The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Friday, July 7, 1995                   TAG: 9507040162
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   70 lines


The City of Portsmouth will renew its vows with Sister City Eldoret, Kenya, in an anniversary ceremony Tuesday night at City Hall.

Portsmouth was officially linked with Eldoret in December 1991 but soon lost contact with its sibling due to some cultural and political changes that occurred in Kenya.

``Ever since the twinning with Eldoret, it's been like we've lost them,'' said Martha Frances Fortson, a member of the Mayor's Sister Cities Commission.

``We would fax things over there, and there would be no answer,'' she said. ``I mean, it has just been this lack of communication.''

Things changed recently though, when the new ambassador from Kenya, a native of Eldoret, arrived in Washington, and a delegation from Portsmouth visited him.

``They had a wonderful exchange,'' said Fortson. ``I really think that is what set in motion what is going to happen'' Tuesday night.

The ambassador has been invited to attend the ceremony, which will occur at the beginning of the City Council meeting. Also in attendance will be a group of 10 from Eldoret that includes the mayor, his wife, the deputy mayor, town clerk, chairman of finance, chairman of social services and four Eldoret residents. They will arrive Sunday for a weeklong visit.

``They're bringing quite an interesting group this time - a wonderful group,'' said Fortson. ``And I think a lot is going to be accomplished from this in much more of an exchange program.''

While here, the delegation will stay with host families throughout Portsmouth. In fact, City Clerk Sheila Pittman would like to hear from any families interested in hosting some of the visitors.

``We're going to arrange home stays,'' she said. ``All the members of the delegation will stay with volunteers from the Sister Cities Commission or other people who are interested in this sort of experience.''

Prior to Tuesday's ``re-twinning'' ceremony, Fortson and her husband will have the entire delegation at their Swimming Point home for dinner.

``I thought that it would be good for them to come together and to go as a group to the City Council meeting since they're going to be split up in different people's homes,'' Fortson said.

On Thursday, the visitors will attend a luncheon hosted by Norfolk State University president Harrison B. Wilson. The group will discuss ways to develop a communication link between NSU and Moi University, one of Kenya's five colleges.

The sister cities program was initiated by President Eisenhower in 1956 to bridge ties among the United States, Germany and Japan after World War II.

Portsmouth has had successful and ongoing sister city exchanges with Portsmouth, England, and Dunedin, New Zealand. Last March, a resolution was passed to endorse Changzhou, China, as Portsmouth's newest sister city.

The relationship between Portsmouth and Eldoret began with a 1988 proposal by the Sister Cities Commission. The African city has a population of about 150,000 and is the major agricultural center of Kenya. It elects 16 of its 21 city council members every five years, while the other five are appointed by the government of Kenya.

The actual twinning ceremony that first linked Portsmouth with Eldoret took place Dec. 6, 1991.

``I think, in a way, this anniversary ceremony is their way of saying, `We want to come, we want to visit you, we want to sit down with you,' '' said Fortson.

``And we're elated.''

Families interested in opening their homes to members of the visiting delegation should call Sheila Pittman at 393-8639 for details. by CNB