Jobless and penniless at a police station
Published on February 6, 2008, 12:00 am
By Amos Kareithi
Limuru’s Tigoni Police Station is more than 50 years old, but it has never received as many visitors as it has now.
Every minute, guests under police guard stream to the station compound. Ordinarily, Mr Daniel Ateya, 55, would not dream of lodging at Tigoni Police Station in Limuru.
|Peter Otieno (with hands on the head) and other victims of displacement camping at the Tigoni Police Station, Limuru, on Tuesday. They fled their homes for fear of attack following post-election violence.|
For the 17 years he has been in the town, not once has Ateya set foot at the station, either as a complainant or a suspect. He has always associated the place with criminals and other social misfits. But now, he and his three children crawl into the bowels of a mangled wreckage of a van at the station that has become their home.“If I move out, I might be killed. I fear for my life. I am not willing to go back to my place of work at Tropi Flora,” says Ateya who has worked on the farm for 12 years.
He adds: “The nights are cold and very long. We have no bedding and the temperatures are freezing. You know how cold Tigoni and Limuru can get.”
As the man explains how he escaped from his house after 30 youths stormed it, a small boy watches him keenly. Peter Otieno, for that is the ten-year-old boy’s name, slithers in and out of a wrecked vehicle as he plays hide and seek with his playmates.
To him, Tigoni has become home far away from Ruaka, where until last December, he had learnt to love. “A group of people came to our home and forced us to move out. They told us that they would cut us up with pangas if we resisted. That is why we are here,” says Otieno.
The boy, like the other people at the police station’s junkyard for car wrecks and salvaged mangles, are prisoners of fear.
According to the coordinator, Mr Nathaniel Nyoike, the camp was opened on January 6 following the post-election violence.
“At first, there were only 500 people. Right now, we have registered 6,200. More are coming in daily,” Nyoike adds.
At frequent intervals, the police escort a lorry full of people and their belongings into the compound, which is now bursting at the seams.
Overcrowding at the police station is a major concern to Ms Alice Bakar, an official of the United Nation High Commission for Refugees,.
“This place is overcrowded. There is no shelter or appropriate bedding and accommodation. The children, too, are exposed to the elements. This exposes them to respiratory diseases,” said Bakar.
Although some organisations have donated mobile toilets and tents to ease the congestion at the camp, the situation is far from ideal. Mr Joshua Onyango, who is at the station, says: “We have one block of toilet which has six cubicles. They are not enough. It is not easy being a refugee.”
Onyango, who is supposed to be at Egerton University, was trapped in the crisis. He had visited relatives last December.
Besides organising the displaced so that there is order in the camp, Onyango is a source of news. Pressed between a rock and a hard place, the residents wish they could be moved from the police station to their ancestral homes. Ms Rose Ogutu laments: “I am sick and tired of this place. I would not mind going without food for a day or two if I was assured that I would go to Kisumu.”
She is an employee at Tropi Flower, but she is now sick, homeless and penniless. Like Ateya and hundreds of other casual labourers who have worked in the tea and flower estates in Limuru, she is now jobless.
“The companies do not want us in their farms. They have been threatened with dire consequences should we be found there. That is why they have sent us on leave,” Ateya explains. But some companies are not too eager to forgo the workforce even in the face of threats. Ms Josphine Anyango discloses: “Some have been sending lorries in the morning to collect workers. They ferry them to the farms and return them in the evening.”