Peter Okoth: “We are threatened by the same people we treated for their injuries”

Peter Okoth is the medical superintendent at Naivasha District Hospital. After ethnic violence in the Rift Valley town of Naivasha, Okoth and his family, as well as several other members of the hospital's medical team, have joined displaced people camping at the local prison.

"On the 27th [of December 2007] we voted peacefully. Things seemed okay till the results were announced; that's when we saw tension building up and people began talking in low tones.

"Nevertheless, we never thought we were in danger. We continued working and thought the bad feeling would pass; there was certainly no indication that it would affect us at the hospital.

"Last Sunday [27 January], my wife was preparing to take the kids to church when we heard noise along the road. We heard gunshots from town so I told her not to go.

"Within an hour our house was surrounded by a loud mob. I had to make decisions very quickly - I called the provincial police officer but he was busy trying to handle the situation in the town and couldn't take my calls. I then called the officer in charge of the local prison, who reacted so fast - he came to pick me and my family up.

"The crowd was really charged, we almost didn't get out; the officers we were with fired in the air but they had no respect for the power of the gun - they were so heated up.

"So we started sleeping at the prison - my family and several others who were also chased from their homes.

"When I went to the hospital after a few days, it became immediately clear that it would not be possible to carry out my usual activities due to the hostility I felt in and around the hospital. The situation was terrible - only doctors perceived to be from the 'right tribe' were working. They were overworked and overstretched; the casualty unit was full and they had not slept in days.

"I have been doing auditing and trying to do some work, but we non-Kikuyu staff are regularly threatened by youths - sometimes by the very people we have treated for injuries the previous day.

"My wife is a school teacher and has not returned to her school; the kids - one is four and the other is seven - are also not in school. I hope the situation eases, but at the moment perhaps the better option is for me to move away from here and work elsewhere; I think that's the practical solution."

kr/mw