Anglican Church responds to victims of Kenya's post-election violence

11 April 2008

When violence enveloped Kenya following December's presidential election, TEAR Australia's local partner was at the forefront of the response.

In the Anglican Diocese of Eldoret, development arm Christian Community Services (CCS) helped lead the relief effort in the North Rift region - one of the areas hardest hit.

The Rev Maritim Rirei of CCS said they were initially involved in rescuing people trapped by rioting and assisting those who had lost their homes and fled to internally displaced persons' (IDP) camps. 'We constructed tents and gave food and medication and linked them with the Red Cross to help with the provision of basic needs,' he said.

TEAR Australia provided over $13,500 to assist CCS to distribute shelter kits, comprising cooking utensils, blankets, soap powder and mosquito netting, to 3,000 displaced people.

CCS is now focusing on the long-term work of supporting families as they return home and rebuild their lives, providing trauma-counselling and conflict resolution workshops.

Children playing at the Endebess IDP camp

'Our commitment is to give hope to people to enable them to start afresh and not be traumatised by the events of the violence,' Mr Rirei said.

With God we have hope

When the violence broke out, Hosea Muchiri and Peterson Chege from Uasin Gishu village ran to the local primary school. Their homes were burnt and their livestock driven away.

'It was two days before we received any assistance from relief agencies. Our predicament was solved when CCS visited,' says Mr Chege.

Mr Muchuri said the rioting made him lose hope. 'My family was displaced and my mother-in-law was killed in the violence. But the Church's intervention turned around our lives and we saw life positively and worth living despite our tribulations.'
He praised the Rev Maritim Rirei for braving the hostility of the warring sides and bringing food, tents, medicine and blankets.

'We have food to eat because of the church,' said Mr Muchuri. 'With God we have hope for a better future.'

He added that Mr Rirei's regular visits helped in breaking down barriers caused by the violence. 'We have already began the process of peace-building and reconciliation with our neighbours,' he said.

Run for your life!

Paul Kosgey and his family lived peacefully with their neighbours in Uasin Gishu district, but, with the outcome of the presidential elections, hostility gripped the area and quickly degenerated into violence.

They ended up running for their lives. 'I had to take my family to safe ground. I saw several people storm my compound and torch all the structures including maize stores,' he said.

With nowhere to go, they spent three sleepless nights in the cold before being rescued by staff from CCS. No other relief agency was aware of their plight.

Chelimo Cheba, a widow of 70, found herself running like someone half her age to escape attack. She and her two sons fled to another home some ten kilometres away.

'My house and my children's were burnt down. The food stores were looted and cattle driven away by the attackers. I was only left with the clothes I had worn that day,' said Mrs Cheba. She also thanks CCS for coming to her aid.

Both Mr Kosgey and Mrs Cheba say their only wish now is for continued assistance as they return home and rebuild.

TEAR Australia is still raising funds to help our partners respond to the Kenyan civil unrest. Tax-deductible donations can be made securely via www.tear.org.au