Archive for the 'Eldoret' Category

SLDF Militia Shot Dead

“The SLDF is now the most powerful and best-armed militia group operating in the west,” ICG said. “Its hit-and-run attacks from the Mt Elgon forest are a major challenge for the authorities, who appear incapable of quelling the rebellion.

“The group is officially headed by a man called Wycliffe Matakwei Kirui Komon, but there is speculation the real leader is a newly elected ODM parliamentarian from the region, though he has denied any links.” From Irin “Kenya armed and dangerous”

Police have considered calling in the military to crack down on the Saboat Land Defense Forces who are blamed for a horrifying attack on a village which left 12 people dead including four children on 3rd March.

Choppers Pursue Mt Elgon Militia

5 March 2008
Posted to the web 4 March 2008

Robert Wanyonyi,Nairobi

The Government has launched the long-awaited ground-to-air operation against the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) militiamen in Mt Elgon and Trans-Nzoia West districts.

It was a rare spectacle as two military choppers circled Mt Elgon forests in pursuit of the militiamen.

The fighting sparked off by the militia over the controversial Chebyuk settlement scheme, has, according to the Western Kenya Human Rights Watch, claimed 534 lives and displaced more than 40,000 people in the last one and a half years.

Yesterday, residents who have been living in fear, cheered as the choppers flew above Embakasi and Kisawai, the scene of a bloody attack that left 12 people, among them a two-month-old infant, dead.

The Rift Valley PPO, Mr Japheth Ashimallah, Trans-Nzoia West DC, Mr Francis Mutie, and senior provincial and district security officers were on the ground to co-ordinate the exercise.

The Rapid Deployment Unit, a special unit that had been dispatched to contain the SLDF militia, is given back up in the operation by regular and Administration Police.

“We will definitely record some progress in making sure that criminals do not continue visiting havoc on law-abiding citizens.

The security team is on the ground to ensure residents settle back on their farms,” Ashimallah assured Saboti MP, Mr Eugene Wamalwa, who was at the scene.

The PPO said he was co-ordinating the operation against the militiamen in liaison with his Western Province counterpart, Mr Francis Munyambu, to ensure that all porous points used by the militia to escape previous operations were sealed.

Though Ashimallah did not specify the progress made, confidential sources told The Standard two SLDF militias had been shot dead and several arrested only hours after the start of the operation.

Mutie announced that the Government had crucial information and names of some politicians believed to be funding the activities of the SLDF.

“We will not allow politicians to continue enjoying peace while at the same time cause innocent residents to suffer. Soon they will be arrested and arraigned in court,” warned Mutie.

He claimed that some school children were being lured into joining the militia group, which he said use traditional charms and magic to bind their members to their criminal activities.

He said some militiamen were involved in extorting money from residents in the name of protection fee and were the ones who turned around to kill and burn down houses of those who refused to yield to their demands.

Wamalwa said the Government ought to do enough to convince displaced people that security had been beefed up.

“While I welcome the commencement of the security operation, I still feel the Government has a lot of ground to cover before normal life resumes. The criminals have to be dealt with first,” said Wamalwa.

However, leaders from the local Anglican Church of Kenya opposed the police operation, saying innocent people might suffer.

Led by Mr Leonard Ndiema, the leaders claimed the security officers were torching houses and beating up women and children in the name of hunting down the SLDF.

Ndiema claimed the militia group that attacked Embakasi might have been part of the youths that were being given military training at the farm of former Saboti MP, Mr Davies Nakitare, who is now in the US.

“We are not against efforts to restore law and order in this region. But we don’t want to see the police apply the law selectively. Let all those arrested in connection with the training at the former MP’s farm be charged,” said Ndiema.

They further warned politicians against taking the matter lightly by calling for the release of the 205 youths who were arrested at Nakitare’s farm.

Ford-Kenya Chairman, Mr Musikari Kombo, and former Kanduyi MP, Mr Wafula Wamunyinyi, last weekend called for the release of the suspects, saying they were to be used as game rangers at Nakitare’s expansive Delta Crescent farm, known worldwide as a tourism attraction site.

Police have issued a warrant for the arrest of Davies Nakitare who it is claimed lives in the US. Will the US rescind his visa I wonder…

Cycles of revenge

Here is a report on how Luos in Limuru have been targeted by Kikuyu since Kikuyus were displaced in the Rift Valley. Many have fled to Limuru and are exacting revenge on Luos.

It’s because of the Kikuyus from Rift Valley who have fled [post-election violence]. Many have come this way. So they [Kikuyus in Limuru] now have a reason to attack us [Luos]. They are like, ‘let them go because our people are suffering there [in Rift Valley]‘

TIGONI, 11 January 2008 (IRIN) – Susan Ouma sat on the wooden frame of her sofa, smiling down at her three-week-old daughter, Mary Akinyi, tightly wrapped in an orange blanket despite the blazing January sun.

Ouma was clearly relieved to have found sanctuary after a week of terrifying attacks which forced her to sleep out in the fields where she had been picking tea leaves for Unilever’s Mabrook farm.

Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) worker Zion Kibe Kangethe wrote down her details. The arrival of Ouma and her five children took the number of displaced people camping out behind Tigoni police station, 35km northwest of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to 400.

“Numbers have gone down from earlier this week. We had 800 people. But we are still having new arrivals,” Kangethe said.

Ouma explained why she had loaded all her possessions on to a donkey cart and travelled to this makeshift camp.

“For the last week, a mob of young men have been coming to our houses. There were so many you couldn’t count them. They had machetes and they threw stones. They were smashing our houses. They came every night,” she said.

“I didn’t have the strength to walk after having my baby and she’s so small. So we slept outside in the tea fields. In the day we would go back to our house.”

Ouma, like many of the workers at the tea factory, is not from Tigoni, having moved from Siaya in western Kenya to find work. Ouma is a Luo, as is opposition leader Raila Odinga, while most people in Tigoni’s Central Province are Kikuyus, like President Mwai Kibaki.

Conflict has broken out in many parts of Kenya since the announcement of disputed election results on 30 December, which saw the incumbent Kibaki return to power amid allegations of vote rigging.

Thousands of Kikuyus fled Rift Valley Province after attacks by the dominant Kalenjin community. Many came to Central Province. This seems to have triggered off revenge attacks there by young Kikuyu men on perceived outsiders from the Luo, Luhya and Kalenjin ethnic groups.

The field behind Tigoni police station is busy. Women and children cluster around; some eat plates of beans, cooked by local volunteers in giant saucepans. Others wash clothes in buckets or plait each other’s hair. Many just sit and stare numbly into the distance.

Beatrice Chepkoech, a 20-year-old mother of three, was waiting to see a nurse from nearby Tigoni hospital who had set up a clinic under a tree. She held her nine-month-old baby, Samuel, who had developed a swelling on his head.

Chepkoech is a Kalenjin from Eldoret in Rift Valley Province. She moved to the nearby town of Limuru last year where her husband found work in the Bata shoe factory.

Tension started brewing in the lead-up to the elections. Chepkoech heard rumours that Luyhas and Luos would be chased out of Limuru if the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) won. The ODM did not win but violence erupted nonetheless.

“On Sunday at about 6pm, a mob of young Kikuyu men came into people’s houses. There were about a hundred of them. They had machetes and clubs and were throwing stones and smashing the houses. They were chanting, ‘Those ones. Those ones. Chase them away’,” Chepkoech explained.

“We all ran to the railway station, except for the Kikuyus who stayed behind. There were hundreds of people there. We slept on the ground. It was icy cold. We didn’t sleep much. We were just praying. There was no food. The children were crying because they were hungry.”

Chepkoech spent two nights at the railway station before coming to the police station, where food, water, blankets and basic medical care were available. The KRCS erected three huge tents for the women and children, while the men slept outside.

After a few days, Chepkoech returned home to pick up her possessions but her house had been looted. Her bed, mattress and blankets had been stolen. Only the sofa base, one jerry can and a few clothes remained.

The family now want to move to Eldoret.

“I don’t want to stay in Limuru. I’m scared the same thing will happen again. The children should be going back to school next week. We want to go home and take them to school there but we don’t have money for transport,” said Chepkoech.

Chepkoech’s husband has found casual work in the Mabrook tea farm where he is paid about 50 shillings a day. With such a small income, it will be difficult to save the 2,500 shillings (US$37) they need to travel to Eldoret.

Paul Otieno, 35, has a similar problem. He wants to return to Kisumu in western Kenya, with his wife and two children, but the garage where he worked as a mechanic has closed down since the elections. His employer, also a Luo, has moved to Kisumu. Otieno says he’s scared to even look for work in Nairobi, which also has a large Kikuyu population, because the people there are “very fierce”.

Night commuters

About 100 people have become “night commuters”, continuing with their normal jobs during the day and then coming to sleep in the camp at night.

A spokeswoman for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Sara Cameron, said this phenomenon was not unique to Tigoni.

“In a situation that is far more reminiscent of northern Uganda than Kenya, many people in different parts of the country are going to police stations to sleep for the night, because they are afraid of attack,” she said.

At Tigoni Police Station, everyone is waiting. A local Kikuyu businessman tours the field chatting to people. He has brought maize flour for the displaced.

A local councillor, who refused to give her name “because they’ll slaughter me”, has also come to check on the relief operation. She believes that even if the displaced people do go to their places of origin, the problems will not end there.

“What they are saying is they’ll go home and face any problems so long as they’re doing their own things without people from other communities going there for commercial reasons or whatever. This revenge is going in circles,” she said.

“You can’t have stability with injustice. It was daylight robbery,” she said, referring to the election result. “You must have true justice to have peace. It’s like you want to cover an injury before you clean it. It will definitely get contaminated and might result in cutting off one of your limbs.”

There is also a good piece of writing on the origins of the land issue which is one of the problems underpinning the current crisis in Kenya here.

