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Justice Lacking for Victims of Kenya’s Post-Election Violence

As Election Nears, Victims Demand Reparations and Justice

Wairimu V., 65, was raped by a group of men at an IDP camp. Her husband blames her for the rape, and beats and verbally abuses her including in the presence of their children. She would like to leave her abusive husband but is worried that she will not be able to support herself. She has such severe pain in her leg, lower abdomen and back that she has to take pain killers daily; she also has vaginal bleeding and hypertension. Many sexual violence survivors are still in urgent need of medical treatment and psycho-social support.  © 2015 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

Wamuyu told me how she was brutally gang-raped by three men in Busia, western Kenya, during the violence that engulfed Kenya following the disputed presidential election in December 2007. Her husband was murdered in the violence, she says, and her home destroyed. Wamuyu described the physical impact of the rape to me: “My uterus [had to be] removed. My back was damaged, my legs were broken, and I had to walk with crutches for almost three years.”

When I interviewed her in 2014, she still walked with the aid of a stick and could not do any hard work. She was hungry and had no money to treat the hypertension and ulcers she says developed as a result of stress from the rape. As far as she knew, no real investigation of the crimes committed against her and her family had been conducted and no-one had been held accountable.

Wamuyu’s story is not unique: almost all the women I interviewed who had been raped during the 2007-2008 political violence had similar tales to tell.

More than two years ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the establishment of a fund of 10 billion Kenyan Shillings to help victims of past injustices, including victims of the 2007 political violence. To date, the government has not developed a plan of how the fund would be implemented, and victims have still not received financial assistance, medical care, or counselling.

Parliament still hasn’t adopted the report of the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) established by Kenya to help heal historical grievances dating from well before the 2007 election violence. The report also proposes reparations for victims.

Despite these setbacks, victims like Wamuyu have refused to give up their struggle for justice. Today, just a month before Kenya heads to the polls again, close to a hundred survivors, together with representatives of civil society groups, are meeting in Nairobi to press for the implementation of the TJRC report. They are demanding a response from political parties and candidates on how they will take forward the issue of reparations if elected. Their message is clear: Kenya cannot truly move forward without justice for victims, including the payment of reparations. All Kenyans should stand in solidarity with them. 

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