Mediation talks are still going on here. It seems that the government and the opposition have agreed to create a Prime Ministerial post. How they will adjust the consitution to make that possible is not yet clear.
Fighting is still going on as well. A friend called from Kakamega last week to tell me the town was on fire again. There was no mention of it in the local press the next day. Local press give the ongoing violence only selective and marginal coverage. International press give no coverage to these flare-ups.
There are also growing threats of new widespread violence, as some people grow impatient with the pace of the mediation process. There are rumors that both government and opposition supporters are gearing up for more fighting.
There are Mayoral elections across Kenya today. The city councillors are the only people who cast ballots in that process. Kenyan colleagues say the results are unlikely to create any new unrest.
In the meantime, the African Woman and Child Feature Service staff is busy gathering voices of women and children who have been affected by the conflict. Here are more interviews that Joyce Chimbi did with HIV-positive women who have been displaced by the violence.
Before the post-election violence, Ann Wairimu took for granted her easy access to anti-retroviral drugs.
On the 4th of January, Ann fled her house in Gatwekera, Kibera with no medication to keep her condition in check. She says nothing could have prepared her for how quickly her health has deteriorated.
“I don’t know exactly when I contracted the HIV virus, but you know the kind of life we lead in the slum. Everyday is a struggle, trying to make a living in whichever way we can.
I have been on Septrin for some time and every day I have grown stronger. The usual opportunistic infections have been there but I have faced them with courage.
Since I fled my house, I haven’t been able to eat well. With uncertain food provision, your health can’t withstand the blow.
I have been experiencing frequent bouts of brief blackouts. I have been having a running stomach. The chest pains are unbearable and so are the constant headaches.
The sores around my mouth are too painful and even when there is food, it a task putting it in my mouth.
I still take my medication as is required but am beginning to have second thoughts.
Why should I worry about my health when my life is falling apart? Do I have a future in a country where I’m among thousands of internally displaced Kenyans?
As Kenyans continue to devour each other, I have lost all hope of redeeming myself. When you are HIV positive, this kind of constant worry counteracts all the gains made.
I haven’t seen my husband since chaos erupted, and now my five children are looking at me as the symbol of hope.
Life for me has taken a very unfortunate turn. Before the results were announced, I used to cater for my household with the little money I made at my stall.
Now I can’t even be a source of hope for myself and most importantly, my children, in these very trying times.’’
Wairimu says is now only hoping for is peace, and for people to embrace brotherhood.
Lying on the grass, her eyes welling up with unshed tears, Jane Nyamboka relives her life as a HIV-positive mother of three and as a displaced person in her own country.
Her fairly bearable life in Kibera was harshly disrupted on the 2nd of January, by an outbreak of violence in Kibera slums, where she has been living for the last six years.
The sorrow and desperation she feels is evident in her sunken eyes. As she talks about her experience, she is forced to pause as her chest heaves with a persistent cough.
“It is difficult to reconcile what my life was with what it has come to be.
When I tested HIV-positive in 2002, I knew it would only be a matter of days before I died. I started squandering the little money I had set aside for my business.
Why save money when my days on earth were to end soon? But the days passed, and the months, and now about five years later, I’m still alive and kicking.
After life handed me one of the most feared conditions, I realized that I didn’t have to catalyze my death.
I started stocking up my hardware shop and taking my anti-retroviral drugs as was advised at Kenyatta Hospital, where I still check in.
My three children have been accessing quality education but all that has changed now. Since I fled my house, my health has nosedived.
I forgot my drugs in the house. With all the chaos and terror, it was the last thing on my mind.
For about three days, I didn’t take any medication. Luckily, the International Medical Corps was very swift. They supplied us with the drugs we needed.
Normally, I take the medication twice a day. This is normally coupled with frequent eating so that I can be strong enough for the drugs.
In addition, I have to eat quality food. The uncertain quality of food provision at the camp has meted a hard blow on my health.
My skin is now covered by a very painful rash. Around my chest, there are tiny blisters which have made my life a nightmare. The persistent cough is now driving me to the edge.
This, I feel, will catalyze my situation from being HIV positive to having full-blown AIDS.’’
For Nyamboka and many other women in her condition, only peace would reassure them that life will go back to normal.
Hannah Wambui goes into deep thought as she wonders where she will go when she leaves the Jamhuri grounds. She has sought refuge here for a month since the post –election violence erupted.
Wambui is 40 years old. She is a single mother of two children, who are both in their upper primary school. She also cares for three orphans whose parents succumbed to HIV/AIDS. With her dependants sitting around her, she ponders what life holds in store for all of them.
Everything that she owned was stolen and her house burnt to ashes in the Kianda village of Kibera during the violence. Like many other victims of the chaos that followed the December 2007 elections, Wambui saw her life change in a few moments.
“I have nowhere to go to since I virtually lost everything that I ever owned in my life,” Wambui says.
On top of homelessness and poverty, Wambui is also managing and HIV/AIDS infection. She was diagnosed in 2003 and has been taking anti-retroviral drugs. She says the stress and disruptions of early 2008 have taken a toll on her health. She is emaciated and says she has developed several chest complications due to sleeping in the cold at the Jamhuri fairgrounds.
For over 15 years, Wambui and her family survived on rental income from a property she inherited from her mother. Wambui also owned a small shop where she sold dried grains.
Wambui says, although she has been ill on several occasions due to opportunistic infections, she always continued working to earn enough money to take care of herself and her children.
She confesses that what is now killing her is not the fact that she is HIV positive, but stress from the worry over what the future holds for her family.
“Even if I take [anti-retroviral drugs], I am not able to take piece my life together and I am really worried about my children’s future,” says Wambui.
So far, her children have not returned to school for the new semester. Wambui says although schools have opened, they lack the basic supplies.
Although, she receives medicines from the International Medical Corps, Wambui says the challenge has been getting a decent meal to support the drugs.
She wonders at how she has been reduced to being a burden to the community, while she was used to caring for herself.
Wambui says she separated with her husband about six years ago because her husband was irresponsible. The only close relative is her sister who lives in the outskirts of Nairobi. Wambui says staying with her sister would only be a temporary solution, as her sister struggles daily to meet her own family’s needs
With tearful eyes, Wambui says she hopes that calm will be restored, but she would be happier if even she had a roof over her head and capital to start any kind of business.