Christian relief workers optimistic about Kenya’s power sharing

By March 7, 2008

Kenya (MNN/CRWRC) — "Our initial response is great relief and joy," the Nairobi staff of the Grand Rapids Michigan-based Christian Reformed World Relief Committee said of Kenya's power-sharing agreement brokered by former U.N secretary general Kofi Annan late last week.

"We are cautiously optimistic since this is the beginning of a journey toward healing," CRWRC staff continued. "The particulars of the power-sharing arrangement still need to be put into practice after parliament reconvenes on Thursday to amend the constitution and make this coalition government work. We are waiting to move ahead from there."

The violence that has erupted sporadically across Kenya, particularly in the capitol, since early January began when accusations of election fraud followed a reportedly close vote that put Mwai Kibaki into presidential office over the opposition Orange Democratic Movement led by candidate Raila Odinga. More than a thousand people have been killed in the resulting riots in recent weeks.

Last week's power-sharing agreement will for the first time in Kenya's history introduce a prime minister into the government structure.

CRWRC's U.S. Executive Director Andrew Ryskamp is more than optimistic. "It brings back a level of political stability that's really necessary in order for us, obviously, to be working with our church partners in the communities in Kenya."

As the talks continue, CRWRC is assisting 35,000 Kenyans displaced by violence in the crisis with immediate, emergency food aid and non-food items such as blankets, mosquito nets, sanitation supplies, hygiene education, health services, medical supplies, household items, and trauma counseling. CRWRC depends on non-profit donations for its work and is also distributing a $141,000 grant from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) for this response.

CRWRC has a 25-year presence in Kenya and six staff people actively placed there, including a regional emergency relief coordinator. CRWRC was managing a food relief project to 54,000 people in the Mount Elgon area of central Kenya when the January election violence began to unfold. CRWRC also has three long-term Kenyan church partners that manage programs to improve agriculture practice, business development, literacy, and health and sanitation among Kenya's most desperately impoverished communities.

CRWRC will also be using their expertise in two areas. "We're working with churches there to help bring those people back. People from one people group are actually going to members of other people groups and inviting them to come back into the community. And that's part of what we hope to be involved with."

Ryskamp says the church has been proactive in these efforts. "The churches have been asking for prayer and fasting so that they can get at reconciliation." That's when they'll be able to effectively share the Gospel.

If you'd like to help CRWRC's efforts in Kenya, click here .

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