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For Kenya's Orphans, Memories of Violence Remain

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For Kenya's Orphans, Memories of Violence Remain

Commentary

For Kenya's Orphans, Memories of Violence Remain

For Kenya's Orphans, Memories of Violence Remain

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Children at the Sons of King Jesus Orphanage come from nine different tribes in Kenya. Courtesy Pius Kamau hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy Pius Kamau

Children at the Sons of King Jesus Orphanage come from nine different tribes in Kenya.

Courtesy Pius Kamau

Commentator Pius Kamau grew up in Kenya is anxious about the country of his birth because of children growing up there now. Kenya passed a hurdle as a democratic country Wednesday, peacefully electing five members of Parliament — three from the ruling party and two apparently from the opposition party. But that even-handed vote comes just half a year after the presidential election that set off weeks of deadly violence.

My sister Mary cares for 120 orphans in Kenya. Most of them were orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Some suffer from AIDS or are HIV-positive themselves.

Mary built the orphanage in Nairobi and has nurtured the children for a decade. They are thriving. But even orphanages, run by selfless folks in a world ruled by selfish men, are endangered by political violence.

After Kenya's election in December, Kibera, Africa's largest slum, exploded into fires of intertribal violence. Mary moved her children away from Kibera for their safety. These kids from Nairobi's streets come from nine tribes: Kikuyu, Masai and others. Because Mary is Kikuyu, she was afraid the Luo who had attacked her tribe might attack her orphans as well.

From the distance of America, I watched machete-wielding mobs on TV. They looted and killed with bloodthirsty abandon. It reminded me of Rwanda's genocide. I still imagine the mob's violence reflected in children's innocent eyes. I think about the fear they must have felt as the mob shouted and called to kill.

Mary's orphans have moved to a new, safer and more permanent home. But peace in Africa is always tenuous. Peace and safety depend on the whims of politicians.

African orphans live in a treacherous time ... when corruption, disease, and ethnic violence conspire to add misery to their lives. I worry about their nightmarish dreams, about the residue of hatred that will remain in their young minds.

I am grateful that our prayers for the end of the violent crisis in Kenya were answered. But for the sake of Mary's orphans — for the sake of every orphan, every child who's hungry and unloved anywhere in Africa — I fear the next upheaval.

Commentator Pius Kamau is a surgeon born in Kenya and now living in Denver.

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