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Advocates Urge Kenya To Help Victims Of Post-Election Violence


We go overseas now to Africa. The question is, how can survivors of sexual violence get help an closure in a country that seems determined to ignore them and move on? Nearly a thousand women in Kenya reported being raped during the ethnic clashes that followed the country's disputed election there eight years ago. Advocates say these survivors have been passed over. NPR's Gregory Warner has more.

GREGORY WARNER, BYLINE: Agnes Odhiambo in the Kenyan office of Human Rights Watch interviewed nearly 200 survivors of rape from the clashes of December 2007 and January 2008.

AGNES ODHIAMBO: What surprised me when I began to interview these women and girls is how fresh their pain still is.

WARNER: The rapes were part of a campaign of violence waged between Kenya's largest ethnic groups, coordinated by political leaders and involving police officers, intended to humiliate and drive away opposing groups.

ODHIAMBO: These rapes were really brutal - a lot of kicking, cutting with machetes, hitting with hard objects, throwing women on hard services.

WARNER: She says there are women with severe obstetric injuries who have not received surgery, women with HIV who may get the drug but can't afford the food they need to take with their medication. Children born of rape have been denied birth certificates because the father's name was not known. And the government says that they plan no more prosecutions for any crimes associated with the post-election violence.

ODHIAMBO: I remember one woman when she said, a raped woman is a dead woman in the community. You become invisible to your family and the whole community.

WARNER: Advocates say that stigma is compounded by a more public invisibility. In the past year, the Kenyan government has announced several efforts to help survivors of post-election violence. Displaced families who feared to return to their homes were relocated to new ones after years of living in tents. Last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged a $10 million fund to help survivors, though that money has yet to appear.

But in all these pronouncements, the survivors of sexual violence are rarely mentioned, and public calls for closure have grown louder since the case against President Kenyatta was suspended. Kenyatta is Kenya's richest man and the son of its first president. He'd been charged by the International Criminal Court in the Hague for orchestrating and bankrolling the violence.

JACQUELINE MUTERE: And then you hear politicians talking about (speaking Swahili). That got finished. There's no violence anymore. We have gone beyond that.

WARNER: Jacqueline Mutere is a survivor. She became pregnant by a rape in the clashes. She was able to get a birth certificate for her baby girl but only after fighting with four different government administrators. Then she started an organization to fight for other children born of rape who faced community scorn and a mother's trauma.

MUTERE: Many of these children were really, really abused, rejected. They were neglected. They were denied food.

WARNER: Those children that survived are now 8 years old. Human Rights Watch is calling on Kenya to stop the cycle of trauma and violence by offering reparations and survivor-centered clinics. Gregory Warner, NPR News, Nairobi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Gregory Warner is the host of NPR's Rough Translation, a podcast about how things we're talking about in the United States are being talked about in some other part of the world. Whether interviewing a Ukrainian debunker of Russian fake news, a Japanese apology broker navigating different cultural meanings of the word "sorry," or a German dating coach helping a Syrian refugee find love, Warner's storytelling approach takes us out of our echo chambers and leads us to question the way we talk about the world. Rough Translation has received the Lowell Thomas Award from the Overseas Press Club and a Scripps Howard Award.