Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Back to Basics

The drive to Hubby’s office today was interesting to say the least. After driving by State House (which is still festooned for the elections), we drove through parts of town that, while quiet, appeared fairly undisturbed. There was definitely more traffic on the streets today than we have seen in the last few days, but the roads were still more reminiscent of a Sunday morning than a busy workday rush hour.

We drove by the slum area of Kangemi and from the safe distance of Waiyaki Way it appeared to be somewhat better off than the photos of Kibera we have seen in the media. This impression was reinforced when we spoke with some of Hubby’s colleagues – or at least the dozen or so who were at work today. We were told that the areas of Kawangere and Old Naivasha were far quieter than Kibera. We were even able to drive though Kawangere on our return trip to the Junction Shopping Centre.

With the recent media images in our head, we started that drive somewhat worried about what we would see. We were therefore surprised to see that while there were far fewer matutus blocking the roads, life seemed to have returned to normal in this midway point between Kangemi and Dagoretti. A few dukas (shops) were still padlocked but seemed fairly busy. Although there were likely others, I only saw one shop with its windows broken.

Our next stop was Nakumatt Junction and we certainly weren’t the only ones there. The lines at the registers far exceeded even those seen on a busy Saturday, with many people who appeared to be stocking up for a long-term siege. A woman in line behind me had eighteen bags of what was either flour or maize and she wasn’t the only one.

Although several of the meat shops in Kawangere still appeared to have fresh meat in their windows, Nakumatt was not as lucky. The frozen meat case was virtually empty as was the fridge where items like hotdogs and sandwich meats are kept. The butcher’s case still had two packages of chicken breasts and a few other things but it looked like the little they had would run out by day’s end, if not sooner.

The shelves that normally hold hundreds of loaves of bread were completely bare with only a few lone bags of bread products remaining. Between Nakumatt and Zucchini, we were able to purchase just about everything we needed but I’m not sure how well we would have done on some basics like bottled water if we had left this shopping trip until later in the day.

Our waitress at Java was a fountain of information about goings on in Nairobi since Election Day. She lives near the airport and said that her area was relatively safe. Her ride to work, she told us, was not direct as they were unable to drive though some areas of town and had to take the long way to Junction.

Java, she continued, had been extremely busy yesterday as it was not only a holiday but also the first day that many people felt that they could go safely go out. With rumors of the ODM rally on Thursday still floating around, she wasn’t sure if Java House would be open tomorrow but said that she was hoping for the best and for peace to be restored as quickly as possible.

That peace seems a dim hope as reports of people being burned alive in a church in Eldoret were everywhere in the news yesterday and today’s headlines have only made the situation there seem worse. The mob that torched the church have raised a lot of fears as many people have been taking refuge in churches throughout the country.

To make matters worse, the head of the electoral commission, Samuel Kivuitu, has admitted that he was pressured into declaring Kibaki the winner. With words that will only provoke a population already in doubt of the election’s outcome, he has said, "I do not know whether Kibaki won the election."

Further inflaming the situation, Odinga’s response to Kibaki’s request for a meeting was, "I am ready to talk to Mr. Kibaki on condition that he is ready to admit before the people of Kenya that he lost the elections." Nor has he officially called off his planned Thursday rally. Many fear that this rally, which some reports estimating over a million people will attend, will cause further hostilities in a city attempting to recover from a horrific nightmare of violence.

It’s odd finally going out after so many days of being holed up in our apartment. Some people are acting like nothing out of the ordinary has occurred making me feel like maybe we’ve been overreacting. But then I turn on the news and see burned out churches and the bodies of dead Kenyans and realize that the truth is somewhere in between. It is my hope that the international mediators who have arrived from organizations like the African Union, the EU, and the United States can help restore peace and bring sense to the two stubborn men at the centre of it all.


Jamie Dick said...


I have a family member who is scheduled to arrive in Nairobi this Saturday morning to begin teaching at the Westlands Primary School. Have you hear od it? Are you familiar with the Westlands area? Do you think it is safe? Thanks in advance for your reply! Good luck!!

Anonymous said...

Glad all OK still. Must have seemed strange driving in the city during this time. Hope Rock and V are still OK.


Anonymous said...

Good to know you're well.