We should pick our fights not just because they can be won, but because they must be fought. Njonjo Mue, Kenyan civil rights activist.
A draft statement is being circulated to only select people stating that David Zarembka “is no longer associated with AGLI or Friends Peace Teams in any way.” People, mostly in Friends Peace Teams but also on the AGLI Working Group, are conspiring to remove me from the work I have done for the last two decades.
Any organization that forcibly removes people is on the path to self-destruction.
I have not been told who my accusers are. I have not been told what I am accused of, what sins I have committed. Consequently I have had no opportunity to defend myself, to give my side on the issues. Friends Peace Teams itself is prosecutor, judge, jury, and enforcer. I consider this a witch hunt. (Here is a description of “witch hunt” from the internet: Where a person decides to target another person for reasons which may, or may not, be obvious. It may be a w ork colleague who decides to undermine and belittle a co-worker, or it could be a person who makes it their objective to slander the reputation of a ‘friend’ or associate. Essentially, it is a targeted attack against one person, for reasons that are not necessarily tangible. This seems to fit my situation perfectly.)
Since I have been given no other method of defending myself, I am forced to use this Report from Kenya to convey my public response. I am sure that the conspirators will be offended by this, but, since the campaign against me has been conducted in such secrecy, publicity and transparency are my only recourse for justice.
David Bucura, my successor as AGLI coordinator, told me that he was satisfied with the help I had been given during the transition and that he did not want me to be removed from AGLI’s Working Group, but that he was being pressured (by whom?) to ask me to resign. Sue Nowelsky, the clerk of the AGLI Working Group, also emailed me that she was being pressured (by whom) to ask me to resign. I told both of them that I would not resign. The attempt now is to forcibly remove me.
Why shouldn’t I accept the victim role and just quietly resign and fade into the woodwork? First I am extremely loyal to the people I have worked with so fruitfully in the past and do not want to abandon them. My second reason is that many people working with AGLI have told me that they do not want me to resign. In fact they fear the implications on how they would be treated by Friends Peace Teams and AGLI if I resigned. I have been told that due to the treatment I have been receiving there are others on the AGLI Working Group that would resign. In other words the attack is more than just on me, but a purge of those who feel that I still have something to add to AGLI’s peacemaking work in East Africa.
Some may object to my use of the words “conspire” and “conspirators.” The definition of “conspire” is “to agree together, especially secretly, to do something wrong, evil, or illegal.” From my perspective this is certainly the case so I am justified in using these terms.
While I have not been told who the accusers are, I have some ideas. If I wrongly accuse anyone I am willing to publicly apologize. My late friend, Alison Des Forges, the strong Human Rights Watch researcher on Rwanda, in the 1990s changed the methods of human right work by publicly naming those who were responsible for human rights violations. Likewise I name those whom I suspect are the major conspirators against me.
Tom Martin, Clerk of Friends Peace Teams
Nancy Shippen, Assistant Clerk of Friends Peace Teams
Roy Zatcoff, Treasurer of Friends Peace Teams
Val Liveoak, former Coordinator of Peacemaking in Las America.
Since Rosalie Dance wrote me an email pressuring and trying to intimidate me to resign, I would consider her one of the conspirators. I then would add her husband, Adrian Bishop, to the list. There are very likely to be others that I am not aware of. What is most hurtful here is that Gladys and I considered some of these people to be our friends. Et tu, Brute.
Before I went to the United States in September, Tom Martin, the Clerk of Friends Peace Teams, had a Skype call with me. Here are the issues he raised and my response.
He accused me of raising funds through Friends United Meeting (FUM) for Friends Church Peace Team (Kenya). First I certainly have the right to raise funds for any organization that I feel is worthwhile. Second FUM is a Quaker organization and I see no reason why I can’t raise funds through them. Lastly Tom seemed unaware that Friends Church Peace Teams is not a recognized organization in Kenya and that FUM is its fiscal sponsor. Therefore whenever Friends Peace Teams/AGLI sends funds to Friends Church Peace Team they themselves are sending it directly to FUM, doing exactly the same thing I am promoting.
He then accused me of raising funds for Transforming Community for Social Change (TCSC) calling in “my” organization as if all the Kenyans involved were invisible. He seems to be unaware that TCSC (and under its previous name “United for Peace and Community Development”) has been an AGLI partner for many years. When Friends Peace Teams/AGLI received a $1000 contribution from a person who was solicited by me for the election violence prevention work that TCSC was doing in Kenya, Tom ordered that the check be returned because I was the source of the donation! I do not have confirmation if this was returned or deposited. Even during the time I was AGLI Coordinator I have been involved with Friends Church Peace Teams and Transforming Community for Social Change since they began almost a decade ago. How can the Clerk of the organization be so uninformed?
Additionally Tom Martin demanded that I turn over the email list for Reports from Kenya to Friends Peace Teams/AGLI. I refused. The title is “Reports from Kenya” and not “Reports from AGLI.” I started my Reports in 2007 when Gladys and I moved to Kenya. The purpose was to keep my family and friends updated on my activities, experiences, thoughts, and issues while I lived so far away from them. Due to my extensive reporting on the 2007/2008 post-election violence in Kenya, I had many people sign up for my Reports. When I resigned a year ago I announced that I would be continuing my Reports from Kenya. Why did it take Tom Martin a year to decide that this was AGLI’s email list? When I asked Tom what Friends Peace Teams would do with the email list, he had no answer. Clearly the purpose was to “kill” Reports from Kenya. What could be the possible benefit from this destruction? I also told him that Friends Peace Teams is free to start “Reports from AGLI” anytime they so wished. I note that Tom Martin who is on the list serve has not unsubscribed.
I am not fooled. This exclusion is retribution for calling out the lack of integrity of Friends Peace Teams. When an audit paid for by AGLI determined that a large amount of money was embezzled, they gave that person impunity. Moreover with Friends Peace Teams/AGLI funds they then helped support that person’s family while he obtained a master’s degree in the US. There was no discussion whatsoever on their part of any restitution for the embezzled funds. Recently there is a plan to give that person an extra $5,000+ from tax-deductible donations. As I have pointed out to them this is illegal because a person is not allowed to give a gift to a designated person through a tax-deductive donation as this is tax avoidance. I do not know how they proceeded on this.
Yet the time, energy, bad vibes, accusations, and so on are just a distraction from the serious problems Friends Peace Teams is facing. The first problem is that, while Friends Peace Teams and its three initiatives are receiving major declines in donations, their costs – mostly for additional administration – are increasing substantially. There is a pending financial crisis which is not being addressed. The second problem, with no discussion whatsoever, is that Friends Peace Teams has changed form a volunteer/semi-volunteer organization to a typical non-government organization with paid staff. The result is that, while funds for administration mostly in the United States are increasing substantially, the amounts remaining for program work overseas is declining both in dollar terms and in percentage terms. For example, as AGLI coordinator I was paid $400 per month while the two people who are succeeding me are receiving basic salaries of $1780 per month. The difference came directly out of AGLI program work. Friends Peace Teams does not have sufficient resources to have hired staff do the work that was formerly done voluntarily. What is the purpose of an organization working outside the country that spends most of its donated income on administration and mostly in the United States?
Here is my request for your assistance:
- Since publicity is the only defense I have been allowed and the reach of Reports from Kenya is limited, please circulate this report to people, list serves, and organizations that you think might be interested.
- Send emails of concern/complaint to the following people:
Tom Martin, Clerk, Friends Peace Teams
Nancy Shippen, Assistant Clerk, Friends Peace Teams
Roy Zatcoff, Treasurer, Friends Peace Teams
Val Liveoak, former coordinator of PLA
Sue Nowelsky, Clerk, African Great Lakes Initiative
David Bucura, AGLI Coordinator
Anne Hutchinson, AGLI Publicity/fundraiser
To insure that your email is not ignored and suppressed, please send me a copy. The email addresses are as follows:
If you are concerned about retaliation and want to remain anonymous, then you can send your response to me and I will forward it without your name or any identification. You may also send me a private email of support that you do not want me to forward.
If you feel comfortable, here are the topics you may wish to discuss:
- That you appreciate my Reports from Kenya and want me to continuing writing them.
- Express concerns on how the process to exclude me has not been transparent, that I do not know my accusers, the charges, nor allowed to defend myself. Ask for an open and transparent process for whatever I am accused of to be judged by neutral people.
- If you are an American Quaker, talk, phone, or email your Friends Peace Teams’ representative on its Council and ask for explanations.
- If you are an African, complain on how far-away Americans are making decisions on African issues without consulting the Africans.
- Demand that Friends Peace Teams show integrity by pursuing restitution for any funds that have been or are misused or embezzled.
Thanks for any assistance you give me on this issue. Regardless of the fact that Friends Peace Teams is attempting to exclude me, I am continuing with my leading of promoting peace and reconciliation in East Africa.
Thank you for listening to me and I appreciate any responses you might have.
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From 1998 to 2016, David Zarembka was the Coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams. He continues his peacemaking work in East Africa with Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC) and Friends Church Peace Team (FCPT). He has been involved with East and Central Africa since 1964 when he taught Rwandan refugees in Tanzania. David 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. He is an analyst on eastern Africa for TVC News in Lagos, Nigeria.
Transforming Community for Social Change (TCSC)
P. O. Box 189, Kipkarren River 50241 Kenya
Phone 254 (0)726 590 783
Reports from Kenya: www.davidzarembka.com/