As violence erupts across Kenya following the Dec. 27 general elections, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is responding with assistance to a growing number of people displaced by armed mobs, looters and other violent groups. The agency immediately committed $50,000 for the emergency response, money that will provide food and supplies to displaced families and support the peace and conciliation efforts of the Kenyan Episcopal Conference.
At least 300 people have been killed, and the Kenyan Red Cross estimates the unrest displaced at least 70,000 people in the Rift Valley alone. Many Kenyans are seeking refuge from the violence in churches, police stations and other public compounds. Other families are holed up in their homes, and will face dwindling supplies of food and water. Stores have been looted, homes burned down, and hospitals report an overwhelming influx of patients seeking care. Some communities have barricaded roads, completely cutting off access to some towns and villages.
The violence exploded after Kenya’s electoral commission declared President Mwai Kibaki the winner of a closely contested race with challenger Raila Odinga. Independent observers have raised questions about possible irregularities in the vote tallies.
“This has become a humanitarian crisis,” said Ken MacLean, CRS’ country representative in Kenya, describing how one staff member’s house was burned and others have had to flee their homes. “The attacking and burning of homes continues. The number of Kenyans affected by this violence will only escalate unless security is restored.”
The Kenyan Episcopal Conference called for all Kenyans to refrain from violence, encouraged an investigation into claims of electoral irregularities and appealed to political leaders – including incumbent Kibaki and Odinga – to engage in dialogue.
“Kenya has always been an island of peace and we pray and urge all Kenyans to take upon themselves to come out clearly now to promote peace and safeguard our beloved Nation,” the conference said in a statement released on Jan. 2.
CRS will use $15,000 of its commitment to provide food to affected families in the dioceses of Bungoma and Eldorat, where 50 people – including women and children – were burned to death while seeking shelter in a Protestant church. Sister Caritas agencies, such as CAFOD and Trocaire, are also assisting these regions with food and other supplies. CRS will also coordinate with partner agencies, to continue to assess needs as the humanitarian crisis unfolds.
Release date: January 03, 2008
Contact: Hilary Roxe
Communications Officer Catholic Relief Services