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May 16-31, 2010

ISSUE 017

A bimonthly on-line newspaper by the Media Diversity Centre, a project of African Woman and Child Feature Service

Wagalla massacre Attacks that left a village reeling in wheelchairs

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By Abdullahi Jamaa

s the wind blows fast, raising clouds of dust, the only path leading to Wagalla Community Centre is jammed with a string of wheelchairs making its way into compound. This convoy raises curiosity as one is left to wonder why so many wheelchairs in one area. However, the people riding on the bicycles are women who were disabled after suffering one of the worst crimes against humanity in 1984. These women are victims of the infamous massacre that took place in Wajir District when about 3,000 people were allegedly killed by the Kenyan security forces on claims they were a threat to national security. It all begun one early morning on February 10, 1984, when a contingent of armed security forces is alleged to have descended

Some of the women who were maimed during the Wagalla massacre in their wheel chairs. Scores of women were left widowed, disabled, paralysed and in trauma. Photo: Issa Hussein

on various villages in Wajir and flushed out residents in the open fields for vetting. They were also transferring residents believed to be from the Degodia community.

Military operation

Special report on VOTER registration Pages

3-10

It is claimed the military operation, that was massive by all standards, was orchestrated by the belief that the local Degodia community had started a wave of armed attacks against other communities in Wajir West with aim of destabilising the district, to enable some elements take over and advance an alleged secession theory. Some Degodia members were alleged to harbour theories or beliefs that the region should secede from Kenya to Somalia. The Kenyan army is said to have attacked people who were assembled at the airstrip. It is claimed they also raped young girls and women in the villages and at a

separate field designed for vetting young girls and women. In commemorating the Wagalla massacre, in which men were killed, the women converged at the community for a training session organised by the Pastoralist Journalist Network and African Women Child Feature Services on Agenda Four which

The Kenyan army is said to have attacked people who were assembled at the airstrip. It is claimed they also raped young girls and women in the villages and at the separate field designed for vetting young girls and women.

looks into how they can contribute to the constitution review process as well as the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC). The training targeted women victims from the Wagalla women radio listening group. The members of the listening group were left paralysed and disabled by the military operation. The soldiers are alleged to have rounded up women among other residents from various remote villages and assembled them at one point for vetting. Those residents with identity documents showing they hailed from Wajir West were forced into a vehicle and transferred to Wagalla Airstrip that is today known as death chamber. The security personnel separated men from women and took the young women and girls to a separate location for vetting. Continued on page 3


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ISSUE 017, May 16-31, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

Troubled widows tortuous search for elusive justice By Abdullahi Jamaa

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he search for justice for the infamous 1984 Wagalla massacre victims has been tenuous and elusive as successive Kenyan governments have allegedly failed to bring to prosecute those responsible. And as hopes of the families in Wajir fray, Wagalla widows have to live with the government that killed their husbands and left their children orphaned. More than two decades after the massacre, Mrs Farhiya Abdi’s life was shattered in an incident that left her mind bent and vexed. “It is 26 years since the massacre and the scar it curved in my heart will remain forever,” she says amid tears during the 26th anniversary of the massacre. “The killing of our men in the operation left a pain that can never go away.” To mark the occasion, Abdi covered her head with a white scarf, her eyes betraying the suffering she has endured over the years. “The suffering is as enormous as it is unforgettable for the widows and children,” says the 52-year-old mother of three. Like most of the Wagalla widows, throughout the years her life has been a sad tale that has forced her to struggle while barely surviving. After the mayhem that killed her husband, the responsibility of bringing up their four children laid squarely on her shoulders. Abdi has been the sole provider for her family since she lost her husband in the Wagalla massacre. With no source of in-

come, every morning she walks to a quarry near her home in Jogoo village, in the outskirts of Wajir town. Over the past two decades she has survived on excavating gravel to eke a living in the most deplorable conditions just to support her orphaned children.

Survival “I have been a mother and father to my children ever since the massacre.” And as her bereaved family depended on her small meagre earnings, the cash-strapped household could not manage to educate the children. “Schooling is not an option for us, here we struggle to get food to eat and sometimes we even sleep hungry,” she says. Although today her children are all grown up and help her put food on the table, their ravaged home is still an indication of abject poverty. This is the situation that replicates in every home in the poverty devastated Wajir District where the number of single mothers who are victims of the Wagalla massacre live. “Immediately after the operation, a trail of disaster followed. Many women lost their husbands and were consequently left to bring up their children at a time there was soaring drought,” says Mrs Halima Sheikh, a nominated councillor in Wajir town who also lost her father during the incident. “The struggle for survival for the massacre survivors here in Wajir is the biggest impact that families have had to brave,” says Sheikh. She adds: “In fact the psychological trauma for Wagalla widows and that of the orphaned children remains a great pain

Women from Wagalla at the meeting. It has been more than two decades since the attacks and the permanent scars left are fresh and vivid. Inset: Mrs. Halima Sheikh, a nominated councillor in Wajir town who lost her father during the massacre. Photo: Issa Hussein

for many.” Many mothers have to struggle to make ends meet and many more have been turned to working as domestic servants in a bid to bridge the gap left by their husbands. “Since I lost my husband I have been living a hard life where getting basic necessities like food is like a hard nut to crack,” says Mrs Habiba Hussein, also a widow. In the incident, an estimated 5,000 men are said to have died and hundreds others are still missing.

Justice delayed The Government says 386 people were killed in the operation but residents dispute the number saying they are many more than that. They are now demanding for compensation and justice against the perpetrators. “For the victims and survivors of the 1984 massacre, this has been an excruciating process of being promised justice and watching the Government renege on

its promises again and again,” says Mrs Shamsa Ahmed, also a widow. She reiterates: “All those responsible for the massacre must be brought to justice whether they are political leaders, police or government officials.” In his book, Blood on the Runway, writer Salah Sheikh portrays the suffering of Wagalla widows and orphans as enormous and beyond belief. “As they nursed their wounds and tried to take care of the large number of orphans left behind, they were seething with anger and frustrations,” he writes. “It is really hard to forget Wagalla massacre where every football team was made up of orphans.” For many like Abdi, the suffering they have endured for years has been devastating and mind-boggling. Despite their endless search for justice, one thing is common among them, despair. “Even if we are compensated today, it will not mend or heal the scars in our broken hearts,” Abdi says.

A village left reeling in wheelchairs Continued from page 1

The separate vetting was mired by claims of rape. The women say they cannot forget that day as they relive it every day. They have since formed a support group known as Wagalla Women Victims’ Association. The chairperson of the group, Ms Dahabo Chote recalls how security officers invaded the area early in the morning of February 10, 1984 and ordered everyone to lie down.

Brutality “We were beaten thoroughly and one officer forced me to strip naked in front of my husband and daughters before raping me. Other soldiers followed and raped other girls including my daughters in front of their parents,” Chote recalls. She adds: “It was the worst moment of my life to be raped in front of my family and again see my daughters being raped while I am watching.” The women remember how they were rounded up at Jogbaru Village, Wajir West before the army descended on the people with sticks and clubs while forcing them into the Jogbaru open field.

