Wednesday, January 30, 2008

January 30, 2008 - Troubled Times in Kenya

The last few days have been particularly tough, for both me and Kenya.

Before we moved to Kenya I was diagnosed with a herniated disc in my lower back, for which I have been doing exercises prescribed by a physical therapist. It is not unusual for me to be diagnosed with something normally reserved for 80-year-olds, so I tried to take this in stride. Doing the exercises, my back has been feeling much better in the last month and I have rarely felt pain these days. Until Monday morning.

I was stupidly moving something I had no business moving and, even though I bent my knees the way the therapist told me, it was too much for my lower back. I fell to the ground in complete and totally shocking pain and, sadly, had to call my Knight in Shining Armor to leave work and come rescue me because I couldn't actually move on my own. Today is my third day on the couch and on percocet (of which I am in limited supply...which also maybe a good thing). I have more motion and less intense pain than on Monday, but sitting, as well as standing for any amount of time, is still very painful. I am hoping that in a few more days, this spasm will have subsided enough that I can start doing exercises again. Yikes! One of the problems with a herniated disc is that normally a Dr. will do an MRI to diagnose how severe it is, but because of my pacemaker I cannot have an MRI to get that information. We'll see how the next few days go.

While I have been in physical pain, the country of Kenya has experienced pain and sorrow on much deeper levels. The violence that increased over the weekend in places like Naivasha continued and there was a peak event late Monday night when a Member of Parliament from the opposition party was murdered outside his Nairobi (suburban) home. Once this happened, all hell broke lose. Nairobi's slums, which had calmed down a great deal in the previous two weeks, woke up again and with a vengeance this time. In retaliation for the MP who was killed, a gang of Luo's in the Kibera slum publicly beheaded a Kikuyu doctor, which was one of many revenge attacks throughout the country yesterday. Violence occurred in a suburban area for the first time when people rioted outside the murdered MP's home. Roads were very unsafe and Kristoffer received more security updates at work than ever before. The UN released employees a little earlier than usual, with warnings to stock up on staples and be very cautious on the roads. We have been asked to restrict our movement until further notice, although today there have been no major incidents reported yet. Needless to say, we won't be out hunting for drums again any time soon!

Last night also marked the "opening ceremonies" of formal dialogue between the government and the opposition, as mediated by Kofi Annan and his committee of esteemed African colleagues. What we saw live on TV was selected members of both sides gathered in the city hall. Kofi Annan gave a speech and then both President Kibaki and Raila Odinga gave speeches. They all said the things they were "supposed" to say to sound good to the country and the international community, and then they all walked off and had tea together.

Are you kidding me?! Personally, and please don't blame me for having become a bit cynical in regards to African politics, I thought it was a load of crap. One of their MPs and dozens of Kenyans were savagely murdered yesterday - not to mention the other 800+ who have died in the last month - and they are standing around having tea, pretending to be old friends? If I were Kenyan, I would have felt insulted and demoralized, honestly. It was so patronizing! Maybe when they actually sit down and starting dealing with the country's problems, the least of which seems to be the election controversy at this point, I will respect the process they are going through; but to me yesterday was a joke. They need to stop talking about what they need to do and actually start doing it! Both sides have signed a formal document with the agreed rules to engage in this mediation. Kofi Annan says he expects the opposing sides to resolve the political crisis within 4 weeks (hmm...) but that the larger issues at play here (of tribal loyalty, economic equity, and land to name the big ones) will take up to 1 year to resolve.

So, it has been a tough week in Kenya so far, for everyone. I can't start working until I can move so hopefully that is soon! The good news is that we do have a complete living room furniture set now that all the of the pieces and cushions have been delivered. It is also good news that my sister, Christine, arrives later today to help nurse me back to normal again.


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