Evicted from the city and
rejected at home
February 13, 2008
By Harold Ayodo
A displaced woman got a rude shock when she returned to her
ancestral home in Siaya and found a deserted homestead.
At the homestead, Mrs Gombe Gombe, 42, and her 13 children found
shrubs on graves of family members.
But this was only the beginning — a bigger shock awaited them when
Gombe, who left Karapul village for Nairobi in 1982, came
face-to-face with the reality of customs that barred her from
living in the homestead where she was born and grew up.
Ms Eunitah Gombe at her late
mother’s compound in Siaya District. She was displaced with
her 13 children from Nairobi Mathare 4A following
Villagers described the home
as gunda (deserted homestead) due to the death of all family
members and growth of thickets on their graves.
"I have now realised that life in Mathare slums in the city
was a luxury. All doors to my ancestral home seem closed,"
Many misfortunes have befallen the mother of 13, including
separating from her husband after 22 years of marriage.
"I have struggled to raise these children in the city where
life was challenging. I cannot let them down at this tragic
time," she says.
To make matters worse, Gombe cannot
go to her matrimonial home in Alego-Usonga because her husband had
children with nine other women. This complicates her dilemma.
"I was married to Alfred Onyango in 1982. I left the village to
live with him in Mathare 4A in Nairobi," recalls Gombe.
Her children, whose ages range between six months and 21, and who
can only speak sheng, have suffered a culture shock for this being
their first time to visit their rural home.
The family sleeps on a mat a Good Samaritan donated and their
meals is a mixture of maize and beans the Young Women’s Christian
Association (YWCA) in Siaya has given.
Meanwhile, they stay in a one-room rented house in Siaya town,
following a cold reception at the village where Gombe spent her
"The YWCA gave us a bucket of maize and beans, which we have eaten
for the past five days," she says.
She adds: "Some of my male relatives were hostile, saying
tradition could not allow me, a married and separated woman, to
live at the homestead."
But Luo Council of Elders Chairman, Mr Riaga Ogalo, and Deputy
Secretary, Mr Odera Osawa, say women have a right to inherit land.
"Even women are our children. They have a right to property and we
cannot send them away in times of trouble," says Ogalo.
As if that is not all, a string of diseases has affected six of
"I do not have money to take my children to hospital for treatment
of vomiting and diarrhoea," the mother laments.
Gombe, who suffers high blood pressure, says life has never been a
bed of roses. She says: "I have struggled since childhood. I
traveled from Nairobi to Siaya by the grace of God after a Good
Samaritan gave me Sh2, 000.
"I am still traumatised on what happened in Mathare when I left –
my neighbours were butchered as I watched...others were burnt to
death in their makeshift houses," she says.
"It was not my wish to stay away that long after marriage. With
all these mouths to feed, life in the slums was not easy."
She does not know where to start from, disclosing that her
attackers in the city set ablaze her house.
Some of her children, who had started earning a livelihood in the
city, face a similar fate. Mr Raphael Juma, 20, a Form Four
student, was a coach and a referee trained at the Mathare Youth
Sports Association. From this, he earned a little money.
"From the money, I would help my mother buy food and spare some
for my siblings’ medicine," Juma says.
Miss Caroline Atieno, 21, was a tailor. But during the violence
that followed the announcement of the presidential election
results, her sewing machines and materials were set ablaze. Gombe
is, however, grateful to Bishop Isaac Obure of the Future Life
Church and the Reverend Kenneth Wachianga of the Anglican Church
for helping her.
"Bishop Obure and the Reverend Wachianga were here this morning
and promised to take the children to hospital," says Gombe.