On January 9th, 2022, Wanduta came face to face with five Al-Shabaab militants when they attacked her village in Eastern Kenya.
“They found me looking after my goats just a distance from my homestead,” she said in a recent interview. “They were five in number and were armed with guns, bullet belts, explosives…and introduced themselves as Kenyan policemen.”
The insurgents forced Wanduta to kneel down as they interrogated her on her husband’s whereabouts. “They were looking for men,” she continued, “They asked me where my husband was, and I told them he died last year.”
But the men didn’t believe her story and insisted that she disclose where he was. “They had come armed to kill all men of Salama-Juhudi, and they announced a fierce war between Christians and Muslims,” she said.
According to Wanduta, the terrorists made their religious motivations clear.
“They said they will wage war with Christians and whoever loses the battle shall surrender to the other. I asked them, why are you targeting Christian men and sparing women and children, and what sin have they committed that they cannot be asked to repent and be forgiven? If you kill all men here, how will the women and their families survive?
They responded that I was being naughty, and I should not be asking such questions.”
Despite the men warning her to keep quiet, Wanduta continued to question their plan.
“They repeated that they were looking for men to kill them. I also repeated, asking them what mistake they had done to them.
If they have been raised as Christians and you have been raised as Muslims, why are you killing them while it is God’s work to take away one’s life?”
Having had enough of her push-back, the men forced Wanduta and another woman into a neighbor’s home and locked them inside, ordering them to keep silent. She waited for an opportunity to escape, and after 30 minutes, her and the other woman snuck out of a window. Immediately she went to her home to search for her five children, and found that although her house had been ransacked, all of her children were safe.
“My daughter had seen another group of five coming towards the house and hid under the bed. They did not see her. My son saw them and ran to hide in the nearby bush,” she explained.
Wanduta and her children fled their home and called security officers, an act which she would later learn saved the lives of countless peers.
“They responded in good time and repulsed the attackers who were determined to kill more people and loot homes,” she said.
Sadly, two men in Salama-Juhudi lost their lives that day. Before security had arrived, the terrorists killed Titus Muoki and Mwaura Wamwihaki in their homes.
Wanduta and her children are now part of over 400 homesteads camped in Juhudi Primary School without enough food, clean water, clothing, or bedding. The government continues to battle the Somali-based al-Shabaab insurgents that are believed to be hiding in Lamu’s dense Boni forest. On January 17, security forces claimed to have killed 15 Al-Shabaab militants following a successful raid on their hideout within the forest. Since the new year, the group has killed more than 15 people in Lamu, Eastern Kenya.