Woman who witnessed Kiambaa church burn dies

Elizabeth Wangoi beside the burning Kenya Assemblies of God Pentecostal Church, Kiambaa in 2008. [File, Standard]
When a church in Kiambaa, Uasin Gishu was burnt during the post-2007 election violence, Elizabeth Wangoi was there to witness it.

Her picture of the grim nature of the moment hit headlines in and out of Kenyan borders. She was photographed wailing, with her raised left hand holding a shoe. 

Now, she is dead.

Wangoi, 83, died on Saturday at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH).

They said she has been in and out of hospital since January 1, 2008, when she survived the fire at Kenya Assemblies of God Pentecostal Church.

Tens of people had sheltered at the church at the height of the post-election violence.

Her death, they say, has rekindled memories of the violence that rocked the country 11 years ago.

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They told Standard Digital how the aged Wangoi went into trauma and depression following the tragedy in which at least 40 people were killed.

Wangoi had gone to the church to check on her son Kimunya who she suspected had been trapped in the fire. Kimunya would survive the inferno with burns that left his arms weak.

Wangoi’s nephew Philip Gakuha said her house which sat on a half-acre farm in Kiambaa had just been burnt by a mob.

“My aunt had been raped by the youths and her son was burning inside a Church. Things would never be the same again for her. She started developing high blood pressure, depression and suddenly became mad, often losing memory,” he said.

Compensation

The family has added that Wangoi’s woes was compounded with the Government’s failure to compensate her for the destruction of property.  

“After surviving the fire she was taken to an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp. But in a resilient move, she chose to go back to her farm to start life again but she was unable to due to her health. She became dependent on relatives as she had lost everything,” Gakuha told Standard Digital.

He added, “She had been promised Sh400,000 as compensation for the losses. We went to Nairobi three times to seek for the compensation but no one was willing to listen to us,” he said.

He said his elderly aunt never received any professional counselling, something that may have worsened her health condition.

Gakuha said the family is now struggling to raise Sh240,000 to settle the hospital bill and to give Wangoi a decent burial at her Kiambaa farm.

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Kiambaa chruchPost election violenceElizabeth Wangoi