KENYA: Bernard Ndege, "I need to know who killed my family"
Bernard Ndege at his home in Osogo Village, Kendu bay
KENDU BAY, 16 February 2011 (IRIN) - Bernard Ndege lost all 11 members of his immediate family when his home in the lakeside town of Naivasha was torched during the orchestrated violence
that swept across much of Kenya after the December 2007 presidential election.
Ndege, who was badly burnt and has since moved from Naivasha to his birthplace near Lake Victoria, spoke to IRIN about his daily struggle to make ends meet and his desire to bring those who organized the violence to justice.
"I now live at the mercy of others. People donate food and money, sometimes I benefit when the government distributes food to those who were affected by floods - this has become my life.
"Since 1978, I had been a fisherman in Naivasha. All came to an end on 28 January 2008.
"When we woke up on that day, my eldest son, who was 18, returned from a communal water tap to tell us he had heard other youths talk of war planned for that day. Later, I saw groups of people gathered outside their houses. I heard that the Mungiki [an outlawed sect] youth were around.
"A group of policemen came by and asked whether we had seen the Mungiki youth; they were told the group had headed to the highway nearby. The police asked us to return to our houses and to remain indoors and we did.
"We locked ourselves in and at around 10am we started hearing stones landing on our roof, I went out and locked the gate. However, a group of attackers came and broke down the gate using a huge stone, and then they surrounded the house. We tried to repulse them but it was no use, there were too many.
"We were 20 people in total inside my house. I tried to plead with the attackers but they refused to listen. Then I heard one of them ask another to bring a can of petrol. They started pouring it around the house; then the same man asked for a matchbox, it was given to him. He then lit our house.
"As we kept screaming inside that we were being burnt alive, the attackers were also screaming outside to confuse any would-be rescuers. This went on for long; I don't know how I got out of the house but when I came to, it was 3pm and I was lying outside the house, half-dead.
"The police came and took me to hospital. They did not tell me my family had perished. I was in hospital for a few days before the police took me to the mortuary to identify the bodies of my wives and children.
"Later, the ODM [Orange Democratic Party, led by presidential contender, now Prime Minister Raila Odinga] gave me support by buying the coffins and transporting the bodies home. That is how I came and buried them in this compound I am now living in. Funds raised during the funeral were used to construct this house.
"Later, village elders and my relatives helped me get a new wife. Now we have two children. The local church, where I am a member, has been very helpful. They help me keep harmful thoughts away.
"I have not received any counselling of any kind and sometimes I wonder why God spared me. Why didn't he let me die alongside my family so that I don't have to live on handouts like I do now? Due to the burns I sustained in the attack, I can no longer stay in the sun for long hours. This makes it difficult for me to resume fishing. I wish I could get help to start a small kiosk so that I can provide for my family.
"Right now all I think about is how I have been forgotten. Even the government seems to just focus only on IDPs [internally displaced persons] who are in camps. I don't need help for myself, I need help with my young family, the children will soon grow up and they will need to go to school; how will I provide for them?
"One minute, I had a house, two wives, children and all the other stuff that people have in their homes; the next I am living on the mercy of others, this is very depressing for me.
"The only crime I committed was being above 18 and having a voter's card. It did not matter whether you voted for the prime minister or the president [Mwai Kibaki].
"My biggest wish is to go to The Hague [where the International Criminal Court has initiated proceedings against six Kenyans deemed to have had the greatest responsibility for the violence]. I want to see the suspects face-to-face. I want to know why the police asked us to remain indoors on that day. I want to know which policemen were on duty and allowed our house to burn for hours on end without taking action. I want to face my attackers and ask them to look at my scarred face.
"I would like to testify, be it in Kenyan courts or at The Hague, because I need to know who killed my family and why."