By David Njagi
Gladys Nanjala Obabi is pleased with the growing calls for a peaceful General Election in August this year. S
he would like the message to be taken a step further.
Obabi is a survivor of sexual violence that rocked the country during the 2007/08 Post Election Violence (PEV). But justice has never been served for the suffering she and her family have gone through.
“It all started at my business premises in Chwele, Bungoma County,” recalls the mother of four. “A group of men forced their way into my shop and started taking my stock. I protested and screamed for help. They raped me.”
Sympathizers found her lying on the floor of her shop half dead. The assailants had stolen all her stock after beating her and knocking off her teeth, she says.
“I suffered a serious back injury. I could not get treatment because the hospitals were not working,” she says, adding that the Sabaot Land Defence Forces (SLDF) had threatened to kill any medic found treating survivors of the violence.
Her woes would not end there. When sympathizers took her home, she found the SLDF assailants had raided it and killed her husband.
“They even raped my eldest daughter,” says Obabi. “She got pregnant and now she has to raise a child without a father.”
After weighing the situation, Obabi was forced to move with her family to Silisia to start a new life.
But life became even more difficult there. She was jobless. Even for the lighter jobs she was offered like weeding in a farm, she could not sustain them for long because her back injury still affected her output.
“After doing a little work, I could not sleep at night. My whole body would be in pain,” she says, adding that she was reduced to begging.
Over the years, she started getting sick. When her cousin took her to hospital in 2012, she was diagnosed with HIV.
Obabi says there is nothing she can do about the assailants. But her greatest rage is with the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC).
According to her, TJRC has failed in its search for justice for survivors of sexual violence during the 2007/08 PEV.
“They (TJRC) are jokers,” she says. “They have summoned us many times to give our testimonies but nothing has been done about it. We are still suffering.”
When TJRC reached out to survivors in 2008, she says, they convinced her and others that they were collecting evidence so that they could seek compensation and restitution for the affected families.
“TJRC has wasted us because it has not fulfilled any of its promises yet we used our time to give testimonials,” she says. “I wish they could have left us to form a movement of survivors in Kenya seeking justice.”
The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) acknowledges the state has abandoned survivors of the 2007/08 poll violence.
According to ICTJ official, Christopher Gitari, the government does not want to admit this group of Kenyans exists.
Yet, the government promised that it ‘will not rest’ until every PEV survivor has been compensated, argues a statement by the survivors of sexual violence in Kenya issued in June this year, calling for a peaceful election.
“Victims of sexual violence are neglected and ignored by the government,” argues Gitari. “Even the communities where they come from have abandoned them.”
In the statement, the group is calling on the government to operationalize the Ksh. 10 billion Restorative Justice Fund, to ensure survivors of past human rights violations are offered redress, including those who have suffered sexual violence.
It also wants the government to issue a code of conduct guiding security operations and deployments during the polls, and publicly declare security agents will desist from violating civilians.
“It is ironical that survivors of poll violence are victimized by the government yet perpetrators of violence are not prosecuted,” argues Wangu Kanja, a lead official with the movement.
Cyprian Nyamwamu, the director, Future of Kenya Foundation, argues that the state has failed to create reforms to enable it prevent poll violence directed at women.
“Civilized governments restore people affected by poll violence first before they make policy to prevent future conflict,” said Nyamwamu.
For now, Obabi, who belongs to the survivors of sexual violence in Kenya movement, would be happy if the government helped her family with just food. But even that basic need has proved elusive.
“We stand here to remind the government that justice for survivors of sexual violence is still an unfinished business,” says the statement. “The longer it takes to address the issue of accountability, the more survivors continue to suffer.”