March 11, 2008

Students Fundraise for Kenya Relief

Print More

In an effort to ease the tensions and help the victims of the recent political and ethnic violence in Kenya, students of Cornell’s Wananchi Association have organized a month-long fundraising event with the hope of creating awareness and providing relief to Kenyans who have been displaced from their homes.
Between 300,000 and 600,000 Kenyans have had to flee their homes and over 1,000 have died as a result of the violence. The Kenya Red Cross, the Kenyan government and various non-governmental organizations have set up over 300 camps for the displaced on the grounds of schools, churches and police stations. These organizations are trying to provide food, shelter, water and medicine for victims and are working to re-connect families who have been torn apart due to the strife.
In order to help the Kenya Red Cross, the Wananchi “Citizens” Association, a group of Kenyan and East African students at Cornell, has designed the Heal Kenya campaign.
“Through the Heal Kenya campaign, we want to raise money to send to the Kenya Red Cross to send to the Kenya Red Cross but, along with that, we hope to raise awareness about the situation,” said Amos Kung’u grad, communications facilitator of the Wananchi Association. “We want people to know that we can do something to help even though we are thousands of miles away.”
According to Kung’u, it would not take much to help the people of this war-torn country.
“Twenty dollars would be able to meet the basic needs of a family of five for one month. This would include food, water, sanitation and medicine. Just a little contribution can really go a long, long way,” Kung’u said.
As part of the campaign, there will be a discussion panel on March 28, arranged in partnership with the New York State African Association. The event will feature guest speakers, including Prof. Ali Mazrui, a senior scholar in the Africana Studies and Research Center. The discussion will focus on the causes of the violence in Kenya and work to come up with suggestions for resolutions that will be sent to the Kenyan embassy.
Finally, to conclude the fundraiser, a unity dinner will be held at the Africana Center featuring traditional Kenyan cuisine.
All proceeds from the fundraiser will go to the Kenya Red Cross.
This fundraiser follows news of the forced evacuation from Kenya of five Cornell students who were volunteering in the country this winter. The students had to abandon their goal of teaching Kenyans about HIV/AIDS shortly after Dec. 27, when Kenyans lined up at the polls in vast numbers to cast their votes for the future president.
The race was between incumbent Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki of the Party of National Unity and Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement. After Kibaki was declared the winner of the election, Odinga and supporters of the ODM accused the PNU of rigging the election and tensions escalated. Kenya, which has long been seen as an island of peace and stability in East Africa, is now in a state of turmoil and anarchy.
“Following a disputed presidential election in December there were protests from opposition sympathizers, and as the political crisis grew, incidences of harassment and eviction of members of various ethnic groups on the premise of their assumed political leanings were reported. These precipitated further ethnic violence and counter attacks that caused many to flee their homes for safety,” said Joseph Kimetu grad, president of the Wananchi Association, an interest group on Kenyan and East African culture and issues.
Currently, plans are being made to form a shared government power between the PNU and the ODM. However, it is not expected that the violence and its effects will disappear.
“Putting band-aids on the political process won’t solve these problems. It is not an easy situation and the U.S. media has tried to make it out to be one group against another, but it is important to remember that the violence resulted from a complex combination of problems, including inequitable distribution of income, corrupt government and ethnic divisions. All of these factors come into play,” said Prof. Alice Pell, animal science, director of Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development and faculty advisor of the fundraiser.
It is up to the Kenyan government and the Kenyan people to unite and work towards re-establishing the oasis of stability and peace the country used to be.
“The focus for Kenyans now is to reflect on what happened while looking to move their government and society beyond the divisions,” Pell said.