Montana State University

MSU researchers raising money for Kenyans victimized by war

February 6, 2008 -- By Evelyn Boswell, MSU News Service


These are some of the people MSU researchers worked with last summer while setting up a camera system in their study area of Olkiramatian, Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Scott Creel).   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
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BOZEMAN -- Montana State University researchers who are studying lions, leopards and other animals in Kenya are also raising money for a man who lost his home and business in the post-election violence that has swept that country.

Ecology professor Scott Creel said he and graduate student Paul Schuette went to Kenya last summer to set up a research project. While there, they lived with a Kenyan couple who employed Sampson Karanjah Nicodemus.

Nicodemus is "an extremely nice man, working hard to support his daughter and niece through primary school, which is a costly thing in Kenya," Creel said.

Since that time, on Dec. 27, Kenya held a presidential election where a member of the majority Kikuyu tribe narrowly defeated a candidate from the Luo tribe. Controversy about the outcome and lingering conflicts over land led to clashes between supporters and resulted in machete attacks, deaths and arson. Hundreds of thousands of Kenyans have been displaced.

Nicodemus , a member of the Kikuyu tribe, lives in a suburb of Nairobi. His wife, daughter and niece live in a different town on the coast. It's common in Africa for men to live away from their families so they can work at jobs that pay enough to support them, Creel said. Because of the violence, however, Nicodemus lost his business. His family has been displaced twice.

"They lost their home, their chicken coop and all of the chickens that they were using for income, and they're no longer in a position to put the kids through school," Creel said.

David Christianson, another of Creel's graduate students, said MSU faculty and staff have donated about $1,580 so far for Nicodemus. Creel said he would like to collect at least $4,000. If he receives more, he will donate it to other Kenyans affected by the warfare.

"This is a story that's being repeated thousands of times over, and hopefully we can do something to help," Creel said.

Creel added that he knows people who can ensure that all the money will go directly to Kenyans in the same situation as Nicodemus.

"Every penny will go to families affected by the violence," he said.

Schuette is in Kenya now. He returned there in January and will stay through August. Creel will join him in June and stay for a month. The two want to know how predator-prey communities function inside and outside of the Olkiramatian-Shompole Community Conservation Area, Creel said. The area was established by the Maasai tribe to generate revenue through low-volume tourism and to serve as a "grass bank" for emergencies.

Schuette is living in one of the safest parts of Kenya and not worried about his welfare, Creel said. The land where he is staying was occupied by Maasai long before colonization, and the Maasai own the area now. Neither of the presidential candidates was Maasai, and the Maasai are not active in politics. Most of the time, Schuette and Creel will camp in their study area on the Olkiramatian area of Maasailand. The Maasai established a small research center with three canvas tents to support the MSU researchers and a separate project on elephant conservation.

"There is no serious concern about security out there," Creel said. "The biggest concern is when traveling from Nairobi to the study site, particularly through some of the major slums on the edge of Nairobi. Some of the worst rioting was in the Mathare slum, which holds literally millions of people living in shacks."

Anyone wishing to donate to Nicodemus should stop by or send donations to the ecology department office at 310 Lewis Hall, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT. 59717-3460. Checks can be made out to "Scott Creel, Kenyan relief." For more information, contact Judy Van Andel at (406) 994-2911 or jvanandel@montana.edu

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu