Margret Kamau. Photo credit: Dorine Otinga.
Kenya is a republic that has, at times, experienced severe violence after national elections, most recently following the 2017 elections. I met Margret Kamau (30), a woman who lives in the outskirts of the Great Rift Valley in Eldoret, Kenya,. I interviewed her for the Komorebi Post about a hard time she went through in her youth after the 2007 – 2008 Kenyan Crises, a particularly controversial election.
Surviving the aftermath of an election
Me: Hello Margret.
Margret: Hello Dorine.
Me: Can you share with me a time in your life when you held onto hope when you thought all was lost?
Margret: Yes. I held onto hope during the 2008 post-election violence. I lost family members whereby some died, and others couldn’t be traced.
Me: Can you tell me what exactly happened during that time?
Margret: We had successfully voted for our leaders. We waited patiently for the results, which took a bit long to come out. When the winner of the presidential seat was announced, some people started rejoicing while others looked disappointed.
I remember that night, it was announced that protest had begun in some towns and people were burning shops and looting from the supermarkets. Other cities followed the trend, my town Eldoret being one of them.
We ran to a church while others ran to the police station. It was a tribal war. Even though other tribes were hurt, my tribe was the target. Most of the friends I knew from my tribe were killed.
We were lucky we didn’t get hurt. One month later, there was peace. And I went back to school since I was in high school. It was a boarding school, and we didn’t know what transpired at home. Again conflicts began again, and people started killing each other.
I heard some teachers in school mention my village as one of the areas that were attacked, and the houses were burnt. I was so scared and worried that my family might have been killed. I tried borrowing a phone from a teacher to call my mum.
She wasn’t available on the phone. No one was available. I knew something terrible must have happened but held into hope so that I couldn’t fail my exams.
Me: After that did you find out anything about your family?
Margret: Yes. I later received the news that my grandmother had been burnt to death and other family members. When I went home, I found a funeral arrangement in progress. I had lost three family members. May their souls rest in peace. Thank heavens my mum was still alive.
Some other members couldn’t be found. We didn’t know whether they were dead or alive.
After the funeral service, I went back to school. Days past without hearing about the lost family members. I had exams to do.
It was difficult for me because I was mourning and was also worried about my relatives who couldn’t be traced. It was my final year in school. I stayed strong. I held in to hope.
Me: What were you hoping for?
Margret: I was hoping that my loved ones would come back home. I was also hoping for peace and to pass my exams since this issue was bothering me. I needed concentration despite my problems to achieve my dream grade.
The chaos made it quite hard to hope since we heard bad news from the media every day. They were news of murder, burning of houses and destruction of property.
It was quite hard to handle that and concentrate on my studies at the same time. I couldn’t travel home too because the roads were insecure and cars were being burned on roads.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to pass my exams since my concentration on my studies was low.
Me: How did you cope?
Margret: I talked with friends who encouraged and prayed with me. I had faith that all will be well. One year later my relatives came home. They had escaped to a neighbouring country, Uganda. It was a long story, but all became well again.
Me: Did you achieve the grade you had hoped for?
Margret: Yes. In fact I exceeded my expectations because I got a higher grade than what I wanted.
Me: Thanks Margret for your story. One last word for our readers?
Margret: No matter what you go through in life, never let it affect your dreams. Always hope and hold on.
Kenya’s next elections will be held in 2022.