The Day I met Henry Kissinger

by Ian Maclellan

Today Teddy, Humera, Neto, and I drove West near the shores of Lake Victoria to a small town 80km or so from Kisumu to meet with Henry Kissinger. Kissinger is an active community member, who operates a community education center, working mainly with computer education and sustainable agriculture. For five years now, they have taught everything from Flash 5 to beekeeping. Kissinger is a man of high hope(as everyone will tell you this is the homeland of Obama) and through his work on the local development council he is working towards a Vision 2015 plant to invigorate the local economy and provide a sustainable solution to the depleted Lake Victoria fisheries. There are two main parts to his vision 2015 plan, community empowerment and self-reliance and a focus on making his beachside town a popular tourist destination. He imagines beach front hotels with perfect sunset views and providing water activities such as sailing and boating.

Neto is a private practice lawyer(though she seems to be on the board of everything and in charge of a few businesses…) who walks her talk according to Kissinger. She does advocacy cases for CLEAR and invited us along to give us insight into legal issues facing development in Kenya and because she thought we would like the tour of the beaches. Neto has recently started providing Kissenger legal support and education. She is trying to help Kissinger make his dreams true. Her legal expertise is also empowering to the community because people who know and understand their rights can act freely as citizens.

The road here hasn’t been easy. The first week that he was moving computers and video cameras in, the police knocked on his door and threw him in jail for attempting to commit music piracy. The sad part about that story is that his computers didn’t even have cd drives… so he obviously was innocent. The groups beginnings were also scarred by the terror and chaos leading up to the election, the election, and the post-election violence. These events hurt the cohesion of the community and were mainly caused by political parties trying to use fear to get votes. He was able to help educate the community by providing venues for research and discussion of what the candidates were actually offering. The process for the creation of a new Kenyan Constitution is currently underway and he also plans to provide discussion on the actual contents of the referendum document, to steer people away from voting based solely upon political opinion.

Kissinger took us on a walk through town and along the shore. Then after getting lunch for us he drove us to see more of the local countryside and other opportunities that would be available to tourists and the wealth of culture and beauty that is already here.

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I think a little bit of the CHANGE blood is in him too…

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Their computer center and growing library.

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Historically a fishing village, after the collapse of the fisheries in this region, residents are now being forced to turn elsewhere for income. Kissinger helps to encourage alternative safe farming possibilities.

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This is Kissinger’s homeland and he therefore has a lot invested in its success and future direction. This is his 104 year old grandmother, who was very pleased to see us.

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Cows, goats, chickens, pigs, and ducks roam all over…

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Roughly 137 kids shouted “mizungo, mizungo!!!” at me today… It’s the Luo word for foreigners like me. These kids insisted that I take their photo after I shook their hands and spoke all the Luo I know, which is Hi, good, good night, bye, we are going to, welcome, thanks, sorry, and you are brave.

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The most famous rocks in Kenya are a few dozen km down the road. I’m maybe going to be a geology second major and am definitely taking an advanced geology class next semester, but I haven’t quite¬† figured out why the one rock fell on top like that.