13 April 2008

Kenya: Displaced Children's Lives Shattered

Nairobi — For David Mbatia, 13, the aftermath of General Election will remain etched in his mind forever.

His family was evicted from their home in Njoro and what looked a promising life as he was set to join class eight this year has turned upside down.

And it is not only the trauma of seeing relatives hacked to death and houses burnt by hitherto neighbours that still haunt him.

Today, he has been reduced to a street child in Nyeri Town and he does not know the whereabouts of his family.

With no one known to him, hundreds of kilometres from home, Mbatia says life has never been the same again.

"I do not know anybody here. I also do not know where my parents and my brothers and sisters are," he says, tears welling up in his eyes.

He recalls how they were a happy family in Njoro before violence broke out. He says he hoped to do well in KCPE and dreamed of becoming a doctor one day.

"I cannot believe how my life has been turned upside down and my hopes dashed. Why do we have to fight for the politicians who only think of themselves when they get to Parliament?" he asks.

Although he eventually found some help at the Children and Youth Empowerment Centre at Thunguma in Nyeri, where he is struggling to find a new bearing, life, he says, has been harsh for the last four months.

Mbatia is not alone. At the centre, there are 50 such children who were rescued from the streets.

The centre assistant director, Mr Patrick Miheso, says many of the children were rescued from the streets, where they had been initiated into sniffing glue and eating from the dumpsites.

"Most of them are still traumatised by the turn of events. It will certainly take sometime for them to accept the reality," he told The Sunday Standard.

Another centre, the Nyeri Children's Home, is taking care of 15 displaced children.

Mbatia and his family were evicted from their home in Piari village and they camped for a month at the Njoro Police Station. But even at the police station, mobs would occasionally attack them.

Mbatia and his uncle arrived in Nyeri on a Saturday afternoon and he thought the worst was over.

But his uncle abandoned him at the bus stop and up to date he does not know why he disappeared.

"It was too late to start looking for my uncle in a town, which I had not set my foot on before. So I started wandering around looking for someone who could allow me to sleep in his place for the night," he recalls.

He says after some hours of confusion he approached a woman in a kiosk and after explaining his case, she promised to host him.

For three days he would wake up and go to the stage hoping his uncle would come looking for him.

"I woke up every day imagining that it was by mistake that my uncle and I lost touch," he says.

After three days, the woman told him she could no longer host him. It was then that a taxi driver told him he would take him to a centre for abandoned children.

The former pupil at Natu Primary School in Njoro, however, says he has not lost hope for a better life.

He hopes to return home in Njoro to reunite with his family.

He hopes to get in touch with his grandmother, Ms Monica Wangui who has been taking care of him after his mother died.

Another displaced child, Juma Omari, 14, says he does not know how he ended up in Nyeri from his home in Taita Taveta District.

"Life has become very harsh, I sleep in the cold hungry and scared since I do not even know this town well," he says.

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