya: "Ray... of Peace"

Thursday, 06 March 2008 12:18
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Friar Joseph Kikuyu is a young Kenyan Friar who is studying sociology in Rome. “I very much like this course, he says, because it helps me to grow and to prepare to better serve my people when I return to my country.” This interesting and short interview was conducted by our confreres Friar Jarosław Wysoczański and Friar Luciano Marini of the General Secretariat for Mission Animation.

“Can there be the beginning of a hope for peace after the accord between President Kibaki and Odinga, the head of the opposition, on February 28?”

The situation is very difficult and dangerous. There have been more that 1500 deaths, 400 children have yet to be reunited with their families, and more than 300,000 refugees have had to leave their homes in order to survive.

The political problem of the contested election has transformed itself into a tribal and ethnic problem. The President is of the Kikuyu tribe, more numerous and dominant, while  Odinga, the head of the opposition, is of the Luos tribe which, smallest of all the other groups, has felt themselves emarginated.

“Has the Church had a role in these events?”

It has always remained outside of any political or ethnic diatribe; it has only, and constantly, called for peace and reconciliation.

“Are our Friars involved in this situation?”

Yes, some of the families of our Friars have had their houses destroyed and have had to escape. We are now helping these families. Also, in our mission in Limuru, the Kikuyus and Luos are living peacefully together. At the outbreak of the violence many Luos fled to the refugee camps. The Pastor has tried to help them, taking foodstuffs and other help to them. The Kikuyus have tried to find solutions for those who are threatened. They are able to stay in the parish for a time. The Cardinal came and spoke with the people and now the Pastor has returned and the climate is more serene.

“Will the various ethnic groups be able to return to a peaceful coexistence?”

After so much violence, agreement and living together will not be easy. Many thousands of refugees have lost everything: house, belongings, and many have also lost family. Several schools have not reopened because the teachers have not returned or are afraid to return because of ethnic diversity.

And there is also a problem with the land. Many English, after independence, returned to Great Britain, abandoning house and land. The first President, who was Kikuyu, gave these primarily to people of his tribe, even that outside of their own territory. The other tribes want the Kikuyus to leave these lands and return to their own territory. However, this is very difficult because in these ten years or so, many of them have integrated themselves, marrying persons of the other tribes. The problem now is political as well as social.