Tensions are running high in Kisumu.
For those of you not in the know, the next week is a very important time for Kenya. On March 4th, Kenyans all over the country will come out to vote, and I will not be here to see it.
In December of 2007, incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the election that year and everyone, from the opposing political parties to neutral international observers cried foul. The election had been rigged, they claimed, and the country erupted into violence.
While protests were held throughout the country, the Nyanza Province, where Kisumu is located, was amongst the most violent. Hundreds of people were killed in targeted ethnic violence in this area alone.
It has been interesting to be in a different country as they come up onto their elections. I have watched cavalcades of trucks tricked out with amplifiers, men shouting political slogans over the thump of a bass beat, the trucks slowly meandering through the streets. I have been on matatus as young men board simply to remind every person to vote (inevitably also greeting the “white girl”). And I have spoken to many Kenyans about the election, their hopes and their fears.
Since arriving here I have heard many horrifying stories about that election, but most of all I have heard prayers for hope and peace.
Many organizations, both inside and outside Kenya, have been working hard to ensure a fair and nonviolent election. And, above all, Kenyans are hopeful.
Today I am flying for Tanzania. It is simply too risky for a single, white female to remain in the country during a potentially volatile event. But I remain hopeful that my vacation will be short and that I will be able to return quickly to work with the community I am getting to know so well.
I hope that the election will be safe, fair and above all, nonviolent.