“I had a farm in Africa…”

“I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills…..”

Thus begins Karen von Blixen-Finecke’s book of her time in Kenya, famous also as the film of the same name: Out of Africa. The area close to Nairobi is still called Karen (though possibly not after her – see link) and some of the remaining “white Kenyans” still live there. Nearby is the slum area of Dagoretti corner and, a bit beyond that the small town of Kikuyu (the same name as the tribe) and there the Presbyterian Church of East Africa Hospital Kikuyu. Here a number of Presbyterian Church in Ireland missionaries have worked and many students and volunteers from Northern Irish Presbyterianism have been for short periods including for amongst the most hard working, exhilarating, blessed and moving few months myself.Kenya was once seen as a model of stability in Africa. After the end of the Mau Mau Uprising Kenya gained independence from Britain in December 1963. Not for the white Kenyans a doomed last stand of UDI like Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, equally not for Jomo Kenyatta the expulsion of the white farmers; most left but a few remain. Following Kenyatta; came Daniel arap Moi. Neither of these men were great democrats just as before them the whites were hardly given to one person one vote. However, the country remained stable and, by African standards prospered, though corruption was endemic with Kenya once described as the second most corrupt country in the world after Nigeria (no link available) and there was some repressive legislation.

Moi (whose portrait once by law hung in every business premises and who appeared younger on the Ksh 1,000 banknote than on the previously issued Ksh 500 one; both personal observations) was defeated in a general election in 2002 by Mwai Kibaki. He was elected amid great fan fare and hope that corruption would be reduced and that increased prosperity would come to the poor, the vast majority of whom though usually avoiding starvation, were still rarely that far from it. Unfortunately there appears to have been little progress in stopping corruption with Kibaki’s government in its own turn implicated. As has been documented over the last few days, however, things have deteriorated considerably with Kibaki “winning” the presidential election against Raila Odinga in extraordinarily dubious circumstances. Odinga unsurprisingly refused to accept the result of the election and oragnised a rally which was forcibly prevented by the police.

Widespread violence then broke out and in a chilling reminder of Rwanda a church in Eldoret was burned down with people in it resulting in at least thirty deaths.

One analysis of this situation is that it is tribalism and there is a danger of another Rwanda with genocide and ethnic cleansing. However, others have suggested that the situation is actually much more complicated with tribal differences being stoked in an attempt at power grabbing by politicians. Whatever, it is to be hoped and prayed that the situation will calm and that violence will end. Exactly how the crisis will be resolved is, however, unclear.

The relevance of all this to Northern Ireland? Personally I would submit none but I think it is still worth mentioning. Maybe you disagree regarding relevance or worthiness of mention?

This author has not written a biography and will not be writing one.