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Eldoret after the church massacre

by David Coffey

Article published on the 2008-05-01 Latest update 2008-05-22 08:55 TU

TV image of aerial footage of burning buildings near Eldoret, 1 Jan 2008(Photo: Reuters)

TV image of aerial footage of burning buildings near Eldoret, 1 Jan 2008
(Photo: Reuters)

At the end of the first day of 2008, news reached Nairobi that a church near the Rift Valley town of Eldoret had been burnt to the ground. Initial reports said at least 20 people had perished in the inferno; however the true horror of that day had yet to come to light. A few days later I travelled to Eldoret and heard first-hand accounts of the New Year’s massacre.

Eldoret Church massacre (8 January 2008)

David Coffey speaks with survivors of the Eldoret Church massacre: one describes how she escaped the inferno with her child. Another returns with her daughter, hoping she will find her baby granddaughter who has been missing since the attack.

listen 3 minutes 50 seconds

08/01/2008 by David Coffey

About 15 kilometres outside the bustling market town of Eldoret, people living in the peaceful and fertile district of Kyamba were attacked by a 1,000-strong militia armed with sticks, machetes, and bows and arrows. Witnesses recounted how the armed assailants descended from the nearby Nandi Hills intent on purging the land of Kikuyu people living on ancestral Kalenjin territory.

As they swept through the plains around Kyamba, the militia hacked their way across the country as people fled for their lives. They corralled about 800 people into the small compound of the Kenya Assemblies of God church located only 2 kilometers from the main Eldoret-Naivasha road.

Men, women and children sought refuge inside the church. Some attempted to fight back against their attackers. Others tried to escape through the hedgerows and bushes that separate the winding plots across the parish.

Over 200 people are believed to have been in the church when the militia decided to set it on fire. At least 50 people perished, however the final figure may never be known.

A mother searches for the remains of her daughter at Eldoret church(Photo: Anna Koblanck)


Collateral damage

A report on one of the houses neighbouring the destroyed Kenya Assembies of God Church in Eldoret. Witnesses describe who used to live there.

listen 2 minutes 46 seconds

09/01/2008 by David Coffey

A burnt house near Kenya Assemblies of God church(Photo: Anna Koblanck)

A burnt house near Kenya Assemblies of God church
(Photo: Anna Koblanck)

Many corpses remained uncounted and unclaimed in the aftermath of the attack. People refused to search for their loved ones in Eldoret’s overflowing mortuary, for fear of being recognised as Kikuyu.

The Eldoret mortuary

A physiotherapist at Eldoret's Moi hospital gives his version of why the parishioners of Kyamba district were attacked. RFI's David Coffey spoke to him after being smuggled into the mortuary that was overflowing with corpses. The doctor refused to be named for fear of being targeted himself.

listen 2 minutes 13 seconds

01/05/2008 by David Coffey

Following the attack, Eldoret’s Moi Hospital was inundated with victims of the attack, many with horrific burns, most of them women and children. Tents outside the hospital building housed the families of those who fled for their lives in what was the most deadly incident of ethnic cleansing in Kenya’s post-election violence.

Children victims of the Eldoret church massacre(Photo: Anna Koblanck)

Children victims of the Eldoret church massacre
(Photo: Anna Koblanck)



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