In a candid interview with Fergal Gaynor the common legal representative for victims in Kenya case 2 at the ICC, the revelation of the truth behind the much publicized “compensation” of PEV victims left me agape with shock. 6 years later, Of the 660,000 IDPs recognized by the government of Kenya, majority have received absolutely nothing in the form of assistance or aid from the government.
It’s revealing of how effective the government propaganda machinery has been in silencing and erasing the existence of the majority of victims from all ethnic backgrounds. Only a handful received the 10,000kshs given as a token to resettle, and a few more received just a 2kg tin of maize, while the greater majority has seen no form of assistance of any kind.
To add insult to injury, the manner in which the recent dishing out of 400,000kshs to IDPs is perceived by most victims as ethnically biased. To the majority of Kenyans, the narrative that most IDPs have now been resettled and compensated has become common belief. But the reality is that those paid 400,000kshs were in fact only SOME IDPs from the PEV and SOME Mau evictees. What’s worse, the government does not recognize a further 300,000 IDPs who were not living within camps.
Fergal Gaynor took the chance to speak of the concerns of the victims in general. “When it comes to a question of ‘is the government co-operating in their obligation towards them’ the victims are looking at it from the perspective of government assistance to them. A large majority of the victims I spoke to believe that assistance has not been provided in an ethnically neutral fashion. Specifically they believe that it has been provided in a somewhat more favorable way to some victims from the Kikuyu community. They perceive it that way because they believe that the government is controlled by people who are sympathetic to victims from the kikuyu community. What they insist should happen is that ALL victims should get adequate assistance regardless of ethnicity because we all very well know that very many Kikuyu victims have also received nothing.”
To understand the magnitude of the absolute refusal to provide assistance, one must compare what the government has done in response to the humanitarian needs of the victims verses the concerns of the suspects thus far.
“How are the victims expected to react in the face of a government expending huge resources on behalf of the suspects in the face of a criminal trial while at the same time providing absolutely no assistance to victims of the Post Election Violence (PEV)?” asks Mr. Gaynor.
I don’t know how any Kenyan can respond to such a question. The reports on atrocities committed during the PEV in 2008 include cases of thousands of rape victims, forcible circumcisions done in public with machetes, knives and broken glass, decapitations, forcible transfers, beatings and arson. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of Kenyans from various ethnic backgrounds are still affected by the PEV, because their relatives or people they knew were killed, raped, or displaced during that period.
In a situation where so many people from so many different ethnicities in cities and towns across the country are affected, isn’t it time that we as citizens demand that our government become accountable for the lives of our fellow citizens?
The horror behind the testimonies of victims is palpable. “One of the victims I represent narrates how she was gang raped b 4 men, doused with paraffin and set alight. She managed to be rescued and survived, but you can imagine the nature of the psychological trauma she lives with as do many others,” says Fergal Gaynor.
Indeed, sexual and gender based violence played a very central role during the PEV. Although we do not have reliable numbers of how many victims were raped, because some women did not seek help at hospitals, we do believe that the numbers run into thousands. It’s completely immoral that this government has given no assistance whatsoever to victims of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV).
Even as we berate the government for not doing something to alleviate the suffering of our fellow citizens, it’s time for us as nation to reflect on our own role and complicity in erasing the suffering and existence of these victims. We have spent the greater part of the last 6 years bickering along tribal and ethnic lines, forgetting that we have suffered casualties on all sides and that we share equally the burden to remember those who suffer amongst us.
We were told by politicians that the victims have moved on, indeed one memorable quote even suggested that some are better off now than they were before, having received some money and some land. Only a vicious hyena can suggest that seeing family members being beheaded, being gang raped and set on fire, living in a tent for years and receiving a piece of land with pocket change could leave one better off. It’s time we acknowledged that the suffering of the victims of PEV to date is a stain on all our conscience and a matter that affects all of us; a fact that we cannot erase.