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Post-election violence in 2007. | Courtesy of Obwin Owen Benjamin

Kenyan loses wife, fingers, house to post-election violence

I live without my wife because of that chaos. After I became a victim of violence, I have felt sad, lonely, forsaken, and hated.

Kainda Rodgers
First-person source
Kainda Rodgers is a postelection violence victim from the Kisii community in Kenya.

He was a resident of Eldoret town, one of the flashpoints when the post-poll skirmishes engulfed his country.

He had relocated from Kisii area to live in Eldoret, hoping for a better life in the town.
Background
Kenya plunged into political bloodshed after allegations of rigging in the 2007 generation election.

Over 1,000 were killed and 250, 000 people were internally displaced.

The Kenyan government has been stepping up efforts to resettle the internally displaced people, but some victims are still stuck in trauma.

NAIROBI, Kenya — I fell into depression after losing my wife, my fingers, and my property during post-election violence in Kenya.  

The night my family was attacked, I suffered deep cuts throughout my body. Without proper medical care, I would have died.

People like us who were living in areas where they were considered non-natives suffered similar losses.  

Today, I live without my wife because of that chaos. After I became a victim of violence, I have felt sad, lonely, forsaken, and hated.

It was a tragic situation that exposed the dark side of humanity over an election.

Although I survived the conflict, I still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. 

It has not been easy to overcome these events. At my age, I cry when I remember what happened to my family.

My children and I live in horror. We have been worried every time general elections are close because we fear the events will repeat.  

Voting day

As a law-abiding citizen, on December 27, 2007, my wife and I woke up early in the morning and headed to the polling station to cast our votes.

We voted peacefully and went back home to wait for the results.

The primary focus was on the presidential election, which was highly competitive.

However, I believed that democracy would prevail, and life would move on.

I stayed close to my radio, waiting anxiously for the outcome of an election which I believed would give us good leaders.  

Nonetheless, the events turned negative when everyone, including my neighbors, became jittery over alleged rigging.

The allegations of rigging spread like wildfire. As a result, the situation escalated and we became afraid.

Tension crept in as everyone began looking at each other suspiciously. The dark clouds hovered in the sky while I stayed on my compound, panic-stricken.  

Finally, the presidential winner was announced, setting a stage for tribal clashes that put non-indigenous people like me in danger.

Fear in the air

It was already January 2008, and tribal clashes were escalating. I was gripped in fear, but I hoped the ongoing violence would not affect me directly.  

I was living in Eldoret, located in the northwest of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. By road, the town is over 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Nairobi City. Eldoret was a flashpoint.

I lived in the outskirts of Eldoret town, but I feared for my life. I could not freely interact with the people I had known for so long. Everyone was suspicious, and people had lost kindness.

I was shocked that people were willing to commit atrocities against their compatriots over an election.

I regretted that I moved from an area dominated by my tribesmen to a place where people quickly turned against me after years of embracing me.

Fateful night

The disorder escalated to an unimaginable level. Innocent people were being butchered, maimed, and threatened.

I did not leave home but instead opted to stay with my family. We harvested cereal and were hoping the situation would normalize so we could take our produce to market.

However, one evening around midnight, my home was raided. Even before the attack, I was a worried man.

That fateful evening, we were going to prepare a meal, but we lacked appetite. One of my children opted to prepare tea instead of a heavy supper.

I could not enjoy my tea because my mind was utterly disturbed. I felt something was wrong, but I wanted to be strong.

There was a voice in my head trying to persuade me to tell my family to go into hiding, but I ignored it. I urged myself to remain courageous because I was living on land I owned, rightfully.

After ignoring the voice that advised me to seek a haven elsewhere, we prepared for bed. Before retiring to sleep, we heard unusual movements on the compound. I knew we were in danger and could not prevent it.

In an adrenaline rush, my children scampered for safety. I was already cornered.

As the attackers held me in captivity, some of them molested my wife. I did not see what they did to her, but it is evident in my mind they were horrendous people set on killing us.

Kainda Rodgers showing the pain of Kenya’s post-election violence
Kainda Rodgers showing the pain of Kenya’s postelection violence in 2007/08. | Obwin Owen Benjamin

How I lost my two fingers

One of the aggressors wrathfully charged at me and raised his machete with the intent to land it on my head.

Before he could deliver a blow by the evil weapon, I took guard. As helpless as I was, I raised my right hand and quickly pushed away from the machete. It chopped off my two right-hand fingers and severed my jaw.

The assailants did not stop there. After failing to split my head open, they hammered me with blunt objects. No part of my body was left unhurt.

They discarded me, lifeless, but miraculously help came, and they rushed me to the hospital.

My body today is not the one I had before the invasion. I have permanent scars that always remind me about this darkest day in my life.

I cannot do challenging tasks because I cannot strain as I used to. I sometimes feel I have no life. I feel like I am already dead.

These bodily injuries remind me of how I was reduced to a beggar, pleading for my life.