More details on Eldoret militias

Rights official alleges politicians on both sides paid, directed militias

Sunday, January 13, 2008 3:13 AM
By Michelle Faul
Associated Press

Kenyan police patrol the Nairobi slum of Mathare, where clashes broke out recently amid a presidential vote-count dispute. A report on the violence is scheduled to be released this week.
NAIROBI, Kenya — The price for burning down a home: 500 shillings, or about $8. Double that to have someone hacked to death.

The price list comes from a leading Kenyan human-rights group that says some of the worst violence in the country’s disputed presidential election is the work of militias paid and directed by politicians.

The government of President Mwai Kibaki and the opposition have traded blame for the killing and arson that followed Kibaki’s victory in the Dec. 27 election, which international observers say was followed by a rigged count. Some of the attacks took on an ugly ethnic twist, with other tribes turning on Kibaki’s Kikuyu people.

But the respected and independent Kenyan Human Rights Commission says there is more to it, and that it appears to involve politicians on both sides. It “was portrayed as some primal irate rising up of (ethnic) communities against each other,” commission Chairwoman Muthoni Wanyeki said. “But our investigations indicate it seems to be very organized militia activity … (the violence) very much seems to be directed and well-organized.”

She pointed to the torching of a church sheltering Kikuyu, dozens of whom burned to death. “One group was watching the church, and then another took over,” Wanyeki said. “We say it’s organized because they are working in groups of 10 to 15 people and in shifts.

“Their training areas have been identified, some of the people from whom they get money have been identified,” she said. “They are being paid 500 per burning and 1,000 per death.”

The information, she said, comes from about 100 monitors and a network including prominent individuals and community-based organizations given pre-election training in researching human-rights violations.

She said information is being compiled in a report to be published this week and given to the state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights for investigation by appropriate authorities.

The state-funded commission, as well as a bishop and a police superintendent, agree that a lot of the violence seemed orchestrated. However, they stop short of alleging that money changed hands, and both camps vying for the presidency strongly deny it.

Gangs wielding bows and arrows, machetes and stones killed scores of people in the central Rift Valley. They set ablaze hundreds of buildings, forcing more than 100,000 people, most of them Kikuyu, from their homes and farms. Victims have identified their attackers as ethnic Kalenjin and members of opposition leader Raila Odinga’s Luo tribe.

Odinga’s spokesman, Salim Lone, said the charges of payment are “wild propaganda.”

“I cannot categorically say that no politician is doing that,” he said, referring to paying militias, but he bristled at the suggestion that his party, having denounced the violence, could at the same time be fomenting it.

Odinga says Kibaki must take the blame because the violence was ignited by the theft of the election.

Maina Kiai, chairman of the state-funded human-rights body, said that in response to attacks on Kikuyu, government politicians have recruited the Mungiki, a Kikuyu gang blamed for a string of beheadings carried out in Nairobi’s slums this year. Kiai said the government has promised Mungiki immunity in return for protecting the Kikuyu. He said his information came from several sources, including Mungiki members.

Government spokesman Alfred Mutua said Kiai’s charge is “preposterous. There is no truth to it.” He accused Kiai of being partisan and challenged him to produce evidence.

Wanyeki, of the independent human-rights group, said some Mungiki have been deployed in recent days to the troubled western towns of Eldoret — where the church was torched — and Kisumu.

The police superintendent of Kisumu, Simon Kiragu, agreed the violence was orchestrated.

“Of course it was organized. The trouble started not even 15 minutes after the announcement” of the election results, he said. “It was like a time bomb, and it happened all over the country.”

Villagers say fliers told Kikuyus to get out of town

  • William Ruto named as instigator behind politically motivated ethnic cleansing.
  • Witnesses say the men were given 500 Kenyan shillings (about $7) to torch a house and sometimes more to kill a man.
  • The attackers relied on neighbors of their victims to point out the homes to be torched.
  • Some homes had been marked with paint. Those belonging to Kikuyus were destroyed; those belonging to others were left standing.

Kenya killings raise specter of wider ethnic bloodbath

By Nick Wadhams

Sunday, January 13, 2008

MOLO, Kenya — David Njenga remembers how the attackers arrived on trucks just after New Year’s Day and set fire to his village’s thatch-roofed houses. The young and the fast, including Njenga, managed to hide. Watching from behind a bush, he saw four old men hacked to death with machetes.

“They were killed as I watched,” Njenga recalled from a church in Molo, where hundreds of people fled from the violence that has hit Kenya since Dec. 27′s disputed election. “They killed the old people, those who could not run away. We ran away; we left those old men, so they killed them.”

Children play at a church that has been turned into a refugee camp for at least 8,000 people in Eldoret, Kenya. Unrest began after last month’s presidential election.

Stories like Njenga’s have become common in Molo and several other towns across western Kenya since President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of a vote that international observers have said was flawed.

The tribal nature of the violence has raised fears of a Rwanda-style genocide.

“We’ve had a long history of ethnic violence in Kenya that has been politically manipulated since the 1992 and 1997 elections,” said Binaifer Nowrojee, director of the Open Society Initiative for East Africa. “Events of the last two weeks show how rapidly we can deteriorate, and that’s what’s scaring everybody. The danger is that we can become Rwanda, but we’re not there yet.”

