Kenya IDPs: Rosemary Kuria: “These children belong here, where else can I take them?”
ELDORET, 28 April 2008 (IRIN) – Rosemary Kuria, 40, has managed to remain cheerful and energetic, despite camping with at least 14,000 other internally displaced persons (IDPs) at the showground in Eldoret, in Kenya’s Rift Valley Province. Kuria, a mother of three girls, is optimistic that the country’s leadership will soon find a solution to the hundreds of thousands of IDPs who fled their homes in January and February following violence sparked by disputed presidential elections.
Despite the fact that Kuria is Kikuyu, an ethnic group considered to have its ancestral roots in Central Province, she knows no home apart from the Rift Valley as her parents had settled in Cherangany, in the Rift Valley, when she was born. She spoke to IRIN on 24 April outside her tent:
“Being cheerful and optimistic is what keeps me going at this camp because if I think about how life was before displacement, I would not be able to go on.
“Being displaced is especially sad for me because all my roots are in this province; my parents live near Kitale [town] and, although I am single, the father of my children is a Marakwet [one of the Kalenjin ethnic groups dominant in Rift Valley]. Even if I was to go to Central [Province] would my children belong there? They have Kalenjin names; they belong here, where else can I take them? The man abandoned me as soon as tension increased a few months before the general elections. I hear he is now living among his people. I cannot even go looking for him to seek his help in raising the children because I dare not venture outside the showground on my own
“I came to this camp when my youngest daughter didn’t even know how to take porridge; now, nearing six months old, she is thriving on the soya blend we receive. My first-born is a Form I student at a provincial secondary school, she is due to begin the second term in less than two weeks yet I’m still displaced. Where will I find the money to send her back to school?
“Looking back, I can say we really did not understand what groups of Kalenjin youths meant when they told us we’d go ‘Othaya Express’. I now realise they meant that we, the Kikuyus, would have to leave Rift Valley and head for Othaya [in Central Province, also home to President Mwai Kibaki].
“When the violence broke out, I hurriedly left my rental house with my little girl and only a paper bag containing baby clothes. I didn’t have time to get some clothes for myself or my other daughters, who later joined me at a Catholic church in Langas [a slum in Eldoret town] where we first sought refuge.
“Life as an IDP has been hard for me and my children. Previously, I rarely fell ill, but in just two months I have caught pneumonia and have colds all the time. My daughters too have caught pneumonia but we have all received treatment since arriving at the IDP camp.
“With the visit [on 24 April] of President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to Rift Valley in general, and our camp in particular, I have hope that our displacement will soon be a thing of the past. When Kibaki saw one of the tents in this camp – it didn’t have a ground sheeting or mattresses – he almost shed tears. This makes me think that he now appreciates the suffering we are going through. When he addressed us, he promised that our problems would be sorted out as soon as possible. Even the prime minister saw the deplorable conditions we live in.
“I would like to leave this camp and go back to my home but what am I going back to? I have no money, all my property was burned before the house I rented for Ksh1,200 [US$19] a month was burned. We have been told that the first to be compensated would be IDPs who owned property; they have even filled in the forms, but what about us? We have been told we’ll get forms to fill in for the household goods that we lost but this has yet to happen. We are now about three months in the IDP camps – will the authorities really address our plight?
“I would like to be helped to rent another house in Langas and, hopefully, be able to resume my job as a fuel pump assistant at a petrol station because staying here is not a solution.”