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Witness describes mob’s burning of church in Kenya

ICC Note

In Kenya People take refuge in churches at times of conflicts and no one attacks them while they are inside churches. But following election of December 27, 2007 people who sought refuge in Assemblies of God church in west Kenya were burned to death.

By Jeffrey Gettleman

January 2, 2008 Kenya (International Herald Tribune)-Daniel Kibigo watched the church get swallowed by a mob and then swallowed by flames.

He said he had been there, hiding in the burned cornfields nearby, where the tribal militia had already struck, as women tried to claw their way through the church windows as if they were drowning. He said members of the mob had gleefully stuffed mattresses in front of the doors and lighted them on fire. He said he had seen the church burn all the way to the ground, with 50 people inside, and he had been helpless to stop it.

“We couldn’t do anything,” he said. “There were too many.”

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“The violence will end,” said Kibigo, a bricklayer, “when the politicians want to end it.” Right now, that is not looking like soon.

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Fuel shortages are rippling across all of East Africa because the roads in Kenya , a regional hub, are too dangerous to use. Law and order have deteriorated. Roadblocks by hooligans, common in anarchic Somalia , have appeared across the country, in towns on the savanna and in the cramped slums.

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It was Kikuyus who were burned to death Tuesday in the Kenya Assemblies of God Church. The church was simple, made of mud and sticks, and about the size of a tennis court.

Over the weekend, several hundred Kikuyus sought refuge here. They were guarded by farmers who used their tools for protection. But when a mob of 800 people showed up Tuesday and killed several of the men, they fled. They said they had to watch as the mob blocked people’s escape. Then they had to listen to the screams.

“They killed the women, the children, the cows, everything,” said John Njorge, who tried to defend the church. “We couldn’t save anybody.”

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