Corpses litter Kenyan village

“As soon as the results came out, it was chaos. No one had to say to go to war (against the Kikuyu)”

By Beatrice Debut, AFP

KOILUGET, Kenya – In the remote west Kenyan village of Koiluget, a deadly attack by a rival ethnic group just over a week ago left behind more than just twisted sheet metal and charred walls – rotting corpses still litter the corn fields.

Eight days after the Koiluget raid – whose name in Swahili is the tragically inappropriate “land of peace” – wisps of smoke still smoulder from the houses.

No official death toll from the attack has been produced, but a corpse, its face slashed and swollen, still lies on one of the tracks in the village.

Another cadaver, rotting but with a hand still pointing into the air, lies among trampled down ears of corn. Barely 10 metres away, a peasant picks the crop.

Dozens of inhabitants, all of them ethnic Kikuyu, disappeared in the attack – they are either dead or they fled, according to witnesses.

Regardless, some men continue farming the cornfields between still-smoking huts, whilst others pile charred wood from burned-out homes into the trailer of a tractor.

They say that people from the surrounding hills belonging to other ethnic groups, principally the Kalenjin, were behind the raid on the village on December 30.

The attack took place immediately after the announcement of results of the Kenyan presidential election, officially won by the incumbent head of state Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, and which has plunged the country into a dizzying cycle of violence in the past few days.

“As soon as the results came out, it was chaos. No one had to say to go to war (against the Kikuyu),” says Joseph, a 50-year-old Kalenjin.

“It was so surprising to hear that Kibaki had won,” he explains, leaning on a large staff.

The ethnic Kikuyu had massively backed the president during the election, which was sullied by numerous irregularities according to international observers.

His main rival, Raila Odinga, was for his part largely reliant on the Luo, Luyha and Kalenjin groups, whose fiefdom is the west of the country.

“We followed the Kikuyu to make sure they were going to Brunt Forest,” a small village an hour away down a track, recalls Job, a 30-year old Luyha – before correcting himself: “They followed them.” “If they got hold of a Kikuyu, they lashed him a panga machete,” he added, as he scavenged from the cornfields.

“It is the responsibility of the government to clear the bodies,” says Elijah, a Kalenjin, who rents a small patch of land on which have been abandoned a bible, a voter registration card belonging to a Kikuyu and a few clothes.

In just a few days of inter-communal violence, thousands of homes and businesses were looted across the country, and at least 600 were killed.

Since Friday a precarious calm has descended on the country, whilst the international community presses for a political solution.

Could the Kikuyu return to Koiluget? “There are no Kikuyus left – there are only corpses,” says William, holding a metal spear, to sniggering laughs from a gang of local men.


1 Response to “Corpses litter Kenyan village”

  1. 1 POTASH January 11, 2008 at 9:02 am

    It is strange but painful the news that have been coming out of Kenya. They are somewhat ‘accurate’ but the over-dramatization and desire to push a purely ethnic angle; an angle that is easy to package and yet one that takes away from the underlying issues such as poverty and inequities is annoying.
    I am excited that a lot of Kenyan writers have formed a collective to counter some of the global press’ misrepresentations.

    Their opinions have been published worldwide and are now being run at:

    It would be lovely to see a conversation on the fundamental issues that inform this crisis; hopeful a dialogue for peace can grow there.

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