Mary Walker: Bringing the world to Kenya
April 16, 2009
Narok, KENYA — Editor’s note: Routt County resident Mary Walker works at the Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre in Narok, Kenya. The center provides a safehouse for Maasai girls who have escaped or been rescued from female genital mutilation and forced childhood marriage. Walker’s updates from Kenya appear periodically in the Steamboat Today.
Kenyan Minister of Justice Martha Karua announced her resignation Monday. Karua is considered to have a legitimate shot at becoming president of Kenya in 2012, and her resignation signals her need to separate herself from the corruption and instability of the current government. Other members of the Kenyan parliament have resigned in recent days, as well.
Kofi Annan, the former head of the United Nations, has announced he is prepared to disclose a list of members of the Kenyan parliament who have been found to be responsible for inciting the terrible ethnic violence that shook Kenya last year after flawed national elections.
He has given the Kenyan government a choice – either hold tribunals within Kenya to prosecute these members of parliament, or with his disclosure of their names, they will be brought before international human rights court in Geneva.
Annan has said he will wait until late July for Kenya to act on its own. The vice president was quoted as saying Annan should mind his own business, but thanks for the help in saving the country from ethnic genocide last year.
Of course, the problem is that all of the people on this list (many of the names have been leaked; they are no surprise, including the member of parliament for Narok, where the rescue center is located) are powerful, connected and have a well-constructed wall of protection around them. All government officials do, don’t they? It is highly unlikely that the Kenyan government is going to send its own down the river.
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So, the general expectation is that August will be a very difficult time here in Kenya. The two rival political parties, which are barely functioning together in a “coalition” government, are separately holding rallies in the next few days. These rallies often are where the trouble starts, because strong party and ethnic rhetoric takes over.
I read the news about Karua’s resignation in the newspaper with Caro, one of the older girls here at the rescue center. Caro is in her last year of secondary school and spends every minute studying. We have agreed that she will take a short break at 5 p.m. each day so that we can read the newspaper together. She is very savvy, loves politics, and her perspective is spot on. She picked up on the notion that Karua needs to separate herself from the current situation in order to have a shot in 2012 before a journalist from the Christian Science Monitor told me the same thing in an e-mail. There’s no doubt these girls are bright.
But later, while reading an article about North Korea, Caro asked me whether people who live in Russia are Arabs. It provides a good example of how insulated these girls are from the larger world. As our conversation turned to Cuba, I had to explain communism. Imagine explaining to a Maasai girl from the bush why we find “communism” so abhorrent – exactly what is wrong with the notion that people who have (far) more than they need to survive can help those who do not?
So, I find myself in the role of trying to bring these girls into the world as well as bring the world to them.
To contact Mary Walker, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org