Church leaders evacuated 280 students, staff and international workers from Seventh-day Adventist-owned University of Eastern Africa, Baraton, to Nairobi on January 6. More than one hundred staff members had earlier taken refuge at a local police station amid violence fueled by contested election results in Kenya last week.
Adventist Church officials in East-Central Africa secured funding over the weekend from world church headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, needed for the evacuation from the university to safer conditions in the country’s capital.
The situation in Nairobi, while “not back to normal,” has improved, with most offices open and the city’s transportation system running, said Geoffrey Mbwana, president of the church in East-Central Africa.
While ethnic tensions eased over the weekend, church and national leaders anticipate violence will again escalate as opposition leaders challenge President Mwai Kibaki’s second term. The moving of staff and students was meant to preempt conflict surrounding a series of countrywide political rallies planned for early this week, Mbwana said.
“Of course we are praying for calm, peaceful rallies, but we are taking caution at every point,” Mbwana said.
Church leaders reiterated their call for nationwide restraint and reconciliation in a press statement released by the East African Union on January 4. The statement echoed an appeal to end violence released last week by world church Executive Secretary Matthew A. Bediako.
“The responsibility of safeguarding and maintaining peace lies with each and every one of us,” the statement read. It also urged Mr. Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to engage in “honest and forthright” talks.
“They should provide leadership in this dark hour by coming together in open and honest dialogue to bring a lasting solution to this impasse. Let us remember this country is bigger than all of us,” the statement continued.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Kenya is providing emergency food assistance and medical supplies for displaced and affected families in coordination with other humanitarian agencies in the country.
Meanwhile, church leaders in Kenya are working to help a group of Kenyan Adventist students on retreat in Rwanda back into the country. While some roads have reopened, most remain blocked, Mbwana said. Church leaders have sent food and basic supplies, including tents, to the students, all of whom remain stranded in Kampala, Uganda.
Source: Adventist News Network