Kenya. A Horizon-less Frying Pan

Comboni Missionary Father Mitiku Habbthe from Ethiopia, is working among the Turkana in the remote north-western part of Kenya, which is a semi-desert area. We share with us his experience. 

Turkana region is located in the north-western part of Kenya and covers some 77,000 square Kms, and its capital is Lodwar. The majority of the Turkana people lead a nomadic or semi nomadic life style, living with their herds of cattle, goats and donkeys. An estimated 80 percent of the people rely on purely pastoralism as a source of livelihood, and about 20 percent are engaged in agro pastoralism. The area is prone to drought. The Turkana land is usually an arid and semi-arid land, and is often referred to as “a horizon-less frying pan of desolation.”

 The Catholic Diocese of Lodwar is located in the north-western part of Kenya bordering Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia. The diocese has approximately 59 religious priests, 60 religious sisters, l6 religious brothers, 11 local diocesan priests and more than 400 catechists and other pastoral agents. The diocese has been involved in evangelisation and social development work such as providing water boreholes, securing food and education for boys and girls, establishing health centres, empowering women development, justice and peace, accommodating physically impaired children, such as deaf and blind etc…

The diocese comes in contact with every aspect of people’s lives, especially in those areas where the government has neglected to act for many years. Over the years the diocese has been recognised and respected as an entity with the capacity and the good will to implement the various emergency and development projects. 

The Comboni Missionaries came to Turkana and the Diocese of Lodwar in 1975. In line with the diocesan pastoral plan, the Comboni missionaries carry out their missionary activities and live their life among the Turkana people which is according to the charism of our founder Saint Comboni who said “Save Africans by Africans and make a common cause for the evangelization of Africans.” Therefore by following the example and the life witness of our founder, we try to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the Turkana people by living with them and sharing their challenges so that they may live a more fulfilled and happy life.

Lokichar, our Comboni mission, is located in the south of Turkana and it has an area of about 4,536 kms  and a total population of about 133, 913. Lokichar mission was opened in the year 2000 by the Comboni Missionaries and has 22 out stations, along with a small centre where we can stay once a month to reach out to all the stations for the celebration of the Holy Mass and for ongoing formation of our catechists. 

Comboni missionaries from ltaly, Malawi, DR Congo and Ethiopia make up the religious community in Lokichar. As the Comboni missionaries, we are inserted in the local reality of the diocese and so we are at the service of the local church. 

Our pastoral plan and priority is for the evangelization of the Turkana people as they are living in the area of “first evangelization.” We get involve in the following activities to bring human and spiritual development: drilling boreholes, education and formation of catechists and leaders, formation of small Christian communities, justice and peace, adult education, nursery education and feeding programs, a centre for the physically disabled children run by one of evangelizing sisters, but sponsored by the Comboni Missionaries, and support for aspiring and needy students who have lost their parents. 

We are also sponsoring girls who are finishing secondary school, especially the girls with the academic ability to go to college or university.  These above mentioned services are necessary in order to bring full human and spiritual development. 

The work of evangelization goes hand to hand with human promotion. For this reason, we Comboni missionaries try as a community to promote the spiritual, intellectual, mental, moral and social aspects of the human person. 

As we are continuing in our activities of human and spiritual promotion, we try to create awareness among the people of the importance of a self- supporting and a self-administrating church. Now people are much more aware of the necessity of self- reliance and to overcome dependency from outside, but we acknowledge still a long way to go to achieve this plan of action.