AFTER spending the past four months in a tent in a camp for the homeless, Mary Wambui, a Kenyan mother of five, jumped at the chance to return home. “Life here is so miserable. We live in the same tent with our children; you literally have to jump over each other, to get in, “she told the BBC.
“Look around; there are no toilets, bathrooms or anything else. It’s been unbearable.” She and her family were among the first to take advantage of the government’s programme to resettle the 140,000 people still displaced by the violence following last December’s elections.
But others in the camp in Molo are not convinced that the inauguration of a power-sharing government last month really means the violence is over.” We are not livestock to be taken back to the slaughter,” one old man said. “Yes we want to go back home but we want to go and stay. So let the government first facilitate meaningful peace talks and then we can be comfortable to return.”
Some say that while the politicians have agreed to share jobs – and power – some of the underlying issues such as land disputes and poverty have not been tackled. Mrs. Wambui is from the Kikuyu community of President Mwai Kibaki. On New Year’s Day, a band of youths, armed with arrows, clubs and machetes attacked her home and razed it to the ground. They also raided her storehouses and made away with her food stocks. Other Kikuyus living in the area were also targeted.
The attackers were from the rival Kalenjin group, who insist that the entire Rift Valley province is their ancestral home and that other Kenyans are “outsiders”. Mrs. Wambui was fortunate to have survived with her entire family. When the buses and military trucks provided by the government arrived, she was one of the first people to get on board.
“This is like a miracle, I feel like I have been released from prison,” she told me cheerfully. But that does not mean she is convinced of a warm welcome when she returns to her farm just 15km from the camp in central Molo. She says she is very scared of her neighbours who attacked her and chased her from her home.
And others in the camp are so apprehensive that they are not ready to return. “I will accept to go back home only if the government provides security for us – if we go back alone, we fear might again be attacked by the same people who forced us to leave,” said Joseph Mureithi, a father of two displaced from Muchoroini in Rift Valley.