, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 3 – We may talk about a local tribunal, The Hague, or even the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission; but all these are alien to those who lost their loved ones, their limbs, their homes and property.
Caroline Wanjiru is one of the thousands of people recounting their losses after the 2008 post election violence.
She is a woman who has always lived in Mathare. She owned a bar, a salon and some housing units.
Just like most of her neighbours, she had her preferred presidential candidate, and little did she know that her support for him would cost her everything she had.
“My husband and I were in the house having tea when we heard some commotion outside. ‘Shiro toka nje,’ they yelled,” narrates Wanjiru.
“Before we knew it they were in my house. They wanted my blood and when my husband asked them to leave me alone, he paid the price dearly. I watched them beat him up and cut him into pieces. Then they came back for me and raped me.”
“They evicted me from my house and destroyed my property,” she continues, at which point I asked her if she was ready for reconciliation and national healing being touted by the leaders.
“How do you ask me to forgive such people?” she quips. “How are we supposed to pick the pieces of our lives and move on?”
Like many others, Wanjiru is not alone.
Kanu (not his real name) is also a resident of the Mathare slums. He not only lost his arm but also his property during the post election violence period.
He was in Kisumu on business when the election results were announced.
“A group of men came for me blaming me and my tribesmen for the election results. They wanted to torch me,” says Kanu.
“After seeing one of my relatives crying on TV in Nairobi, I decided to risk the journey and go back there.”
“The same night I got to Nairobi was the same one when I lost my arm. My attackers were aiming for my head but instead got my arm when I used it to shield my head,” he says with a quiver in his voice.
Watching the unfolding chaos on TV, one would not know how deep the victims’ wounds go, until you interacted with them.
Wanjiru and Kanu may not know what the TJRC is all about. All they want is justice.
They do not believe in the government’s ability to deliver justice for them.
“It has been more than a year since, but I am yet to get back on my feet. All I know is that my attackers are still free,” Wanjiru says in dismay.
“Forgetting the inhuman acts that were committed to us is almost impossible. How can we forgive people who have not asked for forgiveness?”
“Our leaders must publicly ask for forgiveness from us. The chaos that erupted was their fault,” adds Wanjiru.
Kanu echoes her sentiments. He holds the government accountable for the insecurity that was caused by the post election atrocities.
“We cannot get through to our MP. She will only remember us when she wants a vote from us,” adds Kanu.
Listening to them, it’s clear that the victims’ plight needs to be addressed.
Some government sources say the victims of the post election violence were all compensated.
However, the victims we spoke to disagree.
“There were people who got iron sheets but did not qualify for the compensation,” says Kanu.
“Those of us who shed blood were left out. I still have a bill to settle at the Kenyatta National Hospital for the surgery they did on my hand,” says Kanu.
Despite all these challenges, Wanjiru’s rape ordeal also left her with HIV.
Her children were all kicked out of school for lack of school fees.
“We need help. If the government can give us some form of capital to start a business, that would be better than if all we got was clothes and food,” adds Wanjiru.
She says it is better to teach a man how to fish than to give him fish everyday.
The government is yet to decide on the best way forward for dealing with the perpetrators of the violence, but there are people among us whose lives stopped.
We seem to have forgotten who the real victims were, the voiceless women who were raped and the men who lost limbs and even lives.
Therefore as we decide and debate on the options available for dealing with the perpetrators of the post election violence, let us not forget the voiceless victims.
Let us not forget Wanjiru, Kanu and the others who share in the same plight.