Monday, February 4, 2008

Kenya Update

Another update from the IU Kenya Program:

Today’s issue of The Indianapolis Star contains a page one story entitled “Courage and Hope Amid Kenya’s Carnage.” This article describes the extraordinary bravery and generosity showed by Joe and Sarah Ellen Mamlin and many of our Kenyan colleagues and friends during the most frightening days after the disputed year-end election. You can see that article online at

After reading this moving story, I think you will be proud to be associated with the Hoosiers and the Kenyans who showed so much compassion and grace in the crucible of Kenya’s worst days since independence.

Star reporter Bobby King wrote a terrific piece, but limited space forced him to leave out some inspiring stories. You may be interested to learn about the selfless heroism of IU House staffer Javan Odinga:

Late last Wednesday night, Joe and Sarah Ellen received a frantic phone call from a small bible college in Kapsabet, about an hour’s drive from Eldoret. There were rumblings of tribal violence coming the next day, and the school had three Kikuyu students who desperately needed to escape the area. But they did not have a vehicle, and the roads were filled with crude roadblocks set up by gangs for the explicit purpose of searching each car for Kikuyus.

Just before 4AM Thursday, Javan decided to take an IU vehicle and head for Kapsabet, even though getting caught in the car with the students would have likely meant gangs burning the car and killing him and his passengers. Because of the early hour, none of the roadblocks were manned. For most of the trip, Javan was able to slowly move the jeep around the boulders, railroad ties and logs left in the dark road.

Then he came across a huge log set up as a road block. Javan could not drive around it, and the log was clearly impossible for a normal person to move alone. But Javan is not a normal person in terms of strength: he happens to be a heavyweight champion body builder. Like some kind of Kenyan Superman, he got out of the car, leaned his muscles into the weight of the log, and heaved it off the road.

Javan arrived in Kapsabet and quickly put the three Kikuyu students into the car, ready to hide them under blankets if the car was forced to stop. They were able to make it to the Eldoret airport, where the students flew to safety. Hours later, Kapsabet exploded into violence. Cars burned and several people were killed. Joe Mamlin says he has no doubt that these three students owe their lives to Javan.

But that is not the whole story, as Joe reports: “Let the record show that Javan is Luhya and he risked his life for three Kikuyus. This kind of story doesn't make the international media reporting, but it is the best of Kenya in action.”

1 comment:

Isaac Epp and Kerry Laws said...

Amazing! It is a shame that these stories don't make more than a byline or human interest footnote in media coverage...