Paw Paw couple back in Michigan after observing elections in Kenya

May 17, 2013

Joe (left) and Kathy Ossman preparing to ride up Mount Elgon
Credit Peacemaking in Africa Blog

A Paw Paw couple spent three months in Kenya this year monitoring elections in the African nation. Joe and Kathy Ossman volunteered for the African Great Lakes Initiative. They blogged about their experiences in Africa and spoke with WMUK a couple of times by Skype from the village of Lumakanda. 

The Coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative will speak in Kalamazoo Monday night. David Zarembka will discuss the elections in Kenya Monday night at 7:00 at the Friends Meeting House on Denner Street. WMUK's Gordon Evans spoke with Joe and Kathy Ossman about their experience in Kenya. Some highlights:

The Kenyan elections were held without the major violence that marred the last elections in 2007. But Joe Ossman says there were some irregularities in the elections' process. He says that may not bode well for future elections in Kenya. He says it's problematic that the winner Uhuru Kenyatta faces charges related to violence connected to the 2007 Kenyan elections (Story from NPR's Tell Me More). Kathy Ossman says progress was made, but more work needs to be done. She says voting on the local level shows that people were elected from a variety of ethnic groups, and candidates were considered for their qualifications. 

Kathy Ossman says living in Kenya was challenging and wonderful. She says they were well received everywhere they went. They stood out during their visit. Joe Ossman says they "tripled the white population" in the village where they lived. But he says people were always friendly and welcoming. 

Both of the Ossmans say they did miss some things while in Kenya, Kathy Ossman says public transportation is convenient in Kenya but not very comfortable. She says they shared one ride with a chicken coup on top of their van. Joe says he was glad to use high speed wireless service and take a hot shower when he got back. But he misses the motorcycle taxi rides.