alexa How Uhuru can honour Kiambaa Church granny - Daily Nation

How Uhuru can honour Kiambaa Church granny

Saturday July 13 2019

Ms Elizabeth Wangui Kimunya

Ms Elizabeth Wangui Kimunya wails outside the burning Assemblies of God Church in Kiambaa, Eldoret on January 1, 2008 at the height of the post violence. This photo made her the face of the 2007-2008 post-poll chaos. Ms Kimunya died on July 6, 2019 aged 76. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

More by this Author

Elizabeth Wangui is dead at 76. But the picture of the shocked granny wailing outside a burning church, arms raised to the heavens, shall forever remain to remind us of one of the darkest moments of the 2007/2008 post-election violence.


Thirty-five innocent people, who were among those that had sought refuge from ethnic violence in the Kiambaa Assemblies of God Church in Eldoret, were burnt alive.

Elizabeth was only one of the few survivors of the fire, lit by a horde of savages purportedly protesting the results of the 2007 presidential election.

She and the others escaped after her son Philip managed to kick the door, which had been locked from outside by the attackers, open.

It would be a gross exaggeration to call her a lucky survivor.


Philip told journalists that his mother suffered depression linked to the traumatic experiences of December 31, 2007 and was in and out of hospital in the past 12 years. But she appeared to have faced life after Kiambaa Church with the same fighting spirit that had seen her walk out of the inferno.

She led her family to settle back in the village where their home had been torched during the 2007/2008 bloodletting, scoring a small but important victory against hate.

She also immersed herself in community initiatives preaching peace and reconciliation, often expressing her wish that ‘Kenyans won’t light fires gain’.


That, of course, must also be the wish of the overwhelming majority of Kenyans currently living at peace with their neighbours in different parts of the country regardless of their ethnicities.

Unfortunately, the embers of election-related ethnic violence have yet to be doused, with politicians still mobilising support along the same old fault lines.

The emerging divisions in the ruling Jubilee Party, which has had its bedrock support in two ethnic communities, have been accompanied by toxic rhetoric by competing groups claiming some political debt in the Uhuru Kenyatta succession debate, dismissing the existence of a political debt or fearing being made to pay the price of a political debt in the 2022.

The Handshake deal between President Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga has effectively made other communities seen as spoilers in some quarters in Jubilee targets of ethnic hate campaigns.

Mr Kenyatta seemed to be alluding to concerns about a surge in ethnic mobilisation and the possibility of a recurrence of violence during the 2022 elections in his last month’s speech at the Akorino Conference in Kasarani.

“By the time I’m done I will ensure that no one will ever be attacked based on ethnicity. It doesn’t matter where you live,” the President said. Elizabeth, the Kiambaa Church fire survivor, would have loved to live in a Kenya where everyone feels safe wherever. President Kenyatta will do quite some justice to his legacy by keeping his word and ensuring that his succession doesn’t bring another round of anguish to Kenyans.