The last month has been 'interesting' both personally and politically. The
Kenyan government has been promising a new constitution since independence
in the 60's. The last and current one allowed changes to be made at the whim
of the president, so one of the aims of the new draft was to curb his
powers. One proposal was to have a "Head of State" for ceremonial purposes
and a Prime Minister to run the government.
The draft was sent to Parliament, where the MPs and the President decided
they didn't like it and made many changes although they had no mandate to do
so. It was then put out to referendum. The subsequent campaign was intense
and sometimes violent, with the Government (who decided they should be on
the side of the 'Yes' vote) handing out land, money, promises and goodness
knows what else. Isn't a referendum supposed to reflect the will of the
people? Kenyans came through with flying colours. Not only was the vote
peaceful and respectful, they dealt a resounding "No!" to the government by
rejecting the draft. Upon which the president fired the whole Cabinet and
prorogued Parliament until March 2006. He then took two weeks to announce a
new Cabinet, excluding those who had opposed the new Constitution, whereupon
more than half of those chosen refused to serve.
So we have no Parliament, a skeleton crew of Ministers and a president who
still refuses to articulate any coherent vision for the country. The
newspapers are full of articles denouncing the current situation, some
calling for a snap election. At least there is now a relatively free press.
In the meantime 'life goes on' as the Kenyans say, with the government
becoming less and less relevant. In many other African countries there would
have been open and violent revolt, but Kenya has shown great restraint and
Much more in the forefront of people's lives is the recent recruitment of
police officers where those interviewing demanded bribes of over $1,000 from
candidates. The Chief of Police has stepped in after public outcry,
cancelled all the new appointments and arrested well over one hundred
officers. However, there is great concern over past practice and what this
means about those now serving in law enforcement. The police now have
breathalyser units as the Christmas season approaches, but there are stories
of motorists paying off the officers and proceeding on their way to kill
themselves or others. The matatus (public service vehicles) are operating as
they did before the new rules two years ago, overloaded, speeding and highly
In addition, drought is causing famine in many areas of the country. There
has been an appeal for relief, but donations have so far been insufficient.
It might be an idea for some of the MPs to donate part of their obscenely
high salaries, or one of their imported cars, to help their fellow
countrymen. Even in Nairobi and elsewhere, many taking ARVs for HIV/AIDS can
no longer swallow them because of hunger, since the drugs need to be taken
with food. Their immune systems cannot fight the attacks of the diseases
that ravage AIDS patients. We pray that somehow basic relief supplies will
get through to the hardest hit areas, especially in the north.
As far as our own work goes, we have installed three wells which are now
gushing water. These were funded by Rotary Clubs. It is embarrassing to
receive such effusive thanks with songs, drums and gifts of bananas when we
hand over the wells to the communities. The women in particular composed
songs to thank us since they would no longer have to walk kilometres up and
down hill to fetch dirty water from the river. The water now flowing for the
communities and the adjacent Health Units is clean and accessible.
Because of the 'new' rope and washer pump we were able to come in below
budget and hope to be able to use the surplus funds for another well. We
have four more sites already subscribed and will be working on these after
Our Computer School is flourishing and we are expecting classes from the
scholarship girls funded by CHES (Canadian Harambee Education Society) In
addition, we plan to start a basic bookkeeping class in January. We have
enough computers now to be able to give some to High Schools to start
computer classes and we will distribute in January, the start of the new
school year. In my model primary school we are working on HIV/AIDS teaching
modules with a view to trying them this year, then passing them on to other
schools in the diocese.
I have taught two classes in Leadership and one full weekend on the Virtues
Project and Positive Discipline. Again, in the model school I have a small
group of single mothers with no support with whom I plan to start a small
micro financing scheme. Two of the former CHES girls will be helping me with
this. They both have had some success in small businesses (with loans of
$15) and they will basically run the project for me since none of the women
speaks English and sometimes not Ki Swahili (just the local tribal language)
Rebecca and Lydia, my two helpers, will run the next meeting with
explanations and role plays and will continue to visit and administer the
funds while I am away. They will earn something for themselves and will gain
It is ironic that we have been installing wells, yet ourselves have been
basically out of water for about six weeks. We are on the city water system
but of the three pumps in the town, one was beyond repair, one had to await
parts from Nairobi, and one gave up the ghost as it battled alone. We are in
the very hot dry season, so there is no rainfall for relief. We do have
water intermittently but have reverted to using every drop three times.
Anything used for washing ourselves or our clothes is used for the floors
and then for the toilet. It is amazing how little one needs to survive.
We have good friends visiting us at the moment and have done some travelling
with them. I think they are finding Kenya a land of striking contrasts: dire
poverty, amazingly hospitable and friendly people, magnificent scenery,
breathtaking animals and an almost vanished infrastructure.
We shall be away over Christmas, visiting my favourite Game Park in the
Maasai Mara. We wish you all a joyful Christmas and a Happy New Year.