A guest post from Rye Barcott and Emily Reynolds Pierce of the ONE Partner organization Carolina for Kibera.
The recent post-election violence in Kenya has stunned nonprofit organizations fighting to end poverty in the country, including Carolina for Kibera (CFK), an international NGO with institutional roots at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a partner organization of the ONE Campaign. Our work with youth at CFK centers on promoting ethnic reconciliation through sports, fighting gender-based discrimination, and providing primary health care in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. The past month in Kibera has been frightening, and we are heartbroken to see the hard work of our young CFK staff and volunteers, as well as that of many other community-based organizations in Kibera, unravel so quickly at the hands of feuding politicians.
People of Kenya’s six major ethnic groups live together in Kibera â€“ east Africa’s largest slum with nearly 1 million residents. Although ethnic divisiveness is no stranger to Kenyan politics, no one anticipated the level of violence that has engulfed Kibera and much of Kenya. Swaths of Kibera have been burned to the ground. Many of our staff and volunteers have had their homes looted and burned. Our office and community medical clinic are located in the thick of the ethnic fighting in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, and are two of the few structures left standing. CFK member Fatuma Roba, 23, is a Digital Diarist for UNICEF Radio and Voices of Youth. Ms. Roba reported on the situation from Kibera for on Jan. 2 and Jan. 11.
We at CFK sensed in mid-January that the situation was likely to get worse before it got better. Security felt tenuous at best. Then yesterday, on Jan. 29, Kenyan parliamentary member Mugabe Were, 39, was gunned down and killed in Kibera. Mr. Were was a member of the opposition party and vocal supporter of CFK. When word of Mr. Were’s death spread throughout the slum, violence erupted yet again.
The violence reminds us that development depends on good governance, local leadership, and effective security. Our own effectiveness, as CFK, also depends on our ability to read and respond to events, and that is why we are currently concentrating on a short-term feeding program and emergency medical assistance to meet the immediate needs of our friends and neighbors in Kibera. Additionally, we are reaching out to local media outlets and radio stations to promote messages of peace in Kenya’s many languages.
CFK fervently calls upon all Kenyan politicians and national leaders across Africa and the globe to put an end to the terror that has left nearly 1,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands more displaced in Kenya. We at CFK support the message of Sen. Barack Obama printed in Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper on Jan. 23: “Kenya has come too far to throw away decades of progress in a storm of violence.”
There is an urgent need for humanitarian assistance in Kibera and around the country. The displaced Kenyans need food, water, and shelter. We at CFK are committed to providing these basic necessities in collaboration with other ONE Campaign partner organizations like CARE and UNICEF so that the healing process can begin.
CFK President + Founder
Emily Reynolds Pierce
CFK Vice President
Photos of Kibera by Bri O’Donnell, January 2008.