Far Away and Praying for Kenya
By: Mike Shain
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - Willis and Irene Ayieko are residents of Kenya, living in Cape Girardeau with their two children. Willis is a student at Southeast Missouri State and Irene plans on studying to become a nurse. Their children attend school at Franklin Elementary and Central High.
They watch television news and worry about the murderous strife tearing Kenya apart. Willis says they never imagined such tragedy could happen in Kenya. Their homeland has a history of democracy, a rising economy, and a breakdown of tribal differences. Now, all is in tatters.
Willis says many people are displaced. They've fled to police stations and churches for safety. Irene says the burning of a church with people dying in the flames was shocking.
"These were children they killed," she said.
The Ayieko's come from different tribes in Kenya. In her area, Irene says, "They would kill him and leave me."
She has two nieces married to men in other tribes but says she's talked with them and they are safe.
Not so fortunate is a millionaire relative whose home and business have been burned.
Willis says there is strong evidence the president in power rigged the election. He won re-election while 20 lawmakers of his party were turned out of office. Willis says the vote counts in 38 or more than 200 voting districts are in question. He blames the election commission for acting hastily instead of giving the opposition a hearing on charges of irregularities.
Irene Ayieko is a member of the embattled president's tribe, the largest in Kenya. Over the years, she says the privileged people of her tribe have forgotten that the government belongs to all the tribes. The strife is not so much tribal hatred but political party differences played out along tribal lines. Irene says the poor and deprived are "up against the wall" feeling they have no other choice.
"They trusted the ballot," Willis said. Now, they feel cheated.
The Ayieko's watch the news on television and much of what they see is familiar to Irene. The clashes are in the area "where I was born, where I grew up and went to school. Where I met my husband."