Words from Kenya

The abject failure of NGO and government led peace meetings

During the last 15 years I have witnessed countless peace meetings being held in various parts of northern Kenya; between conflicting groups of herders and between conflicting communities. People never tire of having them yet there is very little evidence that they are ever effective. Peace meetings are a great selling point for NGO’s and government bodies though, who are hoping to raise funds from donors. They involve various expenses including (but by no means limited to) catering, transport, accommodation and even conference facilities. They look great in NGO pamphlets. Glossy pictures of locals sitting around in a circle somewhere in the bush, the NGO’s local rep standing in the ... Continue Reading

How do you maintain social distance during a natural disaster?

I have heard many people pondering how terrible it would be if, in the middle of this covid-19 crisis, we had a natural disaster that forced everyone to come together in rescue centres. Yes it would, and that is exactly what has been happening over the last couple of days in western Kenya. Torrential rain causing mudslides, flash floods and the rising waters of Lake Victoria are costing lives, washing away homes and flooding whole communities. People are currently sheltering in groups on higher ground, crammed together in makeshift shelters and many are still totally cut off from aid. Here is this mornings report in the Kenyan Daily Nation newspaper. After mudslides, experts warn of ... Continue Reading

The 25 year anniversary of the Rwanda genocide reminds us that the destructive effects of violence continue long after the last shot is fired

In the drama of the latest viral moment, or breaking news from journalists tasked with finding the newest 'bang bang', we easily forget how extensive and serious the long term effects of violence are. I have seen first hand how violence leaves it's mark on the individuals and communities involved. Time may obscure the effects on individual and collective psyche but, though new life events can help create distance, I am not sure the effects of violence every really go away. These mental and emotional wounds, and the scars they leave, can all too easily develop into deep seated prejudice and even restart conflicts. I have watched that happen here in northern Kenya. You do not easily forget ... Continue Reading

Cyclone Idai, climate change and famine in Turkana

The effects of Cyclone Idai have reached beyond the devastation of parts of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. According to the latest Kenya Meteorological Department report it sucked so much moisture out of the atmosphere that the southeast winds, those that normally bring Kenya rains at this time of the year, are pushing only dry air in our direction. The rainy season, originally forecast to be on the wetter side of normal, has been delayed by Cyclone Idai. It may be that we get very little rain at all because conditions in the southern Indian Ocean are currently ripe for more cyclones. Another, Cyclone Joaninha, has been sitting just to the east of Madagascar for the last few days and ... Continue Reading

Shooting Elders

A group of elders narrowly escaped death this morning. They were shot at shorty after they arrived for a peace meeting on the Isiolo - Laikipia border. This should be evidence enough, for those that still need it, that elders no longer command the authority and respect that they once did among this community, and so many others like it across northern Kenya. Kenyans are not alone in their love for the pomp and ceremony of traditional leadership roles in society; the ceremonial oaths and promises, the clothes, the prayers, the hallowed words of their elders. Sadly the truth is these positions, and these ceremonies, have long ago been devalued by ruthless politicians from all ranks. We are ... Continue Reading