Kiambaa church fire survivor Elizabeth Wangui Kimunya dies 11 years on
After the January 1, 2008 arson attack at the Assemblies of God Church in Kiambaa, Eldoret, she became the face of the 2007-2008 post-election chaos.
This was after the photo of her pleading for mercy, with her hands held up, and with one shoe in hand, went viral.
In the Kiambaa church attack, at least 28 people were burnt to death.
After living with the traumatising memories for more than a decade, the curtains have finally come down on Elizabeth Wangui Kimunya, 76, following a long illness.
When the our team visited Ms Kimunya’s home some metres away from Kiambaa church on Thursday, plans were underway for her burial, which is slated for Friday, with neighbours streaming in to condole with the family.
Ms Kimunya passed on at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) last Saturday (July 6) of what doctors described as tumours in her stomach and depression.
Neighbours who spoke to the Nation said that the dark day of January 1, 2008 changed Ms Kimunya life forever.
“She became totally depressed since the fire incident and she has not been herself since then. She has been depending on her relatives for everything since then and has been suffering from nightmares since the fire incident,” said Veronica Wangui, a neighbour.
Apparently, Ms Kimunya had, on the fateful day in 2008, gone out to fend for her son, Philip Kimunya, who was aged 16 then.
“She was very stressed on learning that her son was in the burnt church. Though the boy was later found recovering from the fire injuries at MTRH, his mother never recovered from the ordeal until her demise,” said Rebecca Wanjiru, another neighbour.
They faulted politicians in the country who have been fuelling ethnic conflict by making divisive remarks which risk plunging the country into chaos.
“We are yet to recover from the scars of the 2007-2008 post-election chaos. We are surprised to hear some politicians making reckless statements. During such instances, women and children suffer the most,” said Ms Wanjiru.
“Let’s reason as Kenyans and avoid divisive politics. We are now mourning alone. Had it been a politician who had died, we would be having a lot of vehicles here,” added Ms Wangui, whose husband, Samuel Kiungu, was killed in the post-election violence.
Neighbours described Ms Kimunya as a very hardworking woman, who always ensured that her son got something to eat.
The residents complained that despite the agony they underwent, they are yet to be compensated or get any counselling from the government.
“Politicians should learn to accept outcome of elections. We are still traumatised to date for losing our loved ones,” said Ms Wangui.
Ms Kimunya’s family was on Thursday preparing to move her body for burial at her home in Kiambaa.
“The total bill was Sh31,171 with the family managing to pay Sh11,000 while MTRH board waived Sh20,171 which is inclusive of Sh5,200 mortuary fee,” said MTRH Chief Executive Wilson Aruasa.
Dr Aruasa added that the matter had not been brought to his attention until Thursday when he issued instructions for the bill to be waived.
Mr Kimunya said that her mother had been in and out of hospital for the last 10 years.
“We’ve been struggling to offset her bill and we’ve been relying on well-wishers for assistance. Her situation deteriorated in May last year but it worsened a week ago, prompting her admission to MTRH,” said the father of one.
Mr Kimunya bears scars on his hands and legs, a dark reminder of the fateful day in January 2008.
He said his mother had, since 2008, been at the forefront in preaching peace in the region.
“Her prayer was not to see a recurrence of the post-poll chaos again. Politicians should be careful of what they say. We are yet to recover from the trauma we underwent. I was not born with any scars but these will remain a dark reminder forever for me,” said Mr Kimunya, who was in the company of his uncle Philip Gakuha.
Rift Valley was the hot spot of the 2007-2008 post-election violence which left more than more than 1,133 people dead and more than 600,000 others displaced from their homes.
More than 744 deaths and more than 900 acts of rapes and sexual violence were also reported in the region.
The 2008 New Year Kiambaa church inferno became the ugly face of the the deadly post-election violence.
Immediately after the incident, another attack which was seen as retaliatory, was unleashed on opposition supporters in Naivasha, which resulted to the deaths of over 40 people, including a family of nine who were burnt inside a residential building.