Verbatim: Cry for Kenya

Our family is in Kenya. What they tell us makes us fear for their lives.

kenya riots 224.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
kenya riots 224.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
My wife and I are currently living in Los Angeles. But much of our family is in Kenya. What they tell us makes us fear for their lives - and for the country. Within the past several days, they say, there erupted a huge campaign of violence, ethnic-cleansing and tribal warfare in Kenya, stemming from the alleged rigging of presidential elections by incumbent president Mwai Kibaki. We have been told that martial law has been declared by the president. Riot-police are out in streets throughout the country. If you are out past curfew you are beaten or shot - no questions asked. Looting and rioting have decimated many of the shops in the town centers. My family is frequently left without the most basic supplies. The authorities have shut down all the radio stations; all you hear is the eerie sound of static as you scan the airwaves. The television stations are only broadcasting uninterrupted 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. The flow of information has come to a halt. Even the land line phone network has been going down. Kibaki has cut the water supply to Nairobi (the largest and most developed city in east Africa). Power outages are frequent. President Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe has been pitted against other smaller tribes. Our family are Luo. Kikuyus are attacking and killing Luos en masse throughout the country. And, we also hear that Luo are killing Kikuyu. Kikuyus trapped Luos in a number of social clubs while people were inside and burned them down. Over 30 Kikuyu women and children sought refuge in a church after their homes were burned and a mob of youth locked them in the church and set fire to it, killing many - you probably heard about it on the news. Those who escaped were met outside by the mob, beaten, and burned to death in a garden outside the church. This is only a small fraction of the injustices being committed. But these atrocities are reminiscent of the beginnings of the genocide which took place in Rwanda - right next door. My mother-in-law in Kenya received word from a friend in government that Kibaki was about to be declared the winner of the election. It was suggested that she should rush to the grocery store because the situation was about to get very bad. She sent my cousins to buy what food she could afford. Sure enough, that night, three local social clubs our family frequents were locked up and burned down, with people inside. Luckily, most of my family was at home anticipating the violence to come. My brother-in-law lost track of his wife and children when their neighborhood was attacked and burned to the ground. He ran around the smoldering buildings, searching all night, and luckily he was able to locate them. They rushed to my mother-in-law's, passing through streets littered with bodies. They are now 14 people in a tiny, two-room apartment. They only have food for a couple more days. We hear that the stores are dangerous, if not impossible to get to, and most are shut or ransacked so there is no food anyway, and what food is left is being sold at very high prices. Gunshots are heard round the clock and throughout the night. I PAINT this picture, based on information from my family, to give an idea of the severity of the situation. From so far away, I feel helpless. Many who have watched the film Hotel Rwanda can remember that feeling of "What did we - what could we have done to prevent this?" From everything my family is telling me, this is a similar situation. I am not sure of the best remedy for it. But it is obvious that something needs to be done before the violence, civil unrest and massacres extend any further. Things may get better on their own, maybe in a few days, a few weeks, or a few months. But for each day that it doesn't, lives are lost, families are shattered and we inch closer to genocide. How many times did people assume that things would probably work themselves out in Rwanda or Somalia - and delayed pushing for action? Inaction enabled a spark to become a flame, and a flame to become an inferno. The world must act. This account reached the Jerusalem Post on Thursday. Out of fear for the safety of family in Kenya, the writer has requested anonymity.