Recalls Ms Amina Warera: “They took us by surprise as we were beaten with rungus, sticks and gun butts. We ran towards the open field as ordered but the army forced young girls to remain behind.” Warera who is confined to a wheelchair following the events of that day recalls: “They started raping young girls and all we could hear were loud cries for help.” She explains: “When the soldiers were done, the girls came to the open field running while bleeding from their private parts, others could not sit down due to pain and many others collapsed in the field from shock as a result of being gang raped.” Other than the rape, the residents lost family members. Ms Mariam Garore who lost her two daughters and husband at the killing field remembers how they were forced by the army personnel out of their homesteads in Makaror Village. They were beaten and taken to the open field before being vetted and taken to the Wagalla death chamber. “We were forced to run out with our identity cards to Makaror field where the vetting was taking place. I heard the women crying from all points of our village,” recalls Garore.

“The cries that I heard are those made by Somali women when they are sexually attacked. After a short while, a number of women I knew came into the open field crying and holding their private parts. They could not control urine,” she says.

Cry for justice Garore is among hundreds of women who lost their husbands at the killing field. At the Wagalla Airstrip, the soldiers thought she was dead as she collapsed due to the torture. They ferried her and others to Ganyure, an area that is inhabited by hyenas so the wild animals could eat them in what the soldiers thought would conceal evidence of the mass killings. She was saved by medical volunteers who were working under supervision of an Italian nun known as Analina Tonelli. As Kenya looks into correcting past injustices, the women hope that they will be able to find fairness for the suffering they have had to endure when they eventually appear before the TJRC. The new District Commissioner in Wajir, Mr Omari Dima could not com-

ment on the issue since he just reported two months ago but referred the writer to the Kenya National Human Right Commission (KNHCR) regional office. However, every February 12, the KNHCR regional office organises a commemoration of the massacre where the victims and the general population gather in Wajir district in remembrance of the events of that day. Commenting on the issue, KNHCR Northern Kenya regional coordinator, Mr Hassan Abdille said: “This was a big affront to the innocent people and there is a clear proof that Government forces maimed, killed and brutalised people in Wagalla.” He added: “Innocent people were taken to the airstrip while others died on the way to Wagalla airstrip. People were left without food and water for days while others were tortured to death at the airstrip.” Abdille further said they were working “on seeing justice done and the perpetrators brought to book as they are known. They were senior government officials and military officers”.


ISSUE 017, May 15-31, 2010

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Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

Voters on a roll Country faces numerous challenges as VOTER REGIStration

election body embarks on a new process

By Ibrahim Oruko As the voter registration exercise draws to a close, issues are emerging over how it went in various parts of the country. While certain areas recorded success, others are said to have failed in hitting the target. Women have been cited as being the lowest registered with men and youth being at the forefront. Various reasons have been given for women’s poor turnout in this event.

Low turn out Patriarchy is said to have been a key barrier to women’s listing their names in the voter’s roll. A man in Trans Mara District was reported to have withheld the identity cards of his four wives’ apparently to stop them from registering as voters. In Samia District questions were raised on how and why Ugandans were being aided to get Kenyan identification cards to register as voters when most of the youth in the area had failed to participate in the exercise due to lack of this vital document.

A woman patiently waits to be registered electronically. Electronic voter registration which is a pilot by the IIEC in 18 constituencies continues until May 21. Photo: Reject Correspondent

About two million eligible voters — most of them youths — may not take part in the referendum because they do not have identity cards. In Butere and Mumias districts, the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) opted to use text messages to remind the people on the need to register as voters. In Matungu, area MP Mr David Were was forced to move from house to house to urge people to register as voters. And in the Rift Valley, the IDPs story was as grim as usual. They could not register either because most of them did not have IDs after they lost them in the mayhem that followed the 2007 elections, or they could not get the vital documents be-

cause they are considered strangers. “We have 5,000 adults with no IDs here. Three thousand youths have also attained the age of 18 but have been turned away by registration officials who tell them to go to Rift Valley or other places where they were born to apply for the IDs from there,” Mr Peter Kariuki, who is the Mawingu Camp chairman in Nyandarua was reported telling the media. Owing to the events of 2007 general election and its aftermath, electoral authorities have had a serious challenge of convincing people to register as voters. The deadline for manual registration has elapsed, while electronic registration continues until May 21. The Government is,

Measures to drive up registration such as allowing the use of old generation identity cards and deploying mobile teams to sign up people from the safety of their homes clearly paid off.

however, adamant that there will be no extension for the exercise. Observers believe that IIEC’s main challenge in restoring the credibility of Kenya’s elections is to avoid a situation similar to 2007 when the names of about 1.2 million registered voters who were already dead remained on the register — making it possible for electoral fraudsters to ‘cast’ votes on their behalf.

Old IDs Measures to drive up registration such as allowing the use of old generation identity cards and deploying mobile teams to sign up people from the safety of their homes clearly paid off. So grim was the situation that President Kibaki was forced to lift a ban on old generation identity cards, opening the door for up to one million more people to register as voters even as Minister for Immigration and Registration of Continued on page 4


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ISSUE 017, May 16-31, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

VOTER REGIStration

Bandits scare off villagers from registration By Musembi Nzengu Insecurity in the periphery of Kyuso and Tseikuru districts’ common border with Bura has affected the voter registration exercise due to banditry. According to theInterim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) deputy constituency registrar, Mr Collins Mutua, clerks have been forced to close down from time to time in Kisiluni and Mangombo centres in Ngomeni ward, Kyuso District, Mwingi North Constituency.

Insecurity Mutua confirmed that the latest banditry attack had seen the two registration centres temporarily shut down after suspected bandits from Bura District attacked Kasiluni market and opened fire on traders. “Since security of our workers is paramount, we asked them to suspend registration at Kasiluni and Mangombo centres until their safety is assured,” said Mutua. He pointed out that the insecurity in Ngomeni and other peripheral areas in Tseikuru like Musyungwa and Mitamisyi

was a big threat to the voter registration exercise. Speaking from Ngomeni trading centre, Mr Mulu Nding’uri, who runs a retail shop at Kasiluni market said many people will not be able to register as voters as they had gone into hiding. “Is it reasonable for anyone to risk his/ her life in an effort to acquire a voter’s card?” Nding’uri posed. He added: “The authorities must provide adequate security to the people of Kasiluni if they expect us to participate in this exercise.” Due to tension in the area and fear of bandit attacks, he fled Kasiluni and was seeking refuge in Ngomeni until the security situation improves. “I am registered as a voter at Kasiluni but I have not been able to get a new voter’s card because of the insecurity,” said Nding’uri. He added: “Even the registration

“Is it reasonable for anyone to risk his/her life in an effort to acquire a voter’s card?” —Mulu Nding’uri

Angela Ngutu, a registration clerk attends to a man seeking to register as a voter at Mbondoni in Mwingi. Photo: Musembi Nzengu

exercise in the area has been suspended.” A primary school teacher, Mr Mwendwa Kieti and his wife Mary who runs a private medical clinic at Kasiluni market have moved the family away due to the security threat in the area.

Armed bandits “We moved from the area even before my wife and I had the opportunity to register afresh as voters. During the latest attack, a bullet scratched the door of my wife’s clinic as the bandits fired five times,” said Kieti. “Everybody including the registration clerks fled and Kasiluni became a ghost market.” He said it was unlikely that normalcy would return to Kasiluni anytime soon as the bandits, who are usually armed with automatic rifles, had compiled a list of

traders they targeted for elimination. “With that list which also includes my wife as one of the marked people in the public domain, everybody is shaken as no one knows when they will strike next,” said Kieti. Kyuso District Commissioner Mr Peter Maina confirmed that villagers in Kasiluni had fled their homes, thus disrupting the voter registration exercise. However, he was quick to add that security officers have been dispatched to the area to beef up security. “I am addressing the insecurity issue in the affected area and I am in the process of setting up an administration police out-post at Kasiluni soon,”said the DC via telephone. He added: “People should start going back to their homes as their security will be assured.”

