News 2008


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 post-election violence.

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," said Gombe.

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 childhood.

"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 her children.

"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.