Girl who went missing during the 2007/08 post-election violence reunited with family

Joyce Wanjiru (right) with her granddaughter Joyce Wanjiru whom they parted ways with during post-election violence. The two were united at their home in Sobea, Nakuru County on November 13, 2019. [Mercy Kahenda, Standard]

Displaced from her home at the height of the 2007/2008 post-election violence, Joyce Irungu and her four-year-old granddaughter joined thousands of other IDPs at the Nakuru Showground.

She had lost her husband in the chaos that followed the elections and was still grieving as she tried to fit in the new life at the camp.

But as she struggled to heal from the loss of her husband another disaster struck; her four-year-old daughter, Joyce Wanjiru, went missing.

Since then, no day passed without Ms Irungu praying to be reunited with granddaughter.

And on Wednesday her prayers were answered.

Irungu, 60, said she lost her granddaughter, Wanjiru, 16, at the Nakuru Showground where thousands of IDPs sought refuge after being plucked from their homes.

Efforts to reunite the two were coordinated by the children’s department in Nakuru and Tania Integrated Centre, a children’s home-based in Kajiado County, where the girl had been living.

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Irungu was lost for words when she laid her eyes on Wanjiru. Tears rolled freely down her cheeks as she hugged her granddaughter.

Irungu termed the return of Wanjiru as an answered prayer.

“My granddaughter, is that you? Unbelievable! Am I dreaming or is this real? Thank you God for answering my prayers. I always prayed and hoped to see my grandchild again and the day I longed for has finally come,” Irungu said as she received Wanjiru at her Sobea home.

Other family members and neighbours trooped to Irungu’s home to witness the reunion as news of her granddaughter’s return spread like bush fire.

Ululations rent the air as they sang and danced. Later, prayers were held to thank God for returning the girl home.

But before the celebrations, there were some tense moments when Wanjiru failed to recognise her grandmother.

However, the party went on after Irungu explained to her who she was.

Wanjiru said while she was taken good care of at the children’s centre, she always hoped to go back home after learning she had a family.

“I am happy to meet my grandmother and other relatives after such a long time. I always longed for this day. I really wanted to know how my grandmother was doing,” said Wanjiru.

After separating from her family, Wanjiru was rescued by officers from the children’s department who handed her over to Tania Integrated Centre.

While at the centre, Wanjiru enrolled in a technical institution where she trained as a tailor. 

Before the violence that saw over 1,000 people killed and more than 600,000 others uprooted from their homes due to the disputed presidential election, Irungu lived with her family in Burnt Forest.

Her husband, John Irungu was killed during the skirmishes while her two children ran away. She was rescued, together with her granddaughter, by the police who took them to the Nakuru Showground.

“For 12 years, I did not know where she was. I thought she had died. I only learnt the other day that Wanjiru was at a home for the needy in Kajiado. I want to thank everyone involved in the efforts to reunite my granddaughter and I,” Irungu said.

She said she had visited several children’s home and was beginning to lose hope when she received a phone call from the children’s department informing her Wanjiru was in Kajiado.

Ms Jenipher Kigunda, the director of Tania Integrated Centre, said the girl was handed to them since no one had claimed her.

She said they would do follow-ups to help her realise her dreams.

“We will continue to support her and also ensure she uses the skills she has acquired to improve her life and that of her grandmother,” said Kigunda.

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Joyce Irungu2007 Post ElectionIDPs