High up in the mountains of the northern Rift Valley is the village of Kiambaa, a place of maize farms and mud huts where the air is so light and pure, it is said to hold the secret of Kenya's world-beating distance runners, who train in the surrounding hills. On New Year's Day, a mob of several hundred people armed with machetes, clubs and bows and arrows surrounded Kiambaa's tiny tin-roofed church, where up to 200 men, women and children were huddled. The mob freed those who gave up mobile phones or money, raped the women, then closed the doors on the rest, heaped mattresses and dry maize leaves against the entrances and set them alight. The Kenyan Red Cross pulled 17 bodies from the ruins. Survivors put the death toll at 35.
At least one body, that of a young man called James, lay in a nearby field, where he collapsed after running out of the church with his hair and face on fire. Daniel Mwangi Nganga, 37, whose disabled brother was hacked to death in the family home as the crowd approached the church, recognized the killers as friends and neighbors. "We went to school together," he says. "They used to come to our homes. We prayed together." He searched for an explanation. "We just don't know what happened."
It wasn't supposed to happen in Kenya. Until a few weeks ago, this country of 37 million was a poster nation of the African renaissance, a term adopted by South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki to describe the continent's economic and political resurgence in recent years. Kenya is one of the stars of this revival: it has held elections regularly since independence in 1963, its economy grew 6.4% in 2007, and it has been a stable exception to turmoil in East Africa. But the outbreak of violence there following last month's presidential elections threatens that progress. A potential implosion in Kenya is especially worrying to the U.S. because the White House sees it as a frontline state in the war on terrorism, a bulwark against its volatile, jihadi-infested neighbor Somalia.
Find this article at: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1702349,00.html