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WOMEN TALES OF MOUNTAIN OF HORROR

Introduction:
Mount Elgon District is a small, rural area in western Kenya situated on the border between Kenya and Uganda bordering Bungoma sistrict in the south, Teso district in the south west and the larger Trans Nzoia in the East. Mt Elgon, was affected by conflict since 1992 .Nearing the election period in 2006, an organised militia sprung up called Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF); they extorted, tortured, raped, abducted,murdered and evicted people from ancestral homes in the mountain (IRCT in Voices on 12/06/2012).SLFD began as a local group that rebelled against the corrupt and unfair allocation of land at chepyuk settlement scheme by the then central government. This group later became criminal. With the elections of2007, it was politicized and was used by politicians to hit at their rivals or political opponents.The District (Mt. Elgon) experiences a conflict that escalated in 2005 when the rebel group Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) took up arms over what was called a land dispute.
Sexual, social, psychological violence against women in the mountain

According to Mwatikho Torture Survivors Organization (MATESO), a human rights organisation and IRCT member centre in Kenya, women survivors in mount Elgon have touching testimonies of their experiences between from 2005 to 2008(ICR in Voices-12/06/2012). The testimonies of survivors are also presented by MSF (MSF.May 2008). The IRCT reported that Kenyan military were dispatched to the area (Mt. Elgon) in 2008, to help save residents from the cruelty of the sabaot land defence force (SLDF). Reports quickly emerged that the Kenyan military had followed the tactics of the rebel group: The report says that the armed forces were accused of assaults, kidnapping, torture and murder of Mt. Elgon residents. MATESO was at the forefront of documenting the cases of violence and treating the victims of torture, conflict, human rights violations (IRCT in Voices on 12/06/2012.) This put the residents, particularly the women and girls in an awkward situation. They found themselves dropping from the frying pan into the fire.Below are testimonies of our sisters experiences the 2005-2008 mountain of horror;
CASE 1:
Helen recounts the day of horror; At around 5pm, Helen was home when the men came to her compound. They asked for her husband, but he was not at home. They demanded to know how many of the SLDF she knew; since they alleged that she went round talking about them. She declined and that is when they kidnapped her and brought her to an unknown place. There, they blindfolded her, raped her in turns and even beat her for almost 24 hours. The following day she was unconscious, but they did not let her go. She was told to open her mouth where one of them urinated and yet another forced her to eat human feces. After all this, they left her, but she was nearly unable to walk home because of the pain she had. She forced herself up because she believed that if she continued to stay there, others might come and continue the torture. She tried, and thankfully, a person helped her home. When she made it home, her husband took her to hospital where she was treated and tested for HIV/AIDS. Later on that husband rejected her, alleging that she was infected with HIV/AIDS and other venereal diseases. In this domestic dispute, she lost her child as a result of family negligence and the stigmatization she underwent(MSF.May,2008).
CASE 2;
A was taken from home into the bushes by a military man. where she was raped by in turns leaving her unconscious until she was found the next morning(MSF, May 2008)
CASE 3;
B was asked by the military man why she was not expecting a child. The army man told her on the face that he was going to make her pregnant. he drugged B on the bed in the house wile the second military man was watching, waiting for his turn. He pulled B’s pants down, forced himself inside her, and when he was satisfied the next soldier took his turn and they raped her in turns over and over again.(MSF. May.2008)
Humanitarian consequences of violence against women
The organizations that operated on the ground noted that the humanitarian consequences of the violence to the local communities were huge whereas the national and international communities closed their eyes on the crisis of civilians in Mt. Elgon(Ibid.2008). The following are some of the humanitarian consequences of Mt Elgon as they impacted the women and their families in the mountain;
o Multiple displacements of populations
o Lack of access to basic medical services
o Lack of food and adequate shelter
o Women left as heads of households when men and boys were taken into the detention camps for screening
o Family separations through detentions of men, fleeing of men for safety and brutal deaths of the members of the communities
o Loss of property through arson attacks; food stores, houses, business premises, cattle
o Infections with STI including HIV/AIDS
o Sexual harassment- Rape
o Systematic torture
o Loss of loved ones and never seeing their bodies to date
o Denial of their rights after the deaths of their spouses working in local government-no support whatsoever
o Widowhood
o Exposure to cold
o Castration of the men

Recommendations to world leadership
Given that the above conflict infringed on the basic human rights of women and their families, it is important to note here that the government and local ledership have the mandate to intervene in situations likely to compromise the safety of people. We have seen this conflicts in the recent past where so many people in Tana Delta at the costal strip in Kenya have lost human lives, animal lives, property and peace thy enjoyed for years. I therefore recommend that;
o Leadership listen to early warnings
o Women and their families are given their full rights of protection and access to basic medical care in conflict regions
o Perpetrators of violence face the full force of law-take responsibility of their actions
o Gender issues are fully integrated in interventions strategies by government –do no harm to vulnerable populations
o Support groups are formed around those affected by violence for counseling support and rehabilitation and not discouraged from giving the needed services to the survivors.
o Women rights to safety and basic needs be respected-claims for their benefits be honored
o Justice and reconciliation teams be strengthened to help perpetrators and survivors of the violence to fully heal
o Apology be given-for not taking action when it needed to be taken to those who suffered, lost loved ones or survived the violence

Concluding Remarks:
Mt. Elgon violence was marked with silence, and sealing off of the area and the help the women needed to get was no where to be reached. Due to this gap, many died, others were left seriously traumatized, and others are yet to move on almost over four years since this happened. The women have been left with permanent scars, some live with the hope of finding their loved ones, others are living with HIV and AIDS, whereas other are unable to support their families because of the interference the violence had on their livelihood………I write this with full knowledge that there are many women suffering tin similar crises. This is why we should stand in solidarity with all those who have suffered or are still suffering violence around the globe. We are hereby mandated to promote peace, and take serious action now to stop violence against women.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
Learn more »

Comments

EK. Chemorion's picture

AS WOMEN WE NEED ALL ROUND STABILITY

As women, we need all round stability. we need political stability so that cases of violence can not be witnessed. with political instability, we bear the brunt of the violence. we also need Economic stability.With economic stability, we can be in charge of our livelihoods-we can not be exploited sexually in exchange for money, or be used by those who have means to do dirty jobs in order to earn a living. we need social stability; this will facilitate development and with it, we are sure of growth. we need development since with it, we can access services and meet our basic human needs. we will be safe with holistic stability in family, community, nation and the world.with stability, we will have homes, we will have food, we will nurture our children, w will travel without fear of attacks, we will be happy and human we will not have disaster or emergency, we will keep an eye on one another ......we will sing......and dance. And this is why we need all round stability.

EK Chemorion

cece's picture

Eye Opening

Thank you for sharing this story even thought it made my heart wrench. These are all brave women to go through this.

May one day they be blessed

Love

Cece

We are blessed to have many Sisters!

Cece

Kara-Amena's picture

Thanks for sharing

Hello EK. The horrors of war are so far-reaching. And often the most tragic stories come from people who are not directly involved in the conflict... people minding their own business... going about their daily lives. I read a report from a few years ago by the Human Rights Watch about the war crimes in Mt. Elgon. Has the government done anything to improve the situation - seek justice, provide support for victims, or anything?? The report suggested that the US and UK should stop providing military and police assistance and other programs until the Kenyan police and government investigate and act on the war crimes. Do you agree that this will help?

I learned that the effect of a traumatic incident can be minimized if the response is appropriate and the victim feels supported. Obviously this has not happened in Mt. Elgon. It breaks my heart that so many Kenyan women (and others) are suffering from the trauma of violence and the added trauma of a system that does not recognize their wounds and scars. These are important stories, EK. As women, I hope we can stand in solidarity across the globe and "keep an eye on one another." Your work is important and I applaud your strength and commitment.

Peace and blessings,
Kara-Amena

William's picture

Kenya women

Thank you for sharing your well documented and well written article, EK. Since men control the money and weapons they are able to control others. It doesn't make sense and must change. Maybe organize some groups for women, where they can share and take action with the government? Don't give up the good fight.

melanief7's picture

Great insight EK!

Thank you so very much for sharing the stories of these women who have endured so much and yet continue to face so many challenges in their lives. I recognize and appreciate the strength of your recommendations and wish that world leaders would listen to the people whose lives are directly affected by conflict and torture. Are there any organizations or NGOs in the area that work with the women to improve the economic situation? I agree with William, women's groups are a great way to improve the situation of women even if it means simply sharing your stories and knowing that you have one another to lean on.

I love your positive attitude! Stay strong and one day all women will dance and sing together.

Angela Kintu's picture

Thank you for sharing

EK, thank you for sharing in such detail about the horrors women faced and are still facing. I agree with you that it is important for women to be able to break the silence and stigma surrounding such issues.

Keep up the good work you are doing, and be blessed.

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