Opposition leaders in Kenya have described the violence as a spontaneous outburst from people furious about the election.

However, interviews with dozens of people such as Njenga, as well as politicians, humanitarian workers and church officials, suggest that much of the violence, which has killed at least 500 people, was planned beforehand.

Attacks like the one witnessed by Njenga have exposed some of the deep fault lines in Kenyan society that had largely been ignored by the outside world as the country emerged from 24 years of autocracy under President Daniel arap Moi, who long exploited ethnic divisions among Kenya’s 42 tribes to retain power.

North of Molo, in the Rift Valley town of Eldoret, at least 100,000 people have fled their homes because of the recent violence.

Most of the victims in the area are members of Kibaki’s Kikuyu ethnic group. The president has been accused of favoritism, bestowing jobs and land upon Kikuyus.

The attackers are supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga and come from several other Kenyan tribes. Around Molo, they are mostly ethnic Luo and Kalenjin, who say they have been shortchanged for decades.

Villagers say fliers that told Kikuyus to get out of town were scattered near their homes.

Then, young men arrived by truck and fanned out, ready for violence.

Witnesses say the men were given 500 Kenyan shillings (about $7) to torch a house and sometimes more to kill a man.

The attackers relied on neighbors of their victims to point out the homes to be torched.

Some homes had been marked with paint. Those belonging to Kikuyus were destroyed; those belonging to others were left standing.

“They started spreading leaflets saying the Kikuyus had 24 hours to go,” said Sammy Kamau, a 29-year-old high school teacher who voted for Kibaki. “My house was burned.”

“Before the elections, we were told that people will be chased away from the region,” said Waiharo Kimani, 37, who had fled his home near the town of Keringet. “So when the president won, they took that as a reason to push us away. It was planned years before.”

One of the main instigators, witnesses say, was a man named William Ruto, a key adviser to Odinga.

They say he held rallies before the election and told his supporters to kick out Kikuyus if his party lost.

Ruto has also been cited by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights as someone who should be prosecuted for propagating hate speech.

At a news conference, Ruto said he thought that the key issue of the election was the equitable distribution of resources but denied inciting ethnic violence.

“I consider anybody who says that we did say anything to the effect that anybody should leave their homes absolute rubbish because there are no statements that we made along that line,” Ruto said.

Samuel Ciuga, 40, is the pastor of the Apostolic Faith Church in Molo. At least 250 people have been living in his church compound for weeks after fleeing election-related violence.

Ciuga saw the same thing during elections in 1992, 1997 and 2002.

Each time, the church opened its doors to those fleeing the violence.

“This church is like the home of the refugees,” Ciuga said. “Even our members, most of them are refugees.”
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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.

Update on Eldoret Massacre

From the Guardian:

The Catholic bishop of the town where dozens died when a mob torched a refugee-filled church said Tuesday that the attacks against members of Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe appeared planned and organized.

Bishop Cornelius Korir spoke in western Eldoret, scene of the fiery massacre of Kikuyu. Eldoret and surrounding areas have seen an exodus of Kikuyus since. The violence across the country has killed some 500 people.

“The way the attacks were managed seems to me very organized,” Korir said as the U.S. envoy, Jendayi Frazer, toured the region Tuesday. “No, it did not seem spontaneous to me … It seems it was well planned.”

He did not elaborate.

A country in turmoil

Joseph Karoki has posted heart-breaking photos of toddlers bodies piled together in the Nairobi mortuary on his blog.

Never, never, never did I think we would be witnessing such horrifying scenes in Kenya today! A Political solution is needed right now. Admit the election was rigged and let Odinga go to Kibera to talk to his supporters there and beg them to stop killing one another now.

BBC News 24 is showing scenes of Kenyans displaced in Eldoret outside this church. 100,000 people have been displaced.
The Red Cross is distributing food to the people sheltering here. These people did nothing to bring this upon themselves while two big men in Nairobi are playing games.

People are being escorted from Burnt Forest under police guard. The police look very stretched. What can be done to stop this other than getting Kenyan troops out to Rift Valley now?

Look at these homes which have been flattened ensuring that these people can never return to their homesteads! Tell me this is not being instigated by some very sinister people who want the Kikuyu out!
Who gains from this displacement? Accusing fingers are pointing at one William Ruto who earlier in the year was accused of financing militias in the Rift Valley area.

People walk through an area that was razed to the ground in Kibera.

Eyewitnesses Describe Situation in Eldoret and Kibera

Believe me, the death count that you are reading in the newspaper, actually it is over ten times this. The attack has been undertaken all around Eldoret. All around. All the farms, all the villages. If one time, it would be possible to have a death count, we are not talking of hundreds, we are talking of thousands.

A blog called 8 months in Kenya that has been following the situation closely in Kenya, recently put up two interviews with a Kikuyu businessman in Eldoret and a Luo resident of Kibera which reveals the human cost of what is happening right now in Kenya better than anything I have read anywhere else to date.

