|Kibera faces ethnic violence in response to presidential election results in Kenya|
|January 04, 2008|
Many in the School of Public Health community are familiar with the efforts of Carolina for Kibera (CFK), established in 2001 as an international, nongovernmental organization based in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. CFK leaders are alumni of the School, and the organization is an affiliated program of the UNC Center for Global Initiatives.
Rye Barcott, president and founder, and Kim Chapman Page, chair, board of directors, wrote a letter to donors after the recent violence in Kenya related to the presidential election. With their permission, we reprint the letter here.
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Friends and colleagues,
Many of you have called or emailed asking for information and sending your thoughts and prayers to the Carolina for Kibera (CFK) staff and volunteers who are on the ground in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. Thank you for your solidarity and support.
There are no Americans volunteering with CFK at the moment on the ground in Kibera. CFK has kept its office and clinic closed since the election. However, today we began a short-term feeding program out of our youth center.
The violence stems from the December 27 presidential election in Kenya.
At first, the election seemed to be peaceful and well orchestrated. It appeared as though the main opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, had a significant lead in the early polls.
The violence began after President Kibaki was prematurely declared the winner in a small, hasty ceremony at his Presidential estate. It is unclear whether or not Kibaki won the election, but elections monitors (including the Kenyan head of the Kenyan Electoral Commission) have publicly called the election results illegitimate.
Although ethnic divisiveness is no stranger to Kenyan politics, no one anticipated the level of violence that has engulfed Kibera and much of Kenya. The situation on the ground is deteriorating rapidly as each day passes. Stores in Nairobi are looted and people, particularly the poor, are running out of food. Food prices are soaring.
Large swaths of Kibera are burned to the ground. Criminal opportunists have joined the fray, and there are incidents of wanton violence. Yesterday we received reports that a group of community members repelled a gang of thugs from looting and burning our youth center.
It should be noted, however, that those perpetrating the violence in Kibera number perhaps in the hundreds. Over 700,000 people, half of whom are under the age of 15, reside in the slum.
Nevertheless, the level of hatred and divisiveness throughout Kenya today is unprecedented. People are afraid, and those with the means are fleeing from Kibera and other multi-ethnic communities racked by violence. Each day of violence besets the next and further solidifies more ethnic enmity. The violence must stop now.
Efforts to unite Odinga and Kibaki and encourage these leaders to lead and bring a halt to the violence have thus far been futile. None of these leaders have been on the ground in Kibera since the violence began.
We initially started CFK as a small soccer program with a hundred youths from every village and every ethnic group in Kibera. A key goal was to help promote ethnic cooperation and support the education of remarkable young leaders living in some of the most austere conditions imaginable.
The violence reminds us that development depends on good governance and security. But our charge is still very clear, and even more important in light of the current bloodletting.
CFK staff and volunteers are the forces and voices of positive change that will help create and sustain an equitable and peaceful society.
We will post updates about new developments to our website (http://cfk.unc.edu).
If you are interested in learning more, there is a link below to a powerful United Nations article that features CFK and Binti Pamoja member Fatuma Roba. Her two-minute radio interview is particularly powerful.
Also included is a link to a front-page article about CFK and Kibera from the Raleigh News and Observer, an insightful op-ed in the Financial Times from long-time CFK supporter and dear friend Michael Holman, and a graphic video of the violence in Kibera from CNN.
Here are the links:
Please keep our brave leaders and volunteers on the ground in your thoughts and prayers in the days ahead. It is likely to get worse before it gets better. If you are so inclined, we could as always use your financial support.
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|Last updated January 05, 2008|