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Kenyan Father of Six Counts His Losses

 

 Image of John's wife, Jane, with her children after fleeing from Kenya to Uganda
Jane holds her twins, Lucy and Bernard, who are five-months-old.  Jane's family fled from Kenya to Uganda when violence erupted after the elections in December.

 

Forty-year-old John had looked forward to the Kenyan elections. The father of six and owner of a small shop a few miles from the Ugandan border, he had no reason to suspect the elections would go horribly wrong or that he and his family would become refugees, fleeing the violence.

“On the 27th of December, my family and I were indoors listening to the election result announcements on the radio. On the 28th, we fled,” John said.

The family made their way to the Busia Integrated Primary school refugee transit camp in Uganda. During the last week of January, the government of Uganda and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees relocated the families from the school and other camps to a new location in Tororo district, close to the Kenyan boarder.

John and his wife, Jane, fled to Uganda with their five sons and daughter. For close to a month, the family lived in a classroom, sharing the space with 42 other Kenyan refugees. According to John, the families were cramped together, each family taking up a small space with their property, made up mainly of cooking pans, watering cans and clothing. Many families fled without taking anything with them. Most of their possessions were given to them at camp. 

“The twins sleep next to my wife’s side while Joseph, Clement, Henry and Godfrey sleep next to me,” John said.

Joseph, the eldest, is 17. Their two youngest are twins, Lucy and Bernard, just five months old.

The twins lost the majority of their clothing when the family fled. The older boys also lost their school books.

“On the 2nd of January, I left the family here and snuck back to Kenya. I found my home vandalized-- it was actually already occupied by another family,” John said. “We just left everything and ran. My sofas, radio, beds, phone-- we left everything. I managed only to pick up a few clothes for the children.” 

He also visited his shop and found it had been vandalized.

“For now, I am dormant. I don’t have any plans. I don’t know if I should go back to Kenya or if I should stay away. But for sure, I don’t feel safe in Kenya even though it is my motherland,” John said.

One of John’s sons, Clement, 15, said his major worry is his education. Since the election, he has not been able to attend school.  If it were not for the violence, Clement would be preparing for exams.  “I want to become an electrical engineer, preferably in another country… so that I can learn more about the world,” Clement said.

Clement has asked his father many times when he will be able to go back to school.  “I have been telling him that the Kenyan government will do something for him here in the camp based on the Kenyan syllabus…. Honestly, I just keep hoping,” John said.

But now, Clement is afraid to return to school in Kenya, he mentioned his friend John who was killed in the violence recently.  “I don’t think I can go back to school, I fear I could die,” Clement added.  

 

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