For those who exhibit complacency about what is happening in Eldoret and elsewhere with statements like “it’s not yet genocide” these interviews are necessary reading. We should respect the experience of people who are describing what they have seen and investigate who is instigating this violence and ACT to stop it now.

That’s not going to happen when people are unwilling to call genocide ethnic cleansing by its name. How many people have to die before we can officially call it genocide ethnic cleansing? It was precisely this quibbling that prevented the UN and US from naming what was taking place in Rwanda and then acting in time to prevent the situation from worsening, in the full glare of the media I million people were killed.

I have read eyewitness accounts which are saying that the people doing the killing are strangers, not known to anyone in the area while in other reports in the media people in Eldoret and Kibera know who is doing it. In an earlier Telegraph article a Kikuyu student in Eldoret says the Kalenjin camped outside her university ” have lists with the names of the people they want dead. They have already killed many. If we are not evacuated, God knows what will happen tomorrow.” Kenyans on the ground need to contact the police in Eldoret to make sure the students at the East African University of Baratonse are protected.

The first interview is with a Kikuyu businessman named Patrick whose family have been living in Eldoret for over 60 years and who were forced to flee the area.

What was the situation when you left?

The situation in Eldoret is pathetic. It is systematic annihalation of tribe, in my opinion. It actually took God to make it to the airport. Along the way, we were attacked by the Kalenkin warriors but through God’s grace and because we had requested a police escort, we barely made it through. But in the convoy that we were in, we almost lost one car. But through God’s grace, we made it to the airport. It’s been hell. I can say that.

When did you know you had to leave?

Actually, we knew that we would have wanted to have stayed because we were born and bred in Eldoret. My parents moved into Eldoret way back in 1940. So we don’t know anywhere else as home, apart from that place.

But when we realized that this had moved from the ODM, PNU conflict to something much deeper, and that the presidential elections had been used as an excuse for something else to be implemented, [for] the Kalenjins to get rid of the Kikuyus, that’s when we realized that we had to move out. That was the day before yesterday.

How did you leave?

We had to request our friends in Nairobi to come to our aid by chartering a plane because we could not access money and we didn’t have the kind of money that is needed to charter a plane. Our friends here in Nairobi came together and raised the money.

“It’s whoever gets out, gets out.”

Who have you left behind?

Our family is quite large. What I managed to do is to get my immediate family, my wife and my children but I have left my cousins, I have left my brothers. I am trying to communicated with my brothers to see if they can join us. But the situation is so bad that we can not say that we have to move as the whole clan. We are several hundred. We have lost several members in the conflict.

We have another small batch of relatives at the airport. They might make it today or tomorrow. We don’t know. We are still working on getting the ones who are in town because you can not get to the airport without escort. It’s an enormous challenge that we don’t’ know how far we can go because the resources needed to charter this plane are enormous. It costs between 170,000 to 320,000 Kenya shillings to charter a 19-seater.

I told you that my family is expansive. I lost two of my relatives in an area, very young boys. But what was even more disheartening, was my grandmother. She has a farm in Burnt Forest. When the clashes began, they left their homes and they went to a school, the whole village. The school was surrounded by the warriors. Any second, they could have attacked the school and finished them. We cried to the police and the police did send some policemen. The warriors still insisted that they wanted to kill these people. The police brokered a deal. [The people had to walk 20 KM to the nearest town, without getting anything from their homes.] Those villagers are trapped in a small town. We can’t get them food and we can’t get them to Eldoret town. They can’t come out.

“We really fear that there might be a massacre in Eldoret in the next few days.”

Patrick’s wife Ruth chimes in…

There is great fear in Eldoret town because people are being pushed into one central place, at the police station and at the church. What we have seen is that they are coming now and burning the churches at the outskirts. So far, we know that three churches have been burned and they have blocked all the exits out of town such that you can not get out of Eldoret town. So there is that great fear: why are we being pushed to the center for town? What is the intention?

What we have seen in the outskirts, the violence is so much. There is no precedent for it. In 1992, in 1997, it was not this fierce [during past land clashes]. So there is that great fear among the Kikuyu community in Eldoret. Why are we being put in one central place and we can not get out? So we really fear that there might be a massacre in Eldoret in the next few days.

You are holding quite a picture on the cover of that paper…? [As we were talking, Patrick was holding a copy of today's paper in his hand. On the cover was a photo of a woman wailing outside the burnt shell of the church in Eldoret where a group of sheltering Kikuyus were killed.]

This is a very sad moment. When I made it to Nairobi and I was able to get this paper. One of my families live next to this church that was burned. Over 70 children and women were killed in this church [Media and official reports of the numbers vary widely]. It’s barely a kilometer from where some of my relatives live. It means that some of my relatives, I don’t know, maybe some were caught up in there. But so far we believe they are not caught up there.

This is a very good example of what we are talking about. We know that historically, people have warred. They have always tribe versus tribe, for many reasons, some petty, some reasonable. But we know that the house of God is a place that, across the world, people respect. According to the African culture, children and women are not killed. We also know that the Kalenjin warriors, according to their culture, because we have lived with them, they don’t kill women or children.

So when it comes to a point whereby they go to a house of God where children and women are taking refuge and they kill them there, this is taking the conflict to another level that we believe is not the presidential race.

How surprised are you by what’s happened?

I am shocked. I know the Kalenjin, they are warlike. We know, we live with them, that they have those regiments, they have warriors. But we know that they are also very peace-loving people, we know that we have inter-married with them. This is why it is very shocking that it has gone to this level.

When there was this conflict that the presidential race was unfair, rigging had taken place, we definitely expected some outcry. We definitely expected some people marching. It’s not the first time. In Kenya’s we’ve had land clashed, 1992, 1997. It’s not like it’s something that is new to us. But the level that this has been taking…

Believe me, the death count that you are reading in the newspaper, actually it is over ten times this. The attack has been undertaken all around Eldoret. All around. All the farms, all the villages. If one time, it would be possible to have a death count, we are not talking of hundreds, we are talking of thousands.

What long-term effect do you think this conflict might have in Eldoret and in the country as a whole?

We know what has happened in other countries. We know what has happened in Bosnia, what has happened in Rwanda. Let’s not lie to ourselves that maybe there will not be retaliation.

In Rwanda, when the Hutus killed the Tutsis, it was fun until the tables turned and the Tutsis started killing the Hutus. We all know how many millions have died there. The reality is that, definitely, even if it is not me, there are people who are pained. You never know, it might take ten years, and an opportunity will occur for them to revenge. You never know, anything will trigger it.

Right now, the Kikuyus might be killed and everybody is excited and it’s fine and it cools down. And even Kibaki can say he has given up the seat and it is fine, it cools down. But an opportunity one time will present itself and this will not be forgotten.

What needs to happen to build peace?

We are peace-loving country and God-fearing. It is said that over 80 percent of Kenyans are Christians. Even one of the things that came up in the campaign period was the issue of whether the leaders were Christians. Raila said he is a staunch Christian. President Kibaki said he is a staunch Catholic Christian. But I am asking, where are these pastors? Where are these pastors in Eldoret, Kalenjin pastors? Where is this Christianity?

I am shocked that pastors that had been preaching for us to be god-fearing, they are not coming out to condemn this. They are quiet as the work is being done. And when maybe everybody is down, they will come to bury us and say a very good prayer.

Because in my opinion, there is an opportunity for the church to rise above politics and take its position. How come this Christianity is not playing a role here? Why can’t I hear a Kalenjin bishop or a Kalenjin father or a Kalenjin pastor or a Kalenjin Imam, for that matter, coming out and saying”No, our religion forbids killing women and children.” If it’s men, it’s another issue. You can claim they are combatants. And in any war, combatants die. But I don’t believe Christianity or Islam would agree for children and women to be killed in the house of God.

So peace-building, the church has to begin. Right now we don’t trust the political leadership. I want to confess and say, I have not seen Kibaki coming out to speak strongly about it. I want to tell you, I think Raila has said he is not concerned unless Kibaki resigns. The person who is the leader in our area, he is just quiet.

So before the politicians can even sit, I would like to see the church coming out and putting their feet down. That is the first thing.

The second thing, as we are speaking, you might get a report that the war has cooled down. But we have thousands of people camped at the police station and church compounds and they are starving to death. So as much as they were not pierced by the arrows at their farms, they are dying slowly.

If nothing is done for that, you will be lying to people, saying that there is peace.

When there are two warring parties, it always takes a third party to come in and give reason. What we are observing is the international community being silent. We know that the international community is knowing what is happening. They are taking it lightly. We know the same mistake was done in Rwanda, whereby the Rwandese started killing eachother, they cried out to the international community. The international community ignored them until up to a million Rwandans were dead.

The same story is being repeated in Eldoret. This is genocide being done in Eldoret.

Edwin is an 18-year-old Luo man living with his mother and two sisters in Kibera. They live in one of the poorest and oldest neighborhoods in the 700-thousand person slum.

What has been happening for the past couple of days?

After the elections, that place was very, very much disrupted, places burned, looted. Olympic shopping center, it is all down. Burned and everything taken. They started entering the estates now. No people are living there now.

Where is everybody staying?

They are starting to look at where they can get peace. Down in the slums, all people are forced out or else your house is burned. They just tell you, “You are the ones who voted Kibaki in, you are now enjoying. So, instead of enjoying and we are crying, you also, you will cry.” So they burn your house.

Yesterday things were calm, but shops were still closed. One supermarket is open but [they are only allowing two people in at a time]. Yesterday, we went to look if we could get something to eat there. But all the vegetables were finished and we were only allowed to take two packets of flour, at most. Sugar, you are only allowed to take one packet, two kilograms.

Where are you staying right now?

We are just staying down there, at the slums, Soweto. But when people are out, we have to be out. No matter the cold or whatever because that is the only way to secure your home and your properties. You have to light fire outside your house and sit out.

How are you getting by?

