So Valentine's Day is big in Kenya this year. Very big. Perhaps because of the crisis, people are eager to spread some extra love around and, I have been told, there has been more attention to Valentine's Day than in years past. So Kristoffer, who did not grow up in a Valentine's Day culture, and I will go to a really nice restaurant for our first married Valentine's Day. We also bought ourselves binoculars today for going on safari this Saturday...not the most romantic gift, but certainly something we will enjoy. Hopefully, the next few days will show that Valentine's Day helped the Kenyan economy; as one of the world's greatest flower exporters they were really relying on this holiday to recover some of the country's recent financial losses.
The last few days in Kenya have been pretty quiet. The Annan talks have been moved to a sequestered location with a supposed media blackout until they come out with an agreement to resolve the election controversy. He estimated that there might be something to announce tomorrow, but we'll see. The only blip on the screen has come from a leading negotiator for the government, who is the only woman significantly involved in the mediation and who made some very nasty statements in a public letter to Kofi Annan. As long as the controversy has been going on, she has been the most obvious hardliner on the government side (far more so than the President, it is believed). She isn't very well-liked around my or Kristoffer's office and people seem to think that if the Annan talks do break down, it might be her fault alone. She actually seems to not want to reach a compromise or mediate a solution, and to quote one of my colleagues, "she would watch this country burn with no pain at all." Violence throughout the country has been suspended and it seems like the country is holding its breath, waiting for some news. People around the UN have fears that if the talks break down, or if one group is very unhappy with the negotiations, the violence will resume. We can certainly hope and pray that that is not the case.
Yesterday Kristoffer and I attended a security meeting with the Danish Embassy. We hoped to learn something new but, in fact, because we are so well informed at the UN we were mostly very bored. We did learn about the Danish Embassy's emergency evacuation plans, but also that at no point in Kenya's crisis have they been anywhere near evacuation (we've remained 3 entire security phases behind the evacuation phase, in fact). We learned that because Kristoffer is employed by the UN, by contract we have to follow the UN's emergency plans or else we will not be insured. It was clear that the embassies here typically follow the lead of the UN so that if the UN is evacuating the embassies are too, which means we are equally covered and secure from both sides. It was also confirmed that none of the violence in the last seven weeks has targeted or seen white people/expatriates as victims. The security guy said that he was even in the middle of violent skirmishes in Naivasha and nobody had a problem with him, not even a rock was thrown in his direction. Even though it was a boring meeting, it was reassuring to us that we know as much as, if not more than, other people and that we have been making good decisions. General crime throughout the country was at a low before the crisis began and is now at an elevated level; this is called "opportunistic crime" because people are taking advantage of the law enforcement and political institutions being so busy right now. We will continue to be very careful!
The sim card investigation is still under way and we have no other big news to report. A highlight of last night for us was watching Roger Clemens get grilled at the Congressional hearing on steroids in MLB live on CNN. Brian McNamee is a shady character for sure, but I respect Andy Pettitte (even though he is a Yankee, at least he was never a traitor to the Red Sox) and I believe his testimony, which definitely incriminates Clemens. Christine and I thought it was pretty funny that they discussed Clemens' injury to his "buttocks" on national television for so long. All of the articles online today (Boston Globe, NYTimes, Sports Illustrated) seem to agree that Clemens is guilty of both using illegal substances and of being a big liar!
That's all from Nairobi. Hope you have a Happy Valentine's Day wherever you are!