NAKURU, Kenya, Mar 7 – Before 2007, Virginia Githinji could have been said to have had it all; a thriving business and a devoted husband.
Fast forward five years on and she’s a widow… living in a camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nakuru and doing odd jobs to feed her three year old son, Jiji.
Virginia lost it all in the violence that followed the disputed 2007 General Election and now as Kenyans await the presidential results of another election, she pleads with her fellow countrymen to remain calm.
“All I want is peace. I watched my timber dealership in Kericho burn to the ground and I lost my husband to the stress of being refugees in our own country. All I want, regardless of who wins the election, is peace.”
Joseph Waciira should be peacefully retired at 64 years of age.
Instead, he got a job as a truck driver to keep the corrugated iron sheet he and his wife live under over their heads, a step up from the tent they first lived under when they were chased from their home in Salgaa following the last General Election for belonging to a different ethnic community.
“I watched my house burn from this distance,” Waciira says standing outside his home and pointing to Virginia’s a stone’s throw away. “I had a farm that sustained me, my wife, our six children and their families and the saddest thing is that it was my neighbour who burnt it to the ground.”
“Now my children are scattered all over the place in a bid to support their families and we don’t want to be a burden.”
“Is this any way for an old man to live?” he asks sweeping a hand over the 27 by 21 foot compound that is now his home, “We cannot change the past but we can choose not to let this happen to someone else. We can choose not to inflict harm over election results.”
Waciira agrees with Nelson Mandela’s wife Graca Machel that the best way to move forward as a country is to forgive and says he will not use the election results as an excuse to seek revenge for the destruction of his property.
“I went back to Salgaa and although the man who took my home away from me tried hiding away from me, I found him and I gave him my forgiveness because nothing can bring back what I lost.”
The truck driver says his vote was his justice, “I want only two things, for whoever is elected president to fulfil his campaign promises and for Kenyans to remain peaceful once the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission declares a winner in the race to State House.”
According to the Kenya Red Cross Society, more than 350,000 persons were forced to leave their homes following the contested 2007 General Election.