China Aid Association
Mission Aviation Fellowship evacuates nationals, missionaries and relief workers amid violence in Kenya
By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
NAMPA, IDAHO (ANS) — Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) continues to answer the emergency call for evacuations and humanitarian help in Kenya, Bernard Terlouw, the MAF country director there, said today.
Kenya’s continued struggle for democracy remains embroiled in violence. Today, the opposition party called for a new presidential election.
Many Kenyans have been forced to take refuge from the violent mobs, and police in Nairobi have set up barricades and halted traffic. Hundreds have died.
MAF planes may be small, but their response hasn’t been, Terlouw said.
MAF pilots have flown to various towns in the west, such as Eldoret, Kisumu, Kitale and Homa Bay, to evacuate both Kenyans who have been threatened, as well as staff members from such organizations as Scripture Mission, International Red Cross, Navigators and Gospel Fire International, who were no longer safe in their homes.
As time passed, the panic period eased, as relief teams got organized, Terlouw said.
The electoral commission declared President Mwai Kibaki the winner of the Dec. 27 vote, but opposition leader Raila Odinga challenged the outcome, which was backed by international observations.
The challenge led to violent protests, beatings, burnings and stabbings. Much of the chaos has been worsened by blockades, which resulted in a shortage of food and fuel. Well over 300 have died in mob violence, although not all of it related to the political situation.
Terlouw said the instability is being used by some in a similar way to when the government collapsed in 1982. Looting and organized crime have occurred in the general unrest. In addition, indications are that some people may have been settling old scores as the volatility spread.
MAF missionaries reserved no fuel for getting themselves out of the country, Terlouw said.
“It is this stand that is our testimony of Christ’s strength,” he said. “The message that Jesus gave was that you love people who do not love you. We could fly out, we could just ignore the fact that some people were confessing other faiths and that some people were fighting with each other. We simply said, if you need evacuation, because we’re a Christian organization, come on board, and we will help you.”
Mission Aviation Fellowship’s (MAF) team in Kenya had earlier suspended flights because of the dangers posed by the violence rocking the country for nearly a week.
According to Maria Mackay, writing for ChristianToday.com, MAF said that the serious turmoil had brought non-stop requests for help from people desperate to flee deadly clashes between police and anti-government protesters over the disputed December 27 presidential election and accusations. Opposition leader Raila Odinga accuses President Mwai Kibaki of rigging his re-election.
Before MAF suspended flights on Thursday, its pilots flew to the region to evacuate Kenyan locals threatened by the angry protesters, as well as missionaries who were no longer safe in their homes.
MAF’s country director in Kenya Bernard Terlouw said, “The stories we heard were very, very sad.”
He added: “This morning I saw trucks with riot police on Ngong road. Right now as I write one can see smoke rising from Kibera and from the Ngong road area we hear the sounds of shots. We can only pray that someone or something intervenes.”
MAF said that the suspension of flights was temporary and that it planned to resume flying again on Monday. In the meantime, ministry staff remain in their homes.
Thousands have headed to Kenya’s capital Nairobi to escape the Rift Valley area, where machete-wielding youths have burned down homes and, in some cases, entire villages. In Nairobi, police have set up barricades at the major roundabouts into the city and halted traffic.
Around 300 people have been killed in the violence, the worst of which was the torching of a Kenyan Assemblies of God church in Kiambaa, outside Eldoret, on Tuesday by a mob that killed more than 30 people.
A pastor at the church, Jackson Nyanga, told the BBC that many of the people were beaten before the building was set on fire. According to Reuters, the victims were locked inside by the mob.
Following serious unrest in Kenya, Mission Aviation Fellowship’s team has been receiving non-stop requests for help.
The violence, which erupted after the re-election of President Kibaki, has claimed the lives of at least 300 people. Opposition leader Raila Odinga alleges the voting was rigged.
More than 30 people were burned to death in Eldoret, in the west, when a mob set fire to a church where they were sheltering. Jackson Nyanga, a pastor from the Kenyan Assemblies of God church, where the tragedy took place, told the BBC that many of the people were beaten before the building was set on fire. The victims were mainly Kikuyu – the same tribe as Mr Kibaki.
The Kenyan Red Cross reports that at least 70,000 people in the west have been displaced by the unrest. Many Kenyans have been forced to take refuge from the violent mobs, and police in Nairobi have set up barricades at the major roundabouts into the city and halted traffic.
A number of partner organizations are now shifting from evacuation to an emphasis on food and health interventions. It is expected that flights in the near future will be supporting these efforts.
MAF in Kenya provides aviation, IT and logistics services in Kenya, Sudan and Somalia and has a fleet of seven aircraft: one PC12, four Grand Cessna Caravans, one Cessna 206 and one Cessna 210. MAF is a faith-based, non-profit ministry that serves missions and isolated people around the world with aviation, communications and learning technologies,
Founded in the United States in 1945, MAF (www.MAF.org) deploys a fleet of 134 aircraft worldwide to serve in the remotest regions of 51 countries. More than 1,000 Christian and humanitarian organizations in isolated areas depend on MAF to carry out their work. The ministry’s pilots transport missionaries, medical personnel, medicines and relief supplies, as well as conduct thousands of emergency medical evacuations each year. MAF also provides services in learning technologies as well as in telecommunications, such as satellite Internet access, high-frequency radios, electronic mail and other wireless systems.
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