Country faces numerous challenges as elections body embarks on a new process Continued from page 3

Persons, Mr Otieno Kajwang said that his ministry had been issued with Sh200 million and planned to issue two million identity cards to the youth. The President also directed Kajwang’ to issue new ID cards to all those who have applied for them to enable them to register as voters before the end of the exercise. The order came after the IIEC said the registration exercise was hampered by lack of identification documents and that one million Kenyans were still holding the old generation IDs.

Electronic registration The national tally of those registered stood at 71 per cent. For the first time, IIEC is carrying out a pilot scheme on electronic registration in 18 constituencies. The selected constituencies are Kamukunji and Lang’ata in Nairobi, Dujis and Wajir East in North Eastern, Isiolo South, Imenti Central and Mbooni in Eastern, and Kikuyu and Nyeri Town in Central.

Others are Eldoret North, Nakuru Town and Ainamoi in Rift Valley, Ikolomani and Webuye in Westernand Kisumu Town West plus Bonchari in Nyanza. The IIEC Chief Executive Officer, Major (Rtd) James Oswago projected 12 million Kenyans could have registered when the manual exercise closes on May 9. The areas ranked low are in South Coast and North Eastern Province. He attributed the low turnout to heavy rains and nomadic way of life among the pastoralist communities. He also decried the low registration by women. “The law is water tight and we cannot afford an extension,” pleaded Oswago as he urged voters to turn up and register. However, the IIEC chairman was happy with how things turned out. I am happy to announce that IIEC has registered more than 11,000,000 voters and the electronic registration is still on going. This means we have managed to reach our minimum target,” said MrAhmed Issack Hassan, who is the chairman of IIEC. The IIEC targeted at least 18 million

of the 14 million voters in the discarded register, which the Independent Review Commission led by Justice Johann Kriegler said lacked credibility and contributed to the flaws of the 2007 election. According to the Justice minister, Mr Mutula Kilonzo, the Government targeted 18 million people registered as voters to take part in the referendum and the 2012 General Election.

Eligible voters The new voters’ list will replace the one held by the disbanded Electoral Commission of Kenya. According to statistics published in the local media, South Rift has the commanding lead over the other 16 regional blocs IIEC created. The ranking order is, however, based on the percentage of voters registered by a region but not the numerical strength of each of the 16 on the national scale. The region that had registered the highest number of voters was Nairobi, with 931,485 out of 1,481,144, followed by North Rift (909,905 out of 1,265,597).

South Rift is the only region that had surpassed the 100 per cent mark — which it attained by registering more than the number that was on its 2007 register. South Rift registered 804,596 voters against the target of 794,212, which is 101 per cent. It is followed by Bungoma at 79 per cent, which registered 547,984 out of 691,687. In third place is Nyanza Central (75 per cent) which had registered 742,839 out of 991,092. In fourth position is Central Eastern (74 per cent) with 731,407 out of 984,597, followed by North Rift (72 per cent) with 909,905 out of 1,265,597. Upper Coast or Malindi Region trails in the list (45 per cent), with 181,825 out of 402,293. It is the only bloc below 50 per cent. It is followed by Wajir-Mandera Region, at 56 per cent (119,217 out of 212,177), and Garissa-Ijara at 58 per cent (58,997) out of 101,733). As the case of Samia shows, part of IIEC’s challenge is to narrow the gap between identity card holders and those who are registered.


ISSUE 017, May 15-31, 2010

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Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

VOTER REGIStration

Thumbs up for electronic voter registration By Ben Oroko Armed with her national identity card and old voter’s card, Mrs Esther Ratemo, 56, a resident of Nyang’iti Village strolls confidently to Nyang’iti Primary School registration centre and queues. The Interim Independent Electoral Commission clerks welcome her to sit before an Electronic Voter Registration computer after presenting her ID card and the old voter’s card to them, before they proceed with the process of registering her as a voter. After undergoing the three-minute process, a smiling Ratemo approvingly displays her new voter’s card before walking away to go tell of her experience to others, especially those with negative myths about the new technology.

Thrill She confides her brief experience to The Reject, saying the speed with which the registration was done was impressive compared to the tedious, time-consuming manual registration. “It is as if the world has brought magic to the village. This is something unique for those of us in the rural settings where a computer is a mystery,” muses Ratemo. She is calling on fellow women in the constituency to ignore falsehoods being peddled by leaders opposed to the constitution and register as voters so as to participate in the referendum on a new Constitution that addresses many challenges women face, especially in rural Kenya. “Registering as a voter is a right and voting is a duty for everyone. Those misleading the public not to register as voters are using dirty tricks which should not be allowed in an organised society,” cautions Ratemo. The excitement generated by the newly-introduced Electronic Voter Registration technology is driving women in droves to registration centres in Bonchari Constituency.

A woman registers electronically at Nyang’iti Primary School registration centre in Bonchari constituency. Photo: Ben Oroko

Bonchari is one of the 18 constituencies selected across the country for the pilot electronic registration scheme. Already over 11,000 of the estimated eligible voters in the area have registered.

Political influence The development in Bonchari is in sharp contrast to the widespread apathy reported nationally, especially among eligible women. Mrs Lucy Nyambeki, 28, also a resident of Nyang’iti Village, is equally impressed by the new registration technology, noting that it saves time for women, thus allowing them time to attend to other household chores, unlike before.

She too is cautioning women voters not to be influenced by cash handouts before they register as voters. Nyambeki warns that such practices will give room to corrupt leaders to literally buy their way into office. “Women and children are the ones who suffer most when corrupt leaders find their way to public office,” she says, adding, “It is the duty of women to register as voters and use their numerical strength to bring the desired leadership change in our public offices.” A local politician, Mr Tom Atancha and the Bonchari Constituency’s Elections Coordinator, Mr Daniel Lekupe expressed concern at what they termed as

“interference” in the voter registration by some members of the clergy.

Rumors Both have taken issue with a Catholic priest in the constituency, accusing him of allegedly peddling rumours that registering as a voter, meant support for the Draft Constitution. They are now asking him to keep off the voter registration exercise and allow the people to register without undue influence. Atancha is also challenging the Government to speed up the issuance of national identity cards to enable eligible voters acquire voter’s cards in time for the referendum.

Leaders in ‘door to door’ campaign By Nick Odhiambo

Local leaders in South Nyanza have taken it upon themselves to individually urge residents in the region to register as voters in readiness for the forthcoming referendum. This comes from realisation that many people were reluctant to register following their experiences in the election violence that hit the country with the disputed December 2009 General Election. “I was not going to register as a voter, simply because voting in Kenya has been made useless following what we saw in the 2007 General Election,” confessed Scola Akinyi, a resident of Homa Bay town. Civic leaders led by Homa Bay Mayor, Mr Casmiel Binge, have also sacrificed their personal time to advise and convince local residents to register, to enable them vote in the referendum, and subsequently the 2012 General Election.

