Page last updated at 00:14 GMT, Saturday, 27 December 2008

Fear stalks Kenyans one year on

Kenyans demonstrate at Nairobiís Kibera slum on 30 December 2007

By Juliet Njeri
BBC News, Nairobi

Isaac Mweperi squints in the glaring sun as he stands outside the makeshift UN refugee agency-branded tent that has been his home for the past year.

He fled from his home in Kenya's Narok District, where he had lived all his life after his neighbours turned on him during the violence which followed disputed elections on 27 December 2007.

Mr Mweperi says the threats of violence against his community began long before the polls.

Then, two days after the results were announced a gang of 35 men came to his house and attacked him with machetes, accusing him of supporting President Mwai Kibaki because they are from the same Kikuyu community.

His left hand was hacked off during the attack, and he suffered deep cuts on his face and head.

He ended up in an internally-displaced people's camp near the lakeside town of Naivasha with his wife.

One year later, the memory of being targeted because of his ethnicity and perceived political sympathies is still clear in his mind.


A police report released this month has identified ethnic bigotry, similar to that evident during the post-election violence, as still being a major threat to national security.

Isaac Mweperi
Kenya is plagued by corruption and these same MPs incited the attacks, it's like looking for a goat with the help of the goat thief
Isaac Mweperi

The report says the provinces most adversely affected are Rift Valley, Western, Nyanza and Nairobi, which were all flashpoints for ethnic violence after the elections.

Although the two political rivals, President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, have buried their differences and agreed to work together, many in the country worry that the underlying issues such as land ownership and ethnic animosity have not yet been addressed.

Mr Mweperi has been back to his home in Narok only once since the attacks, and he is convinced that it is not safe for him and his family to go back.

When the Commission of Inquiry into the Post Election Violence - known as the Waki Commission - traversed the country several months ago, Mr Mweperi was one of the witnesses.

He believed that his testimony would help to reveal the truth and punish those who committed the atrocities.

Now, he is a hunted man again and has received threats on his life because he dared to name his attackers.


In its final report, the Waki Commission said some of the attacks were based on "ethnicity and political leanings" and recommended the establishment of a local tribunal to try those implicated in organising and carrying out the attacks.

A Kikuyu man is attacked by rioters in the Mathare slum, Nairobi, Kenya, in February 2008
The post-election bloodshed shocked the world

But Mr Mweperi says he does not believe that the establishment of a local tribunal will meet these goals.

"I don't think it will succeed here in Kenya. Kenya is plagued by corruption and these same MPs incited the attacks. It's like looking for a goat with the help of the goat thief," he says.

As Kenya marks one year since the violence, another challenge the country is struggling with is the resettlement of more than 300,000 people who fled their homes.

While many have been able to go back home through the government's Operation Rudi Nyumbani (Operation Go Back Home) programme, some like Mr Mweperi remain in camps.

Each family received $130 (£88) as compensation from the government to help them rebuild their lives - a desperately meagre sum for those who had lost everything in the clashes.

Mr Mweperi and some of his new neighbours have chosen to pool the compensation money and have bought a piece of land close to the camp to build new homes.

They are afraid to go back home, fearing fresh attacks and, for Mr Mweperi, reprisals for testifying before the commission.

The camp for displaced people at Eldoret showground
Hundreds of thousands fled their homes in the post-election violence

But while Mr Mweperi and his neighbours can look forward to a New Year with new opportunities, for 68-year old Mary Mureu and her family, 2009 holds no promises.

Mrs Mureu fled her home in Molo, in Rift Valley Province, at the height of the violence with her three daughters and four grandchildren.

They went to Kikuyu, 30 kilometres from Nairobi, seeking refuge among fellow members of their Kikuyu community.

"The Nandis attacked us and we ran for our lives. We've never gone back home but I went back to check on my house recently but there is no peace there," she says.


She vows that she will never go back to the home she built with her husband. The attackers destroyed everything, her house, her crops, and there is nothing to go back to.

"It is only God's grace which helped me to flee. I am old, I cannot go back so that they can attack me during the next elections," she says.

Mburu family
Families fear ethnic tensions lurking beneath the surface could erupt again

Mrs Mureu and her family have been living with a family which sympathised with their situation, and with no help forthcoming, they will continue to seek refuge there.

They are being helped by the UK charity Cafod, but with skyrocketing food prices and rising inflation, life is now looking grim for the two families which are bound together by fate.

"We are still helping them but now life is becoming so hard," their host Peter Mburu says.

Many others who were displaced are still afraid to go back home fearing fresh attacks and still live in camps or "transit camps" situated close to their former homes.

The fear that the ethnic tension which led to the attacks has not dampened is very real for many of those who bore the brunt of the violence, even as the rest of the country moves on.

And it is not difficult to see why many of them feel that they have been forgotten and left to face their uncertain fate on their own.

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