Mt. Elgon widows resort to court for justice

The 18 widows outside Bungoma High Court

Eighteen Mt. Elgon widows whose husbands were killed and others disappeared during the 2008 Operation Okoa Maisha have filed a petition case at the Bungoma High court seeking for compensation from the government.

The Operation Okoa maisha, a process initiated by the government, was carried out by military officers to flush out Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF), a militia group that was allegedly fighting for land rights.

Robin Kimtai is the son to former sub-chief of Chebwek sub-location Patrick Kipteiyo who was killed by military officers and his body has never been brought for burial. Kimtai told the press that he wants the government to reveal the truth about their father and possibly compensate the family for the difficulties they have experienced.

“Whether alive or dead, we want to know where our father is such a painful experience but we hope the court will help us get justice,” he said

The late Kipteito’s wife Philomena Kimtai narrated the unfolding of events, saying that his husband was taken by the soldiers and locked inside Chepkube coffe factory.

When she had visited her husband, Mrs. Kimtai found him lying down helplessly, but the officers asked her to go away and that the husband will be released shortly.

“We request the government to compensate us for the pain we have gone through as a family for losing our loved ones in such a way,” she paused.

“Since 2008, we have suffered a lot because whoever was the bread winner of the family is no longer with us,” she added

Another victim Lilian Ndiwa lost her husband Stephen Chesori during the same operation and wants compensation for the challenges her young family has been going through.

“We want justice for our husbands whom we lost during the operation and we want the government to compensate us for what they made us go through,”

Kenya High Commission for Human Rights have joined the case, seeking justice for these victims who lost their loved ones and bread winners during the operation.

One of KNCHR representatives Victor Kamau said that these deprived women have suffered and the government should compensate them.

Mr. Kamau added that the commission wants to enforce a constitutional provision that national security and human rights go together in compliance with article 238 of the Kenyan constitution.

“As an interested party, we not only seek for compensation but also create a constitutional position where national security issues are handled in compliance with human rights and that human rights are not violated in the process of providing security, “ he said.

The petitions lawyer Andrew Kituyi said that the government did not care about the rights of the civilians during the operations and should compensate these women who cannot defend themselves.

“The defence force was involved in flushing out the militia, but they did not care about the civilians who were there. We hope the court will give a just ruling and these women will be compensated, “he told the press.

He added that more than 1000 women lost their husbands during the operation and they hope the government will give a positive ruling.

“We are only beginning with eighteen women to see the kind of judgement the court will give so that we can bring other victims on board,”