Karen, Kenya Stalemate & Nairobi Return

Community Organizations International International Personal Writings

102-africa-kenya-city-trafficMNairobi Flying to Nairobi takes forever.  Seems to be no way around that fact, and despite email, Skype, digital pictures, and ubiquitous cell phones, anything nearly 5000 miles away is hard to hold firm in the hands.  The work is slippery, no matter how hard applied, and there’s still nothing better than going out and bringing it all to hand to see what’s really there.

Read several Mother Jones articles with interest just as we were about to make a decision to cutback somewhere, perhaps there, on the flight to Amsterdam.  One was about the Karen organizers with the Burma Action Center, a group that the Organizers’ Forum had visited with surreptitiously in Mae Sot.  The piece was aged and the author seemed willing to use some names partially because rather than organizing behind the borders in Burma where they were human rights documenters, some of them had migrated over to the United States and elsewhere.  Nonetheless, it was good to see this issue highlighted.  Adam Hothschild in another piece gave a hard look at the Congo and pulled few punches.  Both recommended.

An article in the Times warned me that there is once again a governmental deadlock in Kenya between the President and the Prime Minister.  Cody Valdez from Tufts had discussed a pre-election anti-violence program he and associates were trying to organize.  None of this bodes well and there were reports of blockades in some of the countryside similar to the post-election problems on 2007.  One quote said that it almost took a letter from President Obama to get the two to meet together directly.  Looks like I’m visiting at a good time to begin these conversations and make preparations.

On another note for the Organizers’ Forum, a retired and excessively well traveled Dutch couple told me of a six week trip they had taken to southeast Asia that included Vietnam 2 years ago.  They were amazed, and I was surprised to hear, that they described Hanoi as lovely and still with many signs of its former French colonial masters in the architecture and ambiance.  They – and I – had assumed it had all been bombed to smithereens, but they found no signs of it.  Ho Chi Minh City (nee Saigon) they described as “modern.”

As always a learning adventure on the listening post.