Sunday, February 17, 2008

Why is Kenya bleeding?


Why is Kenya Bleeding?
Bert Ebben, OP (St. Martin)
Coordinator, Community Development Projects in Africa

kenya mapAfter months of drought the parched land of Kenya thirsts for life-giving water. After years of oppression and exploitation the weary people of Kenya long for justice and peace. After four decades of independence the nation bleeds from a nearly mortal wound, while it reverberates with threatening accusations of tribalism, ethnic cleansing and genocide. This very morning yet another school and orphanage were torched in Mathare, Africa’s largest slum just a few kilometers from the Kware slums of Ongata-Rongai where I continue to facilitate various programs at VICODEC, a center dedicated to the promotion of human development.

Prompted by my Dominican Brothers in Raleigh I am writing this reflection, an attempt to respond to repeated questions from around the world. Why have 600+ Kenyans been so brutally massacred? Why have 250,000 people been driven from their homes and villages? Why are thousands more fleeing across the borders into Uganda and Tanzania? Why, this very day, are masses of Kenyans threatening to demonstrate in thirty cities and towns across the country? Because of an election, alleged by the opposition (Raila Odinga and his ODM Party) to have been fraudulent yet subsequently declared to have been free and fair by the Kenyan Electoral Commission, thus giving the incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki of the PNU Party another five years in office? I don’t think so!

Kenya riotsHowever controversial this decision is itself, it does not radically explain how the normally tolerant, long-suffering and peace-loving citizens of Kenya were driven to perpetrate such horrific death and destruction upon their beautiful country, once thought to be the most united and democratic nation in sub-Saharan Africa. While the failed electoral process is, without doubt, the catalyst that continues to spark such devastating reactions, fear and violence, it cannot account for the ensuing explosive situation. The root cause can be found only in the poverty, inequality and injustice that have plagued this country since independence and that have been systematically incorporated into the structures of its society, ever widening the great divide separating the powerfully rich minority from the masses who languish in poverty and hopelessness. Bridging that divide seems to be so far beyond the reach of ordinary poor Kenyans that they regrettably resort to anger, bitterness, acrimony and despair.

In such an anti-gospel milieu, it appears almost impossible for the everyday Kenyan to accept that God’s reign does not reach down from the presidential State House, nor from the Parliament, nor from the heights of power and wealth, but that the God of peace only breaks through in real acts of compassion, healing and justice, only in the nonviolent liberation of the poor and oppressed.

Sharing the pain and anguish of my Kenyan brothers and sisters, I am pushed and pulled into the confrontation and indignation of their experience. But even more I am emboldened to pursue God’s promise of peace on earth. I am compelled to continue to confront my own country’s “wars on earth”. I am driven to resist the present U.S. administration’s militaristic and arrogant imperialistic ambitions around the world. I am persuaded to oppose handguns, the death penalty, abortion, racism, sexism, poverty, corporate greed and the environmental devastation of our spectacular planet Earth.

Even as I conclude this reflection, the skies suddenly break open to release a soft, gentle rain. I am reminded of Isaiah’s “Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum”(45:8) in which the prophet expresses the world’s longing for the coming of the just one. I pray that the refreshing rain, now at last gently falling on the parched earth of Kenya, is a prophetic sign of the coming of God’s “Just One”, showing all of us the way to that New World without war, without poverty, without injustice – peace in Kenya, peace in the world, peace at last!

Bert Ebben, OP

Ongata-Rongai, Kenya

16 January 2008-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Here is my response:

Dear Fr. Bert Ebben OP:

Thanks for the political commentary.

There is much to be said about expanding political and economic freedom, as well as market economic solutions to helping the poor come out of poverty and sustain their own middle class advantage. This is no less true in Kenya as it is in any American or European country.

However, Fr. Ebben's commentary about Kenya is certainly personal and tragic to each noble citizen of that country, yet he hardly offers a solution based upon Christian prinicples.

While he offers a manifesto from his personal view, Fr. Ebben's seeks resolutions that are--absent abortion--from a dull regressive liberal read: 'ism's' galore.

These are hardly solutions that should be offered by a member of the Order of Preachers!

Your spiritual response should be a call those who riot and commit mayhem to a moral standard; and call the government to establish order and right conduct by protecting persons against riots and crime, and establishing the law so that the rights of life, liberty, and property of each person are protected at law not on the streets, and to act forthrightly with reason and morality. Simply put, preach the Gospel!

Further, as a Preacher, speak about the abhorrence of murder, whether born or unborn--most especially the innocent.

Further, the blame America mentality only harkens back to the 1960s drivel of 'blame America' first and always, a manifesto that is an historical bomb.

Yes, we all look forward to the return of Christ and His peace, a peace not of this world or of those who would construct peace with their progromes and committees, but the peace of Christ. This will not come from political solutions, committees, UN, NGOs, more foreign aid, or the like, but by preaching Christ. As a Friar Preacher, our dear friar has this power of the Word and Truth.

Kenya is a beautiful country with incredible people with a Christian heritage.

These people need more than the ol' class struggle paradigm. They have the right to be taught and preached the Truth.
In this way, you will see the Just One rise up, in the hearts and minds of the people and their meritorious acts done in grace. That is a social revolution not of this world!

That is why you are called a Preacher. It is time to preach His Word, not the politics of destruction.

Thank you,

John Keenan, J.D., O.P.L.


As most recently noted, the dynamics of conflict in Kenya is a matter of tribal conflict not the classic marxist model of class conflict as Fr. Ebben would have us believe.

1 comment:

  1. I know basically nothing about Kenya's situation, and I have even less wisdom to offer. Fr. Ebben's got it all over me in writing on this topic. All I can say is how what he writes strikes me, in my ignorance.

    I don't so much mind resisting militarism, imperialism, the death penalty, abortion, racism, sexism, poverty (in a sense), greed, and environmental devastation. I'm against these things myself.

    But I don't see the train of thought that arrives at this list starting from the deplorable violence in Kenya, without at least addressing the, you know, deplorable violence in Kenya.

    Should the response to the burning of a school and orphanage a few kilometers away really be to redouble your efforts against environmental devastation?