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Kiambaa Church Massacre: The permanent scar in Ruto’s political career

Kiambaa Church Massacre: The permanent scar in Ruto’s political career

By Justus Karanja

Today, Bishop Joseph Kamau Mariko of KAG Church in Uasin Gishu County has appealed for funds from well wishers to rebuild Kiambaa PAG Church that was set on fire by marauding Kalenjin youths at the height of the 2007/08 post-election violence.

In an advertisement carried in a local daily, Bishop Mariko lamented that top country leaders including Deputy President William Ruto, who hails from the county, have never visited the church.

He stated the Kiambaa KAG Church was set on fire by raiders killing 35 people, including women and children hiding inside, during the 2008 Post-Election Violence.

The bishop said the church remained a monument of shame and a bitter reminder of the extremes of politically instigated ethnic hatred.

He stated the local community and well wishers have been planning to rebuild the sanctuary despite serious opposition from politicians blamed for the barbaric act that left a permanent scar not only on survivors but the Kenya nation as a whole.

 '*With God's grace, the rebuilding of the Church has began and construction is currently underway. The committee in charge of the project is asking well wishers to support the construction by making contributions to KAG Kiambaa Project A/C: (Family Bank Eldoret), Pay-bill Number: (222111), A/C: (085000100123). “

Indeed, more than a decade after the massacre, a bush covers the graves of the victims at the deserted ground.

The Kiambaa story was slowly being forgotten. Most of the survivors fled to other regions.

For those who remained behind, attempts to rebuild the church had borne no fruit until recently.

In the recent past, however, they have intensified their efforts to achieve that goal and improve relations between the Kalenjin and Kikuyu communities — the warring sides in the region during the violence.

Pastor Paul Karanja, who lived nearby, has restarted the church with a few members.

 He has put up a makeshift iron sheet structure just next to the graveyard.

And for the first time, residents from all communities kept vigil at the church to usher in the New Year.

Karanja, using his own resources and contributions from a few members, bought the iron sheets to build the structure that now acts as the only reminder of the tragedy.

His zeal for reconstruction offers a story of hope, away from the doom and gloom that had become synonymous with the place.

The pastor and other residents have appealed for support to build a new church.

 “It has been difficult for residents, but God has brought us this far and all I want is to see life in this area, despite what happened. The church is a better foundation to a better life and that’s why we are moving on,” the cleric said.

His vision is supported by many residents. “We would have wished to have a better church where we can thank God for sustaining us, but this makeshift structure is what Pastor Karanja and the few of us can afford,” said 38-year-old Joseph Njuguna, who lives a few metres from the graveyard.

Njuguna says many people still visit the site but a plan to maintain and fence it off was abandoned a few years ago. He remembers vividly what happened.

“What happened here will never be forgotten and, as a country, we learned a lot from the incident. But even if we want to forget those who died paying the ultimate price, those of us who are alive can help to reconstruct the church just to thank God for the peace and unity he has given us,” he said.

Resident Joseph Mungai, a member of the Kikuyu community, three years ago married Sylvia Cherono, a Kalenjin, and they live in the church compound as caretakers.

 “We work with Pastor Karanja to take care of the church,” Cherono said.

They have lived at the site for more than three years and appreciate that the communities now coexist peacefully.

Every week, she uses cow dung to line the mud floors in preparation for the Sunday service. 

 Cherono and Njuguna have asked local leaders not to forget the Kiambaa community. 

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