of rape, sodomy by British soldiers
ARCHERS POST, Northern Kenya, Jul 15 2003 (IPS) - Some have remained silent for 30 years. But now the Samburu and Masaai women, as well as their young men, are coming forward to tell their stories: how they were raped and sodomised by British soldiers on manoeuvres in northern Kenya.
One of the women, Deka Mohammed, 38, cannot help fighting back her tears as she narrates how she was raped nine years ago.
"One evening as I was taking the goats home from grazing, six white men in combat gear emerged from behind the bushes. Three of them tripped me and I fell. They tore my buibui (traditional cloth) and my panty. They then did it in turns from both front and behind," she recalls, sighing heavily.
"Bleeding profusely, I struggled and found my way home and changed from torn clothes before my husband's arrival. He noticed I had changed my walking style and when he asked me, I told him that, 'I had been scratched by a thorn'," says Mohammed.
"Days went by and I noticed I was pregnant. When I gave birth to a white child, my husband could not wait for an explanation. He forced me, along with the new baby, out of his compound," she says, sobbing.
Mohammed had four grown-up children before she was raped. Abdul, who is now eight years old, is a result of the gang rape.
IPS met Mohammed at Archers Post, 600 kilometres north of the capital Nairobi, along with a sea of other women, accompanied by mixed-race children. Braving the scalding sun, the women narrated their stories to IMPACT, a human rights group, which is helping them to seek compensation from the British government.
Most of the women hope that their stories will be heard and action will be taken.
Sitinai Lalparasoroi, 51, was three months pregnant when she was assaulted by two British soldiers in 1970.
"They held me tightly and did their beastly act. Three weeks later, I miscarried," she recalls.
He colleague, Rahama Wako was abused when she was just 16 years old. Now 23, she is a mother to seven-year-old Gulit, a result of that unfortunate gang rape. Her story, too, rotates around animals and the risks of collecting firewood at evening.
"I remained behind to collect firewood, when my sister took the animals home. On my way home, I met four big white men in military uniform, with massive tattoos on their arms, their faces painted black. They called me and threw packets of biscuits. Since I was hungry, I put the firewood down to pick the snacks," she says, wiping tears from her cheeks.
"Two held me, threw me down and the others jumped on me. They all had their turns and left. I started bleeding profusely and since it was getting dark, I went home. My father noticed the bloody patch on my torn dress. I told him what happened. He gave me traditional herbs to sooth the pain. Some months later I saw my stomach getting bigger and bigger, a sign of pregnancy," she says.
Not only women, but young men also claim that they were sodomised by British soldiers.
Andrew Letoo, 24, claims he was sodomised three years ago. "Since then, I have been walking with my head down because I feel everyone knows what happened to me," he says, almost breaking down.
"I was a guard at the British training camp. One night after a party, two British soldiers came and tied my hands with sandbags and gagged me with a tape. One held my neck while the other did it. I reported to the (army) chief and had difficulty explaining it to him. I did not go to hospital even though I was badly hurt. It was very embarrassing," he says.
About 650 women claim that they were raped by the British soldiers in northern Kenya.
Ten sodomy cases involving men of ages between 20 and 26 have also been recorded by IMPACT at Archers Post.
Some of the allegations stretched back to over a period of 30 years.
And, IPS found the elders in the region seething with anger. "Our hands are tied. The jonnies (as the British soldiers are called here) have guns and we don't. The British government must compensate our people. In our community, a rapist is made to pay a large number of cows," asserts 80-year-old Loyieyo Lesuper.
He appealed to the government of Kenya to intervene.
But local officials in Samburu region, where the Archers Post is situated, maintain that the government has remained silent over the issue. "We have not heard a word from the government about these cases. And we are wondering whether the government has the interest of its citizens at heart," says Fabian Lolosoli, chairperson of Samburu County Council.
"Our people have suffered in silence for years," he says.
The British soldiers, Lolosoli says, travel to the region between Apr. and Jul. every year. The hot climate of the region is regarded as suitable for military exercises. After completing their training, the soldiers are deployed to hot spots such as Iraq.
The British army enjoys a string of military bases in Kenya under the Status of Foreign Forces Agreement (SOFFA), which was signed before the East African country achieved its independence in 1963.
One local official, who requested anonymity, urged the Kenya government to revoke the agreement, which sees about 1,000 soldiers undergoing military exercises in the region every year.
"Our people have suffered terribly in the hands of these forces. Many have been killed by dangerous chemicals and weapons left behind by the British soldiers," says Chief Daudi Abdi Jilo.
Cornered by IPS, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Samburu, Sammy Leshore, only commented: "Time has come to help these ladies who have been voiceless for years.
Rights activists fear that some genuine cases might be left out due to lack of evidence.
"The majority of the rapes were not reported; this is one big challenge we are grappling with," says IMPACT director, Johnson ole Kaunga. "We are consulting with women's groups and council of elders and chiefs.
Since IMPACT started pursuing the case last year, Kaunga says he has been in touch with the British government, which has sent military police to investigate the claims of the women and young men.
But some Samburu and Masaai -- the pastoralists on whose territories the British forces are conducting their training exercises -- feel that the case would not have a fair hearing, if held in Britain.
But British lawyer Martyn Day, who has taken up the case, says: "I feel satisfied if this goes before the British judge because they will be shocked at what acts their people can commit. We are dealing with systematic rapes where evidence is overwhelming.
"We have to be relatively tough and determine genuine cases," warns Day, who is seeking up to 30,000 U.S. dollars for each proven case of rape from the British defence ministry.
Day is a well-known figure in Kenya.
He won 4.5 million pounds (6.75 million U.S. dollars) in compensation from the British government last year for 233 Samburu and Maasais who were injured by British army explosives left behind on training grounds in Archers Post and Dol Dol region. (END/2003)
refusing to kill