“This registration is important as it will help us succeed in the historic exercise ahead of us. Let us forget about the past and think of a new Kenya of love and reconciliation,” appealed Binge. A youth leader with Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in Rangwe, Mr George Otieno, also joined the councillors and mobilised youth in the region to register as voters. This follows the realisation that with only days to go before the exercise ends, an estimated 50 per cent of Rangwe constituents are yet to register. “What we want is to see the youth registering as voters. The votes of the youth are very important in the referendum exercise,” he told the Reject. A local businessman, Mr Augustine Bala, applauds his efforts in managing to convince the local business community to register in Homa Bay town. “Many have registered now. I just went to them personally and ensured they registered,” he said.

In Rachuonyo North District, local leaders led by Kendu Bay Mayor, Councillor John Maji, teamed up to sensitise the public on the benefits of registering as voters, including participation in the referendum. In Rachuonyo South, area Member of Parliament Mr Oyugi Magwanga, helped mobilise local leaders in his Kasipul Kabondo Constituency by moving from village to village, advising the residents to register as voters. “This region must register as many voters as possible so that we are seen as Kenyans who can participate in the coming referendum,” Magwanga told his constituents. It was the same in Karachuonyo Constituency, where church leaders and local youths led by Mr Jack Nduri, played a lead role in sensitising the public to register as voters. Support for the cause was also voiced by the former South Nyanza County Council

Migori DC, Mr Julius Mutula addresses a public forum on the ongoing voter registration in Migori town.

Chairman, Mr Aketch Chieng among other former civic leaders. They called on local residents to appreciate Kenya’s long and painful struggle for a new Constitution. “We want our people to register as voters so they can participate in the referendum. We have come a long way in the struggle for a new Constitution and we want it put in place through people’s votes and that is why everyone must register as a voter,” said Aketch.


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ISSUE 017, May 16-31, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

VOTER REGIStration

Discontent Migingo residents demand voter rights to blame for registration troubles By Aggrey Buchunju

By Odhiambo Odhiambo Fishermen have expressed fears that they could miss out on the referendum unless they are registered in the new voters’ roll. Fishermen and traders on the disputed Migingo Island in Lake Victoria want the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) to send voter registration clerks to the area. The Chairman of the Migingo Beach Management Unit, Mr Juma Ombori is appealing to the elections body not to deny “Kenyans on Migingo island their right to participate in the referendum”. Ombori posed: “If we were counted by the Government in last year’s population census, why can’t we participate in the referendum vote?” The island, he says, has over 1,000 traders and fishermen, a number he notes is bigger than the population of some civic wards in the sparsely populated North Eastern Province.

The busy Migingo island in Lake Victoria. Kenyan fishermen and traders operating in the area want to be registered as voters so they can participate in the referendum. Photo: Odhiambo Odhiambo

”As an interim measure before the island’s ownership dispute is resolved, Kenyans on the island should be issued with the new voter’s cards and a polling centre for the purposes of the referendum,” Ombori said. He added: “We will not accept our right to vote for the new Constitution be taken away.” He spoke as fishermen supported fresh efforts by Kenya and Uganda to resolve the row, noting that the dispute was retarding the growth of fisheries sector in the two East African nations. Ombori pleaded with the leaders “to be honest with one another this time round”. The fishermen were reacting to reports that the stalled joint survey of the disputed island would be completed soon following a recent meeting between Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga at the Entebbe State House.

”We welcome the latest move by the two leaders, and hope that the KSh140 million exercise will be finished this time round,” said Mr Paul Odhiambo, a long serving fisherman at Migingo. Muhuru beach civic leader, Mr Tobias Warentho said fishermen are still scared of working in the lake for fear of being arrested by the Ugandans on claims of trespassing. Nyatike MP, Mr Edick Anyanga welcomed the promise by the two leaders, saying the row was creating unnecessary tension between the fishermen and traders from the two countries. He asked the surveyors to take their work seriously and finish their job “without fear or favour and in good time” in the interest of the East African residents. The survey stalled last year after the Ugandan experts in the team pulled out, to ostensibly consult their seniors in Kampala. They have not responded since.

Border town faces challenges of vetting By Odhiambo Odhiambo It is a requirement in the country that one can only register as a voter after acquiring an identity card. However, for those coming from border towns getting the identification document can be quite a challenge as they have to go through a thorough vetting process before approval. One frustrated young man, Mr Chris Omollo, 25, has been coming to the registrar of persons’ office in Migori office for the last two weeks and has never had time to meet the registration officials due to the long queues.

Slow process Long queues have become a permanent feature outside the Migori office for the registration bureau of persons, with thousands of school and college leavers seeking to get national identity cards before the referendum. However, the process has been very slow, with fears that majority of them could be locked out of the crucial vote to determine the fate of the proposed Constitution. However, Omollo is determined to get his national ID and participate in the referendum. ”Even though my application papers have not been received by the offi-

cials, I am happy with the large turnout. It shows that many people are beginning to take seriously the democratic processes in our country,” enthuses Omollo.

Immigrants Migori District, being a border town, has a council of elders who vet ID card applicants in a bid to lock out foreigners from getting the important document. One of the elders, Mr Akuku Oketch pointed out the need for more vigilance to weed out a number of refugees of Somalia nationality, who managed to get IDs in the area in the past. ”We are on the lookout for illegal immigrants from Somalia, Tanzania and Burundi who usually come under the pretext of doing business and later apply for IDs to become Kenyan nationals,” Oketch explained. Recently, the police arrested 13 Congolese nationals who had crossed into Kenya through the Isebania border town. They were detained at the Migori Police Station for three days before being repatriated to their country. Records at the registration office indicate that at least 5,000 applications for vetting are received every week but only about 1,000 are processed within the same period. The provision that married women pro-

duce IDs of their parents have also affected speed with which young females can acquire the IDs. ”I was married 10 years ago and both my parents are dead. I cannot even locate where their IDs were kept but the officers have said I must produce them,” lamented Mrs Loice Anyango, a mother of three. Although the Immigration minister, Mr Otieno Kajwang recently said married women should not be sent back for the IDs of their parents, the officers insist on the practice, stating they are yet to a get an official circular on the changes. ”We cannot act on the basis of press reports. The minister must give official circulars to the district heads to support the new position,” a registration official told The Reject. The official, who asked not to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media, disclosed that despite the Nairobi office hastening production of ID card material, the applications are overwhelming due to the forthcoming referendum. Migori Member of Parliament John Pesa, is requesting the Government to ensure the applications are processed quickly, to enable the youths to participate in “determining the constitutional future of their country”.

As the voter registration exercise comes to a close, it is apparent that the new voters’ roll in the larger Bungoma District may not surpass the 2007 figure. A spot-check by The Reject on 10 polling stations in Kanduyi Constituency established that the exercise has not been given the seriousness it deserves by the local residents. With hardly a week to go, the ten polling stations had registered a paltry 6,654 voters as compared to the 2007 figure of 15,319 voters. The spot check established that on average 19 people register daily at each of the polling stations, which translates to 190 voters per day. If this trend continues during the remaining week of registration, only 2,000 voters may register and raise the number to 9,000. This will be a drop of about 5,000 from the 2007 figure that was recorded in the run-up to the December 2007 General Elections. Of the 10 polling stations visited, six are based in the rural setting with the rest in the Bungoma Municipality. The rural polling stations include Nabichakha, Mwikhupo, Fuchani, Kimugui, Mwibale, and Dorofu. The four in Bungoma town are Mukhaweli, Bondeni, Moi Primary and Baptist Girls’ schools. Polling stations in town are particularly badly hit, registering less than half the expected number. Those in the rural areas of the constituency reportedly registered over half the expected turnout. One of the stations, Dorofo, stood out above the rest by surpassing its target by 42 voters. The Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) registration clerks at the stations, reveal that majority of those who have registered are old men and the youth. “Majority of people we have registered are old males and the youth. The number of women is minimal,” said Mr Hadson Ngongesa, the polling clerk at Nabichakha station.

Poor leadership At Mwikhupo station and its environs, people interviewed attribute their apathy to lack of confidence in local political leaders and the Government. A local resident, Mr John Sifuna, said he has deliberately declined to register because present and past political leaders have refused to address problems the residents are facing. “We have been voting since independence but no elected leader has ever come to our rescue. Our roads have remained impassable over the years,” Sifuna lamented. Lack of identity cards among the youth and inadequate publicity about the exercise especially in the rural areas are among other reasons behind the apathy. Most youths aged between 18 and 25 have no IDs. A resident of Kimugui area, Mr Boniface Sore, thought the 2007 voter card was still valid. “Why should I replace my 2007 voter’s card when it is still very clean?” he posed. “Moreover, I am not contemplating to shift to another polling station,” he said, in an apparent misconception that only those relocating to other constituencies needed acquire new voter’s card.


ISSUE 017, May 15-31, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

VOTER REGIStration

7

A lifetime opportunity

Presidential decree enables the elderly make history By Musembi Nzengu

A

t 70, Ms Mwikali Muthengi had given up all hope of having her name encrypted in the new voters register. Muthengi from Kitheka, Munyumbuni village holds an old generation identity card and had no reason for acquiring the new one. The requirement that only those with new generation ID cards be allowed to register certainly barred her from taking up her democratic right.

President’s directive However, when President Kibaki announced that people could use the old generation ID cards, she was among the first people to take advantage of the decree and went to register as a voter at Muunguu Primary School in Waita Division, Mwingi Central District. Were it not for the President’s leniency, there was no way she was going to travel to Mwingi to replace her old ID card as it was a torturous exercise considering her age. She also complained about the cost of transport and the KSh100 fee charged to have the ID cards replaced. The directive by President Mwai Kibaki in late April allowing holders of old generation national IDs to use them acquire voter’s cards was a welcome relief. Nearly 20,000 people in Mwingi who had been denied the opportunity to register were happy that they could use the old IDs to acquire the new voter’s cards. As the President was issuing the directive, already 9,000 would be voters in Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka’s Mwingi North constituency had been turned away from registration centres for not having the new generation IDs. Had the President not issued the directive those persons and 8,500 other residents of Mwingi South constituency represented in Parliament by Assistant Minister for Defence, Mr David Musila, could also have been locked out of the referendum. “I now have a new voter’s card and I am going to keep it safely until I will get instructions from my sons on the side to support in the referendum,” said a happy Muthengi after receiving her voter’s card. Another would be loser is Ms Muingo Kanika Kuma, 80, of Mbauni village in Itivanzaou Location, Kyuso District. She says due to her advanced age she had no intentions of replacing the old ID card considering the hassle involved. Kuma who walks with a stoop and with the help of the walking stick said her family asked her to go for the new voter’s

card as soon as the President decreed that the old IDs could be used in the registration exercise. “My family members, especially my grandchildren, led me to the Muunguu registration centre to get the voter’s card because they wanted me to participate in what they told me is a historic exercise that will make their lives better even after I passed on,” said the granny. Not to be left out is Kalima Mwasya Manzi, 81, from Mukuni village, Waita location. She says that she could not have registered as a voter as the initial communication had locked out people like her who held first generation ID cards. She confesses that although she did not understand the hype about the Draft Constitution, she would keep the voter’s card safely until she needs to use it. President Kibaki’s directive was immediately welcomed by the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) commissioner in-charge of Lower Eastern Tiyah Galgalo who said were it not for the order, thousands would have been locked out of the voter registration. Soon before the directive and as the clock ticked fast towards the closure of the voters’ registration the IIEC team in Mwingi North constituency was worried that meeting their target of 80,000 voters would be an uphill task. The deputy Constituency registrar, Mr Collins Mutua said thousands held old and invalid identity cards that could not be used to get the voter’s cards.

Lack of IDs Mutua of IIEC Mwingi North said people in the constituency who were unlikely to acquire the voters’ cards due to lack of valid ID cards were estimated at over 25,000. He said they included about 9,000 who held the old generation identity cards and the rest were eligible youths who were yet to acquire ID cards. The Mwingi South IIEC registrar, Ms Linah Kilonzi said that were it not for the presidential directive nearly 8,500 would be voters in the area could have been locked out of the voter registration for having old IDs. Kilonzi said the number of people who turned up to register as voters had drastically shot up as those with old IDs got an opportunity to register as voters. “I do not have the actual figures with me now but I can authoritatively tell you that the number of those seeking registrations as voters with the old generation ID cards has improved drastically,” said Kilonzi. However according, Mr Festus Bosire of the Mwingi Registration Bureau up to 40 percent of eligible voters in the area did not have valid ID cards.

Mali Nzioka Katiti, 81 , from Kathonzweni in Mwingi District displays her newly acquired voter’s card. Due to her old age, the registration clerks visited her home to register her as a voter. Photo: Musembi Nzengu

Bosire said those who did not have new generation IDs included youths and married women who had not changed their names after marriage. “We have simplified the process to allow married women who went through the traditional marriage to acquire IDs in the name of their husbands. All they need is a letter of the chief ’s consent, their parents IDs and an affidavit from a commissioner of oath,” said Bosire. But the Mwingi South Member of Parliament David Musila said the question of getting an affidavit from a lawyer or a court of law put off many women who

could not afford the cost of the transaction. Musila said many of the affected women had approached him with demands for financial assistance in order to swear the affidavit and acquire IDs in the name of their husbands. “These people have been coming to me for financial assistance so that they can get the IDs and subsequently the voter’s cards but I have told them voting is their right and they should struggle to meet the conditions required,” said the MP who was accompanied by his wife Beatrice.


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ISSUE 017, May 16-31, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

Civic educators seek assurance over their safety

By Musembi Nzengu Civic educators on the Draft Constitution fear they could be attacked by those opposed to the new Constitution when they start their work next month. Their concerns derive from the violence that afflicted the 2005 referendum that pitted supporters of the orange versus the banana symbols.

Fear They are particularly concerned by what could happen when they counter myths and lies that are being propagated by leaders and individuals opposed to the Draft Constitution. The fears were recently voiced by a civic educator in Mwingi South Constituency, Mr John Ngito, who sought an assurance on the safety of civic educators in light of the previous experience. Ngito, who is a member of the Kitui Catholic Church Peace and Justice Commission, said civic educators recall instances in the 2005 referendum campaigns when some local politicians incited the public against them. He was speaking in Mwingi town during a training workshop for civic educators organised by the Lower Eastern Non-Governmental Organisation (LENGO). Ngito recalled that in 2005, civic educators ran into problems with local politicians when they sought to rebut but assertions by the latter that a section of the then Draft Constitution had a clause that allowed the grabbing of private land by a certain group of local landlords. “The politicians then held meetings where they urged their electorate to lynch

A civic educator in Mwingi, Ms Caro Kasina, addresses residents during one of the sessions. Photo: Paul Kimanzi

civic educators for championing the alienation of their land. Most of us (educators) had to go underground fearing for our lives,” narrated Ngito. In response, Mr Kyania Nzili, a lawyer and Mwingi South Constituency Committee of Experts (CoE) civic educator, assures the educators of their safety, citing a law that prohibits incitement of any form during the referendum campaigns. He is further assuring them that this time round, they have the goodwill of the local MPs, who include the Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka (Mwingi North) and Defence assistant minister, Mr David Musila (Mwingi South). The lawyers asked them to operate without fear and rebut myths and lies about the Draft Constitution, which has

“Locally, I can assure you that not only MPs, but also the local populace is very enthusiastic about getting a new Constitution and eager to be told the truth, so that they can make informed choices and decisions as they cast their votes at the referendum.” — Kyania Nzili, lawyer

been published by the Attorney General early this Month, asserts the Mwingibased lawyer. “Locally, I can assure you that not only MPs, but also the local populace is very enthusiastic about getting a new Constitution and eager to be told the truth, so that they can make informed choices and decisions as they cast their votes at the referendum,” Nzili said. He described the Draft Constitution as one of the best constitutions for Kenya, as it measures up to international standards and practices.

Misinformation He reiterated that opposition to the draft by sections of the Kenyan clergy is, therefore “uncalled for” as the issues they are raising stem from misinformation. “In the case of the Kadhi’s Courts, the courts have been enshrined in the current Constitution and do not in any way affect other people, save for Muslims. In fact the clause was copied word by word from the current Constitution,” says Mr Nzili. Not even the clause on abortion should be contentious, as what it dictates is contained in an Act of Parliament that is still in force. “The Provincial Administration that is set to be replaced in future, will in the interim, be retained to ensure public order and security and the propagation of government policies,” explained Nzili. However, he pointed out that it would be restructured to fit in a devolved system of government.

Media faulted for short-changing young people By Nicholas Odhiambo Kenya’s mainstream media has been challenged to support young and upcoming leaders, and ease on its preoccupation with politics. “The situation is pathetic. Our mainstream media houses have refused to feature local problems affecting local people and instead have focused too much on politics,” said Ms Catherine Nguku of the Alternative Media Network (AMNET). Her counterpart at the Kenya Correspondents Association, Mr William Oloo Janak, expressed similar concerns. He urged the media to re-brand itself to ensure young leaders and their projects were elevated to public limelight. “Media must understand the fact that even these young leaders are important. We should not have cases where young leaders are denied press coverage.” Janak said. He pointed out that it is the local leaders who command the biggest following and are, therefore, more knowledgeable on issues that affect them. “Anything done in the village if given press coverage, will not only benefit the politicians, but also the common wananchi (citizens),” said Janak.

Shift focus For her part, Ms Maria Okong’o of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, urged the Kenyan media to focus its attention on key public issues that add value to people’s lives. She cautioned against the prevalent practice of focusing on negative news that lead to hopelessness and despair. “Media should give young leaders space in their publications to give them hope in the society. Abandonment has made youth lose hope, believing that they are not capable of achieving anything in the society,” she observed. The three were responding to accusations levelled by young leaders against media practice in Kenya, in Kisumu during a Media and Young Leadership Workshop. The event aimed at identifying critical issues within Nyanza region, with a view to developing common strategies in ways that would attract international attention. During the workshop, the media was accused of taking a low profile in reporting matters affecting people in Nyanza Province. Local leaders at the workshop joined in the chorus of condemnation, accusing the media of failing to highlight issues affecting women, children and those arising from the 2008 post-election violence. “Nyanza has not been put in the limelight. We have issues but they are never in the media as other regions,” lamented Reverend Joe Asili. The workshop, which was organised by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Kenya Correspondents Association and the Alternative Media Network attracted reporters, media practitioners and local leaders.


ISSUE 017, May 15-31, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

9

Halt disarmament so we can register, say Pokots By GEORGE OMONSO The Pokot Community has asked the Government to lift the ultimatum on arms surrender in the area until the end of voters registration exercise is over to pave way for the locals to register as voters. A former assistant minister Samuel Moroto and a church leader Bishop John Londinyo said, over 30,000 Pokots had gone to hide in the neighbouring Uganda for fear of being harassed by the security personnel and may, therefore, not register as voters if the search for arms persist. “In spite of our people cooperating with the security forces and surrendering the only arms that exist in our midst, the security forces have been adamant in their use of force,” said Bishop Londinyo. He added: “A DC was captured on camera saying that our people must be subjected to excess force, leaving the residents wondering as to whether this is another operation of the 1984.” Moroto, who spoke at a separate function, asked the Minister for Internal Security, Prof George Saitoti to halt the disarmament operation noting that the entire exercise had been politicised. Early this year, the Government said more than 150,000 illegal arms were in the hands of criminals and bandits, majority of whom are in the North Rift, a statement that sent shivers all over. The Catholic Church through theCatholic Peace and Justice Commission (CPJC) based in Kitale said that the matter should be given the attention it deserves andencouraged Saitoti not to relent or else the criminals would take over the nation. Last January, the government admitted that there are about 150,000 small arms and light weapons held illegally by citizens across the country. Kenya National Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons co-coordinator, Mr David Kimaiyo, said proximity to war ravaged countries and its porous borders

Administration police officers display guns recovered from disarmament exercise. The Pokot community wants the government to stop the disarmament exercise to enable them register. Photo: Reject Correspondent.

facilitated easy passage of illegal arms into the country. He denied claims that Kenya was dillydallying in disarming pastoralist communities in Northern Kenya saying that the country had done a lot in the disarmament exercise in the Karamoja Cluster Region bordering Uganda, Southern Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia. The CPJC programme officer, Mr Boniface Wanyoike urged the Government not to relent on the disarmament because of the alleged failure to register by the af-

fected community. “It is common practice for Kenyan politicians to threaten the government with all sorts of arm-twisting anytime it initiates a crackdown on the illegal weapons,” Wanyoike said. “If they have nothing to hide, they should not be worried.” “Even as we talk, the ultimatum on communities in Laikipia, Isiolo and Pokot to surrender weapons has been treated like a Sunday school sermon to be extended at the whims of the local politicians and as of now nobody knows for sure whether it is

still on,” said Wanyoike. The former Director of Police Operations told the press from his Bruce House office in Nairobi that history of clan conflicts, widespread availability of firearms, inadequate law enforcement and general social economic misery produced a good environment for arms proliferation. Kenya had between 2003 and 2010 made five systematic and symbolic destruction by burning of 27,634 small arms to confirm it was implementing the UN Protocol of Action to the letter.

Nyeri registers poor voter turnout By Joseph Mukubwa Despite many calls by provincial administration, political and religious leaders, the turnout in registration centres was still low in many areas. Many leaders who included the MPs for Mathioya Mr Clement Wambugu and his counterpart from Mathira, Mr Ephraim Maina, have been at the forefront calling for eligible voters to register in large numbers in order to be able to exercise their democratic rights of choosing their favourite leaders during the general election and the forthcoming referendum. A spot check showed that there were no queues in the registration centres and it was evident that there was ignorance amongst those expected to register. Others seemed be unaware of the manual registration exercise which ended May 9, while the electronic registration process

is scheduled to end on May 21. Religious organisations such as the National Churches Council of Kenya (NCCK) have called upon Christians to register in large numbers. The NCCK Secretary General, Canon Peter Karanja who is leading in opposing the proposed constitution urged Christians from Nyeri to register in large numbers ahead of the deadline. The region covers Nyeri, Murang’a South, Laikipia and Kirinyaga districts. The Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) church also called on its followers to register in large numbers despite saying ‘no’ in the proposed constitution. However, the electronic voter registration has not been well received. Residents complained about not being able to vote elsewhere. According to Mr Nicholas Mwangi, the Electronic Voter Registration (EVR) is not

A voter registers electronically in Nyeri town. Most people seemed unaware that the electronic registration is scheduled to end on May 21. Photo: Joseph Mukubwa

adding any value since one must still vote at the registration Centre where they enrolled. He suggested that everybody should vote wherever he or she wants as long as he

has the card. Locals, however, lauded the Government’s move of considering the old IDs which most elderly people still hold.


