Suffering with bitterness for relatives

Stephen Mudiari | NATION
Wagalla Airstrip in Wajir town where the massacre took place.

What you need to know:

  • Tears flow as villagers pour their hearts out to Truth, Justice and Reconcilia-tion com-missioners

Suleiman Abdi is 18. He was born nine years after the infamous Wagalla Massacre in which two of his uncles were killed.

Yet he speaks with the bitterness of someone who witnessed the killings.

“If I had a gun and found those who carried out the killings, I would kill them all myself,” he said, anger written large on his face.

On Tuesday, Abdi walked the lonely runway of the Wagalla Airstrip — the place where, according to government records, 57 people were shot dead by gunmen believed to be government security officers. Independent estimates put the figure at more than 2,000.

Infamous airstrip

Abdi, a Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam candidate, walks alone on the infamous airstrip with 50 goats — seven of his own and the rest belonging to his father.

He wears an uncomfortable grin and says: “My two uncles died here 27 years ago.”

At the other end of the runaway, birds land on the airstrip. No aeroplanes land here any more. They use the more modern airstrip near Wajir town.

At the Wagalla Airstrip Abdi walks his goats, clutching a radio and hoping to hear that the perpetrators of the massacre have been identified and brought to book.

“I hear there is a government team in Wajir looking into the issue, but I am sceptical. I would rather the suspects are to be taken to The Hague,” he said.

He would rather the killers of the people, mainly from the Degodia clan, are taken to the International Criminal Court like the so-called Ocampo Six, accused of bearing the greatest responsibility for the post-election violence that killed 1,300 people after the 2007 General Election.

“I want to know why our people were killed.”

His remarks were a reflection of the bitterness expressed by Habiba Mohammed whose husband was killed. She also became deaf after being kicked and slapped during the atrocities.

She lives in the village surrounding the Wagalla Airstrip. “That is where our men were killed. That was where the men were stripped naked, tortured and then executed,” she says.

“I wouldn’t have so many financial difficulties, had my husband not been shot by security forces,” she said pointing at her son, Shukur Rashid, 18, a primary school pupil at Wagalla Primary School.

“Even paying medical bills at the Wagalla Health Centre when my children fall sick is a nightmare,” she says as she shouts at a goat going astray.

At the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission hearing, a survivor of the massacre, Abdi Nur, said the airstrip was now useless.

“When you go to the airstrip, as you (commissioners) did on Sunday, you find people are just crying,” he said as he wiped tears from his eyes, while pointing out the injuries on his body he says were inflicted during the massacre.

“Many survivors and my relatives live there, and have sad memories of the place.”

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