Behind the Screens

Kathy Randall: Kisumu, Kenya.
It seems so familiar here. It is as if I had never been gone, and everything is just the same as I had remembered from my time before, three years ago. But there are things, details small and large, that show that this is a town, a city, a country which has changed, and the scars are trying so hard to fade in to the background.
Up at the top of the hill on the main road leading out of Kisumu, just above the roundabout encircling the statue which looks out over Lake Victoria, is a huge screen banner for The Nation, one of the national newspapers. A photograph of Nelson Mandela, and a flip clock showing the year date of 1991. “We were there” is emblazoned in large letters over the man who helped bring peace to South Africa. Peace indeed. This piece of history is hiding evidence. Behind this screen is the burned out husk of a supermarket store where I had shopped during my last stay in Kenya.
During the violence following the presidential election of December 17, 2007, riots erupted across the country, mobs overtook the previously peaceful country, and places like this supermarket were looted and destroyed. Angry men carrying pieces of tarmac torn from the already washboard roads stormed through the shops of tailors, carpenters, and craftsmen.
I was not here to see it. But as I said, I can see the scars. Yes, they are healing, and Kenya is making strides to a healthier nation. But still there are pieces which have not returned to the way they used to be. Perhaps they won’t. Perhaps they shouldn’t. I hope that we can learn from the scars here, and learn how to live and make peace in this place.
That is what Umjoa Project is working towards. Through helping orphans and vulnerable children by feeding them and allowing for support for them to attend school, Umoja is helping educate those who will lead Kenya. The hope of Kenya lies in its children.

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