Eldoret turns into a mad town
Published on January 5, 2008, 12:00 am
By Biketi Kikechi
Until recently, Eldoret was arguably one of the busiest towns after Nairobi. It was also perhaps one of the safest.
This changed as soon as the disputed presidential election results were announced. The town, a home to a large market, and Moi University and Eldoret International Airport, is deserted. Business has come to a standstill due to the post-election chaos. Several people have been killed, thousands of others displaced and property worth million of shillings destroyed. Among the dead are 10 children burned alive in a church. The once serene environment is chaotic as protesters engage police in running battles.
In a place where public transport was somewhat organised, the displaced are fighting for any automobile to hurtle out of town, mostly towards Nakuru and Nairobi. This they do under tight police escort and sometimes air surveillance.
Barely a week into the election chaos, Eldoret seems to be under unofficial curfew. A town once full of life is now almost empty. By 5pm the streets are deserted. Those who venture into the town now seem always in a hurry to leave. Everybody is worried about security. Even the traffic flow is sporadic. The heavy commercial vehicles headed for Uganda, Zaire, Rwanda, Burundi and Sudan and Public Transport Vehicles to western Kenya are rare. Protesters blockaded the roads to “demand justice”.
They have set up ‘vetting points’. In some instances, they are demanding for ID cards. “The illegal road blocks are many and are about 300m apart. The youth manning then are asking for money from motorists. This is perhaps out of sheer frustration because they have not heard from their leaders,” said Moses Tirop, an Anglican clergy.
Eldoret International Airport is bursting with human traffic. Though it is usually mainly for cargo flights, passengers have flooded the airport. Local daily flights have increased as some displaced people and others caught up in the violence seek flight to ‘safety’.
Churches and police stations have been turned into refugee camps. Thousands of women and children have sought shelter in these places.
Besides their security, they have also to worry about food and other basic necessities. Eldoret boasts some of the best boarding facilities, but these are inaccessible too. They have been closed down. With looting being one of the hallmarks of the violence, business owners have kept away. Ironically, the town is an agricultural rich area but food has become scarce and expensive. For example, a cabbage is selling at Sh150 because. Since there is little movement of goods and people, farmers have kept away also.
Despite dealing with its share of displaced persons, the town has to accommodate others from Uasin Gishu, Lugari, Bungoma and Trans Nzoia. The agony of terror, suffering, anarchy and desolation, exodus, shortage of commodities, transportation problems, insecurity, fear, lack of shelter, appalling sanitary conditions, fear of disease outbreak and shortage of food have replaced the tranquillity.
Gunfires have become the order of the day. Locals also claimed the police are impartial. This, one of the residents say, is deepening animosity between communities.
Though tension is still high, some sense of normalcy started creeping into the town yesterday. For the first time in three days, traffic between Eldoret and Kitale is flowing again, albeit slowly.