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15 years later, the 2007 post election violence psychological scars yet to heal

Aug 24, 2022 09:32:15 AM

Whenever Kenya gets into the election cycle, literally everything comes to a standstill. In other words, the country is held hostage due to uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the polls.

Businesses adopt a wait and see attitude as residents start migrating to ‘safe’ areas from cities to up-country and other destinations. In short, caution is in the air.

For Mariam Muhammad, Pastor Jack Andiga and Bishop Godfrey Makhombe all residents of Kibra in Nairobi, election time is a grim reminder that unearths psychological scars.

Kibra was a flash point of the deadly post election violence witnessed in Kenya in 2007/8. Mariam lost a son and relative as Pastor Jack and Bishop Godfrey lost close relatives from the ensuing violence following the bungled

2007 general elections.

When InterfaithNews visited Mariam, her body language was evident; during the entire interview, she fidgeted with her fingers probably trying to find words to explain what she went and is still going through.

“Violence erupted as soon as the winner of presidential elections was announced. My sonthen aged 17 years and in form four; was struck by a bullet at around 9:30p.m. He was carried by his friends and others to my house,” she says.

“Despite the ensuing violence, we managed to take him to Kenyatta Hospital, Nairobi, for treatment that night,” she adds.

According to Mariam, visiting her injured son at the hospital was a daunting task. “With no public transport available together with blocked roads, close relatives and I had no option but join protestors heading in the direction of the

hospital so as to visit my ailing son.”

Sadly, after three months of hospitalisation, her son succumbed to the gun shot wounds. Now that elections are here, Mariam says that they evoke memories of her beloved son. “They are a bitter reminder about my son! Nitatafuta pa kwenda-mahali salama kwa yale nilliona. (I want to escape to a safe place following what I experienced and witnessed)”Mariam recounts how mutilated bodies were brought to the roadside for collection just next to her house. “That is how we discovered the body of a relative.”

When asked if she will vote, Mariam says that she will vote and leave for safety before the How elections evoke bitter memories results are announced.

Mariam acknowledges that political campaigns this time round have come of age though with isolated incidents of violence. “I hope they maintain the same until after elections.”

The lesson that Mariam has learnt is that shida ni yako pekee (you are on your own should problems arise) describing how politicians will desert you in the event of a tragedy while pitching for them.So far, Mariam-now a grandmother, confides to us that she has received little or no help from neither the government, religious and nongovernment organisations nor politicians.

“Many 2007/8 post election violence (PEV) victims have been forgotten and languish in hardship. Only a few benefitted!”

Mariam’s message to the youth is that they maintain peace and not be misused by politicians.

“The current crop of youth is eager to engage in acts of violence at the slightest provocation. Many were babies or not born in 2007, thus can hardly comprehend the gravity of the situation back then.

Your life is more important than 50 or 100 shillings. Vote peacefully but also accept the outcome of the polls.”

Despite all, Mariam has sought refuge in prayer and it is what has kept her moving despite flash backs especially when she comes across her son’s friends. “A mother can never forget her offspring!” she says.

“My wish is to start a small business for sustenance, because as a grandmother, we all look forward to our children

assisting and supporting us when old.”

For Pastor Jack Andiga he says that those most affected were the elderly, women and children.

He suffered a series of tragedies. “I lost a niece and her unborn child from the ensuing clashes. Her husband ended up committing suicide.

He says that nobody thought the situation would degenerate into violence-so it

caught us off guard.

According to Pastor Jack, it is only recently that residents seem to have come to their senses. “No one benefitted

from the violence.”

He acknowledges that election time for Kibra residents is a time for anxiety.

Pastors like him and others have since taken in upon themselves to dialogue with the youth on importance of maintaining peace.

Bishop Godfrey Makhombe says he lost relatives in Eldoretanother 2007/8 post election violence hot spot.

“They lost their lives because on their ethnicity.” Going by the previous election of 2017, both Pastor Jack and Bishop Godfrey congratulate the local administration in Kibra and government in general for their efforts in maintaining peace.

“Serikali ilikua ngangari! We also expect the same during this years’ elections.”

However they plead with Kenyans that to accept the outcome of the polls.Pastor Jack also pleads with politicians to tone down their political rhetoric for the sake of peace.

“Statements like mtajua hamjui or alleging that you will go after so and so when you ascend to power only serves the

polarize Kenyans.”

Bishop Godfrey calls for free, fair and credible elections because that it is the trigger to violence.

He challenges politicians to tone down their pride. Kiburi ndio mingi!

“What we are witnessing from the campaign trails is some may not accept the outcome. Should they loose, accept and congratulate your competitor. Wait to fight another day!”

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