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Nancy Wanjiru: "Violence more out of jealousy than tribalism" (audio)

Nancy Wanjiru, 32, has lived in Nairobi's Mathare slum area since birth.
(Julius Mwelu/IRIN)

Nancy Wanjiru, 32, has lived in Nairobi's Mathare slum area since birth. She believes the recent post-election violence in parts of the city, which resulted in the displacement of herself, her husband and four children, was more to do with economic inequalities than ethnic considerations because among her attackers were members of her own Kikuyu community. She spoke to IRIN on 27 February at the Huruma Chief's camp near Mathare, where about 550 people have sought refuge and are now living as internally displaced persons (IDPs):

"When the violence started, a group of people came to our house in Mathare and attacked us. They slashed my husband using pangas and hit him with hammers and threw him into the nearby river when they thought he was dead. Although these people were mostly Luos, there were some Kikuyus among them, so I can't say the attack was tribal.

"After my husband was fished out of the river, the event was even captured on national television, I was one of those who took him to Kenyatta National Hospital; it was while we were in hospital that I learnt that our house and shop had been looted and destroyed.

"I therefore returned from hospital and headed for the Kenya Air Force compound not far from Mathare where many other displaced people had fled. There I was welcomed by a Luhya lady known as Damaris, who had been my neighbour. She made room for me; she had a mattress while I had nothing.

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"We were moved from the Air Force to this chief's camp on 26 January and we have since been sharing a single tent among so many people; in my tent we are 13, together with my children and husband. All my four sisters are also with me in this camp. My brother, who became paralysed following an attack by the Mungiki [outlawed quasi-religious militia group], lives in Kiambu.

"I have not been able to sleep well since the violence hit us on 3 January. I keep asking myself, why has all this befallen me? I am an orphan, the Mungiki beheaded my father in 2006, in fact we buried his body without the head, and my mother was shot dead, also by the Mungiki. Now my husband is also handicapped due to the injuries he suffered; I have to take care of him and my children. I need a deposit of Sh6,000 [US$90] for him to be admitted to Kenyatta [Hospital] to undergo head surgery. What will I do? Even if I raised this money, where will I get the balance of a similar amount? Where will I start? I don't have any business I can do, I don't have any capital with which to start any income-generating activity, what will I do?

"My third-born, Elizabeth, always asks me: 'Mummy, why am I not going to school?' I have no answer. She asks: 'Why do we eat ugali [maize meal] all the time, why can't we eat something different?' I just look at her, I don't know how to tell her I have no money, nothing. All my children are now out of school and this last one [a three-year-old boy] is asthmatic, yet we sleep in the cold sometimes.

"If our leaders were to ask me, I would say, 'reach an agreement soon'. We are the ones suffering, it does not matter whether one is Kikuyu, Luo, Kamba or Luhya - when you are displaced, you are all suffering. The children of our leaders are not suffering so why should we continue fearing or hating each other?"


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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