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Kiambaa church attack victims still cry for justice 11 years on

Sunday July 21 2019

Residents of Kiambaa in Eldoret

Some of the residents of Kiambaa in Eldoret speak to journalists on July 19, 2019. They said they are yet to forget the chilling memories of the morning of January 1, 2008 when 28 people were burnt to death at the Assemblies of God Church Kiambaa at the height of the 2007-2008 post-election violence. PHOTO | WYCLIFF KIPSANG | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

WYCLIFF KIPSANG
By WYCLIFF KIPSANG
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Residents of Kiambaa in Uasin Gishu County are yet to forget the chilling memories of the morning of January 1, 2008 when 28 people were burnt to death at the Assemblies of God Church Kiambaa.

This was at the height of the 2007-2008 post-election violence.

When the Nation team visited the area 11 years later, the residents said the memories of the fateful day are still fresh in their minds and called Kenyans to co-exist peacefully.

We found Rebecca Wanjiru, who lost her husband Samuel Kiungu, tending to her maize farm.

SCARS

“We are yet to recover from the scars of the incident. We are surprised to hear some politicians making reckless statements. During such problems, women and children suffer the most,” said Ms Wanjiru.

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The post-election violence victims complained that despite the agony they underwent, they are yet to be compensated or get any counselling from the government.

“We’ve been left on our own as politicians whom we voted for go around the country making reckless statements,” said Veronica Wangui who was among IDPs who were forced to flee to Uganda at the height of the violence.

Ms Elizabeth Kimunya wails outside the burning
Ms Elizabeth Kimunya wails outside the burning Assemblies of God Church in Kiambaa, Eldoret on January 1, 2008 at the height of the post-election violence. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

TRAUMATISED

Her nine-year-old grandson was hacked to death.

“Politicians should learn to accept outcome of elections. We are still traumatised to date for losing our loved ones,” added Ms Wangui.

Perhaps what captured the nation’s attention during the church attack was the image of Elizabeth Wangui Kimunya.

She died two weeks ago at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in what was described by doctors as tumours in her stomach and depression.

IMAGE OF ATTACK

Ms Kimunya became the image of the post-election violence after a photo of her pleading for mercy with her hands held up with one shoe in hand after the attack went viral.

According to residents who spoke to the Nation, the dark day of January 1, 2008 changed Ms Kimunya life forever.

“She became totally depressed since the fire incident and she had not been her-self since then. She had been depending on her relatives for everything since then and had been suffering from nightmares since the fire incident,” said Ms Wangui.

Eleven years after the attack, there is no activity at the Kiambaa church which is now a thicket with graves of the fire victims in the compound being the only dark reminder of the dark day.

RESETTLEMENT

The government set aside Sh6 billion for the resettlement of over 90,000 integrated internally displaced persons (IDPs).

In 2016, the government announced that all IDP camps opened after the 2007 post-election violence had been closed.

Rift Valley was the hot spot of the chaos which left more than 1,133 people dead and more than 600,000 displaced from their homes.

28 KILLED

Perhaps the worst single incident was the Kiambaa church attack where 28 people, mostly women and children who had sought refuge, were burnt to death.

Immediately after the incident, another attack which was seen as retaliatory was unleashed on ODM supporters in Naivasha which resulted to the deaths of over 40 people.

Kenya’s failure to set up a local tribunal to try the perpetrators of the blood-letting saw the International Criminal Court take up the case.

In 2009, former President Mwai Kibaki ordered the resettlement of all genuine IDPs.

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