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Pains still fresh for victims of 2017 election chaos

By Akello Odenyo | Published Wed, December 27th 2017 at 00:00, Updated December 26th 2017 at 22:10 GMT +3
Police officers cane one of the NASA supporters during a planned prayer rally for victims of police brutality along Manyanja road, Nairobi on Tuesday 28/11/17[Boniface Okendo,Standard]

In summary

  • Election-related violence erupted in several parts of the country
  • Many can’t wait to usher in the New Year, but for some the memories of 2017 will forever remain etched in their souls.

However much they try, many cannot just erase the memories of 2017. Nothing can make them forget the sight of their dead neighbours, injured brothers, raped mothers and sisters and orphaned children.

Many, like Lucy (not her real name), will forever bear the scars of the post-election violence and not even the coming fireworks of the New Year will bring any form of optimism. Today, the very sight of a policeman sends shivers down her spine.

According to reports, at least 92 people were killed and 86 suffered sexual and gender-based violence during the 2017 General Election. The police were largely blamed for many of the citizens’ deaths and violence against women.

“They took turns to rape me, hauling insults under their deep breath. A rifle stood leaning against a corrugated iron sheet walls pointing upwards. Their walkie-talkies were left talking to themselves on the dirty ground,” she narrated.

Terror in uniform

Lucy could not hold her tears as she narrated her ordeal to the Metropolitan. Her expression had changed from that of a strong woman who has been harden by life to a delicate being.

“Two were wearing police uniforms and one had a raincoat over his uniform. I could not scream. I was so cold and so terrified,” she continued.

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“I closed my eyes and heart too. But they didn’t stop. When one left, another pounced on me,” she narrated.

She then took a long pause, her eyes still focused on the faraway distance. Around her house, everything was in order. The cups were neatly arranged on a blue trolley at the far end of the room. Her bed had been made, two combs hanging on the wall across the bed.

Lucy had been living here for two months now after moving from Dandora Phase Four where she had met her ordeal. It all started on August 11, 2017 as she responded to commotion outside her house. She was confronted by three police officers who grabbed her and began harassing her and accusing her of causing unrest.

“They dragged me to an old shack where I found three other women and three men. One of the women who was elderly and drunk was first asleep,” she recounted.

The rape

She said the officers told them that a police vehicle would come to pick them up and take them to a local police station.

“From 10pm until midnight, no one came. Around 1am, the six officers came back and released the three men after they gave them cash. They came to us, called us prostitutes and asked us to undress. When we didn’t they tore off our clothes,” she narrated.

She continued, “I want to find out if there is sickness inside you prostitutes and we want to help you, they shouted at us before raping us.”

When they were done, Lucy said the officers walked away, leaving them there.

“There was nothing more to be scared of, only death awaited us. They did not rape the old woman, they said she was dirty. Then one officer called the other out, Kirui, twende! (Kirui let’s go), and they left,” she said.

“Two of us went to report the incident at a police station, but they asked us how we knew the perpetrators were policemen. They called us prostitutes, said we must have enjoyed the experience and the officer on duty showed us a room where he would ‘help’ us if we persisted,” said Lucy.

She went to the hospital and was given Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, but she never saw or heard from the other victim to date.

Orphans and widows

“I wonder what became of her. I moved out of my old house but I carry the scars with me,” cried Lucy.

Terry, a three-year-old boy, will live without a father’s love after he was felled by police during election protests in Mathare in August. Even though his mother Faith Mueni decided to tell him that his father (Okoth) was never coming back, he does not understand. It’s been four months now but he still turns whenever the name Okoth is mentioned.

And only at 21, Mueni remains a widow. She lost her husband and Terry’s father, Victor Okoth, to what she describes as “speaking against evil” on August 9. Her neighbour, Chantel Nyange, has also been condemned to widowhood at 19 and has to double up as father and mother to her three-year-old son.

Human rights organisations documented at least 86 cases of sexual and gender-based violence in the city alone.

“The stories from sexual violence victims is a horror. Some of the victims were bedridden during the rape, some are pregnant and a number contacted sexually transmitted infections,” said George Morara, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights vice chairman.

Mr Morara said the victims were left to bear the brunt of the violence as some of those who reported were victimised and no action was taken against perpetrators.  Human Rights Watch researcher Agnes Odhiambo said sexual violence had impacted women’s and girls’ lives in devastating ways, with many experiencing injuries or other health consequences, leaving some unable to work or care for their families.

“Women and girls also experienced profound mental trauma and anguish, describing feelings of hopelessness, self-hatred, fear and anxiety, sleeplessness, and suicidal thoughts. This trauma has been reinforced by well-founded fears that husbands, family members, and communities would reject them if they disclosed that they had been sexually assaulted,” said Odhiambo.

Twice a victim

According to HRW, the victims also expressed a lack of confidence in the police, largely citing their history of human rights abuses. Only a few women reported cases of sexual assault to the police.

In Kawangware, Mercy Maina said she was raped by police during the 2007-2008 post-election violence together with her friend, Irene Mukami, who later committed suicide. Mercy became pregnant and is now raising her daughter, about whom she says: “It took the grace of God to accept her.”

She has stomach ulcers which she links to the stress of that rape. Mercy was raped again in August 2017 in the post-election violence. This time, she said she was raped alongside her sister, Martha, by men in police uniform who carried guns and walkie-talkies.

Mercy and her sister went to a medical facility for post-rape treatment only two weeks later because they feared their attackers would come back to hurt them.

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