Please donate $25 to Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC).
Contributions can be sent directly to TCSC’s Kenyan bank account through WorldRemit at the cost of one US cent. See bottom of posting for details. My goal is 22 donations to total $550 to fund two HROC workshops at the Kericho Women’s Prison from December 19 to 24; one for inmates and a second for their mentors once they are released.
Project 1 – Mumias, Kenya:
The type of guns stolen from the police station.
The participants in the listening sessions and workshops did not want their picture taken.
On November 23 a gang armed with machetes attacked a police station near the town of Mumias, seriously wounding one police officer and stealing 7 guns and 184 rounds of ammunition. In retaliation, for the next two nights, two hundred police raided nearby homes to search for the missing weapons. In the process they burnt houses, stole money, cell phones, and food, assaulted and raped women, and killed two people. They didn’t find the guns.
That evening on the news, Getry Agizah saw a tearful woman from the neighborhood describing how she had been abused by the police. Well versed in the first rule of peacemaking (Show Up), the next morning she traveled to Mumias to assess the situation. It was so bad that she called Peter Serete to join her. They met the pastor of a local Church of God who had three female parishioners who had been assaulted by the police. He immediately offered his church as the site for a listening session. The next day Peter and Ezra Kigondu held the first of three listening sessions in communities impacted by the police raids. There were a total of 114 participants. They learned that there was a local gang that had been terrorizing the community for a long time. Since this constituency is going to be hotly contested in the August 2017 election people feared that one of the local politicians had arranged for the guns to be stolen to be used in “campaigning.”
The listening sessions indicated that TCSC should do some HROC workshops – particularly with the youth who were targeted by the police. Nonetheless, when they arranged the first of two workshops a few days later, they found that the emotional level was still too high for HROC workshops so the facilitators decided to conduct AVP workshops instead. In the end 50 people participated in the two AVP workshops.
During the workshops the team met with members of the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) who were investigating the police brutality in the area. Then they went together with the IPOA investigators to the local hospital where they met eight victims of the police brutality.
One woman who had major injuries on her face commented, “It was on Thursday morning when a group of six armed police officers came to my house in Shibale [the local community] asking me to give them the guns that were stolen from the police post. Immediately, as I was still talking to them, I found myself knocked down, being beaten as they said in Swahili, ‘Produce all the guns lest you know what made guinea fowls not to have feathers.’ The next thing I found myself in this hospital.”
The guns and ammunition were recovered on December 6, twelve days after they were stolen. They were found in the sugar plantation of the Mumias Sugar Company and one of the people guarding the guns was killed while three others fled. Ezra thinks that the discovery of where the guns were hidden was due to the AVP workshops where people were encouraged to inform the police where they had been hidden.
Project 2 – HROC with Albinos, Kabanga, Tanzania:
Children with albinism playing at the Kabanga Protectorate Center.
Perhaps I will write a full Report from Kenya on this later, but I find that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, Christianity/Islam in East Africa is often only skin deep. For this posting, the issue is that the body parts of albinos in northwestern Tanzania and elsewhere are used in witchcraft rituals. An organization called Under the Same Sun reports that in the last fifteen years at least 378 people with albinism (PWA) have been murdered or maimed in sub-Saharan Africa with almost half being in Tanzania. No true believer of Christianity or Islam would ever participate in these rituals yet they are obviously frequently happening.
Due to the killing and maiming of PWA the Tanzanian Government has set up the Kabanga Protectorate Center in northwestern Tanzania where the witchcraft practice is rampant. All PWA in that region have been forced to relocate to the Protectorate. The result, though, is that the “Protectorate” has turned into a prison for PWA. Most have been there for years without any hope of returning to their home villages. When these women entered the Protectorate they left their families behind. One had been attacked in the past and had her arm cut off (reportedly worth $4,000 on the witchcraft black market). Another one had her relative with albinism murdered (reportedly worth $75,000). All have had great losses – husbands left them for other women, loss of children, loss of their home, and/or loss of being able to bury their parents or even their own children. In other cases, mothers bring their one and a half year old children with albinism to the center and never return to see them again.
The Mennonite Central Committee-Tanzania has a program supporting people with albinism and sponsored TCSC to conduct a one-week Healing and Rebuilding Our Community workshop during a camp that they organized for PWA in the Protectorate.
One of the TCSC facilitators, Eunice Okwemba, told me that this was a very difficult workshop. The women were traumatized with being PWA, but also their indefinite detention in the Protectorate weighed heavily on them. There were nineteen participants including two men. There are three categories of women in the camp – those seeking their own protection and have no children in the camp, those women with albinism and seeking the protection of themselves and their children with albinism, and thirdly those without albinism and are in the camp to protect their children with albinism. They all have to survive within the scarce resources in the camp and the ensuing scramble causes a lot of acrimony. Evidently, the women suffer layers of trauma. From their sharing, the sources of their trauma is categorized into three aspects: Experiences from the community before they joined the camp, experiences in the camp which have to do with the camp setting and staff which were criticized, and relationships amongst themselves including tribalism.
Lucy Karambu, another facilitator, commented, “For the four days we were together with the women, none of the women opened up in a way that would be described as deep and authentic, however safe we think we made the environment…The question is – have the women become immune to the pain that they are unable to describe it or feel it?” Although many of the women were illiterate, one of the men had just finished college – “How long will I be confined to the Protectorate?” he asked.
