Kenya (MNN) — Kenya's continued struggle for democracy remains shrouded in violence. On Friday, the opposition party called for a new presidential election.
The electoral commission declared President Mwai Kibaki the winner of the Dec. 27 vote, but opposition leader Raila Odinga challenged the outcome, which was backed by international observations.
The challenge led to violent protests, beatings, burnings, and stabbings. Much of the chaos has been worsened by blockades, which resulted in a shortage of food and fuel. Well over 300 have died in mob violence, although not all of it related to the political situation.
The picture is a familiar one. A failed coup in 1982 resulted in a temporary collapse of the government and saw order disrupted as the poor seized their chance to loot. Mission Aviation Fellowship's country director Bernard Terlouw says the instability is being used by some in a similar way, as a front that covers criminal activity. He says there's indication that some people may have been settling old scores as the volatility spread.
MAF's team has been answering the emergency call for evacuations and humanitarian help. Many Kenyans have been forced to take refuge from the violent mobs, and police in Nairobi have set up barricades and halted traffic.
Terlouw says their planes are small, but their response wasn't. "We don't even have an idea how to do this, but we just started flying. We know that several hundred thousand people have run away from their homes, so what can we do? I would say nothing, but every 13 that we have pulled out and brought to Nairobi or to a safe place, every 13 are 13."
MAF pilots have flown to various towns in the west, such as Eldoret, Kisumu, Kitale and Homa Bay, to evacuate both Kenyans who have been threatened and staff members of organizations such as Scripture Mission, International Red Cross, Navigators and Gospel Fire International, who were no longer safe in their homes.
Terlouw says they reserved no fuel for getting themselves out. It was this stand that gave their testimony for Christ strength. "The one message that Jesus gave was that you love people who do not love you. We could fly out; we could just ignore the fact that some people were confessing the Muslim faith; some people maybe were fighting with each other. If they needed evacuation, 'because we're a Christian organization, just come on board, and we have to help you.'"
A number of partners are shifting focus from evacuation to an emphasis on food and health interventions.
MAF in Kenya provides aviation, IT and logistics services in Kenya, Sudan and Somalia. They have a fleet of seven aircraft: one PC12, four Grand Cessna Caravans, one Cessna 206 and one Cessna 210.