The Salvation Army provides physical, material and spiritual help.
In Kenya, political and tribal unrest continues—the aftermath of last month’s disputed presidential election. Although many people are attempting to return to their normal routine, the threat of violence remains, as the conditions that led to the initial conflict have not been resolved.
To date, more than 650 people have been killed and over 250,000 have fled their homes.
Former United Nations chief Kofi Annan traveled to Kenya to help solve the crisis; he has called for dialogue between the opposing parties. Opposition leader Raila Odinga has agreed to meet President Mwai Kibaki if the talks are part of international mediation efforts; Kibaki has thus far rejected this condition.
In short, Odinga wants an election recount while Kibaki states that he was rightfully elected.
The opposition has filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court, accusing the Kenya government of crimes against humanity. Reports indicate that the government is planning a counter-suit.
In the past, Kenya has had a reputation for relative stability in East Africa. Tribal tensions existed under the surface, though, and the country is home to over 40 ethnic groups.
While Annan seeks to get the parties to the negotiating table, it is Kenya’s people who suffer. The Salvation Army is providing food, supplies and shelter to those in need. Reports follow by Captain Armida LaMarr, social service secretary in the Kenya Territory, and by USA Western officer Lt. Colonel Jolene Hodder, who is territorial president of women’s ministries in Kenya.
From Captain Armida LaMarr
Social Service Secretary
An old adage says, “When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” This is an apt description of what is happening in Kenya. Though the country is in the middle of a political battle, it is those who are already marginalized who are suffering the most. This controversial election has brought out what seems to be underlying anger and tribalism. Though recent days are more peaceful in Nairobi and other areas, the effects of the unrest will be felt for a long, long time.
Of the approximately 300,000 people who have been displaced, many are living in camps around the country. The Salvation Army is doing its part to reach out to those affected. Our emergency chaplain team recently traveled to one of the small camps in Huruma. The lucky ones slept on old mattresses; everyone else slept on the grass. Over 250 people sat in straight lines looking for any help they could find. We distributed maize flour, blankets, cooking fat, and juice bottles for the kids as another 250 people lined up behind the first group. Each child also received a bottle of juice. Sometimes the little things can encourage people.
When I opened an envelope of stickers for the children, they crowded around me. I smiled as I watched them put stickers all over their faces and their friends. While another officer played with the children, I sat on one of the dirty mattresses with the women and talked to them. They all smiled as they watched their children act like…children.
We will continue to fill the gaps in service. I think people will be living in these camps for a long time. Western Kenya is still in a lot of turmoil. Travel is not recommended without police escort. Tourism is way down, which will have a major financial impact.
As I sit in my office, I watch military personnel in full riot gear pass by my window—a strange sight, but one that is necessary right now.
I continue to remain completely safe. No foreigners have been injured or killed during these days. It is a fight fought among Kenyans, and they are not interested in involving anyone else.
From African Adventure
By Jolene Hodder, Lt. Colonel
On a seemingly peaceful day, we returned to work at THQ aware of the constant tension in the air. By mid-afternoon, gunshots rang out. Announcements came in that police were blocking off streets and we quickly packed up to leave. During the hurry to exit, one woman fell down a flight of stairs, fracturing her ankle. Some of us stayed behind to help her.
The following morning we awoke before sunrise to watch the news and determine whether we should open THQ again. Sixteen new rape victims had been delivered to the local hospital. The rapes at gunpoint were so brutal that the young girls might never be able to have children. My tears flowed freely. I begged the Lord to show me what I could do for these girls.
The Lord reminded me of the day the sex-workers had asked me to help them get off the streets. Some of my associates were understandably concerned that they were playing me just to get money from the Army. But on the day we invited them into our church, threw our arms around them, listened to their pleas, and made a commitment to help them, I believe we won them over with the weapon of Christ’s love.
The rewards have been great. Not only are the women off the streets, they have also successfully finished their beadwork training. Just this week, they excitedly delivered to my office their first shipment of jewelry. After they had left, my assistant and I tripled the price marked on each piece. I asked Commissioner Anzeze if we could wear jewelry with our uniforms for one week as an advertisement for the women. The commissioner not only agreed, but he insisted on being the first to purchase a piece from the initial shipment, which has almost all been sold. Another shipment will arrive next week.
But the question remains: In what way, God, do you want me to use the weapons of your live and limitless resources to help the victims of rape?
As I watch and hear about the suffering of our people and experience the stress of day-to-day anxieties, I have decided—prompted, I believe, by the Holy Spirit—to stay at home for one day of prayer and reflection. I depend upon God to answer my plea for understanding how I can help the victims, but I must first wait upon him.
All over the country people are fighting to the death with guns and pangas (large African knives), but the weapons we have in our armory (the love of Christ and the power of heaven itself) to fight for life are more powerful still. Please, God, show me how to employ these weapons to help the victims of rape.