The Goethe in Nairobi has been hosting a series of events titled “Displacement & Refuge” where experts and authors speak about the pain of displacement after conflict. The first of these happened in 31st March 2016 as German author Tanja Dückers and poet and writer SitawaNamwalie spoke about this issue.
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor was a guest at the third discussion in the series on May 25th. She was on panel with lawyer Edgar Kavulavu from the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ-Kenya) and the panel was moderated by columnist and novelist Zukiswa Wanner. The theme was the Kenyan Project: Displacement and Refuge from Madaraka to today.
Owuor is well known to readers of this blog. Not only did she win the Caine Prize for her story, Weight of Whispers but she is also the author of the award-winning novel Dust. Her presence on this panel was therefore a no-brainer as both her award-winning short story and her award-winning novel have the subject of displacement and refuge at their centre. While the short story focuses on the displacement of a Rwandan family, the novel is very much grounded in Kenya since uhuru until the 2008 post election crisis which displaced many.
On his part, Edgar is a lawyer for ICJ-Kenya, an organization which has partnered with the IDP Network and taken the government of Kenya to court on behalf of some of the 2008 PEV victims who have, until today, failed to get redress for their suffering.
The discussion started with a reading of an excerpt from Owuor’s Dust. Thereafter she and Edgar discussed the problems of displacement even before 2008. Ouor mentioned how her family was chased away from their home in the Rift Valley because of the community they were from. And Edgar explained why they had decided to be involved in the court case.
When the discussion opened up to the floor, it got even more interesting as the audience questioned the role of politicians play in fuelling violence as well as the role of the media.