Naivasha’s displaced persons nightmare
Published on February 3, 2008, 12:00 am
By Antony Gitonga
Every hour marks an inflow of displaced persons in Naivasha, where more than 7,000 people are staying.
The Naivasha Police Station and the prison grounds host victims of post election skirmishes.
With more than 40 people dead and thousands injured, the camps are the only sanctuary for the victims in this dusty town.
Biting cold, hunger, thirst, dirt and cry of children is the order of the day as life becomes unbearable.
Due to inadequate sanitary facilities, especially at the police station, a heavy stench hangs in the air as newcomers quickly get accustomed to the environment.
Beddings, seats, clothes and cooking utensils are stacked all over. There is no luxury of ambience.
And in the prison’s grounds, the chapel is packed to capacity. Here, the pulpit acts as the cooking point.
Pews have been turned into beds.
Phone booths outside the prison canteen are now acting as shelters to those who cannot get space inside the church.
Though camping in what are considered security zones, law and order is almost non-existent.
Personal effects disappear everyday and even the security personnel seem helpless. Fears are rife that it could get worse and cause fights within the camps.
With security officers overstretched as they try to bring calm in the town, the victims seem to be on ‘their own’ in these camps.
“Nightfall is the worst time for us. We are in the open and cannot tell if there’s going to be an attack like it happened some days back,” says Ms Janet Awino.
She says gunshots are usually heard at night. What worries her is the effect this might have on the children.
“We are camping so close to where the attackers reside and we fear that they might come back,” says Awino.
In one of the incidents, more than 30 people were injured when word went round that the attackers were back.
One of the victims, Mr Joel Odoyo, said it happened around 12am when people in the camp were just getting to sleep despite the biting cold.
“We are afraid and the Government should move fast and transport us back to our rural homes or to a safer camp. Our lives are in danger here,” says Ms Judy Korir.
A similar incident occurred at the sprawling Karagita estate where police had to act as barrier between the attackers and the victims.
With darkness approaching, the attackers started hurling stones at the victims who had taken refuge at Lake Naivasha Country Club.
This continued till morning. They had to be ferried to the police station under heavy security.
At the Naivasha Prison grounds, security is better as the facility is fenced. Warders ensure tight security throughout day and night.
According to Naivasha DC, Mr Katee Mwanza, the victims are in safe hands.
“Though our officers are patrolling various parts of the town, I can guarantee security for the victims,” he assures.
He admits that trauma following the attacks could be the cause of fear.
While security from outside may be guaranteed, the issue of safety within is cause for concern.
Top on the list is the possibility of women and children being sexually abused.
According to Ms Rahab Wairuri from the Naivasha Disadvantaged Support Group (NADISGO), though there are no reports of such cases so far, they are not taking chances.
She adds that cases of sexual abuse have been reported in other camps and they want to keep vigil to ensure it does not occur in Naivasha.
Her sentiments are echoed by Sister Florence Muia from Mji Wa Upendo. She says counselling sessions are already on.
Even as relative calm slowly returns to the dusty town, conditions in the camps continue to deteriorate.
There is fear of an outbreak of communicable diseases.
At the police station, women are concerned about their hygiene and that of the children.
The victims say people are starving as food brought in by Red Cross is not adequate.
He appeals for more rations and water, especially for the women and children.
Almost all the displaced persons are urging that they be transported back to their rural homes as soon as possible.
Some as rest are not as enthusiastic about the idea. They say Naivasha is the home they have known.