Almost five years since the post election violence broke out, internally displaced people in Eldoret camps and those who have gone back to their farms and businesses continue to live a cat and mouse existence, but with a pinch of defiance. Some 'progressive' professionals would like to dismiss the 2007/2008 violence as a spontaneous event in the hope that it will not happen again and 'alien' businessmen continue to invest in the town, but their fear is mirrored by their sentiment that "we live one day at a time and elections will definitely not find us here".
Most are however categorical in their belief that the recipe for violence that occurred after the last general election does not exist and that the tension on the ground if any is more like what was witnessed in 1992. "The ICC effect is very strong on the leaders and they would be very cautious in planning the kind of violence that was witnessed in 2007 and 2008. It is also instructive to note that young men from one community were promised land in return for engaging in the violence, but when the uprising was over, this was not forthcoming. They are still demanding their share from the masterminds of the violence," claimed a Kikuyu businessman who sought to remain anonymous.
The 60-year-old man who has lived in Eldoret for many years said the other deterrent was the fact that the parents of the young people who died in the skirmishes continue to demand from the violence masterminds that they be told what their sons died for. "Unlike in 2007/2008, in the event that there is an aggression by one community today, the other communities would be very prepared to counter it and both sides are aware of this. Both sides also know that unlike last time, more sophisticated weaponry could be used resulting in many casualties in a very short time, something they all would rather avoid," he said.
Most Kikuyus who were displaced in the 2008 chaos dismiss the Kibaki government as having done nothing to alleviate their suffering in terms of resettlement, compensation and security. They have also written off the Ruto/Uhuru association as of no consequence to their current fate or future and describe peace and reconciliation efforts as a sham.
I have not known peace since 2008
A short ride in a ramshackle matatu whose driver looks like a young cross between a Kalenjin and a Kikuyu brings us to the edge of Yamumbi in Langas, dropping us just short of the terminus in the mad rush to beat competition. My guide then coerces two boda boda cyclists into taking 'slave wages' to take us to a home of one of the post-election violence victims.
Surrounded by sukuma wiki which has become her daily bread since her husband was murdered in December 2007, Joyce Njenga's small permanent house still stands, despite the many times she has been invaded and livestock and household goods stolen from her. She looks fine but the murder of her husband, the subsequent flight to safer ground, the family instability created by the post-election violence (one of her sons has since suffered depression and recently tried to commit suicide) and the constant harassment by unknown forces, have left her hypertensive and her legs have grown weak.
Her husband Peter Njenga Kimani was killed on December 30, 2007 at the height of the violence. According to his death certificate, Kimani, 47, died of "cardio-respiratory arrest due to shock as a result of multiple panga cuts". "When my husband died, I was left alone in this house where I daily suffer unbearable fear. I rarely sleep at night and this has made my condition worse," says Joyce, tears flowing down her cheeks.
On burying her husband, early January 2008, Joyce escaped to Central Kenya but she could not stay there for long. She returned to Yamumbi a few months later, only to be attacked by thugs who tried to burn her house days after her arrival. Since then, she has been attacked severally and reporting to the police has not brought results. "All the police have done despite the several reports I have made is to promise investigations,but nothing has come out of it," says Joyce as she shows two of her OB report numbers.
She is registered with Kituo cha Sheria as a victim and suspects these invasions could be the work of forces who want to discourage her from ever giving evidence about the post-election violence. So what does she think about the coming general election? "Come elections and I will be out of here. I am yet to witness real peace or security that would make me stay. My house may not have been burnt down but while houses can be rebuilt, the dead cannot be brought back to life".
That notwithstanding, Joyce cautiously relates with her Kalenjin neighbours. "We talk and we even attend the same church. We hold prayers together either in our area or theirs, but we are yet to trust each other fully." She points to a recent case when a veterinary doctor came to treat her cow and from the blue offered to bring her a person to buy her home for Sh3 million. "They do not want us here," she says.
Blame the government
Joyce blames the coalition government and particularly President Mwai Kibaki for her predicament "Kibaki had been told by the security agents about the imminent violence way ahead, but in his characteristic hands off style, he decided to do nothing," she says. She recalls an incident when she and her sister were back in August 2006 given a lift in a Toyota Land-Cruiser as they were going to their father's house in Kiambaa. The vehicle that had eight men was headed to a prominent politician's home and the two women suspected its cargo were lethal weapons. "On realising what we had got ourselves into, we were so scared that we asked to be dropped before reaching our destination. Fortunately, the men did not notice that we were suspicious.
