Convivium Update

15 Jan 2008

Samuel Muhunyu, Central Rift Convivium leader, writes to John Kariuki, Kenyan student at the University of Gastronomic Sciences and newly appointed Slow Food international vice-president, to update him on the troubling situation back home and clarify misrepresented facts. John’s family lives in the Kuresoi constituency of the Molo district.

Dear John,

Greetings from Kenya and thank you for your interest and concern in the plight of the displaced people following the recent post-elections violence.

Before embarking on the provision of an update on the situation, I wish to correct some impressions created by the international media on the situation. I have watched BBC and CNN news on Kenya and I think they have deliberately or otherwise misrepresented some facts. From their reporting one gets the impression that the entire country is on fire or in a state of chaos.

Allow me to explain what has happened. Immediately, disagreements arose on the results of the presidential elections. Violence targeting the Kikuyu community erupted in the costal city of Mombasa, Nairobi, Kisumu of the Nyanza province, and more fiercely in Eldoret, Eldama Ravine and Molo in Central Rift Valley. The rest of the country remained calm but with high suspicion and tension. In less than two days, the violence that involved killing, burning of houses, destruction and looting of property, stealing of livestock and other havoc was quelled by security forces in Mombasa, Eldama Ravine and parts of Nairobi.

The main ‘hot spots ‘ for the violence have been Kibera in Nairobi, Kisumu in Nyanza and Eldoret and Molo in the Central Rift Valley. In Molo, for example, the arsonists came very close to your home. Thank God they were repelled by the residents and security forces, but they attacked villages neighboring your home — Nyakinyua, Sirikwa, Muthinji, Ngenia and parts of Moto. Many other parts of the district, including Kuresoi, Murinduko, Tamyota, Mawingu, Muchorwe, Karirikania, Mwahe, Languenda, Kamwaura, Sitoito, Kimkasa and Giticha, for example, were all severely affected.

The government decided to evacuate the target victims from the affected areas to safer places where they can be provided with security as it pursues the arsonists. Security operations have been mounted in these hot spots in the air and on land, and they are closing in on the raiders who are destroying everything in sight, including abandoned homes, setting crops on fire and stealing what they can take with them.

Meanwhile, the victims have settled in schools and church compounds. They have been reduced to ‘refugees ‘ and beggars with little to eat, drink, or even a change of clothing. They have to spend nights in the cold and in crowded camps. Hygiene is poor and so too is water supply. My evaluation of the security situation is that it is improving greatly at a fast rate and the involvement of other African leaders to mediate between the warring parties is helping diffuse the tension. Part of the cabinet has been named and parliament is due to open next week. We are optimistic that the situation will keep changing for the better and that a settlement program will be initiated soon.

Support to the victims is twofold: i.e. the immediate (and urgent) and the more long-term, that involves resettlement, healing of wounds, reconciliation and so on. We are currently addressing the first type. Government departments, the Red Cross, religious organizations and civil society organizations (including us) are doing everything possible to assist these people in their pathetic situation. We are soliciting and receiving donations of food, clothing, blankets, linens and money (later transformed into food) from other parts of the country, which we distribute to the victims.

We have appealed to other Terra Madre communities and chefs in Kenya and they have responded positively. This is true spirit of networking that involves sharing good times and supporting one another in times of need.

The different organizations involved in this exercise have agreed that each addresses the needs of the families or communities with whom they are involved to avoid duplication of efforts, without leaving out or discriminating anyone. We are dealing with close to 1,000 families (the census is going on), who include members of our food communities and community groups that are involved in our sustainability projects. Basically, the support we seek for them includes:

-Food: dry maize, beans, garden peas, potatoes, wheat flour, rice, vegetables, fruits, cooking oil, sugar etc.

-Clothes and linen: children’s’ wear, men and women’s wear, blankets bed sheets, mosquito nets, school uniforms (schools open next week) etc.

-Medicine (to support the local government health institutions that have now to put up with higher demand) especially for tropical ailments and that are in conformity with the Kenya Pharmacy and Poisons Board requirements.

-Support to local schools (which are anticipating higher enrolment in the term beginning next week): books and teaching materials in conformity with the 8-4-4 educational system.

– General support (especially financial): with which we purchase what the victims need most.

For our participation in the exercise we have established a five-member committee (including two victims) that is recording receipts, managing and distributing supplies.

We are also making a video documentation of the process which we hope to share with you and Slow Food later. Two directors of our partner organization, Friends of Kenya Schools and Wildlife (FKSW) in the United States, have been here since December 29 and plan to remain until February 4. Together we are visiting people involved in our projects, including those affected by the violence.

It is my hope that this information will help you and your colleagues understand the situation here better and make the right decisions.

Kind regards,

Samuel

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