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Kenya News Update
Martin J. Fisher, Ph.D.

Dear Friends of KickStart,

I hope you have had a good holiday season and happy New Years. I am writing to update you about the sad and distressing situation in Kenya, which I expect you have all heard about in the news. On behalf of all our staff and the people of Kenya, I want to thank all of you who have expressed your concern.

As of today all of KickStart's employees in Kenya and their immediate families are safe.  However, many of them, who traveled to their rural homes over the holidays, are now stranded there by the insecurity and roadblocks. Others, who remained in Nairobi, are trapped in their houses, only venturing out to buy food and collect water. Our first concern is for their safety so we have asked them not to travel, and we have put KickStart's operations in Kenya on-hold until the situation improves.

The safety and wellbeing of the shopkeepers who sell our pumps, and the families who are using them - many of whom you know from our newsletters and website - are also of great concern to us. It is still too early for us to check on them, but as soon as it is safer we will do whatever we can to help them get back on their feet.   

The sudden turn of events following the December 27th presidential elections in Kenya is extremely sad news. To date over 300 people have been killed and over 180,000 more have been internally displaced. The on-going fighting and looting are caused by a potent mix of confounding factors: protests against the disputed election results; the government's sometimes violent reaction to these protests; opportunistic crime by the disenfranchised; long standing tribal animosities; political instigation; and the emergence of informal local militias and revenge killings.    

However, Kenya, has remained the most stable country in East Africa for many years and all of us who have lived there know that Kenyans are people of great patience and fortitude. They are intensely proud of their country and extremely pragmatic. Despite occasional flare-ups of politically instigated tribal violence, Kenyans have realized that becoming another African "problem state" would benefit no one. They have been unwilling to allow their country to descend into the type of chaos seen amongst their neighbors.  

In addition, only a small portion of the population (5% to10% at most) have been effected by the on-going violence and the vast majority of Kenyans just want to get on with their lives, harvest their crops, send their children to school and live in peace with their neighbors. While the current violence is both terrifying and totally unacceptable, I believe that comparisons to Rwanda, or talk of ethnic cleansing, civil war or genocide are both premature and irresponsible. It is important to keep perspective and to recognize that the present situation is only marginally more extreme than what we have seen Kenyans overcome a number of times before.  My personal hope and belief is that once again, in the coming days and weeks, calmer minds will prevail.

Kibaki and Odinga need to get past their self-interests, meet together and decide on a political solution. The situation may still get worse before it gets better, but I remain hopeful that they will find a way forward.  Of course even a political settlement will only be the first step on a long road to recovery. Kenyans will need to work hard to restore the destroyed property, infrastructure, commerce and, most of all, trust.  

But no matter how or when the situation is resolved, it is already a major set-back for the Kenyan economy and it will greatly complicate KickStart's work there. Critical transport and marketing infrastructure have been damaged, retail shops have been looted, Eldoret (where KickStart has planned a major market test) is one of the hardest hit areas, and farmers' crops, houses and livestock have been destroyed all around the country. But this means that the people of Kenya, now more than ever, need access to improved, and more secure, livelihoods. And as soon as it is safe, KickStart will have to work that much harder to make up for lost time.

In conversations that Nick Moon (KickStart's co-founder) and I have had with our staff over the past few days, we have heard again and again how eager they are to get back to work, and how committed they are to helping their fellow Kenyans by playing a critical role in the recovery process. They know that this violence has been triggered by the election results, but they also know that the overall level of violence, and the ease by which people can be incited to violence, is due to poverty, lack of opportunity and lack of hope.  

This knowledge reminds all of us about the vital importance of KickStart's efforts to provide opportunities, reduce poverty and bring prosperity to the poorest segments of African society. And this is why we, and all the people of Kenya, continue to be so grateful for your on-going help and support.  Thank you!

I will remain in close contact with our Kenyan colleagues over the coming days and weeks and will keep you posted.   Thank you again for your support to KickStart and for keeping Kenya in your thoughts and prayers.


Martin J. Fisher, Ph.D.
Co-Founder and CEO



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