A letter from Kenya


Kenya’s problems are growing worse. A police officer gunned down an opposition lawmaker today.

The worsening news prompted me to check in again with Katie Springer, the University of Minnesota grad who works in the region, interviewing people from East Africa who want to emigrate. I last talked to her in early January.

Today, she tells me via e-mail:

Nice to hear from you. I was in Dadaab, Kenya, which is the northeast province, for the last 3 weeks. When I left, it seemed things were back to normal. Yesterday on my way home from the airport, after our delayed flight due to the “tension” as its called here, I saw fires burning in the distance and my taxi driver informed me that it was peoples’ homes up in flames. The strange part is, everything as far as I can tell is life as normal. However, I had a long talk with my house girl today and she was sharing with me what her life is like in one of the major slums. She said the men don’t sleep; they have to stay awake all night guarding their shacks and families inside with machetes. Maybe you heard, but yesterday fliers were distributed around some of the slums telling members of certain tribes they had a matter of time to leave. She is trying to find a way to get her children out and send them somewhere safer, though no one can really identify where that is. So, it seems the tensions are still high, and climbing. However, many of the problems we were seeing before, for those of us not living in the slums, seem to have bettered. Now, it’s the economic effects we’re seeing. My roommate was forced to take a 20% pay cut. She considers herself lucky as most people were just laid off.

(Photo: Kenyan policemen place roses near a memorial at Uhuru Park in Nairobi today. The memorial was erected in memory of all Kenyans, who were killed, raped or lost their homes in post-election violence. Kenyan police have been given orders to shoot to kill in a bid to stem weeks of violence, a police commander said. Photo taken by Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images)

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