By Jackie Owiso*
“I hate my daughter, and I have wished her death,” says Elizabeth – a gang rape victim of Kenya’s post-election violence – about her six-year-old daughter Neema (not their real names).
Elizabeth’s motherhood was violently thrust upon her during the 2007/08 post-election violence. While her fellow teenagers across the country were celebrating their sweet sixteen birthdays, Elizabeth was trying to come to terms with how she would take care of a baby she never wanted.
After being raped by a gang of 15 men, she does not even know the name of the father of her child.
On December 31st 2007 at around 5:30 p.m., Elizabeth left her friend’s place in Mathare – one of Nairobi’s slums – and was on her way back to her aunt’s house. She heard gunshots but could not tell where they were coming from. “Violence had already started in the other parts of the country, but it had not yet spread…So I was shocked when I heard the gunshots. One was so close to my ear, it almost hit me,” she narrates.
She started running, trying to flee death that was already staring into her face. Then she ran into a gang of about 15 young men. Elizabeth says the men tried to say hi to her but because she was in deep shock, she did not respond to their greetings. “One of them then hit me with a blunt object on my head. I fell down, and then he forced himself on me. The last words I heard before I lost consciousness were that they were going to teach me a lesson for my arrogance,” she says amid sobs.
Elizabeth found out that she was pregnant when she went back to school. Her cousin demanded that she get an abortion or else she would stop paying her school fees. But Elizabeth was afraid the abortion might kill her. “Having lost both my parents, my cousin was the one paying my school fees. And because I could not go ahead and get an abortion, she kicked me out of her house and told me to go fend for myself,” she says.
Forced out of the comfort of her middle class home, Elizabeth had to move in with a friend and live in the dark alleys of Mathare slums where she gave birth. “At times, I look at my baby and feel a lot of hatred for her. I feel she is the reason why I am living in this deep state of poverty,” she says.
Elizabeth says any hiccup that threatens to halt the cases at the ICC makes her turn the rage on her daughter. “There was this one time I was in so much pain from the suffering that I was going through that I tried to suffocate Neema in her sleep,” she says.
Her brutal acts towards her now six-year-old daughter have drawn the attention of her neighbors. Juddy Kanaiza, her next door neighbor, says Elizabeth beats her daughter even for making silly mistakes such as spilling tea. “I sometimes wonder if Neema really is her daughter. One time she beat her so badly that she started bleeding. I had to threaten to take her to the police if she did not stop her brutality,” says Kanaiza.
It is very evident that Elizabeth will have to live with the pain of the PEV as long as her daughter Neema lives. She says the only thing that might offer her some consolation is seeing justice served at the ICC.
*Jackie Owiso is a pseudonym for a Nairobi-based journalist. Originally published on The Hague Trials Kenya.
Photo: a girl playing in one of Nairobi’s slums (Photo: Gates Foundation/Flickr)