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ISSUE 017, May 16-31, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

VOTER REGIStration

Conflict leaves women at a loss By Rosemary Okello Voter registration is always a clear indicator of an impending election. Historically, the registration of voters has always attracted public interest. However, this time round apart from advocating for the youth to register in large numbers, no legislator has targeted women to create awareness on the importance of having a voter’s card. Over the years, women have been considered as the biggest constituency of voters, and are always a target during elections. But this time around, as the voter registration comes to a close, many women are not aware that the exercise took place because the mode of communication used was not conducive to them giving a clear indication that the voter registration exercise was not sensitive to women’s needs.

Contributing factors A cursory survey at the centres indicates most are situated at the training centres, far from homesteads, making majority of the women fail to register. When the voter registration exercise was going on, many women were busy planting or weeding. A situation that has been necessitated with the ongoing rains that determines farming time. Another factor that affected women in the voter registration exercise was uneven distribution of registration centres. This despite an assurance by Interim Independent Election Commission (IIEC) that registration would be distributed fairly across the country. Many would be voters in areas like West Pokot and Turkana districts were not registered due to poor infrastructure. Other factors that played in included communities’ traditional beliefs, cultural practices, insecurity and banditry. One such area that has been affected by insecurity lies on the Kenya/Uganda border in West Pokot. Next to the newly established Kanyerus army post are families who have made a temporary home. These are locals, mostly women and children, who fled after their houses were razed down by cattle raiders and husbands killed in tribal wars. These families have now converted this camp into their home. However, for fear of being attacked, they cannot leave this place and are, therefore, not able to take part in the many reform processes going on.

Insecurity One of the women living next to the army post, Ms Cecilia Lomada says: “We cannot get out of this camp, even if we did, we will be killed like our husbands. I only managed to escape death narrowly when the raiders came.” She adds: “I could not take anything but I managed to run away with my two children.” Lomada does not see the importance of the whole voter registration exercise if

Majority of Pokot women have not registered as voters as they lost their identification cards during tribal clashes and cattle raids. Most will not register due to insecurity. Photo: MDC

the same Government cannot provide security. “How do we vote and why? For one I do not have an ID card. I lost everything during the clashes and someone would want me to vote? Why should I bother myself with an issue that does not directly help me?” she asks. Lomada’s story is like that of thousands of other women from North Rift and North Eastern parts of Kenya. These are women who may not have had a chance to register as voters because they lost their national identification cards in the tribal clashes or have been displaced from their homes. Another major factor that could jeopardise chances of Pokot women voting is the insecurity situation between the Pokot/ Karamojong, Pokot/Markwet, Pokot/Turkana border and the Pokot/Trans Nzoia borders. Women from these conflict prone areas will probably never know what democracy is all about.

Lomada does not see the importance of the whole voter registration exercise if the same Government cannot provide security.

According to Kacheliba District Officer, Mr Geoffrey Githinji: “Women suffered a lot during the skirmishes as men went out to war and majority of those killed were women and children.” Nauyapong’ and Kiwawa markets, formerly voter registration centres, are no more as shops were torched down by raiders and the residents fled for their safety. “We could have new voter registration centres but the problem is in convincing these people that calm has returned,” says Githinji. He adds: “As long as they see heavy army and police presence, nobody and particularly women, will trust our word.”

Tradition In most areas like Emolem, Alale, Sebit, Chesogon and Ortum, tradition bars women from getting out of their homes. This means voter registration for them is out of question. “Women are supposed to remain at home as men go out to get wind of the latest news in the village,” says Mr Samuel Lotiliatum, from Ortum. He explains: “Women are left to cuddle children and fetch water. We go out hunting for food and just keeping alert in case of an invasion.” During the 2002/2007 voter registration exercise, a survey revealed that many women (50.9 percent) interviewed re-

ported lack of identity cards compared to men (49 per cent) for non-registration. Requirements needed for one to have an ID have barred many women from acquiring the important document. For a married woman to have the identity card in her marital name, she must be accompanied by her husband to the registration centre. This means a marriage certificate alone does not work. A single woman faces challenges as well as she requires permission from her father to obtain documents such as passports and IDs. As a consequence of these discriminatory practices, Kenyan women are disenfranchised to register as voters. This could be the reason why many men register as voters as opposed to women. Currently there is little civic education for women on why voter registration is important, especially at a time when women leaders are advocating for a critical mass of women to be part of the governance structure. Since the voter registration started, there is no leader who has raised issues as to why voter registration should be gender sensitive to issues relating to women. Without some of these issues being taken into consideration, the hope of women registering in large numbers and making sure they participate in the historic event might be farfetched.


ISSUE 017, May 15-31, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

Dam quenches women’s thirst

11

By BENDARO TSUMA Water is a vital resource and for women, work in the homestead cannot start if it is missing. Statistics indicate that women have to walk over 18 hours a day in search of water. When a day has only 24 hours, one is left to wonder when they will look for wood fuel and food as they strive to accomplish other domestic chores. But a women’s group in rural Magarini District is setting the pace. They want to reduce the hours they spend searching for water and put their energies to other uses. They have hence decided to construct a dam to end the perpetual water problem in the area. When The Reject visited them recently, it was admirable to see how determined the Midodoni Village Women’s Group was. With babies strapped on their backs, others on their chests and some suckling, the women defied the ferocious temperatures that soared to 35˚C mark. They dug the tough ground with traditional hoes, scooped the hard sand with spades and worked tirelessly.

Joint effort

Women excavate sand in preparation of the construction of a dam in Magarini. Women in the area have had to walk more than 15km in search of water. Photo: Bendaro Tsuma

When enough sand had been dug from the ground, the women collected it into a heap and made a long line from the hole to the dumping site a few meters away. Instead of one woman carrying the load from the hole to the dumpsite, the women devised a simpler way of passing the load to its final destination. Using crude containers such as half 20litre plastic jerry cans and rusty tins, the women filled them up with the sand and passed the load from one to the other until the final woman who poured it onto the dumping heap. This enabled them to work faster and easily. According to the group’s spokesperson, Mrs Jumwa Safari Mae the tribulations women go through when searching for water cannot be measured. “Women suffer a lot looking for water. We have to walk more than 15km to fetch saline borehole water. This consumes a lot of our time and leaves us with little time to attend to our farm and domestic chores,” she says. Mae regrets that because of the water problem many girls did not go to school as they were expected to help their mothers search for the commodity. “Our daughters waste time and do not attend classes in the afternoon as they accompany us when we go out to look for water,” Mae says. She adds: “The girl child’s education is affected more because naturally according to cultural practice, they have to help their mothers get the commodity.” Waterborne diseases like bilharzias and dysentery among others are common in

the area as residents are exposed to untreated water. When it rains, they use untreated pond water that their animals also use. Residents can not afford to take a bath every day as they have to conserve as much water as possible. They bath only thrice per week. “Even love making has to be economical because four nights in a week, your partner stinks as they have not taken bath. So we are denied our conjugal rights because of the situation,” explains Mae. “That is why we came up with this idea of constructing our own dam so that when rains come, water is collected and we have enough supply to last us a few months,” she said.

