It has been two months of post election violence in Kenya. The number of innocent civilians killed has risen to an estimated 1000 people and the internally displaced are over half a million. The poor are (naturally) the most affected; however the middle class is also feeling the financial crisis. Even the rich are crying…it must be bad!
The trading on the stock market is slow as some of the local and international investors sell off their shares raising concerns of insecurity. The fall-out from the elections has spread far and wide with no one able to remain unscathed.
Amidst all these difficult times, there is a group of Kenyans and non Kenyans from all walks of life; poor, rich, middle class, old and young who have found an opportunity to serve their country. Their human souls ache for the victims of this crisis, and they are unable to turn a blind eye to the sufferings.
Such is Adega Nancy a young Kenyan lady in her early 20s. She is a University Sociology student in her second year at Nairobi University. When she heard of the humanitarian crisis breaking in a displaced camp near one of the biggest slums in Africa, she fled for her dear life and joined a camp as a volunteer. She has spent the last months at the camp, replacing her daily ‘café latte’ and laughter with friends for chaos, desperation and tears.
She is there to welcome many of the internal displaced persons, and help them settle in their temporary shelter. She is a gifted listener whose arms have become a comfort to displaced children. For Adega, this has been an opportunity to put her classroom theories learned from her sociology classes to test.
It is early morning, she walks around the camp, young and old people greet her with warmth, as her bright smile shines to their dark world. In this particular camp, there is a special group of people who are her main concern. These are refugees who have fled war in their native countries - a group of beautiful, chocolate skin Ethiopian women sitting around the fire in the afternoon.
They are sitting idle in front of their temporary shelter that is usually used as an animal cage during the Annual Nairobi Trade Show. Next to their UNECEF tents whose small sizes fail to contain the wind and the rain, are slim and tall Somali men standing in groups agonising over the desperate situation. Their eyes wide open as if they are looking for hope in the horizon, asking themselves what tomorrow holds.
Adega is a friend to almost all Internally Displaced People (IDP). She taps on the back of the young girls playing with the boys, who seem unaware of their circumstances. She greets the teenage girls who are busy trying to clean their temporary shelter.
She joins them for their simple breakfast and talks with them in Swahili, the now adopted Africa Union language. Once in a while, the refugees attempt to put sentences together to speak in English. Adega is always close on hand to help them when they need tutoring.
In the next camp, there are other animal cages hosting a similar group of refugees. It is mid-morning and Adega walks by to check on how they are doing.
Adega is their hero as she was the first one to highlight their plight. She listens to their questions even though she has little help to offer, but at least she can forward their grievances to the concerned authorities.
Adega tells a story of a special case of a Burundian lady who arrived in the camp tired, ill and hungry. She was born a Burundian refugee in DRC and her parents died in the same camp. She tried to return to Burundi but she has no knowledge of her ancestors’ land.
She later married a Burundian refugee man; he comes out walking with a bent back as if he is sixty. As he joins the conversation he says he is in his thirties, lifes troubles have not allowed him the pleasure of counting his birthday parties. He joins his wife in continuing to tell the story of their journey through Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda looking for a sanctuary.
After arriving in Kenya last year, they had found a home in one of the Nairobi slums but the wife’s physical features were confused with those of a targeted tribe and their shelter was burnt down. The wife laments; all her life she has had no place to call home.
er soul hardened after losing her baby four months ago which died in her womb due to malnutrition and other unknown complications. They posses no material wealth, all they care about is to survive the next storm. However, Adega has given them some reason to hope. In listening to their story, she has enabled them to feel as if they somehow matter, as if they do have a place in this world.
Their spirit is strong as they pronounce words of hope that may be tomorrow they may find permanent shelter. Their next step will be determined by UNHCR as they continue to explore their life in dilemma.
Adega and other thousands of good Samaritans who have and continue to give their time, energy, money, support and services to this country ought to be commended. Their courage and sacrifice uplifts human spirit and gives hope to this wounded country.
Mama Afrika prides in her youthful generation when she looks in the eyes of servants such as Adega.
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again…who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly." President Theodore Roosevelt
The author is a Rwandan Graduate student at the United States International University in Nairobi