My wife’s demise

As I was battling to survive, my wife was already dead. She was attacked, butchered, and killed.

I do not have the complete account of how they molested her to death, but the point is that I lost a lovely wife. I lost the love of my life. 

As a family, it was a considerable loss. Nobody would wish to lose a life in such horrendous circumstances, but it happened.

I did not attend her burial because I was at the hospital struggling to survive. She was buried at the local cemetery, and that pains me to this day. Culturally, she should have been buried at home.

 However, it was impossible because the country was in chaos.

Unfortunately, my children were rendered motherless. Equally, I was rendered wifeless.

This result is how devastating the post-poll chaos was to my family. It was an unfortunate event that brought permanent damage to us.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

The events of the post-poll conflict still haunt me. I am no longer at peace like I was before, and I feel I have lost my mind in most instances. I have not had any peace of mind, even though the violence happened over a decade ago.

My family is still hurting and trying to figure out how to live.

Today, I do not live with my children, but I live a lonely life that is extremely difficult. Whenever I am in my house, the ugly memories of what happened to my family become fresh.

I cry silently in my tiny room, wondering if I was born to suffer over the violence I did not cause.

In most cases, I am in a reflective mood. My mind is troubled, and I feel that I do not have a reason to live again.

However, amid the challenges and trauma I am going through, I still hope my life will become better.

Property loss

I lost all that I had, and they set fire to my houses. They burned all the cereal I had harvested. I lost my dairy cattle as well.

Essentially, they destroyed my livelihood in a matter of minutes in the raid.

I know I was not the only one who lost property. Many victims lost their land. It is a loss that has reduced me to a beggar. I was a dynamic person, and the little property I had was enough to sustain my family.

However, they razed everything we had. Even though I still have ownership of the land, the fact is I lost my livelihood. I have not gone to live there because it haunts me.

Staying away from that place, to some degree, helps me forget the atrocious experience. The suffering I am going through today is due to the loss of my property. It has not been easy to reconstruct my life.

I would not be living this desperate life if not for the post-poll conflict. Truthfully, it threw me into abject poverty.

Picking up from scratch

After suffering such a huge blow, I am determined to rebuild my life. Over time I have learned that even in the worst scenarios losing hope is self-destructive. My guiding philosophy has been “pushing forward and staying focused.”

This ideal is the only principle that gives me hope; otherwise, I would have committed suicide a long time ago.

I moved to Nairobi city about 14 years ago after recuperating with the optimism of securing a job. This shift was the only viable option I had after being discharged from the hospital.

Moving to Nairobi appeared to offer a new lease of life.

However, it turned out that the odd jobs I get cannot sustain me. It is hard to generate enough income to provide for my children, even if I do not live with them.  

I am committed to reconstructing my life amid PTSD, joblessness, and alcoholism.

Today, I drink alcohol if I get money because it is the only way I manage my stress. I understand that alcohol is not healthy, but I try to be cautious.

I have been a security guard, but sometimes I quit when frustration sets in. The salary they offer is meager and cannot fully support my life. However, I am hopeful that something will open up.

Post-election violence victims

In 2007/2008, post-election violence in Kenya led to a loss of 1,000 lives. Over 200,000 people were displaced, while some sustained bodily injuries and other traumas that continue to haunt them.

Since this political bloodshed, the government has tried to offer some reparations and resettle some internally displaced people. However, some of the victims still live in squalor.

Every time the general elections near, the victims demand compensation, suggesting that they have not received any significant help.

I wish my compatriots and politicians learn that we cannot relocate to another country. I hope that people will maintain peace even in the coming elections. I cannot afford to witness or experience another bout of political violence.

It is the worst experience that could happen to people and to a country. Innocent people lose their lives, livelihoods, and property due to chaos we can prevent by living in unity, peace, and civility.

Call for peaceful coexistence

Every time the general elections approach, I shrink back. There is no such commitment from Kenyans to be nonviolent during elections even after we suffered in 2007/2008.

People like me who were directly affected wish elections were peaceful.

I am tired of being unsettled every time elections near. Next year, Kenya will conduct a general election, and I hope it will not disrupt peace.

It is my appeal that the government and politicians do not polarize us along ethnic lines. Sowing seeds of disunity can trigger violence.

I call upon everyone to be loving and remember that political violence is something that we should strive to prevent.

I believe that we can conduct peaceful elections. I do not want to see a friend, relative, or compatriot go through what I am facing today as a victim of political cruelty. 

Even though the 2013 and 2017 general elections were still not void of violence, I hope that in 2022 the situation will be calm.

Next year’s succession politics may be polarizing, but the government should ensure that we peacefully pull through the general election.

I want peace and unity in the country in every election. It has been many years of trauma, and the only way I feel pacified is when elections are nonviolent.

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Obwin Owen Benjamin, a Kenyan author, and journalist with a background in electronic and digital media. He has experience in research and fact-checking, news editing, and reporting.