* Nothing can compensate Ruth Njeri for the suffering she underwent during the post-election violence, but she hopes that ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo’s visit to Kenya last week will ensure that those behind the bloodshed are punished.
Even before International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo came to Kenya last week, displaced people had been pleading with the government to increase the promised compensation sum.
But for people like Ruth Njeri, monetary compensation is not enough. Njeri, who lives in Shalom City Mawingu, a camp for displaced people near Nyandarua, was raped and her husband brutally killed during the post-election violence. The painful memories haunt her as she worries about providing for her two young children.
“We want to see justice being done,” she says, “As far as we are concerned, the future of this country lies in Ocampo’s hands and we want him to know that thousands of people are looking to him for justice and also to ensure that this country does not have a similar experience such as the one that stole our loved ones and our livelihoods!”
Talk of the violence evokes gruesome memories for Njeri as politicians worry about the fate of those who masterminded the post-election violence.
“What happened cannot be wiped from my mind, and life has been hell for me,” says Njeri quietly. “When we gather in the camp to discuss the issue, our main hope is that Ocampo will not allow politicians to convince him to let them off. We want him to conduct investigations so that the individuals involved can be charged and tried at The Hague, not in Kenya, because we have no confidence in the government.”
Before all hell broke loose in January 2008, Ruth was living in Kericho with her husband and eight-month-old son, Douglas. Her husband owned a thriving shoe business and provided well for the family.
“That evening, my husband heard about the looting going on in town and decided to go and check whether his shop had also been broken into,” she recalls.
“I had prepared the evening meal and decided to do the laundry as I waited for him. When he came back, he was very shaken. He told me that the shop had been looted, but I told him that since it was happening all around, we should not worry too much because after things calmed down, we would work hard to regain what we had lost.”
Njeri’s husband then went on to reveal that he had received a phone call from a friend in Londiani, where his parents lived.
“He said he had been told that both his parents had been killed and buried in a mass grave,” she says, “I could see that even as he spoke, he didn’t believe what he was saying. He also told me that he had seen hundreds of youths wearing white T-shirts and red shorts being brought to the town in a lorry. When the phone rang again, I answered it, and what he had told me was confirmed. We were advised to go into hiding as soon as possible to save our lives.”
Still in a daze, Njeri left her husband watching the evening news while holding their son and went outside to hang the washing. Out of nowhere, an arrow landed next to her foot and then she heard a strange sound. She looked up to see the low walls of the compound surrounded by painted faces.
“They were howling like dogs and were dressed in white T-shirts and red shorts,” she recalls. “I stood rooted to the ground with fear, knowing that these were the men my husband had referred to earlier. About seven of the men entered the compound and began kicking and pushing me into the house while the rest went away.”
Once inside the house, they took the little boy from Njeri’s husband and flung him against the wall. They then attacked her husband. “They were prepared and well-armed,” recalls Njeri. “They had machetes, rungus, arrows and whips. I cried for mercy, then pleaded, but they would not listen. I ran to the bedroom and got them Sh40,000. I begged them to take the money and leave us but they just laughed.
"One of them snatched the money from me, smelt it and threw it in my face. He reached into his pockets and pulled out many Sh1,000 notes, ‘We don’t need your money, we have been paid well to do our job,’” he said.