As the elections approach, Kenyans face serious social and economic hardship. Unemployment in the country of 42 million is about 40 percent, up from 12.7 percent in 2006, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Prices for food and other staple commodities have skyrocketed: corn, for example, has doubled in price in recent years, rising to about 60 Kenyan shillings (about 70 cents) a kilogram.
As many as 55 percent of Kenyans are worried about the political environment and potential violence, according to a poll by Strategic Research and Communication Consultants for Africa. The Dec. 17-19 poll surveyed 1,500 Kenyans in face-to-face interviews. No margin of error was given.
Hence the letter-writing campaign.
“Social studies show that writing is therapeutic, and when one writes to a higher power, a natural sense of peace is created in the person,” said Sr. Brahma Kumaris Vedanti, the regional director of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, which is helping to organize the campaign. She spoke to reporters in Nairobi on Dec. 1 at a news conference to launch the initiative.
The campaign is considered unusual for Kenya, where about 82 percent of the country considers itself Christian, while about 11 percent are Muslim: most church-going Kenyans make their appeals to God in prayer, not in written form. But organizers say this is a peace initiative for all religions and ethnic groups.
The election violence of five years ago was sparked after incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was declared the victor in 2007 and his challenger, Raila Odinga, now prime minister, rejected the results, saying they were rigged. The dispute triggered riots and clashes that resulted in more than 1,000 people being killed and tens of thousands displaced. The brutality dented Kenya’s image as a stable nation in East Africa and set back its economy.