UAF-Africa, Rural Women Peace Link and Nairobi Women’s Hospital are lobbying for services for women and children in Mt Elgon, who have been physically and psychologically traumatised by militia conflict in the region.
KENYAN WOMEN AND CHILDREN BEAR THE BRUNT OF THE MT ELGON CONFLICT
URGENT ACTION FUND-AFRICA
It has been slightly over a year, and the guns have been silent in the Mt Elgon region of Western Kenya, but the trauma remains etched in the minds and bodies of the women from this region. What started as a conflict between the Sabaot and the Dorobo sub-clans over land, spiraled out of control in 2006. Women and children were trapped in between.
Every once a week, Tuesdays to be precise, the armed militia would emerge from their caves in the forest and strike terror in the hearts of the men, women and children. They spared no one. Not even women as old as their grandmothers. They raped them in the presence of their husbands and grandchildren. The husbands who resisted were killed. And for two years the women of Mt Elgon suffered in silence. Those who dared to speak out had their ears and lips chopped off, those who dared to seek medical attention in hospitals after the sexual violence would be attacked the same night. The militia had succeeded in intimidating the civilians into silence.
The women of this region were pushed to the limit of human capacity. The militias were coming to them at night and demanding food, money, their husbands and even their sons. When the women didn’t comply their houses would be burned, their food stores destroyed and livestock stolen. They would not let them continue to work on their farms. Their husbands would be maimed. Their limbs broken and sometimes, killed.
With the arrival of the Kenya Army in March 2008, the villagers saw a glimmer of hope, but it was short lived. It lasted only three days. In Cheptais division which was the flashpoint of the violence, the military arrested every male from the age of 15 to 80 – every single one of them. They were transported Kapkota Military camp for “scanning” (interrogation and torture). The torture they endured as the military forced information out of them has been untold and it shows on the faces of those who survived. While some came back with severe injuries, others did not. One year on, their wives and children have been waiting in vain for their return. Their stories made our hearts bleed. Most of the children witnessed their own mothers being raped and their fathers murdered. They have since been struggling with this trauma.
Urgent Action Fund-Africa, in partnership with the Rural Women Peace Link a network of Community Based Organizations based in Mt Elgon and the Nairobi Women’s Hospital, carried out a medical camp for three days in Eldoret. 52 women were offered psycho-social counseling, gynaecological and general medical treatment and Voluntary Counseling and Testing for HIV.
Some of the women discovered during the camp that they had contracted the HIV virus as a result of rape.
Two doctors from Nairobi Women’s Hospital, Dr Caroline Mwangi and Omondi Wasunna led a team of nine (counselors, lab technicians and pharmacists) who came to help the women begin to reconstruct their shattered lives.
We saw a woman who has been walking around with her uterus hanging between her legs. She was attacked while in the process of delivering a baby at home. When the SLDF kicked the door, she got frightened and pushed the baby out suddenly. It came out with the uterus. Said Dr Wasunna.
‘If ever have more money I must give to local philanthropy. These women need our help.'
There is still a lot to be done as the women who were treated were only a drop in the ocean of the post-conflict challenges that women from this region experienced.
UAF-Africa, Rural Women Peace Link and Nairobi Women’s Hospital will continue to lobby for more services for these women. But today, we feel happy that our collaborative efforts have brought a smile to the woman’s face.
Urgent Action Fund-Africa
CVS Plaza, 2nd Floor,
Kasuku Road, off Lenana Rd,
P.O Box 53841-0200