01/03/2013 – Five years ago, Kenya was engulfed in violence after a contested presidential election. Around 1200 people died and hundreds of thousands uprooted from their homes requiring humanitarian aid.
The country is now holding another election. Margaret Kadogo survived the 2007/2008 violence but now lives on handouts. She pleads for a peaceful vote.
Magaret Kadogo left the plains of northern Kenya more than 20 years ago in search of a better life. And she found it. She found work in the flower-growing town of Naivasha, where she would later marry and start a family.
Five years ago, Margaret and her husband Samuel Ekai still had jobs at a flower farm in Naivasha, Rift Valley Province. They both worked hard to provide for their five children.
But this steady life was disrupted when the country descended into violence following the contested presidential vote. Margaret and her husband managed to flee.
Like many survivors of the tribal violence, they lost all their belongings. On top of this, the flower farm they both worked for collapsed. Their jobs were gone.
As the country healed from the electoral violence, Margaret and Samuel had nothing to return to. They decided to settle back in Lodwar, a land where neither had any surviving roots.
Margaret and her husband now live mainly on assistance from charities.
Five years on, Kenya is about to go to polls again. Margaret prays that the vote will be peaceful. “I saw the violence in 2008, and for us who suffered and escaped with our lives, we can only pray that this time, elections will be peaceful,” she says.
Life has taken a difficult turn for Margaret, but she remains optimistic. “I broke injured my leg while fleeing the 2008 conflict, and for three years I could not walk,” she says.
“I’m happy that I survived and I’m now able to walk again, but our lives were destroyed. I never thought I’d live on handouts. I had established a life in Naivasha; all my children were born there. That was my home.”
Margaret is slowly recovering from her injury, compounded by a pre-existing medical condition. She supports herself on a crutch, and hopes to soon start a small retail business.
Isabelle D’Haudt, the Head of Kenya’s operations at the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) was recently in Naivasha, Nakuru, and Kisumu, some of the cities that experienced deep tribal conflict. She says that the regions are much calmer now, but communities and humanitarians are taking precautionary measures.
The European Commission is supporting a preparedness programme that is engaging in a country-wide peace promotion and also ensuring emergency assistance is available quickly should it be required. ECHO has allocated 3 million euros for elections preparedness.
“We are obviously hoping for the best, but contingency measures demand that we prepare for various scenarios, including in the worst case, an outbreak of violence,” says Isabelle.
Margaret is one of those displaced people that are yet to be resettled. She missed out on a housing programme that is constructing homes for about 800 families of the 2008 post-election conflict who fled to Lodwar.
Now, her husband struggles to look for menial work in Lodwar town. On a good day, he earns about 100 shillings (less than one euro). It is hardly enough for the family’s meal.
Margaret’s family is one of 14,000 people selected to receive food assistance in the form of cash instead of in-kind food supported by ECHO through its partner the World Food Programme (WFP).
Her desire is to one day to raise enough money for constructing a mud house on a small parcel of land donated to her by the local chief. If the cash grants continue, Margaret will use part of the money to start a business, which she hopes will meet her food and medical needs and eventually lift her out of poverty.
Until then, she continues renting a one-room house in the outskirts of Lodwar.
By Martin Karimi, Regional Information Assistant in Nairobi, Kenya