It started with a call from a person who introduced himself as a detective from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI). He said he was reaching out to survivors of the 2007/8 post-election violence.
So, being law-abiding citizens, they obliged to his request to visit the DCI headquarters in Nairobi, where they recorded “statements” about the happenings of that period.
“George Kinoti sent one of his officers who gave me a call asking me if I can find those who survived the Kiambaa massacre to meet the DCI boss but he did not tell us the aim and that is how I gathered them because, as a pastor of the (Kiambaa PAG) Church, I know,” said Reverend Stephen Mburu.
So the DCI allegedly organised their trip to Nairobi and back after hosting them at a press conference where he spoke forcefully about helping them seek justice and protection after being threatened.
What followed was a national debate about reopening old wounds, with President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday warning the DCI against “exhuming old graves”.
“Those trying to open up the graves must be warned. What they are doing is not a joke,” the President said when he presided over the launch of the collection of signatures required for the BBI referendum planned for June next year.
And yesterday, the Kiambaa survivors called a press conference and denied claims that they appeared before the DCI on Monday because they had been threatened.
Speaking at an Eldoret hotel, they dismissed claims by Mr Kinoti that they had reported that they were living in fear and in imminent danger of being attacked.
Led by Rev Mburu of the Kiambaa Kenya Assemblies of God (KAG) church, which got burnt in the January 1, 2008 attack, the survivors said they had no intention of visiting the DCI headquarters but only did so to obey summons.
“We did not go there to record statements to fix anyone, we honoured the DCI’s invite and it was never our plan or motive,” said the clergyman.
He said that the Kiambaa tragedy had been used wrongly by some individuals for selfish interests.
Even though the DCI has clarified that it will not reopen post-election violence cases that were investigated and concluded, the motive of inviting the survivors to record fresh statements pertaining to what happened remains unclear after it emerged that their travel was facilitated by the DCI.
The 24 adults left for Nairobi on Monday at 4am aboard three matatus and left Nairobi for Eldoret the same day at 4pm.
Before they arrived at the DCI headquarters, they said they thought they were going to give personal details so that they could get financial assistance, as most of them had never been compensated to date.
They were, however, surprised, they said, to meet other people at the DCI who were reportedly post-election violence survivors from Molo, Nakuru. They were thereafter separated to record statements.
Ms Rebecca Wangui Kiongo, who lost her husband Samuel Kiongo Mirethu in the Kiambaa church tragedy, said: “When we arrived, I was happy because I was before the government and I thought there was something.”
Her husband, Mr Kiongo, alongside Joseph Kimani, Mitati Rubia, George Miriu, James Mwicigi, Peter Mwangi, Margaret Wanjiru and Simon Gathimba were allegedly killed at the height of the violence.
Four suspects were charged with the killing and were acquitted in 2009 by Chief Justice David Maraga, when he was the Nakuru High Court judge, for lack of evidence.
Mr Kinoti’s officers asked them to give their accounts of the 2007-2008 post-election violence and if indeed there is someone who is threatening them currently.
“We were asked to narrate how the 2007/2008 post-election mayhem occurred but it is not true that we went there to say that we are being threatened by some people who want our land, in fact, currently, we are living peacefully, our children are grazing together and we are grateful for President Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and ODM boss Raila Odinga for working hard to ensure that there is peace,” said Philip Simeon Maina, another survivor of Kiambaa arson attack.
They warned against any attempt to revive those cases, noting that it will ignite animosity against communities in the country.
“Most of the post-election victims are still in the healing process and attempts to revive such cases will open old wounds and incite Kenyans to kill each other,” said Philip Kimunya, son of Elizabeth Wangui, the woman whose photograph appeared on local dailies wailing and who died last year.
The survivors, after recording statements with the DCI, were asked to play a vital role in preaching peace as the 2022 General Election draws nearer.
They appealed to Kenyans to support the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), a product of the handshake between the Head of State and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga .