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The double tragedy of Samburu rape victims

BUSIA
By | June 25th 2011

By Alex Kiprotich

Every time military vehicles carrying British Army pass by on their way to training base in Archers Post, women watch angrily. Their hearts boil with rage and their eyes turn teary as the soldiers’ arrival reminds them of scars they will forever bear.

The women, who have been fighting for compensation from the British Government for alleged rape by the military personnel, seem to have hit a brick wall.

Halima Milgo Mohammed

It is not so much the failure to be compensated that bothers them. It is the turn their lives have taken for the worse after the rape ordeal in the hands of the British army or the johnnies, as the locals refer to them.

The society, just like their tormentors, have abandoned them. Those who gave birth to children of mixed races were never married, while married women who came out in the open to say that they were raped were abandoned by their husbands.

Haliwa Milgo Mohammed, whom we met at her shop at Archers Post, says women have lost hope.

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Secluded life

Milgo claims she was raped in 1981 while fetching water.“What irks us the most is the fact that our society stigmatises rape victims,” she says. Milgo, who is a Muslim and has 29-year old son born out of the experience, was forced to marry a non-Muslim because no man from her religion was willing to approach her. To add insult to injury, the mixed race children are openly taunted as chotaras. Milgo remembers vividly the ordeal 30 years ago when soldiers approached her and tackled her to the ground.

She says when she reported the incident to her father, he was advised not to talk about it.

“My father was afraid that if I go to the authorities I would shame the family and he preferred that I should not talk about it, but months later when my stomach started to bulge, the news spread all over,” she says.

She says her child faced difficulties because children in the school and community members derisively called him ‘British’, and most of his life he has led a secluded existence.

“It is a difficult baggage, you cannot hide... the product is there for all to see and people talk behind your back,” she says.

Nalang’u Losuli, who says she was raped at Laresoro while herding livestock, has had to endure a lonely life and the stigma that is associated with the ordeal.

“I reported to my parents but they did not take me to hospital because they did not want the embarrassment. They only gave me herbs. Luckily, I did not get pregnant but the news had already spread,” she says.

Losuli says the community is unforgiving when it comes to rape and those who have come out in the open to say they were raped are shunned like pariahs.

“Even children point at you saying ‘that one slept with johnnies’. It is so embarrassing,” she says.

Christine Namnyak, who has adopted her late sister’s eight-year-old girl, says her sister who died in April was abandoned by her husband after siring a child of mixed race after she was raped in 2002.

Namnyak said her sister, Lydia, was raped while walking home from the market. “She was attacked by the British soldiers training at Laresoro and her husband immediately kicked her out when she reported the matter,” she says.

She says after the ordeal, her sister was traumatised and eventually died of stress and stroke.

After the death of the sister, she says, her daughter got a sponsor and is now schooling in Eldoret.

Namnyak says the Government has remained silent over the issue of rape by the British Army in Samburu. “Nobody has come to the rescue of these women and it seems the Government has lost interest in its citizens,” she said.

Asked what evidence she has against the British soldiers, Milgo says the children they are rearing is a testimony. “There are also witnesses who rescued some of us. There are our parents we reported to but failed to act,” she says.

She says their undoing is keeping silent for decades but adds that they had no option because of the society they were brought up in.

“People ask why we kept mum for all these years, but I wish they were in our shoes. Women and more so girls have no say. If you report to your parents and they beat you up for ‘misbehaving’ or your husband kicks you out for being an embarrassment what should you do?” She poses as tears trickle down her cheeks.

She says they have been victimised by the society and only hope that one day they will get justice.

“Some say sex was consensual but it was not. We have suffered and we continue to suffer while the army come here to enjoy themselves,” she says sobbing.

The British soldiers continue to deny the allegations of rape. Even with the presence of children of mixed race it is difficult to prove they are products of rape.

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