Kenyan boy conceived through hate, lives without love
By Katy Migiro
“I wish he was dead,” said Grace Wanjiku referring to her four-year-old son, Charles. “I don’t feel any love for him.”
My heart went out to the innocent boy. While Grace said he didn’t deserve to be alive, he certainly didn’t deserve the miserable life he’d been born into.
Charles was not conceived out of love, but out of hate.
His mother was gang-raped by five men in Kenya’s Rift Valley province during the chaos that followed Kenya’s disputed 2007 election. Over 1,200 people were killed and some 600,000 displaced before order was restored with a power-sharing deal.
As the torrential rain pounded on the roof making her voice barely audible, I coaxed Grace to tell me about her ordeal.
“It was very violent. They beat me. They were pulling my legs apart in opposite directions. It still hurts even now,” she said, rubbing her lower belly.
“When I think of the things those people did, I can’t think straight … I want to die and leave this world.”
Grace, 32, also contracted HIV/AIDS and syphilis.
Thousands of women were raped during the post-election violence. But rights activists say no one has ever been convicted. Nor have the victims received any compensation.
“There is clearly no political will to get anything done,” said Neela Ghoshal, a researcher with Human Rights Watch.
“The government has an obligation to try as hard as it can and not to abandon the victims. And right now, I think that is exactly what they have done – abandoned the victims.”
The majority of women raped in Nairobi slums were gang raped, sometimes by up to 20 men, in their homes in front of children and husbands, who often later abandoned them, according to a 2008 commission of inquiry.
Most women did not report these attacks. Almost a third said they had been raped by police officers, while others feared being targeted again or thought nothing would be done.
After she was raped, Grace fled southwards to stay in Nakuru with her cousin. Her husband said he didn’t want anything to do with a sick person.
She joined a group of almost 600 internally displaced families who clubbed together to buy a 68-acre plot in Nyahururu, north of Nakuru, because they were too scared to return to their homes.
The bleak field is peppered with makeshift shelters and a few mouldy white tents carried from the displaced people’s camps set up at the height of the bloodshed.
Grace and three of her children live in a hut made of grass and sticks. It is bitterly cold and leaks when it rains. She suffers from chest infections and often goes hungry, which makes it hard to stomach her HIV/AIDS antiretroviral drugs.
“Everyone has neglected me,” she said.
It was hard to disagree with her conclusion as we left her and returned to our mercifully ordinary lives.
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Image caption: A girl displaced during post-election violence plays with a doll at the soccer stadium in Nakuru, west of Nairobi February 16, 2008. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra