Divine Word Missionaries
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Dear Fr. Pernia,
Greetings of peace.
wish I were writing just to convey the greetings of this season when we celebrate today the beginning of the New Year, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and the World Peace Day. I still do so, because having a happy and peaceful new year with the help and companionship of our Mother Mary is our goal.
I am writing to give a brief report on the situation that we are living in Kenya at the present. You might have been accompanying it through the reports in the international media. On December 27, 2007 the Kenyan people went on their thousands to the polls to elect their Councilors, Members of Parliament and President. That was an orderly and peaceful exercise of democracy. Everybody was hopeful that after the voting process the Electoral Commission would do the counting of the votes and present the nation with the winners of the polls. However, the process did not go as smoothly as expected. It was marked with allegations of rigging and forgery of results that did not match with the reports coming from the poll stations brought by the returning officers. The opposition leaders presented their complaint to the chairperson of the Electoral Commission and the counting process was interrupted. There was a meeting between the officials of the Electoral Commission and the Party leaders seeking to solve the matter. After that the counting process resumed and on Sunday December 30, before 7pm the results were announced and former president Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the 2007 presidential election. The opposition presidential candidate Honorable Raila Odinga contested the results and refused to accept them.
Following the announcement of the results in that very evening violence and riots broke out in various parts of the country. Previous to that protesters in some major cities and towns had already broken into shops and looted goods. Unhappy with the out coming results political party supporters went out on the streets and set fire on commercial premises, vehicles and some residences. This was followed by clashes between different rival political party supporters and in the conflict there were a number casualties and more than a hundred people are reported to have been killed in the clashes. Among the areas affected by the clashes is Eldoret where we have our SVD community at Holy Spirit Catholic Parish at Langas.
Langas is a residential area in the outskirts of Eldoret town about 4 km far from the town centre. The confrere in-chare of the mission, Fr. Martin Cingel, phoned me yesterday and informed about the seriousness of the situation in the area. This afternoon I spoke to him and to Fr. Teodor Grysk in order to have an update of what is happening and this is what they reported. There have been clashes in different parts of the parish since last Sunday after the results of the presidential election were announced. Houses and properties are being burnt and people have to flee for their lives. Having no where else to run to they have come to seek refuge in the church compound. The night of 31st December to 1st January an average of 3,000 people slept within the church compound. The confreres are overwhelmed with situation and the major challenge they are facing now is lack of food. As people had to run they did not have time to take anything with them, and because of the New Year holidays and the lack of security the shops are closed. Until the time I spoke to Fr. Martin they had not received assistance from any side. Only the police come once in while to see how is the situation and then they go. So far they are feeling left alone. Nobody from the government has yet come to place to assess the situation. We are trying to get in touch with somebody from the Justice and Peace Commission and see whether they can get a government official to visit the area and help to calm down the people and to solve the problem.
It is really a sad situation. Our confreres are tired and tense. And we are unable to help much as we are far from the area and travel is very difficult due to insecurity. We request you to share this information with all the confreres in the Society and ask for their prayers that God may grant us a peaceful solution to this situation.
I am writing on behalf of Fr. John Serrao, the Provincial Superior-delegate who is in Tanzania at the moment. He traveled before the problem started for the Christmas and New year celebrations and now he is stranded in Arusha waiting until he will be able to return to Kenya.
Once again I request, please remember us in your prayers and the whole country of Kenya, that a peaceful solution be reached soon.
Yours, in the Divine Word,
Fr. Carlos Vieira Lima, SVD