The Trail of the Serpent

Eastern Province

IDPs hounded out of resettlement Land in Ukambani “Mungiki wa rudi kwao” was the chant by one of the women  .

Rift Valley Province

Kamwaura, Kenya – “They’ve pulled up my crops again,” said Jane Wangui, a Kikuyu who still lives in a camp for fear of returning to the farm near ethnic Kalenjin she fled last year. “I can no longer trust them.”Her feet blackened by the soil, Jane, 60, rests after a morning on her “shamba” (farm), a 90-minute walk from the “transit” camp at Kamwaura in the fertile Molo region. Here 65 people sleep in tents and work their land during the day.A year-and-a-half after post-election violence brought bloodshed to Kenya, during which members of the Kalenjin ethnic group attacked the Kikuyu tribe of President Mwai Kibaki, several thousand displaced people have still not returned home.

“I just came back from my farm. Today, I found that they have again uprooted my potatoes,” she said. “Since February, I’ve been going to my farm on a daily basis. We can’t stock any harvest, it’s been stolen.”I’m very careful not to stay too late in my shamba. I don’t know what can happen when it’s dark.”

“I can’t trust these people (Kalenjin) any more. They told us they had no problem with us, and a few months later they were killing us.

“Life is miserable here. Before I had wealth accumulated and today I have nothing to eat,” said Jane, who survives on one meal a day.Spurred by economic reasons and encouraged by the government, a number of Kikuyu families began migrating in the 1960s from their traditional central provinces to the Rift Valley, the “ancestral home” of the Kalenjin.Land here is an explosive issue due to unbalanced distribution and population pressures in a poor, mainly agricultural country.Lucy Muthoni, 48, says she doesn’t understand why her neighbours continue to rip up her plants.

“They even told me there was no point in planting maize, since I might no longer have access to my land at harvest time,” she said.”Personally, I don’t think we can ever heal the rift between us and the Kalenjin. They betrayed us.”Like other displaced people who believe the government has not tightened security enough, Lucy does not want to claim compensation and buy a plot of land at Kamwaura. She wants to continue to run her farm.

At Rai farm, in the Eldoret region, one of the worst hit by the violence in the Rift Valley, huge areas of agricultural land have been turned to dust by a long-running drought.Njunguna Gachui has built a flimsy house with bits of wood for windows and a plastic tarpaulin for a roof.”I had 60 sheep, some cows. At the age of 70 I have to begin a new life,” he said. “My children’s future has been destroyed because I lost my property.” His daughter, Catherine Njoki, said the government had offered little in the way of assistance.”They promised they would build a house for us but they never delivered on their promises.”It will be very hard to reconcile fully with the neighbours. It will take a long time for the trust to come back. Everyday you can see what has been destroyed.”

Relations are strained with one neighbour in particular, a former Kenyan athlete whom, they allege, gave petrol to youths to burn down their house so he could get their land. Benjamin Ngaruiya, one of the displaced people at Rai farm, said the 10 000 shillings (about R1 000) he received is not enough to build a decent home and buy fertiliser to begin farming again.Only his father and mother have been resettled in a simple house on their plot of land that was devastated during the violence.

The government likes to point out that all the big camps created at the time of the violence have now been closed.One local official even told  the AFP the displaced people were trying to benefit by holding out for better land.

Ngaruiya denied the claim. “These officials from the government are only touring towns,” he said. “They never come inside the rural zones. They ignore us.”His father Michael Nyanga Njeru recalls the days when there were four homes on his property. All have been reduced to rubble. Still he remains defiant.”I’m not going to leave this land, because it’s my property. We bought it legally. I’m not going anywhere else. I will be buried here.”

6 thoughts on “The Trail of the Serpent

  1. For sure, the seed of ethnic hatred has been planted in Kenya and it will take a long time to uproot. That said, the government should have ascertained the status of that land before taking the IDPs there.

  2. Whoa! That’s a tough one.

    Sadly, I think that even if there was no contestation around the land, or even if the relocation were better timed (i.e. to occur when the wakamba were not starving as much), the response to Kikuyu IDPs would still be the same. There seems to be very little good will for Kikuyu in Kenya.

    The US ambassador had promised that some IDPs would be settled in the US.

  3. Hadassah,

    Its very sad indeed, I agree even with the land being in dispute the use of terminologies like mungiki wa rudi kwao and the way the whole thing went down is really sad and it speaks volumes .If a kamba can talk like that I dont know who can talk about alliances , I have even heard some other close neighbors also in eastern province talk smark about Kikuyus. It should be an eye opener for those who have eyes but can not see .

    It is foolish to wait on false hope and fake alliances with people who will turn on you at first sight if need be .

  4. Who made the following politicians from nothing into something:

    – Uhuru Kenyatta (MOI protege. Doesnt care about IDPs)
    – William Ruto (served MOI for 10 yrs, Kanu youth winger responsible for evicitions of kikuyus in 1990s)
    – Kalonzo Musyoka (served MOI for 24 yrs)
    – Mutula Kilonzo (lawyer for MOI for 15 years)
    – Saitoti (served MOI for 14yrs as zipped VP)
    – Awori (served MOI for 24yrs as Assistant and Min)
    – Kosgey (MOI minister who destroyed banks)
    – Zak Cheruiyot (MOI army man who destoryed Kikuyus)
    – Nick Salat (MOI protege who destoryed Kiuk bizness)
    – Isaac Ruto (MOI protege as youth winger for clashes)
    – K. Kones (was MOI minister lording over Kiuks in RV)

    MOI’sm and NYAYOism is in this people.

    That is why Ukambani residents can have the AUDACITY to bad mouth Kikuyus and call our suffering people Mungikis.

    No more being cheated into fake alliances.

    I always knew KAMBAS can never ever be trusted.

    Dont forget they wiped MOI’s ass for 24 yrs.

    And you think change will come from stupid

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