The last two days, after elections, we had to live with just water because there was no food. We weren’t prepared for the chaos. Yesterday we managed to get two packets of flour and people were selling vegetables. And yet, it was expensive. It brings a lot of problems.

What do you think the next few days will bring?

It’s good when people are left to go on with that rally and sort everything out. If the government stops it, it will be much more [chaos] than this. People were just quiet because of what the opposition leader said, people should be calm because they will meet on Thursday. But again yesterday the government spokesman said that they won’t be allowed in Uhuru Park. That will bring chaos here, if they are not allowed, the anger will continue. People might live like refugees in their own countries.

What have you heard about rapes and violence in Kibera?

Rapes are many because some people are taking advantage of opportunities that now people are scattered. In our area, two girls were raped. One was in a critical condition and had to be rushed to the hospital.

Some Kikuyus are being thrown out of their houses down there. People are grabbing those houses. In the process of grabbing the houses, people find themselves fighting for that also. It is one house and almost ten people want to grab that house, so they fight themselves again.

That rape case, it’s hard. Because at night, people are out, you don’t know what is going on. Lights were off. We were in blackout. It’s dark. In the morning, you find somebody was killed, two girls were raped, Even mothers, even old grandmothers, just raped.

How surprised are you by what is going on?

I’ve never seen or experienced such kind of thing. I’ve seen elections, but this one is terrible.

How much is this about politics and how much is this about tribalism?

Politics, this one, it is tribal. People expected that there will be a change and people wanted really a change. Considering what the president said last term… it’s a five-year term and nothing was achieved except free primary education. So as we talk politically, this thing is politically oriented. People wanted a change this time yet they didn’t get it.

When we talk about tribes… I don’t think so. In Eldoret, there’s another tribe. In Nyanza, there’s another. In Coast, there is another tribe. You find all places, people are fighting. So you can’t say that this tribe doesn’t like this tribe or whatever.

But down here in Kibera, Kikuyus don’t have a chance, truly speaking. Kikuyus are just thrown out, their things grabbed. Whether they have kids, they don’t care, they just throw you out.

You are a young man, you are probably going to be living in Kenya for the rest of your life. What concern do you have that people’s behaviour now might hurt the future of the country and your future with it?

How people are behaving and how I have seen things down there, it will take about three months now if people want to be back to normal. To build up that estate again, it will take people at least a year. Everything is destroyed.

But in the future, this thing is going to effect Kenya. Children are going to be left orphans, fatherless because of how people are fighting.

This thing, also, politically, is going to effect Kenya. Now politicians, instead of coming up with something that will help, they are trying to build on their own interest. They don’t want to see that Kenyans’s lives are at stake.

Who needs to make peace?

I would like the government, if they know that they won it fairly, they should prove it, re-tally the election. Even dialog will not help, because people wanted a change. Dialog between the President and the Opposition Leader won’t help. It’s not their Kenya. Kenya is not two people, the Opposition Leader and the President. They should re-tally. And if everything is OK, and people see that this is a fair election, not a rigged election, the situation will calm down.

What is the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs doing? Contact their E.A. offices in Kenya on +254207622119 and ask them to act as observers and help Kenyans now.

‘We told them to come out of the church, but they locked the door … So we burned them’

The Guardian’s Xan Rice was the first British reporter to reach Eldoret, in western Kenya, where mostly women and children were killed by a rival ethnic mob. Many victims had burned to death, trapped inside the supposed sanctuary of a church

Wednesday January 2, 2008
Guardian Unlimited

Grace Githuthwa heard the attackers before she saw them. They were singing war songs, running from two sides towards the church compound where she and 200 others were sheltering from the violence. She grabbed her four children and ran inside the Kenya Assemblies of God Pentecostal church.

The hundreds of youths from the Kalenjin tribe armed with bows and arrows and machetes easily overpowered the few Kikuyu men and turned on the women and children.

“They started cutting the church door with a panga [machete],” Githuthwa said. “They were from around here, and even knew some of our names. We kneeled down and surrendered. It was quiet, as we were all praying. We knew this was the end.”

Mattresses soaked with paraffin were pushed through the windows and used to block the door. Matches were thrown in.

As the fire engulfed the wooden building, the women grabbed their children and jumped through the burning windows. Githuthwa pushed her two elder children out of the window, and then climbed out holding her three-year-old daughter, Miriam, in her arms.

The Kalenjin youths were waiting outside, “cutting people like firewood” as they emerged.

“They snatched Miriam from me and threw her back into the fire,” said Githuthwa, as she returned to the church, near Eldoret, hoping Miriam had survived.

Smoke was still rising from the embers. A dozen blackened bicycles were stacked neatly against what had been the wall of the church. Tin cups were strewn across the ground. There was a child’s shoe, a woman’s sandal, a bible. In the small cooking hut alongside the church, burned but not completely destroyed, lay corncobs and beans that were being prepared for lunch when the attack started.

In the far corner of the church lay three bodies. They were charred beyond recognition, all apparently children. They lay on their sides. As policemen stood guard, five Red Cross workers wearing surgical gloves and facemasks moved the bodies on to blankets. Soon there were 12 corpses lying side by side, all but one of them children, a few of them babies. One of them was probably Miriam. Her mother broke down in tears.