Other activities The women are happy that there will be major changes in their lives as a result of the dam. Take the case of Mrs Dama Kapombe, who has wanted to do business for a long time but it has not been possible because she spends most of her time looking for water. “Now I will be able to start a business. I want to sell firewood which I have to buy from Arabuko or Marafa forests, bring it to

Gongoni and sell it. A few of my friends are doing this business successfully,” Kapombe said. Kapombe is a housewife and a mother of seven. Her husband, Mr Hudson Kapombe, worked at Krystaline Salt Firm for many years as a labourer and was sacked when he became a sick. He also relies on her for his upkeep. “When water is available near my home, I will have time to concentrate on the business. Lack of water has been our biggest headache,” she says. Others like Ms Mwanatumu Musa from Kibao cha Fundisa village are optimistic. The 45-year old mother of five believes when the water problem is solved, women will be freed from bondage to do other things. “I will be able to dedicate more time to my shamba which is about 10 kilometres away in Marereni,” Musa says. She adds: “I have had no time for it and produce less food every season because I spend only half a day there every day.” Musa says she has been forced to employ a guard when there are crops in the farm as baboons, monkeys and pigs among other animals usually feed on them.

Waterborne diseases like bilharzias and dysentery among others are common in the area as residents are exposed to untreated water. When it rains, they use untreated pond water that their animals also use.

“During the day the guard is not there, it is usually a disaster because I cannot be in the farm early enough,” Musa explains. To many women easily accessible water is a tremendous relief that will free them from suffering. Musa says: “I have to first look for water which is not within easy reach, make sure my children have taken bath and gone to school before I think of going to the farm.”

Loan

Area assistant chief, Mr Bashee Hassan Bashee, has been of great help to the women. “I am always helping them with food and drinking water when they are at work. I also look for donors to assist them,” said Bashee. The dam, which will cost about Sh300 million is being supported by the World Bank and is targeted to supply water to most of the dry areas in Magarini District. The money used to construct the dam is a loan from the World Bank to Malindi Water and Sewerage Company (Mawasco) and will be paid by the company over an agreed period. According to the Magarini Constituency Development Fund Manager, Mr Iregi Rashid, about 70,000 people will benefit from the project. The water supply is expected to start from Serengeti and will pass through Mambrui, Marikebuni, Angels Bay, Mjanaheri, Gongoni and end up in Marereni. Already Sh30 million has been spent from the CDF kitty for survey and other basic works and the project will be implemented jointly with Mawasco.


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ISSUE 017, May 16-31, 2010

Unfiltered, uninhibited…. just the gruesome truth

Misery of Mwingi’s street children

S

By Paul Kimanzi

cruffy and dazed, helpless children aimlessly roam the streets of dusty Mwingi Town, occasionally stopping pedestrians to beg for pocket change, or stoopingto pick cigarette butts and other items of interest. The glue-sniffing street children, band in small groups of three to five and on closer observation, appear organised in their movements. They are quick at spotting opportunities to make money. Aside from begging, the boys readily offer to assist travellers and other people with baggage — at a small fee of course. In this way, they are able to sustain their frugal lifestyle. After several hours of roaming most of the small urban centre, they detour to particular retail shops to refill the plastic containers that are forever positioned close to their noses.

Sale of gum “With KSh5, I buy enough gum to take me for a whole day,” confides Mike to The Reject shortly after emerging from one of the three known retailers of the intoxicant. He appears hardly older than six years. Mike knows more than five points in Mwingi Town alone, where he can buy the gum, together with his two friends, aged eight and 10. He directs us to a well known retail shop from where he regularly buys gum for KSh5 or more, depending on the quantity. He is not clear on the measurements but displays the small plastic bottle he is totting, saying a full measure would cost him much more. To confirm his story, he is given another KSh5 coin and sent back to the shop. But he immediately returns with the claim, “he has told me the price has gone up by KSh5!” Unfazed by this turn of events, and with the suspicion the boy could be lying in an attempt to get more money, he is given another KSh5 and sent back. He returns shortly, this time with a wide smile. Reason? His bottle is near full.“Leo ameniongezea kidogo (this time round he has given me a little more),” he blurts out. We take Mike and the gum with us to the shopkeeper and introduce ourselves. At first he denies that he sells the intoxicant to young boys, but admits to the charge when we show him the gum he just sold to Mike. The shopkeeper, in his 40s with his wife by his side, pleads with us not to report them to the authorities. “Please let this matter rest. We are sorry and promise not to sell gum again,” he implores.

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Young street children enjoy a meal at a hotel in Mwingi town. A plate goes for Kshs. 10. inset: street children sniffing gum. Children as young as five have been recruited to sniffing gum by the older boys. Photo: Paul Kimanzi

Investigations reveal that businessmen use older boys of between 14 and 16 to distribute the intoxicant to the younger ones. We also established that majority of the children have run away from their families in town, or were abandoned and left to fend for themselves. Fortunately for the town’s destitute, not all the able residents have turned their back to them. Mr Mwendwa Nzamu, 61, and his 41 year-old wife, Mwangangi, are a couple that stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Investigations reveal that businessmen use older boys of between 14 and 16 to distribute the intoxicant to the younger ones. We also established that majority of the children have run away from their families in town, or were abandoned and left to fend for themselves.

Affordable meals Through their hotel that charges as low as KSh10 a meal, the couple has ensured that street children and other destitute in town can have at least one affordable meal a day. “We have reduced our normal rates so that these children will be able to afford,” says Nzamu. As a consequence, all the children call at the hotel for meals. Like most acts of generosity, there are conditions attached. “We caution them against sniffing the gum. The boys are our friends but sometimes we force them to leave the

Executive Director: Rosemary Okello-Orlale Programme Coordinator: Wilson Ugangu Programme Officer: Florence Sipalla Programme Assistant: Mercy Mumo Editor: Jane Godia Designer: Noel Lumbama Copy Editor: Frank Ojiambo Contributors: Abdullahi Jamaa, Ibrahim Oruko, Paul Kimanzi, Musembi Nzengu, Ben Oroko, Nick Odhiambo, Odhiambo Odhiambo, Joseph Mukubwa, Bendaro Tsuma, Aggrey Buchunju, Rosemary Okello, and George Omonso

practice. They cannot sniff glue when we are around,” explains Mwangangi. The area Children’s Officer, Mrs Jacinta Mwinzi admits her office is aware of the alarming child abuse in the area. However, she notes that an advisory body has been created to guide the authorities on ways to handle the problem. “The boys you see are all new in the town. We had rounded up the earlier ones and moved them to rehabilitation centres in Nairobi recently,” Mwinzi says. “If we identify needy cases, we take them off the streets and have some admitted in schools and others to rehabilitation centres. Unfortunately, we don’t have any children’s care centre here in Mwingi,” she reiterates. Unlike the boys, destitute street girls, many of whom are victims of broken homes, resort to prostitution. Mwinzi faults the local authority and provincial administration in Mwingi for sleeping on the job by failing to ensure children’s rights are not violated. “My office cannot work alone. I have to collaborate with the local authority and provincial administration,” Mwinzi laments.

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