Political Crisis in Kenya Hits Women Hard

Florence Machio

As is usual with political upheaval, the crisis in Kenya is falling heavily on women and children.

The crisis in my country has become a nightmare for me. My girlfriend and I woke up at 5am on December 27th, 2007, to head to the polling station since we both vote at the same station. We queued and waited patiently to cast our vote. We had been told that the polling station will be opened at 6 am. When we got there, we thought we would be among the first ones to vote but were surprised to learn that some Kenyans were at the polling station as early as 2am.

Prior to the elections, we had been told that our vote was important and that it will determine the destiny of our nation. With that in mind we went all out to cast our vote, very assured of the fact that it will definitely reflect what we wanted as a country. When tallying started everybody was excited as it started reflecting what we had in mind. Then the delays started. And everyone wondered except those who were looting the vote on why there were delays.

To make a long story short, the incumbent Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner amidst protests. The journalists were chased out of the room including international electoral observers and leaders, when the results were being announced. Later we were told via the national broadcaster (government owned) that the incumbent was the president and that the opposition leader Raila Odinga had lost the elections.

Immediately after this happened, we were shown the swearing in of Mwai Kibaki, without the presence of the diplomatic corps and the national anthem was not played at the state house (equivalent to the White House in the United States).

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Now what followed soon after as if on cue, was violence in the major towns of Kenya and the capital Nairobi. Shops were closed and people stayed indoors as very many Kenyans expressed disappointment at the lack transparency of the process especially the tallying of votes. It did not help matters when the some electoral commission members said that they were not sure of the figures they announced, and the chairman later revealing that he announced the results under duress.

You might be wondering why am making a political statement out of a reproductive health website. Well, as usual with conflict, the people who are mostly affected are women and children. To make matters worse I live near the Nairobi women's hospital which has a gender recovery center that offers free services for women who have experienced violence. As I write this article the hospital has received 29 women and girls who have been raped.

As the political class debate on who won the elections women are being violated and few manage to get to the Nairobi women's hospital and report the cases. Since we are also cut off in terms of communication with a ban on live broadcast information from around the country is not readily available.

My worry is that women will continue to become statistics especially when there is conflict and especially sexual violence. I believe that Kenya will emerge out of this victorious but I also know that women will be the worse off when everybody has been satisfied with the verdict.

As we seek solutions and as people call for peace, I haven't heard yet the first lady say anything around the women who are being violated. The violence must end otherwise I will keep on updating you on statistics…one woman is one too many!

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