However, Kibaki was not the only one who had dismissed the looming violence outright; when the two women confessed their fears to their father, he brushed it aside and her late husband asserted that with Kibaki as president, no such thing could happen. Little did he know he would pay with his life. Joyce accuses the government of failing to compensate her and other victims. "Some of us were ignored simply because we did not rush to the IDP camps, but I lost my husband, my children's father and our source of livelihood. Does that make me a victim or not? I am a sick woman who cannot even sleep.
I also lost my two cows, goats, chicken and household goods. Does that make me a victim or not? Yet I have never received a single cent from the government of Kenya, "she says. To her, the political association between Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto is just a pact between two rich men for their individual gains. But she fancies an Uhuru Kenyatta presidency, claiming the man is firm and tough.
Junk in a transit camp
We bid Joyce farewell and walk through a field to the neglected earth road that leads us to the Kamuingi Transit camp, about one kilometre away. Even as my guide talks to a woman carrying three jerry cans of water and parting the barbed wire fence to gain entrance to the camp, the first thing that strikes me, is what appears like a car covered with polythene next to one of the tattered tents.
Before the 2007 elections, Ruth Nduta would lease farming plots in Kaptagat where she and her businessman husband Samuel Githua lived in a rental house. The man who was a power-saw lumberjack also had an old car that he used as a taxi. "When all hell broke loose after the elections, we escaped and subsequently everything in our house was looted including my powersaw. My car's windscreen and headlights were smashed, but fortunately an old Kelenjin friend saved it from being torched when he told the invaders that he had bought it," Githua us tells with a stutter as he stands next to the junk that he later towed to the camp.
It now sits desolate and in total disrepair covered with shabby polythene outside the tattered tent that he calls home , its wheels destined to never meet the road again. For Githua and his family, displacement is nothing new for as far back as 2005 at the height of the constitution referendum campaigns he found a letter on his door demanding that he leaves Kaptagat as it was not his home. The letter that had three arrows drawn at the bottom of the page, is still at the Kaptagat Police Station.
Fast forward to 2008 and to Operation Rudi Nyumbani when the provincial administration in Eldoret asked the IDPs at the showground to form groups so that the government could effectively deal with their cases. "Our group of 68 families was brought to the Kamuingi transit camp in Yamumbi by a DC by the name Ngaruma and a DO whose name I only remember as Rebecca and literally dumped there,"says bitter Nduta, who is the camp's chairlady.
The couple together with their eight children aged between 30 and 11 and Nduta's elderly mother, have for the last four years lived at the camp, but their efforts to get compensation and resettlement has come to naught. "The local administration knows our case all too well and in fact we have a letter dated October 10, 2009 from the DC Eldoret West to Wareng DC calling for our urgent compensation. We have also followed the issue with the ministry of Special Programmes in Nairobi but we are yet to receive a single cent," explains Nduta.
"When we went to see the district coordinator in March this year, he said he had written to the ministry about our case, but we later found out from the local administration that the letter had referred to us as integrated IDPs. We later met the regional commissioner, a Mr Wanyama, who told us to follow our case with the director of programmes at the Ministry of Special Programmes, a Mr. Mwangi in Nairobi."
In Mwangi's outer office, the secretary told the scruffy IDP representatives that her boss was on leave, but just before they left the office, the big man strode in. He invited them to his lavish inner office where he rudely wondered what they were after. Mwangi allegedly told the small group of weary IDPs to go back to Eldoret and to never come back to his office. "Yours is not the only IDP camp in this country and you should go back and wait," he curtly told them.
Tell Kibaki, roads are not for us
Githua's father did not have his own land and their family was staying on his uncle's land at Kondoo and his goal was to work hard in his small businesses, accumulate funds and buy his own piece of land. That dream now stands suspended, may be forever. For Githua and Nduta, the people to blame for their predicament are President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila"for whom we went to the polls. If Kenyans did not go to the polls in 2007, we would not have been displaced and in no way am I going to vote in 2012 or 2013, if this is what awaits me. "If they want us to vote, let them make sure that we live as human beings, not like the wild animals that we have been turned into," an angry Githua says.
His wife sarcastically states that the only benefit her family has accrued from a Kikuyu presidency is being confined into tattered tents for five years. "We hear he (Kibaki) has built roads, but how are they helping us? Roads are for people who transport goods or conduct other businesses and not for beggars in displaced people's camps," says Nduta.
