NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 28 – Mercy (not her real name) was infected with HIV after a horrendous rape incident by five security officers in 2007 when violence broke out following an announcement that President Mwai Kibaki had won the election.
As the rapists wrestled her, she lost five teeth. Over time, she got some replaced.
The incident happened in the presence of her mother and siblings, but Mercy was left with something more – a pregnancy.
Ten years later, Mercy’s child is a constant reminder of the rape ordeal, not to mention the antiretroviral drugs she must take.
But in a repeat horror just 11 months ago, two other men – she cannot tell whether they were security agencies or not – raped her at the height of the hotly contested presidential election of 2017.
“They just carried on from where the rest left,” she said in a tone depicting resignation to fate, before breaking down in tears.
Her story is not over.
In 2007, Mercy’s elder brother who was 17 at the time tried to challenge the officers who raped her.
He was shot right inside their two-bedroom rental house as the watched.
“He told them that he could not watch as his sister was being raped,” she said amid tears.
After a prolonged wait to allow her sob, she added, “they did not only kill him, they carried his body and hid it.”
It was only four months after former President Kibaki and his main rival Raila Odinga made peace that they received his body.
Their ageing mother has since died.
She witnessed her daughter being raped and a son being shot dead and would be distressed to know her daughter was raped yet again in a similar circumstances.
“They are both gone. At times I used to wonder why I am not the one,” Mercy says.
She admits she has thought of committing suicide – not once – but even recently.
And if she did it, she said, she would not leave her baby to suffer.
“I had prepared some poisonous substance for my baby and myself but something told me to hold on a little bit. It is not easy to take drugs every day,” she said, facing away from this reporter.
“Until I went for counselling, it was not easy. I would not be here with you sharing my story. I would never even share a seat with a man in a matatu,” she asserted with a firm, but bitter voice.
Mercy is healing, albeit gradually.
She worries more about her daughter who is in primary school.
“I would never want anyone, ever in my life, to go through what I have undergone. I’m I cursed?” she rhetorically asked.
It is until recently that she discovered that almost all her female friends have undergone similar experiences.
They may not be HIV positive, but they too were raped during the post-election violence.
“We encourage each other every day hoping that it will never happen again,” she said.
As if in a change of thought, she clarified, “I care more about my daughter and other young women who may fall victims. For me, they are used to raping me. I no longer care.”
Mercy’s 2017 incident is among 201 sexual violence cases documented in a new report released on Wednesday by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.
The damning report by the commission reveals that sexual violence was extensively used as a tool of conflict during and after the 2017 General Election.
The report indicates that security agencies perpetrated most of the sexual offences at 54.5 per cent while civilians were responsible at 45 per cent.
Of the victims, 96 per cent were women while 3.74 per cent were men.
The Commission’s Chairperson Kagwiria Mbogori said the list is not conclusive since a majority of the victims and survivors failed to speak out either due to shame, fear of repercussion and ignorance.
The 201 cases were spread in nine counties among them Kisumu, Nairobi, Homa Bay, Siaya, Bungoma, Migori, Vihiga, Busia and one case in Machakos and Uasin Gishu.
The situation was so dire, she says, that some children were forced to watch as their mothers we’re being sexually assaulted.
“The innocence and decency of young children was thrown out of the window with children as young at seven years old having to face the brutality and callousness of men who chose to defy nature and pounce on helpless, tender and innocent minors. For some children who were spared of actual bodily harm, they were forced to watch as their parents were subjected to heinous sexual assaults that they could barely comprehend,” Mbogori said during the launch of the report.
According to the report, most survivors like Mercy hail from informal settlements where fierce protests emerged.
The eldest survivor according to the report is a 70-year-old woman and a 68-year-old man who were sexually assaulted.
Among their recommendations is for President Uhuru Kenyatta to issue an “unreserved apology to the survivors and their families and make a public commitment to support the necessary reparations.”
They also want him to establish a commission of inquiry with a mandate of investigating and prosecuting cases of the 2017 electoral sexual violence, “with a view of securing accountability and justice to the survivors and their families.”
They also want the National Police Service, Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to embark, with urgency, on a comprehensive probe and ultimately ensure those found culpable are brought to book.
Parliament has been challenged to review sexual offences related laws in a bid to ensure such incidents are categorized as a crime against humanity.