On Friday one of the activities of the camp was to visit Kigoma, the nearest major city. This was the first time that many of the PWA had left the Protectorate since they entered it when it was founded in 2008.
The facilitators’ recommendation for the way forward was that the women need another training session. Hopefully they can get a step further in dealing with the issues affecting them in an authentic manner that would bring healing. There is need for staff training to provide them with a deeper understanding of the issues PWA are facing and developing some empathy towards them. Yet their indefinite detention in the Protectorate is also a questionable solution to the potential violence against them. They feel like strangers in their own country. During a session when asked one of the things that hurts most, one of the participants said, “Being sent away from our own country. What have we done?” There is a feeling that the camp is a foreign land.
Project 3 – HROC with victims of LRA attacks, Barlonyo, Lira, Uganda
Participants in a small group discussion writing down their answers.
On February 21, 2004, the Lord’s Resistance Army, noted for its brutality and kidnapping of children, attacked the Barlonyo Internally Displaced Persons’ camp near Lira, Uganda. The Ugandan government reported that 200 civilians were killed, but unofficial reports put the total at 300 to 500 killed or missing.
From November 14 through 23 Transforming Communities for Social Change conducted three badly needed basic HROC workshops in Barlonyo with the victims of this massacre. This was done in partnership with Children of Hope-Uganda and support from Bill and Rosemarie McMechan who were part of the original 1999 delegation that resulted in the creation of AGLI.
Here are some testimonies from these workshops:
One participant said, “My daughter was abducted and tortured. Up to now she can’t walk or do anything. She has become a burden, but I want to thank the facilitators for seeing me through the personal reflection, Johari’s window, anger and trust because I was planning on revenging to my neighbor who was one of the people who abducted my daughter. But now I want to accept the situation the way it is and move on.”
One teacher said, “I have been holding on to anger to my friend because of what she did to me, but, since I have understood a good way of handling anger, I will start practicing it. I never knew about good and bad listening skills. I will start by approaching her for forgiveness.”
After the loss, grief, and mourning exercise, one man commented, “I have pain. My son couldn’t continue with education due to the death of my wife in the war which affected me up to now. This has caused my prostate cancer.” He said he had never talked about this in public.
A participant said, “I never knew there was destructive and constructive ways of handling anger. I was angered by my neighbor who I was thinking of revenging on her, but from this workshop I’ve changed my mind and have forgiven her. Revenge is not a solution.”
Even though twelve years had passed since the tragedy it is clear that trauma healing and reconciliation was very important for these people so that they could move on with their lives. Since these workshops were only the first step, hopefully further funding can be received to continue with this project.
In summary, Transforming Communities for Social Change has as much important healing, reconciliation, and violence prevention work in East Africa as it can handle. The needed programs have been developed and tested in the forge of reality, sufficient personnel have been trained and tempered by experience, and the organization is well established so the missing “firewood” (to keep the same metaphor) is adequate funding.
Sending Funds to TCSC’s Bank Account in Kenya through WorldRemit.
World Remit is an international internet wire transfer service that can be found at www.worldremit.com.
The charge to send funds to a bank account in Kenya is 1 US cent. They make their money on the exchange rate but it is much better than Western Union or other wire transfer services. The amount lost in the exchange rate is about 2%, but I have never been able to get funds at the “official” rate so the actual cost is about 1%. Fair enough.
- Rate is very low.
- Funds arrive in the Kenyan bank account the next day.
- After the first transaction, a subsequent transaction takes only about a minute.
- By the wonders of M-pesa (mobile money) funds can economically be forwarded to Rwanda, Burundi or Uganda.
- The limit for any one transaction is $2,000, but one can always send multiple transactions.
- For money laundering security, on the first transaction you must submit a copy of your driver’s license or passport picture page.
- You must use a debit or credit card. I have never used a credit card but the credit card company may charge 1% or 2% for the transaction. My debit card does not charge me anything.
- Donations through WorldRemit are not US tax deductible.
How to fill out transaction:
- Log on to worldremit.com and register with driver’s license or passport.
- Send to Kenya
- Select service: Bank Deposit
- Change blank to “Send” and put in amount in dollars
- Fill out form as follows:
Bank name: Co-operative Bank of Kenya Limited
Branch name: Kakamega
Account number: 1134165266600
First Name: United for Peace
Middle Name: and Community
Last Name: Development
Mobile Phone: 254 726590783
Your own Reference: “Donation” or specify project to be supported
Sending reason: Family and Friend Support
Note: United for Peace and Community Development has changed its name to “Transforming Communities for Social Change” (TCSC), but the Kenyan Government has not yet issued the certificate for the name change. When TCSC receives it, they will change the bank account name to Transforming Communities for Social Change.
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Please contribute to Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC). Donations can be sent directly to Kenya through WorldRemit for a charge of one US cent. See http://davidzarembka.com/2016/12/11/world-remit-details/ for details.
From 1998 to 2016, David Zarembka was the Coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams. He continues with his peacemaking work in East Africa with Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC). He has been involved with East and Central Africa since 1964 when he taught Rwandan refugees in Tanzania. He is married to Gladys Kamonya and lives in western Kenya. David is the author of A Peace of Africa: Reflections on Life in the Great Lakes Region.
Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC)
P. O. Box 189, Kipkarren River 50241 Kenya
Phone in Kenya: 254 (0)726 590 783 in US: 301/765-4098
Reports from Kenya: www.davidzarembka.com/