Kenyan Unrest, Jersey Style

Kikuyus, Luos, and Kisii in Jersey City nervously watch events in Nairobi

Others have seen it, however. A short while after the discussion at Mzalendo One Stop, a prayer service was held at St. Patrick's Church, a short ride across town. Religious leaders from several denominations ascended the pulpit to exhort local Kenyans to move beyond the differences that are roiling their home country. "When you call back to Kenya, tell your family to stand above tribalism," said the Reverend Haron K. Orutwa, a Lutheran.

Shem Joel Onditi, a Seventh-Day Adventist elder who operates a pair of day-care centers, preached peace. At one point, he implored: "Stop attacking each other on the Internet! Please stop it!"

The Internet seems a prime vehicle for Kenyan frustration in the United States. Several Kikuyus from Jersey City who didn't respond to requests for comment weren't shy about posting their comments online. According to the Public Eye, a Web site that covers community events, "some Kikuyus are unsubscribing from Web sites and forums owned by other communities, they are moving out of shared apartments and disassociating themselves from activities of other Kenyans." A few speakers at St. Patrick's noted the poor attendance at the meeting, complaining that the full spectrum of the community wasn't represented. Another meeting—this one intertribal and interdenominational—was quickly scheduled for later in the month.

photo: Peter Duffy

The worry, said Onditi in an interview a week before the prayer service, is that the situation in Kenya—despite some progress in peace talks last week—will continued to spin farther and farther out of control. "If this goes to genocide, we need to prepare ourselves," he said. "If that violence continues, it's not going to be very friendly here."

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