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120, Kenyan and helplessly homeless

NAIROBI, August 5 – She sleeps on an old, dotted rug in one of the tents for internally displaced persons at the Nakuru show grounds.

Aged 120, Lucia Njoki Muhinga has seen more than she can recall in life.

She is among the 10,200 internally displaced persons (IDPs) still camping at the show ground.

They have said “No” to the government order for displaced people to return to their homes.

“I better die than go back there. You better drag me to the middle of the road where I can be hit by a vehicle than go back home,” she states angrily.

The old, wrinkled great grandmother of many sons and daughters said she was ejected out of a place she once called home in Kipkelion after it was razed by arsonists during the post election violence.

She may have forgotten many other things of the past but events of this very day are still fresh in her memory.

She recalls, vividly, how three of her neighbours-old men but who were younger than she is today-were speared to death at the peak of the post election violence.

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Talking in broken Kiswahili and a mixture of her native Kikuyu, old Njoki said: “Mimi hapana sahau. Naona mshale anarushwa. Mzee watatu anapigwa nakufa nje (I haven’t forgotten. I saw arrows; three old men were speared and died outside my house).”

Njoki was not harmed by the marauding youth who attacked members of non-Kalenjin community and ejected them forcefully between December 2007 and February 2008 after the disputed re-election of President Mwai Kibaki.

She says she was only slapped and fell down. She has now lived to tell the agony of the dark days when a reported 1,500 people were killed and about 350,000 others displaced.

When I toured the camp for displaced persons in Nakuru, Njoki was still asleep and had to be woken up to talk to me.

She hardly stands up without physical support by other people.

She has to be taken in and out of her tent to bask.

Her wrinkled face tells it all, for Njoki is no ordinary IDP at the camp.

She is the oldest woman who is forced to live in that life of squalor at the camp where each day has become a blessing to her.

“I am so happy I am living. I saw death. Houses were burning. People were screaming and I don’t even know how I reached here,” Njoki says, and could pose for five minutes before she is reminded that we are in the middle of an interview.

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“So, where are your children?” I posed.

I did not get an answer; she laughed it off before I could see tears flowing freely down her cheeks, as if mine was a question reminiscent of what she witnessed last December.

I leave that question and pose another one. This time I want to know what she eats on a daily basis.

“Wanaleta chakula mi nakula. Kama hakuna iko mi nakaa tu. Nalala (They (neighbours) bring me food. If they don’t bring, I just stay and I sleep),” she said before she dozed off in the middle of the interview.

The 10,200 IDP’s have declined to return back to their homes, citing insecurity as the main obstacle.

Chairman of the Nakuru IDP camp Peter Kariuki accused the government of neglecting them.

“Many humanitarian organisations have pulled out. We are no longer getting assistance here. Men, women and children are starving. Look at this old woman,” he said while pointing at the old lady.

He dismissed as ‘a mere public relations exercise’ the government’s move to offer them Sh10,000 to persuade them to return to their homes.

“What can one do with Sh10,000? This government is not serious in solving our problems,” he complained.

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Some IDP’s were given the money and went back to their homes but have since returned to the camp for security reasons.


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