U.S. KENYANS DEMONSTRATE FOR PEACE
Lowell, Massachusetts, USA
January 8, 2008
On Tuesday January 8th, Kenyans living in Massachusetts poured into the streets of Lowell to stage a peaceful demonstration in protest over the chaos and violence that followed a controversial presidential election in Kenya.
The march, supervised by watchful police officers from the Lowell Police Department, kicked off at the Thorndike train station. It proceeded to Market Street and onwards to the heart of Lowell city before ending up at the imposing City Hall Plaza. The marchers displayed placards with bold messages directed at Kenya leaders, asking them to respect the lives of citizens and engage in positive negotiations for the sake of peace. Rev. Njuguna Ngotho from St. Stephens Church in Lynn, Massachusetts, led the demonstrators in prayer.
Kenyans demonstrate through the streets of Lowell
As the procession snaked its way along streets lined with red brick buildings, chants of “Amani, Amani! (Swahili for Peace) rocked the air and inquisitive heads popped from office windows. Curious onlookers stood by while motorists honked and waved the two-finger sign for peace as a way to urge the Kenyans on. “It’s good to see that these guys care enough to do something about their country. You ‘gotta’ bring the issues out in the light in a dignified manner as these ‘guys’ are doing. Give it up to them”, said one of the onlookers along Merrimack Street.
The first Kenyan to graduate from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Mr. Ben Mbugua, popularly known as ‘Uncle Ben’, said it is deplorable for people who have been living in peace and harmony for decades to turn on each other overnight and start killing out of political manipulation. “My 94 year old Grandmother has lived in Eldoret since 1943, got married to a Kalenjin, and has lived in peace. Why do they have to chase her away now?” asked Ben. He aroused loud cheers when he revealed mixed marriages in his family. “My niece is married in Kisumu to a Luo. My cousin is married to a Mzungu and they have 3 children together. You cannot convince me that Luos are bad, or Kikuyus are bad or Kalenjins are bad or that Muzungu is bad. It is the politicians who are causing friend to turn against friend.”
Despite the fact that the greater Boston area is host to thousands of Kenyan immigrants, only a few dozen participated in the demonstration. Dr. Victoria Fahlberg, the CEO of One Lowell, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to increasing integration and self-sufficiency of Lowell's immigrants, expressed concern over the low turn out and stressed the importance of participation in community activities. “We have no African in education boards here or even in the City Council boards, yet we have a lot of African children attending schools here. Your people do not even know what is going on in Lowell. We can be of help in very many ways .Just get involved”, urged Dr. Fahlberg.
This caused a debate among the Kenyans present who were overheard saying that many Africans take days off at work and drive 50 miles to attend parties and weddings but they do not show up at leadership events to discuss matters concerning the future of their children.
Dr. Victoria Fahlberg, the CEO of One Lowell, addresses the Kenyan rally as Ben Kamiri of Kenya holds the Kenyan Flag
The event also attracted several people from the East African region. Pastor Eustache from DRC, who lives in Burundi and is on a tour of the US, said Kenya has been a big hope of the East African region and that a solution be found to the political stalemate. Pastor Mlongecha from Tanzania added that he would hate to see the country he had lived in for many years go down the drain. “Leaders will come and go, but the country shall always remain. I pray that peace prevails in Kenya”, he commented.
As the rally ended, there was breaking news about the announcement of a new cabinet in Kenya. More importantly, Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka, one of the contenders for the presidential seat, was the new Vice President. The crowd went into confusion and near panic, as most people did not know how the announcement would affect the tense political situation in Kenya.“People are still jittery about this news”, Mr. Waithaka, of Al Parsons Productions, confided to AjabuAfrica.com.