Njoro clashes: Pain of families turned destitute - Daily Nation

Families turned destitute in wake of interethnic violence

Monday September 17 2018

ethnic violence

Mzee Joseph Sigira, 75, makes a meal for his grandchildren at Tagitech Primary School where they have been camping following interethnic violence at Chemunit area in Nessuit Eastern Mau, Nakuru County. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JAMES KAHONGEH
More by this Author

The brokenness of Pauline Chelang'at, a mother of four, captures the extent of the anguish and dejection that has ravaged families trapped in ethnic clashes at Nessuit in Njoro, Nakuru County for more than a week now.

The suckling mother of a four-month-old baby has not eaten for two days. Her lips perform a dance as she struggles to speak, her voice tremulous and feeble.

Two ripe veins cut across her temples, signs of starvation and helplessness. When she tries to rock her baby, her hands bumble involuntarily.

"I need food. My children are starving," she says breaking down, and is joined by her three other children aged 13, 11 and 8 who are huddled close to her in a show of unity in woe. The baby's skin has paled and it has rashes all over its body. It groans as it suckles at its mother's empty breast.

Chelang'at is not sure of her husband's whereabouts, after she fled with her children from their Segutiet home leaving behind a heap of ruins after bandits from the Ogiek community torched their home and drove their livestock away.

CHANGE OF CLOTHES

The family salvaged neither food nor change of clothes. Even the baby has been in the same clothes for a week now.

Rachel Ngok, a granny of 70 years, has not been spared by the misery either. She may not have children to feed, but her worries are not any less either.

A grimy jacket. Bare feet, blistered and dusty. A hackneyed scarf. All signs of hasty flight from marauding attackers as Ogiek warriors raided her home at Mesubei. She has not had a bath nor a proper meal for five days.

Another mother, 20-year-old Sharon Korir, has three children for whom she cannot provide owing to her current situation. She has never felt so helpless about her children's plight.

"My children have never gone for a day without food. Their father and I farm to provide for them. They (Ogiek) burnt our grain stores with all our maize and beans inside. Now I have to beg from strangers to feed my children, which I have never done," she says as tears flow uninhibited down her face.

SOUGHT SHELTER

For more than one week now, Tagitech Primary School has hosted more than 50 families like Korir's, who sought shelter here following clashes pitting Kipsigis farmers and their Ogiek hunter-gatherer neighbours on the fringes of Mau Forest in Njoro, Nakuru County.

From the outside, the primary school appears lifeless. But when a vehicle roars into the compound, it bursts into life, with women and children issuing forth from the classrooms and making a beeline for the assembly point. For them, visitors can only have brought them relief.

The more than 150 children surround guests with careworn looks on their faces, grinning despite the pangs of starvation gnawing at their guts, and hoping that a morsel might come from these guests.

While the children bounced about few days after arriving here, playing together in spite of the chaos back home, their energy has evidently dissipated, and all they do now is gather around their mothers in groups of despair and starvation.

RELIEF FOOD

The families came and camped here hoping that the government and other aid agencies would provide them with relief food and other necessities as is the norm during such crises.

Curiously though, no relief from either the government or other humanitarian organisations has been supplied to them.

The Nation could not immediately verify information that Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Mongo Chimwaga had barred relief agencies from supplying food to the victims.

According to the reports, Mr Chimwaga had also ordered the families to return to their homes after a shaky calm prevailed late last week.

Left without a choice but to starve, the evictees have had to rely on neighbours of the school for food. But the feeling is that even these neighbours have provided more than they possibly could.

Advertisement