Children and innocence (Kenya & ethnicity)

[This short story was posted on the Msfara blog]

All Wairimu remembers about fleeing her home is being woken up in the middle of the night as he father screamed “They are coming to kill us. She has no idea who they were or why they were coming to kill them but she still ran as fast as her legs could carry her.

When Wairimu’s family fled the violence that ravaged their village, the eight-year-old lost her home, her precious plastic necklace, her school uniform and her classroom. “We don’t have much,” she said, “but we always had our school.”

The violence that swept through Kenya after December’s disputed presidential election started as children like Wairimu sought to start a new school year.

Two weeks ago, Wairimu was finally back in school though in a temporary tent set up in one of the camps in the conflict-torn Rift Valley. She was elated. “I have two dresses that my mother saved from our burning house,” she said. “This one is my favourite. It’s my Sunday church dress, but going back to school was special so my mother allowed me to wear it.”

Wairimu enjoys being in class and is quick to point out her 3 best friends – Chebet, Achieng and Mueni [Note: these are names from four different “opposed” ethnic groups.] These four are oblivious to the conflict that has divided the country along tribal lines. The girls swing hand-in-hand, singing as they walk to their new homes in the IDP camp. Once at the camp the four best friends part ways. Each one heads towards the corners of the camp where the majority of the people are from the same tribes as them.

“I can not wait to see my friends tomorrow.” Wairimu says in an excited tone. “My parents said I shouldn’t play with people from the other side of the camp because they are not nice people. But I don’t believe them because they are my best friends.” she adds positively.

By Julie Mwabe

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