"We Ran For Our Lives," by Leah Okeyo
by Leah Okeyo
( This article was received by World Pulse editors on Wednesday, February 13. )
Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth, an Internally Displaced Person, traveled en-route to my hometown of Migori, a small town in Kenya. She had been evacuated from Naivasha in a lorry donated by a Migori businessman, powered by fuel donated through funds raised by residents of our town.
She had traveled from very far, carrying her tiny, and seemingly malnourished, four-month-old baby in her arms. The baby was cold, thirsty and very hungry. This is her story, which she told to me amidst sobs.
"The evening of the election announcement, the atmosphere was tense but we thought that was normal as everybody was all ears to hear of their candidate's success. People from one ethnic community swore that they could never be led by a "kihii." (Kihii'in, in their language, means an uncircumcised person. They believe in circumcision as a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood.)
"On the evening of the 28th of December there was so much fighting between the ethnic groups. By the afternoon of the 29th there was outright war. The "Kihii" was not going to lead and the other groups insisted they had been cheated.
"We ran for our lives.
"We took refuge at the Naivasha Police Station. I was in double trouble, a double target. Being a Kalenjin was a sin and I was also married to a Luo—another sin. Upon reaching the police station it was very cold so I sneaked back to the house to grab a sweater and shawl for the baby. I didn't believe what I saw. Barely three minutes after leaving my home, my house was bellowing in smoke. All my belongings were burning to ashes! And the police said that all this was not their problem.
"The majority of residents in Naivasha are Kikuyus, and they were fighting with the Luos and Kalenins. Most of the Kikuyus used objects like machettes and iron bars, and the Kalenjins used bows and arrows. There was great violence—people started killing each other and the police started shooting too."
Elizabeth continued—she said they thought there could be safety in numbers, but that was never to be. Next to the police station, she said there were severed heads, The policemen simply stared at the on goings. Then, they threw teargas and shot bullets.
Then the worst happened, she said.
"One day at the camp strange men appeared and vowed to teach us a lesson. They picked five men at random and threatened to kill anybody who dared not watch as these men were hacked to death, and blood and human flesh was left splattered everywhere. Now we confirmed that there was no defense for us as this was happening right beside the police post!
"Even worse was the next day. A pregnant woman was dragged to the site and we were told to witness a cesarean operation. Her stomach was cut across with a sharp knife and she died as we watched. The baby was pulled out of her and some of its parts pushed into the woman's mouth!"
Her story continued. A neighbor who took refuge with them at The Naivasha Police Post later had all his twelve children burnt to death. He still hasn't had the opportunity to be transported home and nobody will give him a hearing.
She shared other stories me. Of women who had been gang raped, women who had their husbands killed or maimed as they watched, and women who had been separated from loved ones as they fled for their dear lives. Some were selling sex for money, and some people were bold enough to come into the camps to look for cheap labor. Some children had been orphaned as they watched in sorrow.
This young woman Elizabeth reflects the voices of thousands of other women in Kenya: We need justice; we need peace and a democratic Kenya. The truth must prevail. It does not matter who the electoral winner is—but it must be through honest means.