Friday, January 04, 2008

Kenya: Kibaki and Raila are sleeping and eating well while we suffer

Mother of five, Rose Mueni, used to eke out a living selling fruit in Nairobi's sprawling Kibera slum before her home and stall were torched in the post-election violence that engulfed the settlement on the night of 30 December.

"I do not know what to do now. If I had bus fare I would go back to the village. There at least I will have a roof over my head and some food for the children," said Mueni, one the thousands of Kibera residents who have sought refuge at Jamhuri Park in a compound used for trade fairs near the slum after their homes were burned and their property looted during the fighting.

Riots erupted in Nairobi, the port city of Mombasa and several parts of western Kenya soon after the Electoral Commission of Kenya declared incumbent President Mwai Kibaki the winner of a 27 December presidential election, amid claims of fraud by opposition challenger Raila Odinga.

We cry for the children. It is cold here. If they fall sick we have no money to take them to hospital," said 30-year-old Mueni, whose husband's shoe-repair stall was also razed.

Unlike Mueni, whose children had a meal donated by the Kenyan Red Cross on 2 January, Maureen Awino, 19, sat forlorn, pale with hunger, in a corner of the hall where some of the displaced families were accommodated.

"We also received maize meal from the Red Cross but we have not been able to cook because we have no stove and cooking utensils," said Awino, a resident of Eldoret in western Kenya, who was caught up in the violence in Kibera while visiting her family over the Christmas holidays.

"We were preparing supper on Sunday evening when we heard a commotion and noise outside. We ran out and saw homes on fire and ran for our lives. We later learnt that our homes had also been torched," said Awino. She would like to leave Nairobi, but faces problems returning to western Kenya where the political tension has assumed an ethnic dimension with communities, mostly President Kibaki's Kikuyu ethnic group, bearing the brunt of the killings and arson attacks.

Media reports have put the national death toll at about 300, while tens of thousands of others have been displaced.

In Kibera, some of those who remain within the slum area have been forced to spend nights out in the open, afraid their homes could be torched as they sleep.

Lillian Munene, a 27-year-old orphan who takes care of seven relatives, including a sister living with HIV/AIDS and her disabled child, said they have been sleeping rough.

"If I had somewhere else to go I would, but I was born here," said Munene, who depends on odd jobs to support her family. "I cannot find work now and we are going without food," she said, appealing to both Kibaki and Odinga to reconcile so that the violence can stop.

"Kibaki does not know me. Raila does not know me. Both men are sleeping and eating well while we suffer because of their differences," she added.

Published with the permission of IRIN
Disclaimer: This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its member states
Photo: Copyright