Words from Kenya

An uneasy silence has settled over the village as we wait to see if the election will bring peace or chaos.

Taking the livestock home

In the village on the border of Isiolo and Laikipia counties the last two weeks have been relatively quiet. With just a few minor livestock raids in the area and whole days without the sound of gunfire, by the standards everybody has become used to, this has been a peaceful time. It is a blessed relief to be able to walk a short way beyond the homesteads without searching the bushes constantly to see if a gun is trained on you. To even step outside at night, almost casually.

The days are getting harder in other ways, the water is gone, people are trekking just to get something muddy and stinking, but better than nothing. Hunger is creeping in as well. The livestock is too skinny to produce milk (or meat) and those who used to farm, by the once year round rivers, have nothing in their dry shambas. All food must now be bought in town and transport paid for to bring it back to the village. Most don’t have money for that. There was a relief food delivery a couple of weeks ago, that has helped, but the food won’t last long. Despite the increasing stress of daily life though, the reduction in violence is like a balm on us all.

There is no sense that the community is returning to normal however. It just feels like there is a collective holding of breath. We are all waiting for the 8th of August, for the election. In remote rural areas the frenetic campaigning happening across the country is not in evidence. There have been a couple of rallies in our area, people went to them and got given 200ksh, 500ksh if they were lucky. That was what people talked about afterwards, how much they were given, some were not even sure who the candidates were or what parties they belonged to. In remote rural areas the politics that effects people is usually very local, the people who push violence or bring justice and support are at the most local and lowest level of political establishment such as sub chiefs and elders. Governors, senators even MPs are remote and unknown figures.

Everyone knows that the violence is tied to the elections though and nobody will trust these days of quiet, days with few gunshots, loss of livestock or death, until they have seen how the elections go. Will this be the beginning of peace? The start of people moving back to their homes, to spend their time and energy fighting drought and hunger rather than raiders. Or is this just the calm before a worse storm?

So we wait.

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