Two blankets, one brown, one purple, were taken from the belongings strewn across the compound and laid over the bodies.

The search continued amid the debris at the far end of the church. Another body soon emerged. Another child. On the road outside the church compound, flanked by tall cypress trees, lay two more corpses. A man in a suit was spreadeagled on his back. On the side of his head was a gaping machete wound. Next to him was a woman with grey hair. There were slash marks on her torso.

In the cornfield 50 metres away lay two more bodies, one a partly burned man with a leg disfigured by polio. There were 17 bodies in all; there could have been more nearby.

A second woman approached the church. Margaret Muthoni, 38, was looking for her six-year-old niece, Miriam Ngendo.

“I was carrying her out of the church, but she fell,” Muthoni said. “I had my six children with me and we had to run for safety. I could not go back for her.”

She walked over to the bodies and lifted one of the blankets. Then she began to scream, a terrible, grief-laden scream, and dropped to her knees.

A few miles away, the road was littered with obstructions every few hundred metres: trees, telephone poles and large rocks forced cars on to the verge, where youths with clubs and knives were sitting.

At Ngeria Junction, hundreds of angry youths and men, all Kalenjin, gathered. They said they felt cheated by the election, awarded in dubious circumstances to President Mwai Kibaki over opposition leader Raila Odinga. They wanted revenge, and it was Kibaki’s Kikuyu ethnic group, who were going to suffer.

Asked if they knew about the church massacre, all the youths nodded. “We were there,” said one man, who said his name was Patrick. “We got a message that the Kikuyus were arming near the church. So we went to give reinforcements to the Kalenjins there.”

Another man carried on: “The men and women had babies and small children, but they carried pangas to defend themselves. Is someone with a panga innocent? It is not our custom to kill women and children. We told them to come out of the church, but they locked the door and refused to come out. So we burned them.”

A third youth spoke. “They were not worshipping in the church. They were hiding. That makes it a cave not a church. Let Kibaki send a plane for the Kikuyus. They can go … or they will be killed.”

Several more men confirmed that youths from this village had helped carry out the attack.

The fear and confrontation extended across much of the Rift Valley region. Baraton, a young Kikuyu student from the University of East Africa, spoke from a mobile phone. She could not leave her room, she said. Since election day, Kalenjin youths, some of them her classmates, had started threatening all the Kikiyus and Kisiis – also accused of supporting Kibaki – on campus.

A gift of a cow and then a bull had satisfied them for only a day or two. But they had started fires outside the main gate, and were demanding identification cards from anyone passing through. “We desperately need the police to come and protect us,” she said.

The fear cut across ethnic lines; most Kalenjins had nothing to do with the violence, and the fear of reprisals was growing. Moses, a Kalenjin in the Nandi Hills, sent a text message: “No transpot. Road blocked with stons. Electrisity disconnected. No car fuel. Houses still baning and robary. We r so scared.”

At the New Heuvel petrol station in Cheptiret, telephone poles were laid across the road. Dozens of men stood around, many of them holdings bows with quivers full of metal-tipped arrows slung across their backs. Suddenly they pulled back, crouching in ditches and behind walls, their bow-strings taut, only relaxing when the approaching police announced its peaceful intention.

As a few of the Kalenjin men approached the vehicle, Chief Inspector Salesiho Njiru said: “These people don’t need a harsh tone. We are just going to try to negotiate a way through.”

Rugut Brigen, an assistant university lecturer, told Njiru that the bodies of two Kikuyu men lay beside a burned-out minibus a few hundred metres on. They were killed on Monday, and Brigen wanted police to remove the bodies.

“The people stoned them when they did not slow down for our roadblock,” he said. “They could not control their anger at the election result.”

In front of the minibus, several truck trailers blocked the way. On either side of the road were more than 1,000 armed men, who occasionally broke into a war song. Keeping them in check was their leader, “Michael”, who works for an international aid agency.

At a single shouted word everyone sat down. “We are not going to have a ceasefire until the true results are announced,” he told the police. Nobody should try to stop them until then, he said.

The district officer, a Luo from Odinga’s ethnic group, had been killed by an arrow the day before after shooting a boy in the leg.

“Today, it is bows and arrows. In three days, if Kibaki has not resigned, we will have guns from Uganda,” said Michael.

Several army vehicles arrived, and after tense negotiations, it was agreed that they could escort a long line of vehicles through the town, driving slowly as the Kalenjin men, their clubs, knives and bows at their sides, looked on.

Among those fleeing by car was Moses Maina, 36, a Kikuyu. He had already sent his wife and children by air to Nairobi after chartering a plane with several other families.

“I was born in Eldoret,” said Moses, glancing nervously towards the burned-out minibus. “My father came here in 1950. This is my home, and now I am are running away from it. Where am I supposed to go.”

Michael said that was not his problem. “The Kikuyus were treated like guests in the Rift Valley, but Kibaki let them down. It is over. We can never trust them again. We will never let them come back,” he said.


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