Yesterday, about half of Kenyans went to the polls. The election that drew 80% of the electorate in August only attracted 48% (or 34% from another source) in October. Since the almost-half who voted for Odinga in round one were enjoined to boycott, and since people are weary and cautious and losing faith in the system, that makes sense. Naivasha was quietly normal, with more shops open than in August, more trucks moving, more patients pouring in. It's hard to gear up for the end times twice in a quarter. We bought some canned beans, topped up our phone charge and fuel tanks, but life goes on.
With a vengeance, it turns out, that little notice that went out about our hospital with his handful of nurses and NO INTERNS and as far as I can tell only one out of an assigned dozen junior doctors plus Scott, me, and three clinical officer interns, being fully operational for the first time in 5 months of nursing strike . . . well that timing was a bit insane. Scott's doing 3-4 surgeries a day and rounding on all patients and backing up a growing number of deliveries. I've spent the rest of the week scuttling around doing vital signs and physical exams and writing notes and orders and trying to hold all the kids and babies in one piece. I started today by drawing 15 tubes of blood and doing an LP, so I could get results by the time I finished rounds. Between 6 and 7 pm tonight, Scott saved a mom who was near the tipping point of seizures and death from pregnancy-induced hypertension by doing a risky C-section, and I would like to hope I might have also saved a baby who came with meningitis and got stuck with only me to figure it out, get an IV, do labs, and push antibiotics. Which was the exhausting close of an exhausting day.
And meanwhile the election is not over. Four counties had such protest, with police firing guns and tear gas at opposition enthusiasts with their rocks and arrows and crowds and taunts, that polls could not open there yesterday. So they get a delayed second chance tomorrow. Meanwhile the IEBC reads tediously hour after hour the votes as they are reported. "Shockingly" the incumbent president leads with 96% of the vote, and the opposition who withdrew announced that their supporters should resist and disobey government at all levels. Which some did by burning down a school in a poor neighborhood of Nairobi, hurting mainly themselves. A handful of people have died, more have been wounded.
It is, in short, a mess.
On election day, my devotional reading fell on the end of Luke 12. Jesus says "Do you think I have come to bring peace? No, rather, division!" That jumped off the page, a jarring shock. What about the "Peace on earth" message of his birth-night? I've been thinking about that over the last two days. As in many things true, one must grasp paradox. Yes, Jesus' birth was an unprecedented historical foray of the Divine into human flesh which set in motion the love that conquers death, the advent of true peace. The kind of peace that comes because evil is swallowed up, because tears are no more. But in the near term, Jesus does not advocate for a false peace that consists of ignoring injustice and forcing everyone to just stop striving and acquiesce. No, the very presence of goodness seemed to bring the powers and principalities to a dither of rage, a crisis of political proportions in the Roman empire and the Jewish resistance, a crisis that resulted in Jesus' death. Even followers were divided as some longed for a power-driven top-down Kingdom of God on earth (and on through the ages of Crusaders right down to many "evangelicals" today) . . while others embraced the slow quiet dark ambiguity of a spreading movement of personal transformation leading to community. Resurrections, in real time pointing to end-time. Still, division persists in the age of incomplete justice, because it is the only way to stand apart from systemic evil. But peace is coming, full restorative just peace, peace on earth.
Praying Kenya, and Uganda and Burundi and South Sudan and Congo, and America and the world, get to see that soon.