Eunice is one of the women who says she participated in preparing food for the youths who took part in the post-election violence in Naivasha, harassing and hacking people to death with machetes. Many people lost their lives in Naivasha in what was thought to be a revenge mission following the burning of the Kiambaa Church in Eldoret, where dozens of people were burned alive.
I had spent the past two months trying to find Eunice for an interview. When I finally caught up with her, I asked Eunice how she got involved in cooking for the youths and why she accepted to do this. She says that she and the other women hadn’t wanted to do this.
“A team of community elders approached us for the services. We at first resisted, but they forced us to do so. We had no other option but to finally agree because they were providing our homes with security. If we refused, we thought they would withdraw their security and consider us rebellious. We feared what would happen. They supplied us with plenty of food to cook and told us that, as women, we had to do this since we could not go to fight. We had to ensure that our men were strong enough.”
She tells me that they had been given a timetable with specific times to deliver food at specific points. The youths would go there and eat their meals in shifts.
Surprisingly, her son was among the recruited youths.
“I can’t even believe that I let my son join the gang. I think I was out of my mind. My conscience was all gone, and I did not realise what I was doing, including risking my son’s life. Thank God he is still alive. I don’t know whether my son hurt anyone. He tells me he didn’t. But on behalf of my family and myself, I really repent on my knees for his acts.”
Eunice tells me that one year after the PEV, she was still plagued by nightmares.
“Because of the innocent blood that was shed, I was mentally disturbed. I experienced bad dreams of death and blood every night. I had no peace as a mother.”
Eunice tells me that despite all this, she was approached again a few months before the 2013 general elections. “We were asked to be on standby, just in case anything went wrong because our services might be needed again.” Hearing this, Eunice became afraid and started feeling guilty. She and her family ran away to their countryside. Fortunately, nothing happened, so they later returned home. But she made a decision that would change her attitude towards elections in Kenya.
“Because of what we saw and did in 2008, we can’t stick around for any election. We can’t afford the memories, the nightmares. Staying around during a poll is like leading ourselves into temptation because you never know what will happen the next minute. I will never vote in Kenya, and my family and I will always run away during elections. Kenyans think that the militia groups are dead in Kenya. But wait until things go wrong politically in the country, and you will be surprised.”
Eunice, who sells charcoal for a living, tells me that there are still many women who were used and misused, but they haven’t admitted what happened.
“To my fellow women, who have been in a compromising situation like me, please let’s think again as mothers and come to our real selves. Let’s think of progressive roles for women in society, and say no, enough is enough. No, no more.”