The couple fears that should the Kibaki government leave them in camps when his term expires, the incoming government would not recognise their status and the need to resettle them. As far as the political alliance between William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta is concerned, all the couple sees is an association between a dog and a rabbit. "At night, the two can co-exist, but during the day one chases the other". And with the political rhetoric that has of late become the order of the day, they say the threat of another round of violence cannot be ignored.
The family told the Star that it knows where its stolen household goods are, but they can do nothing to repossess them. "When we left the main IDP camp at the Eldoret showground, we were told that even if we saw our stolen cow in someone else's homestead, we should not demand it back as that would create tension.".
And nobody has tried to reconcile the Githuas with their neighbours. "If there is any reconciliation going on, it is done in hotels and nobody has told us about it. If anybody wanted to reconcile us, he or she should have taken us back to where we came from and reconciled us there," says Nduta. With a slight slant, the Wareng DC agrees with the Githuas.
When reached for comment, Wanyama who has since been re-deployed to Isiolo, declined to comment saying he has already moved on and would be accused of not letting go if he did so. The district commissioner for Eldoret East Charles Mukele however said relationship between different communities in Eldoret was warm "though some suspicions still linger. There is no open hostility and people from different communities trade and work together, but there are still isolated cases of finger pointing and trust is yet to be wholly restored".
Mukele however says this would not translate into violence even during elections. "It is my experience in the last three and a half years that people are not inclined towards violence anymore. In our interaction with the different communities, we have witnessed a genuine dislike for violence". On peace and reconciliation, the DC says there are various governmental and non-governmental organizations involved in this and says some IDPs in their busy schedule for resettlement and compensation, may have missed the opportunity.
He said the claim by IDPs that only people from one community were counseling them, was because qualified personnel in that field in that region, came from the community in question. "However our district peace committee is made up of members of all communities and notably the chairman is Kalenjin, secretary is Kikuyu and treasurer is Kisii. If our leaders agree to trend carefully and avoid violently antagonistic politics especially at the national level, we have nothing to worry about".
His Wareng counterpart Gideon Sirai, told that Star that generally there was co-existence but the pain of what happened in 2007/2008 still linger. "As they say, once bitten twice shy and an isolated incident can raise fears of recurrence of violence. However there should be no cause for alarm as we have adequate security and in fact a place like Eldoret South has one of the highest concentration of security personnel in the country".
Sirai admitted that a lot still needs to be done in terms of peace and reconciliation, noting that resources especially from the non-governmental organizations have been concentrated in the urban areas. "We as government may have assisted the IDPs to resettle and build them some shelter but they need to stock their homes and restart their lives. Some of the resources used by NGOs in the urban areas should have been channeled towards mitigating some of these issues".
He assured the IDPs at the Kamuingi Transit camp in Yamumbi that their case had not been forgotten, although different signals have been coming from the ministry of Special Programmes. "We are aware of their case but unfortunately senior ministry officials have at different times given contradicting statements on their status. Fortunately they are still at the camp and I can assure them that they will definitely be settled. Let them remain patient".
Cultural values and taboos bind the Kalenjin
A 60 year old businessman we talked to claims that cultural values and taboos might not allow the Kalenjin to walk the talk where peace and reconciliation are concerned. "Although we have made our minds that this is our home and we might just as well die here and the other side knows that, the talk about peace building is mostly one-sided. The other side has a lot of cultural beliefs and taboos that prevent them from engaging in genuine peace."
He alleged that what predominates within the Kalenjin community is what the elders say and a pact made within themselves during initiation of boys to men. "You disobey the elders at your own peril". The businessman said if peace was to be found and maintained, the issue would have to be approached from a cultural perspective. "We need to marry the community's cultural values with the national ones".
He however does not dismiss the efforts outright, saying the talk about peace allow the 'alien' tribes to live and make a living day by day, as it gives their customers the illusion of peace and keeps hope alive. A Kalenjin doctor at the Moi Referral Hospital however claimed the town has turned 360 degrees and that the chances of violence recurring were almost nil. "Relationship between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin has never been this good and I am actually encouraging my Kikuyu friends to buy more instead of disposing of their assets."
The doctor, who said many of his patients included young Kikuyus who have recently been married to Kalenjin men and vice versa, cautioned the communities against turning isolated criminal incidents tribal. A colleague of his from central Kenya claimed he had a lot of confidence in a peaceful Eldoret and is currently investing in real estate, but he would still prefer to be put of town at election time. "I know some people are bitter but for how long are we going to harbor this enmity? Let us employ wisdom in this matter and wisdom is the art of closing one eye," he says.