29 March 2015

Without Jesus, I am nothing; a profound story of a humble donkey

A friend and I spent several hours together working on a project in my small newly-created garden space.

While doing so, we discussed the familiar story of Palm Sunday:

Jesus headed to Jerusalem. When he got near the mountain called Olives, he sent off two of the disciples with instructions: “Go to the village across from you. As soon as you enter, you’ll find a donkey tethered, one that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it. If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ say, ‘His Master needs him.’”

The two left and found it just as he said. As they were untying the donkey, its owners said, “What are you doing untying this animal?”

The disciples replied, “His Master needs him,” and they brought the donkey to Jesus.

Then, throwing their coats on the donkey's back, they helped Jesus get on. As he rode the donkey, the large crowd of people gave Jesus a grand welcome, throwing their coats on the street and waving palm branches. They joyfully sang and shouted, "Hosanna, hosanna!"

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After Dan and I had discussed the story, he asked me an interesting question -

Deb, did you ever wonder about that donkey the day after Palm Sunday?

When I responded that I hadn't, Dan shared a simple - but profound - version of what may have happened:
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The day after Palm Sunday the donkey was out in the field grazing with the other donkeys, just like any other ordinary day of its life. One of the other donkeys was perplexed and said to him,

“Yesterday you were being celebrated. And now today, you’re here just eating grass with the rest of us. Why is that? Why aren’t you being celebrated again today?”

The donkey humbly replied,
Oh, my donkey friend, you are very mistaken. Yesterday the crowd was celebrating Jesus! They weren't celebrating me. I was very privileged and honored to carry him, but you see ...
... without Jesus, I am nothing but an ordinary donkey! .

19 March 2015

In Kenya's news: Will peace talks finally silence the Kalashnikovs of Kenya’s north?

A Turkana woman shows a bullet hole in one of her cooking pans

As cattle rustlers in Northern Kenya trade their bows and arrows for guns and bullets, villages and schools lay desolate and abandoned in the wake of their destruction.

Boundaries between communities are a source of constant conflict.
Baringo South, Turkana East and Baringo North are dangerous hot spots.

Plagued by armed cattle rustling bandits and bitter border disputes between the Turkana and Pokot, peaceful co-existance has been nothing more than a distant dream for a long time.

Deserted homes, vandalised schools and anxious faces greet you when you arrive at Arabal in Baringo South Sub-County. Since  2005, Arabal - like many other areas in Baringo South, Turkana East and Baringo North counties - has not known peace. 

Cattle rustling has left trail of death and anguish and those who choose to remain live in constant fear of attacks from armed bandits from neighboring communities. Schools remain closed after parents fled the volatile areas with their children in tow.

Baringo County Governor Benjamin Cheboi and Baringo South MP Grace Kipchoim toured Mochongoi area in Baringo South last week after 400 goats and 200 cattle were stolen. Cheboi urged the government to address the perennial insecurity menace in the area as it has become a roadblock to development, stating, “Many residents are now on the verge of starvation after their livestock, which is their main source of livelihood, was stolen by armed raiders.”

The valley of death
The ragged terrain of the expansive Ng’elecha Valley with abundant pasture and water is a perfect for cattle grazing, but it is also an ideal place for bandits to launch attacks. The bandits are reported to have converted deserted schools in the area into homes and cows sheds. The attacks have triggered a mass exodus with more than 200 households fleeing from the area stricken by conflict. According to Kipchoim, more than 53 people have been killed and another 12,000 people displaced from their homes since 2005. 

“Go to the valley of death at your own risk. It is quite painful for the residents to see their livestock in the hands of bandits and be unable to do anything about it.” 
~ Chepsoi

In Kapedo, the dispute between Turkana and Baringo counties concerning where the troubled Kapedo falls  came to a  head. The senators came face to face with the hostilities between the Pokot and Turkana communities. The Turkana refused to share seats with the Pokot forcing the committee to hear the views of the two communities separately.

The irate Turkana demanded to be told why the Pokot arrived at the venue on a lorry if indeed they lived in the area. At one point, the Baringo meeting which was led by Governor Cheboi, senator Gideon Moi, and Tiaty MP Asman Kamama was disrupted after irate members of the Turkana stormed it chanting slogans that Kapedo was theirs and questioning what their ‘neighbors’ were doing in their territory. “This is our land and the Pokot are taking advantage of our hospitality to claim ownership. This is unacceptable,” said Mr. Munyes. 

According to Tiaty MP Asman Kamama, all maps from 1900s indicate that the land in dispute was in Baringo and that the Turkana wanted to dislodge the Pokot because the area is rich in resources. “We are not on the border but right inside our land,” said Mr Kamama. He said that the investors feared that the geothermal project, oil and gold discoveries in the area would go to waste if security remained elusive.

Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji, the commitee chairman, said they will visit all areas under contention in the country to understand the underlying issues in the perennial conflicts which have led to loss of hundreds of lives and displacement of scores of others from their homes.

According Senator Moi, the disputed land has been in Baringo County since time immemorial.

He blamed the rise in conflict on the anticipation on greed fuelled by the newly available resources.

“The scramble is purely for resources, especially considering that Geothermal Development Company is set to roll out a 6 billion Kenya shillings (66 million USD) investment in the area,” said Mr. Moi.

[article by Wycliff Kipsang, 10 March 2015, Daily Nation]

17 March 2015

In Kenya's news: 15 tons of ivory are burned to discourage the illegal trade

The tusks will burn for five days, under armed surveillance, until only ashes.

Kenya incinerated 15 tons of elephant tusks last week in a symbolic gesture against the illicit ivory trade.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta lowered a burning torch to a three-tiered pile of ivory tusks, sending flames and smoke swirling high into the air above Nairobi National Park.

Speaking at the event held on World Wildlife Day, Uhuru said the burning represents Kenya's commitment to stopping the ivory trade: “African countries are concerned about the scale and rate of the new threat to our endangered wildlife species. We are committed to combating the menace robustly and persistently until we dismantle the entire vile economy. Many of these tusks belonged to elephants which were wantonly slaughtered by criminals. We want future generations of Kenyans and the entire world to experience the majesty and beauty of these magnificent beasts. Poachers and their enablers will not have the last word."
Let’s get serious about wildlife crime. 
~ UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Save The Elephants, a London-based wildlife conservation group, said 100,000 elephants were killed in Africa between 2010-2013. Elephants could go extinct by the middle of the century if the trend continues. Ivory trafficking has been driven mostly by demand from Asian consumers who use the material to make jewelry and ornaments. Ian Douglas Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants, said research released by his organization showed that the price of elephant ivory has tripled in China since 2010.

The African elephant once ranged across most of the continent from the Mediterranean coast to the southern tip. It is thought there may have been as many as 3-5 million African elephants in the 1930s and 1940s. In the 1970s, there were only 1.3 million elephants. That number is now down to 500,000, mostly due to poaching.
In Kenya, the population plummeted by 85% between 1973 and 1989. There are 37,000 elephants remaining in Kenya, according to data from Kenya Wildlife Service.

Kenya first burned 12 tons of its ivory stocks in 1989 under former president, Moi. Another public burn of five tons was held in 2011, by former president, Kibaki.

The public act of burning ivory is meant to send a message to the world about the value of wildlife. "We would like to tell the world to stop the trade in ivory because it is destroying our economy, our heritage, and our environment," said Paul Udoto, a spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service.

[information from voanews.com and aljazeera.com, 3 March 2015; also forbes.com, wikipedia.org, and panda.org]

12 March 2015

In Kenya's news: Record temperatures mark the hottest season in recent years

Temperatures in major towns in Kenya are some of the highest recorded in history, increasing the risk of violent winds and forest fires, the weatherman has said. Lodwar in Turkana County is currently the hottest place in the country, with temperatures peaking at 104° followed by Wajir at 102°.

In what meteorologists have described as the hottest season in recent years, some stations in Nairobi recorded temperatures as high as 93° [whereas the normal high for Nairobi is a pleasant 82°]. Other towns not typically known for being hot, such as Kakamega and Nakuru, recorded 93° and 88° respectively.

Kenya Meteorological Services Deputy Director Peter Ambenje said the high temperatures were a result of lack of cloud cover and delayed rains. “The rains have not come as predicted, so all the radiation that is normally filtered out by the clouds is hitting the earth,” he said.

"If the situation does not change soon, the heat could have disastrous consequences. Just recently, dust devils were sighted in Narok County. These could harm children’s eyes. The winds resulting from changes in air density could also lead to wild fires,” said Mr Ambenje.

Mr Ambenje also said Kenyans would have to wait longer than expected for relief, because the March rains will be delayed. In February, he had said counties in western, Nyanza, central and South Rift were likely to receive near normal or good rainfall by the second week of March. But as of March 10, not a single drop had fallen.

The weatherman had also predicted that Nairobi, central Kenya, Embu, Meru and Machakos would receive near normal rain while most counties in North Rift, Coast and Northeastern would have depressed rainfall.

Experts have painted a similarly grim picture for Africa after they predicted yesterday that the continent will experience severe food scarcity due to climate change.

Scientists and policy makers who are in Nairobi for a three-day conference said failing to pass the required policies to shield the continent from the effects of a warmer climate would result in a 50 per cent decline in crop yields by 2020, a 40-90 per cent reduction in pasture and new or more virulent diseases and pests.

[article by Jacqueline Kubania and Ngare Kariuki, 11 March 2015, Daily Nation]