Friday, February 29, 2008

War in Kenya hits close to home

By Tamika Robinson
Cardinal Staff

Tribal violence between the Kikuyu and the Luo has been taking place in Kenya as a result of a disputed recent presidential election. Remembering that Saint Mary’s University has a campus in Nairobi, Kenya, made me ponder the effects this war was having on students there.
In terms of our country, this also made me ponder the effects this war could have on us as citizens and as students.

On Dec. 27, Kenyans headed to the polls to cast votes that would possibly remove their current president and a Kikuyu, Mwai Kibaki, from office and give residents an opportunity to experience change with presidential candidate Raila Odinga, a Luo. Though Kibaki is credited with the recent economic growth Kenya has experienced, he is also accused of corruption and nepotism with members of his own tribe. Ultimately, Kibaki was declared the winner of the election leading to instant violence between the two tribes. Since December, more than 1,000 people have died.

In the SMU Campus Notes posted Jan. 18, Brother Paulos Welday Mesmer and Father Michael Kirwen, directors for the SMU programs in Nairobi, reported that all students, staff, and faculty were safe. Though the campus is not located within the vicinities of the war, counseling is available to the campus. On the Winona campus, Dr. Jeffrey Highland, university provost and vice president, has been in direct communication with the directors regarding the political situation in Kenya. Though their students, faculty and staff are unharmed, “there have been some impacts on the students at Tangaza College, which is where our programs reside,” Highland said. “Our colleagues are looking for some assistance.”

According to the U.S. Department of State, Kenya is an exporter of agricultural goods on the International Trade Market. The exportation of certain agricultural products supplied by Kenya may be negatively affected by the war. This negative effect could cause a shortage in food consumed in our country and therefore could cause a food shortage or scarcity. So the real question is: will you idly watch potential starvation become a reality or will you take a stand against this violence?

Dr. Highland stated that part of SMU’s Lasallian mission is to be of service to others. Though distance may separate us, we all share a commonality: education. Let us continually pray for peace in Kenya and use this time to educate ourselves about the current violent situation.

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