By Patricia Wilson-Smith
Imagine it – you’re a three-year old. You’re awaken in the middle of the night by the sound of men wielding machetes, and all you hear as you cower next to your bed in terror are the screams of your family, as the violent strangers kill them one by one. You survive only because you go undetected. You’ve survived – but now you’re all alone.
You narrowly escape the fire that the strangers set – you stumble out of your home, onto the street, half-dressed, nearly blinded by your tears and the heat of the fire, and you watch as your home, and everyone and everything you hold dear in it, is ravaged by the flames.
Imagine then that this scene is repeated day after day after day for weeks – and that it seems to go on without end. This story and others like it are being repeated in Kenya today, even as we all sleep soundly in our nice comfortable beds, and worry about how we’re going to pay our Dillard’s bill this month.
On December 27th, an historic Presidential election was held in Kenya, one in which the Luo had hoped to see one of their own, Raila Odinga, elected to the highest office in Kenya for the first time.
Early polls showed that his victory over Mwai Kibaki was imminent, but greater than anticipated turnout in Kibaki strongholds, where the Kikuya live seemed to magically erase any pre-election lead for Odinga, and Kibaki was sworn in as Kenya’s President. Again.
The result has been an outbreak of civil violence and unrest that had once only reared its head in the nations surrounding Kenya. At last estimation, over 350,000 men, women, and children have been driven from their homes by the violence, and machete-wielding warlords had taken the lives of over 1,000 Kenyans.
There has been no real outcry – not from around the world, not from within the United States. We watch the sparse coverage of the story on the nightly news, and click our tongues, and turn the channel to get our daily Election ’08 fix, forgetting that the man who is responsible for sparking the political imaginations of so many, the man who has taught us all that as a nation, we can hope for more tolerance, more patience, and more unity, has his roots in Kenya, still has family in Kenya. We are connected to Kenya, whether we want to believe it or not.
It is so easy for us to live our daily lives, secure in the knowledge that no matter how bad our economy may get, no matter how disillusioned we become with our political system, our society will never disintegrate into chaos or anarchy, because, well, it just won’t.
But today, in Kenya, hundreds of thousands of people who live in the once tranquil, tourism-rich nation are now fleeing for their lives, leaving behind decimated homes, and any sense of safety they may have known. Can we really stand idly by, knowing that so many people are dying, and living in fear, and that no one is lifting a finger to help them? Would we be more willing to help if Kenya sat atop a great oil reserve, or if they were a strategically important base of operations for the U.S. in some other way?
What if a sea of phone calls could make the difference? What if you could copy this passage, cut and paste it into an email, send it to all of your friends, and make a difference?
Well maybe you can. I urge you, all of you, to make a phone call to your local television stations, your elected officials, your friends, your families, and anyone else you can think of, and remind them that the ancestral home of the man who has proven to be our greatest hope for a unified nation is under siege and needs our help. Kenya needs our help. It is time for us to see beyond ourselves, beyond our own borders, and help where we are needed, whether we have interests there are not.
Join me in contacting someone today – anyone, and telling them about the crisis in Kenya, and asking them to make a call to their congressman or Senator, and demand that they do SOMETHING before it’s too late. If you can’t do it for the Obama family, then do it for the innocent Kenyan children – they have everything to lose, and nothing to gain from the violence that threatens to destroy their land.
There are a number of great organizations lending their voices to this cause. If you’d like to learn more, or to make a donation, go to http://reliefforkenya.blogspot.com – it has links to a donation form, as well as posts about ongoing activities in Kenya.