Mt. Elgon, a beautifully massive shield volcano that can be seen from throughout western Kenya, has been the site of a localized guerilla war for about fifteen years. Although the core grievance of the Sabaot Land Defense Force (SDLF) is related to government corruption in land use, it is the local Sabaot community who have suffered most acutely from the atrocities of the SDLF. From forced taxation to child soldiers to forced brides to rape as a weapon of war, the local community is deeply traumatized.
About six years ago, the militia leadership reached out to Friends Church Peace Team (FCPT) with a request to help them demilitarize and reconcile with their community. This remarkable request has resulted in deep healing and transformation for many people, including militia leaders who are now Alternatives to Violence (AVP) facilitators.
Yet the devastation of the war lingers in the extreme economic poverty and psychological trauma of the people. In this time of COVID-19, Getry Agizah, FCPT Coordinator, made contact with the community to discern their most acute needs. She has identified twenty-five households who are in immediate danger of starvation, and, through the COVID-19 Solidarity Fund, Friends United Meeting is partnering with her to distribute a one-month supply of basic food and soap to each household.
This week Getry shared the story of one of these 25 families with FUM’s Global Ministries office. Rose was married with five children when the SDLF militia kidnapped her and gave her as a “wife” to one of their officers. She had three subsequent children with this man, before being rescued and returning to her home. Unfortunately, her husband rejected her and the children. After chasing her away, he sold his land and died in a drinking spree. Rose’s children have never gone to school. She lives as a squatter (meaning she doesn’t have any legal rights in the place where she stays) and works as an agricultural day laborer. With the closures imposed in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, Rose and her children have no source of food. When Getry visited them, the whole family was full of questions, fear, and anxiety. One of the daughters looked at her and asked, “Is it true we will die?”
FCPT trauma counselors will distribute the food assistance in a way that complies with government protocols for social distancing. They will be accompanied by a health officer from the local administration, who will discuss with the family what steps they are taking to stay safe from the virus. Please pray for these twenty-five families, and those who are assisting them, that they would remain healthy and would have enough to eat during this difficult time.
If you would like to contribute to the COVID-19 Solidarity Fund, please click here.
~Photo: Joe Ossman, FCPT volunteer
Eden Grace is FUM's Director of Global Ministries.