My Kenyan friends confronted escalating violence, crime, corruption, and poverty- and yet did not despair. I wanted to find out why.
Our 13-year-old daughter was born in Africa, but before last summer she had no memories of that continent, since we left when she was one year old. My wife and I remembered blue skies and rampant bougainvillea, warm-hearted friends, and fascinating intercultural experiences. We wanted our daughter and our two sons to share such memories, so we thought about an extended visit back.
Yet we had fears. For the 12 years we had been gone, Africa had gone from bad to worse. Kenyan friends had written terrible news. Some had been imprisoned on political charges. Some had been beaten and robbed, their lives threatened. All had witnessed a violent coup attempt and had participated in an election characterized by tribal divisions and fraud. One friend's boss, a cabinet minister, was savagely murdered by political opponents. Another friend had witnessed his boss, an Anglican bishop, killed in a traffic accident that most people believe was arranged. A third friend had nearly died in prison, where he was held in solitary confinement on political charges.
I suppose most Americans barely notice the few African items that make the newspaper, but I follow them closely. They portray a place of war, savagery, disease, poverty, and corrupt government. Kenya is very much affected.
Kenya borders on Sudan, which has had unceasing civil war for 20 years; on Somalia, with its murderous clans; on Ethiopia, where rebel armies recently overthrew a repressive Marxist government and split the country; on Uganda, where Idi Amin and Milton Obote slaughtered thousands of tribal opponents before the present, more benign government ...1